On January 17, 2019, Mary Oliver died.

She was one of my favorite poets and her writing has changed me and my work. The first time I heard her words was at a Unitarian Universalist church in the late 1990s. I’m not sure if it was Wild Geese or In Blackwater Woods or what it was, but it took my breath away. How could someone so clearly and succinctly say what I didn’t even know I wanted to say? She taught me things that I thought I knew, but didn’t until I heard her poem. Since then, I’m reminded over and over that she saw and expressed what really matters in this world. Mary Oliver got to the essence of things.

Two of her poems, Three Things to Remember and Instructions for Living a Life, have particularly impacted my creative work and teaching. Three Things is in the piece of art above. I love it not only for its mention of dancing but for its reminder that rules are often self-imposed. As a first born, I can get attached to following them and getting others to follow them, too. More and more though, I know that “there are fewer rules than you think” (as my friend and teacher, Mary Linn Bergstrom says).

What is your relationship to rules? Are you a follower? Does “doing it right” matter to you? Or does “doing it right” get you stuck? Or both? Are you a rebel? Are you someone who wants to know what the rules are just so you know what you are not going to do? When do you want to follow rules and when do you think they get in the way?

This is her poem, Instructions for Living a Life:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

And this is the piece of art I made based on her poem.

I made this piece at one of my own workshops on creativity called Living Life As An Artist. Ironically, it is the first piece of art I ever sold. Think of that: Mary Oliver made me a professional artist.

What do you think of her instructions? Do you follow them? Do you follow them in only some situations? Is there one you do more than the others?

Since her death, I’ve reconnected to Mary Oliver’s work and how it’s impacted me. I’ve also been introduced to poems I either had forgotten or didn’t know. If you have a favorite Mary Oliver poem, will you please share it? I may work them into class somehow or share them in some way or make art with them or … something.

Poetry gives us a new look at things we might not have noticed before — including parts of ourselves. I’d love to hear how poetry, Mary Oliver’s and others’, has changed how you see things, how you see yourself, or how you live. Please leave a comment below to share your favorite poem and your experience of poetry power.

Here’s to following instructions and breaking rules.

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Our focus this week was on distinguishing between tension and tone, unconscious and conscious, habit and choice. As the Joseph Campbell model of the self indicates, we can use our practice to bring more of our experience “above the line” into awareness.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, we also danced the One Billion Rising 2019 playlist on both Tuesday night and Thursday morning. Bringing social patterns and “habits” into awareness, we rise and stand and dance for change, It is another way we can bring more of the world “above the line.”

Below are our playlists for the week. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! As always, please let me know if you have any questions about any of the music we dance to!

And friends, I am always ALWAYS looking for new music. Do you have a song that you love to move to or that moves you? I’d love to know what it is! Please respond in the comments below or email me at sjmnia@gmail.com!

Before the playlists, some announcements of things that are happening!

Celebration of Mary Oliver ~ Focus Next Week
On January 17, 2019, Mary Oliver died. She was one of my favorite poets and her words have had a powerful impact on me and my work. Next week, we will use as our focus two particularly powerful poems. One of the gifts of her death is that I’ve been introduced to poems I either had forgotten or didn’t know. If you have a favorite Mary Oliver poem, please share it either in the comments below or send it to me via email at sjmnia@gmail.com. I may work them into class somehow or … something. Looking forward to celebrating her deeply insightful view of the world.

Buddha Cat Available at Local Stores!
I’m so grateful for the local stores who are carrying my book and art. New Dominion has both books and prints/cards! Over the Moon has books and cards. Cville Arts has books and art and this month, I’ll be featured in the front window! Please go check it out! And please go to my web site to find a complete listing of where to find Buddha Cat and more!

Buddha Cat on Amazon
Buddha Cat is now also available on the world’s largest retailer! You can find both Kindle and paperback editions! AND if you are already a reader and fan, PLEASE would you write a review? A review is one of the most powerful things you can do to spread the word. Find the book listing here! Thank you for your energy and support!

Author Fest 2019 at the Waynesboro Public Library
On Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Waynesboro Public Library will host its 5th Annual Author Fest. The event is free for both authors and the public. Buddha Cat and friends will be there. More information and details to come!

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

Monday, Feb 11, 2019, 1045am ~ Tension vs. Tone

The Day After Everything Changed 4:30 Ellis Paul
Let The Groove Get In 7:12 Justin Timberlake
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36
Reconfluence 6:19 Bob Holroyd
Let It Whip 4:43 Dazz Band
Didji Dance 4:41 Ganga Girl
Life Is Better With You 3:19 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Groove Is You (feat. Al Agami & Hush Forever) 6:27 Deep Dive Corp.
Mad World 3:03 Alex Parks
Hymn to the Fallen 4:43 Voces8

Tuesday, Feb 12, 2018, 840am ~ Tension vs. Tone

Something 3:04 George Harrison
Let The Groove Get In 7:12 Justin Timberlake
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36
Reconfluence 6:19 Bob Holroyd
Let It Whip 4:43 Dazz Band
Didji Dance 4:41 Ganga Girl
The Groove Is You (feat. Al Agami & Hush Forever) 6:27 Deep Dive Corp.
Mad World 3:03 Alex Parks
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Tuesday, Feb 12, 2018, 545pm ~ One Billion Rising: Bring it Above the Line

Walking Prayers 3:55 Gina Loring
RISE UP 3:23 Sussan Deyhim
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Put a Woman in Charge (feat. Rosanne Cash) 4:05 Keb’ Mo’
Break The Chain 4:32 Tena Clark One Billion Rising
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane One Billion Rising
Nasty Woman 4:06 Ara Lee
Didji Dance 4:41 Ganga Girl
Get Up 4:51 Badmarsh & Shri
I Know 3:49 Dionne Farris
Phenomenal Woman 4:24 Ruthie Foster
Light of a Clear Blue Morning 4:15 The Wailin’ Jennys

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2018, 11am ~ Tension vs. Tone

Something 3:04 George Harrison
Let The Groove Get In 7:12 Justin Timberlake
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36
Reconfluence 6:19 Bob Holroyd
Nasty Woman 4:06 Ara Lee
Didji Dance 4:41 Ganga Girl
Break The Chain 4:32 Tena Clark One Billion Rising
The Groove Is You (feat. Al Agami & Hush Forever) 6:27 Deep Dive Corp.
Mad World 3:03 Alex Parks
Let It Go  2:16 Jamie Catto & Alex Forster

Thursday, Feb 14, 2018, 840am ~ One Billion Rising: Bring it Above the Line

Walking Prayers 3:55 Gina Loring
RISE UP 3:23 Sussan Deyhim
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Put a Woman in Charge (feat. Rosanne Cash) 4:05 Keb’ Mo’
Break The Chain 4:32 Tena Clark One Billion Rising
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane One Billion Rising
Nasty Woman 4:06 Ara Lee
Didji Dance 4:41 Ganga Girl
Get Up 4:51 Badmarsh & Shri
I Know 3:49 Dionne Farris
Phenomenal Woman 4:24 Ruthie Foster
Light of a Clear Blue Morning 4:15 The Wailin’ Jennys

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!

“Tone your core and let the tension go from your face,” says every yoga teacher I’ve ever had whenever they watch me practice.

Mindfulness notices what’s happening. Mindfulness notices what I mean to be doing and what I don’t.

Sense yourself right now.
Where in your body are you holding unnecessarily? That’s tension.
Where are you intentionally engaged? That’s tone.
Both are muscle contractions but they have different sensations and impact the body differently.

Joseph Campbell’s model of the human psyche is a circle with a horizontal line running through it. Everything above the line is conscious, what we know is happening. Tone is above the line. Everything below the line is unconscious. It’s in the dark. Tension is below the line. (In the art above, notice the difference in the definitions of the two words!)

Our practice of mindful movement is an opportunity to get more of our experience above the line.

As we practice noticing, we discern between the sensations of tension and tone. Tension is rooted in habit and anxiety. Tension is a feeling of bracing for some nameless unknown dangerous thing. Tone is rooted in awareness and intention. Tone is a feeling of strength, support and purpose.

Tension and tone happen in our minds and hearts, too. As you move through your days, play with discerning between the tone and tension. See about moving more moments above the line.

WANT TO EXPLORE MORE? A few months ago, we practiced noticing where we grip and inquiring into what it has to teach us. (You can find the post here.)


Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian (Murri) visual artist and activist says, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
This week we explored and danced and lived the power of connection – between body parts and people – and the paradox that the deeper I’m connected, the freer I am.

Below are our playlists for the week. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! As always, please let me know if you have any questions about any of the music we dance to!

And friends, I am always ALWAYS looking for new music. Do you have a song that you love to move to or that moves you? I’d love to know what it is! Please respond in the comments below or email me at sjmnia@gmail.com!

Before the playlists, some announcements of things that are happening!

Buddha Cat Available at Local Stores!
I’m so grateful for the local stores who are carrying my book and art. New Dominion has both books and prints/cards! Over the Moon has books and cards. Cville Arts has books and art and this month, my work is featured in the front window!

Please go check it out! And please go to my web site to find a complete listing of where to find Buddha Cat and more!

Buddha Cat on Amazon
Buddha Cat is now also available on the world’s largest retailer! You can find both Kindle and paperback editions! AND if you are already a reader and fan, PLEASE would you write a review? A review is one of the most powerful things you can do to spread the word. Find the book listing here! Thank you for your energy and support!

Author Fest 2019 at the Waynesboro Public Library
On Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Waynesboro Public Library will host its 5th Annual Author Fest. The event is free for both authors and the public. Buddha Cat and friends will be there. More information and details to come!

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

Monday, Feb 4, 2019, 1045am ~ (I)llness vs. (We)llness

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
If You Love Somebody Set Them 4:16 Sting
Sometimes 4:06 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Give Love (Infinite Love Mix) 5:29 MC Yogi
Free 7:01 Funky Green Dogs
Body Language / Interpretation 5:00 Booka Shade
Wherever You Are 3:15 Michael Franti & Spearhead
All We Are 3:37 Matt Nathanson
Hey World (Don’t Give Up Version) 4:09 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Light 4:29 The Album Leaf

Tuesday, Feb 5, 2018 ~ (I)llness vs. (We)llness

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
If You Love Somebody Set Them 4:16 Sting
Sometimes 4:06 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Give Love (Infinite Love Mix) 5:29 MC Yogi
Wherever You Are 3:15 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Free 7:01 Funky Green Dogs
Life Is Better With You 3:19 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Hey World (Don’t Give Up Version) 4:09 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Light 4:29 The Album Leaf

Wednesday, Feb 6, 2018, 11am ~ (I)llness vs. (We)llness

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
If You Love Somebody Set Them 4:16 Sting
Sometimes 4:06 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Freedom 4:29 Nicole C. Mullen
Free Souls Part 3 (DUBLEX INC. Remix) 5:43 Nickodemus & Osiris
Body Language / Interpretation 5:00 Booka Shade
Wherever You Are 3:15 Michael Franti & Spearhead
I’m You: You Are Me and We Are You (Pt. Me and You) 6:33 Maxwell
Let’s Stay Together 3:17 Al Green
The Light 4:29 The Album Leaf

Thursday, Feb 7, 2018, 840am ~ (I)llness vs. (We)llness

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
Sometimes 4:06 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Freedom 4:29 Nicole C. Mullen
Free Souls Part 3 (DUBLEX INC. Remix) 5:43 Nickodemus & Osiris
Body Language / Interpretation 5:00 Booka Shade
Wherever You Are 3:15 Michael Franti & Spearhead
I’m You: You Are Me and We Are You (Pt. Me and You) 6:33 Maxwell
Let’s Stay Together 3:17 Al Green
The Light 4:29 The Album Leaf

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!

As much as I love dancing in my kitchen (livingroom/office/car, etc.), I teach because it feels better to dance together. Way better.

Something happens when we move together. Something shifts when we are sharing the space, the music, and the experience. It happens over and over, I walk into the studio feeling stuck or tired or low, and walk out feeling…well.

Years ago, Integral Yoga founder Swami Satchidananda was asked at a health conference what the difference was between illness and wellness. In answer, he wordlessly walked to a blackboard, wrote the two words and circled the “I” and the “We.”

When we isolate and separate ourselves, when we put our attention on the “I,” the result is a kind of illness. The recipe for wellness, on the other hand, is when we connect and recognize ourselves as part of the larger community, the integrated whole.

It’s my limbic or lizard brain that cramps my focus and convinces me that I am separate and alone. When I say (or more often, think), “No one is as injured / sad / crazy / lonley / (fill in the blank) as I am,” it’s my limbic brain is driving the train. This separation creates a tightness, a narrow tension that is itself a kind of illness.

No matter what I am experiencing, I am connected to the wider community of life. No matter what is happening, there are millions and millions of others experiencing the same thing. No matter how difficult my circumstances, I am never alone. Expanding and softening into this truth is a step toward wellness.

In the body, one of the most important places of connection is the psoas muscle. These two deep-set muscles start on either side of the lumbar spine at the low back and connect to the inside of the femurs, the thigh bones. Since it is the only muscle to connect the core and the legs, a healthy functioning psoas allows fluid, easeful, pain-free movement and allows stability while moving, bending, and sitting.

More than the postural and kinetic importance of this deepest core muscle, the psoas also connects through the fascia to the diaphragm. This means that a healthy psoas muscle directly impacts your breath and your sense of calm or stress. (Dr. Christiane Northrup has a great article about this here. )

All of which means that a tight or weak psoas is often the source of low back or hip pain, as well as digestive trouble and a hyper-alert nervous system. (Remember our focus a couple of weeks ago about looking around the pain to find what needs healing?) Tending to psoas health, then, is integral to overall health. But instead of thinking of the psoas as a tight, weak place that needs stretching like a brittle rope or a dried-out bungee cord, imagine healing the psoas as a chance to hydrate, soften, and juice this deep connection. Liz Koch’s Core Awareness work uses the approach of “unraveling” the tissue of the psoas. I strongly recommend her teaching and you can learn more here.

Clinical Psychiatry professor, Daniel J. Siegel defines health as integration. In any system – whether it’s a weather system or a human body, a company or a relationship – when the parts are integrated and connected, there is flow and health. When they are disconnected, there is “disintegration.”

Wellness is “we.” Integration is health. In the studio, in the body, and in the world, let’s unravel the tight focus on “I” and instead open to the soft, juicy wellness of connection.


Imagine your body and mind go out for coffee. What kind of conversations do they have? What kind of friendship is between them? Is that the relationship you want to be carrying around inside you every day?

Below are our playlists for the week. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! Check out Michael Franti’s new album Stay Human Vol 2 – it’s full of goodness. In general, please let me know if you have any questions about any of the music we dance to!

And friends, I am always ALWAYS looking for new music. Do you have a song that you love to move to or that moves you? I’d love to know what it is! Please respond in the comments below or email me at sjmnia@gmail.com!

Before the playlists, some announcements of things that are happening!

Buddha Cat Available at Local Stores!
I’m so grateful for the local stores who are carrying my book and art. New Dominion has both books and prints/cards! Over the Moon has books and cards. Cville Arts has books and art and this month, I’ll be featured in the front window! Please go check it out! And please go to my web site to find a complete listing of where to find Buddha Cat and more!

Buddha Cat on Amazon
Buddha Cat is now also available on the world’s largest retailer! You can find both Kindle and paperback editions! AND if you are already a reader and fan, PLEASE would you write a review? A review is one of the most powerful things you can do to spread the word. Find the book listing here! Thank you for your energy and support!

Author Fest 2019 at the Waynesboro Public Library
On Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Waynesboro Public Library will host its 5th Annual Author Fest. The event is free for both authors and the public. Buddha Cat and friends will be there. More information and details to come!

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

Monday, Jan 28, 2019, 1045am ~ Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says

Cantus Inaequalis 3:18 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Beautiful (Radio Mix) 3:54 Audio Adrenaline
May all Beings 6:27 EarthRise SoundSystem
When the Sun Begins to Shine 3:37 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Born This Way 4:20 Lady Gaga
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Stand Up 3:41 Sugarland
Cirrus 5:49 Bonobo
The Flower (feat. Victoria Canal) 3:52 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Winter 5:43 Tori Amos
Plegaria para el Alma de Layla 3:19 Pedro Aznar

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2018 ~ Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says

Cantus Inaequalis 3:18 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Beautiful (Radio Mix) 3:54 Audio Adrenaline
May all Beings 6:27 EarthRise SoundSystem
When the Sun Begins to Shine 3:37 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Born This Way 4:20 Lady Gaga
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Stand Up 3:41 Sugarland
Cirrus 5:49 Bonobo
The Flower (feat. Victoria Canal) 3:52 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Plegaria para el Alma de Layla 3:19 Pedro Aznar

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2018, 11am ~ Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says

Cantus Inaequalis 3:18 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Beautiful (Radio Mix) 3:54 Audio Adrenaline
May all Beings 6:27 EarthRise SoundSystem
When the Sun Begins to Shine 3:37 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Born This Way 4:20 Lady Gaga
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Complicated 4:07 Yonder Mountain String Band
Stand Up 3:41 Sugarland
Cirrus 5:49 Bonobo
The Flower (feat. Victoria Canal) 3:52 Michael Franti & Spearhead
I Won’t Give Up 3:59 Jason Mraz
Winter 5:43 Tori Amos
Plegaria para el Alma de Layla 3:19 Pedro Aznar

Thursday, Jan 31, 2018, 840am ~ Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says

Cantus Inaequalis 3:18 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Beautiful (Radio Mix) 3:54 Audio Adrenaline
May all Beings 6:27 EarthRise SoundSystem
When the Sun Begins to Shine 3:37 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Born This Way 4:20 Lady Gaga
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Complicated 4:07 Yonder Mountain String Band
Cirrus 5:49 Bonobo
Sometimes 4:06 Michael Franti & Spearhead
I Won’t Give Up 3:59 Jason Mraz
Nobody Cries Alone 3:27 Michael Franti & Spearhead

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!

NOTE: If this illustration and focus look familiar, it’s because in December, I wasn’t able to teach to this focus due to unexpected travel. So we’re coming back to it.

Ponder this for a moment.

Nature and experience (and last week’s focus!) show us that everything is connected. Nothing exists in isolation. The body, mind, and emotions are the same. They are all energy in different forms. And they are utterly and inextricably interconnected.

Not long ago, I was running late to teach class and I was all up in my head about what I was teaching and would I be able to pull it off and how I really needed to stop rushing around and how I wished my low back would feel better than it did.

As I slid through the employee breakroom to clock in, there was a basket I’d never seen before with an Alice In Wonderland sign on it:
Inspirational Words ~ Take One.

So I did.

It said, “Your body hears everything your mind says.”

Of course. I know this and I forget. My body is always doing its best for me. Like a loyal and kind friend, it is always doing whatever it can to support me. And it believes me. It believes everything I say.

So if my mind says, “I don’t like the way you look” or “my stupid old low back” or “I hate my knees/thighs/skin” my body hears it all.

If I say out loud, “I’m not angry” when my body knows full-well that I am, what can result but confusion?

If I think, “everybody moves better than I do” or “I am the oldest/fattest/most injured person here” or “nobody is suffering the way I am” or “nobody is as crazy as I am,” my body believes the illusion of disconnection.

If I think, “oh sweetheart, you’re doing great” or “I can feel that you are suffering. What do you need?” or “you have a beauty that no one else has,” how does that feel in my body?

The practice is to pay attention to what my mind says and ask:
Is that something I want to say to a loyal, supportive friend who unconditionally loves me?
Is that what I want to say to a friend who believes everything I say?
Every. Single. Thing.

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