Observation & Determination: a balancing act

I took last week off from my daily yoga practice. Why? I didn’t get out of bed in time. Simple as that. Did I need a week off? Did I need some extra sleep? Or maybe some extra snuggle time with my beloved?

This morning I returned to it feeling somehow emotionally and mentally refreshed from the break. It didn’t feel like a chore or a commitment that I had to live up to. It felt like a reunion. It was lovely.

On the DVD I was working with, the instructor (Colleen Saidman) said something that resonated with me and that I have been thinking about all morning. She said:

“have greater observation and less determination.”

She was talking about relaxing into the one-legged forward bend. She was talking about allowing the muscles to lengthen and the back to open. She was talking about not forcing yourself into the pose…rather, give in to it and observe how your body feels. She was talking about being mindful.

This pleased me, because this is also the “secret ingredient” in Middle Eastern dance. It’s the secret that I give to my students in their very first dance class, and then probably in just about every single dance class after that. Okay, everybody – in unison now, repeat after me! “relax the muscles that are not actively involved in creating the movement!” (can you hear me smiling?)

In a hip slide, I tell them to put their hands on their waists and feel (internally observe) the muscles working there. Which ones are actively engaged? Which ones are not? Students hear the words “opening”… “giving in”… “allowing”… “feeling.” They hear me tell them not to force the movement; but rather, give in to it and allow it to happen. Observe it. I ask them to pay attention in their bodies. I ask them, “where is your weight?” and “where is your center of gravity?” We do drills while being mindful of how our weight is placed over the heel or over the ball of the foot – being aware of the changes in our center of gravity and our core as it adjusts to different physical attitudes and levels. I ask them to be Mindful, pay Attention, Give In, be Aware, AND have to Purpose, Direction & Intention in their movements. Yes! All at the same time!

Observation & Determination: it’s quite the balancing act!

This led me to think about mindfulness and the difference between observation & determination in life in general. I thought about observation in regards to the absence of determination: passively allowing life to flow past without active participation. I then thought about determination in regards to the absence of observation: aggressively pushing ahead to the exclusion of all else. I thought about how balance between these two is key to a full and emotionally satisfying life. And how it can be so difficult! About how sometimes we need more of one and less of the other, and how we always have to pay attention to where our weight is balanced on that see-saw.

Observation vs Determination has played a role in my thoughts about where to go with the dance school. My life with Celebrations Bellydance had been unbalanced, with determination on the heavy end of the scale. I am thinking of the years where I worked full-time at the college and taught 6 & 7 dance classes per week on top of that. I was not mindful of my own health. I was aggressively determined to do it all – to have it all – at the exclusion of all else. Quitting dance would be equally out of balance. Dance is part of the make up of my soul. My work over the next little while is to find out what the balance between observation and determination with Celebrations Bellydance will look like.

It has also played a role in my weight-loss journey.

It all comes down to that little nutshell, doesn’t it – finding and maintaining balance between observation & determination. Mindfulness.

How has the balance of observation, determination and mindfulness played a role in your life? 



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