from Marisa Martin
I’ve been back from my second trip to Guatemala for about two and a half months and now it is one week into June at 1:00 in the morning, and I feel like I can’t go to sleep if I don’t write every thought in my head.
Of course, I’ve written pages of thoughts – while I was there, on the plane ride home, since I’ve returned – but I’ve had a really hard time putting everything into one succinct, clear stream of thought. And I’ve finally realized why: my experience was not an intellectual one. This is not to say that my mind didn’t expand, that ideas didn’t crop up, that I wasn’t prompted to think differently each and every day that I was there. Those things all happened. Despite that, I have to say that my experience wasn’t primarily one of the mind. It was guttural. There is a very distinct feeling that I get during significant moments. I guess it starts right above my belly button and it feels as if it’s pushing back into my stomach and radiating all around it. It doesn’t hurt, or tickle, or even feel like pressure. In fact, it’s not bodily at all. It just feels… important. Honestly, it’s very spiritual; but for now I will call it my gut.
When I think about myself and my life, I realize more and more that I don’t really have breakthrough moments in my brain; I have them in my gut. I’ve never really talked to anyone else about this, so I don’t know whether it’s unique or not. I just know it’s true for me.
While I was lying in bed tonight, just before I had to get up and write, I remembered a distinct moment in my life when I felt this. I was young – I’d say about seven or eight – and I was lying in bed then, too. I don’t remember what had happened earlier that day or what I was thinking about just before. I can only recall a single moment when a thought came into my head: We are here for each other. I have absolutely no idea what would prompt such a young child to think this, but this radiating feeling in my stomach followed immediately. It was something that I knew had meaning. We are here, on this earth, for each other. I can’t say I make the conscious effort to live by this every second of every day. I can’t even say I think about this defining moment on a daily basis. There have been times in my life, however, that bring me back to that night and that thought. And every time I think about it, I get the same feeling in my stomach. Perhaps this sensation signifies the recognition of importance, and that thought is an important one to me. We are here for each other.
Admittedly, I’ve never told anyone about this. I guess I was always a little nervous to say it out loud – it sounds kind of like a fabrication. And when I realize this, I realize that too often we turn away from our guts. I’ve certainly had moments where I’ve doubted my own intuition, when I’ve been embarrassed and looked to outside sources for answers. And it makes me realize that I don’t want to do this anymore. My own voice should be the first thing I listen to. Turning my back on it makes absolutely no sense.
Perhaps this is why Guatemala has had such a profound effect on me. I feel this sensation in my gut both when I am there and when I reflect on my time spent there. And it pulls me back in. I have no desire to run away from it. It feels like deep importance and it feels like home.
So I think back to the line when I first felt my gut speaking, We are here for each other, and I think of Guatemala: the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned. It is absolutely no coincidence that these memories evoke the same feeling, this recognition of meaning.
I think you know an experience has been truly invaluable when you can’t put it in a box. I can’t show you an album with 500 pictures and say “Here, come look. This was my trip to Guatemala.” I can’t write a note on Facebook or a blog on the Juntos website or talk to a friend and explain all the ways I feel changed from these trips. I can’t even explain them to myself; they are not words. They are feelings. They feel like seeds buzzing in my stomach that have started new and profound things inside of me. (An abstract description, I know. But as I said, these are not things for words.) And while the writer part of me is still frustrated that I can’t explain it exactly as I feel it, the dancer part of me has realized that I don’t have to.
One of the biggest insights I think we all made on this trip was that, in Guatemala, we didn’t need to “perform.” It was one of the thoughts I wrote almost immediately after I came back: I don’t want to “perform” anymore, in life or in dance. “Performing” implies pretense and when there is so much realness inside of me, what need is there to escape from the richness of that source? I want to be, to share, to do, but to “perform,” is starting to feel unnecessary. My experiences in Guatemala have allowed me to recognize the importance of my own instinctive feelings and how to embrace and share them fully.
I love that, incidentally, the letters G, U, and T can be found in the first half of “Guatemala.” (Cue the cheesy writer in me wanting to call it GUTemala.) I’ve learned that guttural feelings cannot be put into writing, but they can be shared through dancing. I kept saying on the trip that I was beginning to “dance with my spirit.” I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but I was positive that I was feeling and doing it. I understand now that if my gut represents my spirit, then I was doing just that. I was sharing all that I recognized as important in those moments with the movements of my body. And I know that the people of Guatemala were receiving with their own spirits. I’ve seen first-hand that the connection of spirits allows for a mutual giving and receiving. Everything of meaning can be shared without words and carve a deep connection among total strangers.
We are humans. We have common feelings: joy, sadness, fear, love. It doesn’t take much to understand another’s story. Language holds limitations, but art breeds possibilities. If we dance for an audience and we use our spirits to do so, connection happens. We are here for each other. To share, to understand, to come together.
Guatemala has entered my gut, the very depths of my being, and I intend to let it grow inside of me. I think about how many people were affected by the fact that we went there. The 7 dancers? The 12 group members? The near 1,000 Guatemalans who either took our workshops or saw us perform? If the experience stays with us, as I know it will, we’ll never be able to put a number on it. Countless people who won’t even know about our trips or think twice about the country of Guatemala can be affected by all that we’ve learned. It will be in our thoughts, in our actions, and, yes, in our spirits.
I’ve learned that the best experiences do not satisfy you; they leave you hungry for more. They enter your bloodstream and pulse through your veins. They become a part of you. These experiences enlighten you to new truths and possibilities and drive you to carry them out and share them with others. It’s hard to end this because I feel like it’s only the beginning. I could write hundreds of pages on what I think and how I feel because the seeds are planted and countless new thoughts are sprouting all the time. And still, hundreds of pages, or thousands, books upon books, could never be enough, because as I’ve said, this isn’t about my mind. It’s about my gut, which, as I wrap this up, I am quite convinced is my spirit. It’s been changed and deepened and it feels compelled to do more. And on top of all of that, it feels the need to share. With the recognition that I can’t sufficiently do that with words, I will do it in the best and most effective way I’ve learned how. I will dance with my spirit
and the journey will continue.