Sunday, March 31, 2013

Into the Knot

“There are two ways out of a knot: you can untie it or you can keep going in and come out the other side.” When my teacher at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies spoke these words, she was speaking about a movement phrase we were working on, but we all knew that she meant something much more profound. Nothing about studying at the Laban Institute was just about dance. The work I did there was life-changing, which is the reason I chose to spend a year there. 

Photo by Kathleen Minogue Keagy
I was one year out of college and had just been offered what, to many in my position, would have been a dream job. After completing a year teaching theater as an intern at a high school, I was offered the opportunity to head the theater program at another high school. I was barely 24-years-old. Looking back, I probably could have spent my entire career at that school teaching and directing, but I didn’t take it. I headed back to New York City to study dance. This was not the kind of post-graduate work that led to better pay or stunning job opportunities. But I wanted it. I wanted to go deeper. After 18 plus years of educating my mind, my body wanted its chance. 

I was by far the least capable dancer in my class. I had put myself in the deep end of the pool and tread water as best I could among the other students who flowed easily through the movement exercises with a facility I lacked. The days I remember most vividly were the ones when I would enter into a simple movement phrase and end up a weeping mass on the floor, not able to go on. Most of my teachers didn’t get it. They thought I was just giving up when the phrase got difficult, but my advisor knew. She knew that when this happened I had ripped open some emotional material that I had buried in my body. Because muscle has more than physical memory; it has emotional memory. The whole body has emotional memory. Without knowing it, we ask different places in our body to hold feelings for us. And the body holds the vibration of that situation, that emotional memory, until it gets triggered again. 

Photo by Kathleen Minogue Keagy
“Go into the knot,” she would encourage me at these moments. “Don’t try to untie the knot. Keep going in the direction of the pain. Follow it, experience it. Don’t let it frighten you into retreat.” I can attest that it was not easy to stay with the hurt until I emerged, but I can also attest that once I did, I felt free. I felt stronger. I felt that I was better able to handle the intense emotions that would emerge the next time. And I’ve never looked back. This training of going into the knot has helped me to find the stillpoint in the chaotic emotional territory of my life and the lives of those around me. And it has led me to healing experiences that have launched me forward. Because these moments are opportunities to release the past, opportunities to release what is no longer serving us.

So when I ended up in tears on the kitchen floor at 2 am the other night overwhelmed with anger and loss, I knew I was almost there. I was almost through the dark knot of fear triggered by the changes I have initiated in my life in the last year. Sitting on the kitchen floor I wanted so badly to untie the knotbut I stayed in. Because I know what waits for me for in the darkness of the knot: the potential for freedom. And I want to be free.