go-to-the-source-092116

Underestimating the power of the inner belly, the core body is almost impossible to do. This week we danced right into it and experimented with strength, mobility, agility, stability and directed attention. When I direct my attention to the inner belly, I ground and balance myself. When I direct my attention to my inner body, I quiet my mind. And when I direct my attention to my inner purpose, life radiates from there.

All the playlists from the week are below or you can listen to them by going to Spotify! Rock out for free at Spotify! Sign up for free, follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen!

And first the announce-y things:

• dance. sit. create. ~ THREE SPOTS LEFT for the next delicious day-treat on Saturday, October 1, 830am-5pm
You are creative. You are an artist. Even if your elementary school art teacher told you differently. Whatever you think and feel about dancing, sitting and creativity, this day is for you. Whether you identify with the words “dance sit create.” and think, “Heck, yeah” or if you shake your head and say, “I can’t do those things” or “That’s not me,” this day is for you. Please join me for a delicious day of living at the intersection of movement, stillness, and art. If you’ve come before, come again. If you’ve never joined us, this is a great time.
Early Bird: $95 if registered by September 27. Creative Bird: Get an additional $5 off by making something (a photo! a drawing! a haiku! a kid! anything!) and sharing a picture of it on any social media with this link (www.susanmcculley.com/workshops-retreats/dance-sit-create) and use the hashtag #dancesitcreate. (OR send something you’ve made to Susan and she will share it!)
Limited to 20 participants [Just 3 spots left!]. Questions? Please connect with Susan at sjmnia@gmail.com or between August 7-26, please call or text to 434.960.9959.

• dance. sit. create. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sunday, October 23, 830am-5pm
dance. sit. create. is going on the road! I’ll be offering the day-treat experience in Cambridge, Mass, hosted by the amazing Kira Hower in her beautiful studio. Want to take a road trip? Know someone in the area who you think would enjoy spending the day at the intersection of movement, stillness and creativity? Please direct them here or here or directly to me at sjmnia@gmail.com !

• MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Going Below The Surface: Nia, Yin Yoga & Words Saturday, November 12, 1-4pm
SAVE THE DATE, November 12, 1-4pm. Explore this focus in a special workshop — Going Below The Surface — that I’ll be teaching with Yin Yoga Instructor, Amy Kidd on Saturday, November 12 from 1-4pm at acac Albemarle Square. I will lead simple, varied, energetic movements to warm and mobilize the body: particularly the hips, core and shoulders. Amy will then take us through a series of Yin yoga poses designed to release muscle, fascia and other connective tissue in the core with long, supported holds. Interwoven through the afternoon, as energy is released and the body/mind relaxes, will be opportunities to write – either journaling or using simple provided prompts. Plan now to take an afternoon to breathe deep and see what lies below the surface.
Stay tuned for registration information coming soon!

• Art Experiment: Susan’s work on products!
I’m playing with putting my art on some products through a company called VIDA who connects artists with makers – and pays those makers a living wage (you can learn more about VIDA here http://shopvida.com/pages/our-story ). I’m experimenting with a couple of designs and I would love your input. What do you think? Any art you’d like to see on any particular pieces? Any art that I haven’t made yet that you think would work well? I’d love to hear what you think.❤
Susan McCulley

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Monday, Sep 19, 2016, 1045am ~ Inner Belly Is Where It’s At

Here We Go 5:59 Deep Dive Corp. Ft. Hush Forever
The Flame 6:51 Deep Dive Corp.
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Down To Love 6:34 Hot Toddy
Don’t Stop The Dance 6:20 Martin Brodin
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
Belly Disco 4:33 Karminsky Experience
Everythings Gonna Be Alright 4:33 The Baby Sitters Circus
Elephant (Dub) 6:07 Spiral System
Empty Vessel 3:46 Bob Holroyd
Stillpoint 4:18 Oliver Shanti & Friends

Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016, 840am ~ Inner Belly Is Where It’s At

Here We Go 5:59 Deep Dive Corp. Ft. Hush Forever
The Flame 6:51 Deep Dive Corp.
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Down To Love 6:34 Hot Toddy
Don’t Stop The Dance 6:20 Martin Brodin
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
Everythings Gonna Be Alright 4:33 The Baby Sitters Circus
Elephant (Dub) 6:07 Spiral System
Empty Vessel 3:46 Bob Holroyd

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016, 11am ~ Inner Belly Is Where It’s At

Here We Go 5:59 Deep Dive Corp. Ft. Hush Forever
The Flame 6:51 Deep Dive Corp.
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Down To Love 6:34 Hot Toddy
Don’t Stop The Dance 6:20 Martin Brodin
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
Belly Belly Nice 3:53 Dave Matthews Band
Everythings Gonna Be Alright 4:33 The Baby Sitters Circus
Elephant (Dub) 6:07 Spiral System
Empty Vessel 3:46 Bob Holroyd
Stillpoint 4:18 Oliver Shanti & Friends

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016, 840am ~Inner Belly Is Where It’s At

Here We Go 5:59 Deep Dive Corp. Ft. Hush Forever
The Flame 6:51 Deep Dive Corp.
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Down To Love 6:34 Hot Toddy
Don’t Stop The Dance 6:20 Martin Brodin
Fire In the Belly 5:43 Ganga Giri
Everythings Gonna Be Alright 4:33 The Baby Sitters Circus
Elephant (Dub) 6:07 Spiral System
Empty Vessel 3:46 Bob Holroyd

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!

inner-belly-power-091916

Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

After a lifetime of wrassling with my outer belly, generating all manner of suffering around what I thought it should look like and how it definitely did not measure up, I felt a wave of relief when my yoga teacher, Lizzie said, “The outer belly is going to do what it’s going to do. The inner belly is where it’s at. That’s where the fire is.”

Lizzie’s words help me release my attachment to the outer and get busy with what’s going on inside. Today’s Art in Action digs into the inner belly, inner body, and inner purpose.

Inner Belly

Over and over again in my physical practices, I am reminded about the radiating effects of cultivating a strong core. I mentioned some of what I’ve noticed lately in this week’s post but simply put a strong core will help you do everything better. Our culture tends to put a heavier emphasis on the outer core, and truly the two are deeply intertwined.

Of course, what with the World Wide Interwebs and fitness experts all over the place, you can find all kinds of core exercises:

• I offered some in an Art in Action post earlier this year a couple of my favorites for deep core are Plank Pose and Air Chair (it looks simple, but if you keep your hips and knees at 90 degrees, you will feel your core turn on — SHAZAM!).

air-chair-092016

• Yogis use a root lock (Mula Bandha) to strengthen the pelvic floor and an upward abdominal lock (Uddiyana Bandha). I wrote about them some last year.

• Aikido and other martial arts practitioners put their awareness on the center point of the body, sometimes called the Hara or Tan Tien, to ground and balance. Try this exercise with a friend: stand with your feet shoulder width apart with soft knees, focus your attention on the tip of your nose and have your friend gently but steadily push your shoulders with their index and middle fingers. It probably won’t take much to push you off balance. Then do the exact same thing but focus your attention on your inner belly, two inches below your belly button and two inches inside your body. Your friend probably cannot budge you when you drop your attention to your center.

Give your deep, inner core attention, it has powerful benefits for your physical movement and more than that…

Inner Body

Similarly, it’s easy to get caught up in what the external body looks and feels like even though the inner body is where the real power is. Our culture tends to put a heavier emphasis on the outer body, and truly the two are deeply intertwined. Connecting to the inner body can quiet the mind, offer perspective, a reminder of what is really essential.

Right now, feel your outer hands: notice if they are warm or cold, what textures they are feeling and if there is weight or pressure on them in any way. Now sense below the surface to your inner hands: there you may feel a sense of flow or tingling or pulsing that is different from your heart beat. This is the sensation of life force, energy, what yogis call prana, what martial artists call chi, moving through you. Now experiment with feeling your inner body in other parts of you.

By dropping your attention into your inner body, you can get out of the flow of thought and reside more fully in the present moment. You can do this any time but it’s particularly helpful when you want to be fully present or when you feel upset, worried, or rattled in any way. And it’s best to practice when you are relaxed so you have access to it when you need it.

Inner Purpose

Again, similarly, we can get caught up in the externality of our lives – what we do and have and how it looks from the outside when our attention is really needed inside. Our culture tends to put a heavier emphasis on the outer purpose, but truly the two are deeply intertwined. For this part, I’ll let Eckhart Tolle explain:

So the most important thing to realize is this: Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. … Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet – because it is the purpose of humanity. Your inner purpose is an essential part of the purpose of the whole, the universe and its emerging intelligence. Your outer purpose can change over time. It varies greatly from person to person. Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose. It is the basis for true success. Without that alignment, you can still achieve certain things through effort, struggle, determination, and sheer hard work or cunning. But there is no joy in such endeavor, and it invariably ends in some form of suffering. (from the wonderful book, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, p. 258)

Go to the inner – belly, body, and purpose – as Lizzie says, it’s where the fire is.

 

outer-belly-vs-inner-belly-091016

Literally and figuratively, my belly has been my soft spot since adolescence. It’s the place I cover up and suck in and tuck around. I work out, crunch myself silly, eat whole foods but a flat tummy is not mine to be had. My belly is where my self-consciousness and body issues converge.

Not so surprising, then, when I started practicing yoga regularly a few years ago, I cringed a little every time my teachers said, “Pull in your belly.”

For the love of Pete, people, it’s what I’ve been attempting to do my whole life. Don’t you think if I could, I would?

But then my teacher, Lizzie said something that changed my perspective, “Pull in your inner belly. The outer belly is going to do what it’s going to do. It’s your inner belly that we’re working with.”

Of course. My outer belly is going to do what it’s going to do. Just like my eyes are a mish-mash of blue and gray. Just like my hair curls in some weather and frizzes in others. Just like I’m 5’ 7” and not 5’ 2” and not 5’ 11”. And suddenly, I felt less ashamed of my soft, round pooch and got more connected to what was happening on a deeper level.

The more I practice, the more I notice the radiating effects of a strong inner core. The stronger my core:

• The better balance I have
• The more graceful and easeful my movement is
• The better my back feels
• The better my posture is
The better my feet feel 
• The more agile and mobile I am
• The faster I can pedal and the higher I can hike
• The better I feel in my body overall

That’s a lot of benefit from strengthening a part of the body and it points (yet again) to the amazing interconnectedness of the human form.

My self-consciousness about my belly didn’t come from nowhere. Our cultural focus tends to be on the outer belly instead of the inner belly. I see lots of headlines in fitness magazines about getting a six-pack or flat abs, but not so much on strengthening the inner obliques. Which is too bad since focusing on the deep core muscles gives the greatest benefits…as will focusing on my deep core values and priorities.

Ho boy. This post is teetering precariously on the cliché edge of “beauty is only skin deep” and O how superficial we all are.

But there is some truth in all words, even cliché. It is worth considering where I put my focus and energy. Am I placing my attention where the most good will be done? Or am I doing something that only looks good? Am I going to the core of the issue or am I fiddling with the superficial?

And as I’m bobbling and hobbling through my practice, Lizzie drops another pearl of wisdom that I know (IknowIknowIknow) in my mind, but need to be reminded of over and over. She reminds us that how deep we can go into a posture or what it looks like means nothing about what kind of yogi or what kind of person we are. Says Lizzie:

It doesn’t matter what the pose looks like. It matters how you approach the pose. Come from the inside out.

I am grateful for my physical practices for bringing awareness to my body in a deeper way. But just as my deep core muscles connect to my feet, my physical practice radiates far beyond my soft tummy to the core of how I move through the world.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Explore this focus of Going Below The Surface in a special workshop that I’ll be teaching with Yin Yoga Instructor, Amy Kidd on Saturday, November 12 from 1-4pm at acac Albemarle Square. Stay tuned for registration information coming soon!

disentangling-090716

We spent the week disentangling struggle from suffering. It’s an ongoing practice, for sure, but what better way to play with it than dancing together. I’d love to hear your experience with struggle and suffering and any teachings you go to on the subject. It’s a big one, y’all.❤

All the playlists from the week are below or you can listen to them by going to Spotify! Rock out for free at Spotify! Sign up for free, follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen!

And first the announce-y things:

• dance. sit. create. ~ TWO SPOTS LEFT for the next delicious day-treat on Saturday, October 1, 830am-5pm
You are creative. You are an artist. Even if your elementary school art teacher told you differently. Whatever you think and feel about dancing, sitting and creativity, this day is for you. Whether you identify with the words “dance sit create.” and think, “Heck, yeah” or if you shake your head and say, “I can’t do those things” or “That’s not me,” this day is for you. Please join me for a delicious day of living at the intersection of movement, stillness, and art. If you’ve come before, come again. If you’ve never joined us, this is a great time.
Early Bird: $95 if registered by September 15. Creative Bird: Get an additional $5 off by making something (a photo! a drawing! a haiku! a kid! anything!) and sharing a picture of it on any social media with this link (www.susanmcculley.com/workshops-retreats/dance-sit-create) and use the hashtag #dancesitcreate. (OR send something you’ve made to Susan and she will share it!)
Limited to 20 participants [Just two spots left!]. Questions? Please connect with Susan at sjmnia@gmail.com or between August 7-26, please call or text to 434.960.9959.

• dance. sit. create. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sunday, October 23, 830am-5pm
dance. sit. create. is going on the road! I’ll be offering the day-treat experience in Cambridge, Mass, hosted by the amazing Kira Hower in her beautiful studio. Want to take a road trip? Know someone in the area who you think would enjoy spending the day at the intersection of movement, stillness and creativity? Please direct them here http://www.susanmcculley.com/workshops-retreats/2016/10/23/dance-sit-create-in-cambridge-massachusetts or here https://www.facebook.com/events/1057151171049816/ or directly to me at sjmnia@gmail.com !

• acac 30 days for $30 benefits SPCA!
Work out & give back during the month of September at acac Charlottesville! When you purchase an acac 30-day membership at Downtown, Albemarle Square or Crozet for $30, every dollar will benefit the homeless animal shelters in the Charlottesville area.
Donations during September will be split between the following local animal shelters:
Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA – Celebrating 10 years as a no-kill organization, with a vision of putting healthy animals in caring homes. Located on Berkmar Drive in Charlottesville, VA
Fluvanna County SPCA – Supporting paw-sitive pet partnership since 1989. Located on Union Mills Road in Troy, VA
The Greene County Animal Shelter – Small in size, but big at heart! Located on Jeri Allen Way Road in Ruckersville, VA
These local organizations strive to match loving households with an animal in need of a home.
Interested in signing up? Go to http://acac.com/30days/charlottesville/
PLUS: This week we danced to Schuyler Fisk’s playful song, Love Somebody. Download it and the proceeds go to the Charlottesville SPCA! https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/love-somebody-single/id349326667

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Monday, Sep 5, 2016, 11am ~ Struggle Without Suffering

Eireann 5:10 Afro Celt Sound System
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Journeyman – AO 6:41 Bob Holroyd
I Know What I Know 3:13 Paul Simon
The Boy in the Bubble 3:59 Paul Simon
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) 3:42 Kelly Clarkson
Break The Chain 4:32 Tena Clark
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane
Life During Wartime 4:54 Talking Heads
Never Coming Home 5:00 Sting
Wristband 3:18 Paul Simon
Friend Of The Devil 4:14 Lyle Lovett
On the Nature of Daylight 6:35 Max Richter Orchestra & Lorenz Dangel

Tuesday, Sep 6, 2016, 840am ~ Struggle Without Suffering

Sajanna 5:06 Badmarsh & Shri
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Journeyman – AO 6:41 Bob Holroyd
I Know What I Know 3:13 Paul Simon
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) 3:42 Kelly Clarkson
Break The Chain 4:32 Tena Clark
Life During Wartime 4:54 Talking Heads
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter 6:22 Thievery Corporation
Wristband 3:18 Paul Simon
Friend Of The Devil 4:14 Lyle Lovett
Nagual 4:03 Michael Hewett

Wednesday, Sep 7, 2016, 11am ~ Struggle Without Suffering

Awake My Soul 4:16 Mumford & Sons
Barely Breathing 4:15 Duncan Sheik
I Believe (feat. Michael Franti & Nahko) 3:23 SOJA
SuNu 5:05 Rising Appalachia
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Everybody Got Their Something 4:23 Nikka Costa
Tribal 4:09 Badmarsh & Shri
Mad World (feat. Safri Duo & Isam B) [Raaban Edit] 3:34 Michael Parsberg
Once a Day (feat. Sonna Rele) 3:58 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Below My Feet 4:52 Mumford & Sons
Unpack Your Heart 3:16 Phillip Phillips
Love Somebody 4:00 Schuyler Fisk
Everything’ll Be Alright 4:07 Catherine MacLellan
Breathing Out 4:56 Shaman’s Dream

Thursday, Sep 8, 2016, 840am ~ Struggle Without Suffering

Awake My Soul 4:16 Mumford & Sons
Barely Breathing 4:15 Duncan Sheik
I Believe (feat. Michael Franti & Nahko) 3:23 SOJA
SuNu 5:05 Rising Appalachia
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Tribal 4:09 Badmarsh & Shri
Mad World (feat. Safri Duo & Isam B) [Raaban Edit] 3:34 Michael Parsberg
Once a Day (feat. Sonna Rele) 3:58 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Below My Feet 4:52 Mumford & Sons
Unpack Your Heart 3:16 Phillip Phillips
Love Somebody 4:00 Schuyler Fisk
Everything’ll Be Alright 4:07 Catherine MacLellan
Breathing Out 4:56 Shaman’s Dream

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!

struggle-is-not-the-same-as-suffering-090516

Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

Since I can remember, I’ve seen struggle and suffering as one single thing: seared together like the iron-on patches my mom put on my ToughSkins jeans, melted into one block like a Velveeta grilled cheese on white bread.

The first time I heard the Buddhist saying, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional,” it was as if it was spoken to me in Swahili. What does that even MEAN? Of COURSE, pain is suffering. Crazy Buddhists. Sheesh.

Mindful practice pries open some space between struggle and suffering and gives me a chance to make a choice. Doing something that is uncomfortable but with low stake – like spending time in a yoga posture or dancing all-out to Life During Wartime or sitting in stillness on the cushion — gives me ample opportunity to feel the struggle and then choose.

1. Feel the difference between struggle and suffering.

There is aliveness in struggle. Struggle is a place of learning, growth, of moving into potential. Struggle is where we build things and create things and make things happen. Especially when you are stepping into something difficult – Upward Facing Bow, perhaps, or building a Web site or having a conversation with your teenager — set an intention to notice the difference between struggle and suffering.

In the midst of what you’re doing, feel it fully and notice if there is a secondary layer of pain or discomfort in the form of thoughts telling you that it should be different than it is. Things like “You should be able to do this by now,” or “What is wrong with you (or the Web program) that this is going so crappily?” or simply “This shouldn’t be this difficult” are sure signs you are suffering. Notice the physical sensation of those voices in your head.

2. Feel the difference between making it easier and making it more easeful.

The Buddha called it The Second Arrow (there is a great, short explanation here and a more detailed one here). The pain of life will happen to everyone, that’s the first arrow. The mental entanglements (This isn’t fair! I hate this! Someone did this to me!) around the pain is the second arrow.

Making a situation easier might mean running from or postponing the difficult pose or task or conversation. Making it more easeful can mean staying in the midst of it but letting go of the mental entanglements.

While biking up a hill this morning and a big loud truck came up fast and close by me. It scared me a little (the first arrow) and my mind first went to the second arrow of anger, blame, irritation. When I noticed that, I took a breath, felt my legs working, and kept pedaling. That choice made the situation more easeful  – and pulled out the Second Arrow.

3. Listen to the story

We all have a different Second Arrow Chorus of voices in our heads so it can be useful to get curious about what they are saying. Your mind may paint you as the victim (“People always take advantage of me” or “Nothing good ever happens to me.”), or the unloved one (“I’m excluded or left out again” or “There is something wrong with me.”), or the martyr (“I have to do everything” or “No one helps me.”). Whatever your Chorus sings into your ear, know that your particular ear worm got lodged there a long time ago in a misguided attempt to protect you. Recognizing the (often untrue) stories as suffering can help release their hold and allow us just enough space to choose something different.

4. Know that you will choose suffering (consciously or not).

You are human. No matter how much you practice, it’s likely that you will suffer sometimes. (Even the Dalai Lama must have moments of cranky, right?) The key isn’t releasing suffering permanently and perfectly, but to recognize it when it’s happening (in yourself and others), offer some gentleness and kindness, and see if it’s possible to peel that grilled cheese open and separate the struggle from the suffering.

struggle without suffering hike 090316

“You are imperfect. You are wired for struggle. You are worthy of love and belonging.” ~ Brene Brown

“Gah! This is so easy for you!”

I look up with exasperation at my long-legged husband standing high on a pile of boulders which is actually the trail we’re hiking. He’s only a yard or two ahead of me but the trail is so steep that his feet are in line with my head. In three big easy steps, he has climbed effortlessly up the huge chunks of rock. Now I have to figure out how to hoist myself up there.

He is my best friend and the love of my life but for a moment in the midst of my struggle, I hate him.

Okay, I don’t really hate him. But in small-minded moments, I get all kinds of cranky watching someone do painlessly what I am staggering to accomplish.

On the trail that day, there were two different struggles going on: my body was struggling with the physical difficulty of clambering up the rocky path and my mind was struggling because that’s not the way I wanted it to be. The first is simply a truth about human life. The second is suffering and it’s a choice.

Suffering is the desire for things to be different than they are. I can grapple with something without getting myself twisted up about how the grappling is going. Struggling without suffering is possible, but me wanting a stride as strong and long as Frank’s is suffering.

Struggle less. ~ My yoga teacher, Mia on Tuesday afternoon
Struggle more. ~ My yoga teacher, Julia on Wednesday afternoon

Two instructions from my two teachers might seem contradictory, but they actually speak to the difference between what it means to struggle and what it means to suffer. Mia invites us to relax our minds about how we think our practice should look or feel while we do the postures. Julia invites us to work past the habits and patterns of our practice and dig in to find our fullest expression of even difficult poses. They both could have said, “Struggle without suffering.”

My mind is so intent on avoiding discomfort that when I’m struggling, it is quick to want it to be easier (like it is for THAT FRANK). In that way, my mind almost always lumps struggle and suffering together. As the Zen guys say, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Our minds might want to make them the same but it’s up to us whether or not they are.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl

What would happen if I don’t choose to make struggle and suffering the same thing? What would happen if I allow myself to labor with something (physical, mental or emotional) and see that as part of the human experience rather than something to be avoided? Imagine what we could accomplish, build, create if we were willing to struggle without suffering.

be a peacemaker for 090216

So many thanks to Buck Mountain Episcopal Health & Wellness Ministry for hosting our special class on being a peacemaker in times of hatred. And thanks to all who came out to embody peace!

Below is the playlist from the evening but first, I promised to include links to the resources I referred to and the practices we did together.

Patricia Pearce’s article offered three ways of being a peacemaker
1. Stand in Solidarity with Those Under Attack
2. Love the Person Consumed by Hatred
3. Heal Your Own Mind
You can read her full excellent article here.

The practice of Tonglen is one we can do anytime we are faced with hatred, violence, or suffering of any kind. Imagine suffering as thick, hot, black sticky tar. Inhale and breathe in the black tar of suffering deep into your heart. Exhale, and let it explode and be burned away in the heat of the love and compassion in your heart. Inhale black suffering, exhale an explosion of loving white light.

This is an excellent talk on standing in solidarity with those who need our support and standing with our highest values in times of trouble: The Burning Church talk by Greg Thompson

If you have other resources on this topic, I would love to share them. Please feel free to contribute them to the Focus Pocus facebook page or email them to me at sjmnia@gmail.com. Thank you to all who create peace on earth by first taking the courageous step to create peace within.

Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig
*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs — and sadly, that is definitely the case for this playlist. I highly recommend the 1 Giant Leap albums which use music from artists from around the world who never actually meet. ***

Friday, Sep 2, 2016, 6pm ~ Be A Peacemaker

Peace Train 4:02 Cat Stevens
A Different Space 8:43 Bob Holroyd
The Great Unfolding 4:06 Quinn
Resolution (Rewound By Thievery Corporation) 4:02 Thievery Corporation
Look Up 5:56 Zero 7
Doctor My Eyes 3:21 Jackson Browne
Why Must I Feel Like This Today? [Feat. Baaba Maal, Michael Franti, Ulali, Radio Active & Krishna Das] 9:28 1 Giant Leap
I Have Seen Trouble [Feat. Aluta & Michael Stipe] 7:21 1 Giant Leap
Love Rescue Me 3:48 Playing For Change
Nagual 4:03 Michael Hewett

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!

%d bloggers like this: