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The 4 Stages of the Egyptian Dance Path

4th stage of the Egyptian Dance Path: Spiritual

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Your dance is as spiritual as you are.

(take that in for a few seconds; read it again)

If you´re not in contact with your invisible, energetic, spiritual dimension, you´ll feel challenged at this learning stage. If you don´t believe you´re more than a physical body, I´d doubt you´ll be able to dance from your soul.

This is probably the trickiest aspect of Egyptian Dance, one that teachers are often unable to articulate.

Spirituality is easily confused with religion, New Age mambo jambo, cheesy cults. It´s considered distant, exotic, unreacheable, weird, dangerous. We tend to fear what we cannot touch.

But, as I´ve mentioned, the spirit is who you are. You may identify with the physical body but that does not define you. Your soul does.

One of the most beautiful things I´ve observed, as a teacher, is how Egyptian Dance shows students the way to their soul. It takes them by the hand, smoothly, without them realizing it. It pulls them up naturally. Inevitably.

I use specific methods – pedagogy – to open up their physical, mental and emotional bodies but, if all the other stages are properly developed, the spiritual realm takes care of itself. It flows like water running from its source towards the sea. Nobody needs to push it, or show it the way – it knows how to get to its destination. That´s exactly how I´ve witnessed the arrival to this 4th, and higher, stage of the dance path.

We start from the ground, focused on our physical body; we move upwards, and forward, integrating the mental stage which will be followed by the emotional stage.

Sooner or later, if you keep going, you´ll be lead to the spiritual stage.

I´d go as far as telling you the first 3 stages require work, focus, proper guidance, discipline – you don´t go through them without effort or a professional, awakened, teacher.

The 4th stage is effortless – it´s a flower blooming under the sun; an ascension that feels like falling; a consequence of the work you´ve done from the ground. The 4th stage is the blooming of the flower after you´ve planted its seed and watered it. If you show up to fulfill your gardening job, the flower will bloom by itself.

It´s the most beautiful show on earth. Few things give me as much pleasure as watching my students bloom into this 4th stage of development – watching them return home, finding peace and solace in their own essence.

Once they reach this stage, they can never go back to superficiality or lies about themselves and the dance. Once they´re at the top of the Pyramid, they see the Big Picture from above. Their feet may remain on the ground but their dance belongs to the Universe – they become a Bridge between Heaven and Earth.

The question is: the top of the pyramid is a lonely place. Few ever get there.

Are you willing to climb, only to discover you´re up there by yourself?”

Excerpt from “The Egyptian Dance Booklet” by Joana Saahirah

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Education Versus Personal Exploration

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“Education is safe – you learn what others have already created, mastered, tested and approved of. If you decide to stick with what you´ve learned, and never go beyond it, you´ll become a correct, universally applauded mediocre copy machine. There is comfort, and certainty, in this choice.

But is that what you want? Can´t you see you are, and can do, so much more than that?

Self-exploration is risky, uncertain, mysterious – you´ll embark on adventures you cannot fully control; you´ll face your demons, limits and potential; you´ll test your waters and see how far you, not your teacher or an institution, can go. You will give birth to yourself without knowing how the baby will look like. What if the child is born with deformities? Or – oh my God; I cannot believe it; oh, so damn – ugly? Or just mediocre – a plain kid with no sparkle in his eyes? A regular Joe, perhaps.

Remember births can be painful and/or orgasmic. And the product of our creativity – may that be a human child or a dance piece – can disappoint our expectations. 

If given the choice, most of us will prefer to receive The Answer, or Magic Pill, from the hands of our teacher than to find it ourselves. I´ve had a few students who got mad at me because I told them they would have to use what I was teaching them and discover who they are in the process.

– Copying me won´t do the trick. You have to go into the desert by yourselves. – I told them.

They wanted to twist my neck. Who wouldn´t? A teacher who sends you off, alone though with tools in your travel bag, is not to be trusted. Is she/he?

(…) 

Explore, go within, try new things; use knowledge to empower you, not to limit you.

A good, professional, teacher will know how to guide you towards self-exploration. But, then again, YOU have to want to go there.

Curiosity cannot be taught – you awaken it in you or you don´t.

The courage to see what´s out there, inside of you, cannot be taught.

The perseverance, the discipline, the guts to find your own voice cannot be taught.

The willingness to face your limits and, what´s even scarier, your infinite potential, cannot be taught.

You, my beloved, have to get on the camel, pack your essentials, and leave for your cross of the desert.

I´ll meet you on the other side or, who knows?, in an oasis, because I, too, have my desert(s) to cross. We all do.

You´re alone on the road and you´re definitely not alone.”

Excerpt from The Egyptian Dance Booklet by Joana Saahirah (soon to be published)

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“Going to school gives the illusion that knowledge is what makes an artist. It´s like knowing how to write English perfectly. It has very little relation to the art of writing.”

My Life and Times by Henry Miller

Believe you deserve to be happy

Art by Anna Kapustenko.jpg“The more I observe myself, and others, the more I find universal patterns, wounds and dreams. We are unique in many ways – we´re also astonishingly similar.

One of our common wounds is the sense of UNWORTHINESS. We believe we´re not worthy of happiness.

We don´t actually say it: I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. Nope. That would be easy to identify – we would notice the nonsense, the suicidal impulse and our ego would lose the battle.

We don´t say out loud – we just believe in it, and act accordingly, which is more than enough to screw us up.

Have you caught yourself feeling guilty when you´re happy? I have.

“Too happy for my own good”, I´ll whisper, fearful of what will come.

We set a Happiness Limit, seasoned with needless obstacles and drama, and we´re terrified of going beyond it. It´s a ceiling we build for ourselves – one we refuse to surpass. As if by doing it we would be defying the Gods and they would punish us as a consequence.zeus.gif

-I´m feeling too happy. Should I be worried?

Worried about what, exactly? That´s the golden question.

In grew up with amazing, yet pessimistic, parents who believe life is hard. If you ask me how I define life, in one word, I´ll answer “Adventure” without blinking. If you ask my parents, they won´t blink – we have than in common-, but they´ll start describing my concept of hell. Are you ready? Take a deep breath and dive.

Life is:

A burden;

Obligations;

Sacrifice and pain;

Hard work;

Routine;

A series of unfortunate events nobody can, or will want to, avoid.

Their parents carried it too – the pessimistic, unworthiness, self-sabotaging bug. It gets into your genes  – it´s heritage passed on from generation to generation like blue eyes, high cholesterol or crooked noses.

Believing we don´t deserve to be happy – not beyond a comfortable, usually mediocre,  level we have set for ourselves – is an invisible trap most of us fall into. We´d rather be unhappy – remain on familiar ground, even if that ground is a mud pond infested with alligators and foul smelling frogs – than risking punishment for being happy beyond our measure. Our measure – take that in.

In theory, we want it. We may say we deserve it, write in notebooks, sing and preach. But, when we check under the carpet, we find the (ugly) truth: we fear our own greatness; we avoid annoying the gods with our arrogance, our ambition, our childish belief that the garden of heaven can exist here, right now, on the palm of our hands.

I´ve learned it the hard way: we cannot be happy if we keep feeding the belief we´re unworthy of it.  We have to grow up, literally, by paying a visit to the monster under the bed. It may be an imaginary monster but we act as it is real.

Imaginary monsters rule our lives.

Dare to go into the dark room, the one your father warned you against, and look under the bed. Don´t think too much. Just do it. Get on your knees, look.

The only thing you´ll find down there is dust. Dust, my friend. Bloody, fucking, ridiculous dust. Grab it and put it where it belongs (you know where).

You – we – deserve to be happy. It´s not a crime to experience life at its fullest.

If we´re able to receive unconceivable amounts of pain, and disappointment, we´re also able to receive unlimited happiness and pleasant surprises.

We were born to reJOYce, not to be punished.”

Excerpt from chapter of a book I´m currently writing.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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The world owes you nothing

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Working on one of my books. One word on a never ending loop: coffee – coffee – coffee.

Here´s something the Crazy Brigade – artists, writers, freelancers, dreamers who turn ideas into deeds – is fully aware of: nothing is guaranteed; nobody will pat you on the back – not forever, anyway -; circumstances change – today you´re the king and tomorrow you´re the beggar; there´s no 1+1=2 in life. Infallible equations, logic, and predictable outcomes work in math, not in life.

Instead of getting furious at life – you know what happens when you throw rocks at a wall, don´t you? – , claiming the world is evil and it doesn´t SEE YOU, I propose you roll with it while changing it, lovingly, with your actions.

Dance The Dance using your own steps.

Roll with the punches using your own fists.

Be, and do, your best with less expectations. Use your resources. Give it all you´ve got for the fun of it. Be on fire. BE FIRE. If a rock is everything you have at your disposal, turn it into a diamond. Alchemists have been doing it for centuries.

Show up for what you wish, do your part, be present. But never, ever, presume something is owed to you.

Repeat after me: Life owes me nothing. When you say it out loud, there´s a weight immediately off your shoulders:

-Ah… – A sigh of relief rises from your gut.

Dealing with rejection, falls & failures, frustration and injustice – or what we consider an injustice – is an integral part of this human experience. And being human is hard – the toughest job I can think of.

When you accept the premise – Life owes me nothing -, everything you get is a gift, a bonus, a blessing you didn´t see coming, a reason to smile. Pleasant, or unpleasant, results are overrated – just two sides of the same coin, the condition for being an active player in this game without rules.

See it as an Adventure – you fall so you can rise higher; something is taken away from you so you can earn something better; you are rejected so a more interesting thing, or person, can come into your life.

From the moment you assume life owes you nothing, you´re a chronic winner instead of a chronic blaming finger. Nothing will have the power to pull you off your center. 

Stop asking: what does the world owe me?

The real question is WHAT DO YOU OWE THE WORLD?”

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Excerpt from one of the books I´m currently working on.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

So in love am I (Barking to the Choir)

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For me, everything is an emotional experience. If not, I´m not interest.

Books, too, have to move me: my head, my heart, my soul, my blessed limbs. No wonder I lose interest in perfectly crafted books by perfectly respected authors; no wonder I fall in love with the most unexpected authors and stories.

I´m reading several books, simultaneously, as usual:

One book about the craft of Writing.

Two children´s books.

A novel.

“Barking to the Choir”. This one has punched me in the stomach, ravished my soul (pretty dramatic, eh?) and made me gasp for air. I often have to stop reading, in the middle of a phrase; close the book, take a deep breath and cry. Yes, you read it well: I stop reading so I can cry, an uncontrollable reaction to what I´ve just read.

It´s mortifying. I´m Portuguese, raised by stoic peasant parents, for God´s sake! – we don´t cry in the street, holding books and hearts in our hands. Mind you: these are not ellaborate expressions I´m using to make the book appealing. These are real experiences I´m going through while reading the book.

They say real life is way more fascinating than fiction and they´re totally right.

“Barking to the Choir” was recommended by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the famous “Eat, Pray, Love”, on Instagram (did I mention I´m in love with Instagram?). I´m going to start following all her reading suggestions.

Go brag that book.

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Decide

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The (crazy) author. Be happy or die trying. Just sayin´…

No better way to start 2018 than declaring it the Official Happiness Year.

To celebrate it with you, I´m lifting the veil of the book I´m currently working on.

The subject is Happiness and I´m in love with it. I hope you´ll fall in love with it, too, once the book is out there. For now, here´s an excerpt from a chapter I´m calling “DECIDE”.

EnJOY!

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More than a set of circumstances that can, and will, change, happiness is a decision.

Decide to be happy today.

And tomorrow.  

And tomorrow.

And tomorrow.

And tomorrow.

And tomorrow.

And tomorrow.

And tomorrow.

No, this is not a typing mistake. Yes, the words “and tomorrow” were intentionally repeated to exhaust you.

Because to choose happiness, the same way you may choose to brush your teeth, on a daily basis, is work and it can be exhausting. The other option – allowing life, or ourselves, to put us down – is less appetizing.

This is an integral part of Happiness as a default mode – creating a Happy Garden we can bounce back to after every painful moment. I would say it is not possible to create, and maintain, that garden without a daily decision that sounds something like this:

Today, independently of external circumstances, I will be happy.

Grab yourself to a cloud in the sky; hold a picture´s hand, hug a book; capture a smile from a stranger and keep it in your hands; get oxygen from a ray of light – the faintest, if that is all you have at your disposal – ; delight yourself with the silence.

Use what you have. Appreciate it. Save yourself. Now. Always now.

Today, independently of external circumstances, I will be happy.

Nothing sounds better, or more rebellious, than that statement.

Rest assured: most of us can be happy if we are enjoying a pleasant time in our life; if there is no disease, no major economic afflictions, no fear for our life. Many of us cannot. There are plenty of examples of people who have “everything” to be happy and, still, feel miserable.

If I am healthy, I have my basic needs met, I love and I am loved, and I am fulfilling my dreams, there is a strong chance of being happy. But circumstances change – what happens when the shit hits the fan?

Being happy when everything is cool is for sissies. Being happy when things go wrong, it´s for the brave hearts, the cool cats who won´t give up; the warriors who´d rather die with a smile than live as a victim. 

The real deal lies is DECIDING to be happy when things go up and when they go down;  when life is as distant from our “ideal” as earth is from Neptune.

Choosing to be happy when the ones we love betray us or we betray them; when we lose our faith, health, job, wealth, horizon, purpose; when we feel as low as they come; lost, below zero; finished.

Choosing to be happy when we struggle to find reasons for being happy is The Great Adventure.

If we look for something, we find it.

If we look for sorrow, there will be plenty of sorrow waiting for us on every corner.

If we look for happiness, there will be loads of it at our feet.

I´m not saying we should be happy dorks, living in self-denial, pretending everything is ok when it is not; unable to see the areas of our life that need improvement. We can see those areas, search for improvement strategies – what can I do to change my situation? – while choosing to be happy. Not when things are back to “acceptable” but now. Right – damn – now.

We can avoid the trap of waiting for the perfect moment when we can, finally, relax and enjoy the ride. The ride is always here, in this moment – never tomorrow, whatever you presume tomorrow will bring.

It´s a decision, I´m telling you. Happiness is not a random state we fall in, and out, but a perspective we choose to feed, daily, with discipline, stubbornness, awareness and a fierce survival instinct. That is what it boils down to: survival.

Long sustained unhappiness can kill us. Happiness creates life, opens doors, it shows a way where there was none.

Even if we fail at it, and we will, once in a while, deciding “Today I will be happy and appreciate whatever comes my way” is possible.

“Utopia lies at the horizon.

When I draw nearer by two steps,

it retreats two steps.

If I proceed ten steps forward, it

swiftly slips ten steps ahead.

No matter how far I go, I can never reach it.

What, then, is the purpose of utopia?

It is to cause us to advance.”

Eduardo Galeano

To read more, you will have to wait for the book. Coming soon!

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Art by Asako Eguchi

 

What makes YOU happy? (I want to hear about it)

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One of my favourite things about the technological world we live in is how CONNECTED we can be with friends, random cool strangers, students and audiences from all over the world.

Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School is a great example of how technology can bring us closer to each other and allow for an easier transmission of knowledge.

And, now, I – the technologically challenged girl who happens to love technology –  am reaching out to YOU to know

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WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?

You can answer, with a text, a photography (high resolution images, please) or both, to my email (dancemagica@gmail.com). I´ll select a few answers to include in the book I´m currently working on: The Happiness Freak, my little book of Happiness.

If you wish to be a part of my research, and book, get your happiness juices flowing and send me your answer ASAP.

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Crossing to the other side of the river

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Photo taken by yours truly in Dublin, one of my favourite cities in the whole world.

“Crossing to the other side of the river” – what a strange title for a blog post.

I, the one who wrote it, cannot explain it. But I write it, anyway, and I keep it. I trust the Mystery, the potential of Not Knowing, the Void.

As we open 2018´s door, a symbolic landmark created by human imagination, I find myself working on a book I never dreamt I´d write. Other literary, and dance, projects will have to wait, at least for a couple of weeks, because this one – uh, ah! – it´s grabbing me by the hair.

I sit on my desk and words flow, in a hurry (they know I´m on deadlines); urgent. My chest burns – every word comes out of it in flames. Insecurities come to the attack but I know them well. I dismiss them:

-Come on! You, again? Don´t you have anyone else to bug?

They don´t answer but I know what they´d say if they did:

-Everybody has their own tribe of insecurities. We cannot bug anyone else because we belong to you – we are YOU.

And this is what I want to tell myself, my students, my friends; you, who are reading, right now: embrace your demons instead of denying or trying to hush them away. Invite them in for a cup of tea; hug them so tighly they have no other choice but to hug you back.

In dance as in writing; in writing as in life, there are two, mostly unmentioned, qualities that allow you to thrive:

One is trust in yourself and your talent(s). It can come across as cockiness, especially if you´re a woman, and that´s why so many of us avoid developing it. It´ll annoy anyone who doesn´t believe in themselves; it´ll attract envy and competition and gossip and too many “ands”. Self-deprecation earns you more sympathy but it doesn´t get you far.

The other is persistence. If I want to be precise, I´ll call it stubbornness. In men, people call it passion; in women, they call it obsession. Either ways, focus, persist, discipline yourself not to give up on yourself. So hard, I know…(you CAN do it).

They may not look like much but they do the trick. Some of the most precious things in life are invisible so…pay attention…stay awakened…see.

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Happy 2018!