Monday, 21 February 2011
Mind over matter
As blogged on Saturday (and well trailed in advance!), I spent this weekend at Scotland's International Tango Festival right here in Stirling. It was a fantastic, if completely exhausting, weekend. I learned loads and had fun at the same time.
But it wasn't all sweetness and light - there were times, perhaps because I was so tired - when I lost confidence and nothing seemed to go right. It reminded me of that saying, whether you think you can or you can't, you're probably right. The power of the mind is amazing. Tell someone they can't do it, and they'll probably fail - unless they're thrawn and won't to prove you wrong. But even then, I'll warrant that deep inside they're probably worrying it might just be true.
I had my own experience of that this weekend - not so much anyone else telling me I couldn't do it (although the critique of dancing from my teacher at the Braveheart Ball after a long day in the dance studio wasn't entirely positive!), as me thinking that for myself. It started with a less than perfect first workshop on what should have been the basics of Walking, Posture and the Embrace. I found I just couldn't relax into the class and switch off from my working week (finished just 30 minutes before the start of the workshop) - which meant that my focus wasn't where it should be and the necessary connection was lost. Surviving the evening Milonga helped but I wasn't at my best or most confident.
The next morning, however, a combination of a more positive frame of mind and 2 exceptionally good teachers meant that I thoroughly enjoyed my workshop on colgadas and volcadas and felt at the end that I knew what I was doing with them - which my long suffering dance partner and I proved in the Tango Lounge later that afternoon. Likewise the much dreaded afternoon workshop on Giros (my tango bete noir!) was equally successful and I was filled with confidence and vigour for the evening's Braveheart Ball.
At which point, it all started to fall apart again. A couple of dances where I couldn't feel my partner's lead quickly became a few more and then I made the disastrous decision to dance with my dance teacher - resulting in the aforementioned critique.
Now I know he meant well. And I know his frustration was as much in his seeming inability to teach me how to do it right. But what it left me feeling was a complete failure - there didn't seem to be anything I could do right - and that was the end of my night's dancing. Although, admittedly, it would probably have been the end anyway since my feet were so sore by then I could barely stand on them!
So it was with a degree of trepidation again that I turned up at the next morning's workshop on Boleos and the free leg (my other tango bete noir). And once again, I needn't have worried. Two more exceptionally good teachers, a relaxing atmosphere and a fresh start all made for an enjoyable experience and me feeling that I had 'got it'.
So what's the point of this ramble? Well, it's partly to let you know a little bit more about what I learned about tango over the weekend. But it's also to share what I learned about myself and the power of positive thinking, or at the very least, not letting my negative thoughts control me. It's not just in tango that can happen, it's in so much else as well. If we allow ourselves to be constrained by our doubts and our inner critics, we run the risk of limiting ourselves far more than is actually real.
Want my advice? Don't completely disregard your warning voices - but just treat them with a grain of salt, and don't let them dominate. And in any case, what's wrong with failing to be perfect every once in a while???
PS Want to see what my feet were like at the end of the weekend?