Lisa Chen's Journey of Devotion

By Lisa Chen, Taipei, Taiwan


LisaWhen I was first diagnosed fast-growing myomas around my womb last spring, the first thing I thought was "how will it affect my dancing?"

At that point, I was just GS training certificated and began to teach ATS at local studio. I also had dance partners sharing the same vision and we did our little rehearsal on regular basis. Everything was just so picturesque-perfect. I was so excited about devoting to promoting ATS to local dancers and audiences as well because I totally felt for this beautiful dance style. I wish, as well as need more people join so we could dance together. Eventually, ATS is about group improvisation and I cannot dance ATS alone.

My doctor recommended me laparoscope surgery in order to remove the growing myomas. According to my doctor, laparoscope surgery is a relatively safe and quick surgery. Usually it only takes 2 hours and within 3 to 5 days after the surgery, most patients could leave hospital. After 6 to 8 weeks, patients should be able to return to normal life style including exercise.

So I was not much worried about my surgery. I thought I would check out from hospital very soon and in a month or two, I would be able to dance again, with a healthy body.

My surgery went well, except I lost 2,000 cc of blood during operation and thus my blood pressure and body temperature dropped down. For the first two days after surgery, I only felt weak but I was not tired at all. Since I had to spend most time on bed, I decided to do something lighting myself up. I began to think of music pieces I danced with other friends and while music was played in my mind, the dancing scenes gradually showed up as well. In my mind, it was like a movie and I saw myself dancing in full costumes with my dance partners. It was really great way to kill time and in the meanwhile, I was very much looking forward to leaving hospital for future dance plans.

My low blood pressure and weak physical condition did not improved as expected and further treatments were applied. I had to accept long-hour intravenous injections for medicines and nutrition supply. I also had to take blood transfusion- I had about 5,000 cc of blood transfusion in total. So most of time, with injection needles on both arms, I began to feel pain and tiresome.

During such long-hour treatments, I could only sing those music pieces in my mind to distract my attention. Then I thought about the wonderful visualization experience shared by Devi Mamak's boyfriend Anthony: he was traveling on train in Mainland China. It was a long trip and he had no any physical accessibility of practicing Taichi routine on train. So he sat quietly and closed his eyes to practice Taichi in his mind.

Therefore I sang to myself while imaging there was a beautiful outdoor place with green grass and blue sky. I and other dancers dance with our full make-up and costumes together into a circle. We face inward the circle and we can see each others' eyes and smile. We play zils in fast movements with such excitement and confidence. Under the tender breeze and mild sunshine, we dance and we are so contented. It is simply such happy moment that I wish it would never end.

The experience successfully distracts my attention away and really eases my pain and anxiety. I didn't realize few hours already passed while I had this imaginary drill in my mind. Furthermore, since everything is imaginary, I could view myself and other dancers in some different angles that won't happen in real life. Thus I could further feel and see certain movements with new ideas. From bird-eye view, I saw the skirts and fringes in different colors swaying high and the whirling fabrics turning into blossoming flowers perfectly matching with green grass and blue sky. This is probably the most beautiful painting I saw in my life so far. The vivid image became such unforgettable stylistic code that later on whenever I recall this image I could still feel the breeze, the smell of grass and the zils…

Such visualization truly gave me much encourage and faith during hospitalization. I really looked forward to checking out from hospital and joining my dance partners to share this wonderful experience with them.

Then this visualization further saved my life.

It was a very minor procedure to remove a plastic tube penetrating my abdomen to let off all blood and body fluid inside my belly. I lost about 10cc of blood during the procedure and suddenly my body temperature dropped without any sign. My body temperature dropped so rapidly that I began to twitch very badly: it was so bad that I was completely paralyzed. I lost control over muscle and thus I barely breathed. My heartbeat rate ran to 190 per minute - somehow my consciousness was very clear. It was so clear that I realized I might die at any moment if I could not do something to calm myself down, while nurses run out with panic asking for help.

So I began to concentrate on visualizing a dancer coming onto the stage with spotlight on her. I could not see her face clearly and I saw her elegantly and slowly doing prayer and then moving into dance. I kept counting beats while this imaginary dancer did all slow movements I learned from Carolena: taxeem, camel, torso rotation…. As I exhaled and inhaled rhythmically while visualizing this dancer, I felt I became her in a way. When she lifted her arms, I could feel the way my arm lifted; when she did a really slow taxeem (the vertical figure eight), I could feel my oblique contracted… Then I saw other dancers joining her on stage and this trio did a very flawless and harmonious drill, which I felt like a collective prayer for me. It brought me much faith and strength to keeping counting beats and breathing.

Almost half hour later, I returned to normal condition miraculously. While doctors and nurses discussed what's happened to me and tried to find a rational explanation, I knew from my heart that I saved myself through the dance I love. Without such visualization as a great way of meditation, I would not have stayed fully focused and regained control over my body. I could have never felt better about how wonderful this dance is. It is not about showing off your talent and skills, but a harmonious and peaceful dialogue between one's body and mind.

After this critical incidence, I gradually recovered and I promised to myself that I definitely had to go see Devotion presented by FCBD in San Francisco and I had to tell Carolena directly how this dance saved me. I realize life is truly too short to waste and we have to keep promise to ourselves for living our life full.

My friend who used to be a nurse came to hospital visiting me. After I left hospital, she told me that during my hospitalization, I was in a very critical condition and I should have been checked into ICU (intensive care unit). I was so blessed not knowing about this during hospitalization and with my faith and passion on dance, I survived and accessed to a new body and life.

The idea of seeing Devotion thus became major motivation of my recovery. I followed an extremely restricted diet to prevent potential intestine adhesion and I really collaborated well with doctors so I could ensure my health condition was improving. Exactly 8 weeks after my surgery, I was on airplane to San Francisco. Seeing Devotion personally is not merely a dream-come-true, but the first step to realize my promise to the new life. When I saw FCBD dancers on stage, tears come out from my eyes. Again, I felt the collective prayer and the breath-taking beauty of dance. Coincidently, there was a dance piece when all dancers coming to stage and turning individually in a big circle which reminded me of how life as a journey could bring us to somewhere we never expect before. It is this dance teaching us about finding the inner peace and strength and how we communicate with ourselves as well as others through our body movements and eye contacts. This is truly the meaning and beauty of group improvisation.

After watching Devotion, I could not felt any more contented with a sense of self-achievement. Then I had a chance to talk to Carolena at FCBD studio, where is spiritually my second home. Words could not fully express how heartfelt gratitude I had and I truly felt very lucky and blessed to have ATS at my life. This dance guides me finding the true face of my inner personality and self-confidence as well as more encourage and faith to live my new life as a dancer and a woman.

One year after my surgery, I am still struggling with annoying infections and rebuild my core muscle groups. I also need to accept my new body image as well. Somehow I feel so grateful and fortunate to encounter with ATS. It helps me to learn one of the most challenging and yet beautiful lesson of life: to know yourself, to embrace passion and joy into life, and to be strong. Through this dance, I finally find the rhythm of life and dance into a new life.