Relaxed Concentration

by Aileen

ballet dancer in pointe shoes

Ballet is one of my beloved passions. I simply love to dance and love getting better as a dancer. It may sound funny,… as an adult… really????… should, I really still love my Ballet classes as much as a 12-year-old girl? …I don’t know if I should or shouldn’t, but I do.

For the last two years I’ve been studying with one of my all-time favorite Ballet technique teachers, Jackie.

After class, during my weekly private lesson, she stopped me in middle of an exercise and said, “Aileen, you need to find a relaxed concentration. You’re concentrating too hard on technique and it’s throwing you off of your music.” This hit me deeply.
… “relaxed concentration.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks…because, I recognized this isn’t just a ballet issue, this is one of my life challenges.

I tend to be a bit intense. Maybe it’s part of my Chinese Zodiac Ox influence.

In dance class I was so intensely concentrating on the technique (turnout from my hips, straightening the back of my knee etc..) that I was way off musically.
It was like the music was randomly playing in the background and I didn’t hear it. And, you know, that doesn’t make for good dancing.

It came up again, my over concentration, – when I was so focused on the musicality that I forgot the choreography, which again, doesn’t make for good dancing.

When we get myopic and focus intensely on a single aspect we tend to miss the big picture.
In dance, when we do this, we don’t look like DANCERS because we’re not filling the room (the stage) with our presence.
…Same as in life…

When I’m in that relaxed concentrated state, I relax into trust… trust that I can hear the musicality, trust that I know the choreography, trust the technique is in my body.

Now…that’s when the magic happens.

That’s when I actually look like a dancer and not a pedestrian adult trying to dance.
When I’m in that state of relaxed concentration – my movements are fluid and my energy fills the room. I feel confident and free. I remember the choreography because I’m not getting stuck; I’m fluid in mind and body.

It feels divine.

With relaxed concentration, we are aware, but not overly focused. We relax into the moment…we are alert. In this state, we are fluid and able to adapt and maneuver swiftly with ease. It is much more beneficial than being rigidly strong…rigid is more breakable.

So, if it feels great and it is great, then why aren’t we always in a state of relaxed concentration? Well, it’s simply not yet a habit.

Fascinating how old tendencies still come back sometimes. Cultivating new mental habits takes patience. Tiny steps … sometimes 3 steps forward 2 steps back… but we’re still moving forward.

When I set intentions for my day, I’m more aligned with my desired behavior, such as relaxed concentration. On the days that I don’t set the intention… I hop out of bed, chaotically leave the house and tackle the day…those days, I’m not so, “on”. …and everything feels stressful.… Those day’s the ugly habits are in place. I catch my face in a mirror, eyebrows lifted, forehead with furled brow and oh yuck! Hello stress, can you please leave now, because relaxed concentration is coming through, ok?

Today I invite you to celebrate relaxed concentration with me. Let’s take it into our day… ease the pressure a bit and …exhale…with a gentle laser focus, lets look around and take it all in.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean Sarauer April 23, 2010

“Fas­ci­nat­ing how old ten­den­cies still come back some­times.” Yes, the certainly do! I can have day after day of feeling at peace and living with intention and awareness and then out of the blue one day I’ll find myself getting caught up in some old pattern. All things considered though, there are more aware/intentional days than not:)
.-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..57 Smokin’ Tips to Thaw Blogging Brain Freeze =-.

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Aileen April 23, 2010

and that is the important part – more aware/intention days than not – absolutely!
Keep thriving!!

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Angela Artemis April 24, 2010

Hi Aileen, what an excellent post you’ve written. It sounds like we are a lot alike. I also focus too intently and have a tendency to think when I should practice relaxed concentration. It’s a hard habit to break. What I’ve noticed is a lot of that over-thinking comes from a deep seated fear of letting go, and letting the Universe take the the helm.

You summed it up so beautifully though, “We relax into the moment…we are alert. In this state, we are fluid and able to adapt and maneu­ver swiftly with ease. It is much more ben­e­fi­cial than being rigidly strong…rigid is more breakable.”
.-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..Earth Day or Urgent Day? =-.

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Aileen April 25, 2010

Thank you for your comment Angela! I agree with you it does stem from, “fear of letting go, and let ting the
Universe take the the helm”

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Kathy April 24, 2010

Aileen that was nice about ballet and their is nothing wrong about still loving ballet. I wish I had your energy.

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Aileen April 25, 2010

Thanks for sharing Kathy!!

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Kimi April 27, 2010

Love the way you write articles! it’s so pretty written and convenient to read, somehow i feel relaxed LOL. Keep it up! :D
.-= Kimi´s last blog ..Customize “Read More” link in Wordpress =-.

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Emily April 27, 2010

I hope you love ballet for eternity. I have two daughters with a passion for dance. The woman who owns the dance studio where they take lessons is well into her 70s and her passion for ballet is obvious. I see my own daughters prance into their class just happy to be there..they are not trying too hard. I believe I need to practice “relaxed concentration”in my life. Your thought is beautifully put, to be more fluid you can bend into the moment. I need to trust myself more to be able to relax into my concentration and action. In dance my girls are confident, they have no idea they could be judged. Part of relaxing is letting go of that judgment. (Both how I judge myself and how I fear others may judge what I do.) I can’t wait to read your next post!!

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Aileen April 28, 2010

Thank you for your comment! I love that they dance! How fantastic!
Yes to be fluid in life! Cheers to that!

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Corinne Rhein June 5, 2010

This post makes a lot of sense !

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key west ferry June 8, 2010

I love everything about this! Woo!

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Johanna October 9, 2010

Hi Aileen! Thanks so much for this post :)
Just like you, I too am still passionate about ballet (at 41!) and love going to class 3-4 times weekly. It´s what makes me happy, so what if some (non-dancing) grown-ups think it odd, right?
For the past two years I have been training with a really good teacher, who has been pushing me to try harder and leave my old comfort zones behind. It hasn´t been easy, but I´ve managed to do stuff I didn’t think was even possible at my age (like triple pirouettes and higher extensions:). However, I find it really difficult to relax enough in center. I´m trying so hard to concentrate on my technique and remember all the corrections, that I tense up and fail. It´s like I’m creating my own stressful situation. But whenever I´m relaxed and feeling no fear, I just get into the flow of it all and the dancing kind of just happens! It´s what you are writing about: being totally in the moment, or movement for that matter, and at the same time being relaxed and free to do whatever you desire!

I just wish we could get there more often.

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Aileen October 9, 2010

YAY Johanna!!!! I’m so excited for you that you found a great teacher who will push you further! Congratulations on your triple pirouettes and higher extensions! As an adult dancer I’ve had a hard time finding teachers that would push me. they usually just focus on one clean turn – but at a certain point we want to moved forward like the teenagers. I feel so blessed to have found a great teacher who treats me like an aspiring teenager and demands longer balances, multiple turns and all the wonderful things that make me feel like a real dancer and not an adult trying to dance.

I am right there with you with concentrating on technique that I tense up and fail. One of the things my teacher says is dance is a series of failures – keep pushing yourself to the next point of failure and that’s where real growth happens. I too wish we could get there more often, maybe that will be our goal over the next year.

It would be fun to share with each other our progress :)

Thank you for your wonderful comment here. It’s great to “meet” you!

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Johanna October 12, 2010

YAY Aileen!! I love what you said about learning and doing “all the wonderful things that make (you) feel like a real dancer and not an adult trying to dance”. I couldn´t agree more with you :) When we recreational, yet serious, adult dancers take class – that´s what we want to achieve! Never mind that there is no professional stage to aspire to, we still want to be “real dancers”.. Teachers who get this, and are willing and able to push us, are as rare as one in a hundred. How fortunate to have found someone like that.
I read that you take private classes? Is it a regular barre & center, or does your teacher coach you different variations? Did you learn new things now, as an adult, that you were´t able to pull off in your teens? How do you cope with a body that´s not quite as young and resilient anymore? I´ve learned that I cannot go without daily stretching, and definitely need enough sleep + extra proteins.

Today in class, I remembered what your teacher said about dance being a series of failures – it really helped me to relax a little, and I wasn´t as afraid to push myself just a little bit more. I just kept thinking, so what if it doesn´t happen – I´ll just try again! And what a class I had.. balances in all directions, from tombe devant/to the side or back, then pique in the opposite and hold the balance! It was such a good feeling :) Still smiling :)

I´d love to hear what you are doing in class, and what your small and big goals are in dance!

Great to “meet” you too!

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Aileen October 12, 2010

I’n my private lesson it’s all pointe work. There is bar, center and across the floor. I’m not ready for variations yet because we’re fixing tons of placement issues and learning how to work properly in a pointe shoe and re-work what my feet are doing. When I first began on pointe is was the “throw your self in and just do it approach” so there’s a lot to clean up.

Coping with the adult body, ahh yes much, much more stretching and daily stretching. When my calf and ankle muscles are too sore I wear supportive ace bandages and keep them warm by wearing a layer of leg warmers. Extra water, extra sleep, extra protein all helps too.

Congratulations on your balance in class today!!!! Some days I have happy balance and other days I fight for it as my torso wobbles a bit. One thing that’s been helping is my teacher doesn’t let me but my hand back on the bar when I let go to hold balance – it’s really helping me find ways to adjust when I’m off a bit (the center work now has better balance too).

okay, this is a long comment :) maybe we can chat via email me I’m aileen@kaizenvision.com

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