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Learn something new or dive more deeply into something you love just for the sake of learning.

Expand your view; your sight; your vision just so that you can see more in any given moment.

No agenda.

No goals.

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No efficiency flow charts.

What you discover may surprise you…

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Dance and Sing to Learn – Move to Get the Juices Flowing!

catherine114

I love to sing!

I’ve been singing for as long as I’ve been dancing. I love the sensation in my body when I sing.

For me it’s a whole body thing (not surprising).

Recently I made an interesting discovery that illuminated a relationship I had not really considered.

About 4 weeks ago I downloaded I See Fire by Ed Sheeran and began to learn to sing it. It’s not exactly a straightforward piece. My technical vocabulary here is lacking but I hope I will still be able to make my point. The tempo is slow if not, at times hesitating. It is emotionally loaded and drew me into the story. It’s haunting words of facing the end of life as a family and a people while still holding a glimmer of hope rarely fail to move me to tears.

As I was listening and beginning to sing along in the car, I repeatedly missed certain changes.

I had danced it for myself and spontaneously I decided to share with my classes. I knew that the choreography from From Russia with Love, song 1 from the Nia routine Feeling would work with some tweaks. I shared it that day and a few times after before I noticed the following…

In dancing, I hit the music cues I was missing when I sang it. My body knew.

When I went back to sing it, I no longer missed the changes. They were simply there. As though my body heard them more efficiently than was processed by my auditory system and placed them where they belonged.

Nia teachers: when I’m barring a piece of music, I listen to how my body moves it to ferret out the fractions. I will always be able to move a fraction before I can count it and put it on paper. If I missed the fraction when I’m listening (or my bars don’t “match”), I’ll bar in motion. The song Dougalanta from the routine Beyond is a good one to use to play with this!

What about singing to bar it? What if you sing or hum the song as you bar it. (For me singing, toning, humming and sounding in general are all various forms of dancing anyway!!)

Learning to sing the lyrics introduced me to the story on one physical, emotional, mental and creative level. Dancing the music deepened my relationship with the story and brought me, more fully into the experience of music, sensation, feelings, emotions, and inspiration.

Without repetition of the parts of the song I missed, I moved through it and it became accessible, not only to my body but also to my mind.

To be clear, I’m not talking about having to be an accomplished dancer or vocalist here to use these concepts. As always – use what you have. You don’t have to carry a tune ( I truly do not know what sort of difference that might make). Is it easier to hum than to walk or march to? Or the reverse? Do you “see” the music in peaks and valleys? In color? Temperature? Use it all. Never thought of music that way? Play with these concepts.

I suspect I’m probably late to the party here, but better late than never and for those of you also late, maybe you can benefit.

This is the tip of what I know is a colossal iceberg.

Move it to learn it.

Dance makes your brain work better.

Auditory learning is only a piece of our integration process. Perhaps even if we consider ourselves a specific type of learner (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc), we do ourselves a disservice not utilizing all of what’s possible.

When learning something new, engage ALLLLLLLLL of you. All of your senses and all of your modes of receiving information. Don’t just sit and read it or sit and think about it. Don’t sit at all!!

Get up and m o v e it.

Bring it to life.

Bring it to Life!!!!

Post-Crookedness Feldenkrais I’m Training

Picasso 3

I’ve been crooked!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been crooked for 2 days.

Transitions.

I’m learning.

Change consciously made is good. Interesting.  Attention-getting. Hopefully choice-laden. Comfortable? Not always.

As I learn more about how my body does some of the things it does, not only are physical changes occurring in my body; my self-image is being tweaked and adjusted.

I’m no longer where I left me. Brain and body.

I find this disquieting as I practice one aspect of my new journey. Lying on my back with my eyes open, I see the ceiling and I’m pretty confident of my body in space. Once I close my eyes, though, it becomes more of a trip down the rabbit hole. Suddenly I am absolutely positive that my head is lying significantly left of my spine. The fact that I do not sense my spine in lateral flexion or bending sideways does not deter my nervous system. My vestibular system is giving me information that is different than what I can see and feel with my eyes open.

After a live Awareness Through Movement class yesterday I sensed my body more reliably, but when I laid down this morning to work with a recorded class, I, once again perceived my head off-center from my pelvis.

Finally, in a lesson that invited me to move in cross lateral patterns (right hip and left shoulder) this confusion has been cleared up. Now when I close my eyes, my head is where I put it before I closed my eyes.

My body moves differently. During my first Nia class back, I realized that I didn’t want to be moving that quickly without being able to be present to the degree to which I had become accustomed in my training. This caused conflict and my class was awkward.

Not only was my cueing disparate, the rhythm and timing of my cueing was also a contrast. I found myself actually creating a bit of a disconnect between my mind and my body. My body was asking me for something I couldn’t give it in that moment. Not altogether comfortable.  My brain and mind were busy interpreting and attempting to integrate the new information to assuage my overall lack of ease in delivering my usual class. It didn’t go well.

It felt almost the same type of discomfort as I felt on the first day of training when I took a wrong exit and wound up closer to Indiana than to Evanston (the training is in the Edgewater area of Chicago, just south of Evanston). I knew I was still in Illinois, but I also knew I was  wrong.

Disorienting.

Not what I was.

Not what I’m going to be.

In between.

Learning.

Claiming Choice

Learning 1

This is how I felt over the weekend as my daughter was teaching me her dance team dance. Seriously, we got to the spinal roll and I couldn’t get my body to roll in the right direction for beans. “Swallow the marble and follow it down” was her cue. A great cue. It worked for my head, but when I brought my chest into it, it was my habitual movement that ruled. I couldn’t even feel it wrong. After 5-10 minutes we were both laughing and it was not happening. Even thinking it through before I moved it didn’t work. I never got it. On Saturday.

I kept thinking about it, though. I even woke up in the middle of the night to find my body practicing the spinal roll – still wrong! But not quite as wrong. The next day we worked on it again (since she had practice on Monday). When we got to the point in the music where the roll fit in, I did it without thinking. I wouldn’t have known it was right if Rachel hadn’t been happily yelling, “that was right!” “you did it right!”.

That particular spinal roll pattern still does not belong to me, but every time I do it it makes more sense to my body. I can think it. I can move it. I, however, cannot think it through and move it through at the same time. Not yet. I’m learning. This is giving me a choice to add to my movement vocabulary – even as it is. When it is mine, it will be a jumping off point for variations of the roll and more choices.

Learning is the kind of process where you learn to do the thing you can do in a different way, so that your choice is increased. The difference must be significant. Otherwise your choice isn’t free. No one forces you to do this movement or that movement. But you have your free choice.”

Moshe Feldenkrais, The Master Moves

When we do the same old thing the same old way every day, day after day not only do we lose our gift of awareness, but we forfeit choice.

There is more than one way to do everything.

Don’t believe me, go and discover it for yourself.

Re-define aging?

Body

Brain

Mind

Emotions

Spirit

Learn something new. Really new – not “continuing education”.

Learn how to do something you do in a new and different way. If you don’t feel completely goofy, awkward and confused, keep at it until you do!

Do it backwards.

Do it upside down.

Start from the middle.

Start from the end.

Do it “wrong”.

Do it without tools.

Do it the way someone from another planet would do it!

Time to Receive and Nourish

Skills Incubator

I often wonder how much change, refreshing and sharing of “new” material my students expect. This also brings me to swim around in the expectations I have around myself as a teacher. Am I falling victim to The Shoulds?

I go through periods where every class feels new to me. I cue it differently, I bring in a different way of moving through a familiar pattern, change the music or bring a routine with which they are unfamiliar. Inspiration is practically shooting out of my head like sparks!

Weeks like these two past, I feel as though I’m delivering more repetition and staying connected longer to a focus and playlist.

I’ve noticed that this in a pattern of mine. It shows up when I’m learning. Even when I’m sharing with my students, I’m still processing the new material I’m taking in outside of class or group practice.

The new material hasn’t found it’s place and I don’t know what to do with it yet.

This material can be books, an alternate movement philosophy, a theory of communication, a performance of movement or music that inspires me, specific continuing education, workshop material from another’s workshop or from reasearch done for my own, an additional movement endeavor (like learning to play tennis), conscious changes I intend to make, classes I’m taking, or something in my life that I’m going through.

In the past I would panic when I would come to realize that I’d been teaching the same thing the same way for longer than a couple of classes.

Then the light came on. First, I never teach the same thing the same way – it’s not realistically possible and I don’t attempt to. I may use the same music, focus and choreography but it is not the same experience.

Second, I have come to better understand the way I learn. My creative energy will naturally go to the background so that processing can take place. If I interfere with this, I get frankly crappy classes! I’m like a juggler who performs beautifully with 8 objects, but it’s the 9th that becomes the potato in the gears.

Third, what kind of energy am I sharing with my students? Does my scattered, distracted energy foster ease and trust?

Giving myself the time it takes to receive new information and time to let it settle is nourishing for myself and for my students. Being open to simply BE-ing in and with the material while the settling is going on is equally important for me. This gives me the opportunity to discover how to best use this juicy new “stuff”, as opposed to deciding ahead of time what I want to use the information for or defining before I begin, what the information is used for.

When I begin with an intention I find it more useful to be open to tweaking, adjusting or even changing my intention as I deepen my relationship with the material. Everything is energy including this information. How does this energy flow with the most ease for my purpose? How can my purpose be in relationship with the information energetically for a beneficial result? Sometimes it can’t and I have to let go. Maybe I’m not ready. Perhaps it just isn’t for me.

If I don’t take the time, I won’t know how this works. I may spend many frustrating hours when they might be curious hours instead. I’ve done the beating-my-head-against-the-wall of I-want-to-use-this-information.

When the material and my purpose or intention are an energetic match, there’s a flow even when there’s still a ton of work ahead before integration and embodiment. In this, the receiving becomes as nourishing as the end result.

Squirrel Tennis

Squirrels and Tennis

Tennis lesson with my daughter this morning; giving her the opportunity to more deeply embody and use the skills she worked on in her formal lesson last night and me a chance to practice everything.

My lesson today, another step in embodying tennis:

Move with the ball

Have my racquet back as I approach the ball

Back hand – pull with my front arm to midpoint then finish with a push from my back arm

Smooth, long swings.

I did not play racquetball the way I dance today in Nia and in my personal practice. I was a force of nature; frenetic energy and power, emotion and speed. All nerves and reaction or perhaps “reactivity” might be a better choice. Being in this new way of moving for me right now is an interesting metaphor for the changes that have been occurring  within – the new ways of moving energy from the inside out.

On the court this morning, Rachel took time to run drills with me. Doing this, she could better see how I was organizing and bringing myself to the task and make suggestions for improvement. It was also an opportunity for me to track my experience and observe where I am in the embodiment process. The tennis racquet still feels a bit long to me and my muscle memory reminds me to pull my elbow in to hit the ball with the shorter racquetball racquet that had become a part of my hand.

After a few minutes of hitting her serves from various spots on the court, we both confirmed what I suspected: I’m playing Squirrel Tennis!

Ever see a squirrel run out into the middle of the street, see the cars, begin to run back to where they started, change their ‘minds’ and run to the opposite side of the street? Yep, I’m the squirrel and the ball is the tree, but I can’t decide which tree it is! Is it the tree I just left or is it the one I’m running to? I know where the ball is going but I no longer know what to do with my body once I get to it.

After Rachel’s lesson last night, I watched some guys who were warming up to play doubles. I observed one man in particular who touched the ball almost absentmindedly as his joints became more relaxed and willing to do what would be asked of them. Warming up, he and his racquet moved with efficient, fluid motion. Soft shots dropped where he wanted them to; muscle memory ensuring that he was where he was supposed to be and energy would be conserved.

Moving over the court, I could feel the whisperings of new skill as long as I was fully conscious and present to it. As I added a new reminder, the previous one would almost entirely desert my body; not enough to be completely lost, but enough to confuse my nervous system. I’m not where I was. I am no longer a racquetball player. I am not where I am going to be. Nor am I a tennis player. I am at that “awkward stage” of learning; clumsy, unpredictable, not completely in control and inefficient.

I love the awareness. I tell my body what to do, “racquet out as soon as the serve is executed and swing down to up” and my body does it. Like a squirrel. Yes, I moved through the drill and the result was a better shot. However, the reality was that I overran or “charged” the ball and when I made contact I had so much momentum that I hit it out of the court. I did get off a better shot (perspective: better than what?) but the other skills I’m learning fell temporarily away. My body could only manage to utilize the racquet form. One thing at a time.

The next time I move with the ball and it feels like floating, but I forgot my racquet form and smacked it with wrist and bent elbow. Each shot is like that. My daughter is patient and frustration is not coming up. She knows me and is giving me the space to be curious and enjoy the journey.

I discovered that when she can’t quite find the words to describe what I did to get to the ball and get it over the net (or not), it’s “scary”. Squirrel on steroids! All form got lost in that translation!

One thing at a time.

I get to spend time with my 19 year old daughter doing something she is falling in love with, we’re running around and we’re outside.

Life is good.