Length: Centering in Dignity

Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Length: Centering in Dignity

When was the last time you took a stand for your dignity?

A few months ago, a mentor reflected to me that I seemed to lack “backbone.” She pointed out the ways in which I’m prone to losing myself in others’ stories, giving away my core values and riding the wave of other people’s emotions. She noted that, at times, I can’t even find my own point of view – I’m so worried of what she will think. On one hand, that rang true. How many times in my life have I found myself facing another human being in a state of collapse?

And yet, there’s another side. Challenge me harder to show myself in those moments, and you may have a chance to witness the angry, righteous woman that lurks just under the surface. Push me too far and you’re likely to be on the receiving end of a whirlwind of fire in the shape of a giant “fuck you”. Pardon my language. But it’s the truth.

Victim. Victimizer. Acquiesce. Fight. Shrink. Explode.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to use the word “dignity” in a sentence that didn’t also include the word “fight.” It’s an easy place to get stuck. We are a society of right and wronged. We mistake getting even for taking a stand. We confuse lashing back with self-care.

When I taught this week’s movement class, focusing on dignity, the question came up right away: “so… how exactly do you define dignity?” I opened my mouth to reply and heard the echo of my own silent curiosity reverberate off the far walls of the room.  

When language continued to fail me, I shifted my posture and referenced my own body. The subtle memory of a physical sensation spread through me. I sat up taller, without straining. A gentle current of energy ran from the base of my spine to the top of my head, then spread out uniformly from my spine, through my body, to the very surface of my skin. My chest relaxed. My belly filled out. It felt like nothing and everything at the same time.

Can you find this sensation in your own body?

Tall. Yet, neither bracing, nor sinking. Neither straining, nor letting go.

When I imagine putting that body-knowing into words, it strikes me that a complete & useful language of dignity does not yet exist. 

Perhaps, though, it’s about being so solid and clear in your own rightness that there’s no question of giving in and no need to fight against.  It’s connection to a sense of who you are – being “right” outside of comparison. Outside of “right and wrong.” It doesn’t require others to agree, and doesn’t mind if they disagree. Outside of that either-or box, it feels a lot more like “I (simply) am.”

This week I invite you to spend some time getting familiar with your own sense of dignity. Specifically, what does your backbone have to say about it?

In your movement practice,

bring your attention to your spine. Can you sense your own length as you move? Feel your tail, and the top of your head. Notice places of tension. Notice where you feel strong. Does your upper back round? Does your chest sink in? What if you brought your shoulders back and allowed the vulnerable front of your body more access to the world? 

Or… do you arch, brace or effort to stay up straight? Do you feel tension in the muscles across your chest or back? Are you sucking your belly in?

If you imagine hanging your spine from a string at the top of your head, and letting the rest of you gently fall into place, could you relax and just be? What would it take to let your skeleton do the work your muscles have been doing all this time?

In life,

you might start a conscious exploration of dignity without the “fight.” For example, can you remember a time when you felt full and tall without the ego-zing of pride? Can you be “right” in yourself without being “right over” another?

Can you let go of the need to justify or say “fuck you” and simply walk forward toward the future you know to be yours?

With curiosity, in mutual exploration,



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