It’s OK to be a beginner

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 28 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/it-s-ok-to-be-a-beginner

Me left, with the Roots Peruvian Folk Dance group. “I took a risk signing up for the group and I choose to reframe my nerves to be enthusiastic.” (photo from Fran)

Sweat drips down my face as I dance in a church basement in New Westminster. My back and hips start to ache.

Wow, do I need to stretch out after this! 

I dance for the joy of it and for my mental health.

I show up for myself in dance practice with the traditional dances of Peru. In May, I joined Roots Peruvian Folk Dance, a group that my friend Jazz invited me to.

When I am good at one thing it makes me feel confident. These dances are new and unfamiliar. But I’m learning them with excitement. I’ve heard that the feelings of nervousness and excitement are the same. I choose to reframe my nerves to be enthusiastic.

My mindset matters. I notice when I’m anxious and try to change my thoughts about being a beginner. It’s okay to start from less training. 

It’s okay to be a beginner. 

“Anxiety is the heat of the forge. Forging our character,” says Dr. Kevin Majeres in The Golden Hour, Episode 106, Challenging Anxiety.

My background of dancing in many genres empowers me to perform with confidence.

Jesus calls me to come and use my voice. “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is comely. (Song of Songs, 2:14)

In the way I move – I do it for the glory of God. He is the only one who sees me inside and out.

I took a risk signing up for the group. 

Would it be too much for me or just the thing I need?

It does tire me out and it’s very good exercise. It’s a big commitment and it’s exhilarating to perform. Practices are twice a week and we have festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Learning a dance from a beautiful culture is a lot of fun. And it’s hard work.

My friends performing a Peruvian folk dance called the Festejo

After work one day I almost left the building without making a visit to the chapel. I felt a nudge to pray. When I got to the chapel with my worries and fears, I knelt down.

Lord speak to me.

I heard in my heart, “Draw on my strength.” I left the chapel with the desire to go to confession and Mass at the cathedral.

Practising my faith also helps to forge my character. And dancing helps me grow in virtues like commitment, self-discipline, reliability, and confidence.

I believe the Lord delights in my dancing – even if it’s not as perfect as I would like. I choose confidence for I know it pleases him.

During the Latin festival Carnaval del Sol, I felt jitters that there was such a large turnout. But as soon as I got on the stage and saw my family and friends in the front row, I relaxed. I wanted to do my best for them. I put in all my effort to perform with excellence. As well as focusing on remembering the choreography. It was easier to dance around the stage with their familiar faces looking on. 

It was nerve-wracking having a camera crew filming up close. But I ignored the fact that they were there and had fun. 

I am so grateful for my life and for the body God gave me. When I was a baby, I had a sickness that could have crippled my left arm. My parents took me to the hospital and the doctors were able to give me the right medicine to heal me. I will never forget that miracle. I am able to type out this article and do so many other things with my healthy arm. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote, “Do you really want to be a saint? Carry out the little duty of each moment: do what you ought and concentrate on what you are doing. Do everything for Love. Thus there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism.”

Whether I am working in the office or dancing on a stage I remember that I am doing it for “the love of God and the love of others,” as Deacon Bruce Fraser recently said in a homily. I am reminded “to remain centered in God.”

When I dance at the upcoming festivals, I will remain steadfast in doing it in joy and love. 

The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience podcast, is available on popular streaming services.


The joy of dancing like nobody’s watching

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 23, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/the-joy-of-dancing-like-nobody-s-watching

Photo by Edgar Martu00ednez on Pexels.com

On many walks in my neighbourhood, I noticed all the flowers blooming bright in the gardens. They looked like they were dancing in the wind.

I pondered, do flowers hide their colour, sultriness, softness, vivaciousness, or beauty? No, they do not hide. They let their brilliant colours shine. They let their foliage beam with what they are meant to be. I felt like the Lord was saying, “You too, let all your colours shine, beam. Do not hide your virtues, talents, and beauty. Do not hide them.”

I felt it the night I danced in the moonlight, my sense of hope renewed. Opening the creaky gate covered in ivy and slipping to my dance floor, the alley way behind the house, I felt a surge of excitement. It was the perfect spot to move free with form, expression, and passion.

In the moves of a flamenco dancer, a ballet dancer, and a contemporary dancer, I experienced joy again. After months of searing leg and back pain, my strength had returned. The muscles were not pulsing uncomfortably anymore. I could move and breathe like a dancer. For the next couple of weeks after work finished, I would dance freely in the alley with my music playing.

I tried to recall some of the choreography I had learned in my various dance classes, adding my own flair. The wide-open space was my theatre. I let my right leg do more of the heavy lifting and leaps. It was fun to jump and twirl with my long hair whipping in the wind. It felt so amazing. I was getting stronger.

When I was in the middle of the pain, I thought it would always be that way. I could not see past the discomfort. My prayers were filled with questions like “What are you trying to teach me, Lord?” And “Can you please take this pain away?” I didn’t like the suffering, and it felt like there was no end to it. It was something I offered up but had enough of.

And amazingly, time can heal wounds. Slowly, the numbness in my toes disappeared. And I could stretch and walk without trouble. Being able to dance again taught me to trust in the Lord’s faithfulness. He knows what is on my heart and gently cares for it. A few of my neighbours putting out their trash and mowing their lawns might not have expected to see me jumping for joy in the alley. But that’s exactly what they saw. I danced as if I had just discovered I had legs. It was an indescribable feeling of freedom.

I am grateful for who God made me to be and who I am becoming. I haven’t always been this free. Healing from any illness takes time. Back pain and bipolar disorder have been tools for me to lean on God more and learn that I am not in control. When I experience pain or my moods move from high to low, I can always rely on God’s unchanging love for me.

I resonated with this quote from Marianne Willliamson’s book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So if you find yourself swaying to music, don’t be shy. Know that I probably am dancing like a flower in the wind too.