Out of curiosity and wanting to build on recent posts, I decided to start interviewing people about their process and self-practice. I’m curious to see what are good questions to help a person have insights into their self-practice and process. I think all to often we are good, even great, at picking up on other people’s processes, but not to good at perceiving our own. To kick off this social journey, I interviewed my friend Molly Gawler. Along with being a dancer with Pilobolus’ Shadowland, Molly is also a very talented musician. She sings and fiddles in her family band and in her sisters’ folk music group, the Gawler Sisters. And without further ado…our interview!
What do you do to learn about yourself?
Well, I feel as you go about your life there are times when you have to take a moment and look back and reflect on how you’re doing. I do a lot of writing in that case…a lot of journaling. I think writing is a good tool for self-reflection. I go through phases of making charts for myself. Last summer I made a whole chart around the topic of “what do you love?” In one column I wrote Thai massage, music, dance, yoga, qigong, and meditation. Then each day I would check off which ones I did. After a while I had a whole flow chart of ‘what do I love.’ It was a good self-reflection tool to go back and see which things were helping me the most, or that I was leaning on the most, in my life.
What were the learning items you would tend to come up with? If you could categorize them what would it look like for you?
I guess one thing is patterns that you have. Often times an event will happen in my life, and it will be like – Oh, that’s the boundaries pattern showing up again. Often times they have to do with emotional things that come up. If they are getting in the way of you doing what your meant to do, then it’s important to stop and reflect on that. One tool I often use from my teacher and mentor, Ray, is a story wheel. You draw a circle. In the center of the circle is a calm place and on the outside of the circle is the issue you are dealing with. The object of the story wheel is to try and connect the outside of the circle to the center. It is just one way of writing it down and getting it out on paper.
What do you feel writing it down does for you?
I think it’s an action step. I think action is really important or otherwise it is just floating around and not really clear what it is. Once you put a word to it and get it out on paper, I think you are able to analyze it a lot better.
How do you communicate, connect or seek feedback from your community?
I was thinking about that and the biggest way is through art and performance. I think music is a really strong communicator in the community. It is also a way to give and receive pretty instantaneously…and over time too. I just made this CD and people will come and give feedback. They’ll say ‘we felt this way when we listened to this song’ or ‘this song affected me this way.’ I think dance is another direct feedback.
What do you feel that feedback helps you with? How is it valuable?
I think it has to do with finding your purpose in life…and your path. Feedback from the community lets you know you are on the right way, right path. I think we have different community circles too. My family is a big one for me. The dance community, music community, farming communities, and also the contra dancing communities are some big ones for me. I feel there is this kind of porous receptivity that goes between them.
What is an example of an interaction with community, maybe some feedback you got, and how it evolved to a learning that helped you with your purpose?
Yeah…well, the lullaby CD that I made…its kind of peaceful, lullaby music. I had someone listen to it while they were actually dying. This lady was dying and she was like, “Can I just listen to Molly Gawler’s Honey Dreams?” Her family put it on and it lulled her to sleep. When I got that feedback, I thought, ‘Wow, that is really powerful…I’m going to keep doing music (laughs). This is really important for me to do.” It let me know I was on the right track. There were a few more amazing stories like that, that prompted me to do more music with my family and really see that as a valuable thing for the world.
Could you give an example where the feedback wasn’t positive and how you were able to receive that interaction with the community and incorporate it into yourself and your purpose?
Hmmm…yeah, I guess what comes to mind is dance reviews. There have definitely been some that haven’t been positive and hmmm…yeah…that’s an interesting question. Because on one hand, I kind of want to say this is who I am – take it or leave it (laughs). But on the other hand, I want to learn from the feedback that I am getting. So, I kind of take it with a grain of salt, especially dance reviews because if there is something that is going to help me more forward, then I’ll listen to it.
So what I hear you saying is there’s a balance of stubbornness and openness?
(Laughs) Yes, totally.
Could you share a tip for how you balance that stubbornness and openness that could maybe help someone else?
I think, well, it’s really…I think it’s just really important to know who you are…and it’s so hard to get to the purity of that. Know who you are, and let all the other riffraff and chaff fly away in the breeze. Cause if you are really strong in your center and you’re like, ‘well this is who I am,’ then…yeah, I guess that balance of stubbornness and openness…hmmm…yeah, that’s a tough one. I’m not really sure I have a specific tool for that one.
What activities do you do that help center you or assist your flow or are activities that help you get in that ‘flow’ zone?
Yeah…well that is so important. I think that’s really important for all of us to remember. That flow is what allows us to live, be productive and make changes and stuff. And I say that for my own self too, because sometimes I don’t place that as something that is productive, but it really is. I have to put that high on my priority list. I recently made another chart for ‘heartwork.’ For me ‘heartwork’ means anything that makes me clear in the mind and lets my heart be the leader. Basically it’s where the heart and body are the leader and the mind is like a cleared out computer that does what it needs to do, but it’s not running the show. So, playing the fiddle would be one. Dancing would be heartwork. Meditating. Sometimes I practice just looking at a tree or something that’s living…seeing the aurora and just looking at it for a long time (laughs). This morning, for example, I was just looking at the shadow that the smoke made outside from the wood fire. What else… Qigong is a big one because it is just about the breath. Oh, that’s another one I love to use – conscious breath. It’s a tool of just doing one full minute of breathing in and out and seeing if you can let your mind be still. But often times I get little things going on in my mind (laughs)…blablablablabla…(laughs). What do you do when that mind chatter come up for you? I usually try and say – I am thinking – and try to let it go. It’s hard sometimes. That’s where I need practice.
Are there other tools you use in your daily/weekly life to have a more resilient, sustainable self?
Hmmm…I think taking a bath. I love taking bathes (laughs)! And I think asking for help. Like you Torie, you’re a good person to listen. I think asking for help is a really good tool. So, if you have a community, get together and dialogue with people. Talk about this stuff and find out what other people are using as tools. I think that in itself is a tool. It takes an awareness to see ‘oh, I should work on this.’ What else…hmmm…handstands (laughs)!
Stay tuned for next episode of ‘Exploring Resilient Mindset: A Look into Self-Practice & Process!’
Until then, dare to wear your soul on the outside. Live your legacy. Unfold your own mythos.