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FREEDOM is a Quality of Improvisers



One of the things I am loving most about classes lately are the conversations that ensue during and after class as we debrief our experiences. So many gems have come to the surface in people’s shifts and experiences. Thank you to the sweet and open-hearted beings who have been attending, sharing vulnerably, risking, and playing for freedom.


Freedom elicits multifarious references in us. By no means are these mentions a complete list of references that may arise for us, just some that feel meaningful for me in the here and now. What do you think of when you hear the word freedom? drop me a note!


From the horrors of slavery of the numerous persecuted cultures since the beginning of time, sages who devoted their lives to assist us in our own liberation, the free love movement, the freedom to move about the planet, to choose life or death, to vote, earn a living, the freedom to not choose freedom, the yearning for humans from immensely diverse backgrounds to marry, engage in personal choices for their bodies, save trees and animals, tote a weapon, be free from dying in the hands of yours, speak their truth, say yes, say no, be uncertain, to the journey through the eye of the needle when my Yaya was liberated from Auschwitz-Birkenow. Those who have taken stands and acted courageously are the wind beneath our wings.


These choices and longings, whether epic or subtle, lie within all beings as fundamental needs for autonomy and choice. Yet many have never or no longer have the privilege of personal or communal agency in their lives.


I reflect on the privilege I encounter in my own life with humility and gracious gratitude - and in the wake of my own liberation, I pray that I may always support yours.


I seem to have come out of the womb ready to express. It’s a fire in my spirit that I am unable to identify or contain. When I was 5, a neighbor of mine stood over me and said “eres un terremoto” (you are an earthquake). Not a statement one forgets.


Soon my truth-telling ways shook my family’s and friend's cores. This empathic, highly sensitive sponge, entrained and felt other’s unfelt emotions.


My stoically Greek fam was not having this transparency - it was dangerously vulnerable in their eyes. My Moroccan Sephardic conservative family was ruffled by my distaste for convention, and the bridge crumbled as this queer, stogie shmokin’, booze drinkin’, substance ingestin’, Janis lovin’ freak emerged to encounter my supremely shocked once gothic tribe in high school as I suddenly sacked the black and the makeup, and and sported brown suede booties from 1968.


Often, what I did with other’s responses to my choices was to unhappily wither. I shut down my voice in order to survive, and my spirit dissolved into a suicidal stupor. But only for a decade.



Then something broke and I saw the gift of my life in a movie called “Fearless”. This, I am not. Relentless in the facing of my fear, * ! # k yes!


I was raised by a pack of therapists and bless these people for the spaces of safety they brought forth to speak truths.


In high school, my friend Nick (formerly Nicole) said “you need to hear 10,000 Maniacs”. They played “What’s the Matter Here” and I was dumbfounded to hear someone singing such truth in a pop song. I went to see 10K Maniacs when I was 17, and as I watched the huge voice of the tiny sized Natalie Merchant parading and professing, I heard a voice in me say “I just now quit smoking, and I am going to be a singer” - and that was it. The rest is #thistory


Here’s the deal, this singing, this facing the fear of telling the truth, of risking to stand for something I believe in when faced with disagreement, is the dojo for my liberation and I am all at once the Jujitsuka, the Sensei, the Kata, the opponent and the mat.


“The Martial Artist’s Highest Goal is the Peaceful Resolution of Conflict” said the sign at one of my deepest training grounds, Laurel Jujitsu.


I have often pondered the meaning of this quote. It occurs to me that my redirecting or blocking an external attempt to injure or trespass my body or being in all the ways that a martial artist does is a supreme act of love for both parties.


The stages of initiation engaged once you step on the offensive arts mat begin with order, humility, respect, discipline, bringing your full self while learning to contain it, learning that less is more, that strength is irrelevant, that anger is an obstacle to the self-control required to #ninjalize, and lastly – that my liberation is in the leaning in to face what is in front of me.


Toni Jones, in her provocative street strut video I Got This articulates the culmination of a decades long allegiance to inner peace alchemized by the process of leaning into the ache.


“Pain, try me if ya want to, I know you always gonna serve my growth.

I know how to use you now, thank you!”

- Toni Jones


Mmmmmmmm......


The freedom to cease to resist – a lofty lifetime work of art for which I am primed and humbled to face.


Classically trained pianists traditionally feel challenged to get off the page, whereas Jazz training encourages this from the beginning with its scalar skills as a foundation. This is what I love about improvising. The incredible level of freedom that one can experience when the canvas is blank and anything can happen.


Does this uncertainty scare you a bit? Good! Let’s lean in with play, care and presence to find our way from contraction to freedom through mindful movement and vivacious vocalization.


Love upon love,


Renée



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