My Story (and a little more about what’s outrageous about this)
The most outrageous thing you can do is be yourself.
But, who is that?
Here's a little bit about my journey with all this.
I’ve found that the first step to becoming you is to acknowledge and experience—in a deeply felt sense way—what you’re feeling (and what you've been feeling your whole life) without turning away or making excuses.
It's outrageous to acknowledge and bring care to what you're feeling. For this is what nourishes us to begin to unfold within the wholeness of who you are.
We often have a hard time getting to this level of feeling because we're too busy just getting by--adapting and surviving. There's certainly have been moments when we do--moments of genuine joy and delight, and feeling connected. But so often we lose touch with who we are in the pursuit of trying to become someone or something for someone else.
The transformation of becoming you takes time. It isn't instant. A chrysalis pressured to hatch, doesn't. But when you're moved to change, watch out.
I've always loved to move. If there's music on and you're trying to have a conversation with me, my head will start bobbing and my feet will begin shuffling, and I won't hear a word you say. Yes, I love music and moving that much.
But growing up I didn't find a place for my love of movement to land, so I stared out classroom windows dreaming of recess when I could run, climb, jump, spin and twist my way across the blacktop, tanbark, and jungle gym of Burton Elementary School.
Oh, and back then boys didn't dance. Well, except when they made us learn square dancing, which involved holding hands. Yikes.
So, I got really good at running. More than anything I loved to run down the winding and twisting trails of the Oak laden East Bay hills in California. We called them "ripper trails" because of how fast you could get going down them.
Eventually, I did take some dance classes in college. Thank you, Debra Floyd!!
And I also took some clowning classes, but in trying to be practical and live up to the best version of my family's view of me, I majored in environmental studies.
Maybe you've noticed your own pendulum swing between the practical and that deeper yearning to dream and be you, that pull towards what feels just out of reach and outrageous to pursue. I thought so.
After a few more about faces and swinging cycles between these two poles, I ended up at Naropa University and graduated with a Master's degree in Somatic Psychology, with an emphasis in Dance/Movement Therapy. Oh, and two wonderful children too.
For a brief spell I had visions of cutting edge approaches to personal growth, but instead plopped into what turned into a nearly twenty-year career in addictions and mental health treatment in the non-profit world. There's nothing like having young kids and needing a paycheck.
Don't get me wrong, the work was good and valued by those I served, but I nearly gave up on ever becoming me. I decided that this was as good as it was going to get, threw myself into my 'career' and allowed my common sense to carry me to ever greater positions of responsibility. New titles and raises, it felt great--all grown up.
But, that deep yearning wouldn't go away. And having kids and becoming a parent became my gateway to outrageousness.
My partner and I loved performing and we loved to play. So one day, we put those two together and created Play after Play—a program for families with young children. We adapted world folktales with messages of cooperation and care into engaging performances geared for the young at heart. After each performance we played with the kids and the families too. We played on mats like puppies and kittens.
Mondays were never the same after this. We performed and played on the weekends and I'd return to work with no complaints. This was the beginning of touching back in with more of who I am.
Playing transformed me more than I was aware of at the time. It was so joyful and delightful to connect and celebrate being alive. Then, as I opened up to connecting more and more with the children at our events, they began to share something essential with me.
Invariably there'd come a moment—often just in a flash of eye contact or subtle grimace or in the way a child would bobble into me or grab my arm—a moment of connection that communicated "sometimes my life feels like this." It took me a long time to recognize these moments. But when I did, it changed everything.
"Sometimes my life feels like this." Without words, just with movement and their bodies, the kids I played with began to share what it's like to be scared, to be hurt, to be mad, to be alone and unknown. We all know these feelings way down inside, it's human experience. But something about the way the kids showed me let me know I needed to take a quieter and closer look.
I began inquiring into what my life "feels like." What was it like inside, to be me? What did it feel like when I was a kid? What was it like in my body growing up? What did I feel like?
And what I found was outrageous. Just like they'd been showing me, I found the places within where I too felt scared and hurt and mad and alone and unknown.
Now, this may sound simplistic. But trust me, it's not. Because I'm not just talking about words--fear, pain, anger, loneliness. I'm talking about the visceral, embodied experience of these feelings. The palpable, racing tensions. The searing edges. The blistering anguish. And the desolate emptiness.
I discovered feelings that no one seemed to know about, even me. I began to experience the unaccompanied feelings that I grew up with. The one's no one attended to or cared for. The one's that sought refuge in perfection, being practical, and not upsetting others. And again, this is human experience. We all face and feel much more than has been met and soothed in our hearts.
With these lessons from the thousands of little play master's who taught me, I began working with grown ups to help them discover the places within where "sometimes my life feels like this." And in meeting and bringing care to these places, amazing things began to happen.
People began to feel more at home in their bodies. They began to get along better with their partners and children. Chronic pain began to move and ease. Sleep came more readily. Unfulfilled pursuits were taken up again. And all with a sense of gentleness. (And as you may well imagine, there was a whole lot of feeling involved—not always easy—but reassuringly real.)
And in the course of all this, I began to change and unfold too. I returned to my deep love of music, movement, and dance. I began venturing out to clubs in search of sounds to shake my body into the wholeness of me, which outrageously led me to being invited to join a Go-Go Dance Troupe.
As a practical guy who's hitting that middle hill of life and with two (now grown) kids, how could I resist? If you're in Portland you may spot me on some psychedelic dance floor embodying my groove.
Update 2019… I've also remarried and for the past 2 years I have been engaged in a daily personal dialogue and exploration of race and racism. This exploration along with my study of interpersonal neurobiology has led me to a new understanding of the societal and neurophysiological underpinnings of systemic racism. From these ongoing conversations I have developed this workshop along with a deep commitment to addressing and dismantling my own internalized racism.