“Slowing Down with the Two-Step and Yoga”
A dear friend, the one who meets me in the smile space and manages to give me karmic kicks in the butt without ever leaving a boot print, wants me to teach him how to two-step. It’s an odd request, as folks typically ask for yoga lessons or Ayurvedic consults. However there was a time in my life when I used to regularly do the two-step, tripping the cowboy lights fantastic at a western bar named Lucille’s.
My friend’s request triggered memories of my Wild West youth. I recalled days of yore on the dancehall floor. Back in my 20s, in order to release stress from a corporate banking job, I’d shed the designer suit and high heels for a pair of Wranglers and cowboy boots. Five days a week, I’d drive in rush hour traffic to a high rise, low rent cubicle where I worked quick quick to make deadlines. When the weekend came, I chose to slow it down on the dance floor. While my co-workers went to downtown yuppie bars for Friday night happy hours, I took off to Lucille’s, a saloon out in the sticks, to dance the two-step.
Western Roots and Cowboy Boots
I’ve always been drawn to the cowboy life. As a toddler I had a Wonder Horse, who I named “Far Away”. I grew up watching Bonanza and Gunsmoke with my Nana and Pawpaw. My Gram and Gramp favored The Lawrence Welk Show. I liked spending more time at Nana and Pawpaw’s house because Bobby and Cissy were so boring compared to Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty. However, there was a saving grace at Gram and Gramp’s house – a bar in the basement. My sister and I took turns playing Miss Kitty, pouring shots of Shasta orange soda to our little brother.
There were other TV cowboys who made me dream of the Wild West. Fess Parker captured my heart as both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. To this day, I can sing the first verse of both theme songs. The Daniel Booneshow aired at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings. While the rest of the family slept, I sat downstairs wrapped in an afghan, eating a bowl of Cheerios and wishing I could live in a log cabin. On Sundays, my folks looked forward to Mass and communion with the Priest. The only thing I looked forward to was the after-Mass television and communion with The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger.
Other relatives stoked the cowboy campfire in my heart. My great-uncle Johnnie made me and my siblings wood cowboy guns. Other childhood toys were eventually sold at garage sales, but my bright red cowboy rifle stayed with me through seven moves over a 24 year period. Just last year I sent the rifle to my little nephew. Someday I will teach him the words to Davy Crockett. Besides our homemade rifles and store bought pistols and holsters, we wore real deal cowboy belts and Mexican jackets. My Pawpaw, who went on the road for International Harvester in the 1940’s, bought them in Central America. My aunt gave me my first pair of cowboy boots, soft brown leather ones she wore as a kid. During childhood summers along the mighty Mississippi, my Nana danced with me and my sister to the songs of Gene Autry and Eddie Arnold.
My folks also added a little cowboy DNA to my genes. My Mom loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In college, she acted and sang in musicals like Annie Get Your Gun and Oklahoma, the latter being the place my Dad first set eyes on my Mom. And it was my Dad who bought the family cowboy hats for our mule ride into the Grand Canyon – my first western adventure as a kid. Riding in a saddle all day, eating dinner by a campfire, and sleeping in a tent was like being a real cowboy.
A Fork in the Trail
Even though I’ve always connected to the cowboy spirit, I have no clear recollection exactly how I ended up at Lucille’s learning my first two-step to a Randy Travis song. I guess it’s similar to how I ended up in the corporate world. I took a little detour along the way. Growing up, I always wanted to be a poet and photojournalist. However somewhere during my four years of college, I took a fork in the road and majored in business.
After college, I toiled and boiled in the fires of the business world for ten years. I worked in corporate banking, a fast paced and high stress environment. During my three years in the Motor City and seven years in the tobacco capital of North Carolina, I saw folks backstabbing each other with Mont Blanc pens. Coworkers wore their overtime like a high school girl wears her boyfriend’s class ring. There were several older single women determined to keep me from a social life by frequently coming up with hokey projects with timelines matching their biological clocks. Although my mind was capable to do the corporate thing, my soul dimmed in the sterile environment and constant stress.
Thankfully my alma mater is a liberal arts school, so I minored in writing – a saving grace which kindled the fires of my troubadour spirit. Like a cowboy’s rifle holstered in his saddle scabbard, my journal was always in my briefcase. It protected me from the corporate bandits of stress and burnout. Writing kept me connected to my heart, the frontier where I could roam free and far away. Until I physically left the corporate world, I would write away into the wild blue yonder of my journals. Journals and dancehall floors were the wide open spaces I ventured to when the corporate fires threatened to scorch my soul.
Finding New Frontiers On the Yoga Mat
I refer to the period of my corporate years as purgatory -the place where my soul was made ready for another heavenly gift – yoga. It was the absolute wackiness of the corporate world that led me to my first yoga class in North Carolina.
Yoga was the perfect remedy for the high stress corporate lifestyle. Running with my dog and riding my motorcycle removed the surface scum of stress. Yet the root of stress, a whacked out nervous system, remained like a stubborn dandelion weed. Yoga calmed my nervous system and became my slow saving grace to the quick quick pace of corporate marketing.
On the yoga mat my body and breath danced in perfect time together. The tempo of the corporate world was a tantrum of tachycardia to my heart. Yoga was a natural pacemaker, re-calibrating my heart to its divine natural rhythm. Pose to pose, breath to breath, moment to moment – a slowing down. On the mat, the body, thoughts, respiration, and heart rate slow. Going beyond the quick pace of life, there is the space of the slow and sacred. In this space, all vital systems and each tiny cell moves, grooves, and vibrates in perfect harmonic rhythm. This is the natural dance of life.
Jumping Corporate Fences
Yoga helped me reconnect to my true Nature, a free spirit gypsy cowgirl who craves wide open spaces in her life. Even though the two-stepping, journaling, and yoga fueled my creative fire, I still felt trapped in the corporate world. I needed room to stretch the wings of my soul and I sure as heck wasn’t going to get that in any high rise corner office.
So by the year 2000, after ten years in the corporate world, I summoned the courage to break away and ride off into the wild unknown. To the corporate world I declared, “Don’t fence me in”. I rode west down the I40 to Nashville, pursuing two loves: yoga and an Americana singer/songwriter. Leaving North Carolina was the beginning of my eleven year journey on a westward trail which kept me not chasing, but living my dreams. It was the start of what I call my “Westward Bestward Ho! Adventure.”
My first stop was nine years in Nashville, where I realized my dream of becoming a full time yoga teacher. I also had the joy of working with songwriters, musicians, and fine artists. Then along the I40 in Albuquerque, I made camp for two years. There, I furthered my yoga and Ayurvedic studies with one of the best Ayurvedic teachers in the world. And I kept heading west, until last summer when the trail stopped in California. I reached the western frontier and realized yet another dream. Just this week, my first article was published. I am now a paid freelance writer.
Building A Home Where Dreams Can Roam
Thankfully, my detour into the corporate world took me to the dance floor and the yoga studio. In these havens, I discovered the benefits of going slow. It’s inevitable for life to get a little wacky at times. Balancing a career, family, personal care, and a social life is challenging. Life, like the two-step, can’t be all about the quick quick. The slow is part of the natural rhythm of life. The slow creates the divine pause, whether it’s in the dance of the two-step or the dance with the breath in yoga.
Find what makes you slow down. By slowing down, you reconnect and dance with the natural rhythm of your breath. When you dance with the breath, you reconnect to your heart. From the heart, you have the courage to live your dreams.
Childhood is the time where I believe we reside the closest to our Soul and have the imagination and courage to be anything we want to be. Reflecting on my childhood, I realize it was not so odd that the young girl who wanted to live in a log cabin and ride a horse named “Far Away”, ended up scooting her boots in a western bar. Or folded up her briefcase and rolled out her yoga mat. Or kept moving westward, following the smoke signals of cowboy fires along the frontier trail.
Louis L’Amour wrote, “There’s a little cowboy in all of us, a little frontier.” Geographically, a frontier is associated with the wilderness, a place which is left in its natural condition. It’s a sacred place where the Natural Laws rule with sovereignty, beauty, and grace. I believe the frontier we all seek is the heart space, the vast frontier and home of the free and brave, which connects us to the wonders of the world and the beauties of each other.
Someday soon, I’ll pour a shot for my sweet friend. It will most likely be cold smooth Tequila, instead of Shasta orange soda. We’ll raise our glasses to Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty. Then I’ll teach him the two-step to a Randy Travis song. My feet will do the quick quick, slow. As I savor the slow, my heart will smile; for after the quick quick fades, the sweet space of the slow will remind me of the most important thing I’ve learned along my “Westward Bestward Ho! Trail”. Never stop exploring the frontier of the heart. Remember, when you learn to slow down, you’ll never miss the fork in the road…the cowboy trail which leads to the heart space.