Getting Ourselves Animated

Chalkboard [Guest blogger Baxter shares how the hoop changed the longest relationship his life had ever known]

by Johnathan Livingston Baxter

Like so many others, the entrance of the hoop into my life has been a cataclysmic force that has, quite literally, broken me open. I wish I could say that once the first crack in my shell appeared, that I pried it open like a wild animal and bound for my karmic freedom. Hardly. In the world of Seekers, I would imagine that I would be classified as “Reluctant.” In other words, I often rehearse decisions rather than make them on issues concerning my freedom.

Therefore, I am forever grateful to fate for the slow, slide-like descent into myself that the hoop provided, without its ever asking me to commit to it. In fact, my hoop and I didn’t have any promises to each other. It never promised me beauty eternal or offered me divine intelligence and I never promised it my eternal devotion. It was just there with me in the room each day and I with it: two objects.

Early on, I believed my hoop practice was a study of an object and, in some ways, it was. But ‘which’ of those two objects I was studying would become less and less clear as my Practice deepened. In the hoop practice, you learn a lot about *how* you learn. I think of it like catching fish with your hands in crystal clear water – our misses are caught in the reflection of us – as are our successes. I enjoyed the learning of my Learning. I enjoyed what I was seeing in the reflection of that water. I was seeing successes in spite of earlier failures. I was seeing challenge instead of frustration. I was also seeing a growing belief in myself that, with enough tries, I could achieve almost anything with the hoop. It felt good to be in that reflective space for once. It felt right. It felt, you know, spiritual. In the absence of any kind of dogmatic pressure, I chose it happily. Everyday. I was never haunted or taunted by the hoop. I wanted to do it. It felt good to me. I was the Prince of Doldrums then, so the time in the Sun was good for me. I was completely in my ‘is.’

Then, I started teaching. I felt the need to be able to explain some of this. It was then that I started the long walk called, “Why.”

As a devout Esotericist (or something), I was open to all sorts of understandings about why it felt so good to hoop or why I loved hoping so much. I still do. I have collected many over the years. Yet, at this moment, in this coffee shop, I think that I can sum up what I loved and love so much about hooping: mutual animation. I animate the hoop. The hoop animates me. And we, the hoop and me, are mutually animated by Flow.

To ‘animate’ is, “to bring to life.” My life with the hoop has opened up the word, “animate” to a more broad understanding of the concept than I had ever understood.

At that time in my life, when I was without the hoop, I was just as inanimate as the hoop was. Yet, with the hoop, I was in motion, baby. I was dipping. I was turning. I was ‘feeling’ expression, rather than emoting it. I was moving energy around. In a word: I was ‘animated.’ In the personal development sense, I was ‘brought to life.’ A relationship was born and Animation and I became friends who hung out almost daily.

Depression, on the other hand, is a phenomenal inanimate-r. I know. I have roomed with it my whole life. (I don’t know the latin or sanskrit roots of the word, depression, but I think it is surely something like, “to feed on the blood of your own isolation.) All you have to do is nothing and Depression is amazingly effortless to hang out with. But, Depression is like that friend you have that never wants to hang out with you when you’re with your other friends. It’s awkward when they eventually do and you realize how much attention they need/drain from you. When my old friend Depression and my new friend, Animation, did finally hangout together, I never saw Depression again the same way. Honestly, Depression looked kind of dumpy and unappealing to me standing next to Animation. Animation was so easy to get along with, while Depression always wanted to talk about itself.. incessantly.

That was hugely important for me. It was like I realized that Depression and I were not soul-mates and not destined to see each other exclusively for the rest of our days. The dates I went on with Animation everyday during my Practice were metaphorically raising my eyes from my feet. I was looking up, as it were, toward my more distant path and observing with a discoverer’s delight just how very big and very open the world in front of me really was. It was in the openness of that new space, that fresh perspective, that I even began to work on my relationship with Depression back at home. Instead of going drinking together, D and I would have coffee together and music shop. I don’t know if I ever would have understood the need for a rhythm change with Depression, had it not been for my time with Animation.

I don’t want to get too bogged down in continuing to personify emotional states or conditions, but let me lastly say, that Animation went on to introduce me to many of its friends and therein lies the real impact of hooping in my life. Before hooping, I believed that I had met all the emotions of the world and seen all the Beauty those emotions could offer me. It seems crazy to me, now, that I could have been so arrogant, but my world view was stuck on the inevitables (sickness, change, death) and disinterested in the intangibles (beauty, laughter, connection.) I saw my life at that point as a type of jail sentence I was living out, rather than as a substance out of which positivity could be created. That shift from passive endurance to active assertion not only launched the HoopPath, it launched me.

I suppose the greater lesson in all of it that informs me almost daily is the question, “What animates you?” What art, or force, or song, or Spirit brings life to you? Will you allow it to move you? Will you allow it to introduce you to new things? Or will you just wait your time out in-between life’s inevitables?


Baxter Baxter has hooping his way into the center of his circle for many years and is the founder of The Hoop Path. The two-time Hoopie Award winner has received community honors as Instructor of the Year and Male Hooper of the Year. He lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, USA.

8 thoughts on “Getting Ourselves Animated

  1. This article has touched me deeply. I appreciate your candor Bax. It has really caused some deep reflection into my own priorities, my hooping, and emotional well-being. It was commented to me recently” how alive and at peace” I appear while hooping… and I am. That is my natural state… and its time I get back to it regularly.

  2. I can’t imagine better timing for me to log on and see this article, Baxter. This weekend I saw a screening of “The Hooping Life.” The documentary – and your story in particular – resonated with me so powerfully I’ve been deeply reflecting since on what drew me into the hooping community. I struggle with depression and have a history of mental illness in my family. The way you describe your relationship with the hoop as mutual animation is beautiful and gives me a refreshed perspective. Coincidentally, I wrote a blog just last night about what moving in the hoop feels like to me and I talked about you as an example of what I called “motionless movement.” You can read the blog here:

    I will have to go back and link specifically to this article because the way you describe your journey is so inspiring.

    Thank you for sharing your experience so openly and honestly.

    By doing so, you have become the personification of animation to me and I am sure many, many others.

    – Angeline Nicolina

  3. you are a walking inspiration the way you explain things. i related so much to your article and i know so many others who will read and relate to this too. thank you for that beautiful insight and i am so happy to hear about the way the hoop healed you and will heal so many others. that’s is the main reason why we all become so obsessed, it’s like puppy love for the first time except the feeling never really leaves you. much love, light, and respect to you baxter!

  4. You’re an inspiration to many who have suffered from depression. I passed this on to a friend in Australia who has been digging his way out of a hole with medication and photography for many years. Thank you.

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