Life Hack~7 Years of Dancing: from 43 to 50

7 years ago, I experienced a life-hack that led to the past 7 years of dancing–with hundreds of women (men & children) from Southern Vermont & beyond. I share it now as testimony to risk and vulnerability and community and remembrance:

Me at 8
Me, before I forgot

Spring 2007

This spring my career path was seriously derailed when I found myself training to become a dance teacher.

This is absurd for so many reasons–not the least of which is that I’m 43 and that my genetic package includes gravity defying hamstrings.

Then there’s the family history of being yanked out of ballet class at age 5; and the elementary school performances where it took weeks to learn what others learned in moments; or the highschool musicals, where I was the one who could be seen “counting” out my steps.

What gives?

Well, about a year ago, facing growing children and a deepening drift between myself and my previous incarnation as an elementary teacher, I embarked on a full-scale career search.

Determined to find a new avenue of self-expression and contribution, I read a host of great books on the subject of passion and purpose, taking all kinds of personality tests, and really getting a handle on what makes me tick; But unfortunately never finding a “job” that matched that beat.

In one last act of desperation (and courage), I took a position in the world of business–of strategic plans and bottom lines, hoping to force new growth, if nothing else.

How then did I end up at Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox this April studying something called DansKinetics? I’ve asked myself that same question, regularly, with some choice expletives, especially as I return to “dance boot camp” this month to complete my certification.

All I can say is that I love to move to music. I always have. I just forgot. And at my age, there aren’t enough parties or weddings to go around (and forget bars, they aren’t the best match for the married, financially challenged, and easily hungover.)

The other part is that Kripalu DansKinetics (KDK), despite its complicated name (they’ve since renamed it), is really quite simple, designed for everyBODY, offering an incredible workout that’s fun and easy and most importantly: healing.

My class of teacher trainees range in age from 20 to 60, and they come from all walks of life, hailing as far away as Italy, Japan, and even Wisconsin!

So here I am, “career-less-ly”, offering dance classes to those of us who aren’t “dancers”–just because I’m pretty sure we ALL like to move to music, we just forgot.

Come re-member with me!

(More about YogaDance.)

The Fire of Fear

Tessai, (Kuchi-e, the Devil)

As soon as my gut is certain that I have steeped in the green light of its effortless nod, it catches on fire.

I could blame it on the buffalo wings and blue cheese dip and beer; but I know my body better than that…  It has something else to say, and my job is to listen, not make excuses.

This burning coal in my stomach is a place holder from the past.  But that doesn’t mean  thatI can dismiss it.  In fact, it engages my attention throughout the night, refusing to be pacified by the hot water bottle on my side.

By morning, the raging fire has subsided, but the embers till glow.

I take to my bed with ginger tea, searching for what I can find in the ashes…

I am afraid.

I am afraid of change.

I am afraid of being lost.

I am afraid of not being good enough.

I am afraid of having what I want.

I am afraid of not getting what I want because…

Just yesterday, my mind quickly regrouped from being demoted from manager to consultant; and despite its great doubts, got behind the green light of my gut, and suggested that I make room for receiving what I claim as mine.

I expected this to be an act outside of myself, and thus took on the challenge of my cluttered home office, knowing that some of my personal pursuits would have to be set aside, while others would have to die if I were to embark on this new journey.  When I began to loose energy in this daunting pursuit, I wrote yesterday’s post, The Mask, and found myself renewed.

Once written however, another chapter quickly followed in this story of claiming what is mine…

Fear. Old, old fear~

The kind that came at the kitchen table when I witnessed the disintegration of my parents marriage.

The kind that came when we lost our house–our very heritage–and I was forced to sleep in a hallway.

The kind that came when our lives continued to spin apart, even faster, and I couldn’t find the “off” button.

It wasn’t buffalo wings and beer that time, it was shrimp diablo and sangria that pushed my ulcer over the edge.  That excruciating pain seared itself into the very core of my being, and like a sleeping dragon, it is reawakened.

This time, however, I know that the fear is a gift, and that this burning is part of the cleansing process, required for releasing that which I no longer need.

Like the Zen story of the master craftsman who tells the Emperor that he cannot begin his commission for five days, only to be discovered by the Emperor’s spies, simply sitting– doing nothing, I too must accept a period of non-action.

All the first day,” the monk explains, “I released every fear of failure or disgrace if my work should displease. All the second day, I released every thought of inadequacy, every belief that I might lack the skill to offer what has been asked. On the third day, I released every hope and desire for glory, and on the fourth day, I released the pride that might arise in me should I succeed.

Lastly, the monk describes the task of the fifth and final day before he begins his lofty commission.

On that day, I beheld a clear vision of what I was to create.

I pray for the strength and will for such dedicated presence, knowing that a diet of soft foods, without alcohol or caffeine, will no doubt sharpen my attention to the work at hand. 

Kelly Salasin, October 31, 2010

(Note: the Zen story was adapted from an excerpt in Margot Anand’s, The Art of Everyday Ecstasy.)

To read the previous post on this Life Purpose Path, click this link:  The Mask

Or to read more about the body as a messenger, click this: The Body’s Instant Messenging (IM) System

To follow the journal of the ensuing 21 day liver cleanse, click here.

Or the next post in the Life Purpose Path series: The Zen Monk and Me

The Sacred Act of Change

“We should not feel embarrassed by our difficulties, only by our failure to grow anything beautiful from them.” ~Alain De Botton

Macke (

I was hoping to post all of the pieces from my successful, but windy Life Purpose Path before I came up against another crisis.

This one is a doozy.  It had me on my knees in the middle of the night–a trick I learned from a warm-hearted woman named Dolly who sat beside me at the Sunday Al-Anon meeting at the local hospital two decades ago.

Dolly drove the tram car on the Wildwood Boardwalk.  “Sometimes, you just have to get on your knees and ask your Higher Power for help, Kel,”  she’d say in a husky smoker’s voice.

Dolly assured me that this worked whether or not I believed in God,  “But you have to be on your knees.”


I liked Dolly, and I was desperate, so I tried it.

I lost the baby anyway, but I learned a lot about myself along the way.

My current crisis overtook me while I was working on our budget. Despite prioritizing my passion for writing, I’ve been able to gradually increase my contribution to the household through my work as a YogaDance Instructor and Life Coach.

That said, it is a small contribution compared to my husband’s–and after a year of it, it seems wrong. Suddenly, this new life that I created isn’t enough.

To be fair, I left my work in the hospitality industry to better prioritize my relationship with my partner twenty-five years.   A decade later, I abandoned my career as a teacher to stay home with my boys.  In the process, I lost professional ground –not to mention earning potential and drive.  My teaching license has lapsed and I can no longer can imagine myself inside a classroom.

Which is why, after getting both my kids into elementary school, I was able to “give myself” those original “three months off” from striving after a new career.  And which is why, after jumping back into the fray the following spring, I was able to jump back out again a year later–to reassess what it is that I wanted.

It was last winter when I found myself making as much money self-employed as I did when I worked outside the home that I realized that I still wasn’t happy.  I had discovered what I loved and was making money at it–but I was doing it in the same way I had always done everything–DRIVEN.  And it didn’t feel good.

Hopper (

So I dropped out of life again.  Stopped taking coaching clients.  Canceled YogaDance sessions–and waited to see what would come. I realized that for so many years, I stayed home for the kids, and now–I was staying home–for me.

That was a year ago–and last month when my husband mentioned that there was a Title One position at the elementary school in the next town, I was offended–and intrigued.  Sure, working as a support teacher rather than a classroom teacher was a better fit, but I had discovered again and again that life inside a school wasn’t enough for me.

Still, I considered it, briefly–for the ease of money and definition, and then just as easily rejected it, without another thought.

Goya y Lucientes/detail (

But after looking at the numbers on the budget, a sense of inadequacy overtook me.  I realized that the financial windfall that we were seeking was within my grasp.  Like the beggar sitting atop a treasure, I had my own source of riches all along: a teaching degree.

I could re-license myself and raise our income through the roof.  I might even enjoy being a teacher again. Maybe my resistance is similar to that which I felt before I took my first position–after which I was deliriously happy.

I am a great teacher.  A natural.  I love kids and I “get” them.  I’m especially good with the challenging ones.  I’m just not so good with the workload–and the emotional drain–and the psychological boundaries.

And at mid-life, I’m no longer good with the red tape. I like my simple, self-directed life, though it feels a bit aim-less.  It lacks a container of direction.

Not that education has that.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons I’m glad that I’m not in it anymore.  I don’t really believe in what we prioritize in schools.

At 46, shouldn’t I be giving my time to that which I find essential?

Or could I possibly find–and re-define”the essential”–in my relationship to it?

I could, and I have.  Rather than striving after more coaching clients or yogadancers this year, I’ve been subbing in kindergarten.  I’ve  let that old experience of self in school be an “experiment” rather than a test of endurance.   When I begin to get swept away by the current of energy in the classroom, I practice coming back into myself.

Keller (

It’s been good.  I’ve made lots of progress over the year.  And, I’ve enjoyed myself more and more.  Last week’s math lesson was SO much fun.  And the play we did with the story about the alligator who had gotten too old to catch his food–THAT was a hoot.

But what happens to my writing if I go back to teaching?

What do I want to happen with my writing?

It occurs to me that this question about teaching is another fulcrum for self-awareness and action–just as substituting has been.

Can I allow this “consideration” process to be softer?  Can I move forward with it–without attachment?  Can I stay present to myself all the while?

It is within these thoughts, that I came across an article The Dharma of Life Change, Bringing Mindfulness to New Beginnings, and this powerful prompt:

“Therefore, the question in contemplating change is always:

Are you moving more fully into your essence, your most authentic self?”

Though I am not clear about what change I want to make, I am clear that the time has come to make it–and I intend to let this question be a catalyst for deep awareness and possibility–for new beginnings–as I embrace this sacred act of change.

Kelly Salasin, early spring 2010

How about you?  How do you make changes sacred?

For other stories on the Path of Life Purpose, click here.

A Statement of Gratitude & Growth…

“Praise precedes faith.”

~Abraham Heschel

Right away, I should mention that the inspiration for this statement of gratitude and growth–is my feeling of disappointment and futility.   Steeped in this feeling of “lack,” it occurred to me that it was time to take a good look back–to see just how far I’ve traveled since beginning this life journey in earnest–three+ years ago.

This gratitude idea was seconded by a teaching from the well-known career author Tama Kieves who I turned to in my deep discouragement (with flickers of hope.) And, it was “thirded” by my spririt.  But it wasn’t until now, after facing a morning YogaDance class of 2, that I am settling into it.

So in the face of Swine flu, in the face of friends (and friends of friends) with cancer–another whose life partner has died and left her three children without a father–other families in crisis with their teens–a global economic crisis–and our own personal financial strain–I turn toward the art of GRACE in the practice of GRATITUDE in awareness of GROWTH… in an attempt to stay TRUE to myself and my work and my light while carrying out the day to day human act.


SO…  well, WOW… amazing to think that from the blank canvass of “Who can I be?” that I found  a Kripalu YogaDance (KYD) Instructor who teaches 4 classes a week to people of all ages.

As a pioneer with KYD,  I’ve gone beyond my training and said “YES”  to exploring this form of movement and music with preschoolers and elementary aged children.  I’ve also used my talents and new resources to provide music for a wedding; a local campaign party, a workshop, and an all school event.  Additionally others have asked about future collaborations in teaching and consulting, as well as in celebrations.

All of this has evolved in the past two years since I began my training at Kripalu.  The story of how I came to visit Kripalu for the first time that previous December–and returned that spring to become a KYD instructor–is a hero’s journey for sure.

In this journey, I’ve realized a spoken dream of living in song and answered a yearning for expressive movement in my life.  Over a hundred classes later, I continue to be amused that I’m the one creating play lists for a living, getting dressed in stretchy pants, donning a headset, and leading  handfuls of others in play while I have fun and get a workout myself.  Astounding.

Brainstorm: Let the money and the participants be a gift, not an expectation.  Stay connected to that which I enjoy–the music, the movement, the offering–let the rest come or do what it may–without my attachment.


Interestingly, I was in the midst of exploring training options  in the field of coaching when I took the sudden detour to Kripalu for YogaDance.  I knew it didn’t make “sense,” but it was all about the voice of my heart and soul–and so,  I (mostly) trusted that it would lead to something.

It was during the fall of 2006 (during my 3 month writing sojourn) that I settled into coaching as a career option.   And yet, I  postponed any decisions until I had more certainty.

I did, however, exit the field of education and boldly took a job in organizational development–in order to get an inside feeling for one aspect of the coaching/consulting profession–and be paid for it– rather than head back to school prematurely; and then pay for it for a long, long time.

This experience with business coaching let me know that I was more interested in personal work, but I took another detour by taking a leadership role in spiritual education–just as I completed my YogaDance training.

Just a few months into this new role, coaching stirred inside me again, and I somewhat magically found myself back Kripalu studying coaching–exactly a year after my very first visit there.

During that coaching intensive, I reconnected with my passion for YogaDance and discovered that in many ways, I was a natural coach who had already developed a large amount of skill, including the rooted practice of NVC (non-violent communication.)

When I returned home, I decided to begin working with “practice” clients to “feel out” the profession even more.   Within a month, I was solicited by a paying client by word of mouth.

As I finished up my year as Director of the Religious Education Program, clients continued to trickle in and continued to do so through the fall–with a consulting contract, a writing client and a handful of new coaching clients.

As winter ’09 approached, I began to feel my growing (and predictable) discomfort with the one-on-one aspect of coaching, as well as the demands of scheduling.  Knowing that this aspect of coaching wouldn’t be a fit for me was in large part what kept me from immersing myself in an extensive training program.

Additionally, my work with clients ended up being very deep rather than practical–which was powerful–but so subtle that it left my ego wanting for more measurable success.  But the more directed and practical work with clients did not flow as well, and neither was that an aspect of myself that I wanted to develop any further.

Most of all, marketing to two areas of self-employment (YogaDance and coaching) was tiring and depleting. I didn’t like putting myself out there–over and over again; and though it was often a creative and self-generating process, it left little inspiration for writing.

I continued to work on short writing pieces as I always had, but my original idea was to let coaching and YogaDance support a larger act of writing which hadn’t happened while managing a business.


By January of this year, 2009,  I came up against the desire to throw in the self-employment towel and return to the classroom as an assistant–and voila a “perfect” job appeared. In the process of applying, I realized that my ego was very attracted to the clarity of being chosen.

In a soul-defining moment, I decided against “the job” realizing that my need for autonomy and self-direction was paramount (“Administrate my own passion”) and also realizing that what I was seeking with this “job”–was a “pause” from the demands of self-employment.

With the onset of winter roads and then the impassable muddied ones, I took that pause, or it took me.  My coaching practice dried up and I delightfully used the freed up time to immerse myself in the bin of journals that had been waiting in the basement.

For weeks, I passionately devoured them, reading from morning till night.   The  next step–to begin writing–was daunting, but to my delight, once begun, it also flowed as easily as the reading.

It is this place that I find myself now–seesawing between flowing inspiration and anxiety-ridden concern for the practical.  After facing our budget during tax preparation, I put out a inspired coaching piece and got nibbles, but no bites.

As I immerse myself in writing, we continue to grow financially strained in more and more directions.  The tax return was not enough of a boost and other issues have emerged:  an old car, growing boys, health costs, the need to let loose, etc.

And while we are very blessed to have my husband’s teaching contract renewed (after extended unemployment), his choppy mid-life currents create additional uncertainty. Craving the comfort of security, I decide, yet again to take a part-time job in the classroom, and voila, exactly what I want appears in the newspaper.

This gives me pause and I wonder, is it really what I want?

What I want to know is this–Is it possible to stay inspired and flowing with my writing while giving out energy in the classroom?  Would education be a better fit than marketing to both coaching and YogaDance?  Are there other options?  Is there something that could provide stability of mind and finances to allow flow of heart and soul?

Thus I explore this exercise in gratitude for what has come as I endeavor to move forward–from inspiration rather than exasperation.

In typing these words, my computer freezes and has to be restarted and miraculously recovers all but this burning question:


And to that I add this:



I have just been offered one day a week as a sub in the kindergarten for the rest of the year–solving my immediate need for income and stability.

Move aside marketing, come on writing.  Stay the course, Kelly.

One step at a time, let things come…

Stop waiting for your work to show you how good you are and let it simply be you–offering the gift that was given to you to give to others.

As Tama says,

Stand in the integrity of knowing you have something to offer.”

and this,

“It’s something you allow to happen, not make happen.”

and this,

“Start telling yourself that you’re doing it right for you. Start blessing what you are doing…  The more you listen to yourself, the more energy you’ll have…

Get in touch with inspiration… it will turn into action, choosing again, and again to stay with what you know, what you believe.

…and they’re not separate–inspiration and the practical

Take an instinctive path in this world

Stay with it moment and moment, keep listening and you’ll know what you’ll do.”

April 2009

(Exactly a year later, this challenge of balance presents itself again, click here for: the Sacred Act of Change.)