Category Archives: Favorites

Letter from Peter Martins (and my response)

April 6, 2015

Dear Tai,

Greetings from the School of American Ballet. I am writing to invite you to become part of a very important program at SAB.

As a new component of our ongoing diversity initiative, we are currently in the process of forming a committee consisting of a select group of alumni who are active in the dance world. Members of the SAB Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity & Inclusion will be asked to provide input to help shape and enhance SAB’s ongoing work to broaden recruiting, outreach, and student life programs, with the ultimate goal of increasing diversity on ballet stages around the globe.

I believe that your experience and insight into SAB and the broader dance world will be an invaluable addition to our efforts and sincerely hope that you will accept this invitation to become a member of the Committee for its 2015-2016 inaugural session.

SAB’s Diversity Program Manager, Leah Qunitiliano, will reach out to you next week to discuss in more detail the goals and expectations….etc.

With warm wishes,
Peter Martins
Artistic Director and Chairman of Faculty


Hi Leah. I have been giving the matter of whether or not to join the Diversity Committee some thought. With all do respect, if the School of American Ballet is serious about diversifying, they can start by hiring me as a ballet teacher. I am great.

This is not about me, and it is about me. Please tell Peter Martins that true diversity means the whole structure has to change. Is he ready for that?

Tai Jimenez
Former Principal Dancer of The Dance Theatre of Harlem
Former Principal Dancer with the Boston Ballet



As a dancer, there were certain things I had naturally and other things I had to work at. I expected there to be a certain amount of pain. While working to develop my flexibility for example, pain became a sort of daily ritual meditation.

At times, I was overwhelmed by the level of sacrifice the art demanded, but I knew I wanted to go all the way, where ever that was, where ever that led. That journey was stressful, terrifying, confusing, ecstatic, spiritual and devastating, not necessarily in that order, and sometimes all those things before lunch.

I think my failures outnumbered my successes, which made the successes more meaningful.

Now I can look back on that journey and see it as a kind of initiation process towards becoming an artist. Certain things in life can’t be gotten at without going through the door of transformation, no matter how gifted you are, and it usually doesn’t feel good when it’s happening. The struggle of the butterfly to emerge from its cocoon is what strengthens its wings and enables it to fly. The struggle is inseparable, and, perhaps, equal to the gift that awaits you.

In our culture, we are taught to lead with ego, to always look cool and to avoid vulnerability because it equates with weakness, but Malidoma teaches that Spirit can only work with us when we are in a vulnerable state. He says, “Sometimes your not-knowing cooperates better with a process than your knowing.” These are hard words for modern people to embrace, we who want to know the outcome of every step before we take it, we who have invented insurance for our insurance, we of the homogenized beauty, of the entitled, we in the “Yes, we can,” demanding change under the guise of security.

Anyway, now that I’ve hung up my pointe shoes, another initiation is on the horizon: parenthood.

So far, so good: the little tea-pot is kicking and appears healthy. I am quite comfy in my maternity jeans and enjoy food in an almost orgasmic way. I’m talkin’ peanut butter and butter and jelly. And I feel a kind of immunity from the cares of the world, like I’ve just won a challenge on Project Runway and cannot be eliminated for the next round. There’s a sort of energy of respite that confused me at first, but that I now wallow in quite contentedly.

Mostly, when people find out that I am pregnant, and at six months it’s hard to miss, they are sincerely congratulatory, but then there are those others, the rainers-on-the paraders, who take the opportunity to unleash their cynicism about parenthood under the pretext of giving me a head’s up. Thanks. They complain about how unhappy they are, stopping just short of out-right blame towards their kids followed by an insincere chuckle and an awkward silence.

I’m not saying that there’s not an appropriate place and time to express one’s heart-ache over parenting. Of course there is. But I suspect our above mentioned cynics also lack a context for expressing grief. Maybe we don’t have to choose between the image of the new-agey, bullshit, eternally cheery positive thinker and the cynic.  Maybe we can let ourselves off the hook by honestly accepting how we feel, without resistance, without labels. By resisting our humanness, we become trapped in a prison of expectation, a maze with no center, no exit and no reward. And I only know about the maze because I’ve been there. I guess getting lost is sometimes part of it. We forget that it’s not who we are.

I often look upon the Spiritual journey, of which parenting may play a big part for those who choose it, not as a process of gaining special psychic powers or existing in some perpetually blissful state, but as a process of becoming fully human. And don’t worry. If you don’t choose parenting, initiation will find you some other way.

And then there are those, many of whom are quite accomplished in other areas of their lives, who say, without doubt or hesitation, that parenting is the best, the greatest thing they’ve ever done.


Here we come to welcome you, Little Big One.

10 Spiritual Insights for Dancers

I have wondered a lot lately whether ballet is part of my contract for being here on this earthly plane, something to which I agreed upon prior to birth. Is my contract with dance or ballet in particular? Have I fulfilled my obligations to ballet and is it time to focus on some other way to dance?

I went into meditation this morning and what I’ve written here was my answer. The funny thing is, while investigating how to get greater readership for my blog, I often came across advice to make lists of ten which I immediately shunned as tacky and simplistic. Then this! Well, I’m learning.

I invite you to take what serves you and disregard what doesn’t resonate. I don’t think this is comprehensive. I don’t really trust things that claim to be comprehensive. I wrote this with love for my students, for myself and for the dance goddess, whose love has shattered me. I’m sorry, my darling, that it has taken me so long to embody the one who could write this. Ashe. I love you, still.

1. Technique/Practice. I’m finding lately that in our modern age, the idea of technique (to those who don’t yet have it) is starting to be interpreted as a sort of magical door that once clicked will give you access to the golden room of dance. Students are looking for a shortcut. There is no such thing. Even when given the most detailed explanation, you still have to do the work. I prefer to use the word practice instead of technique. One who has a good technique is in other words one who has practiced consistently with discernment over time.  It is a living, growing changing process of increasing subtlety. You may become well seasoned. You may become masterful, but beware of impeccability. There are no absolutes. We in the West interpret one of the Wabi Sabi aphorisms as “everything is incomplete.” This translation misses the mark. It is closer to describe this precept as “the master is one who embraces an infinite path,” or “a master is one who has practiced the newness over time.”

2. Parallel and Harmonious lines of energy. Generally, when we speak of line in dance, we are referring to the external plastique. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a line of energy that comes through your eyes, through your heart, through your fingertips and through your feet. These lines must move in harmony and awareness of each other or in a conscious disharmony which is sometimes used to make an artistic statement . You may think of these lines of energy as musical notes that ebb and flow, but must be sustained throughout the phrase of movement. You are dancing, channeling, these lines of energy. They come through you from the other world and the lines of energy, especially through your eyes, are rooted to your ancestors.

3. Perfection vs. Imperfection. Perfection is a paradox. We must strive for it, while keeping in mind that it is not the goal. Union with the divine is the goal and that does not require perfect turnout, perfect proportions or a perfect smile. Perfection can lead us forward, but we must not let it lead us astray. Our perceived imperfections are the doorway to our humanity. As a dear friend of mine once said, “Nobody gives a damn about seeing you dance. They want to see themselves through you.” Our humanity, our striving for what is unattainable, our vulnerability, allows others in. Perfection is superficially attractive, but ultimately alienating, sterile and boring.

4. Magic. There are two types of magic: that of the magician and that of the shaman. Both must dance together. The magician’s magic is that of creating an illusion. Drawing the observer’s eye toward what you want them to see. A principal dancer is not one without flaw. She is one who has mastered this art of illusion. Your dancing is not only about you. It is about what you can point to. This requires an active imagination. If you are preoccupied with thoughts of yourself, you will not be able to take the audience very far. You must create a whole world, a whole universe, and then take them there. Often, I will give a step in class and people will start doing it in a headless sort of way without giving a thought to the illusion. They want to do it right, but if you are not creating an illusion, no matter how “right” you do the step, it will not be dancing.

The next kind of magic, shamanic magic, is the magic of change. It has to do with moving energy around, drawing it into you, transmuting it and sending it back out again. Not only do you create the universe with your imagination, you are the universe. The shamanic magic cannot be so easily described. It requires faith. It requires one not to just imagine there, but to actually go there, to burn yourself completely and leave no trace, or, stated differently, to become a vessel to that which burns.

5. Fear. There are two kinds of fear: paranoia and authentic fear. The first kind is to be avoided. It is the fear that says you are not good enough, worthy enough, pretty enough,thin enough etc. It is the kind of fear that the media instills in us through doctored, medicated images of perfection which become exacerbated by a dancer’s natural vanity and obsession with the mirror.

The second fear, authentic fear, is good. Make friends with it. It is the kind of fear that leads us forward. It calls us to become our highest Self and may indicate that we are in the presence of spirit. It is the little voice inside of us that says yes when other external voices say otherwise. Say yes and see what happens. Do not make a problem out of authentic fear. It is not necessary to rid yourself of it prior to a performance. It is only required that you move through it. “If you go forward you die. If you go backwards you die. So go forward and die.”–African proverb.

6. Faith. As my teacher, Ken Ludden said, faith requires action. Faith is doing the thing you know to be true, even when you do not know the outcome, and even when you do. Faith is the essential ingredient that moves us forward in life and in dance. It is what must be present in order to transcend fear.

7. Stillness/Silence. We often think of dancers as people who move beautifully, but what is equally important is the degree to which we can cultivate stillness in movement and in our lives. We have to take a note from musicians who must be as equally aware of the sounds as they are of the silence.  The movement, the sound, is what frames the stillness, the silence. And it is the space in-between that allows our presence to shine.

8. Compassion and Forgiveness. Have compassion for yourself, your teachers, your fellow dancers and everyone. A moment of compassion heals the whole world. Try to free yourself from expectation and learn instead to flow with what is. Compassion will soften the inevitable struggle that is dance. Forgive what might have been when it comes to the big moments in life and the little ones that occur in performance. Forgive your father, forgive the goddess of dance for her fickle, cruel nature, forgive being off your leg in that pique arabesque. Forgiveness is a big part of The Dance. If you can’t recover from a mistake, you can’t dance.

9. Competition. I have heard many people say that there is a good aspect of competition. If there is, feel free to write it here. I haven’t experienced it. Competition disconnects us from our internal voice and makes us reach outward. It makes us un-centered and breeds jealousy. It makes someone a loser and someone else a winner, but that is never the truth. It’s ok to want something that someone else has. It is good to feel inspired by others. But when that wanting leads us away from our own path, we get lost. Our purpose, our medicine, is unique in the world. It is our job to bring it forth, with the help of our community, nature, our ancestors and other invisible forces. Our culture spends a lot of energy cultivating competition instead of focusing directly on helping people manifest their purpose. Competing in a competition may indirectly point you in the right direction, but why not have healing as a starting point? Competition is therefore a primitive and inefficient means of moving forward. Love and nurturing make better flowers.

10. Fun. If I could change one thing about my career, it wouldn’t be to have had more roles, to have made more money, to have better feet, better extension, more turns, or any of that crap. It would have been to have had more fun. Laughter is great medicine for body and soul. It takes many lifetimes to master an art. We have a long way to go. Make fun along the way. It will keep your love for dance ALIVE.

21 Day Challenge

May 14th,

Two little birds swing

On thin branches, suddenly

All the leaves have eyes.

One day, while driving around in the Grey Pearl, I wanted some company, so I switched on the radio. The tape and cd player haven’t worked in ages, which doesn’t stop me from having tapes and cds in the car. I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. It’s sort of like keeping a picture of an old person from when they were young. You want to remember them in their glory days. Or maybe I just want to remember myself that way: Tai and Natasha driving downtown on the FDR listening to Missy Elliot, Tai driving to Boston for the first time listening to Destiny’s Child, etc.

The Grey Pearl is at the point in her life when I’ve stopped fixing things. She’s all meals-on-wheels-y and has the eau of stale popcorn and wet dog. I take her out once in a while for a slow drive to the Stop-n-Shop.

April 24th, Buy turkey sausages and tangelos. Not necessarily in that order. pause pause pause pause pause pause pause pause pause pause pause…

The radio still works as long as you don’t have the wiper blades on, the lights on, or the defroster on. She can only handle one function at a time before she starts screeching like a Nazgul, a sound so ghastly, it makes even the hardest homie on the corner cringe with fear as I roll by.

It’s hard to mention the Grey Pearl without indulging in a bit of nostalgia. But this is not about her. It’s about what I heard on the radio that day.

It was a sunny day. I risked the radio without a complaint from Pearl. I tuned into NPR with me and Pearl cruising along at 30 mph. Good times.

April 29th, Let go let go let go let go open open open…

Enough of this it’s time for bed

Undo the thread of writing dread

Unknow my head

Uncross my doubt

Navigate the round-a-bout

The moment I switched on the radio, I heard a male voice say, “If you want to write, you have to write every day. Around the 21st day, something happens. It takes on a life of its own.” I took this as a sign.

I drove home with images of how I might transform into a Rumi or a Murakami after my twenty-one days of writing. One day they might even interview me on NPR!

I wanted to take on the challenge. I tried to write every day, but some days I just couldn’t. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. I gave up, boo hoo. I’d heard from writers before that in order to grow, you have to make it a daily practice, but I could never assume that discipline.

I mentioned this to an artist friend of mine who suggested just writing without any agenda. Without the need to share it or even have it make sense. Just practice every day, even if you write the same word over and over again.

April 28th,

Inscrutable Inscrutable Inscrutable Inscrutable Inscrutable Inscru–

Let’s keep dancing, shall we?

Maybe not.

Genius isn’t creating.

It’s knowing when to stop.

Stop your roll

Stop your flow

You enter things you should not go

Ho ho, said the keeper of the beat

Learn to make your moves discreet

I do not mend the mind that flows

It knows its road

It holds its goal

The soul of hand, of paper, pen

That moves the glen

Of writing zen

Cannot compete with screens of light

Of kindle fires made with wires

Delight the light-weight simpleton

Whose cannot-carry shoulders win

The world gets smaller every day

A box-shaped box

Has found its way

Into our hearts

And don’t forget the world of art!

It’s found its way inside there too

Next to the extinct kangaroo

Reducing nature to a myth

No one will remember this

Except in dreams

That thing of green

You mean a tree?

Is that its name?

A fiction, unicorns the same.

His words freed me. Writing became a part of my daily practice. I found that because I had to write things down, I could not avoid anything. What I mean is, often when I feel blue let’s say, I try to avoid or change this uncomfortable feeling, but I found that, in the space of avoidance, I couldn’t write. Not even a stream of consciousness. I had to write the truth of what was and somehow the writing of it allowed me to process it and move on. I know this is nothing new. That’s why people keep journals. It’s just new for me.

I became interested in the process itself. I started out printing by hand. Then, a day or two into the twenty-one day challenge, my writing switched to cursive, mid-sentence. Then one day, I started writing vewy vewy small.

May 15,

I am so lonely. I am Yoda’s little brother, only five hundred and eighty-seven years old. I am not a Jedi like my brother. I am an alcoholic.

The rest of the family does not talk backwards like Yoda. We speak in straight sentences. Our father tried to beat it out of him, this quirkiness of speech. He said it’s a big waste of commas, so Yoda ran away.

Yoda came to my room one night. He said, “Fred, running away, I am. Take the beatings any more, I cannot. Miss you, I will.”

I cried. I begged him to stay, or take me with him. He said I was too young, only eighty-seven at the time. That’s young for us Yodas.

Yoda, incidentally, is the family name. The one you call Yoda is Clavsti(((comb Yoda. It’s hard to pronounce in your tongue.

Before he left, he gave me an (((-))) 8, which is a kind of seventeen legged creature from our planet. It wasn’t a real (((-))) 8, but fashioned out of mud and aluminum foil. By swinging it in loops from its tail, Yoda said I could contact him wherever he was in the universe.

At night, I like to swing my (((-))) 8 by its tail and talk to my older brother. I like to believe that he can hear me, wherever he is. Sometimes I hear stories at the bar about the great Master Yoda, about the battles he’s fought against the empire. I like to wave my three-fingered fist in the air and cheer him on: Go Clavsti(((comb!

Epilogue: Day twenty-two

A dose of nature

Free me from this mundane head

All the snakes are out.


“The health of the eye depends on a horizon.”–Emerson

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the mystical branches of spirituality. As part of my search, I occasionally sought divinations including I-ching, tarot, palm readings, astrology (both Western and Vedic), channelling, past-life regression, Michael charts, numerology, Ifa readings and most recently, the shell divination of the Dagara tradition of Burkina Faso as taught and practiced by Malidoma Some.

I go to see a diviner when I need help from the other side. The strength of a diviner seems to be based on the extent to which they are able to become a vessel for a disembodied being: an ancestor, a spirit guide or angel, a kontomble (the little people in Dagara cosmology), etc.

I consider divination to be a kind of art. Finding a good diviner is sort of like finding a good massage therapist. Everyone has a different style. You just have to find the one that works for you.

Skeptics argue that diviners are charlatans who are only after money, but such charlatans exist in every field. These skeptics also argue that diviners say such general things that may be true of just about everyone, but so do most doctors. Even as a ballet teacher, I find myself saying the same things over and over again to different students because people tend to make the same mistakes.

I go with the understanding that even the shabbiest diviner can extract a kernel of truth from the cards, bones, shells or what have you, and it is then up to me as to what I do with that message. Of course, one should practice discernment when going to see a diviner. When you hear the truth, you feel a kind of resonance with it and it’s ok to trust that. If you don’t feel resonance, go to someone else.

Getting a divination from a skillful diviner is like being served a large meal. You can’t eat everything on the plate, but you do the best you can. Some of the things you may not initially understand and you find that the message unfolds mysteriously in layers as you become better able to digest it.

For example, one of the things Malidoma told me in a divination was that I had a weakness in nature. A weakness in nature, now what could that possibly mean? It’s true, as I said in the previous post, that I have a thing for trees. Is that what he meant? Or does the weakness have something to do with my own nature? What is my nature?

During the divination, you are free to ask questions, but at the time, I was so busy trying to grasp other things that I let the weakness in nature issue go until several months later another diviner of the same tradition told me the same thing. And yet a third Dagara diviner looked at my numerology and verified this weakness in nature yet again.

But what does that mean? I decided to start spending more time in nature. Perhaps I would find my answers there. My husband and I started taking almost daily hikes in the Blue Hills reserve, not far from where I live in Boston.

No matter how reluctant we are to make the twenty-minute drive, we are always grateful that we made the effort. We notice that every time we walk through the woods, whatever stress we are carrying is magically cleansed and there is always a gift: a tiny bird’s nest, six hawks that swooped close by, a gentle rain, a horizon, a new path. And we notice too, that the rest of the day seems to flow more sweetly after the time spent in nature.

As I started to become nourished by nature, further understanding of my divination began to unfold when my husband and I took a trip to Manhattan to look at museums and galleries. The streets were crowded. It was a nice weekend but the more we walked through the chic lower West side, the more I started to wither inside myself. Feelings of alienation and inferiority began to overwhelm me. Everyone and everything was so fabulous. I felt like a dandelion struggling through a crack in the cement, surrounded by rare and exotic flowers.

I grew up in New York City and the place holds a lot of memories for me. At night, I was assaulted by dreams of experiences in which I was made to feel small. In those moments, when I felt weak in the presence of others, I could see how my lack of strength in my own nature caused me to cower. Sometimes this energy was intentionally inflicted but other times not. I was just too easily intimidated because I was un-rooted, not at home inside myself, and easily blown off-balance, like a shallowly rooted tree in a hurricane.

Aha! So this is how the weakness in nature manifests itself in me. I could see how I built up an armor around this wound without having healed it and how the recent initial healing in nature was allowing me to see this issue more clearly in myself.

I could see how my nature is tied to the big nature of the world. And at last, I could feel some compassion for myself. Finally, I could unclasp the heavy armor encasing my heart, and reveal it without shame, naked and bleeding, because in my embrace of nature, I have begun to take root.

Malidoma says that a weakness in nature is common for modern people. During my recent visit to NY, I could see evidence of that. In a city, we are constantly told how to be, what to think and do. Walk, don’t walk. Buy this. Eat here. Don’t stop. Keep moving. Faster. Upgrade. I think even if you are strong in your nature, everyone is influenced by city persuasion to some extent.

And I’m not saying that those things are inherently bad. I like sushi and a fancy pair of shoes. I’m just saying that it’s easy to lose yourself by being swept up in a tide of fabulousness that has nothing to do with who you really are. To know nature is to know yourself. And to know yourself is fucking fabulous.

“tai jimenez eating disorder”

In case you are unfamiliar with blogging, there is a menu that you can click on for your own blog that reveals internet search-words people used to find their way to your blog. This may happen by accident. For instance, if someone is doing a search for “tides” the entry I wrote called “Queen of Tides” might show up. There are ways to manipulate the search engine so that your blog shows up near the top of the queue for the purpose of increasing your readership. I have no idea how to do that, technology boob that I am. I just write the stuff.

Anyway, lately there have been a lot of searches for “tai jimenez eating disorder.” I haven’t tackled this subject in-depth here, but someone or some people want to know this story. This is a big subject and I pray that I can write about it in a way that is useful to others.

[Ooh chile, wait a minute. I gotta light a candle first.]

Here goes…

I was very fond of Oreos. When I had a little change, I would go to the cafeteria at the School of American Ballet where I was studying, and buy a six-pack of Oreos from the snack machine. I looked forward to this ritual without question. Then, a couple of years into my training there, I was skipped a level. I suddenly found myself in class with girls several years older than me. They talked about dieting. For the first time I heard words like anorexia and bulimia. I wondered, licking the icing from my Oreos, why anyone on earth would entertain such things.

After my fourth year, I felt lost at SAB. I left and went to study in a small, now defunct school that gave more personal attention to its students.  The summer I left SAB, before freshman year at high school, I remember putting on a pair of shorts. My mother shot me a withering look. I was not allowed out in those shorts anymore. My body had started its change. I filled out and continued dancing with my new curves. My new teachers did not emphasize thinness. There were dancers of all body types at this school. There was one severely anorexic girl and the director of the school made her eat under her watchful gaze if she wanted to continue to take class there. It was tough, motherly love. It was understood that you had to be healthy to dance, not too fat, of course, but not too skinny either.

When I was sixteen, I started auditioning. I wasn’t quite ready for a professional company but was encouraged to go to auditions to get the feel for it. I asked my teacher if she thought I needed to lose weight. She said I needed to drop about six or seven pounds which I did by cutting out red meat and the oversized muffins that were popular in New York City coffee shops at the time. Oreos and soda were history. A year later, an audition was arranged for the Dance Theatre of Harlem and I danced with the junior ensemble for a few months before joining the main company.

Company life was very different from the small homey school I had attended. There was no tough motherly love. It was just tough. I won’t get into all the gory details here–

“The word Hitchcock suddenly comes to mind,” says Mr. Octopus.

What I mean is, ballet is supposed to be tough. I loved the challenge! I did it for the challenge, but that challenge is built-in. In a lot of ballet companies however, well, it is tough for the wrong reasons but I don’t want to get into all that here. I’ll save that for the inevitable ballet company reality show. I want to make it clear that I take full blame and responsibility for what I did to myself and will admit also that I was less than a ray of sunshine all those years to my fellow dancers. I don’t think I was an asshole, exactly. I was just…neutral. I adopted a stance of neutrality in order to survive. In order to keep dancing, which was sacred to me. I am still struggling with my default-into-neutrality setting. Teaching has helped with this somewhat because to be a good teacher, baby, you gotta fight.

Some dancers who were not the waify type were chastised about their weight. They were shamed publicly before their peers. I suspected that roles were withheld from those on the weight-list, not based on ability, but based on size. I didn’t want to suffer that fate. I wanted to be a principal dancer and most of the ones I idolized were tiny.

I started dieting with renewed force. It wasn’t even conscious. I was hungry and tired all the time. One day on the way home from work, I bought a pint of ice-cream. I ate the whole thing and, in a sort of trance, I purged. A few days later I did it again. I told myself I could stop whenever I wanted but it quickly became a nightly routine.

One evening, my mother heard me vomiting in the bathroom. (I was still living at home). She confronted me but I denied it. I felt terrible for lying to her and finally worked up the courage to confess. I could barely get the words out through my tears. She got angry at me. She said I was taking the easy way out. I thought she was right and felt humiliated and weak. She abruptly left the couch where we were sitting and came back with a piece of paper that had a phone number on it. It was the number for a therapist.

I went to therapy. For years. My therapist was somewhat impressed with the elaborate and unusual ritual of my disorder: I would stuff myself secretly, until I achieved a kind of numbness. Then I would sit on the toilet and sing my guts out, sometimes for hours. I would sing and sing and sing. By the time I purged, a lot of the food was digested, but I did it anyway. Looking back now, I think it was my soul trying to sing itself free…free from the pressure and constant criticism I received as a dancer, free from my debilitating sense of isolation and feeling unimportant, unrecognized, and unwanted in a mean cut-throat world that I nevertheless wanted to succeed in. I liked my therapist very much, but my “symptom” persisted, unabated.

I lived this way for thirteen years.

Somewhere along the way, I left therapy. I remember one day having the epiphany that mine was a spiritual problem and could not be solved this way. Truth be told, I do not “know” how I healed myself, or that it was all me that did the healing. I do know that I wanted to heal even though it was hard for me to imagine being free.

I started going to yoga. In my first yoga class, there was a lot of chanting. I just let myself cry openly. I realized in my first attempts at yoga that in spite of years of dancing, I was actually very weak. There was a spiritual bookstore at the yoga studio. I started reading spiritual texts and going on retreats. I spent time with like-minded people. I made friends. I enjoyed spending time with my friends so much in fact that I found myself sticking around, hanging out, instead of going home to my secret shame. I guess you can say that I “needed a whole community of people to pull me out of the water I was drowning in,” as the great teacher, Martin Prechtel says. There are certain things, like recovering from an eating disorder, that are too big to do alone.

In the beginning of my healing journey, I still thought about food a lot. Every once in a while, I would binge, but those times became fewer and farther between. I sometimes woke up in a sweat from a dream that I’d started bingeing and purging again. I didn’t consciously work on curing myself. After years of therapy, my will had proven itself impotent in the face of this monster. Rather, I just allowed myself to be pulled out of the water. I turned my attention in another direction. My friends that pulled me out of the water didn’t know that they were doing that. I need to find a way to thank them.

I am close to my mother now as well. Having a daughter who wanted to be a ballerina was the furthest thing from her mind when she gave birth to me. I was a hellion of a teenager. We were both in over our heads. I love her more than I can say. This blog entry is just a little part of the story. There is so much she gave, so much she sacrificed, and I am grateful to her.

It has been over a decade now that I’ve been on the other side of this thing. It is hard to believe with all the love I am blessed with, that I ever lived in such utter despair. There were times when I wanted to die.

I remember at some point opening up to the idea that I could actually love myself. It was just an idea at first, but a seed was planted. However, that hope came at a price. I had to openly look at the time and relationships I’d wasted obsessing over food. I realized that my best dancing years were squandered in a haze of self-loathing. I imagined, regretfully, what I might have achieved with a healthy body. I coulda been a contenda! I knew that in order to move forward, I would have to take all parts of myself, meaning that I had to forgive myself. Now, that was work.

I also had to do a lot of work with holistic medicine, especially acupuncture, to help with the healing process. One practitioner described me as having pushed myself so hard that I’d split myself in two. I still have painfully sensitive gums from all the years of bingeing and purging and for a long time, I had these weird stomach convulsions. But I feel healthy now. There was certainly a lot of grace involved but I am ok.

And if you are struggling with your relationship to food, I hope this story will help you find your way out. I am not a doctor, but I would suggest in the beginning, that you do not try to fix it. It will resist you. It’s very presence is your soul speaking to you. Try to be still. Listen. Turn your energy to what you love and to whom you love. That love will light your way.

A student recently asked me if it (my career) was worth it, and my answer was yes, but not for the obvious reasons. It was worth it because the struggle made me who I am today. And I am starting to really like her.




The (W)Hole of Love

A friend of mine once said, “To know yourself is to know yourself in love and honey, at some point, you have to stop learning.”

I was in the middle of yet another ship-wrecked romantic entanglement, doing the love contortionist jig-a-ma-joo, bending, twisting, crunching, folding, tap-dancing and stretching myself into a shape I thought would make the relationship work, as though the problem could be fixed if I simply conformed to the image of his expectations, his needs. My partner was sweating just as hard, bouncing off of me at odd angles, trying to catch himself before he broke the furniture.

Of course it hurt to squeeze myself into an unnatural container but so did being alone. I hoped that a little hard work would compensate for a bad fit, but, of course, it didn’t. It never does. You can’t have a homely beauty queen, no matter how great her personality is, and that’s just the harsh truth Ruth.

When we’re young, we are easily swept away by the tidal-wave of romantic love. We expect it to hold the answer to the question of life. We hope it will show us the yellow brick road of our lost, confused souls. We will do anything to hold onto that love even when it hurts, when it scorches, when it consumes.

We go from relationship to relationship searching for fulfillment, as though such a thing as the hole of love can be fulfilled. We are too young to know that love and loss go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Loss is the price we pay for having the gift of love. Period. There is no way to fix this. No remedy for such things. They are only meant to be lived, expressed and accepted.

I remember first meeting my fiance. I wasn’t looking for a man when he came into my life. I thought maybe it was time to let go of the whole romantic thing. I was ready to toss it in the trash with the curling irons and steam rollers from so many ill-fated hairdo’s.

A gay friend of mine once suggested that if neither one of us found a partner by a certain date, we would buy a house and move in together and just have each other as companions. We would write our own version of happily-ever-after. After so many failed relationships, on the brink of my fortieth birthday, I was considering taking him up on his offer.

But after a series of magical, sacred heart opening experiences (involving yoga retreats, sweat lodges, singing naked on a Vancouver beach, you know, my kinda stuff) my heart said yes to him. And my grizzly ole’ thumper ain’t never ever said yes to nobody! It’s not that I hadn’t loved before. I had. Deeply. It’s just that I’d never had the sanction of my inner voice.

In fact, once, when getting involved with a younger man, my inner voice said quite clearly: no no no no no! Now the inner voice is usually subtle. She speaks in metaphor, in feeling. But this time, sista came through loud and clear, saying, and I quote, “He does not belong to you. You will have to give him back.”


Did I listen to sista? Naaah! Of course not. I went on a roller-coaster ride of sorrow that lasted four years, not counting the year and a half it took me to get over him after we finally broke up.

But this time, with the man who is now my fiance (applause, applause, thank you) I got the go ahead from Inside. Sista said softly, at last, “Yes.” Our first real get together was at a party for a mutual friend. As I was getting ready (cute outfit, not too hoochy) sista spoke up again. She said something like, “Just go along with whatever happens tonight.” And I said, “Ok,” and she said, “Ok,” and we said, “Ok, Ok.”

The first stop of the party was at a drag show, and you know I love me some drag. But the show ended rather early (that’s Boston for you). Some people from our group wandered off, but about six or seven of us, including my suitor, were still itching to party. So we go to a strip club.

Now, this is where I have to remember what sista said because, Lord have mercy, I think of myself as a spiritual, feminist type. But strangely, at the suggestion of the strip club, my hackles do not go up. I play along.

[Mom, if you are reading this, please skip the next  two paragraphs.]

All of the dancers look so young. All I can do is think about dey poor mamas at home, hunched over the kitchen table with a half-empty bottle of scotch, wringin’ dey hands with the worry, wondrin’ what went wrong. I am about to reconsider when a fine lookin’ sister starts her strut down the stairs to the stage. Suddenly, I hear a ding in the universe. She is hot hot HOT! Cyrille, my suitor, elbows me in the side. Says, “This is gonna be good.”

Indeed. Now, as a dancer, I gotta give her props. She was workin’ that pole like nobody’s business. She sported a hoe-stamp tatoo of the letter “T” and forever after, she is “Miss T” to us. She was like some Hindu goddess and we were under her spell. She broke through the barrier of fear around my heart like a knife through creamed cheese. We followed her, dazed, to the back room where Miss T gave us a lap dance and Cyrille and I shared our first kiss. And a little extra. Hehe ;).

How romantic.

Actually, it was.

And the rest is history.

Throughout our courtship, followed by moving in together and our engagement, there has been little resistance. My fear perked its ugly head up out of its rat-hole from time-to-time. Sniffed around. Poked Cyrille in the ribs here and there to see if he’s real, but eventually, I dropped my contortionist routine. I didn’t need it anymore. I started to let go. It’s not just that I love him, it’s that, well, to put it in new age-y lingo, our frequencies align.

Recently, I came across an old boyfriend on Facebook. My first love, in fact. We hadn’t spoken in over fifteen years. When I saw his face again, different and the same, I realized that the love was still there. It would always be there, but what I can see now that I couldn’t see before in the chaos of young love is that we could not be together in a long-lasting way because we are too different. I could never need the things he needs in life and vice versa. To love him is to honor that.

In other words, we can tune into each other’s frequency, but that takes some focus. The frequency that we tune to is too far from our normal resting, every day frequency. We have to work at finding the place where we meet. There’s nothing wrong with this. We do it naturally with others all the time. But a marriage, it does not make.

So, here goes. Marriage round two for both of our old, middle-aged asses. And I haven’t forgotten about the love and loss part I talked about earlier. I have to accept that. As much as I love to joke on this blog, knowing that we will change, that this state of affairs will someday end, hopefully in death, brings a stream of tears down my face.


Well, it’s good to cry. It means it’s special.

The Oneness Tree

Baobab in Burkina Faso

Let’s see…I think it was about eight to ten years ago. It happened outside my mother’s house.  I was living in her basement after the divorce, woe is me. Anyway, I was walking home from the bus-stop and about to open her gate, when I felt the beingness of the tree that stands outside of her house. I don’t know how it happened, but one moment, I was Tai, and the next, I was Tree.

It happened so quickly, like the tree caught me, or I caught it when one of us wasn’t looking. I don’t know who was groovin’ who exactly, but in that moment, we were one. Even though it lasted only seconds, the strength of the experience was undeniable.  Afterward, I just stood there looking at the tree, wanting to hold onto that connection. I think I remember saying out-loud, “I felt that.”

Yes, I felt the tree from the inside. Believe me, if I could willingly re-create that experience, I would gladly give away every possession I own and move to the nearest park bench. I remember Ekhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, describing how, after his enlightenment experience, he spent two years on a park bench in a state of indescribable bliss. I wonder if he felt that sense of oneness that I felt briefly with the tree, but with everything, every squirrel and person and rock and roller-skate.

Oh, to know the spirit of things. My heart weeps in longing for this. For this more than anything else. And for a split second, I had a taste of it, for which I am deeply grateful. I know it’s there. I know I’m not crazy to want that connection.

That connection with the spirit of things, the spirit of nature, is what I mean in the broadest sense when I speak about indigenous culture. I have a faint remembrance of that somewhere in my dna that cries out from time-to-time. Actually, all the time lately.

Modern people misunderstand indigenous culture. We think their lack of stuff makes them primitive and I mean that word “primitive” in all its ugly implications. But the reality is that we think this because we can’t see what they see. It’s like we’re all stuck at home sober, on a rainy day, doing math homework, and they are outside in the middle of June, tripping at a Grateful Dead concert, except that what they’re tripping on is a Human Consciousness free from literal thought that allows them to feel the tree and everything else.

Of course, their ability to see beyond the surface of things, to see with their knowing, with their hearts, to see the luminous spirit of things and in others, to have this higher consciousness, is not so simple as just being born into it. It doesn’t just happen, like a good poop. You see, they are aware of the great gift of their sight. They understand that it must be nurtured and taken very seriously. While we are busy sending our kids off to school teaching them how to See Spot Run, they are teaching their children how to SEE with a capital S.

We think that the indigenous are illiterate because they don’t have a choice in the matter. Oh, the poor little brown people. The least we could do is introduce them to the Good Book! The implication is that they do not have the mental capacity to create a written language, whereas the reality is that many of these cultures do not write things down out of choice. They understand the true power of creation behind words. They understand what is lost when words are written, important things like power, memory, the creative birthing fire and the fire that destroys.

Of course, from our perspective, many beautiful things are created with written words: books, the Declaration of Independence. I love to read. I love few things more than to be curled up on the couch with a good book. But again, if I could re-create what I glimpsed with the tree, I would happily go bookless for the rest of my life.

Martin Prechtel says that writing allows people to forget. With technology, we’ve taken our forgetting to a whole ‘nother level. Not only are we forgetting how to do stuff, we are forgetting how to learn in the first place. We are starting to mistake acquiring facts for learning, which it ain’t. I wrote in a previous entry about how I see this every day: students thinking that learning dance is another thing they can just click on.

Anyway, another thing that happens when we start saving our words by writing instead of memory is that those inner pathways of Seeing that we had as a child get shut down. Small children have a natural inclination towards this kind of Seeing. The Seeing of the Is-ness. To some extent, this naturally becomes dormant a few years before puberty, around age eight, followed by a resurfacing during adolescence (Ken Ludden).

In our modern world, while most of our teens are off struggling, rebelling, fucking and smoking their way through this confusing time (myself included), indigenous cultures are outside in nature taking their youth through a profound initiation experience that helps them to open up and nurture their third eye’s sight. This is only one aspect of initiation. It also involves a very real confrontation with death. Accepting one’s mortality apparently does wonders for teenagers. It may sound harsh, and from what I’ve read, it is terrifying, but also beautiful and real and ultimately empowering for the individual as well as for the community. Actually, in these cultures, there’s really not such a separation between oneself and the village.

The more I learn of indigenous wisdom, the more I feel a deep sense of loss. It’s not that I idealize this way of life. It is certainly hard. And I’m not suggesting that all indigenous people exist in a perpetual state of oneness. Merely that they can and do get there and not just at Christmastime. It’s just that I live with a kind of daily, constant stress that doesn’t feel natural. I’ve given it a little name: Persistent Low-Grade Anxiety Syndrome or PLGAS. You can remember it by thinking of plate-glass, which is what I want to constantly knock my head against.

Anyway, yes, indigenous people have worries, but I doubt that they are walking around with this constant tension. Most of the people I know suffer from this. So one of the reasons why I am so fascinated by this indigenous way of life is because I want to heal myself and others from the plate-glass and I want to do it in a way that we don’t just take a pill, but such that we actually blossom into being fully human, with all our senses, our memory, our connectivity tendrils intact.

When I read about indigenous cultures, I do it from their perspective. Ironically, the ones that have someone to speak for them, to act as a bridge between their world and ours, are the ones that are changing because we are in a moment of time in which they cannot avoid being up against us, the moderns. So, because they have to rub up against us, they have learned our languages and our ways.

Someone, a writer/communicator, is born out of a need they have to understand our ways and learn to live alongside us. They also have to adapt to our ways while trying to maintain their own wisdom. It is extremely difficult for them to communicate with us because of the limitations, the sheer lack of poetry and sacredness in modern language. It would sort of be like me trying to describe dancing to someone who has been blind and paralyzed their entire life.

And you know what really breaks my heart? The colonizers (which are all of us, regardless of race, who have colonized nature if not people) called them savages, barbarians, primitives, even indigenous, for lack of a better word. But while the intelligence of these people was insulted out of arrogance and ignorance, each of these ambassadors of indigeny, each of these human cultural bridges, called us his brother. Even as we destroyed them. They may have called us their crazy brother and a lot of other well deserved adjectives, but brother, sister, mother, grand-father, family, nonetheless.

Flying Lesson


(excerpt) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up

and I am waiting

for a rebirth of wonder

and I am waiting for someone

to really discover America

and wail

and I am waiting for the discovery

of a new symbolic western frontier

and I am waiting

for the American Eagle

to really spread its wings

and straighten up and fly right

and I am waiting

for the Age of Anxiety

to drop dead

and I am waiting

for the war to be fought

which will make the world safe

for anarchy

and I am waiting for the final withering away

of all governments

and I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder


In our crazy modern world, we are not often encouraged to listen to our dreams. I’m not talking about our dreams for the future. We are certainly goaded to live, breathe, eat and sleep for that illusive, never ending pot-of-gold. Taught to keep reaching for that magical, perfect, glossily brochured future where everyone is thin, happy and young. Taught that if we don’t live for the future, there’s actually something wrong with us. We have the laziness disease.

What about now? What’s wrong with being happy now, with everything I apparently do not have? Watch out. If we all start getting happy now, you know what that means…it means that maybe we don’t need all this stuff we keep killing ourselves for. So, no, I’m not talking about those kinds of dreams. We have them. Fine. Try not to get lost. I’m talking about the dreams we have when we sleep. The ones most of us simply forget in the morning. The ones we are not taught or encouraged to remember. Some curious seekers may stumble upon a dream guide in the self-help aisle of the local Barnes and Nobles and then you’re basically on your own.

In my dream, a large eagle, larger than human, landed on the roof of a building. We saw each other, face-to-face.

I think these dreams are important.

It flew away and returned with several of its young. I guess it was a Mother bird, but I hadn’t thought of that until just now.

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Infinite Yumminess) there are three kinds of dream: normal every day processing, message from spirit and premonition.

The baby eagles were learning how to fly off the edge of the roof.

The biggest clue I have regarding the importance of dreams is how they make us feel. Have you ever woken up crying or laughing? Have you ever experienced a love, a longing, a passion, a hatred, a peacefulness to a much deeper extent while dreaming than you ever have while awake?

The Mother was trying to teach me too, how to fly. I was scared. I knew I had to–

Perhaps we’ve learned to discount the validity of dreams because we’ve also been taught to discount the validity of our feelings. We are ashamed to cry or show ecstasy, so we take a drug called ecstasy to make it alright. But our feelings are important. They are hugely important to the experience of living. We have been taught instead to value the mind above all else, to in fact live in the mind.

I have nothing against the mind. I love my mind. It dances. It skips. It’s a fucking merry-go-round of lust up in there. But we have to start remembering, honoring, our feelings because they tell us who we really are.

The mind creates The Fear.

Because we are somewhat cut-off from our feelings, we have difficulty healing ourselves. Feelings, you see, point us towards our healing. It sounds so simple, but the pain, the sadness, shows us what’s wrong. We need to allow ourselves to feel the pain when it’s there. At least some of it. I spent a few years of my life running from my pain. Everything I tried ended in disaster. I couldn’t take on anything new until I got down to business with my crap. My crappy pain led me to gratitude and humility which are healing values.

So, in addition to being cut-off from our dreams and feelings, as a result, we are also cut-off from our ability to heal ourselves. We are force-fed the lie that it is ok and appropriate to mask our pain and our feelings with pharmaceuticals.

When I talk about self-healing, I’m not referring simply to healing the physical body. That’s part of it, but the body will break down. The real healing I’m talking about is healing our hearts, minds and spirits. Healing our inner life. The body will die, of course, no matter how many sit-ups you do. No matter how much blue-green algae and B vitamins you ingest.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the body. I love my body. It dances. It skips. It’s a fucking merry-go-round of lust up in there. But we have to start remembering, honoring, our feelings because they tell us who we really are.

Instead, we are mostly taught to hide from who we are by a culture that pushes us to keep going, without pause, from one thing to the next. We are so busy going, going, gone. We are going faster and faster all the time, multi-tasking sloppily through phone conversations while walking and driving and changing the shitty diapers. We are taught to be constantly moving, improving, for fear we’ll fall behind.

We are not taught, for the most part, to take time to get in touch with our feelings and to heal ourselves. Doing this is a life-long process. It never ends while we are here. We are not taught to balance healing time into our daily routines. It is not profitable. Most of us only allow ourselves to stop our constant doing when we are sick. Maybe, once every three months, we’ll take a personal day to go shoe shopping or whatever, but that’s not enough. We fear that if we drop the ball for a second, everything will collapse. If we leave the job we hate, we won’t be able to survive without the health insurance it (hopefully) provides.

As an aside, I think business interests in this country don’t want universal health care because they enjoy the power of having us all by the balls, doing shit we hate, just to keep our health insurance. To keep our heads and our family’s heads above the ever rising water line that they, the businesses, are controlling.

Fuck the water line.

I’m taking a bath.

The baby birds taught me that the first step in flying is falling and that the first step in falling is flying.

I want to learn how to fly.

I am flying.

I fly.


Inner Highway

Last night, for some reason, I thought I should cancel the Tuesday morning ballet class I teach. It was just a gnawing feeling I had. I almost called in, but then I stopped myself. What was I going to say? I’m not coming in tomorrow. Bad juju.

Most people, no matter how nice, are not receptive to someone canceling work or even a social engagement just because something that they can’t explain feels off. In my case, I’m afraid that others will take it personally, or think I’m flakey.

“I’d think you’d be used to that by now,” says Mr. Octopus.


“You could have just lied.”

Worse yet, let’s say I had cancelled the class and the bad thing didn’t happen. All went smoothly. I might not have had any outward confirmation that staying home was indeed the right thing. And would I feel good about my decision in the absence of proof? Would I have been able to trust myself? Of course not. I’d be wracked with guilt.

In the previous entry, I wrote about different kinds of thoughts, those that are received as opposed to grasped. What I’m referring to here is distinguishing between our intuitive voice and the ramblings of our overstimulated modern minds. As stated previously, literal thought creates a stumbling block for our intuition. Another pothole on the inner-highway is guilt.

“Well, what happened?” asks Mr. Octopus.

“You know what happened!”

“Rrrelax. Of course I know what happened. You haven’t ceased blubbering about it all day. I’m asking our of rrrespect for your readers. It’s a writing device. Do get over it.”

Well, all last night, as I said, I had this feeling, this intuition to cancel class, but I didn’t. I actually lost sleep over it. In the morning, on my way in, I slipped down the stairs, landing hard on my bum. It hurt, but I didn’t injure myself. It really felt like something was telling me to turn around and go back inside but I didn’t. I taught the class. All seemed fine, but afterwards I went into the parking lot to discover that my car had been towed. As a result, I was late to my next class, and things just went downhill from there.

“All-in-all, that’s not so bad, as things go,” says Mr. Octopus.

“No, not so bad. Worse things do happen. It’s just that, I think I should know better by now, damn it!”

A few years ago, I remember pondering this whole intuition business. Believe it or not given my current spiritual leanings, at that time, I was a bit skeptical. I remembered as a child, just knowing things. Little things for the most part, and I felt, as an adult, a desire to re-acquaint myself with that knowing. But I didn’t know how. Intuition was a gift reserved for certain people, like Scatman Carothers in The Shining, and look at what happened to him.

Anyway, I was driving along on an empty highway one evening around 3am, completely sober and present. I thought to test myself. I thought, hmm, I want to follow my intuition more. And, I swear, I heard inwardly,

“Why don’t you start now?”

“Right now?”

“Yes, right now. Pull over.”


“Pull over.”

I looked behind me. There was not a car in sight, but I played along and pulled over into the outer right lane. Seconds later, in a flash, two cars came drag racing down the center lanes, seemingly out of nowhere.

“Ok,” I thought. “That really just happened.”

“Yes. That was real. Remember that.”

But last night, in the din of thought, I forgot. I forgot to listen inwardly.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Listening takes practice. A lot of prrractice,” says Mr. Octopus.

“Wait. How many are in there talking right now? This is getting confusing.”

Exactly. There’s a lot of stuff going on in there. It takes a lot of practice to first of all, recognize your intuition, to then act on it, and finally, to not feel guilty about it and to free yourself from judgement! Perhaps there are times when guilt is useful, like when a criminal, fueled by real remorse, changes his life to help others.

But for most of us, our guilt is imagined and useless. If I had cancelled class today, or maybe just switched days with another teacher, it would have been no biggie. Furthermore, it would have been in flow.

Can you imagine getting to a point where we actually make room to really listen and support that listening in ourselves and others without judgement or fear? I think we’re afraid to because, in addition to fearing judgement, we’re afraid the inner-listening will be abused. Maybe we’ll all get lazy just sittin’ around, not doin’ stuff because we got the vibe to stay home.

But I think maybe the opposite will happen. Maybe we’ll all start doing the stuff we are really called to do and avoid the stuff that doesn’t serve. It sounds so easy, but I guess it’s not.

“The next time you feel guilty for following your intuition, just remember, you have my permission,” says the O.


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