When we start on a new adventure—changing some aspect of our lives in a conscious way—we often use the metaphor of a path, often one that goes through a deep forest and up a mountain, an image of struggle, loneliness and hardship. American culture in particular reveres the lone hero, the myth of the cowboy, the one against the hardships and the many.
It often seems that we are only taking baby steps and that for every two steps we take forward, we take one back. It’s hard to see day-to-day progress on a long-term goal, especially when the true goal is a change in behavior, outlook or philosophy.
But in reality, life is more like a dance.
Moving together with the others on the dance floor, even if we are dancing without a visible partner, there is always the rhythm of life, the melody of experience and the partnership with the Higher Self that we wish to become. Sometimes we forget that in this case, we are taking the lead, and the old self is required to follow.
“Ginger Rogers did everything
Fred Astaire did,
but backwards and in high heels.”
One episode of Star Trek TNG shows Dr. Crusher teaching Data to dance. He gets the motions of tap dancing immediately, but the waltz is much more difficult, as it involves moving with music, turning around, and being aware of all the other people in the room who are also moving somewhat randomly across and around the floor. This many calculations challenged even the ever-intrepid android.
It was difficult because he had to calculate the movements. He could not relax and feel what to do. Just like a new skill, habit, or routine is uncomfortable, we have to rely on new calculations until we can develop new reflexes, new thoughts, and new motions.
It’s not one step forward and two steps back, but long-short-short, or step-step-glide, or in the case of line dancing, eight steps and then turn to the right. Learning a new skill, replacing a habit, or following a new eating plan is a dance with our old selves, across a crowded dance floor of our current habits, daily obligations and all the other things that don’t change as we are learning.
Expecting to make daily linear progress is like trying to march across a crowded dance floor—we’ll bump into a lot of obstacles and make both ourselves and others unhappy along the way. It works better to know where you are going, but to go with the flow of the dance to get there.
Expect to spend time building new skills, allowing ourselves to become comfortable and relaxed. In the meantime, “Celebrate. Celebrate. Dance to the music.”