By Renée Tillotson
I was in love with every person in the room. I felt absolutely thrilled and inspired. The air seemed to crackle with newness and I was amazed at life.
How did I come to feel this way? Not even half an hour ago I had been dashing through a shower after Nia class to get to the concert in time. I could sense my shoulders clenching with tension as I drove to a place I had never been before, then nervously walked alone through the parking garage. My internal clock was ticking loudly as I searched in the building for the concert hall.
The concert had already started when I arrived. As I sat down and began to relax, I realized that the audience was rapt, and that beautiful flute and piano notes were tumbling from the stage out into the room. I felt almost instantly transported by the musical field that had been created in the room – as if I’d been picked up by a wave of music.
On stage, two musicians from very different traditions were improvising together. Peter Kater masterfully made his way up and down the keys of the grand piano, apparently trained in the classical tradition, pulling out original melodies as if by magic. R. Carlos Nakai played an array of Native American flutes, wafting haunting or mysterious songs through the air, sometimes chanting in a native tongue. As they swapped leads, one man giving way for the other to pick up a promising succession of notes, my excitement built.
What was going on?!? I was experiencing what we call ‘Universal Joy’ in Nia, which I often get when I teach or take a good class, coming out sweaty and exhilarated. Now here I was just sitting on a chair in the back of a concert hall, high as a kite!
What is this energy I was feeling? How is it shared? Where does it come from?
The pianist, Peter Kater says that their improvisation happens “through the grace of being present, listening and responding wholeheartedly from within the void…the womb of all creativity.” These two musicians were wide-open, and the flow they turned on had carried me with them.
Evidently, this feeling doesn’t even require music for me to get it. Once as I was walking through a quiet museum I came upon an original Van Gogh painting, uncovered by glass. As I gazed at it, I was struck by the energy that poured out of that canvas. It was as if Van Gogh had chiseled a hole through a wall in the universe with his paintbrush, like a window allowing the light to stream through…and it was still streaming through more than a hundred years later. I felt bathed in fresh light.
How does someone make it possible for the energy of creative inspiration to pour through?
Discipline seems to be one of the key requisites for good art to happen. People who truly master their craft are able to turn on the juice. Without years cranking away on his piano scales in minor and major keys, Peter would not have the musical dexterity to adapt to the fluid, sliding flute tones that Carlos was playing. I could imagine Peter’s musical calisthenics at home that enabled him to play the piano so athletically. His music pumped in ripples and waves through the piano out to me in the audience.
Creative energy doesn’t just pop into the human world by itself – in fact, sometimes it has to be wrestled out. The inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Alva Edison, made about 10,000 different attempts before finding the right filament for his bulb. According to Edison, genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
There’s a ballet dancer I admire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who defected from the Soviet Union to America to pursue his dance career. Baryshnikov is as famous for his grueling self-training regimen as he is for his soaring leaps and spins. You can watch his jump practice below.
All that sweat-equity behind Baryshnikov’s dancing allows his driving passion to transport us, his audience, with his thrilling stage performances. The force of his artistry has carved a deep channel of inspiration into the dance world. Another video below shows some of his ballet highlights and how his work has impacted dancers and audiences worldwide.
In the third video below, watch the power galloping through Mikhail dancing from deep in his guts against soviet injustice. The angst shooting through his dance taps into a universal emotion we can all relate to, but few have developed their talents to express it so eloquently.
When a creative genius breaks through into something wonderful – like digging tunnel out of the darkness into daylight – they make it available not only to themselves but to the rest of the world. It’s almost as if the light is traveling through such a person, seeking expression. Whatever our strength and passion is, through wholehearted exercise of it, we can chisel our own windows in the wall to let the light shine through.
As students of various moving arts at Still & Moving Center, we apply ourselves, increase our skill levels and share experiences with other students, teachers, international trainers and performers, until we too tune into that universal energy. I can’t say exactly how it works, I just know that it flows through here frequently!
About the Author
Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center for teaching mindful movement arts from around the globe. She is inspired by the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and by the lifelong learning shared at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. She intends that Still & Moving Center always support the Earth and its creatures, and always be filled with laughter and friendship!
Here’s the picture of our “house” when I got home last night:
Not to be overly dramatic, I must tell you that I knew that this was going to happen…someday. I just didn’t know that I’d only have 6 days to pack up and move out of our house when I returned from my Portland journey. But when our son and his fiancee picked me up from the airport in Honolulu, they said, “We’re coming to help you move next weekend!” What? Next weekend? “Dad says you guys are moving to a rental house.”
Well THAT was sooner than I thought! Cliff must be really eager to start this remodeling. Not only have the floors been sinking so unevenly that our doors and windows are all cattywumpus and won’t close properly, but our bathroom wall has been hemorrhaging from a leaking pipe behind the plaster, and rain has been pouring through the often-repaired roof of our lanai like a sieve, with dry rot and mold accelerating from a creep to a full-on sprint through the rest of the ceiling and roof. Yes, it was time for a serious remodel.
So after a call for HELP! to my mom, who at a spry 80 years young, flew over the next day from California, we began packing. This was a house where the original owners before us had raised all of their children, the house where we had generated so many fond memories of family gatherings and celebrations with friends. It was a refuge from the busyness of life in the world and a launchpad for all sorts of wonderful, crazy projects that Cliff and I have taken on. Emptying the place of our belongings tugged on all sorts of reminiscence strings.
Waking up in our room to the sound of the birds’ orchestration for the last time, on the day we were moving to the rental house, I felt sad and anxious. What if the new house never gets built? I had been so happy in this old house….
Cliff conducted the dismantling of the house, saving or giving away everything that was salvageable. Our neighbors even took the wall board paneling between the rooms. Out went the glass doors and windows, and now its ‘eyes’, through which we had looked out at the neighborhood and yard around us, were gone. The house had the vacant feeling of an unfinished house – kind of like we were going backwards and unbuilding it. Demolition was imminent.
Yesterday was D-Day. We’re not just talking about minor – or even major – surgery here. It was really going to be a death blow, of course with the hope and plan of rebirth. We and the construction (deconstruction!) workers gathered around our kumu hula Malia in the early morning as she did a traditional Hawaiian oli, a chant. She chose one about the piko, the navel, about connection, new life and continuity. I introduced the men to our pet turtle Greg, a small, friendly box turtle, who will be the sole resident staying on the property throughout the entire project. (You already know about me, home and turtles, from last month’s letter!) And that was the end of my goodbyes to the old house.
Cliff says that when the excavator dug into the old house and it fell, all of the men there were struck with a profound silence. Maybe creation begins with a song, a song whose vibration becomes so clear and resonant that some THING appears out of the resonance, and it lasts as long as that creative vibration continues. Eventually the ripples of that creative song recede back into silence, and the created thing is no more. In this pause, this soundlessness, a new song may arise. Without the pauses, the silences, there would be only a cacophony of endlessly jarring vibrations. How could there be a symphony? If all the stuff in the world stayed in its same form, cluttering up, how on earth would there be room for anything new?
So we make way for birth by freeing the old that has faithfully served its time. I hope that through this destruction for the sake of re-creation process I learn something about gracefully letting go. If I’m feeling this emotional over losing a house that I expect to get back in a new and better form some day, imagine how I will feel about losing a dear person from my life when the time comes. And what about this body of mine to which I am quite attached as it dances and plays and hugs the people I adore? Oh boy. I have a lot to learn about releasing what I love.
“When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.” – Sufi Proverb
No doubt gregarious Greg the turtle will be perfectly at home in his own shell, never minding the fall or rise of a silly house, and will be there at the end to welcome us home.
Resting in Stillness and Moving in Joy with you,
P.S. Mahalo to Brother Dan for traveling 2,500 miles to cart heavy boxes and build new shelves out of old boards for me AND for taking his first Nia class ever!
Time is weird. It’s all a matter of perspective as to how much we have of it. In our busy, rush-around lives we can feel pinched, pushed, anxious, lacking control, and needing to operate on auto-pilot out of a perceived lack of time. I want to share with you a different perspective on time that can – in a single moment – allow me to feel freedom and abundance instead of tightness and scarcity.