Slow down and observe the details of this moment.
Sounds simple, but observing is something that we tend to practice rarely. Instead, we tend to steamroll through moments without much observation of the moment itself. We end up missing out on the opportunity to savor the details of any given moment.
This tends to change when we are traveling. In new environments and situations - outside of our mundane routines - we are more captivated in each moment for each moment offers the opportunity to observe something new.
Back in 2011 I was living in Santiago de Chile for only one year. That whole year I experienced a heightened ability to "observe" for what was around me was "new" and "temporary".
Strategically, I rented a room near this tango bar because I had heard from locals that they had weekly tango lessons. Over the year that I lived in Chile, I spent a lot of time in this place.
For the first few months I started frequenting the place and new no one, I spent quite a lot of time too scared to dance and instead nursing a glass of wine while observing those brave enough to dance.
I love looking back at the words that I wrote on my journal during this time of heightened observation. More things felt like revelations then, simply because I was noticing the unfolding of moment to moment more intently.
Here are a few words about my " tango observations" from my journal that year. As written sometime in 2011, somewhere in Santiago de Chile...
I´ve been taking tango lessons for a few months here in Santiago. I carry a tiny notebook inside my dance shoe bag. At first, I had it with me as a place to write down the juicy dance ¨tips¨ I would get at lessons or dances. As a novice tango dancer in a city where I know few, sometimes I spend more time observing then actually dancing. During such partnerless songs, I started to take out my tiny notebook and write about my observations. I pulled together a bunch of the these written thoughts I have been accumulating in my tiny notebook to write these words:
Tapping toes bounce to the roar of the accordion lazily resting on his knee. The instrument is stretched and compressed by his quick moving fingertips. Melting into the rhythm, his body remains barely rigid enough to smoothly sway the accordion, sustaining the beat of the trance. With closed eyes his head slides dramatically to the sensual melody. Every now and again his eyelids part ways; at times, catching a glance of the body of dancers gathering nearby ready to soak up the product of years worth of his passionate practice, his rhythmic art, his music.
Hearing the rising and falling call of the accordion, the dancers gather on the dance floor. Their arms wrap around while leaning each other´s body weight toward a mutual center of balance, called ¨eje¨. Once eje is found, the dancers fall into the comfort of balance, the man ready to lead and the woman ready to follow. Her eyes close symbolizing a complete give into her craft as a follow. A confusing mix of joy and uncertainty is felt as the dancers touch one another. The rhythm grabs a hold of their souls gently tearing them out in unison, freeing them into a fuller connection. The rhythm begins to sway the souls and the souls the bodies, like puppeteers. Swaying from left to right, smoothly. Through the liberation of rhythm and the stability of ¨eje¨, the souls penetrate into a connective depth of emotions otherwise unknown. The dancers experience the pleasure of melting into intimacy with another fellow human being, as they mutually evoke their innate sensuality, all within the safe boundaries of the dance floor. His movements become hers and hers his as the souls float in a game of weight exchange, grounded in fancy footwork perfectly timed to the lead of the accordion. And so the dance floor becomes this meeting place, where artful intimacy is not only allowed but expected. Gentle reminders of the body realm momentarily jerk the souls back in as the dancers notice the sweat dripping down their connected cheeks, a missed beat, a loosening ¨eje¨, too tight or too loose of a hold, an unrecognized lead, an unfortunate step, a bump into other bodies. These minute imperfections distract attention from rhythm only long enough to seamlessly break the mutual motions. Craving freedom, the souls rush back out just in time to save the connection. For the dancers the freedom for movement in connection continues, uninterrupted, held up by their release into rhythm.
The universal quality of the dance
As the song ends, the souls return to the bodies and the dancers slowly separate, looking into each other´s eyes with gratitude and ready to seek another partner. And so it goes, the dancers rotate their experiences from one human to another, seducing each partner into a game of artful intimacy. Beyond the connection between dancers, the rotation of partners is a symbolic expression of the connection within all of humanity. Humans crave intimacy, the pleasure of touch, an intimate hug. In their open display of raw emotion, each dancer is drugged on the pleasure of connection, but not just to their partner, to humanity.
Life is like a tango song
And so, life is like the shifting rhythms of a tango song. We dance to it gracefully, rehearsing within the secure boundaries of a dance floor, craving those moments when our souls release into the possibilities of deeper connection.
Reading these words over three years later brought up nostalgia. I felt a craving for that urgency to observe "new" and "temporary" surroundings.
That is, until I realized that I can look at my life as a whole as "new" and "temporary" at any given moment. I can look at my life as worthy of observation at every single moment, even the ordinary ones.
Choose to be an observer. Savor this moment. Traveling not required.