Ever find yourself getting stuck in your head during class?

I know how you feel.

In a moment I will share with you four things you can do when you find yourself in this situation. (And at the end of the post you’ll see a video you’re going to LOVE of Beatríz Morales.)

But first, some reflection.

When I think about my flamenco struggles over the years, I notice they are all connected to one issue, spending too much time in my head. It can happen in class, when getting up to dance on my own at a fiesta, even when anticipating being in class or performing. When I’m stuck in my head I feel disconnected from my body, from the people around me, from the place I’m in. It blocks my ability to learn. It makes it hard for me to enjoy myself. 

This is not how I want to feel when I’m doing flamenco (or in any situation really).

Here’s a story:

It’s September 2018. I’m in Sevilla at the Bienal, and life is great. I am there mainly to see shows and to relax before beginning the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. I have signed up for a short workshop with Beatríz Morales. I’m EXCITED, so excited, to take from her.

Day One goes like this:

I feel both eager and nervous walking to class. This is how I usually feel before the first day of any new workshop or class, especially one where I’ll be studying with a new teacher. 

I arrive at the studio. The previous class is finishing up. They are in a circle dancing bulerías one by one. They’re having so much fun. Why didn’t I take this class instead? I ask myself. They finish up and clear out of the studio. 

Our class enters. The other students look young and good for the most part. I take deep breaths.

Class begins.

Beatríz is warm and enthusiastic. She starts giving us material. The students who looked good are good.

My flamenco demons come out. Immediately they start telling me I stink. I don’t belong. I should be picking it up faster . . .

I try to remain present, try not to pay them much attention, try to embrace the challenge and discomfort because this is how we grow, try to let myself have fun.

The demons are loud, and it is hard.

I want to cry.

I breathe.

At this same time I feel inspired watching Beatríz dance. I want to learn these moves. I love what she is doing!

Walking home the only thing I feel good about is the fact that class is over. This is not right. This is not how I want to feel.

Day Two is a little bit better but similar to day one.

I kind of don’t want to go back to class. But I recognize it’s fear. I know I really I want to go. Of course I go back.

I feel the material coming at me. I’m making mistakes. So many things don’t make sense yet. I feel like they should make sense. I feel like I must be disappointing Beatríz. I wonder if perhaps she doesn’t notice the things I’m faking.

On my walk home I decide things must go differently tomorrow, and I know it’s up to me to make this happen. 

Day Three, the last day.

When I arrive the musicians are there. We get to dance bulerías one by one with them. I feel excitement and fear. I practiced a bit last night. The material from class is all still green bananas, so I worked on my own stuff. I’m going to have fun today, I declare to myself. 

And I do.

I allow myself to enjoy the class. I tell the demons they are not needed today. I still feel nervous. I still feel kind of lost. But I remind myself to remain in the moment, and I do manage to have fun.

The truth is, there were good and bad moments over the three days, but I never fully settled into the workshop. Still that’s okay. The more I practice the better I get at dealing with those pesky demons.

What To Do When You Get Stuck in Your Head

1. Remain present. When you hear your demons in class it means you’re in your head. Breathe and refocus. You can do this right there on the dance floor, one deep breath, feel your body, continue dancing. You might want to briefly close your eyes with the breath. If you are really struggling, maybe you need to leave for a moment and come back.

2. Sit with the discomfort. Learning to stick with an uncomfortable situation is powerful. Discomfort is a part of life. It is part of growing and learning. We don’t need to judge it or push it away. We can allow ourselves to be with it.

3. Use the challenge to improve. Process is important, and challenge provides an opportunity to grow. Remember you need to stretch yourself in order to get better. It’s going to be hard. It’s okay to make mistakes.

4. Pick out the constructive info. You don’t need to discount everything your demons say. Sometimes it’s important to listen. (This is better done after class, and please don’t dwell.) Listen then move on. I understand they may be speaking to you in a mean way, but ask yourself if there’s anything helpful there. (Example: Let’s say your demons are saying you don’t pick things up fast enough. This probably means you’re feeling stressed, like the material is being thrown at you too quickly. Knowing that, you can practice what you were taught that day to give yourself a head start for the next class. That way if you feel overwhelmed by new material at least you can feel successful with something.)

Some Background:

Today’s post stemmed from this article where I shared what went well last year. In it I promised to later touch on what didn’t go well. As I reflected upon the challenges I faced over the year, I discovered the common theme of my ego getting in the way of learning and enjoyment (aka getting stuck in my head). I realized it was the same issue I’ve been dealing with since I began studying flamenco more than twenty years ago. Still?! I thought. But I know it’s not as intense as it used to be, and I’ve learned a lot about how I can prevent it from happening and what to do when it happens. (Implementing today’s four tips for example.) This issue is not isolated to flamenco, nor is it something that began when I started dancing. Flamenco however shines the spotlight on it and forces me to look. For this I appreciate flamenco. It will never stop teaching me about life.

And one more thing. I like to use reflection to guide me toward where I want to go next. Thinking about the struggles of the past year pointed me toward my intention for this year, to be present in my body even (and especially) in challenging situations (Lesson #1 from above).

Now, here’s that video

This is Beatríz improvising with Juan Peña and Miguel Heredia the final day of our workshop. She was about to do our choreography for us (this isn’t it) when Juan started singing; she couldn’t resist and began dancing. She is addicted to dancing flamenco as you can probably tell by how she moves. I could watch her all day long. Couldn’t you?

What do You Do?

What strategies do you use when you find yourself stuck in your head? Let me know in the comments.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Why You Shouldn’t Call It Quits

Stop Thinking And Dance

How I Overcame My Fear of Bulerías (And Why I Used to Hate This Dance)

Should I Put Myself Out There

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