Monthly Archives: June 2012

Day 25 – The Nature of Pain


My ‘knee-trouble’ that I shared about in yesterday’s post has me thinking about pain. I wrote that I’m grateful that I can dance without pain. Now, that’s not entirely true. Like any physically active person, I’ve gone through lots of pain: aching limbs, sore muscles, creaky joints. So what I meant more precisely is that I don’t have injuries, no chronic pains.

I’ve had to undergo a lot of dance-pain to develop my skills. So when is pain good and when is the body’s warning signal to stop, stop right now? This seems to me a crucial question! To gain strength or grow your musculature, you are actually tearing your existent muscles and asking the body to repair it. So there is some real pain going on in the body as you exercise or use it. And that’s part of its growth.

Another reason this topic fascinates me is because of its parallel to emotional pain. In many situations ‘pain is good’. It’s a sure indicator that you have reached your old limits. This is the limit right now, your pain tells you, and the only way through it is to face and bear that pain. The question is when is it too much? When is the agony, physical or emotional, a real plea for you to stop doing what you are doing?

With my body, I just know. I can tell if it’s a bearable good pain or if something is wrong. Sure I don’t listen right away and keep pushing my boundaries (hence some recurrent lower back issues etc), but I know when my body is screeching as opposed to wailing. A screech is bad; a wail is okay :p

Emotionally, what I’ve experienced is that emotions long to be heard and expressed, and the real pain comes from being denied. Then the pain of it clings onto us and becomes a part of us, like a tumor. Honestly, I don’t really understand the nature of emotional pain. What is its screech; what is its wail?


Day 24 – Another day for my Knee


I tested my knee in my first class today but felt it wasn’t ready yet. So another day in honor of my knee, and now in the evening time I think I feel it healing itself.

Just thinking how grateful I am that I am able to dance. I’ve often sent this question upward, am I meant to dance? As if some divine judgement is going to give me a final and conclusive answer. A physical injury might, for me, indicate just such a final answer. But I remember several dancers around me in India dancing despite their various bodily ailments. For them, the body’s limitation wasn’t a conclusion. So throughout my day today I felt grateful that I can dance without pain.

Day 23 – How many languages can you say ‘knee pain’ in?


I can say “my knees are in pain” in at least four languages: Tamil, Swedish, Spanish, English. Not because I’m a language whiz but because I’ve been around knees in pain in all those places :p Rarely were the knees in question my own. Yet I’ve had a fear of ruining my knees prematurely, as some dancers do. And because of that, I was religious about massaging my legs and feet thoroughly with oil every evening during my study days.

Since beginning this second challenge where I’m actually dancing til I sweat, I haven’t done much leg-care and my right knee is speaking up. Not quite a pain yet, just a loud ‘be careful’ when I stand straight on it. It started 2 days ago, but today I finally listened and in honor of my knee did not dance. I did have 7 hours of classes, but my students kindly allowed me to sit down most of the time 🙂

Message of the day: listen to your body before it’s at the screaming-stage. And treat yourself to a nice massage with your own knowing hands.

Day 22 – On the Go (in one place)


Today I enjoyed teaching and felt that everyone was very receptive and eager. That makes it fun. Half of the time, teaching feels like a duty not a passion. But when the student is excited to learn and I know what I’m teaching, it feels like a blessing for both.

I danced in one of the classes with Gayatri and Markela:
Tat adavu 1
Nat adavu 7
Ta tey tey ta 3
Teya teyi 1
Tey hat tey hi 1, 3
Tat tey tam 1
Tat tey taha 1

I’m pretty exhausted now, after 6 hours of classes and the above dancing. Plus I had an emotionally demanding morning too, which I’m sitting here and thinking about, how emotions flare up seemingly out of nowhere.

Day 21 – Good Evening


1 hour walk in a slight drizzle and light breeze, my first venture into the neighborhood since I got here to Panama. Feel a bit strange walking about by myself, mainly because my whiteness doesn’t blend in 😦 This Sunday evening though, the streets were almost empty.

I wasn’t planning on dancing this or anything, but when I came back from my walk I spontaneously did. I turned on Chalamela Varnam, the central piece in a Bharata Natyam repertoire, and started dancing, just for fun (BN and just for fun don’t usually go together in my mind!) This Varnam is fresh for me because I’m teaching it to Gayatri.

20 minutes later, pink-faced and sweaty, I felt in harmony with myself. Good Evening.

Day 20 – Om Purnam – Unpuzzling a Riddle


Until recently, this Sanskrit verse always seemed like a mystical riddle to me, something not directly relevant in my life:

Om purnam adah purnam idam
Purnat purnam udacyate
Purnasya purnam adaya
Purnam eva vashishyate

One translation:
That is infinite, this is infinite.
From That infinite this infinite comes.
From That infinite, this infinite removed or added; Infinite remains infinite.

??? Right???

Prabhupada’s translation:
The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.

More literally:
This is the whole. That is the whole.
From wholeness springs wholeness.
Take all away from wholeness,
wholeness still remains.

Like I said, it’s been a big riddle to me, kind off like talking in circles. But when I heard the Kirtaniyas sing this at Shakti-fest this spring, something just clicked; I was singing with them at the top of my lungs. Having my husband’s loving arms wrapped around me added to my joyfulness. All I could hear was purnam, purnam, fullness, complete, whole. He is full and complete, I am full and complete. From his fullness, all fullness comes. No matter how much is taken from that source, it is always full. All separate parts are full and complete as well, ie, little me!

This speaks very deeply to me. This verse soothes me quite a lot these days. I’m in wonder of the idea that I can be all I want to be, without that negatively impacting someone else. My success is not another’s failure. There is room for us all. Each of us can be full and complete.

I’m just beginning my thinking about this dance, and Vis composed this tune for me:

Day 19 – Another Day has Come and Gone


Another day is over. Sometimes I stop what I’m doing in my day and think, “this is my life?” it seems at once marvelous and absurd. I wasn’t much of a dreamer as a kid, so I don’t remember attaching any specific expectation to my adulthood. It only promised to be better than ‘now’ – as the future always seems. Now is here though, as it always is. Still I have this funny feeling about life, like I haven’t quite figured out what the point of it is. Or if I’m missing the point somehow? It’s clearly a journey, though I’m not sure where I’m going really. But it’s clearly too late to have a philosophical quandary! (I admit that I rambled on about this for a while, having quite a dialogue with the Hare-Krishna fanatic in my head :p)

I’m not quite level-headed at this time of night, after hours of dancing. This is what I personally danced:
Tat & Nat adavus 2, 4, 6, 7
Ta tey tey ta 2

Also started brainstorming/dancing to a new dance with Vis set to the mantra ‘Om Purnam’

Day 18 – The Importance of Structure


Even though I’m sort-off rebelling against strict and rigid rules, I’m having an eye-opener about structures. Having a structure or a framework to support me is so helpful, even crucial.
In this Challenge, it feels easy and fun when I stay within the known, the vocabulary of Bharata Natyam. Doing adavus, the movement-sequences i know so well, gives me a default mode to rely upon; when all else fails, just do an adavu.

Even if I have felt and still feel limited by this structure, it also supports me tremendously. Going away from it, I feel like I’m floundering in the dark. There are no parameters to guide me. Or I have not learn them yet. I’m aimless and in the dark. No wonder I’ve stayed within the confines of the structure so long. Making my way out of here on my own is no ball game. Actually I don’t think I can do it on my own. Either I’m not an iconoclast or association and having a guide really do matter. Or both 🙂

All that said, here is me in my known playground. Same step as yesterday 🙂

We also did:
Tat adavu 1-5
Nat adavu 5-8
Tey hat tey hi – 1
Tat tey tam 1

Oh and I did a 10 minute Kuchipudi dance too, so I’m pretty pleased with my practice today 🙂

Day 17- Somewhere on Planet Earth


I know where I am, but mentally Im floating around somewhere on Planet Earth. Come back to me wherever you are, restless soul. No matter what we feel, we´ve got our day´s work to do, isnt it. Here is a small glimpse of mine:


This was the first time I danced together with my students in the class. I really felt good dancing with them. We did Tat-adavu and Nat-adavu 1, 3, 5, 8, plus the step you see above. Im surprised that after all that dancing, Im still not as grounded in being as I would like to be. Come back to me wherever you are, restless soul.


Day 16 – Trudging Forward


I’m in Panama City, Panama and looking forward to my two weeks here. I teach for several hours a day but also get time to myself to work on my projects without the many distractions at home. I arrived late and then Radhe and I talked until 12:15 AM, so I’m ready to crash and will keep it brief (I will introduce you to Radhe and her lovely family in the next few days).

Before I began my travels this morning, I gave myself a dance class:
Tat adavu 1 & 8
Nat adavu 5
Ta tey tey ta 1
Tey hat tey hi 2
Tat tey tam 2

I feel the need to list the steps so that it feels more real and concrete. After 3 days of no dance or real movement, I was pretty entrenched in some old ideas and dancing felt like trudging through mud. But I did it. And tomorrow is another day.