This last weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of my favorite competitions of the year - the San Diego Beach Bash. Put together a well run event, themed parties and characters running around being mischievous, judges in swimming trunks with good friends at the beach and you have yourself a winning formula.
I like to take time for myself on a regular basis if I can, but usually that doesn't go over a few hours here and there with everything else going on in my life these days. I believe that reflecting regularly and observing the world around you is a necessary habit for success and happiness, and among the reasons why are that you are sure to learn something when you just slow down and listen, as well as that you get in tune with gratitude which is what it's all about in the end.
Well, times like these when I get a few days to relax, unwind and just connect to the endless wisdom of Nature always leave me with some spiritual lesson to bring home and San Diego had plenty this time around.
#1: Energy, Energy, Energy
At the studio we have a culture of excellence in everything we do, and a big part of that is energy. This can mean to you several things - keeping your energy positive, investing yourself in your relationships and endeavors, and committing consistent effort are some examples. Regarding my professional competitions this weekend with my partner, Sonya, I really got how critical these habits are for success.
And it's not that these things were foreign to me, but as life takes you along you are constantly re-discovering the principles you believe in at a new layer of depth and it gives you a richer understanding of what you know through experience.
Friday night we competed in Rising Star, and we placed 4th - ahead of couples that we had historically been behind. So far this year was full of good results, and all of the energy and preparation we have been investing was beginning to pay off. Coming from last year where we had taken a break from dancing, this year was a total turn around and the momentum keeps building.
What Sonya and I have now is a very efficient practice schedule involving doing regular rounds and pushing our physical bodies the most our schedule will afford - and it took time, effort and planning to get to that point. No place worth getting to is easy or fast, and if you want to see the fruits of your labor you definitely have to learn to delay gratification and see process.
On Saturday we competed in the Open Professional competition and we were happy to make the semi-final. The final 6 spots were already taken by national-level finalists, so there was no chance at making the final again. On the way to the hotel to change, I thought to myself, "Man, I drove all the way out here and spent all this money just so the judges can see me for a few seconds and know I exist. I better make it count."
That's right, a few seconds.
Push your energy to the limit in that quarterfinal so that during the few seconds they see you, you make it to the next round. You won't make the final, but after they are done marking the 6 who were going to make it anyway they have a few good seconds to wander their gaze and compare the rest. Those few seconds at the end of the semi-final are your time to shine so don't waste it.
From an energy perspective, the exchange between what you give and what you get are dramatically disproportionate in any great endeavor, any great goal. But this is also what transforms you and teaches you about resilience, patience and gratitude. I was grateful for my 10-20 seconds to be seen, as well as the pleasure of being on that floor with some of the best people in the country and holding my own. There are always plenty of reasons to find dissatisfaction and disappointment, and likewise there are also plenty to be grateful for - the difference is your point of view, and if you want to persevere and keep your energy moving forward despite the immense resistance life will offer against any worthy goal, then gratitude is the key.
#2: Let Go
You've probably heard of this one before, and so have I. It's one of those personal growth cliches that are constantly thrown at us, but until we really experience it we tend to just throw it to the side like most other golden principles of life.
One thing I am grateful for in my dance career is that I have a great partner in Sonya. We have been partners for 3 years now, and among the reasons why our partnership has been successful was because of communication. Like any partnership, conflict is inevitable and Sonya and I are no strangers to arguments but I'm grateful to say that they are usually few and far between and we always get resolution and come to a new level of understanding of one another after the fact.
Every partnership - whether that's a business or romantic one - is there, in part, to teach you something about yourself and partnerships in general. For me, one of the biggest lessons I've learned in the last year is that we all have a desire for control to some extent and in putting that energy on others you create conflict and stifle love and creativity. At some point if you want things to grow, you have to let go of controlling others and instead control yourself.
Don't worry - Sonya and I didn't have some huge argument or anything this weekend, but a minor situation having to deal with a difference in how we do things made me realize that just because I do something in one way, it doesn't mean I should expect another person to do it like that.
Expectations are the root of all evil in relationships, and that's not to say that you shouldn't create agreements with one another about how things are to go, but expectations are different. It is the energy of control being directed outside of you and that process right there will rob you of love, peace and life.
If you are going to do something for someone, do it for the sake of choosing to - do not expect anything in return. Likewise if someone does something for you, do not feel pressured to return the favor in a certain way but instead do it out of the generosity of your own heart.
#3: Time Erases Everything
I drove up there late Thursday night so that I could have Friday to myself and practice without rushing. In the morning I hurried to the beach to catch the early sun and go for a jog along the waves of the beautiful Mission Bay that had held so many memories for me.
This was my 3rd consecutive year in San Diego, although a few things were different this time around. The first time I came with a girl I barely started dating, and it was our first road trip. It was while walking on the beach on the last day that things changed and love between each other was discovered. A year later, among chaos and uncertainty between us, I wanted to re-kindle hope from that moment and, bringing her to San Diego on a spontaneous decision, asked her to marry me.
Time flies when you're having fun, or I guess when you're transforming - because I couldn't believe it has already been a year from that day.
Although I've done a lot to remove the significance and powerless conversations in my head that are normal in a situation when you part with someone that important in your life, coming to the San Diego Beach Bash was not entirely easy. Of course the mind triggers those memories and it starts running in all sorts of directions if you don't quiet it down.
But in the end I was very much at peace, and I re-learned a lesson at the beach this weekend that is very important in life: Time heals all wounds, it is the natural process of the Universe.
Everything is in a constant flux, changing and re-shaping itself over time. This is undeniable, and if one thing is certain it is change. Sitting on the beach and listening to the waves and watching them crash over my random scribbles in the sand made it very clear - life is a playful thing, do not get attached to anything because in the end it is all washed away regardless.
And with every wave, whatever was there is washed clean and a new canvas is ready. San Diego may have been a place with significant memories, but now I was here with my good friends, in a different place in life and a totally new outlook, of which I was all grateful for. The memories I had in the past remain beautiful and a reminder to me that I played full out, and this year marks a new layer to the endless cake of experiences we make over the course of life and that in and of itself is liberating.
Life moves on, the waves keep crashing. Play in the sand, draw, see what it feels like. The waves will wash it away and this is certain, so enjoy it fully and when it's a new canvas play on that one too. Life is about the memories you create, leave everything else in the past.
#4: Trust is Not About Others
After driving for 6 hours, I was happy to finally get home. I'd driven to 2 other competitions in California and Vegas in the last two months and I was getting sick of driving. Right as I'm unpacking my trunk, I hear a loud, "Thereeeee he is!!!! The dancer!!!!"
I knew the voice, but I didn't know the name. It was one of my crazy neighbors who loved to have a few sips and walk around the neighborhood. I'd known her for several years, but hadn't seen her in a while. Under her boisterous, unkempt, hillbilly demeanor was a good soul but nonetheless one that required patience to handle.
"Hey can you do me a favor?" she said, after hugging me and kissing my neck - I could smell the alcohol on her breath and immediately thought, Oh boy this is just what I need after driving from California.
She needed to get her prescription medications from the Walgreen's down the street and begged me for a ride. I generally treat these situations as signs from the Universe, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt but admittedly I was ready for all kinds of ugly scenarios in my mind.
After avoiding telling me her name, I found out once she had to pick up her prescription. Why she playfully refused to remind me her name I have no clue, but it only added to the challenge.
At the end of the day, she got her meds and even ended up buying me something from the store in thanks. I took her back to the complex, and in the car she broke down crying that her mom of 78 was on her last leg and would probably die soon. I sat there in the car just listening, and observing the situation. I had initially judged this person based on their demeanor and drunken stupor, but she really needed someone and I happen to be that person at that time.
Trust is not about other people and what they do or who they are - trust is about your own ability to use it with them. Just like how we should not put reasons for our generosity, the same goes for any virtues. If I trust you it has less to do with you and more with my ability to be trusting and, essentially, vulnerable.
So I am grateful to my crazy alcoholic neighbor, she's a good person deep down inside and being with her a little on Sunday allowed me the chance to practice trust, patience and empathy and that was a priceless way to conclude a weekend full of lessons and wonderful experiences in good old sunny San Diego.