How Falling on my Face Taught Me A Deeper Lesson About Meditation

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It would have been rude to leave. The room was crowded and I would have felt a fool to duck out. You see, as a woman who was made to move, I could not pass up an to meet Streb Extreme Action, a dance/movement company based in Brooklyn in an artistic residency at Skidmore College for the summer. The workshop leader said their mission is to explore flight, which comes with an exploration of falling.

Yes, she said….falling.

What? Gulp….Seriously? What did I sign up for?

We were going to navigate core strength to move from one position to another and one orientation in space to another with minimal-to-no joint movement as much as possible. As a yoga teacher, I didn’t know how it was possible to move without initiating muscle activation to mobilize the joints safely. The company’s demonstrations not only proved me wrong but left me amazed and eager to play—and a little scared.

Could I trust in my ability to fall and catch myself?  What’s the balance between a healthy dose of skepticism/ fear and abounding love/ thrust for play?  I was about to find out.

We explored games like lying flat and taking up as little space as possible in a pencil-like arrangement. Then we had to bound onto the right side, stomach, left side, and the back while sustaining the straight line and using little joint movement. What I felt in my attempts was a deep integration of my core as I connected through my midline in action. I realized how hard it is to do these movements and make it look effortless. This is no shock—all skill looks easy when done well. Other games included: moving from standing to kneeling with just dropping down while keeping the spine erect, moving from a kneeling to sitting with my legs out in front of me and an upright spine (yes, the dancers can do this via a tuck of the knees to the chest then extending the legs out—it is amazing!), and—the kicker—moving from standing upright to a crouched position on the shins and forearms with the face tucked in deeply to the chest. The small ball shape happens in an instant, and it is a practice of falling and catching yourself at just the right time.

I did not catch myself. I fell. On my face. In fact, I left an imprint of my face on the mat thanks to sufficient moisturizing in my morning self-care routine. It hurt. And I was convinced my nose was going to bleed. One of the dancers, a lovely man, named Fabio, asked if I was okay. I said, “I fell on my face...” He said, “I know!” But, there was no time for sympathy. We were moving on. There was not one minute of recovery, assessment, or questions. The group was fine and we were adding onto the choreography.

This is when I got a lesson on meditation in action.  

I was scared to try the move again. But, it was prevalent in the structure of the piece. I had two choices:  I could leave the mats and watch the others dare to fall and fly. Or, I could carry on and focus on the tasks at hand. I chose the latter.

  I focused on my kinesthetic sense as I moved from one orientation to the other. I felt my feet, my shins, my hands, and/or my forearms when they made contact with the mat. I felt my breath as a rhythmic friend telling me that we were going to get through this together one breath, one movement at a time. Then I entered a new zone—I stopped thinking about the movements analytically, which released my fear of them. Instead, I broadened my scope of awareness and flowed with my breath, the moves, and space. As a result, I got a taste of the thrill for oneness that comes from a daring act made familiar, which fortified me with a courage I did not know I had.  

You see, we fall all the time. Pretty much everyday. And if we aren’t falling, are we taking any risks at all? We must take risks if we are going to grow. Sometimes the risk shows up as giving a presentation. Sometimes it comes as accepting a new position at work or in the community. Sometimes it’s the risk of choosing to love again after you’ve been hurt. Take the risk. Follow your inner voice and let it guide you to doing what you need to do to stay true to yourself. This is how daily life actions become lessons in meditation— we stay present, stay the course, and learn about ourselves in the process. Even if we fall on our face.

  Thank you, Streb Extreme Action, for opening my mind to a new way to access my inner-felt resources to find strength, courage, and stillness. If you are lucky enough to have them come to your town live— see them! They will inspire you!