Lavinia Plonka is a guild certified Feldenkrais Teacher & Director of the Asheville Movement Center. She helps people improve range of motion, reduce pain and live a fuller life. Includes local workshops and special events.
Over the years, one of the things that consistently calls me to contemplation is the relationship of movement, energy, presence and well-being. As more and more “studies” trumpet the importance of movement ( it seems any movement is better than no movement) I find myself pondering the apparent contradiction between spiritual disciplines that advocate stillness […]
It started with a drip. A delicate but nevertheless relentless Chinese torture, steady and eternal, from the bathroom sink. As people who like to think that we have better things to do with our time, we ignored it. It became a companion, a little tick, tick, tick singing into our bedroom that left us dreaming […]
I’m old enough to actually have had this kind of phone in my house. When it rang, the entire family would jump. We never knew if it was good news or bad news, but it was most certainly news. We didn’t know that that odd feeling we had when someone yelled through the house, “It’s […]
I was going to call this the year of the spider. When we lived in NJ, we had spiders crawl into forgotten corners, spin webs in light fixtures and occasionally venture onto the kitchen floor. But nothing prepared us for North Carolina, where brazen representatives of arachnids march across our bed, nestle in soap dishes […]
I should have been working on the book chapter that was coming due. Or finishing up that talk I have to give in a few days. Or at least doing some free writing to give voice to the thousands of ideas in my head. Instead, I was on my knees […]
My sister and I were recently wondering whether our grasp of the continuously evolving vocabulary of the English language would help us prevent dementia: terabyte, download, netiquette, malware, neuroplasticity, acid-reflux, bromance, bingeable, biohack, microbiome. Surely if I know what these words mean, I am at least contemporary if not exactly […]
Long, long ago, in eternally sunny Southern California, (remember when sunny California sounded like heaven instead of a dry and gasping desert?), I was sitting around with some friends with nothing better to do than play with a Ouija board. For some reason, we didn’t surf, we didn’t sunbathe and nobody had a hot tub. It’s possible however, that drugs were involved. It was the 70’s after all.
Being in 1970’s California naturally brought up the question of reincarnation. Peace, love, weed and karma were the touchstones in an era when the most popular pick up line was “What’s your sign?” not “So what do you do?” So we asked the Ouija board if I’d ever lived before. “YES.” The board pointer zoomed as if propelled by etheric rocket fuel. We giggled.
“Really? What was my name?”
“Oh brother, what a creative choice,” one friend muttered. The board began madly spelling, telling all of us the amazing saga of a Roman woman named Lavinia who was born in 2 C. E. She was the daughter of a successful weaver, whose mother had died in childbirth. Her father kept her in his shop, where she learned the craft. He never re-married, and slowly she took over the business, becoming one of the new breed of independent Roman businesswomen in the new era.
While none of us really believed this, I found myself researching and discovering that yes, there was somewhat ancient Roman female business class, although the biggest female business was still of course, the “oldest profession.” As always happens when a civilization collapses however, all feminism disappeared into the Dark Ages. And our Ouija board adventure faded into the California sunset.
Many years later, I joined a craft guild and was introduced to weaving. Shawls, blankets, baskets; it seemed no matter what I touched, my fingers quickly knew what to do. Like jumping back on a bicycle, my body deftly adapted to shuttle, sley, reed, warp and weft. For a brief moment in time, I considered abandoning show business and becoming a weaver. Never once did I remember my “previous life.” I did however remember that while weaving is meditative, fun and rewarding, it would not pay the bills.
There is a Chinese belief called the Red Thread, or the Red String. The gods tie a red string that connects a person to a destiny, usually in the form of a soulmate. No matter what happens, the string can be pulled, tangled, knotted, but it never breaks. All of us are connected via a complex tapestry of these threads.
Relation, according to Webster, is “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected; a thing’s effect on or relevance to another.” We may each have our own thread, but how it weaves through time and space connects us to a multitude of destinies. I like to call this String Theory. I should have trademarked it.
It does make one wonder, what exactly is the fabric of reality? Are we weaving a fantastic tapestry complete with princesses and unicorns, a fine silken sari fabric, or a bad Christmas sweater? Or perhaps, since now it seems everyone agrees we live in a multi-verse, even Hollywood, is it possible that each moment we connect, or disconnect, our threads weave not just through space and time, but through probabilities that include Mexican blankets and Icelandic jackets?
And what about those loose threads? You know the one you absentmindedly pull on, suddenly unraveling an entire towel, or your favorite blouse? Is that a destiny destroyed? The other day, I ignored an acquaintance of mine in a store. He was imperiously haranguing a beleaguered store clerk about their high priced office chairs. My thread quivered. Should I interrupt the tense exchange with a hearty, “Hey there, John, imagine seeing you here! How’s your wife?” and perhaps relieving the clerk’s misery? Or should I say what I was feeling in this moment, “Yo, John, you want cheap chairs? Go to Walmart and leave the poor guy alone.” Instead, I hastily threaded my way down the aisle and out the door, unraveling a destiny, or simply averting a a tangle with an unappealing outcome.
As our threads crisscross through multiple lifetimes, multiple dimensions, and multiple realities, we can often find ourselves re-connecting with old themes, or connecting with the past in a way that affects our present. Recently at a party, a musician friend said, “My teacher studied in France with a teacher whose teacher’s teacher was Beethoven. That doesn’t make me a great musician, but I like to think we’re connected somehow.”
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane’s sled Rosebud the red thread of the character’s destiny, in the end, burning it on a pile of belongings. “This field of inanimate theatrical properties I wished to represent the very dust heap of a man’s life,” Welles said of the pile. Our possessions, our stories, our encounters are all threads connecting us, or tearing us apart. Each choice takes our thread in another direction. But the thread doesn’t break. We are connected to each other’s destiny.
I think I still have that Ouija board in a drawer someplace.
I’m feeling ridiculous, standing here, holding a sock filled with cornstarch, tied at the top. A new miracle cure, you ask? Perhaps an esoteric facial treatment endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow? A fun way to whack your husband?
I know I should throw it away, yet I stand beside the garbage, my lower lip extended, an unexplained anxiety settling in my upper ribs. Really? This is it? I actually can’t believe I brought this sock full of cornstarch to Asheville with me 16 years age. It has waited, ignored in a corner of the bathroom drawer, for its return to the limelight, to no avail. And now, I throw the sock in the trash, then say, wait a minute, it’s a perfectly good sock, just dump the cornstarch. As the white powder covers the compost, a little voice says, “Don’t worry. You can always fill up another sock if you need it.”
For twenty five years, at least twice a week, I put on white face as a professional mime, and then “set” the make-up by smacking myself all over the face with a sock filled with cornstarch. It gave my whiteface a kind of china doll look, smooth, porcelain like, no pores, no greasy dribble. Whiteface was a love/hate relationship: there was romance and fantasy upon donning the white mask, as well as an embarrassing corniness in the cliché of the white faced mime. I stopped performing regularly in 1999, and almost all concerts after that did not involve whiteface And yet, I held on to the sock.
The mouse I was chasing this morning ran into my sneaker. Oh good, I thought, I’ll just take the sneaker outside and he can depart into the woods. I went outside and shook my shoe. He wouldn’t come out. I looked inside. He was clinging to the front of my shoe, making himself as small as possible. Irritated, I grabbed his tail to pull him out. Nothing doing. He was not going to let go of this dubious haven. I left him outside. An hour later, he was still in the shoe. Finally, when it started pouring rain, he made his escape.
Speaking of escapes, a couple of years ago, somewhere between 4000 and 350,000 Atlantic salmon made a daring break for freedom from one of those fish farms. Some folks blamed the solar eclipse, even though the escape occurred a couple days before that event. Others blamed global warming for higher than usual tides. In any event, the pen broke. Imagine being part of a gang that is high on drugs and has been swimming in circles since birth.
Salmon #1: Dudes, this is it! Let’s get the hell out of here!
Salmon #2: I don’t think that’s a good idea. I hear you have to hunt for your own food out there. And how will I renew my prescription?
Salmon #3: I need to do a couple more laps.
Were the escapees simply random victims unleashed into a cruel world, or daring innovators willing to let go of security and risk death for a taste of freedom? Eventually thousands of the rogue salmon were captured, but hundreds of members of the Salmon tribe eluded capture. Did they make a new life out there, letting go of the false security of the pen and living out the American dream of finding a new land of opportunity, pillaging and foraging?
Could our attachment to objects be a similar kind of prison? These no longer useful items that gather dust in the corners of our bureaus; the too small shirt that fit perfectly in 1983, the tights so old the elastic has died in the waistband, my mother’s measuring cup, all fill my house and my mind. I think about things like voodoo, or about psychics who sense something about a person based on a personal item. Do we imbue our objects or places with some kind of power that supports and simultaneously traps us? Am I penned in by my memories and perhaps missing a chance for seeing something new – in my life, in my home, in myself?
So then I start to think – if I’m like the salmon stuck in the routine of the pen, or the mouse hiding in the safety of the shoe – is it possible that it is more than “stuff” that is imprisoning me? The stuff is the material, but the prison is my habits. Of course, I need good habits: brushing my teeth, remembering how to get to the office. But when do habits get in the way? Habits like holding my shoulders up, or needing to be right (oh what an awful habit), or angsting at 4 AM over whether I remembered to pay the phone bill? Are these prisons any different from the stuff I can’t let go of?
When I think about health, I equate it with freedom. The freedom to be who I truly wish to be – my original self. I’ve tried many strategies in my life, with greater and lesser success. I gave up the whiteface, but continued my love affair with movement, teaching Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement. Not just because it’s my job, but because I need to remind myself daily that the way to freedom is learn to see the escape hatch and have the discernment to know when to jump in the ocean and when to hide in the shoe, when to let go of the sock, and when to caress my Mom’s measuring cup. I teach what I need to learn. And no, I have not yet thrown away the actual whiteface makeup. However, I can’t remember where I hid it.
At the beginning of a year, most of us want to look ahead, resolutions, wishes and a bit of trepidation. Will I move into the unknown, or repeat myself, stuck in a loop? I have often found a good way to move forward is to actually go backward.
Several spiritual traditions offer an exercise called variously “Re-capitulation,” Re-Winding,” or “Reversing.” You can play back a day starting from the end, trying to feel and see the details you missed: The self-sabotaging trip to the fridge, the careless, hurtful remark, the anxiety laden phone call. Some trainings encourage people to try to spend time reviewing the year, or even a lifetime.
Often, when I try this exercise, I see my missteps and cringe, or am filled with remorse. But it also clears the air so I can see what I want for the future.
I sometimes wonder if truly seeing and embracing these repeated “fails” is what the Catholic Church originally intended with the sacrament of Confession. After all, the word King James translated as Sin in the Bible was actually a Greek word for “missing the mark.”
Re-capitulation offers me a chance to see what I missed. And I often find it’s easier to clarify my intentions after lying down and doing an Awareness Through Movement® lesson. Here’s one from my Breathing Audio Program that will literally clear your head, as well as give your voice the power it needs to declare your intentions for 2019.
Recently someone asked me if I would create a workshop for “creatives.” I was stymied, because for some reason, I think everyone is a “creative.” Each moment, I’m creating my life. People who don’t “think” they are creative just haven’t seen into their own power and possibilities. Another thing I often hear is that right brain people are more creative. Really? They’d never be able to finish their creations without their left brains! Not to mention the rest of themselves. As Feldenkrais famously said, a brain without a body can’t think.
So I’ve created a workshop where everyone can play – with their brains, with their movement, with their creativity. Join me this winter in Costa Rica for a learning vacation like no other.