“Pull tab to open,” suggests the label on the padded envelope containing the Shiva Nata DVD I’ve been so eagerly awaiting. I’m so ready to crank this practice up, and lose myself in blessed befuddledness that is meant to challenge my mind into untangling itself.
So why have I not torn open the envelope yet? Am I too wrapped up in documenting the experience perfectly? Or am I just having fun drawing out the experience, with the delicious anticipation that is much like opening the last, really big present that was inconspicuously hiding deep under the Xmas tree, appearing as if it was just there for decoration because there really can’t be a present THAT big, for ME, could there be?!
Whatever the case may be, I’m ready to be ready to start this. Wait, what? Does that mean I am, or am not ready? Maybe I just need a countdown… 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!
I pulled the tab, and found…
Inside, there are some printouts (better quality than the ones I made myself from the ebook notes), some cards advertising the Fluent Self and Shiva Nata blogs, a handwritten letter from Havi (I love checking out people’s handwriting, especially interesting creative people!), and Andrey Lappa’s Dance of Shiva DVD with so much information written on it, I decide I need a good few minutes to spend contemplating the words.
…Hmm. I am a little underwhelmed by the words, because they are a little more mystical than Havi’s much more practical “If You Do This, Epiphanies Will Come, And Here’s Why” approach. But I suppose in both cases they are all just words, and I bet the words barely scratch the surface of what the DVD will contain. Besides, just because my usual field of study uses some of the same words for more concrete things (if energy can be considered concrete, which I suppose it can’t really) doesn’t mean that the words aren’t allowed to describe less tangible things that are more about the mind’s perception than about something measurable.
I peeled away the cellophane, and found…
I quite like the design of the front cover and the DVD insert. There are mountains subtly lining the bottom edge of everything, and the sky colour is a calm purplish blue. There is useful information tucked everywhere, including an outline of the DVD menus, a nice touch. And the DVD booklet appears to be a guide, so I will skim through that next.
I started reading the booklet, and found…
Blah blah blah, personal growth, yeah yeah I know why I bought this… ah, oh, this is interesting: now I know that there are five basic leg positions in addition to the eight arm positions. I’m so excited to make this into a full-body practice!
The guide suggests that the theory section is “not absolutely necessary” before the practice, which leads me to conclude that I can check out the theory first if I want, or not, though I probably will—after all, I do consider myself a theoretician because of my love of theory! :)
It also looks like all the sequences of movements are presented granularly, and each small part can be played in “repeat mode” until it becomes easy (which is the sign to move forward to something else, to keep the challenge up). The interface looks to be designed to be very straightforward, while also allowing flexibility of what to choose to do for practice. Colour me impressed!
My only disappointment so far is finding out that this DVD only goes through Level 1 and 2 completely, and it just scratches the surface of Level 3. What if I find this all easy and end up accidentally mastering it way faster than expected? I know I’m not supposed to be aiming to master it, but what if it happens? I don’t know quite why I am so afraid of my own potential for brilliance, but I do know that this fear hinders me in a lot of ways. Maybe I just need to give this dance a try, so I can be humbled by it…
I started the DVD, and found…
It starts with a beautiful introductory scene of misty mountains, plus a greeting from Andrey. He looks so serious as he does his demonstration, making it almost seem martial rather than blissful! Also, his accent is a bit thick; I don’t know where it’s from, but I find accents interesting, so I’m okay with this. Besides, if my university education has taught me anything, it’s that I can get used to any accent after I hear it enough!
I watched all the Introductory stuff, and discovered that my transition from vertical 4 to 1 was not as spirally as it was supposed to be, but I think I’ve fixed that now. It’s all about the cycloid motion! The Basic Movement Practice was the same sort of thing that I’ve been doing this past week, without any of the complications that I was introducing for fun. (I got bored and skipped ahead through it, and didn’t see anything about the leg positions, so I figure that won’t come into play until quite a bit later.)
Still thirsting for a challenge, I stepped into Level 1. I almost just dove right into the Practice, but then couldn’t resist learning the theory first. I definitely appreciate the geometric explanation of the movements as connections between points in space, especially the rotations of the symbolic representation. Patterns! Mathematical patterns! They sing to my heart! :)
And then I set sail into Level 1, and found…
The first few rounds of horizontal movements were easy, thanks to my practicing beforehand. But soon enough, I was flailing around, sometimes going backwards when I should be going forwards, or down when I should be going up, but I never felt totally lost. It all makes sense, you see, but there is still a disconnect between what I know I understand, and what my uncoordinated arms are doing. It’s all part of the process, though, and I’m so excited to be in it!
Also, I don’t think I need to worry about accidentally achieving mastery anytime soon, because there are a LOT of exercises in Level 1, and they probably get increasingly difficult. So, yay, I get to look forward to a lot of future progress!
After my first run-through of the first exercise in level one, I feel tired like I did some physical exercise, which is good, because I did. As I sat afterwards to let it absorb, I noticed myself really listening to outdoor noises, like a dog barking and a plane passing overhead. For some reason, this prompted a remembered feeling of being at the lake where my family had our camp (or cottage, if you’re not up with the lingo of Northern Ontario). There wasn’t anything specific being remembered, just sounds leading to a feeling that made me think of childhood, and it felt noteworthy so I’m noting it here.
After the first night at sea, I found…
I am irresistibly drawn to the idea of writing the steps down, so I can learn them and know them and master them. Is this my perfectionism, or just my way of handling learning a new thing? Or is my worrying about doing this an indication that I am too afraid of doing things wrong?
Oh! Yes! This! I am definitely afraid of doing things wrong. This has held me back a lot in my thesis too, until recently anyways. I think what I am starting to realize is that there are many things where I can choose how I will do them, and even if it’s different from how others do it, it’s not wrong.
This wanting-to-write-the-steps-down does not mean I am forgetting that Shiva Nata is supposed to involve challenging myself to the point of flailing around awkwardly; I think that writing down the progression will enable me to turn to additional ways to keep it challenging, like moving to music instead of Andrey’s voice on the DVD.
I am noticing that I still don’t trust my memory to remember the progression without writing it down, and this is a pattern of mine too, but that doesn’t mean I need to shut down the pattern and not let it continue. It is not wrong for me to want to write down the progression of motions!
So: I give myself official permission to do this, because it will help me with understanding. Besides, the same series is used for the main horizontal arm sequence as for the main vertical arm sequence, and it appears these each of these might get used later in combination with the foot movements too.
After plotting the course, I found…
I was right about suspecting that writing it down would help me: it helped me separate what Andrey was saying from what he was doing. What he is doing is actually the mirror image of what he says he is doing, so that when we are learning from him, we just mirror what he does and then it ends up that we are doing what he says he is doing. Twice in the horizontal practice, however, he mixes up by saying what he himself is doing rather than what he is modelling for us to do, and since I had been listening more than watching, I found myself in different poses from Andrey. After I wrote everything down, I saw the differences, and was able to see the pattern more clearly and not get mixed up.
I feel like this is almost a justification of my perfectionist nature, but it also demonstrates that sometimes it’s more important for a person to publish something and get it out there than to sit and fret about every little detail, because the audience will probably be able to figure it out. I greatly respect Andrey already for what I’ve learned from his lessons, and now that I have made sense of what was happening, I can move forward comfortably.
After a few days at sea, I found…
Some of the practice sequences are shorter than others, presumably because they’re going to get complicated soon by combining everything together. I keep pushing forward by trying at least one new thing each day, but today (Day 6) I did two new things because one of them (transquarters) was a short and straightforward exercise, much like the horizontal-vertical links one that I learned last day (Day 5). I stumbled a bit through the fast version of each of these, but not as much as I stumble in the main horizontal and vertical sequences (the ones I wrote down the steps for). I like the fast exercises, even if I can’t quite keep up, because I am getting a belly workout from the laughing! :)
The other thing I did today was learn the leg positions– there’s so many ways to move between the positions, I’m almost intimidated to move forward! But I don’t have to move forward today, because I’ve done enough. It seems that I feel ‘done’ after about half an hour, and according to the documentation it would be okay if I did much less than this each time. I still hope I’m not moving through too quickly! (Hello, “worry of being wrong” pattern!)
Oh, I forgot to sit and absorb my learning today. I guess I’m feeling antsy about a bunch of other things right now, and just wanted to write down my progress without pausing first. Writing is somewhat meditative for me anyways, so I’m deciding that it’s okay to let myself do this sometimes too. Although now that I’ve caught up in my writing about it, I find myself really wanting to just sit and let the thoughts percolate.
After sitting quietly, calmly fishing, I found…
I felt better, even though I didn’t really sort anything out in my mind as I was sitting. I wasn’t really thinking about much, but my mind wasn’t still and peaceful or anything either. It was just meandering, and I was letting it. I had my eyes closed for the first few minutes, and then I opened them for another few minutes and just watched my screen saver cycle through some of my photography, and it was just nice.
Maybe these pauses can help me overcome my struggling to do more things, by reminding me that inaction can be peaceful. Perhaps the quiet time can also help me be more conscientious of what I am going to do next, to ensure that I am not turning to unhelpful activities (like “catching up” in twitter or facebook) as an escape from things that will help me move toward the things I want (like being done school, and getting to work on my own writing and procreating and all that jazz).
Also, I’m thinking I’m about ready to post this summary of my first week of Shiva Nata. Maybe I’ll wait and see if any new epiphanies come out of the latest expansions of my practice, and the ridiculous flailing as I try to keep up with things beyond my skills.
Speaking of epiphanies, I’m not sure if I’ve many major ones due to the practice yet, but that might be because I’m somewhat used to having insightful realizations. The latest ones might have a bit more sparkle than usual, though, because I am actively trying to notice them and cherish them and let myself feel them.
It is definitely helping a lot to consider that everything I do is made up of patterns, and that I can learn more about them by mixing them up instead of just trying to stop them in their tracks if I don’t like them. Subtle differences in things might have not-so-subtle consequences, and the additional flexibility in thinking is surely helping me feel like I have more strength with which to respond to external influences.
After a few more days’ voyage, I found…
I think I have my sea legs! That is to say, I’ve done the first and second leg sequences with the horizontal and vertical arm patterns respectively. I’m surprised at how much less confusing this is than I thought it would be: the legs actually help me keep track of where I am in the pattern!
I thought I was getting good enough at the first leg sequence with horizontal arms that it would be interesting to try the fast version… and oh boy how I flailed, and laughed, and kept flailing, and kept laughing! It was fantastic! I mean, I had floundered a bit when learning a few other sequences and all the floundering had me giggling, but this time I was laughing because of how chaotic it felt!
Screwing up didn’t stop me either! I kept tap-tap-tap-tapping my foot to keep the rhythm with my feet, even though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which way to move my foot next. My arms, they kept flailing in almost-spiral motion, and I kept “almost returning” to the pattern I knew I knew, but never quite felt like I got it for a whole cycle. I never felt frustrated, though, because I knew that by doing it wrong, I was doing it right! And I wanted to keep going, trying again and again, but I decided to give my arms a rest and let my mind chew on what it was fed, until another day when I will try it all again.