Beautiful Chaos

There exists

a hunger

inside me,

A hunger that only grows

the more my body tumbles

in the center of the gym.

So I try

to satisfy

this emptiness,

by tossing my body about like a rag doll.

I hold a handstand,

toes pointed,

and quadriceps flexed.

I take a chance on myself.

Can I hold this pose with a single arm?

I lift my left hand off the floor,

and tease gravity.

My back begins to arch,

and my feet come in contact

with the earth.

But I want to be airborne,

a weightless body that is closer to the sun,

than to this universe.

Weightless,

and greater,

than trivial matters,

that beg for my attention.

But I use my body as a tool,

to shift my thoughts.

So I run,

A hesitant attempt to gain momentum.

I throw my body,

in a carefree roundoff,

pushing the ground away from me,

as my hands meet the floor.

Pause.

I am airborne.

I am here.

I am free.

My thoughts have shifted from trivial matters about the past,

to this very moment,

that my body

is suspended.

This body,

that I deeply love and respect.

But soon enough,

my feet meet the floor again,

with a disingenuous greeting.

My ankles absorb the impact.

But still, I crave.

So I tumble about this empty space,

hungry…

My body twists in a haphazard single-arm handstand,

twists in a roundoff.

My legs catch my body as I fall from handstand,

to bridge,

catch my body as I dive into a cartwheel.

My ribs blossom, as I open my body into a beautiful arch,

open my body into a standing split.

I tumble,

harder,

and faster.

Round-off,

handstand,

dive cartwheel,

forearm stand,

front walkover.

Can you feel the energy in the room?

Can you feel the emptiness that falls upon me…

as my feet become grounded,

after only a split second of suspension?

Can you feel this hunger,

even as you,

dear gym member,

applaud me from several feet away?

Can you see purpose in all this movement,

as I try to find myself in this self-made chaos,

in this beautiful disorder?

My tumbling reluctantly evolves into a dance,

as I open the palms of my hands,

open my body into an arch.

Confident,

yet hesitant.

Certain,

yet so unsure of myself.

Let go,

of this weight.

Let your mind and body become suspended.

Let go of the fear of falling.

My back hits the ground as I collapse out of bridge pose.

My ankles take the impact of my falls.

My forearms chafe with the carpeted floor.

But in this chaos,

there was control.

In this frenzy,

there was sanity…

Just a voice pleading,

am I full yet?

 

 

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Creative Thinking in the Classroom

Writer’s Note: This short-story is an account of my dance class with Professor Dan Joyce at George Mason University. My goal in writing this piece was to point out the lack of creative thought within the traditional classroom. With this short-story, I leave you with one question: if you were finally given the opportunity to use your imagination in a classroom, how would you express your creativity?

Creative Thinking in the Classroom

“Dance is a way to tell a story through movement,” my dance instructor, Dan, told my class today. Will, the drummer boy, sat behind his drumset with neat red hair and a stern expression. Dancers stood in lines behind their classmates, waiting to demonstrate the skills our instructor taught us. Students begin walking forward for four beats and strike a pose of their choice, as Dan instructed. “I want you to use your imagination,” Dan says, as I notice the passion in his voice. I continue to count on beats of eight until it’s my turn to dance. Poised, I walk forward for four counts. Strike any pose and let the imagination thrive. Standing split. Walk forward for four more counts. Kick into a carefree front-walkover. I reach the other side of the room and get back in line behind a dancer. Exhilaration crawls into my veins and laughter is drowned out by the drumbeat. I observe students dance as I wait for my next turn. Their eyes dart in a million directions. Watching themselves in the mirror and watching others watching them. In this room, fear of embarrassment hides behind a creative imagination. But I can’t help but wonder, if all dancers stretched the boundaries of their discomfort and unleashed their creativity, what would happen? Would we find ourselves telling stories through movement? Expressing ourselves without shame or hesitation?

So to the other dancers, I ask, what is the worst that can happen if you just express yourself? If you’re broken and tired, wear your emotions on your sleeve. 1…2… 3… 4. Strike any pose you want. Wrap your arms around your body, open your lungs, and look up toward the sky. A proud warrior. If you crave to tap at the edges of your boundaries, turn your body in a 360-degree circle and open your arms. Celebrate your presence…here. Stay present. The room, this space, this is all yours. No restrictions, no boundaries, no regulations.

In a traditional classroom, we are so used to being told how to behave, how to think, and how to express ourselves. But strict conformity has no place in a mind that thrives with creativity. As you are given the chance to be and do anything you want, will you take that opportunity? Will you stretch your arms, open your lungs, and move without hesitation? In this studio, free expression thrives… so that we may thrive.

Euphoria

My socks reduce the friction between my feet and the wood floor, as I perform turns, scorpions, and standing splits. I imagine dancers who discovered this euphoria before I did. When the sticks hit the drums, did they experience the same surge of energy run through their veins? Did their pulse hammer against the walls of their rib cage as the song’s beat quickened? Could they feel their worries fall out of their heads as their bodies tumbled and turned?

My rib cage opens to its greatest extent when I bend into a front-walkover, making room for oxygen, peace, and energy. I pull myself back into a standing position, subsequently throwing myself into a carefree round-off. Hands close into fists, and then open. Legs form parallel lines in a handstand, and then stretch into a split. Heart finds safety within the walls of my lungs, and then expands to invite peace. The beat abruptly picks up, as the musician sings, “Don’t let me down.”

And the final moment of anticipation. Drumsticks hit the bass, igniting a spark of energy that makes the heart weightless. I rush to strike a single-arm handstand. Lyrics dance along each rib, similar to the way vibrations linger upon the strings of a harp. Blood rushes to the temples as I inhale deeply. Stress crashes onto the floor and shatters. Worries wither away beneath the floorboards. I slide into a split and observe my soft, feminine features in the mirror. My rested muscles. My relaxed poise.

The heart has wings. The lungs house the lyrics of talented musicians. The veins reignite euphoria, sparking a chain reaction of energy throughout my body. The mind is free.

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Limitless Liberation

For months, I wondered whether I could look forward to February, March, or April without feeling like every month signified another pitfall. I turned the pages of my calendar recklessly at the end of every thirty-something days. Obstacles were sandwiched between the days I’d scramble to find every single “pick-me-up” I could. I opened my hands to pray. I opened my heart to meditate. I opened my mind to communicate repressed thoughts that will no longer taste the bitterness of confinement. I freed myself. I taught myself never to be afraid to express myself, my fears, my weaknesses, my infinite range of emotions. Express without apology.

As I experimented with countless resolves, I had been opening the door to my yoga studio more often. I opened my hands to pray more frequently. I started to discuss everything that was on my mind, from silly jokes to controversial issues. This new freedom found me as I performed countless front-walkovers, cleared my mind to meditate, cried out to God for help. There wasn’t any shame in any form of expression. I can let a smile come across my face without thinking twice. I can push my arms to open my chest and invite oxygen into my lungs. I can tumble and dance freely, take up as much space as my heart desires. My freedom surpasses the walls of my yoga studio, beyond the length of the prayer rug, beyond the arms of those who have embraced me for support.

I decorate this page in emotional honesty, smoothing its edges with the contagious strength of my friends and family. During my yoga session, my arms gracefully stretched to take up as much space as I could. I let music notes dance up the curves of my body, let lyrics flow into my mind and take over. I let the lyrics build meaning as the singer reached a crescendo. And a sudden surge of happiness rushed into my lungs and ran through my jawline, forcing my cheeks into a grin. Tears of joy collected along my bottom eyelid. My freedom came alive, giving my body the energy to hold another handstand, kick myself into a front-walkover, slide my legs into a graceful split. The unlimited oxygen in the room invites liberation to crawl into my lungs. “Verily, after every hardship comes ease.” (Qur’an 94:5).

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Weightless

As I continue to jump on the trampoline, my Under Armour shirt becomes damp with sweat. I turn my head and see a teenage boy perform a front-tuck. A child runs across a trampoline to meet one of his friends. I enjoy the repetitive nature of jumping on the springy apparatus that catches me every time I land. Gaining height, I prepare myself to perform a front-tuck. Toes push off the trampoline harder and harder before I take off. Knees tuck in to chest. Arms hug legs. Energy carries the body into an upside-down position in the air. My heart is weightless. I have no room for worries in a mind that is overflowing with positive energy. Pause. In the split second that I am suspended in midair, I imagine all of the children and parents who watch me in awe. They are my audience, and I am the performer. Their attention gives me the confidence to continue to run, tumble, and flip.

Whether I was going to land safely was uncertain, but I trusted that my body would meet the stretchy fabric once again. And a smile would come across my lips as my sister gave me a gesture of encouragement. As predicted, we exchanged a glance of mutual happiness. I perform another front-tuck, and another. The stunt allows me to achieve a weightlessness of the mind and body. The routine motion directs the thoughts toward elation. Toes push off the trampoline with strength and grace. Hands reach toward the sky to gain more height. Arms hug legs as knees are pulled in to chest. And then the final take-off. The heart is once again free. Free from worry, anxiety, and stress. As my eyes are shut, I enjoy a glimpse of darkness. Once again, my body hits the springy apparatus, as I land on my bottom. I want to reproduce this feeling of euphoria over and over. I want to laugh with the children who parade in this happiness, as music fills the room. I want to suspend my body in the air. So I can become weightless again. Even if it lasts for a mere second.

I continue to run around the trampoline park, completing one stunt after the other. Round-off. Cartwheel. Front-walkover. Split jump. Front-tuck. Heart pounds inside the chest, as the mind replays lyrics of my favorite songs. The musician sings, “I can feel something inside me say, ‘I really don’t think you’re strong enough.’” But the body disproves discouraging notions. I perform three consecutive split jumps. My legs splay in opposite directions as I am suspended in the air. Youth and energy stretch through my hamstrings and toes. My pulse is a drum-beat against my neck, as the rhythm quickens abruptly. Exhaustion says it’s time to take a break. But not without experiencing that short-lived freedom once more. Elation is the beauty of the front-tuck. Simple and short-lived, yet powerful and healing.

Tuck

 

 

Express

I recognize that dance is a form of self-expression. Body bends into a front walkover, waist sways from side-to-side, and legs slide into a split. I move to “Never Be Like You,” to every beat of the drum, to every powerful lyric. As my body interprets the emotion of the song, I kick my leg up into a tilt. “I would give anything to change this fickle-minded heart,” the musician sings. One skill after the other, my worries fade from memory; they are no longer the center of attention. This beautiful yoga studio, this wood floor, this is my stage. My leg kicks into a scorpion, head tilting backward, arms opening up to encourage myself to breathe easy. Emotions guide movement. Straddle press handstand. Split. Scorpion. Full turn. “Please just look me in my face, tell me everything’s okay,” the musician continues to sing passionately. Body bends into a bridge, leg kicks over into a standing position. I embrace my femininity, my flexibility, my body’s strengths and flaws. I can move without restraint. Self-expression knows no bounds.

My heart embraces movement, every tilt, every graceful walkover, every gentle sway led by the waist. I can express myself in any way I choose. I briefly settle into warrior one pose, eventually resting my hands on the ground to transition into downward dog. I subconsciously place emphasis on opening my lungs. “What I would to take away… allegiance to the pain,” the musician sings. Her lyrics allow me to heal slowly. I sit still for a moment, head spinning from countless upside-down poses. I breathe. My freedom came alive. And the reflection in the yoga studio’s mirrors was the only one to witness it. But I am healing. I am free. I am unrestrained, unapologetically expressing myself. A front walkover, another over-split, and one more tilt, and I’m ready to head home. Ready to face any challenges that I may encounter later.