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Be Easy to Move, but Hard to Knock Over

Have you ever been through or watched someone go through a short but intense romance? One that resembled a tug of war where each person’s fears and desires yanked the other this way and that.

Even when things are good, the rush of infatuation is often powerful enough to throw us out of whack, making us forget who we are, what we stand for, or even that we can stand. As I watched a friend recently go through this kind of discombobulation, I recalled a phrase my tango instructor said in class one evening:

Be easy to move, but hard to knock over.

We’d been going over a subtle but powerful exercise in finding that right balance between movement, connection and resistance, to flow with our partner. Easier to feel than be taught, but it does help to hear the words — and hope that the body will follow. When it works, two dancers move in unison applying just enough resistance to create energy, and therefore, movement. If one person is off their axis the duo becomes unstable, which can happen because of too much movement or surrender. The flow is lost. Likewise, if there’s too much rigidity, movement can’t happen. Again, the flow is lost.

It isn’t always physical and it doesn’t always take another person to throw us off our axis or for us to resist too much. Our over-flexibility or over-resistance comes from within and we project it out. Some of us, myself included, swing from extreme to extreme at times.

We hold tightly to certain ideas — about ourselves, other people, the world — and these ideas prevent us from moving freely. Worse is that we’re often unconscious of these restrictive ideas — fear of failure, fear if change, fear of joy, fear of success. We express these through rejecting new ideas, complaining, being arrogant, competing, trying to be perfect.

You probably have a jacket that’s too tight in the shoulders. You look great in it though. You just can’t raise your arms and spin around very easily. We’re so used to walking and talking and even dancing with these ideas tightly wrapped around us that we forget we can discard them. Discomfort becomes the new comfort. And something new and better will surely feel uncomfortable the first time you try it on. (Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors in this post.)

The opposite is to be so fluid as to have almost no identity. You know people like that. We’ve all been people like that at times in our lives. Wanting to be liked just a bit too much, or be liked by someone not very likable, eating at the cool restaurant even if you have to wait in line, never taking a stand, being a pushover.

Why would you want to move freely? To grow, stretch and challenge yourself. To go to your edges. What if you don’t care about stretching or going to your edges? Most of what we want in life, maybe all that we want, isn’t had by force of will or absolute certainty or protecting ourselves from something, nor is it had by being so malleable as to not know who we are.

Connection, success, challenge and fun are all had by a perfect blend of ease of movement while knowing where you stand.

Recently I lost two business opportunities that were in some way perfect for me or otherwise seemingly in the bag. The losses threw me off my axis in a way that surprised and bothered me. It could be argued that the losses were somewhat preventable. But the more important takeaway is that few events in life should knock us over.

What does it mean to be knocked over as opposed to just disappointed? It might mean lost sleep, monkey mind, anger, self-flagellation, discouragement or lack of focus for long enough that it prevents us from getting perspective and moving on to a better dance.

What does it mean to be easily moved? A willingness or ability to:

• Take a leap of faith

• Experience pleasure or pain

• Be touched (emotionally or physically)

• Risk something

• Be open to a new idea

• Get or ask for help

• Fail

• Be led

• Collaborate

What does it mean to be hard to knock over? 

• You stand for something

• You have clarity and purpose

• You have intention

• You have resources and knowledge

• You have limits

• You have strength

• You’re resilient

These apply not only to people but also to businesses and organizations.


Dance is a great teacher, partner dancing specifically. That’s not to say a great dancer has other parts of their life shored up. (Some people are great at compartmentalizing.) Partner dancing is (if painfully) instructive because your doubts and fears and desires are tossed on the dance floor like a steak in front of a lion. In other interactions, we can hide a bit (but not always). With dancing, if your brain is too dense to notice whether you’re too malleable or too rigid, your body will be sure to tell you.

Lacking dance, every meeting or party or phone call is an opportunity to be easy to move but hard to knock over. The irony is that fluidity and surrender open the door to knowing were you stand and what you stand for. And finding that center opens the door to ease of movement. It takes the two to tango.

{Image credit: Flickr / Mary_Gaston22}


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