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A Sensory Practice

Sensation Vocabulary

These are words that are either clear adjectives or words that evoke sensation and may be used to more clearly communicate the language of the body.

These are words that make sense to my body.

This list was inspired by a similar offering from Debbie Rosas Stewart and Carlos AyaRosas in their work in Nia as well as contributions from other Nia teachers.

Powerful          Quick             Achy            Soft            Showy          Sassy                   Loose               Jangly               Slippery

      Weightless                Precise               Free                 Centered             Light                  Graceful            Liquid

Energetic        Sloppy             Crispy               Electric            Lively                   Expressive               Empty            Warm

Full       Fluid          Heavy           Responsive           Solid              Playful             Tight             Linear             Bound

Sharp         Mechanical          Wild           Yang            Masculine              Stuck         Slow          Connected              Sexy

Flexible           Rooted              Strong               Aggressive              Floaty            Mushy  

Languid              Cold             Prickly

Stable           Yummy        Hollow             Yin            Feminine          Bubbly                Fit                  Relaxed            Weary

Adventurous             Alert             Bold              Fidgety              Hot                Calm  

Luke-Warm             Unsteady                   Weak

Fluffy         Stimulated              Wide               Sticky             Vibrant               Oscillating            Unstable              Tense

          Juicy            Dry            Coarse          Silky         Velvety         Crunchy          Smooth             Taut             Rigid

Shivery          Slinky           Feline             Open             Closed           Circular            Agile            

Curvy            Still               Subtle

Confident            Organic              Expansive            Edgy           Stuck         Coooool             Deliberate

Accidental            Restless          Awkward

A few of these words are usually associated with emotional states.  Avoid this association by remaining body and sensation-centered.

Practice:

You can play with this list by paying attention and using the words to give voice to your body’s communications. You can also pick one word at a time and move each one. Sense these words in your body rather than thinking them. How would “crunchy” move? How does “mushy” move? If it doesn’t come right away move on without judgment. If you don’t get anything, it’s ok.  Go through the list then move on with your day.

Go back to this exercise at least once a week.  Awareness takes practice.  Give yourself the time you need to adapt. It will come. When you practice, play without a mirror.  This practice is an avenue to discovering Your Body’s Way or your body’s nature.  This practice will heighten your sensitivity to your body’s well-being. In turn, this practice can also heighten your awareness to the world around you. Discovering Your Body’s Way is a tool for taking your wellness, fitness and performance to a higher level as well as re-connecting to life in a global way.

This is all about sensation.

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Want to Feel Better and Move More Easily For Longer? Pay Attention.

Not to me, though you might want to finish reading this post! You want to pay attention to your body.

Collaboration. Cooperation. Success.

Hard + Soft = Balance

(These 2 little word plays are part of a thread.)

You’ve just started reading this. Before you read any further, adjust your attention so that it is on body sensation. If you are not accustomed to this kind of work, take a little time to listen to the kinds of sensations your body is giving you right now. Do you notice tension in your neck? Does your chest feel open and free or closed? Bring your attention to the other end of you, to your feet and ankles, what do you get? Give it 15 seconds, then slide up to your knees. Did your shins have anything to report? 15 seconds and up to your hips. A more complete body meditation will come in a later post. I’m going to move on but you’re welcome to continue with your body check, ofcourse. I’ll be here when you’re ready.

Oh, and did I mention no trash talking?  There is not mind chatter, no scores, and no judgment. It is you noticing how you do what you do, with respect, honor and love. So if you’re still paying attention and I interrupted, please continue and I’ll be here when you’re ready to move on.

I like the expression “being in your body”. I use it with my students and I’m looking forward to using it with one-on-one clients.

“Being in your body” identifies a state of presence.

Like most states of being, there are several levels. You may simply be aware of your body’s existence. You know that you have a body, you are aware of the shape of your body and chances are pretty good that you have defined what sort of mover you are.

If you are managing an injury, the injured area may be what draws your attention, possibly to the exclusion of the rest of your body. This injury may affect more than your attention to your body; it may also affect how you live in your mind. It may be that this injury has damaged your ability or desire to move as you did before and it may feel like a natural shift to spend less time living through your body. You may be more cerebral. Injury can also affect how you interact with the world outside yourself and negatively affect how you manage your emotions. It may change you.

You may become acutely aware of your body when you have strong emotional reactions. A pounding heart that accompanies fear. Shaking hands and wobbly knees that follow a fight or flight shot of adrenaline. The ache in your chest from having lost someone. The expansiveness of joy.

You may notice when creativity kicks in and you are totally immersed in the process. Cramping fingers from hand writing, drawing or painting longer than usual; blisters from guitar strings. A stiff back from sitting in one position. Tight trapezius muscles in your upper back and neck. You may even be aware of a tension headache.

Every day of our lives we are in relationship with the body in which we live. We go about our usual schedule and the body gives feedback. If we pay attention to the information our body is giving us, we can create a better existence. When our bodies are properly cared for, we can spend more time out of our heads and more deeply enjoying life; we have a sense of confidence in moving and a certain level of self-trust.

Our body speaks to us through sensation. Sensation can be considered the language of your body. Unless  neurological damage is present, every inch of you experiences sensation. If you’ve been reading me, you know that I have a penchant for repetition. So…

Every inch of you experiences sensation.

As Debbie Rosas Stewart, co-creator of Nia shares, every single one of your 7ish trillion cells has access to sensation.

Often, even those areas with nerve damage will register the sensation of pressure since the brain processes pressure a little differently and even processes the types of pressure differently.

If you don’t believe me, take a little field trip with your hands. Even if you know this is a true statement but haven’t tried it for yourself – don’t take my word for it – go on. I’ll wait.

Ok, so you’ve made a discovery or two or a dozen – that’s cool.

So now what do you do with this little jewel? How about building a sensation vocabulary? You won’t need any awesome new toys, but you can get one to keep up with this new life project if you like. All you need is your attention – every so often. You can begin with once a day. Get your phone and set an alarm or put it in your calendar – whichever one you prefer. At this time (you pick it, you know your schedule), you’re going to pay attention to the sensations you’re getting through your body.

You might start by asking yourself – your body not your mind – if you’re comfortable. To be clear comfort is not the absence of pain, it is a sensation unto itself (and yes, I did just say “unto”!). When my body is experiencing comfort, I am relaxed or able to relax. I am settled into a position that, for however long it is comfortable, is creating ease. I feel as though I could be in this position for the rest of the day. Does this sound familiar? While we all have generally the same parts for locomotion, there are details that make us individual. Movement history, trauma and injury history. In other words, the way we have lived in our bodies. What I described as my experience may or may not be similar. How do you experience the sensation of comfort?

The truth is that I probably couldn’t be in that same position for much longer than a few minutes. I have joints and a couple of muscles imbalances that will ask me to adjust. Let’s go back to the fact that I have joints. We all have joints. If we didn’t have joints, movement would be enormously limited. So limited, in fact, that we might give it up altogether and evolve into something else! Joints come in several varieties, some more movable than others. What they have in common is that they need to be used in the way in which they were designed to stay healthy.  Synovial joints are the most movable. The facet joints between the vertebrae are examples of synovial joints. “Synovial” refers to the nutritional lubricant or fluid that every one of these movable joints has. This fluid acts as a shock absorber, and helps to keep friction to a minimum (’cause you know that the more friction there is, the more heat and break down is a likely consequence). Enough with the technical stuff.

How do you keep your synovial joints happy and healthy? Move them. Experiment 2: move your joints and notice how movement is created without force. Move and listen to the feedback your body gives. If comfort is present, you know something about your design. If pain was created, you know something else.

Pain is not a sensation to be worked through. Here we go…

Pain is not a sensation to be worked through.

Pain is a guide. Pain is a way of alerting your mind that something is wrong or maybe just not-quite-right and needs to be tweaked. If the pain is a whisper, then a tiny shift may be all that is necessary. So tweak your movement. If the tweak does not resolve the pain, create a slightly more significant shift in how you’re doing what you’re doing and make an adjustment. If pain persists, change the movement altogether and do something different – if you’re running, walk. Making these shifts before pain is screaming and chronic is a smart way to stay healthy, mobile and excelling at whatever movement you love.

What if you’re a type A, hugely competitive athlete? More reason to learn to pay attention. You may drive your body harder and it is especially important to listen to the cues your body gives you. Whatever type you are and however you move, give your body what it asks for when it asks and barring any unforeseen natural disaster, chances are good that you will be able to do whatever you love for a very long time.

The Power of Choice

When we were children, many of us wanted to change the world. We wanted to do what we wanted, have everyone get along and live happily ever after.

Somewhere along the way many of us decided it wasn’t possible. As we got older we become more “realistic”. We began to see the world as it “really is”.  We came to “understand” that we are not capable – not smart enough, not creative enough, not rich enough, not brave enough, not strong enough.

To change the world it does actually take every single one of us. Not a special group with special talents and bottomless resources, connections and raging confidence.

Every. Single. One. Of. US.

You. Me.

The study that was recently published by Scientific America suggesting that if we believe there is choice involved in circumstance, we act and make our own decision with less empathy didn’t exactly put the emphasis on the heart of the study. What was left out is how we can rarely know another’s life. We can be shown someone’s circumstances and we can be told they made choices that landed them where they are, which is what this study did. We cannot live in another’s heart, know another’s pain except through our own experience and it is just that – our experience. What we would have done in the same situation is irrelevant. It was not our experience, therefore we have nothing to say. It is no one’s place  to take away another’s right to do the best they can in any given situation. If we cannot empathize, we step away.

We make dozens of choices every day. Some as simple as having a cup of coffee and others far more complex and far-reaching.

Every decision we make is in response to two stimuli: Love and Fear.

That’s it.

We make decisions based on what is socially acceptable – fear of not fitting in, fear of reprimand, fear of public humiliation, fear of being shunned.

We makes decisions based on what we are told by “experts” – french fries are bad for you, you should exercise at least 3-5 times a week, no pain no gain, women should stay home and have babies and men can do anything they want.

We make decisions based on how we were raised – if your child doesn’t get into Harvard or another such prestigious school they have little chance of “success”,  if your child doesn’t get straight As all through school, they won’t get into a “good” college and have a successful and happy life, you have to go to church every Sunday or you’ll go to hell, if you don’t make alot of money you’re lower on the human scale.

I chose some dramatic examples above, but none of them are fictitious. They are all examples of concepts from which life decisions have and are still being made. Some of them are minor (eat fewer fries) but most are decisions that we might feel hard-pressed to makes in different ways.

We don’t necessarily believe in the decisions we make. We make some decisions because it is what’s expected; it’s conventional wisdom; it’s the way it’s always been done; this is how Mom or Dad did it; “the powers that be” decreed it so. Who are these powers anyway? I’m going to go back to a very big statement I just made.

We don’t necessarily believe in the decisions we make.

This is a big deal.

We often know that the decisions we’re making are not the best decision we could be making.

What if every decision we made was truly out of love?

Rinse and repeat:

What if every decision we made was truly out of love?

What if, instead of getting caught up in what we don’t want to happen, what we ‘hate’, what is the “tried and true” path, we focus on what we want, what we love and what we know to be true in our bodies/gut?

If I have always made decisions based on a certain way of thinking, how will I know how to change that?

Sensation.

When I make decisions that are purely self-serving, based in jealousy, resentment, pain, anger and fear that the goodies will run out if I don’t take them now – my body feels a certain way.

When I make decisions that are based on my truth, the honesty of my life, a transparency and generosity with everything I have – my body also feels a certain way. This sensation is vastly different from the one above.

Do this. See how it feels. Revisit a decision you regret and listen to the sensations that come up in your body. Then speak or think of a decision you know is right for you and feel that.

Make no mistake, I’m not talking about self-sacrifice. Mostly that just breeds self-importance and resentment. I’m talking about getting what I need for my physical health, mental and emotional well-being and spirit or spiritual growth. Then, the more I give, the more I get.

Then, I will be able to see that there is enough for everyone.

So what am I suggesting in a practical sense? Take care of your body – fall in love with it whatever shape its in right now and go from there. Take care of your brain by stimulating it with new stuff and your mind by giving it truth and not overloading it with assumptions – ask lots of questions! Care for your emotions by respecting every one as a guide – there are no “positive” or “negative” emotions, there are simply emotions for our use. There are always reasons why we feel the way we do. Spirit or spiritual care: open the box and jump out – we are ALLLLLLLLLLL creative – we have unique ways of looking at events and processing information – take you way out and give it a spin! A belief in a divine can be important; believing in something bigger than ourselves. Find a belief system that feels true to your heart and in your body. Your mind will follow.

Our world is changing and we will change with it. We cannot go back. The past is just that – it is passed. What worked then will not and should not work now. So we step forward.

We can only take care of the world if we take care of ourselves first.

The choice is yours.  Making small changes in your life can have big results in the world.

Change yourself –  change the world…

Dancing with the Choir

Nia as cross training is a topic I’ve been thinking and moving with for several years.

I teach and have taught Nia primarily in ‘gyms’ for two reasons: it’s brilliant cross training work and gyms are the places that need what Nia has to offer.

This is a journey I have recently committed to taking. It is my intention to take you along with me!

I am going to explore both of the statements above and we’re going to ‘talk’ about it.

When I took the ACE personal trainer’s exam I wanted to train athletes. I started offering training and I realized that I didn’t really have anything different from any of the other personal trainers. Yes, I am a different human and more and more personal trainers also have degrees in physiology and kinesiology and I don’t. In the end, the training was the same. At that time, specificity training was the main concept. Cross training went mainstream and the ideas about training began to shift.

I taught one of the first Pilates mat classes in Charleston and people laughed. Yes, I taught it properly – everybody moaned and groaned, some had to take breaks and mostly they crawled out – but they said it was weird and wouldn’t catch on. When was the last time you talked to someone who doesn’t know what Pilates is? No one’s laughing now…

I have spent the better part of my Nia teaching career playing it relatively safe and promoting Nia as a wellness and fitness movement practice for body, mind, spirit and emotions. I’ve run hot and cold with my use of the word ‘dance’ – it often depends on my audience.

Nia is a physical fitness program that offers me increased access to creativity, self-awareness, and authenticity in all aspects of my life. My personal Nia practice also feeds and nurtures my life force energy, my awareness of energy around me and my willingness to be vulnerable and honest. My professional practice has also been instrumental in developing my self-discipline and grounding my ability to commit and follow through.

All of the above is available to me and more.

I haven’t even begun to talk about how the physical practice has affected my body.

It is as though my creativity comes from multiple aspects. I used to consider creativity a mental process. Now, not only do I receive ideas in the form of sensation and emotion, but I will often take a concept into movement before my mind has completely processed it. I am and I will always differentiate between my brain and my mind. In the previous statement, I alluded to a brain/body processing preceding a conscious process.

What’s my point?

I don’t know about anybody else excluding Nia Trainers, I do know that until now I have been offering a limited menu of Nia. There is so much more to this work than I can share in the 60-minute classes.

An invitation to move in our body’s way is one of the life-changing aspects of Nia.  An invitation to lead through my gifts, skills and passion is another.  How many different ways are there to share this work?

I want to find out…

Shaman

Learning to Soften.

Tension restricts range of motion. Limited range of motion makes moving our bodies more difficult than it could be. Mental rigidity makes adapting to change more of a struggle. Unwillingness to access the full spectrum of emotions tends to make managing relationships uncomfortable and less than pleasurable. Beliefs and attitudes that narrowly define creativity keep us from realizing the scope of our gifts.

Nature.

Balance is integral to Nature. Nature will not deliberately create imbalance. Nature is function without waste.

We’re the ones who purposefully cause and even create imbalance. We should have “hard” bodies to be healthy. How much time is spent cultivating a healthy, balance between flexibility and strength work? I don’t have this number, do you? “Flat” stomachs?

How can I take consistently take full breaths when I’m always contracting my abs?

And am I “flat” and “hard” in the “right” places so that I am also “curvy”, “shapely” in the right places?  Is it ok to include the word “soft”? Why or why not?

How often is the word “soft” used in fitness and wellness environments?

Mmm…

Space and Time. Touch. Pulse. Playful. Beat. Rhythm (what is your personal rhythm? is it natural?). Moving from the Inside out. Moving Meditation. On the Earth. With the Earth. Create a Caress Dance with the Earth – Caress the Earth with your Dance

Finding ways and taking time to move down to the Earth and back up again throughout.

My body loves the Sky Dancing choreography so I’m leaving it as for now. It’ll be interesting so witness the shifts that occur as this work comes together.

The following playlist and notes are something to toy with. I’m going to be offering a class called “Shaman” and these are my first musings with the sounds and movement that may be involved.

1. Clouds – Feuerhake (Sky Dancing)

2. Takshaka – Makyo (Sky Dancing)

3. Walking Through – Kaya Project

Play with: Walking (imagine!)

What can you Walk? Feet. Hands. Sitz Bones. Shoulder Blades. Ribcage. What else?

How do you do it? What’s your gait?

What animal are you walking? What’s the gait? Does your animal have paws or wings, claws or fins?

4. Firebird – Triponas

Play with:

*Texture          *Energy          *Style          *Speed

5. Tribal Shift – Kaya Project

6. Stone Turns Black – Kaya Project

7. Kalamari Warriors – Animal Radio & Bushmen of the Kalahari

Play with: Contrast and Balance

*Strength-Agility-Flexibility-Mobility-Stability

*Up/Down       *Big/Small         *Lines and Circles          *Hard/Soft

 8. Kalahari (Dub Disco) – Bushmen of the Kalahari

Pearl: SOAR!

(Teachers play with Choreography from Butterfly)

9. Come With Us – Chemical Brothers (Sky Dancing)

10. Hungry Man – Bushmen of the Kalahari

Play with:

Sense of Balance: How does focus affect Balance?

Place your attention on different body parts. Does it matter is those body parts are activated?

What happens?

11. Slide – Kaya Project

Floor Play

I’m sharing this information. I don’t actually have the words for why, but it feels good!

Floor Play – Playing with Mobility

This morning’s focus for class was Systemic Integration which is just another way to say ‘moving all your parts as though they’re connected’.

My classes at the Indian Boundary YMCA are in the Fieldhouse – on the basketball courts. This affords us alot of space in which to move.

We began on the floor at one end of the courts using the song One Good Dub. With a piece of music that’s 8 minutes and 15 seconds in length, we had plenty of time to roll, wiggle, shift, undulate, rock, push, pull, ooze, and reach our way to the other end. Before the song was over, we got to our feet and continued to move – in the same way.

I love Floor Play. I love the floor – particularly wood floors and I spend quite a bit of time on the floor in and out of class. I am a devoted student and child of Floor play. My body tells me that the possibilities for fitness, wellness and overall functionality are greater than I’m taking advantage of.

We are built to move on the floor.

The fact that many people over 50 struggle and many over 60 “can’t” is not due to our design. It is due to our culture.

First, we’re an either/or culture. We are conditioned to believe that we only have 2 choices – yes no, black white, creative or not creative, athlete or non-athlete, smart or not smart, dancer non-dancer, strong weak, masculine feminine, young old, red or yellow. Really? Nothing in between? Dance professionally or go home?!?! Create a da Vinci or put away your art supplies!

Each of us is a remarkable blend of traits, characteristics, strengths, and works-in-progress. How does this get back around to Floor Play? Culture took us off the floor and sat us in chairs and other pieces of furniture that doesn’t truly honor our body design. Culture told us that only children sit and play on the floor – and either/or – I am a child and I can sit and play on the floor or I am an adult and I do not. Once deemed an “adult” I begin the slow painful journey to certain loss of mobility and potential illness as a result of poor circulation (since muscles contraction is often directly responsible for blood moving through veins)

I’m very, very fond of the color orange and I think I’ll be an adult who sits and plays on the floor.

I received information through my body during Floor Play today that I had not received this way before. The contrast of moving up on my feet had never been quit so stark. So stark that I guided the class back down to the floor. I felt limited on my feet. I have felt vertical limitation before, as a relatively normal human managing the affects of gravity. I’m not a gymnast or acrobat for Cirque de Soleil so I have some pretty distinct limitations. It was my awareness and sense of my body moving through the usual space that was different.

Floor Play definitely feeds what I do on my feet. If I did not have the relationship with the Earth that I do, I would not be the mover I am on my feet.

Moving on the floor takes a different awareness, perhaps a shift in awareness. My feet are no longer the foundation from which I am moving. This changes how I am in relationship with all of my body parts. When I am on my feet, my feet and legs are under me, my femurs/thighbones suspended from my hip joints and my shin bones (tibia and fibula) rise out of my ankles toward my knee joints. On the floor the relation-ship changes. My leg bones are resting on the earth. The muscles that surround, support and are responsible for vertical leg function now have to adapt. It isn’t strength that is needed for walking, it’s flexibility as muscles are stretched. To create strength requires that I think of my relation-ship with gravity in a different way.

Now my pelvis may be my new foundation, or my hands or perhaps my spine.

After a few minutes, I rediscovered the comfort of moving on my feet and the momentary awkwardness gone.

More deeply I wonder about the correlation between the social expectations of being permanently vertical, our waning relationship with the Earth and the tendency of ours to disconnect mind from body. Considerations for another post…

We began on the Earth and to lose the sense of the Earth as our foundation is to lose ourselves and our ability to move freely on our feet.

Today’s Class and Playlist

Today’s focus was the Alchemy of Awareness with the intention of learning to heal.

Awareness, paying attention to body sensation is the first step.

Thank your body for sensations of comfort, ease and pleasure.

If you notice pain, make a tiny adjustment, or tweak your movements. If that doesn’t help, ask your body what it needs.

Your body will tell you.

You can do this anywhere and at any time you notice pain.

Why wait for an ache or a pain to become an injury?

Listen when your body speaks. Small adjustments may be all it takes.

Today’s Playlist

Luna – Ganga

Marisi – Cantoma

Dah Din Beats – Gee-E and Usman

Firebird – Triponas

Behind the Veil – Makyo

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter – Thievery Corporation

I Love Baby Cheesy – Banca de Gaiia

Stone Turns Black – Kaya Project

Gayatri – Adam Shaikh

Beyond…

You don’t have to dance to teach Nia.

I’ve been thinking about this statement for some time now.

I didn’t say you don’t have to move. You don’t have to move all the time. Nor do you have to move only within the structure of routines.

For a brief period of time I was in collaboration with another Nia teacher who is currently unable to teach due to an injury. During much of that time I was only teaching 1 class a week. In the past I did not do well to have so much time between teaching classes. With a week between classes my cueing would be stiff, my imagery uninspired and the choreography a bite rote. During the collaboration when 1-2 conversations anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours might occur, I never experienced the lull, the loss of momentum. If anything, my classes were more colorful and my internal enthusiasm for the process was almost overwhelming and my students very happy with numbers increasing.

We did not talk about Nia routines. We did not talk about technique. We touched on the many principles. What comprised these rich conversations was life; nature, the global economy, the human condition, Nia in the world, healing through connection and how to thrive rather than simply survive. For me, this was Nia.

My teaching changed and continues to change.

Movement Alchemy is a direct result of this collaboration.

This was not dance in the usual sense of the word, but every conversation was a dance. While each and every single conversation sparked overwhelming creativity in me, I did not see the forward movement we were making. I knew I was extremely prolific – I hardly had time to process what was pouring out.

My partner referred to me as the “nuts and bolts” part of the relationship. As someone who has spent my life dreaming and visioning it was the first time I thought of myself in this role. I have to admit, considering myself highly creative and artistic, my ego assigned this as “pedestrian”. Since then I have changed the way I think of myself, my gifts, my strengths and why “nuts and bolts” is absolutely creative and artistic.

I turn concepts into movement.

Then, much like putting together a puzzle, I create a form so that the concepts can be delivered in a coherent way.

For me, it is with minimal talk – I am not a public speaker and I have no desire to become one. Being the human I am, I am acutely and constantly aware of how my body processes life. This makes me unusual. For most, it is thought and a decision that brings movement. Awareness and sensation stems from this (awareness of mind, body, spirit and emotions). For me, it is often the other way around. It was during my repeat of the White Belt intensive that I realized that I sense emotions in my body as sensation before my mind recognizes “it” as anger, sadness, joy, etc. This recent discovery was a gift the scope of which I am still coming to understand. To Ken Gilbert, Stephaney Robinson and Debbie Rosas Stewart, who facilitated this intensive, I am deeply, deeply grateful.

What I understand now is that as teacher I can embody Nia; the Energy Allies, the 52 Moves, the 9 Movement Forms, the routines, the 52 principles, the 5 Stages, the 5 Sensations. I believe that this embodiment is essential to sharing Nia with impeccability. While I will probably spend the rest of my life wading, floating, swimming, though from time to time barely treading water in the 52 principles, I’m seeing beyond.

To be clear, I am in no way implying “seeing beyond just this”. There is no “just” in any part of the work of Nia. This work is not for the faint of heart, mind, spirit or body! It most certainly is a discipline.

Within our collaboration I was invited and I stepped into a much wider scope.

This changed the direction of my life and my work.

I knew there was more; I sensed that in order to create something truly meaningful I would have to remember who I was before I stopped making waves. I would have to remember that I have the gifts, strengths and passions (as quirky, weird or off-center as they may seem) for a reason. I was bullied as a child and teenager, and that created resilience. Laugh, jeer, and get angry and defensive if what I do and say makes you uncomfortable, Change can be unwelcome and difficult. In the end I’m going to remain standing and one of what I hope is many –

going Beyond.

 

 

 

 

The Alchemy of Awareness

15 years ago, while still teaching ‘traditional’ fitness, I began to be plagued by hip pain. It would be misdiagnosed at least twice, the pain would become chronic and would become so intense I could only crawl out of the studio after classes. I was afraid I would have to stop dancing.

Nine years later, I would be teaching Nia. I had made several adjustments not only in how I moved my body but also how I perceived my body. My Nia dance and my personal dance had become more systemic; my body moving more like an integrated machine. My hip pain had become merely intermittent. Then I found myself in the middle of a flare up. The pain had become so severe this time that there were positions in which it hurt to breath.

A visit to my general practitioner and I finally had a proper diagnosis. Tendonitis. This time I really did have to stop dancing and meet with a physical therapist.

Working with a combination of strength, stability and flexibility, after 6 weeks, I returned to teaching and my own dance. I had been paying attention, but I hadn’t been respectful. I had felt the pain, but I was accustomed to working through pain – I had been doing it all my life. I took it for granted that while I have experienced aches and pains, nothing ever stopped me – in a way I felt unbreakable.

As I walked back into class, I walked in with a sense of my own fragility. I didn’t like that.

Since that time, I no longer feel fragile, but neither do I take my body nor my wellness for granted.

My life, my body and my wellness are gifts in nature. For me to have finally healed my hip, I had to remember that. I had to move like that. I have to remember that to care for my body and respect its design is also a way to care for the natural world, our Earth. I realized that I can only care for the Earth if I care for my body and my life. It’s not enough to be aware of what’s wrong, I have to act on that knowing.

Am I pain free all the time? No. After 40 years of dancing, a variety of traffic accidents, playing sports as though I will never die – no. I don’t have the pain I did 3 years ago, though. When I noticed my body’s warning, I shift gears. I adjust my movement, I shift my position, I move around if I’ve been still. I take a break. I explore level 1. In this place with the willingness to give my body what it wants and needs, I have access to the Joy of movement in a new way. The sensation of Joy in my body.

Considering my body and life as deeply a part of nature as birds, lions, fish, trees and mountains has created a sense of wonder, humility and pleasure. This enhanced awareness has given me the ability to immerse myself in each experience – no longer taken for granted.

Through time the alchemists searched for ways to turn plain metal into gold.

I found my way to turn awareness into healing.

 

(Wanna know how I did it? Come to class. Attend Labs and Workshops.Sign up for Sole Practice sessions.)

Gratitude

Moving this forward didn’t happen by accident, serendipitously and the work didn’t drop out of the sky into my lap.

I have worked very hard for this. I have also had the most incredible people around me.

Teri, you were my first student and  you never told me to do something “practical”. You have walked this entire journey with me – I’m not sure I will ever have the words to thank you. Kim, you are practical, but you are also deliciously creative and totally brilliant. Andrew, you reminded me that the scope this work is on a global level. You inspired me to think of Nia and my gifts as they are connected to Nature rather than culture. You reminded me to look and see the matrix. The three of you are in this work. My children have been a source of endless support for me and I have been a source of endless amusement for them!  These are  the first steps, but I would not be here, in this place, right now, if it hadn’t been for you – each of you. Barbara, you may not ever read this, but if things had remained as they were, MA probably wouldn’t exist.

Am I counting unhatched chickens? No. When Movement Alchemy is fully realized, the thank yous will be more public, more profuse and I’ll use your last names!

Until then, I’ll be asking for referrals, bugging you to come to classes and workshops, labs and reminding you to set up for Sole Practice!

Thank you.