Five stages of moving beyond the fear of speaking up

Why are you so quiet? Probably, because it is scary to speak up.

But here's the thing: what if the world needs you to speak up?

We are in a world where, it seems, many kind, subtle, creative, loving, intelligent, connecting people are...quiet.

If the spiritual, thoughtful, loving, generous, creative, compassionate people like you stay quiet and just keep their opinions to themselves - I think we won't see much changes.

Your voice gets stronger with practice

But what if you started practicing speaking up, using your voice? What if you started saying what you think and believe every now and then, at dinner, on social media, anywhere? What if you started your blog, what if you wrote and practiced sharing your ideas? Sure, you'll post some things that are maybe a little raw, you'll learn from each experience too. You'll distill the essence of what you want to say more and more, make it clearer; you'll understand who out there needs to hear from you; you'll eventually stop having a general malaise about "what people think," as you focus more of your attention on how to extend and expand the new world you now envision more and more clearly and to share this vision with the people who are ready to hear about it.

Using your voice is like using a muscle. It gets stronger with practice.

It's easy to be shy, to be picky. To be scared and threatened by the ole Facebook. To belabor your mini decision to "Like" some acquaintance's post, or "Share" your friend's thing, or "Post" that you're "feeling grateful" or whatever, or just click out and leave it off for another day. This the boring way. There's no time anymore to leave it off for another day. What if all that's missing in the world is YOUR voice?

Do you know your power?

Do you know the power of your voice?

If you did how would you use it today? 

We live in a world where, just by touching something you could actually trigger a landslide of butterfly actions that can transform the world entirely. What if all that's missing in this world is your voice - your touch? 

My 5 phases of developing my voice

I write a newsletter for my school and I blog. It has been hard to do this. I went through a lot of phases in getting used to sharing myself publicly.

Photo at Weller House Inn by  SubbusClicks

Photo at Weller House Inn by SubbusClicks

  • First there was the anonymous phase where I wrote under a secret identity.
  • Then there was the crazy phase when I wrote as myself, but in such an obscure way that nobody would be able to understand, let alone take issue with my perspectives.
  • After that there was the closely related elaborately colorful phase where I started to say things that were intelligible and made some sense but again only those who really loved me would take the time to sift the meaning from the verbiage. 
  • It gave way to a corporate phase where I started to express my meanings more succinct, more direct, maybe kinda flat.
  • I am finding again my authentic voice, past acres and acres of words, again rediscovering cheerfully twisted metaphor; may it be reborn in a way that can be helpful.

This last phase was made possible by a gradual crystallization of what I want to impart; immersion in a life-activity that provides continuous sources of challenge that inspire sharing and learning; clarification of the medium I'm writing in; getting to better know who I'm writing for; and with the help of trusted friends who share editorial perspective on my drafts.

Speak up! And may we all shine together. 

Questions to power the grand beautiful experiment of community

Today as I make my first keystrokes in this new year, I am envisioning a world of gentle thoughts and a deeper curiosity. 

Here are the questions that keep returning to my mind, as I participate with all of my heart in this grand beautiful experiment of community: How much more honesty can we find in our interactions with each other? How many fewer assumptions can we make about other people? How many confusing situations can we engage directly and learn from...instead of avoiding? How much more curious about each other can we become?

I know how tempting it is to talk about people instead of to them, to complain and assume instead of digging deeper to understand. But in the weeks of this past month I have also discovered again and even more vividly this time how many gifts we gain when we look directly into each other's eyes to find, again and again, the connection that is always there. 

I wish for each and all of us a year of the kind of growth that emerges from fearless honesty. Love, Mitra

Dear women of Tango. Let your joyful, unbridled, innocent, sensual self find the dances it wants.

PHOTO BY GLENN CAMPBELL PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO BY GLENN CAMPBELL PHOTOGRAPHY

I know a woman who knows her power. She knows the power of her body, her mind, her soul. She is creative, successful, at peace in a life she chose and she loves. But what happens when she steps into a Tango event? She becomes passive, somnambulistic, slightly demented, her fury barely veiled, the very picture of a victim.

She’s furious - and she’s furious with nothing and nobody but herself. I know her because I have been her. I have been her but I also see her, everywhere. And I know why she’s furious.

She has all the power and the passion, the tenderness and the ruthlessness and the sweetness of the Tango seething inside her. She is wearing a beautiful dress, she is fragrant, her shoes shine. She knows she is gorgeous and her whole being wants to dance. She feels the dance dancing her from within and she is ready.

And then she does it: she quietly sits and goes about slowly suffocating the dance inside of her until it completely dies and all that is left is a disgusted, wasted, expensive dress.

Here is how she does it: she tells herself things:

“There he is! I think he sees me.”

“I’ll wait until he finds me.”

“I don’t want to dance with him unless he wants to dance with me.”

“I’ll just sit here. He can come invite me.”

“Of course he knows I want to dance with him. And I am sitting right here.”

“See, I don’t want anyone to feel pressured.”

“There are too many women here tonight.”

“Those women are so pushy. He’s dancing with her because he feels obligated.”

“I would never ask someone good to dance. I don’t want to pressure them.”

“The good leaders only dance with young, sexy women who are right there in front of him.”

“If I walk over there, will he think I want to dance with him?”

“If I say hi, will he feel worried that I am asking him to dance?”

“He can just cabeceo me anytime. I’m available, isn’t it obvious?”

“I’ll dance to whatever music. Just as long as it’s with one of the good dancers.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll dance with anyone who asks me.”

“Seems like an off night. I’m going home. Maybe next week.”

“Tango sucks. I hate Tango.”

Dear powerful lady. Tango doesn’t suck and men don’t suck either and there is nothing wrong with those women who go out and take initiative to create the dances their souls thrive on. The only thing that has happened here is that you have hypnotized yourself into a thoroughly senile state from which it will be impossible for you to kindle the mood of a Tango.

The dance begins before the embrace

You can’t expect the Tango to come to you while you do nothing. You might have glimpses of weak bliss here and there but it is an awful way to live and you’ll probably be mostly bitter. Why do that? You have to go out and prowl, find it, encourage it, romance it, create it, kindle its fires, fan its flames, water the seeds of equality and love.

Here’s what’s true. Tango is a dance of equals. A dance where both partners express the fullness of their power. A dance where masculine power holds, contains, sculpts and reveals the joyful, unbridled, innocent sensuality of feminine power.

Here’s what’s true. Tango is a very specific dance. A tanda is an encounter: This man, This woman, This music, This moment. A never-to-be-repeated anomaly, a totally transient work of art, a tesseract. This dress and this suit will probably never touch each other again. When you are sitting around waiting for something to happen to you, you are not participating in the creative process of sorting out which specificities need to happen specifically now. And that process IS the milonga. Everyone else is in on it. Nobody can know how the Tango is talking to you unless you show them through how you dance the milonga.

The dance begins before the embrace, it begins in the minds, it’s played out in an invitation process where both partners show vulnerability and courage and risk rejection for the sake of passion and beauty. If only one risks rejection, it's not equal, it's not exciting. So we dance before we embrace - we dance out the invitation.

Dancing the invitation is beautiful and fun. It means you take the decision to be and feel beautiful and project beautiful energy across and throughout the whole milonga. To be present and attentive in every moment. It means you let your whole being and presence at the milonga be and share who you are and what your dancing is: joyful, unbridled, innocent, sensual. It means you move when you feel like it, and move towards things that attract and interest you - honestly! It is a very advanced form of following. Advanced, because, it can be hard to do in a setting where everyone’s minds are crisscrossed by many little fears. Living and being this way attracts dances that match you. Sometimes the ones you attract will surprise you!

Dismantling the fearful thoughts that interfere with your feeling free

1. I am afraid he will feel pressured.

Here’s what’s true. You have an out-of-all-proportion fear of pressuring a good dancer man. You are terrified that your tiny hello and attention will elicit some kind of bizarre revenge in which he avoids you forever, never dances with you again, and tells all his friends that you are aggressive.

The good dancer man is not like that.

  • The good dancer man is excited, nay, inspired, when he knows a beautiful woman wants to dance with him!
  • In fact, a lot of times the good dancer man doesn’t know what he wants. And sometimes what he wants will be shaped whether he can feel that you want to dance with HIM, NOW, to THIS music.
  • Finally, the good dancer man can be trusted to say no if he doesn’t want to dance. Isn’t that good to know?

If you can regally and openly accept it when the good dancer man cannot dance with you in the moment you wished - because that will be the truth sometimes - you are safe.

2. I am afraid other people will notice that I want to dance with him and judge me.

It can be a little bit terrifying when you realize that to live honestly you will probably have to show your cards. To notice that you can only get close to a dance by occasionally moving your whole body toward someone hot and that other people will see that. They will see your move, your desire - and possibly your changing your mind or your negotiation not going the way you wanted.

Let us realize that we free the other women around us when we are practicing being ourselves - being true and honest to our flow, our inspirations, our needs, and being brave and honest in moving ourselves in the directions where our intuition is telling us to go.

(By the way, cabeceo is definitely awesome and a strong way to go, and it also works beautifully well in concert with walking around and hugging and saying hello to people we feel drawn to and want to connect and share energy with. It's a different but related topic. I like to create most my dances by cabeceo.)  

3. I am afraid of not dancing.

Some of us have a slightly mad and highly American goal-orientatedness at milongas that does not really fit with real Tango culture. You think you’re doing “good” if you’re dancing a lot and you want to just get those miles in. You start to feel sour if you’re not dancing 70, 80, 90% of the time. This puts you in a mood where you’ll dance with “anybody” above a certain level and as the event wears on you lower your standards lower and lower.

But the fact is, Tango is not about “just dancing as much as you can” but it is about specificity and quality. The encounter. How many different kinds of success are you open to?

  • You might have one epic tanda that feeds your soul for a whole evening and after that all you want to do is giggle and chitchat.
  • You can have an epic Tango with anyone if you’re open to it - a beginner, another woman, an elite-professional-star - if you’re in the right headspace and if you’re tuning to the music and feeling it inside.
  • And, you can also have an epic Tango with someone without dancing - a full true sincere connected deeply mutually attentive tanda of conversation in which you find the oneness that refreshes our whole psyche. (Are you open to that too? If you are, then don’t avoid talking to people. ;)  

4. I am afraid of saying no.

Sometimes that tanda of “just” conversation will be way better than just any dance with anyone who managed to pluck up the courage to invite you even though you were just sitting there looking confused or glassy.

The more we are geared toward wanting to dance 100% of the time and the more our own thinking brings us to our knees to the point where we will accept a dance with just anyone, the more screwed up our Tango world becomes. Because we are then unable to do the one thing that keeps us and all women safe: to say no.

Women, please, learn to say no. Say no if you’re not feeling it. Say no to anyone! Yes, you can say no to a teacher, a star, a “good dancer” or a “bad dancer.” Stay true to yourself, and now go out and create the tandas that are true to what the dance inside you is telling you.

You’re maybe afraid you’ll say no and the guy will seek revenge, he will never dance with you again, and neither will other guys. But actually the more we women say authentically no, the more we help everyone. Good men will get curious and get more serious in their quest to uplift their Tango and their skills. Some guys I said no to early on actually thank me now for motivating them to become more kick ass dancers! If you keep coming out, and keep getting good, keep making friends, keep caring about Tango and contributing joyfully to the scene, you have nothing to fear.

5. I am afraid I am not good enough.

You are a gift and a joy and whatever your Tango skills are right now there is probably a delightful moment awaiting you at the milonga if you believe in yourself and know yourself to be the beautiful being that you are.

How “good” you are - or how “good” others perceive you to be - is to some degree contextual and depends a little bit on how present you are, how present others perceive you to be. And that is one thing you do have control over in THIS moment. You can let yourself be deeply immersed in the music you are hearing - instead of ignoring it and worrying about dances. You can let yourself be deeply involved in the people who are here - instead of checking your phone all the time. ;)

Remember, if someone doesn’t want to dance with you they can always decline. You don’t have to decline on their behalf and steal from them an opportunity they might have loved. And seeing a “no” as a valuable form of feedback that inspires you to improve your social or dancing skills is a powerful choice that will only uplift you.

Your happiness at milongas will definitely become more consistent the more skillful you become in Tango. The more you practice, the more you inquire, the more you seek the profound essence of Tango and find and create its meaning for yourself. So really that commitment, to keep growing, to be with it for the long haul, is really the most effective long term way to anchor your Tango happiness.

Being true, sincere, and present to what you truly want

Finally and in summary, ladies, please become alert to the tiny ways you can betray yourself by pretending you don’t actually want what you do actually want. Being in this state is extremely stressful because you are totally split and will not be able to act in a coherent way.

What I discovered is that for me, when I DO want something, it is very very clear. It keeps coming into my mind, more and more often, with more and more urgency, elaboration, specificity. This is very different from being in a state where I don’t want anything in particular or I am not sure whether or not I want something.

  • Your soul don’t necessarily want to dance with someone just because he is famous on Facebook.
  • Your soul doesn’t necessarily want to dance with someone just because you’ve danced with them seventeen times before and each time was epic.
  • Your soul doesn’t want to dance with someone just because it hasn’t danced for the past forty minutes.

Your intuitive soul is very specific and surprising and inspired by all kinds of weird things. So don’t get stuck in patterned habits. Instead, listen to the small voice of inspiration and get used to how it tells you what you want and be open for something totally unexpected! I wish you luck, love, fun, and enthusiasm on the path. Love, Mitra

New Skills for Conscious Community: How Non-Violent Communication Can Help

BOOK REVIEW BY MITRA MARTIN

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph. D. 

If you have ever found yourself saying, even just inside yourself, let’s say, while scrolling through the Facebook, “These people are SO annoying.” “I can’t stand her.” or just sighing, "Man." Or if you ever find yourself plotting microrevenge, “I won’t invite them again” or whatever...you need this book.

Here are some situations - on and off the dance floor - where what I learned from reading this book helps me find more peace: 

  • When I am sad or scared - learning how to give myself empathy
  • When I am with someone who is upset - learning how to give empathy in a constructive way
  • When I am stressed out and working with someone who is stressed out - learning new patterns to replace reactive or resisting ones
  • When I am feeling happy about something - learning how to appreciate without being manipulative

Those things happen almost every day, especially when we are living and working as part of an active, dynamic, growing, changing community! So I find plenty of times to practice and plenty of times to be grateful for what I'm learning here. 

Reading this book helped me realized how tricky language is, and how easy it is to unwittingly commit microviolences that make life more of a bummer than it needs to be. It doesn’t have to. All we need to do is to learn.

The book's incredibly user-friendly, too. It has excellent summaries and pithy callouts, it has useful reference lists and even very challenging self-quizzes! The writing is clear and humble and enriched by Rosenberg’s personal experiences generously shared. There are transcripts of actual conversation between people, with commentary, that are revelatory and really easy to relate to.

nvc photo - fix.jpg

I am so grateful for the tremendous introspective work of Marshall Rosenberg, expressed in this book; for his calm and lucid writings and the recordings of his workshops and lectures; for the gentle force of his vision now expressed in organizations founded through and through on the pillars of peace and freedom, on the basic idea finding ways to get everyone’s needs met. He died last month. I think humanity has no idea yet how much he contributed to its possibility for success. 

NVC is not just about words. It’s about kindling the underlying feeling, the mood of peace, stillness, and a true devotion to finding creative ways to serve everyone. And that’s actually more important than whatever words you say. Sometimes, it’s about learning that voicing your inner experiences of others is more functional than keeping it all inside. 

Fundamentally, I believe it is about enlarging your heart - a truly deep project - so that you can function creatively even when you’re really stressed on the inside. I hope this book will inspire you. Love, Mitra