I travel around the country and several international cities teaching dance to at least a thousand people at each stop, most of them children. In my classes, I talk about my story of external success and internal failure and all of the pressure and stress that came along with that. I talk about my fruitless search for happiness and fulfillment via my external achievements. About how I was educated out of play and learned to be devastatingly serious. And how all of this led to complete nervous breakdowns and the (temporary) destruction of my relationship with my gifts. I also try to facilitate an experience that fosters introspection, self-care and most of all PLAY. Without fail, in the midst of or by the end of each class, many people from ages 10 to 50, are in tears. They have just had FUN and it has seemingly triggered a reminder or revelation about how stressed and unhappy they actually are. As was the case for me, often dance, this thing that used to be for them purely a source of joy, has now also become a source of stress and pain. What happened along the way?
Of course the exact details of peopleʻs stories differ but the commonalities far outweigh the differences. For many of us, there was a time, as children, maybe even as teenagers when we felt enraptured by wonder, inspiration, passion, experimentation and play. And then, overtime, somethings and/or someones implanted the messages in us that it was time to focus, get serious, busy, stressed, impressive and successful. We learned that, “Life is survival of the fittest,” and wonder, inspiration, experimentation and play are frivolous, unproductive and childish behaviors that DO NOT lead to WINNING in life.
From my personal experience and what I have seen, as a society, we seem to be implanting these messages in people at a younger and younger age and the effect is heartbreaking. Often from the seemingly benevolent intention of wanting our children to have a “successful” life, we tend to fill their young lives with incessant activities and grand expectations all designed to “improve” them and give them the upper hand on the so called “competition.” Through this indoctrination our children learn things like, “If Iʻm not busy and stressed, Iʻm lazy and unworthy,” “If Iʻm not the best, Iʻm nobody at all,” and “Never be satisfied, always strive for more.” Not much room for wonder, inspiration, experimentation, and play in there and therefore, I believe, not much room for happiness and fulfillment.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am all for self-improvement, focus and hard work when appropriate and/or initiated by inspiration and passion; but when these behaviors become commandments for the sake of achieving self-worth rather than tools to help one move in the direction of their inspiration and joy, one can, so to speak, gain the whole world and lose their soul. When our children learn to always be busy and stressed, they learn to miss the universal guidance and inspiration that is all around us, all the time. If we canʻt be still and quiet, we canʻt listen, hear or understand ourselves, others and life. Without understanding weʻre lost, scared, sad, angry and often violent towards ourselves and others.
Amidst our last breath, “I wish I would have worked harder, made more money, won more awards, bought more stuff, spent less time with family and friends and had less fun,” said no heart ever. I believe all of this struggle and competition is but a story that we humans have made up and bought into. I donʻt believe we want this for our children, but hereʻs the thing, we canʻt give anyone what we do not have. So first, we must question, where do these beliefs come from in ourselves? Did WE CHOOSE them? What is it in our own hearts, minds and lives that we are trying to fix by attempting to make ourselves and/or our children so externally perfect and successful? Why are we so afraid to be still and quiet from time to time? What are we running from with all of our busyness? When was it that we started to believe that we act in order to be worthy, rather than, we know that we are worthy and then we act?
I canʻt help but imagine what humanity and the world would be like if we truly believed and taught our children something along the lines of, “You are worthy of love and belonging no matter what you do. You came to this earth to contribute many beautiful things and only you can find out what those things are. Follow what truly excites your heart and when the time is right, you will find your dynamic purpose. Once you have found it, learn to do it to the best of your ability. Then, look to see how you can give and the receiving part will work itself out. Along the way, be kind to yourself and to others and remember…have fun!”
These are but opinions and questions based on my personal experience. If any of them resonate with you, maybe try them on for size and journey towards your own truth.
Wishing you all health, love and the revelation of your fulfillment.
Love, Wade Robson.