“Tango demands intimacy whether we like it or not. Tango obliges who we are to show up whether we want it to or not. Tango compels us to know who we want to be whether we imagine it or not.” – Ulysses
I find this entry to be the hardest to write and communicate to date, for I have to share more of my psyche than I have before. To be true to my process, I must provide a rawness and vulnerability I would prefer to keep to myself. I fear the possibility that what I offer might be used against me in some way, or I will appear weak and less attractive to my peers, or that I will be judged as less of a man. This fear probably comes from my father’s upbringing.
On Saturday morning of the Denver Labor Day Tango Festival 2009, I basked in a form of nirvana from so many tandas filled with joy, play, musical exploration, sweetness, connection and intimacy. I found myself sharing often that I was in heaven, and sighed from many Tangasms. How did I show up? I only upped it by perhaps one level. I could up it by 2 or 3 levels.
However, I believe that showing up more would entail greater stillness of my thoughts, breathing more intentionally, slowing down my walk outside of Tango, feeling my heart beat (this refers to Heart Math Institute and working with one’s own heart resonance), relaxing into my hip sockets in my Tango walk, and engaging more with people’s eyes.
Overall, showing up is about intimacy. Intimacy allows others to see me, allows myself to be vulnerable where people get to connect with me more as I do not defend myself. What would I be defending myself from? In my mind the defense is from an unseen form of attack by judgments, rejection, not being liked, or a threat to identity – the sense of who I am. Identity is referred to as ego in some wisdom traditions and psychological models of our psyche. And in Tango, there is much to fear.
In Tango I have witnessed more gossip, mean-spiritedness, immaturity, ego identification and defense, rejection, judgment and exclusivity than any other place I have experienced. The milonga can be emotionally brutal, and many Tango Meltdowns have violently grabbed me. I have observed the worst of high school behavior in milongas. Some of my biggest fears have been realized through people who truly are neurotic, maladjusted and narcissistic. The countless examples I could detail just underline how milonga halls become a strong mirror – bringing to light our psyches and our lurking fears, joys, losses, and rages. And some wonder why so many leave Tango?
So, here I am living my life in the context of Tango, in sadness, frustration, excitement, longing, loneliness, emotional fire, dreaming, wondering. I feel my aliveness straining to burst through: hardened layers of distrust; years of rejection and disappointment; and memories of too many body injuries, pain and deformations. And I feel my aliveness straining to join: the river of achievements, celebrations and dreams; the well of wisdom of life experiences and mentors; and the warmth and caring of so many friends.
How do I deal with my fear of showing up, of being more intimate? How do I open up even more to every partner I dance with, the world of Tango and life? I believe my answer lies in a mantra I once received.
One of my first and revered mentors, Ed, facilitated a deep transformational process in a group weekend of “Self Acceptance Training”. His mentor and my friend is now on his deathbed as I write this. The mantra Ed spoke to me: I choose not to fight for I have already won…