When my friend, Mimi Steele, told me about the One Billion Rising campaign to stop violence against women around the world, I was dumbfounded by the statistics: one in three women in the course of their lifetimes will be beaten or raped. Honestly, I had no idea. Or more honestly, I never really paid close enough attention to realize how ubiquitous abuse really is. (I wrote yesterday about a rude awakening at my kitchen table.)
When presented with a problem of such global and cultural proportions, an issue which is condoned by many governments and religions, it can feel like too much for me. I tend to either look away or feel overwhelmed and despair. I see now that this isn’t an abstract problem that is happening (only) in African tribes, but something that affects women I know and love right here where I live. At the very least, I need to have the courage to have the conversation. To ask the questions and to ask for help. By taking the issue out of the newspapers and bringing it to our kitchen tables, we connect rather than isolate. Together, we can make choices for positive change (in ourselves and in the world) and to take care of ourselves and each other.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
The practice of Nia speaks directly to this need for strength and courage. I believe that physical health and well-being is directly connected with our ability to think clearly and act courageously. Nia strengthens every part of the body, including the heart, with natural, unstylized movements. Instead of repetitively jumping, bouncing or pounding the body, Nia offers Principle 7: The Three Planes of Movement and Intensity Levels. By changing the position of the heart in relationship to the floor – sometimes low, sometimes in the middle, others up high – the heart is naturally and powerfully strengthened. By making personal choices in every moment regarding the intensity of our movements, we are empowering ourselves to move in a way that is both challenging and healing.
As Debbie Rosas, the co-founder of The Nia Technique, writes about Principle 7:
“The Three Planes of Movement teach you to create elegant whole-body motions as you ride the waves of ‘up’ and ‘down.’ Moving and dancing in all three planes creates rich, comprehensive actions that tone, strengthen, and stretch your body as a whole, instead of in isolated parts. The Three Intensity Levels provide the freedom to personalize your movement, putting you in charge of how much or how little you do, while guiding you to push into new levels of conditioning and potential. This allows you to get the most out of everything you put in!”
The Body’s Way and the practice of Nia strengthen the heart. The practice also reminds us that our lives and choices are all connected – within us and around us.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin
The root of the word “courage” is “coeur” — French for heart. The heart of strength is courage and the center of courage is heart. Dictionary.com’s definition notwithstanding, I believe that courage does not mean fearlessness. Courage is the willingness to persevere despite threat, danger or fear. And that willingness takes heart.
For me, my practice is a reminder that my life, however blessed, is not isolated from those who are suffering. Interconnection is The Body’s Way and it is dharma: the way things are. The One Billion Rising routine is an invitation to sense the interconnections in our bodies, to feel the strengthening of our hearts and to engage our courage to face what is wrong. As a beloved minister, Wayne Arnason, wrote:
Take courage, friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.
This week, whether we are dancing together or just spinning together on the planet, may we cultivate our own strength, nourish our courage, and be reminded of our connection. This is so important. Whether you are a woman or a man. Whether you have been a victim of violence or not. I would so love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share a comment below!
Happy Valentine’s and One Billion Rising Week!
If you need help or if you want to help, please see the list of resources on the One Billion Rising page on the Helpful Info menu to the right.