“He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger… “
What kind of life lessons did you learn from your parents? How are you passing them along today? Why is it that some things are so easy to understand and yet so tricky to fully embody?
We are rapidly slipping into that time of year when everyone’s schedule gets topsy-turvy, normal routines are replaced by travel or family gatherings, and a different set of priorities emerge.
Sometime around the Winter Solstice each year it’s traditional to slow down, pause, and reflect. The year that we are leaving behind, the new one that’s just around the corner, and our place in the grand scheme of our big-picture hopes and dreams.
When you think of your traditions and the lessons you’ve learned along the way you’re bound to bump into thoughts of your early years and how your parents influenced you. Whether you have kids or not, you’re still a link in the chain.
Your karma is yours alone and the set of circumstances that served to mold you have a great deal to do with who you are today. But while circumstances may play a role in where you are located or who you are related to, they are still external.
What’s more important and entirely under your control is your internal capacity to choose. The decisions you make every step of the way have far more bearing on your current life than anything else. We all know people who have overcome tremendous adversity to achieve greatness, as well as those who choose to “shoot themselves in the foot” at every turn despite having ample opportunities for success placed before them.
One of the key indicators for success is the ineffable quality of ‘grit’. Stick-to-it-ivness, resolve, and determination are only learned by dealing with your own failures. Parents who smooth the path and remove every obstacle for their growing children aren’t doing them any favors. (Parents who make the path more difficult and create unnecessary obstacles aren’t either!)
Regardless of the attitudes and ambiance that formed the backdrop for your development, your ability to be the driver of your own consciousness is what makes a difference in the here and now. Your life is like a long list of lessons learned that you are constantly updating as you go along, discarding the no longer useful and embracing the currently valuable.
Unlike other mammals, we humans with our capacity for consciousness have a different operating system. We exist in the moment, same as any other aardvark, anteater, or antelope, yet our minds allow us to simultaneously inhabit a richly imagined future and a detailed past. We develop myths and memes that are rich in meaning that become the belief systems that guide us and inform our choices along the way.
It’s the intergenerational flow of meaning that forms the through-line for culture. You start out as a learner-of-lessons until one day you are the one passing down your accumulated wisdom to others. If you happen to be a parent holding up your link in the chain, then it becomes even more clear that it’s the same process from either side, it just looks different depending on where you stand.
For me, I get first-hand insight into this process nearly every day. As a single dad with a boisterous tween-age daughter in the house, it’s recently dawned upon me just how little I understood the entire wisdom-gaining process of growing up until now. When she “pushes my buttons” and tests my capacity for boundary-setting I find myself struggling to choose an appropriate response.
But first, let me digress. Starting about her age I recall being an absolute nightmare for my parents. I never really gave much thought during the ensuing years to how much torment, worry, and sheer exasperation I put them through. The fact that I made it through alive and grew close to them in their later years is something of a miracle. For sure, the one thing I was an expert at during my tweens, teens, and twenties was ‘pushing their buttons’!
So turnabout is fair play, and life is a prankster. It’s time for me, the professional button-pusher to come face-to-face on a daily basis with a smart little human who is genetically programmed to know where mine are and just how to push them. It’s as if I’m meeting myself on the other side of life’s looking glass, only the joke is on me.
Where the learning comes in on this side of life’s lesson plan is trying to be the adult in the challenging situations and living up to my role as ‘captain of the family ship’. Because without fail, the first impulses that arise when I’m pushed to the limit are the ones that remind me of the worst moments of my own upbringing.
The real dance of maturity comes in bringing forward the best while gaining control over the worst. And whether you have kids or not, when life deals you a lousy hand you always have to choose between the default programming in your DNA or the hard-won wisdom that you’ve learned along the way. Your spin on the generational merry-go-round is your only chance to upgrade your operating system with higher consciousness and loving-kindness.
So for me now quite often, when she’s doing her best to poke and prod for one of my triggers, I find myself pausing for a moment to ponder and ask myself some questions before I respond. How similar is it to what I was doing to my own parents at her age? How would they have reacted? What would be an entirely different approach to resolve the situation in a more positive and loving way?
If growing up is a process of pushing other people’s buttons and testing boundaries, then the flip side is learning how to be kind and resilient when the button-pushers come after you! Somewhere in this equation lies the equanimity of grandparents. For those who have paid their dues on both sides of the looking glass, it’s got to be entertaining to witness the foibles of youth.
Be sure to pack plenty of patience, kindness, and humor in your holiday bags! Lead with the love of life’s lessons as you celebrate the last holiday season of the decade and dance into the New Roaring Twenties with a spring in your step!
Much love till next Monday!
Dance First Member Spotlight – 5Rhythms Ritual Theatre leader Lorca Simons!
This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight shines on UK-based 5Rhythms Ritual Theatre impresario Lorca Simons! Lorca is a long-time protege of Gabrielle Roth who has embraced the ritualistic and theatrical side of her body of work to great acclaim.
This Texas native now residing in the English countryside has an approach that is rich in meaning and metaphor. Dedicated to “the creation of physical theater that is both interactive and transformative”, Lorca brings to the fore a background in the theatre arts that began as a child in Texas growing up in the atmosphere of her father’s experimental company Hip Pocket Theatre.
After graduating with an education in both experimental and traditional theatre from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts conservatory she blazed through productions in New York City from Off Broadway to fringe, as well as television and film.
Her instincts brought her to Gabrielle Roth and the 5Rhythms for a 19-year collaboration that included the training and led her to be the co-founder and co-director of 5RT, the experimental theatre wing of the 5Rhythms world.
Building upon Gabrielle’s inquiry into “what it means to be an authentic human being” she created Live Wire 5Rhythms Theatre. A panoply of metaphorical expressions designed to help people become true “athletes of the heart”, her offerings include Live Wire labs, Breath in Motion, Roots, Electric Landscapes, Silhouette, Wing Span, Soul Threading, Live Wire and On The Verge.
You’ve got ample opportunities to experience Lorca’s transformative work firsthand in 2020 as she is going to be busy contributing her offerings to the field in the USA, Canada, and Europe. Check out her events on the MoveMap and visit her on