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3 Ways to Be Happy When You Think You’re Not May 14, 2012

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Personal Observations, Self-Development.
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 tango shoes by godwin lue Maybe you’ve noticed (and I hope you have) that I haven’t written a post since January—egad—really?  My family has been going through an extended difficult period and it’s caused me to be extremely preoccupied with support activities. I’ve been intending to sit down for weeks now and just write whether I had the energy and  passion for it or not. But alas, the spirit has been willing but the body weak.Or perhaps vice versa.

So today is the day for some reason known only to the gods—or God. I’ve been reflecting on how one goes about being happy in the face of being surrounded by challenges that are crazy-making rather than happy-making. And I have been working that little problem for months now, sistahs and bros.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Hope it helps you because it seems most everyone I know is in the midst of something. I’m beginning to think that’s what was meant about the world coming to an end in 2012. Old stuff is ending and new stuff is coming in..But I digress.

So here are three strategies I’ve come up with. Not rocket science but they sure have helped me.

#1 Make a declaration

Make the declaration that you are going to be happy and peaceful even in the face of the crazy-making shit that happens. Yeah, so to do that, it’s probably helpful to stop thinking about events as “crazy-making shit.” Rather, start thinking of the events as merely events– ascribing no particular judgment to them. My massage therapist, Annie suggests that you pretend you’re watching a movie.  I like movies. And as far as the declaration goes, I envision stamping my foot at the Universe and saying, “I AM happy, and at peace, period. “

Does this magically fix everything? Of course not, but if you stay stubborn about it, it sure does make the joyful and peaceful moments more plentiful. Something’s better than nothing. Just remember that even if it seems not to be working, the fact that you have declared it paves the way for it to be so.

#2 Be wherever you are

A lot of us get really nutty because we have some kind of assessment that we should be happy all the time. And if we’re not, we judge ourselves not spiritual, grateful, resilient,or (fill in with your favorite guilt –producing adjective.) I believe it’s important to acknowledge that it’s ok to be down in the mouth sometimes. Even Mother Theresa felt that God had turned his back on her at times—and if it’s good enough for Mother Theresa, it’s good enough for me.

So if you’re sad—be sad. If you’re listless, be that really, really well. And if you’re happy then jump for joy and revel in it. Our emotions don’t cease to exist when we ignore them—they simply go underground never to be heard from again until our back starts hurting or we get some kind of disease. Just say no that! The way healing modalities therapies that help to release feelings that have taken up residence in your body. Do a web search—you’ll find a bunch of them.

#3 Find something that totally occupies your mind and do it

I’m the first one to admit that too much navel-gazing does not a fun-gal or guy make. Yes, it’s important to know where you are but you don’t have to make your problems a way of life, carrying them around like your favorite backpack. There are times when it’s helpful to distract yourself so that you can come back and see your life situation anew.

I remember in the old days when I used to balance my bank account using my checkbook. (before I could go on the internet and track my account daily.) I’d try and try to figure out where that missing $10.50 got to. Then I”d pick up and leave it for an hour or two. When I came back, the error jumped right out at me, begging to be corrected. It was there all the time but I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

This is a long way of saying—get a little distance from your stuff as often as you need to. And pick something that leaves little room for you to stew. I dance Argentine Tango—an activity that demands my complete attention. If I think about my problems, I suck as a dancer—or I get my foot stepped on. Don’t care for either of those alternatives so I stay present. And lo and behold, when I come back to my ‘problems,’ they look a little different.

So there you have it, boys and girls, the truth as I know it. It’s worked for me and I offer it to you with my very best wishes for peace and joy.

–Amara

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Don’t Hug a Tree—Hug Me! April 3, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Personal Observations.
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3314737024_4ea1f1671f_20100719093630_640_480Current wisdom is that hugging is a positive thing. Why? Because most all of us benefit from physical contact with another person. And I’ve always thought hugging is a great  thing. However, something happened this week that has me totally convinced that hugging someone can make a difference.

The theme was ‘connection’ at my Thursday night tango class. (Didn’t I write a post about that last week? Well yes, and here is the link in case you missed it: Are You Connected?) So how very serendipitous that the very same theme popped up at tango class. In tango there are a number of connections that are important: connection with the floor, connection with the music, connection with your partner. This week we were working on the skill of connecting with your partner.

Hugging in the round

Lori asked us to count off by 2’s. All the 1’s (that was me) formed a circle and closed their eyes. The 2’s were asked to stand in front of a 1. The instruction to the 2’s was to give the person in front of them a really good hug. (I rolled my eyes a little at this—that is if you can roll your eyes when they’re closed. Let’s just say I mentally said. “How hokey.”) Lori turned on some restful music and we began the ‘exercise’. The ‘hugger’ circle rotated partners while the ‘huggees’ stayed in place. The upshot was that each person received about 8 hugs. When we had completed our assigned task, the energy in the room had totally changed. Tango students can be pretty intense and serious but at this point every single face had a broad smile on it.  We did it again at the end of the class and changed roles from hugger to huggee  And when class ended we were flying.

Following class was a practica –the opportunity to practice for a few hours. And what a practice it was. The connections that were established by hugging made for great connections on the dance floor. It was a wonderful evening.

What’s the lesson?

So what’s the lesson? Go around hugging everyone all the time? Well, no. There are just some relationships that aren’t big enough or safe enough for that and some places where it would be odd to do that. Like waiting in line at the bank or meeting your child’s teacher for the first (or even second) time or at a job interview (now there’s an image). As I thought back to what made the magic occur at tango class, I came up with the assessment that it resulted from opening the heart.

Open your heart

Opening the heart or letting down your barriers encourages others to be able to do the same thing. I know when I find myself holding back, being remote, shy, or unapproachable (and yes, I am that way at times), my interactions with others are a lot less rewarding. If I wait until I trust another person completely to let down my guard, I may be losing out on a wonderful opportunity to deepen a relationship that will enrich my life.

Trust and positive feelings as a starting point

So what I have decided to do is to focus on having an open heart with others. To think about extroverting the good feelings about him or her that I often keep to myself. And if I don’t really like the person all that much, I ‘m going to focus on dropping my judgments. I’m going to start from a position of trust and see where that might lead me. No, I’m not going to hug everyone in sight but I am going to pretend that I could.

Want to try it? Well,then– GAME ON…

–Amara

The Tango Connection December 12, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Personal Observations.
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tangoheelmediumI am delighted to say that I have a new addiction. And that addiction is Argentine tango—one of the more demanding dances I have ever attempted to learn. In spite of the fact that it is illusive, I have fallen in love with it. What do I love about the tango? Well, it is illusive—not full of set patterns like ballroom dancing, a dance form I have been doing for 17 years. In tango each partner I dance with has a different style of putting the steps together, selecting which steps to do (and not do), and executing those steps.  As a new dancer I find following challenging but fascinating. At a milonga (a tango dance) when you dance with a partner, it is usually for a set which is 3 –5 songs. And for me that is a good thing since it takes me that long to catch on to a new partner’s rhythms. Tango is its own mysterious and exotic world and I am smitten.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of tango is that tango dancers think of themselves as a community. And there are tango communities all over the world. As I began my basic 10 –week class at Sangha Space in Media (near Philadelphia), our teacher, Lori Coyle, constantly emphasized that tango dancers are a community. She often talked about the importance of connection in tango.  And since we are a community there are some standards of behavior which go along with that. These were taught, along with dance steps in the beginning class.

Some examples: When invited to dance you are usually accepting an invitation for a set—multiple songs—not just one dance, the way it is in ballroom. This is great unless you find yourself dancing with someone you don’t enjoy. And here is a subtlety:  whenever you say “thank you” to your partner, you are giving the message that you are finished dancing and so you will be escorted off the floor. So the key is if you want to continue to dance, do not say thank you to your partner until you  are ready to stop. One of my friends could not figure out why she kept being escorted back to her seat after only one dance while others were dancing multiples. The reason was that she was thanking her partners after each song and they assumed she wanted to stop. She soon got over that.

Another practice (also taught and reinforced in tango class) is that you always escort your partner back to the same place where he/she was when the invitation to dance was accepted. (The leader usually does the escorting.) Again, the emphasis is on treating a person with respect and care.

There is also a practice in tango of leading and following being shared by both men and women (at least where I’m learning it). So when I am in class I take my turn at following (which I am pretty good at) and leading (which I am not so good at). The theory is that the student can learn much faster if he/she can dance both parts. It is also perfectly acceptable for two men or two women to dance together without eyebrows being raised. (If I tried that at my ballroom studio the teachers would not be amused.)

That’s another thing I like about tango—there is a tradition about it that I find very comforting. And the tango shoes—well that’s a whole other story—be still my heart.

When I started this post I had intended to write about the importance of community, using tango as a small example. However, I see that I have gotten carried away with my example and now have no time for THE BIG LESSON. Oh well, sometimes it’s ok to just do something for the sake of pleasure. That’s why I do tango and that’s what I’ve decided about this post.

So no great lesson today except to say….Learn the tango!!!

—Amara