The Only Constant in Life

“The only constant in life is change,” said movement explorer Irmgard Bartenieff, one of my great inspirations. She was the first I heard articulate the life principle that continues to echo through the years. When I knew her in the early 1980s, all my days were about dance – designing movement programs at the Laban Institute she created, teaching dance to kids, performing with Richard Bull’s Improvisational Dance Ensemble. Then, it was movement, not sitting, that kept me going. As a daily discipline, the yoga practice I started while in college came first, followed by a long line of movement explorations that have made up this particular life.

Last weekend for two days I joined workshops led by Meredith Monk’s cast, all lifelong performers who had worked with her for 20, 30 or 50 years. It was a return to the kind of vocal and movement improvisation I had done before. Returning to it all these years later, I felt an easy comfort, the seasoning of so many intervening experiences. On Valentines’ weekend, our group of ten singers, dancers, novices and veterans, all let our unconscious (rather than predetermining) minds speak. Each morning and afternoon was led by a different teacher/performer. Sunday morning was Lanny Harrison – a solo artist in her own right, one of Meredith’s most enduring collaborators and a lifelong Buddhist. She teaches theatrical movement improv each week at the Shambhala Center, using this meditative tradition to expand horizons of invention.MM Sunday

Our session with Lanny began with sitting in stillness. The light ring of a tiny bell denoted the start of our shared silence. That quiet nurtured the wild vocal and movement happenings we then created. I felt all the branches of my passions weaving together. In an environment of contemplation, curiosity and freedom, impulsive expression yields so many surprises. What a blast!

The intersection of movement and stillness continues, as does the unfolding of this month’s process. The latest change is the migration from outer to inner. At first, the anchor was the commitment to write about my experience. As each meditation lengthened and my focus deepened, a shyness emerged. This daily moment is now more fully mine. I’m a bit less eager to share, though obviously I’m doing that now. The clear difference in how I feel before and after meditation has become my new motivation – the awakening of a deeper connection to self, the pure alignment of energy.

What sends me to the zafu now is a ragged feeling, the sense that my body/mind needs to be raised up, tidied, organized. I’ve met the challenge – thank you Sharon and Jaya for framing this exploration – and find myself transformed by this brief yet enormous window of time. Sitting in an envisioned bubble of light, the purest vibe, my ragged pieces align, my heart lifts and I rise, attuned.

Joan Arnold