I am still reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, in between other books and projects. Today, I was struck by the following paragraph, and then taught a class immediately after reading. My student felt frustrated that she was "losing the tango she had" before, although my impression is that she is improving at a steady pace. Here's what Waitzkin wrote about learning Tai Chi Pushing Hands:
In order to grow, [the learner] needs to give up his current mind-set. He needs to lose to win. . . . William Chen calls this investment in loss. Investment in loss is giving yourself to the learning process. In Push Hands it is letting yourself be pushed without reverting back to old habits--training yourself to be soft and receptive when your body doesn't have any idea how to do it and wants to tighten up. (p. 107)
This resonates with me as a process that I continually experience each time I go up a level in tango. I have to let go of the familiar motor pathways that make me feel competent, and set off down new motor pathways that feel weird, disorienting and unfamiliar. Gradually, as those new habits fall into place, they begin to feel normal and good; and I reach a new level of dance.
I see dancers all the time who remain at the same intermediate level permanently because it is just too frightening to step off the curb into a new modality. I started from scratch in tango after teaching for twelve years. It was a scary year, as I learned new things and started to teach them. I had to acknowledge that I was also trying to get them into my body. I felt very vulnerable. I have a card in front of my computer that reads: "A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for (John Augustus Shedd)." I read that every day, and try not to let my vulnerability keep me hiding from growth.
What about you?