Balancing the Beautiful
An appreciation of the dancing of Miyoko Shida
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We do not live in a time when it is easy to balance the beautiful. Things are changing all the time and we are changing, too. Our minds are like drunken monkeys in a cage.
Thus we seek a stillness within the change. Not a rigid stillness that is frozen like ice, but rather a living stillness. Mystics call it the still point of the turning world. We seek a still point from which we can keep the balance.
I remember being with a friend who was dying in a hospital. His breathing was laborious and I knew he did not have many breaths left. It was not easy for me but I wanted to stay with him until the last breath. I found myself breathing with him, breath by breath.
I felt a wideness in it all as if we were being held in something so deep and yet so empty that it could contain everything. I called it God.
What I realized then was that the wideness is not opposed to our capacity to stay with one thing. Rather the wideness is the context of our being able to stay with one thing. The wideness gives us space.
Think of the room in which Miyoko Shida is dancing. It gives her space to pay attention, to be present, to stay with the sticks and then, when necessary, let them go.
Maybe this is what God is like. Maybe God is like a spacious room in which things are free to be themselves and focus, free to seek balance, free to become themselves.
Buddhists say that it takes attention to become yourself. They encourage us to gain freedom from the drunken monkey and live more mindfully.
Mindfulness is relaxed and aware attention to what is happening in the present moment, as it is happening. It can stay with things in a moving way. Taoists call it wu-wei or creative quietness. It is a kind of dancing.
The world needs more mindfulness and it needs more community. It also needs more solitude. Not more loneliness, but more solitude. Community is not the opposite of solitude; it requires solitude, a capacity to be yourself and express yourself.
Miyoko is alone on the stage; that is part of her solitude. But she is not a skin-encapsulated ego cut off from the world by the boundaries of her skin. As she balances the sticks there is no separation between herself and the sticks. She is with them.
They are the many that are becoming one in her. The audience is part of the many, too. She is with them, too.
But even as she is with many that are becoming one, she is also more than them. She is the subjective activity of sensing the points where sticks need to meet if they are to be balanced. She is the act of balancing.
Our lives are like this, too. Our lives are balancing acts. We are balancing our relations with heaven and earth, with friends and family, with neighbors and strangers, with ourselves and the world. Always we are trying to keep our balance. To find that harmony in the intensity of our lives and intensity within the harmony.
Harmony and intensity are names for beauty. Beauty is not simply what appears to the eyes. It is the beauty of consciousness as it focuses on one thing, becoming fully alive in the moment.
Maybe that's what God is for. Maybe God is the wideness that makes space for harmony and intensity. Maybe God is pure space, pure openness.
I think I read this in the Bible somewhere. "In the beginning is the openness and it makes space for the dancing." Isn't that how it goes?
There are so many forms of dancing. I think love is the deepest form. But it is certainly not the only form and they all have their beauty.
If you look carefully at the lilies of the field you can see them dancing, too, flowering forth into the open space.
All things are trying to balance the beautiful. And all things must let go in the end. Holding on, moving on, letting go, trusting in the open space - the heart of the way that excludes no ways.