Seeking those with wisdom about wellness: Let’s start a conversation about mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health
It’s New Years Eve, and I’m ready to roll. I’ve meditated, perfected my yoga sequence, written down my positive intentions, and practiced an extra-long gratitude prayer. I’m feeling like a spiritual gangster, confident and calm, determined to stay alcohol free for the evening. With windshields of negative twenty degrees, I drive the crew to the Stagecoach Saloon – the versatile and legendary bar at the base of Teton Pass in Wilson, WY.
By the time the ball drops, however, I’ve lost my superficial shimmer. Snowdrifts bury my car, guaranteeing a long night with no escape. All my friends are shammered drunk, wet noodles trying to find rhythm with clammy hands. Burdened by the bulky snow cowboys who bounce into me with their beers and dislocated eyeballs, I escape the dance floor and retreat to a corner. Rage rolls up from my gut and tightens around my hips. Get me out of this hellhole, I think, judging the pathetic scene with a tight jaw.
I simmer in my own self-righteousness. Revelers dance hard to the electric violin, stomping the beer-stained floor and hooting with joy. I try to stay calm by clutching tight to my ego like a cloak of invisibility. If I can maintain my feelings of superiority, a fearful voice inside me chides, then maybe I won’t suffer. Denial, avoidance, judgment – I try all these spiritual bypassing techniques, swallowing them down like painkillers.
It doesn’t take long to realize that I’m that stuck-up girl in the corner with her hand sanitizer and stank face looking like a complete joke. In trying to escape the prison of suffering I have built around myself, I’ve actually made the walls stronger.
Time to GravityBrain (more on that in a moment). I swallow my arrogance, get right with the rhythm of my breath, and imagine a strong but supple cord running from my core to the center of the earth. I shake off my illusions of separation and try to fully accept where I am in space and time. I recall the wisdom of the Zen Buddhist monk, Eihei Dogen: “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs.”
I have always considered gravity to be the language of the Universe; we communicate with this mysterious force through the sensations and signals from our bodies. Growing up in Durango taught me a lot about communing with this mysterious force. I learned, for example, that adrenaline is a cocktail that can be concocted from the perfect amounts of risk, danger and physical intensity. As a teenager on the weekends, I avoided malls and instead followed my friends through the ABCs (Adrenaline Falls, Bakers Bridge, Cascade Creek) and into the backcountry to seek adventure.
These masochistic tendencies and a passion for movement drove my desire to become a professional dancer. I was set on becoming a ballerina and was privileged to study in some of the most demanding environments, including Cuba and New York City. After college, my horizons expanded and I discovered the world of somatic therapy through contemporary and contact dance. My passions have taken me around the world and opened up unimaginable doors. I’ve moved among and worked with circus geniuses and psychedelic illuminati in Brooklyn, eco-village visionaries in Chile, Catholic charity workers in Bolivia, shamans in Brazil, yoga swamis in India.
Now that I am living in Durango again, I’m excited to start a conversation about what it means to seek equanimity with our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. I feel privileged to live in a community like Durango where people truly care about the quality of their lives. Health, nutrition, fitness, and wellbeing – these are words many of us study like scripture in order to better ourselves. This column will seek out and learn from the voices of this community who have wisdom about wellness.
If gravity is the language of the Five Sacred Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Ether) than the term GravityBrain describes the way our bodies translate that language and seek inherent balance. Use it as a noun or a verb: our bodies are constantly GravityBraining. Our muscles memorize, our guts digest and request rest when necessary. To GravityBrain is to develop awareness on a cellular level, to recognize the myriad of secrets that whisper from within the walls of our skin.
My GravityBrain grounded me on that chaotic night at the Stagecoach Saloon. It helped me recognize the fallacies of my lofty ideals and how my quest for balance was actually causing me pain. I was able to find peace and deep calm, but it didn’t happen on my terms, alone and isolated in the safety of a candlelit studio. I was forced to stretch, flex my GravityBrain muscle, and evolve. I hope this column will be a place where we can honor the paradoxes of our processes and find humor in our blind spots.
It was dawn by the time the party died down. Just before we left, a grizzly giant of a man sauntered through the crowd and stopped inches in front of me. I shivered at the sight of his wild eyes, blazing from under a dirty Billabong hoodie. He lowered his face to mine and sneered. “ARE YOU REAL?” he demanded. I stood still for a moment, listened with my bones, and smiled.
Katie Clancy is a movement educator, dancer, and freelance journalist living in Durango. She dedicates her time to supporting healthy spines and structural alignment through the therapeutic traditions of Pilates, yoga, bodywork, and dance; she is also a member of 20Moons Dance Theatre. Find her here: www.altaer.org; firstname.lastname@example.org.