I am enough

Hello, my name is Clay Murray. I’m 20 years old, and I’m originally from Mississippi. This past year I was a part of Boston Ballet’s second company. Before joining Boston Ballet, I was a PD in the Professional Division with Pacific Northwest Ballet.

 Photo by Kenneth B. Edwards

Photo by Kenneth B. Edwards

When Matt first asked me to submit a story for his Community Stories project, I contemplated on many subjects to talk about and stories I could tell. But I decided to talk about something rather personal.

I think one of the most powerful things a person can do is accept themselves. Acceptance can apply in any spectrum. For me, I had to do it in almost every aspect of my life.

At some point in most people’s lives, they will be judged because of their body type. Body image has nothing to do with gender either.

Popular culture has influenced how we see bodies and what the “ideal body” should be. Because of this "perfect" image in our heads we no longer see the beauty that we already have in ourselves. We just know what we need to fix.

Ballet is a huge culprit for being a stickler for the “ideal body.” Even in this part of my life was I being told that my upper body wasn’t good enough. No matter how hard I tried, I was still being judged by the way I looked.

When I was 17, I felt depressed about my career in ballet. I got to a point where I would look in the mirror and think “I’m never going to get a job if I don’t look masculine.” Well, here I am 2 years later just now completing my first year as a professional dancer with Boston Ballet about to start my second with the Los Angeles Ballet.

When ballet dancers accept their bodies, they SOAR. It’s just an everyday fact. No matter what people are telling you should look like if you want to succeed in this business, loving your body is going to make the difference and will change how people see a ballet.

The most difficult thing I ever had to do was accept myself as a person.

I struggled with little things about myself. Whether it was my personality, quirkiness, how stubborn I was, or even how weird I am, but the main thing that ate me away was my sexuality.

 Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Thomas

It was the most complicated process to fully love myself enough to come out as a gay male. Growing up in a very religious environment that didn’t accept homosexuality didn’t help either.

I felt if I came out all these bad things were going to happen to me. I was brought up in an environment that didn’t accept homosexuality, so I was viewing the situation as if I was doing something wrong when there is nothing wrong with being gay because LOVE IS LOVE.

The first step I took to accept my truth fully was to first come out to myself. After sitting on that for a little bit, I felt more comfortable at least knowing in myself that I was gay.

The first person I came out to in my family was my sister. I was so scared but after I told her she just hugged me and said: “I love you no matter what.” The response from my parent’s response was the same.

After that, it became so much easier to come out to my family and friends.

Once I accepted myself for who I was, I felt like I blossomed. I never felt happier, and this dark cloud wasn’t around me anymore. I finally was able to be my authentic self.

After accepting myself internally and externally, I now can say that I don’t give a shit what anyone says about me because I know who I am.

To anyone who struggles with acceptance of their self, just know that the path you’re going to take is hard, but the outcome is so beautiful.

Listen to Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” record, trust in the process, and BLOOM.

Clay and I met at the Pacific Northwest Ballet a few years ago and I have been able to work beside him. He is truly a joy to work with and he has always been vulnerable with me. Clay has been a huge support to me in my life. Reading his story of self love is empower to me because I struggle with that very same thing. Clay, thank you for sharing your heart and your life with the world. 

I believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell. If you want to share your story, contact me so we can talk about sharing your life.

I Let Go

I let go.  

Without a word or a thought, I let go.

I let go the fears.  I let go the judgments.  I let go the flock of opinions stampeding around my head.  I let go the committee of indecision within me.  I let go all those ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly, completely, without hesitation or worry, I just let go.

I didn’t ask for advice.  I didn’t read a book on how to let go.  I just let go.  I let go all the memories holding me back.  I let go all the anxieties keeping me from moving forward.  I let go all the planning and calculations about how to do it just right.  I just let go.

I didn’t promise to let go.  I didn’t write the projected date of letting go on my calendar.  I didn’t wait for the weather to turn, or the dog to stop barking or the proper moment.  I just let go.

I didn’t analyze whether I should let go.  I didn’t journal about it.  I didn’t visit a Zen Buddhist Temple.  I didn’t call the prayer line.  I didn’t consider it at all.  I just let go.

No one else was there to see it happening.  There was no applause, no congratulations.  No one else thanked me or praised me.  No one else noticed a thing.  But I did.  

Like a water droplet dangling from a leaf, I just let go.  No effort.  No tension.  No struggle.  It wasn’t good or bad, not right nor wrong.  It just was.

In the process of letting go, I let things be as they were.  I let it go all day, again and again, and again.  And when I discovered myself holding on, I let that go too.  

A small smile turned the corners of my mouth.  A light breeze tousled my hair.  The sun beamed on my upturned face.  And I could feel warmth tingling in my heart once more.


Inspiration: She Let Go, Rev. Saphire Rose

This is a text that comes from my friend anonymously. This person reached out to me when I started to write about depression and struggles that I was going through. I was not great friends with this person before, but I believe that this common experience has brought a deep bond between us. I am forever grateful for this friendship. This poem is beautiful. This poem has given me strength over the last few months. To my friend- Thank you!

I believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell. If you want to share your story, contact me so we can talk about sharing your life.

Making It

"Making it" as a ballet dancer starts with an audition. There are a hundred girls in a studio that all look the same, and our only goal is to get the directors attention. My entire time training as a ballet dancer was spent looking for the approval of my instructors. I constantly looked at them to see if they liked my dancing, my technique, but most of all me. But, I never took the time to think about myself. What did I think? Did I appreciate my art? Did I love and encourage the girl I saw in the mirror? The answer was almost always a no. 

Two years ago I found something that made me look to myself. Made me draw my attention to the deepest parts of my soul. Something that called me to raise my vibration. I found yoga. And yoga is a tool that has helped me ultimately to find myself. 

One thing that plagues many women and men, not just in the dance world, is insecurities in their appearance. In their bodies. I always looked in the mirror at the studio 6 hours a day thinking, "I'm not skinny enough to be a ballerina. Those girls in New York have entirely different bodies than mine." And no matter how many people told me I had lost weight or looked skinny I never had confidence that would last. Then, I started practicing yoga. Something exquisite about yoga is its ability to loosen barriers that you have created for yourself. Think you're not skinny enough? Try yoga. Believe that you're not strong enough? Try yoga. If you feel like you have too many problems to count on your fingers and toes, step on your mat. What happened to me almost instantly was this: I was in warrior II, and I realized that my thighs were grounding me and holding me in this pose. The thighs that I for so long pinched and pulled while hating my body were strong and powerful and had a purpose. That ignited a fire in me that could not be extinguished.

So, with the help of yoga, I set out on a quest to find self-love. What does that look like? It's different for everyone. For me, it involved turning away from what has been so ingrained in me. No longer did I want to push through pain when I knew my body was trying to tell me something. No longer did I hate the only body I had. As I began to daily flow through the asanas, I saw that my body and my soul had grace, power, and voice. I found joy in the present moment. 

Just because a person meditates or practices yoga doesn't mean bad things don't happen to them. Old insecurities or thoughts still creep into my head, but yoga and prānāyāma (breath work) have taught me to move beyond that, and to my higher call. With these tools, anyone can find peace through even their hardest moments. The Sanskrit word Sukha translates to ease or bliss. That is something yoga has brought me time and time again. I can have a thousand things buzzing around my worried head. Then, I practice and find sukha. Ease. Bliss. 

The Yoga Sutra describes the flow of prāna (our life force energy that flows through the body) with this image:

If a farmer wants to water his terraced fields, he does not have to carry the water in buckets to the various parts of his fields; he has only to open the retaining wall at the top. If he has laid out his terraces well and nothing locks the flow of the water, it will be able to reach the last field and the furthest blade of grass without help from the farmer.

In prānāyāma, we work with the breath to remove blockages in the body. The prāna, following the breath, flows by itself into the cleared spaces. Breath is the tool to allow prāna to flow through the body.

I relax. I let go. My life is in perfect flow.

Katie has just completed her 200 hours of yoga training with Wanderlust Yoga here in Austin and will now be teaching yoga to those around her. To see her transform in this process of training and moving to new things in her life has been mesmerizing for me. Katie has a sense of peace. She is excited for what is to come which is truly beautiful. We can all get caught up in our habits of life. We become narrowminded in what we do that we push through when we know that what we are doing is not fulfilling. What Katie is doing takes courage and great bravery. I hope that you are inspired by her story. Maybe take a yoga class. Maybe go to the art museum. Where is your flow? Find yourself.

I believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell. If you want to share your story, contact me so we can talk about sharing your life.