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p5 prince guitarThis week was all about celebrating acac’s 30th anniversary (and the music of 1984) and Principle 5 which, as we discovered, is all about the Awesomeness of Awareness. You can rewire your brain and self-heal and generally tune more deeply into the instrument of your body by practicing awareness of physical sensation.

A couple of things that we played with in class were:
5 Stages of Self-Healing which you can do in just a little bit of time with big healing benefits; and
– Noticing how the language we use to talk about/think about the body makes a huge impact. Saying “my knee is hurt” is completely different than saying “my knee is healing.” Saying “I have a bad back” is completely different than saying “I have moderate pain and tightness in my lumbar spine.” Principle 5 invites us to sense and communicate the specifics of sensation vs. story or judgment.

I’ve been watching a boatload of TED talks lately (getting ready to coach one of the speakers at TEDx Charlottesville on November 14) and when I came across this one by one of the Olympic Champions of Mind Training, of course, I thought about how awareness is like that. Only without going onto a mountaintop for a decade and meditating for 12 hours a day.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

P.S. FOCUS POCUS MUSIC GIVE AWAY (MORE WAYS TO SCORE GREAT NIA MUSIC!): The offer is still good that I made in the Principle 2: Natural Time Post: email me (sjmnia@gmail.com) a picture of yourself wearing the 13-Moon Calendar color of the day (or wear the color to class and TELL me that you did it intentionally and didn’t just HAPPEN to) and I’ll send you (or hand it to you if you’re in Cville) a CD of official Nia music, either Sanjana or Dreamwalker or the Official Playlist for the Unofficial Guide! Another way to play: comment below (or on the Focus Pocus Facebook Page) about how you used Principle 5 in your life recently! I’m only announcing this here so only Focus Pocus readers are in on this! [And even though it sounds like a McDonald’s contest disclaimer: good in the US only (unless you want me to email you the tunes); limit one per person; while supplies last; void where prohibited.]

Monday, Sep 15, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Awareness

99 Luftballons 3:53 Nena
What’s Love Got To Do With It 3:48 Tina Turner
Dance Hall Days 3:59 Wang Chung
Cruel Summer 3:28 Bananarama
Glory Days 4:18 Bruce Springsteen
Caribbean Queen 4:05 Billy Ocean
Hungry Like the Wolf 3:25 Duran Duran
Talking In Your Sleep 3:58 The Romantics
Life During Wartime 5:53 Talking Heads
Footloose 3:48 Kenny Loggins
Let’s Go Crazy 4:39 Prince
The Power of Love 3:54 Huey Lewis & The News
Drive 3:54 The Cars
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues 4:46 Elton John
Stuck On You 3:11 Lionel Richie

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Awareness

99 Luftballons 3:53 Nena
What’s Love Got To Do With It 3:48 Tina Turner
Dance Hall Days 3:59 Wang Chung
Cruel Summer 3:28 Bananarama
Glory Days 4:18 Bruce Springsteen
Caribbean Queen 4:05 Billy Ocean
Hungry Like the Wolf 3:25 Duran Duran
Talking In Your Sleep 3:58 The Romantics
Life During Wartime 5:53 Talking Heads
Footloose 3:48 Kenny Loggins
Let’s Go Crazy 4:39 Prince
The Power of Love 3:54 Huey Lewis & The News
Drive 3:54 The Cars
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues 4:46 Elton John
Stuck On You 3:11 Lionel Richie

Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Awareness & Self-Healing

Healing Senses 8:27 Parijat
Marisi 6:33 Cantoma
Sol Tapado 3:52 Thievery Corporation
I Shall Be Free 6:13 Kid Beyond
Life During Wartime 5:53 Talking Heads
The Heart Of Rock & Roll 4:05 Huey Lewis & The News
Caribbean Queen 4:05 Billy Ocean
I Know 3:49 Dionne Farris
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues 4:46 Elton John
Subtle Body 7:02 Wayne Jones

Thursday, Sep 18, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Awareness & Self-Healing

Damascus 2:03 Conjure One Feat. Chemda
Center Of The Sun 5:01 Conjure One Feat. Poe
Tears From The Moon 4:18 Conjure One Feat. Sinéad O’ Connor
I’m In Heaven 7:05 Universal Funk
Love and Hope 4:24 Ozomatli
Freedom 2:50 Tyrone Wells
Hungry Like the Wolf 3:25 Duran Duran
Life During Wartime 5:53 Talking Heads
Footloose 3:48 Kenny Loggins
Karma Chameleon 3:52 Culture Club
The Power of Love 3:54 Huey Lewis & The News
Drive 3:54 The Cars
Easy Tonight 4:09 Five for Fighting
Subtle Body 7:02 Wayne Jones

Saturday, Sep 20, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Awareness & Self-Healing

99 Luftballons 3:53 Nena
What’s Love Got To Do With It 3:48 Tina Turner
Dance Hall Days 3:59 Wang Chung
Cruel Summer 3:28 Bananarama
Glory Days 4:18 Bruce Springsteen
Caribbean Queen 4:05 Billy Ocean
Hungry Like the Wolf 3:25 Duran Duran
Talking In Your Sleep 3:58 The Romantics
Life During Wartime 5:53 Talking Heads
Footloose 3:48 Kenny Loggins
Let’s Go Crazy 4:39 Prince
(((The Power of Love 3:54 Huey Lewis & The News ~ playlist malfunction!)))
When Doves Cry 5:54 Prince
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues 4:46 Elton John
Stuck On You 3:11 Lionel Richie

FALL NIA JAM at ACAC DOWNTOWN – Open to Everybody ~ Members and Non-members

Friday, September 26, 2014, 545-7pm, ACAC Downtown Group Exercise Studio
Susan, Kate and Kayde welcome fall with a grounding and energizing Jam that interweave three powerful Nia routines: Feeling, U, and Passion! All are welcome, please join us!

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NIA?

For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at http://www.nianow.com…;

If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.

Interested in teaching or deepening your practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training. They are offered all around the world so you can find one near you or where you may want to go!

Principle 5: Awareness … short, sweet & superpowery

p5 baby aware in mirror
Body awareness is like having a superpower.

Don’t know what to do?  Overwhelmed, frightened, stressed, excited or anxious?  Sense your body.

Neurologically, awareness turns on your high-level thinking brain (your prefrontal cortex that’s in charge of language, reasoning, communication) and gets you out of the lizardy fight-flight-freeze brain.

Awareness opens the door to self-healing. Sense pain in your body, stimulate it with movement, then sense if you feel better. No story, just sensation: feeling (even a little) better is self-healing.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s awareness: a mindful relationship to self-healing!

The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in tarnation the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

First Landing and False Cape 029

Principle 5 – Awareness

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

There is nothing mystical about awareness. In fact, it is our birthright. Awareness literally means to pay attention. …

In the Nia White Belt, we emphasize awareness of the physical body. Usually this is the last thing we are aware of unless we are in serious or consistent pain. When prompted, people can easily report thoughts or feelings, but rarely do they describe physical sensations. …

Think about it for a moment: Your body can only be aware of sensations in the present moment, providing you a direct, uninterrupted “sensory view” of your current overall state. Your thoughts, however, may have little to do with the present moment. You might be working at your desk while thinking about a trip to Hawaii. Your thoughts may also be tied to deeply rooted or long-held beliefs and stories. For example, if your shoulder hurts, you might just think, “Oh, there is my shoulder hurting again,” without checking in to discover what the sensation is actually telling you. Instead, what if you explore the sensation in your arm? You might notice where it is tight, where it is free and where it aches. Then you might allow other information to arise from this sensation – thoughts, emotions, images – and realize your arm is tight because you have been overexerting it or using it in an unhealthy way.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centered on the body.”
— The Buddha, from the Satipatthana Sutta

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if I could teach only one thing and practice only one practice it would be awareness, in particular, awareness of the body. Okay, maybe it’s not much of a limb seeing how the Buddha was so into it and everything. But you get my meaning. Cultivating awareness in the body is like having a super power.

Principle 5: Awareness is a principle that is officially and explicitly designed to expand beyond the Nia class experience. It is a rich principle, too, with three layers teaching. Last fall, I did a couple of posts on Life As Art (or as I unofficially expanded Living Life As An Artist) which you can find here and here. For this unofficial guide, we’ll focus on what is Nia calls The Pain Triad. I prefer to call it the Self-Healing Practice and here’s how it rolls:

1. First, become aware of the sensations in the body, paying particular attention to pain, discomfort or limitation and noticing if it is slight, moderate or acute.

2. Next, move your joints to stimulate self-healing.

3. Then notice if what you did feels better or not.

Simple, right? Think about it, every time we choose a movement that helps the body feel even a little better, we are creating self-healing! That is miraculously super-cool. Even if you walk into class feeling basically pretty good without any particular pain or injury and you walk out of class feeling better, that’s self-healing.

I have to tell you, though: it’s a mysterious thing, healing. There is something in our human brain that wants the whole story behind what we’re feeling. We want the why. We want both pain and healing to be logical. Even the greatest doctors in the world, if they are honest and candid about it, will tell you that there are a lot of things, maybe even most things, they just don’t know or understand about the body.

Medical professionals can offer tremendous help and support, of course. Go to them. Let them offer their expertise. But when it comes right down to it, nobody knows your body better than you do. Approach the practice of self-healing with trust and curiosity. Something that felt good yesterday, might feel lousy today (the opposite, mysteriously, is also true). Make no assumptions and see how the body responds.

Awareness is paying attention and paying attention is making an investment in yourself: an investment in savoring the pleasure of the moment and appreciating and participating in the mystery of self-healing.

Having a body is a gift. Cultivating awareness of that body is a super power.

Just ask Buddha.

savoring living meditation rock cairns 3“It doesn’t matter how many times you fall out. It only matters how many times you get back in.”
~ Amy, Susan’s yoga teacher

Savoring is direct experience.
Savoring is being with what is …not what I remember or what I wish for.
Savoring is available in all situations.
Savoring is heightened awareness.
Savoring is living meditation.

Student: My whole life, every single thing I do can be a meditation!
Teacher: Yes. But is it?

I forget to savor. Then I remember.
I come in and out.
The practice is choosing to come back, to start again, over and over.

savoring seeing signsRecently, I got a speeding ticket in a construction area. The officer said I’d been going 40 in a 25 zone.

“25?!” I said. “I didn’t see any signs that said that.”

The patient officer sighed and pointed to a huge sign that said

WORK ZONE
25 MPH

It had two big orange flags on it.

I hadn’t expected it, I wasn’t looking for it, so I hadn’t seen it.

I want to savor what I see, not just look for what I expect.

For fun, watch this video about looking and seeing. In the comments, please share what you notice!

Reade with carrots from Wig Hill Road garden“I asked my body and my body wants dessert.” ~ my step daughter, Reade, at age 10

Your brain is in your whole body, not just your noggin. Listening to your body taps you into a wisdom beyond your intellect.

But it’s not always so straightforward.

Take that cookie, for example. Or that bag of chips. There are times when I would swear my body really really wants them. Actually, that’s my mind telling me that I will get comfort, pleasure and love from that flour-sugar-chocolate morsel (or crunchy-potato-salt crisp).

Body & Mind: practice helps us distinguish between the two.

* * * *
Full-Grown-People-logo-FINAL1
WOW! I’m honored (and a little stunned) to announce that today one of my pieces was published on an excellent site of literary essays called Full Grown People. You can find it here. EnJOY!

DragonLily purpleYears ago, my teacher Carlos approached me at breakfast.
I was so excited and moved so quickly that I spilled tea all over his shoes.

I am agile. A dragonfly.
Sometimes, I could use more mobility.
A little more water lily.

Knowing how we do what we do is powerful. Awareness of my tendencies gives me choices.

Mobility: the constant flow of movement around the joints.
Agility: quick, crisp starts and stops.

Both increase fitness in the body (and mind) but most of us tend toward one more than the other.
Dancing with both creates health and well-being.

Be a DragonLily.