Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Rare Epicurean Tanguer@s

" Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance."  --Epicurus


Epicurian philosophy 
is simple:  Seek pleasure and avoid pain. So you might think there are many Epicurean tanguer@s out there, right?

The problem is that Epicurean philosophy is a wisdom tradition, not a lifestyle.  Seeking pleasure often has no philosophy or ethical basis.

Sure, there are many who seek pleasure and avoid pain, but may lack wisdom entirely. A philosopher thinks deeply about this principle of pleasure and pain. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to dance.  But it took a while for me to find some wisdom of how to be wise enough to create life-long pleasure and to avoid loss, pain, and distress.

Pleasure without Self-Harm
I started thinking about this Pleasure Principle as I was trying to help a patient of mine suffering with sleeplessness.  I think he considered himself a true Epicurean.  He explained that he wanted to enjoy life. So that meant that he wanted to enjoy his cigarette before bed, drink whiskey before bed, and watch TV in bed. Of course, all of these things undermine good sleep and were harming his health. Pleasure without self-harm takes some wisdom.

Tango and the Pleasure Principle
I recommend lots of pleasure.  But I want to be an Epicurean Tanguero.  My tango path for many years was not as an Epicurean philosopher.  I have more and more pleasure in tango, but that was made possible because of becoming wiser--joining the Epicurean wisdom of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain for the long-term good.

If I want more pleasure and less pain, I know that I need to . . .
  • Dance less so I can have good sleep. 
  • Dance less so I can have good foot care. 
  • Wear special earplugs* so I am not deaf later in life. (Get a good decibel app.)
  • Dance in moderation in order to have plenty of other helping activities that will maintain my tango to be long-lived--such as . . .
    >Tai chi for balance
    >Working out for stamina and strength
    >Yoga for flexibility
    >Breathing practice for lung capacity and body awareness
    >Mindful meditation for flow and calming the inner-voice that is not mine.
The path of a philosopher for me is to have ecstatic moments in tango but not at the expense of not taking care of my body's health, my psychological wellness, and my spiritual life.

The Pleasure Principle, philosophically practiced, makes our tango glow, and allows us to be an asset to the tango community, which by the nature of any community will need more wisdom and less shallow pleasure-seeking.  Seek pleasure; eschew pain.  But be a true Epicurean Tangue@.

Photo credit:  https://smudgyguide.net/the-epicureans/

* In order to maintain one's hearing acuity, young or old, I suggest getting good quality earplugs, even some made just for your ears.  Some milongas employ partially deaf DJ's who blast their music.  In the workplace, your employer must provide hearing protection over 85 decibels.  I know DJ's who blast music over 100 decibels all night. Avoid these deaf DJ's if you can, or simply do as I do:  Wear earplugs specifically made for ... wait for it ... DJ's.  Whatever you do, don't tell them to turn down their music.  They're deaf and won't hear you.   :-/

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Feeding your Tango Cat during the Black Plague

Feed your cat!  Do you remember from your history classes the Black Plague that killed half the population in Europe? What did panicked-stricken city-dwellers do? You will remember that, unfortunately, they killed the cats and then outlawed people from having them. Unbeknownst to the people of that time, the cats were keeping the disease-carrying fleas on rodents out of their homes.  Eventually, the word got out that people who were refusing to kill their cats were protected and the cat-killing law was repealed.

Coronavirus?  Through analogy, tango has made your cat healthy--so much so, that you may as well call your cat "Tango."  In today's world with a modern pandemic from COVID-19 you have to keep your cat at home for a while, but it's not forever. In reality tango feeds your cat.  This means that ample physical social contact before an epidemic makes you and your microbiome more resilient during epidemics. Tango is also psychologically powerful to bolster your immune system.

Your cat is more like your microbiome.  Cats cannot live on tango alone. They need good food to keep the gut bacteria balanced and healthy. They need pure water, probiotics, fresh air and sun. They need lots of sleep. They need to avoid psychologically toxic relationships. It's not just tango, but that's a big part of your biological and psychological resiliency.  Even if you were to have had an awesome, strong cat, during the Black Plague, you would not have gone out shaking everyone's hand just because you had power-cat!  You'd stay in.  So it is with tango. Stay in during a pandemic!!!  

Not only your mind but your body wants you to return to the milonga.
Microbiologists are unequivocally showing us that practicing social distancing, even social isolation, during times of pandemic could be a life-and-death matter for many--if not you, then someone you could possibly infect.  However, during healthy times before and after an epidemic, physical social contact bolsters our immune system.  Meeting, touching and hugging people (also called "tango") increases the diversity of the microbiome in your body and you are stronger for it. Tango is the perfect medicine for the general public's over-sanitized  lifestyles.  More and more people sit behind computers, communicate, chat, date and even have virtual sex. This is a problem for the "sanitized" microbiome which needs to have more social contact in order to be robust.  Then this same socially isolated person who already lacks a diversified microbiome, let's say, gets a viral infection, runs to his doctor and further damages his microbiome with a round of antibiotics. Think PRObiotics and not antibiotics, unless it is a serious infection. Antibiotics, by the way, have NO effect on viruses.
Read this book!
More than 90% of your body
is your microbiome.
Really.

Your enemy was never bacteria, viruses, and fungi.  The majority of these microbes, viruses, and fungi work in your body to keep you healthy or are harmless when kept in balance.  Without a good balance of diverse bacteria, people become depressed, anxious and physically sick. (So eat probiotic foods.) The recipe for good health requires a balance in your microbiome.  Little is known about how they do it, but all three are mostly our friends.  Yes, certain viruses, like HIV, are seriously not good.  And Candida Fungi are not good when out of balance. Yersinia Pestis (bubonic plague) are extremely dangerous bacteria.  But don't kill all the cats!  Most are good.  Tango cats especially.  One day soon we will all need to get back to embracing one another.  Long-term survival is the real issue at hand.  For the time being while not dancing so much, stay home, and take good care of your Tango Cat.
___________




Photoshop credit:  Thanks, Benjamin Word, for your knowledge in International Advertising and the manipulation of Internet cat pictures.

Photo credits:
Kitten with yarn (before photoshop): https://kittentoob.com/20-toys-never-let-cat-play/
Coronavirus: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center

Footnotes:   How is it that the rodents didn't get sick from the fleas that they carried? Well, to this day they carry a virus that would keep them from dying from the Bubonic Plague if it were to come back. (In the 1990's the US had 10 cases.  So it has come back but has been controlled.  Is it not interesting that humans and rats have certain viruses that protect us!  It's just that they can carry a virus that helps them but not homo sapiens.   

Even though the bubonic Plague would not be as deadly as it was in the 1300s, it is because we have other things that protect us:  Sewers, less malnutrition and better overall hygiene, more cats and fewer rodents.  In 1340, the population was hit with a mini-ice age and was weakened with malnutrition.  Cities were dirty and full of rodents.  Killing the cats, who officials believed were carrying the disease, was the absolute worse thing to do.

Sources:  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Tango, the Microbiome and the Coronavirus


If you dance tango, you do it because it makes you happier.  The microbes in your body are dancing too. Literally dancing.

[I wrote this post before the Corona Virus pandemic started and it sat in my drafts. The new meaning with a pandemic is this:  Many people will never return to tango. And many will deny the danger of a pandemic. Both of these things are unfortunate reactions. But I hope scientific knowledge will grow for the general public. For over a century, we have mostly misunderstood the significance of the discovery of microbes (bacterias), and the much smaller viruses, and fungi.  What we still do not understand--perhaps especially in the medical field--is that the vast majority of these microbes coexist with our minority human genome in our body. Did you know that many viruses are good for us?  Did you know that even fungi happily have a balance on our skin and mouths and everywhere else in our bodies? It is a matter of balance! When the pandemic is over, it will be best that you return to tango for your own physical and emotional well being.  You need social touch for a healthy, robust immune system.]

One reason that you may be coming back to dance is that tango dancers are likely to be happier and healthier from social contact than if they stayed home.  By "social contact," I mean not just psychological contact but also physical contact. A growing body of evidence shows that we return to eat and do things because our microbes are bidding these behaviors. Can it be that we are returning to dance and do many things at the bidding of the microbiome's influence on our behavior and even our personalities?  (See article below, "Gut Bacteria May Be Linked to Personality Traits.")

Luckily, dancing is good for us.  The other good news is that dancers are likely to have a more robust microbiome because of their close physical interaction with others. Sharing the good bacteria in social contact gives us a greater diversity of bacteria in our bodies. A person with less diversity is likely to get sick and depressed or anxious.  So yes, you are happier when you dance. Your heart and soul dance and your body dance. But there is more . . .

Your microbiome dances.
 

10% of all the DNA cells in your body indicate that you are human.  90% are all sorts of DNA that are not human.  Trillions of cells make up a huge "community" of diverse bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  Most of these co-exist with our minority human DNA and allow us to live well on the planet.  New studies are showing that people with a lack of diversity in their microbiome (helpful microbes throughout our body) have weaker immune systems and are more likely to be depressed.

People who lack a diverse microbiome have both more physical illnesses and also lack psychological resilience. So the diverse community in your microbiome is "dancing" and very happy when you have close social contact with each other.

Here's a wonderfully produced info video from NPR on the microbiome. It's especially helpful if you doubt that your microbiome really dances. :-)  (Or keep reading below the video if you have no doubts so far.)




Tango dancers are likely NOT to be germophobic. Germophobia creates more and more isolation and even more and more mental problems, especially debilitating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  The germophobe thinks he or she is justified in their permanent social isolation.  Why not?  For now over 100 years, the human race has grown more and more germophobic.  But we only have seen half the story. The vast majority of our microbiome we have attained through physical contact is helping us survive! Look at our medicine and commercials of anti-bacterial products. We all know what anti-bacterial agents are. Even modern doctors have little sense of the harm they are doing to their patients by giving patients antibiotics, which kill the good bacteria (the majority) along with a few bad guys.  And for what purpose?  Why kill bacteria if you are fighting a virus? People-pleasing doctors are unwilling to educate a misinformed public because the American Medical Association has been in a senseless war on microbes without knowing the whole story, which has caused "superbugs."  Except for epidemics, stop using antibiotics if at all possible!  Stop using antibacterial sprays and soaps. Even children in households with no dishwasher are healthier than the more sterile environments of homes with dishwashers.  And, of course, dance more tango.

New Vocabulary Words
The general public has not been able to talk about these truths until recently. If you know the word "probiotic" it probably is new to your vocabulary in comparison to "antibiotic." 
A recent study by Dr. Katrina Johnson in the Human Microbiome Journal looked at social behavior and microbes. She wrote: “Our modern-day living may provide a perfect storm for dysbiosis [microbial imbalance or maladaptation] of the gut. We lead stressful lives with fewer social interactions and less time spent with nature, our diets are typically deficient in fiber, we inhabit over-sanitized environments and are dependent on antibiotic treatments. All these factors can influence the gut microbiome and so may be affecting our behavior and psychological well-being in currently unknown ways,” said Johnson.


But not Tango Dancers, Dr. Johnson! We are a diverse bunch of people. In nearly every tango community I have been in, we share collectively five or more languages, nationalities. Racial diversity is common. But one thing we really share is our microbes, and 99.9% of the time this is very good for our physical and mental well being since microbiome diversity is so good for our physical well being. Generally speaking outside of epidemics, hiding out and avoiding social contact is dangerous for the body and mind.

So let your body dance as if no one is looking. The microbiome has been dancing as if no one is watching since the beginning of the human race--because we have hot been watching! It's only now that we are aware of this incredible dance. And now, we are finally watching. Hopefully, our microbiome won't get nervous.


________________



Photo credit (and below article):  https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/02/13/gut-bacteria-may-be-linked-to-personality-traits/154172.html


Here is the article so you don't have to look it up:

 

Gut Bacteria May Be Linked to Personality Traits

A new large study finds that some of our personality traits may be linked to the composition and diversity of our gut bacteria (microbiome). The findings are published in the Human Microbiome Journal.
“There has been growing research linking the gut microbiome to the brain and behaviour, known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis,” said Dr. Katerina Johnson, who conducted her Ph.D. in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford in the U.K.
“Most research has been conducted in animals, whilst studies in humans have focused on the role of the gut microbiome in neuropsychiatric conditions. In contrast, my key interest was to look in the general population to see how variation in the types of bacteria living in the gut may be related to personality.”
Prior research has linked the gut microbiome to autism (a condition characterized by impaired social behavior). Johnson’s study suggests that numerous types of bacteria previously linked to autism are also related to differences in sociability in the general population.
“This suggests that the gut microbiome may contribute not only to the extreme behavioral traits seen in autism but also to variation in social behavior in the general population. However, since this is a cross-sectional study, future research may benefit from directly investigating the potential effect these bacteria may have on behavior, which may help inform the development of new therapies for autism and depression,” said Johnson.
One interesting finding was that people with larger social networks tend to have a more diverse gut microbiome, which is often associated with better gut health and general health.
“This is the first study to find a link between sociability and microbiome diversity in humans and follows on from similar findings in primates which have shown that social interactions can promote gut microbiome diversity,” said Johnson. “This result suggests the same may also be true in human populations.”
Conversely, the study shows that people with higher stress or anxiety had a lower microbiome diversity. In addition, the researchers found that adults who had been formula-fed as children had a less diverse microbiome in adulthood.
“This is the first time this has been investigated in adults and the results suggest that infant nutrition may have long-term consequences for gut health,” said Johnson.
Diversity was also positively related to international travel, perhaps due to exposure to novel microbes and different diets. More adventurous eaters had a more diverse gut microbiome whilst those on a dairy-free diet had lower diversity.
In addition, diversity was greater in people with a diet high in natural sources of probiotics (e.g. fermented cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi) and prebiotics (e.g. banana, legumes, whole grains, asparagus, onion, leek), but notably not when taken in supplement form.
“Our modern-day living may provide a perfect storm for dysbiosis of the gut. We lead stressful lives with fewer social interactions and less time spent with nature, our diets are typically deficient in fibre, we inhabit oversanitized environments and are dependent on antibiotic treatments. All these factors can influence the gut microbiome and so may be affecting our behavior and psychological well-being in currently unknown ways,” said Johnson.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Musicality: More than a dance class



"Musicality is not a learned skill.
It's a natural skill that you
uncover."

Anonymous musician


You dance tango.  Nearly everyone, but certainly you were born to be musical.  That is part of what it means to be human for you and every dancer. Watch children dance without a single worry about who is watching. That's uncovered musicality before your eys. No lessons. No coaching. Just uncovering with is naturally there.

Musical expression is truly an essential part of being human until we are shamed or told not to "dance around so much" by parents or teachers. Then, here come the blocks to our natural expression!  So, the work of getting through the blocks is a psychological and spiritual quest more than merely a dance or music skill to be learned.  Knowing this fact allows you to relax and let nature take its course.

The reason you love tango, I believe, is because of your inner self who pushed you to start this dance and your desires to embody and express the music which your inner self hears.  More than just a desire for a new hobby--the inner self is driven to express itself musically.

So as vague and huge as the task of expressing yourself musically appears to be, musicality is the center of why you dance.  The quest is to uncover and unblock. Also, you can think of musicality as a drive. Think about other drives.  You are driven to breathe, drink, eat, find shelter. Put on music and you are driven to move, even if your musicality drive has been stamped on and has dwindled down to merely tapping your feet.  Musicality is a drive to be you.

So as a start and especially while alone . . . listen to the silence, then put on the music, then feel it in your body and soul. Let it go. Be the music. Add the "E" to "Motion" and see how musicality pours out of your dance. This expression is who you truly are.


Part II:
More about a word I used above-- the Quest--and how to consciously begin this quest in the next post.  On the Quest of a lifetime, all drives must be channeled.  Let's talk about this.  Please comment below.


Photo credit:  https://medium.dancedeets.com/musicality-in-dance-7f0e6b89ff1e

Honorable mention: Regarding adding E to Motion, please see Aydan's wonderful post on this, http://www.dancingwithpresence.com/blog/tangotouch-adding-e-to-you-motion

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Foresight has 2020 Vision.


Tango, one of my main creative passions in life, is connected to my use of social media to keep up with people and events. Social media is a problem for me. Something needs to change in 2020. So this year I hope for foresight, not hindsight, having 2020 vision.  I am dedicating myself to JOLO--the Joy-Of-Living-Omnipresent, which is my new term for a pervading awareness to care for my physical and psychological health.  "Omnipresent" sounds like something only Divinity can do, but perhaps that is what the Universe wants more from us--being all-present and present-in-all. 

And for my 2020 foresight, I guess I will need a smarter SMART phone to help me with more joy and less obsession . . .

Spiritually
Mature
Aware
Resilient 
Transformational Phone

Oh, yes.  Another clarification is needed for a my new SMART phone.  Literally, a "phone" is a sound and a "telephone" is transmitted sound.  The sound that I plan to make will be more in person and less through technology.  

Here's how I'll use my not-so-SMART telephone:

1. SMV.  I have deleted Facebook, Messanger, Apple News, and the YouTube app off of my cell phone.  This will help.  I still keep connected to the news, but I don't want to be obsessed. Also, I don't know about you, but for me, Social Media Voyeurism (SMV) engenders FOBLO, the fear of being left out of tango events one sees on social media. (FOBLO is not just fear for millennials who made up the term.) I wish to have a 2020 vision with less and less regret that I am not present in all the photos of my favorite dancers dancing at a festival or milonga I did not attend. I am changing notification settings on my not-so-smart phone and spending more time on my truly SMART phone--talking to a diversity of people.  The decision to turn off the notifications takes some smart common sense.

2. Engage my maturity and resiliency skills.   Being-happy-with-what-you-have is a difficult task for everyone striving to mature and grow spiritually.  So FOBLO is a monster not only for a generation who has grown up on selfies but everyone engaged in social media. As for me, I want to be continually working on "growing up," being on a path of an ever-maturing person, and on a path of multiple passions to pursue in life.

3. Time for depth.  An example just in tango is my resolution to even celebrate "being left out." I can celebrate having time for other things, such as reading that book on tango orchestras; practicing more by myself. (I will have week-long quests to dance every day--even at work with my door closed, but every day.) Also, I may enjoy just giving my feet a needed break. Who knows? Perhaps, I enjoy a needed vacation from tango to broaden my life in things not related to tango, such as, reading more, writing, learning French, working out or hiking more, exploring more tai chi and getting great sleep.

4. The spiritual part:  There's just no time for missing out or having FOBLO if my 2020 foresight gives me "JOLO," the joy of living omnipresent.  Coming into the New Year, I am happy to focus on my health and well being more than ever before. Back in 2017 my resolution was to give up [unhealthy] tango--late-night tango.  I have done really well at that, and I recommend it to everyone that we all eschew late milongas for the most part or at least promote early milongas in our local communities because sleep and health are two sides of the same coin. So my first tango event in 2020?  Houston--a marathon--but I will only attend the early events. This is the practice of living JOLO. Foresight has a 2020 Vision.


Photo credit:   https://www.balfour.com/Blog/2019_October-22-Theme-Ideas

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Old Milongueros don't sleep much

"Once upon a time, old milongueros danced all night and worked all day!"  A tango myth?  Yes, one I used to believe!

The Early Milonga
I have it from different sources of those who have lived in Buenos Aires, that the old milongueros did their serious dancing at early milongas.  Sure they would show up at later milongas, but that was to drink and court women at the late milongas to score or simply socialize. The tango-myth of eschewing good sleep is pure fairy-tale machismo

How to die early
I have worked with soldiers for all my professional life as a therapist.  Soldiers express a similar idiotic machismo--that "sleep is for wimps" and then these same soldiers die young from believing this rampantly popular stupidity. (Ask the Veteran's Administration.)  Tango dancers too often choose sleep deprivation--I did for years! But soldiers and others dealing with PTSD would like to sleep, but cannot. If you have a choice, choose health; choose sleep!

But maybe I am wrong
Let's agree hypothetically that the stories are true of the milongueros defying the need for sleep. Some yogis, through meditation, have reduced their need to sleep through meditation.  So let's agree that some dance or meditate all night and work all day the next. I think meditation and tango have a health-giving element that helps us get good sleep.  But little sleep? Even if tango or meditation helps, what does your body tell you?  Can you feel well on less than four hours of sleep? Do you personally know anyone who can? 

Is it possible that tango compensates for not sleeping?
I wish it were true. But no. Although tango has a huge salutary effect on anyone who loves to dance, it will not compensate for disregarding the body's need for sleep.  In fact sleep deprivation leads to poor dancing, poor balance, and poor memory.  Even if these milonguero tales were true, we don't hear the many voices of all of those who died early from the long-term effects of sleep deprivation.

So what is essential for tango?  Good music, talented dancers, a good dance floor.  And good sleep.



Photo credit:

Ovidio José Bianquet also see http://www.tangovalsmilonga.com/the-old-milongueros/



Saturday, November 16, 2019

Replacing Gaydar with Tangdar

Who is the target?
In many cultures, men must protect their physical and mental well being from the "dancing-man prejudice."  Especially a man who dances in North America finds himself constantly in the scope of both men and women's "gaydar." At least, this has been my experience.

recent article about men avoiding recycling in order not to appear gay (or be "outed") made me wonder if this fear keeps so many men away from dancing. Why are there so few men in many parts of the world who avoid being dancers? By reflection on my own experiences throughout my life, I realized that men--both gay and hetero--have reason to be warry of how men and women "scope them out." As I thought about this subject, many of my own experiences were reawakened--like recovered memories. I became more and more somber, even repulsed, as each memory surfaced:
  • I heard in seventh grade from some female classmates that their mothers said that if a man crosses his legs he was gay.  I thought that was stupid, even funny, but I took note and tried not to cross my legs so much.
  • My private music teacher was scoped out by an ex-sailor's gaydar. He told everyone that my music teacher was gay and said he was nearly ready to beat him up because he saw my teacher touch me in a friendly way.  I am horrified that as a young teen, I assumed the ex-sailor's gaydar was accurate. As I learned over time, the veteran sailor's gaydar had malfunctioned.
  • When I was in my 20's and a musician in Oakland, California, my church made a threat to ex-communicate a pastor because she and I attended our mutual church and musician friend's gay wedding. My friend was disallowed from being a member of the church.
  • A good friend and fellow long-distance cyclist was identified by a salsa partner of mine as being gay.  Her gaydar malfunctioned too, sending off warning signals because he shaved his legs. She did not know that the majority of serious cyclists shave their leg hair since if they get in a wreck it is easier to clean wounds without hair in the way. He later married the woman he was dating.  (I didn't tell her about my legs.  ;-)
  • Dancing tango in Washington, DC in 2016, a woman remarked that she loved my cologne. She asked what it was. "Cartier," I said. "I got it in France." That surely set off her gaydar. So she sent out another gaydar signal to be sure. "Who makes it?" she said.  "I don't know," I said. "Oh, well I guess that means you're not gay," she assured me. According to her gaydar scope, if I had known who made the cologne, that surely would have confirmed my gayety. As always, I took note.
  • A salsa partner years ago taunted me with her gaydar because I was not interested in her. "You are a good dancer, and my theory is that a man has to be gay if he is a good dancer." She was baiting me, jealous of the woman I was dating with whom I had just broken up. She was implicitly trying to have me prove myself and my sexual identity or be labeled in her inner circle of friends.  Again, I took note.
  • In 2012 I lived in Germany when my female coworkers found out that I like to dance. Their gaydar was set off unwittingly by my Cuban boss who told that them that my girlfriend and I were avid tango dancers. They told me later that they first had assumed I was gay. Again I took note. Another department at the hospital knew I danced, and when I said I was engaged to a French woman, they all checked their gaydar and agreed that it was a decoy--until they met her at an organizational dinner.
  • When I was deployed to Egypt in the Army, a staff sergeant said that our Executive Officer was gay (according to his gaydar).  "I can see it a mile away," he told a group of us as we sat eating at the chow hall. "Really?" I thought. "I don't see that!"  But I took note.
  • My ex-wife and mother of my two children took some of my personal letters to court from my gay musician and church friend (mentioned above).  She argued to the court that I should be limited in my ability to see my two children because I had a gay friend. The female judge had asked my children if they wanted to stay with me until Monday mornings every other week. The judge allowed and then disallowed my request because of this damning "evidence." At that time I wasn't even living in the homophobic US, I was living in a country that made homosexual people wear pink triangles on their clothes in 1938 before eventually killing many of them. Gaydar.  Toxic laser rays.
  • Lastly on this abbreviated list: Long ago, my ex-brother-in-law (divorced for a very good reason), was imprisoned for having killed a man whom he had thought was trying to seduce him.  Gaydar is not funny for any man, especially a gay man.
Gender imbalance harms the health and longevity of tango because a large part of the world's population is or wishes to be perceived as heterosexual. The larger part of female dancers would prefer to dance with a man, even in spite of great women dancers who know both roles very well. Too many women are sitting and unhappy with the state of affairs in tango's gender imbalance in many countries. 

Tangdar
The casualties of gaydar are mostly the men who never show up to dance. If men are even afraid for their lives--and they have every right to be--I hope that I have influenced a few people to put away their gaydar, especially in our non-violent, non-judgemental tango community.  I have promised myself to keep my own gaydar scope to myself and to ask others to keep theirs as a "concealed weapon"(before someone gets hurt)! Another positive step, too, is to think of ways to inspire men to join our dance community. It's about time we start reversing the damage already done.  Replace it with finding guys who have warm embraces and move their bodies as if controlled by the music. This is Tangdar--the ability to spot future tangueros and nurture them that they may find their dancing self.


Photo credit:
https://theoutdoorland.com/best-scopes-for-coyote-hunting/




Addendum:
Before you buy your very own gaydar mug (yes, they are for sale), you should know that the definition is not accurate. The real definition is: "The stupidly proud, usually erroneous and sometimes dangerous belief that one has the ability to correctly label people as gay."




Thursday, October 31, 2019

Why your tango seems like an addiction


Tango itself is a wonderful activity that has no dark properties that are any different than other wonderful things in life, such as holding a child, surfing a wave, watching a sunset, listening to an inspiring live concert, or simply "dancing for joy." Tango is not an addiction.  If you agree then there is no reason to read farther! However, if you are not so sure, then read on.

Why your tango may seem like an addiction
When tango is paired with behaviors that color it in the dark, smokey hues of a private cigar and brandy club, then it may seem like an addiction.  Late-night venues with alcohol are the last vestige of tango-as-an-addiction.  There used to be more unhealthy things tied to tango, such as fights, knives, prostitutes, thick clouds of secondary smoke filling your lungs, fierce competition for competition's sake, men and women looking for love or a night of pleasure. These things are still possible; however, tango itself is slowly distilling down to its primal essence as a healthy avocation that focuses on the dance and the music.

So if you feel that you are "addicted" to tango, then look at the things you have paired it with.  Is your tango community toxic or your dance partner or tango teacher? Are you obsessed with buying tango clothes?  Are you spending impulsively on endless lessons that have made tango the most expensive hobby in your life?  Is there an obsessive drive to be acclaimed in your tango performance skills that cannot be quenched, leading to a very dark dead-end street of getting older and unable to keep up?  Even then, these are obsessions and compulsions, not "addictions."

The dark side of tango is not the dance called tango.  Even the dark side (obsessions and compulsions) are not usually addictions unless you are snorting coke or drinking excessively with your tango.  Yet to have the full joy of tango, these must be "surgically removed," which means to stop pairing stimuli (tango and smoking or tango and drinking or tango and sleep deprivation, or tango and toxic relationships).  Dissect your tango and leave the good part and eschew that which is not good for you.

And what is left?

Musicality, a great embrace, the joy of movement, and mindful-flow.  This is not an addiction.  This is the pure joy of tango.





Photo credit and article on addiction
https://theconversation.com/is-addiction-a-brain-disease-51248

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The one behavior that helps us survive psychological trauma

He danced great as a baby, but now says he can't dance. 
What happened?



Homo sapiens are hardwired as the dancing animal.

How is it that many of my friends, family, and colleagues say, "I cannot dance," or "I have two left feet"? Even if you have some friends who can dance, how is it that there's a good chance that they bemoan that their life-partner cannot dance?  How is it that the dancing animal believes that it is not hardwired into the human psyche? Growing up as a white, heterosexual male in a country that sees dance as unimportant, I have a few theories and anecdotes to tell. But not today. I would like to focus on why homo sapiens dance when they hear music even if they had never seen anyone dance. It's fascinating!  And dance is not a random trait.  It's all about survival from psychological trauma.

Survival of the Fittest [Dancers]
Dance has long been associated in human history to survival.  Dance is continuously and ubiquitously supporting psychological wellbeing:


  • Dances of birth, new beginnings
  • Dances for courting a mate
  • Wedding dances
  • Dances of celebration, like coming of age
  • War dances
  • Dances telling the story after war and other human tragedies
  • Dance for rain during droughts; dances of celebration after it rains
  • Dances to express each and every human emotion.

These dances often have their focus on the survival of the person, or perhaps the group, even the race. Nerdy scientists (who often don't dance or see dance as superficial or even primitive) don't seem to even wonder why humans dance. Certainly, evolutionists seem particularly inept at seeing this link, even when it is under their noses:  If dance is hardwired into our brains, then survival is behind it.  Those who dance (along with musicians) know the answer in their gut: We dance to survive. In a world experiencing an international epidemics of suicide, this should be clear:  Wellbeing = survival.

After years of being a musician, then a dancer and now a trauma therapist, it seems pretty clear to me. As we have evolved, music and dance help us survive terrible things like slavery, sexual assault, and war.  No wonder that the great dances of the Americas were started by slaves! Have troubles in your life? Then the music and dance will come to you in the form of the blues, or melancholy country or tango. And of course, music and dance are there to celebrate life too, which, in turn, also helps us survive.  Dance meets us as infants and follows us through life.

I am not sure about you, but I need to deal with the many psychologically difficult events in my life through music and dance. Movement--like walking and running or biking or swimming is great--I know, my "therapy" was once completing an Ironman Triathlon while I was living in a little a town without dance.  But what movement has the most psychological benefits over all other movements?  Dance.  Please don't repeat the shoe company ad, "Just Do It!"  No.

 Just dance. Survive.





Sunday, August 25, 2019

Who takes the blame for Magical Moments?



A common experience I hear from followers is that during their earlier tango days, they experienced the most wonderful magical moments

I wonder if this comes from giving all the praise--especially as a beginner--to a great leader. And leaders, being human, can easily and gladly accept the "blame" for the magical moment. My experience is that equally wonderful moments happen in the arms of a non-judgemental woman who opens doors I didn't know even existed. 

A few women especially come to mind. As a relatively new dancer, I once met a beginner who co-created magical moments with me.  Now as a veteran dancer, she still does it. The problem that I see, is that she still "blames me" entirely for all the cool ideas that come out of our dance--things I have never done before. If anyone is to blame, she is. Another woman in the same community does the same thing for me, and just recently after years of not seeing her, we danced again.  It's true that I feel I have far passed her ability, but the same magical moments happen with doors opening that I never knew existed.  I do not "blame her" for these moments. We share the "blame" for our mindful moments and magic.

Tango addictions
It's no wonder that people call tango "addictive."  Tango that has it's best highs early on sounds a bit like cocaine. The best cocaine highs are reported by addicts when they first snort this drug, and then after this early experience, one is simply chasing that earlier high.  So get over the addiction model, and start taking at least half of the "blame" for your highs in tango. This will snuff out the addiction model, which eventually will lead you to be "cured" one day from lack of working on your responsibility and your need to grow as a dancer, both psychologically and spiritually.  No one is perfect in this regard, but magical moments will increase and not diminish on this path of shared responsibility.

Tango detox
Tango is not a drug that is responsible for our highs.  But this perception happens when another person's great dancing is perceived as responsible for our magical moments. It's hard not to blame others who are either judged as good or bad dancers.  But it is all about shared responsibility. Generally speaking, I think it easy to practice tango "blaming"--both positive and negative. These are two sides of the same coin.

Share responsibility!  Even if the dance did not go right, many other things are amazing about the night when I look mindfully. The person who isn't dancing well may have just recovered from cancer treatment or is finally getting on with their life after a dark period.  Who knows?  The magical moment is to be present, and when I do this, I have lots of magical moments in all aspects of my life, not just tango.

I need to remind myself of this over and over.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It takes too TIRED to tango . . .


>It takes saying "too tired to tango" before we realize that doing something great for one's health at the wrong time will harm our health and levels of energy.

>It takes "too tired to tango" until exhaustion or multiple health issues stop us in our tracks.  

>It takes "too tired to tango" 
before a person finally tries to find balance.

That's my story: Just call me Mr. Sleep Deprived I fully participated in the worst health risk of tango. No longer, but I was too tired to tango.  That doesn't mean I stopped tango! I tried to stop in 2017.  But instead, I just started dancing at earlier events. Presently, I go to a practica in my town that has great dancers and starts and ends early.  I started a Facebook group called Early Milonga Enthusiasts in my town (please copy the idea in your town). I now go to encuentros where the timing is always an early milonga and an evening milonga that does not go so late.  I sleep in as much as I can on these weekend encuentros.  But I'm not "too tired to tango"--during an encuentro! I dance for as much as 8 hours of tango. My Fitbit, worn on my ankle, indicates I walk for over 5+ miles (8-10 kilometers).  The point of good sleep is that we are NOT too tired to tango!  Sleep and tango are buen amigos!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Early Milonga Revolutión

Catch to 8am milonga at La Confitería Ideal* in Buenos Aires.
But how about your town's own early milongas?
I am asking you to take up arms!  And use those arms to hug people who also enjoy earlier milongas. I think they are the silent majority, and it is time for an Early Milonga Revolutión!

When I wrote about the health risks that tango dancers have because of sleep deprivation caused by late-evening start times, I got hundreds of emails, messages, and comments in agreement.  (See Tango's Worst Heath Risk.)  I made the point that sleep deprivation is unnecessary if we just had earlier milongas.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Tango's Worst Health Risk

Is tango harming your physical health? Probably.

Is late-night tango harming your long-term health more than helping it?

Luckily, that can be changed easily enough. Tango is healthy for us in many ways as this blog has pointed out for over ten years. In the last ten years, scientists have only started realizing just how bad sleep deprivation is. And the problem with tango?  Mostly we do it at the wrong time of our sleep cycle! Our present enjoyment of tango too often leaves us sleep-deprived and with a messed up circadian rhythm.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Suspicious Tango Pastor


Organizers and teachers in my experience most have been wonderful, giving people. But then there are a few bad apples.  (If you have a bad apple in your community, see the "solutions" at the bottom of this page.)

Most people I know have great skills with avoiding cults, religious zealots, and hell-and-brimstone pastors who claim to have "all the truth." Politicians too.  But with tango?  All those skills of being leary of zealots seem to be thrown out the window sometimes when a tango organizer or teacher claims they have the whole truth, the only way to tango heaven. Why?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Yin Power in the Stillness of Tango


Yin is the unsung hero of tango's magic. 

What people often watch and praise, however, is the Yang-action in tango.

Even in life, Yin is the unnoticed hero, in my opinion. I wrote the majority of this post about six months ago. When rediscovering the draft, I took away about half of it and now, I'll add something my wife told me about one of her favorite dance partners:  She said he had a way of building a feeling of preparation for the next move. Isn't this an example of Yin? That night the added description changed the way I dance.  (Yes, I listen to her descriptions of tango magic.) My wife noticed my change right away.

It is worth a moment or two to consider what this Yin energy is. Instead of thinking in male/female terms, here are two analogies of the Yin energy which promotes balancing these energies in oneself:
  • Breathing:  Each person needs to breathe in (the action of Yin) in order that a person can breathe out or talk (the action of Yang).  Yin is powerful!  One cannot just breath in or just breath out. But for those who are singers, swimmers or practice breathing medication, balanced breathing takes effort to fully breath out and then fully breathe in. 
  • Throwing a ball:  Yin as behavior is winding up gracefully. Yang is throwing with grace and also with power.  The often unrecognized power, however, is in the graceful, relaxed winding up before throwing the ball!
People notice movement, not stillness.
But stillness is the power that brings effective movement.

At tango performances watch how people tend to notice leading or ornamentos, but then fail to see stillness (which precedes, not "follows"). Women who so wonderfully embody Yin Power, which precedes everything I do, too often deny their important role.  They say, "I was just following what you led" after I say how wonderfully she empowered the dance.  How can Yang do anything without Yin?  Yes, and so in remains: Yin is the unsung hero of tango's magic.



Photo Credit:  Alan Thornton --Getty Photos
https://www.thespruce.com/the-yin-yang-theory-and-feng-shui-1275241


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

When will the Tango Teacher Disappear?



Get ready!
If you love a subject and you are ready, the teacher will appear-- or so goes the saying.  But it's just not that easy. Most find that there is more to it. So...

Get set!
As a student, you will find teachers who will demotivate you or attempt to distract you from the good path you were on. Maybe you had a wonderful embrace or amazing walk that a new teacher has now "disassembled."  Now your latent talent must be recovered.  So the "get set"phase may slow your greatest desires.  It's just the fact in any human endeavor of learning that teachers can be a student's biggest obstacle.  On the other hand, if you have a lot to give as a teacher, many students will appear who will not be able to hear or find what you have to give.  It will all be worth it when the right student or the right teacher appears.

Go!
If you stick with it, the student will find the teacher and the teacher will find the student. Then one thing remains.  When will it be time to disappear from one another, the student from the teacher and teacher from the student?

Lao Tzu answers this question in his wisdom for both teacher and disciple:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Walkie-Talkie Dancers

He's talking and she's looking for an escape.
This blog post focuses on Mindfulness (one of the four M's of Tango).

tango community where I once lived had a problem. When I arrived there, I was astounded by conversations going on while dancing. The garrulous dancers were entirely veteran men and women dancers!

The word "conversation" should not need to be defined, but let me clarify:  Walkie-Talkie Dancing is not occasional sighs, or a few chuckles, a once-in-a-while "wow" or an occasional blurted "that was fun." Walkie-Talkie Dancing is an ongoing conversations while dancing.

Walkie-Talkie Dancing usually stops when a person learns a bit of tango etiquette. But seasoned dancers? No excuse.

This post is for new dancers who have to decide for themselves if their local veteran dancers (role models) are modeling the best habits or not.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tonight will be my last ever milonga . . .


This is what she says each time she goes dancing:

"Tonight will be my last ever milonga."

But she says it with a smile.  She makes the most of each "last time" she has in a joyous way.

She practices for the true last time that surely will come sooner or later--not as a sad reminder that there is in all things always the very last time, but that she may be aware and simply to show up fully.  She's not on her phone.  She's not just chattering loudly next to the dancers. She is present, catching the eyes of others who want to dance too. She's aware. She's there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Where do all your passions meet?

A moment of stillness before the International Dance Concourse in Vienna
A concourse is an open space where people or paths converge. Yet, a more significant place is the converging paths inside of me and you: A psychological internal convergence of paths, which you feel throughout your body when you arrive there.

Many want to know which path to take in life. Well, perhaps that is the wrong question. Ask instead: "What is my internal concourse for life?" Tango has helped me see this very clearly. If you have a passion for tango, I think that we probably have very similar places that converge.

The following are some of the many paths leading to the open space of my external concourse, and although they are mine, I think that many reading this post might have similar experiences:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A tanda is not a marriage . . .

Fifteen minutes of commitment is harder than you might think.
It's an engagement. What got me thinking about commitment or engagement in a tanda was a conversation with a man I met at a training seminar. After a few days of conversation, I asked him if he and his partner danced. He said he had no partner. "Something is wrong with me. I just can't commit." That hit me hard. It seems like commitment was sadly unreachable for him. My automatic "fixer" mode kicked in, and I told him he should take up tango. I suggested, "The commitment to your partner is for only fifteen minutes. It's easy!"

Then I realized that was a really big lie.  It's not easy at all.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Will Your Relationship with Tango Survive?


How is your relationship with tango going these days? It will survive if you transition successfully through different phases that all lasting human relationships do.

I often wonder after seeing so many come and go in tango, what makes the relationship with dance last?  The answer is found in part in your hormones.

Let me introduce to you Dr. Gottman, the researcher/therapist who was the first to look at relationships through hormonal levels in the blood system as couples talked with each other about their difficulties. He eventually could predict whether a relationship would last or dissolve by briefly reviewing the hormonal levels in blood samples before and after sessions.  He and his research team found that even couples who looked as if they were learning to communicate were at times on their way to a surprisingly sudden and destructive end. In other words, if one's blood contains high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, one's relationship is unlikely to continue long-term.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dilated Tango Eyes


She peered into my eyes and looked concerned after we danced for just two songs of a tanda. I had been dancing at a small weekend tango event, and I suppose I was in a euphoric trance.

"Your eyes are really dilated.  Are mine?"

"No," I said. "Are you concerned?" I asked.

As a registered nurse she mentioned a few concerns, but ended by saying, "If you are feeling fine, then you are okay, but wow, they are really dilated."

Monday, October 22, 2018

The 4th M of Tango


A
bout four years ago, I came up with a motto for this blog: 
"The 3 M's of Tango: Music / Movement / eMbrace."  

But now, I realize now that I was missing an essential element. The 4th M is Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is an essential element of what draws people to tango. I have had trouble through the years of knowing the difference between fun and mindful euphoria, and it has become clear as I have a regular meditative practice. Without the meditative, mindful part in tango, we may have a fun time but this fun will go by all too fast.  Mindfulness brings a time-slowing euphoria.

Nearly anyone who has danced tango has experienced the difference of a tanda that haunts you forever rather than one that was over too fast and then forgotten. Sure, time goes fast when you are having fun.  But meditative, mindful euphoria creates the experiential reality of time slowing or even stopping.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Timeless Flow and Insights for Tango

Timeless flow is the state of mind that makes tango magical.

"Timeless Flow" is a way to describe the wonderful state of mind that everyone has experienced while in a dream state or in the joy of a magical moment.

As much as I enjoy being "scientific" in my understanding of the universe and life, I am becoming more interested in the Science of Experience.  I want to expand my experience of paying attention to the things that really matter in life. As we increase our awareness of the here and now, time stops in this euphoric space.  This is the best that tango gives to us--a sense of flow.  Musicians, artists, dancers have been describing flow for eons.

Friday, July 20, 2018

These Motivation Styles may define your tango

My last blog entry introduced Gretchen Rubin, who had written a New York Times Best Seller, The Four Tendencies.

I have a video below of a presentation that Rubin gave in case you did not catch my last post.  In short, she describes four kinds of people with their "tendencies" when it comes to external or internal motivation. Although some might argue that these are too simplistic, I would argue they are "parsimonious" in that they make sense of complex issues--of why good intentioned people find themselves unmotivated or on the other end of the spectrum, motivated in a way that brings out bad outcomes in their lives.

The Tendencies are here given as a way of understanding our tango lives in the area of external and internal motivations.  Take the quiz about your own tendencies BEFORE you have reviewed the below video. Be sure and answer the way you are and not the way you'd like to be.  Press here for the link to the quiz.