Inner Light Therapy- Rayna Milner, LMFT
I began my journey as a mover at the age of 3. My mom was concerned about my shyness and reached out to her childhood ballet teacher for suggestions. My mom asked about ballet, to which her wise teacher replied, no… put her in gymnastics! I am still thankful that my mom listened to her for multiple reasons. So, I began as a wee one in gymnastics and continued on, learning to love being upside down, until my world shifted at the tender age of 7.
A very rare opportunity with a children’s modern dance company presented itself. And when I say “very rare,” I truly mean it. Studios nowadays have contemporary and lyrical, but this company was truly MODERN. As in the classic Graham and Horton type of modern, if you happen to know any history of dance. I joined the dance company, StarDanceSwan, and I was immersed with the company until the age of 15. Lorrie Keller is still here, running SDS, in the historic Paseo Arts District in OKC, and she is truly my fairy godmother. StarDanceSwan taught me many lessons in life: technique, grit, sisterhood, and staying connected to imagination, story-telling, and magic, even as we age and these beautiful experiences are replaced with depressing real-life constructs like math, dieting, success, and fear of failure.
When I was 15, I was burnt out. I was wanting to experience some normal high school experiences. So, much to everyone’s concern, I decided to quit StarDanceSwan and try out for the pom squad at my middle school, Edmond North. I made the squad and met some friends I still have today, and I also discovered my love of choreography. I only lasted a year w/pom before ending up back in a local studio to continue technical training. I was fairly certain I wanted to pursue dance in college, but it was also around this time that I became obsessed with my weight and was about to find my way into a therapist’s office.
As I mention in my “background” page, my therapist in high school was monumental in my life. I had an “aha” moment in her office, envisioning me sitting in her seat someday. I started therapy at the beginning of my senior year in high school, and I was taking ballet and jazz classes with Ballet Oklahoma (now Oklahoma City Ballet) at the time. This was also the time that I made up my mind to attend Southern Methodist University.
I didn’t feel like I was at my strongest as a dancer after spotty training since quitting StarDanceSwan, but I just had a feeling this was my school.
I still remember coming home to my mom holding the envelope from SMU. They accept only 25 dancers per year. I had only applied to SMU (much to my parents’ horror!). I used to tell my students at CCA that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t applied to many many schools. I’m such a planner, and am prone to anxiety. But I think I just knew in my soul that I was going to end up at SMU. And…the letter was a big YES complete with a dance scholarship!
SMU has a very strong modern dance and ballet program, and I adored getting to study Graham technique. Unfortunately, I was a complete mess emotionally and physically. After getting myself hospitalized for the 3rd time for overdosing on laxatives, the University informed me that if it happened again, I would be expelled. They considered me a suicide threat. I thought long and hard and decided that I wanted to stay at SMU and continue my education in the psychology realm. And I made the incredibly difficult decision to quit dancing and give up my dance scholarship. I don’t even know if I told my parents because I didn’t want to worry them; I was going to be taking out student loans on my own to cover the costs of school. I was totally lost without dance, as it was such a huge part of my identity. I gained a lot of weight and just tried my best to focus on getting healthy, learning how to eat again, and focus on my classes. I also picked up a second major of World Religion because, why not? I loved the courses! I wondered if I would ever dance again.
During my Junior year, I tried off and on to take dance classes again and still struggled. Finally, during my Senior year, I felt strong enough to make it through dance classes, I performed in a few shows, and I graduated with a double major and a minor in dance.
And now it was off to San Diego to pursue graduate school. I once again pondered if I would dance again. I took up running to try to fill the hole. But nothing can ever take the place of dance. I didn’t dance for the first few years, but when I finally took my first modern class, my whole world felt whole again and dance hasn’t left my life again since. I talk a lot about this in my main “about me” section, so I won’t repeat too much. All I have to say is dance led me to teaching, which lead me back to therapy, and the idea of now being centered around helping humans learn how to love and connect with their body on a daily basis feels like the most perfect way to bring all of my loves together. I finally have a healthy relationship with my body, and I yearn for more humans in our critical society to learn how to love and nurture themselves as well.