Sharing What You Sense

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

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

P13 sharing guinea pigs

Principle 13 – Sharing What You Sense

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

When we began teaching Nia in 1983, … we just moved and focused on pleasure and pain, two sensations we knew well. Over time and with practice, something amazing began to happen: We began to develop a deeper awareness of all body sensations—and so too did our students, as we shared what we sensed with them.

…we realized the simplest of truths: it is through the body that we are able to connect to the whole being: body, mind, emotions and spirit. This truth continues to be the foundation of Nia.

Nia is about allowing people to have their own revelations, discoveries and experiences by simply sensing their bodies—and most importantly, by connecting to the Joy of Movement.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“I don’t teach no devotees. I only teach teachers.” ~  Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland

During the TEDx Charlottesville talks on Friday, I only cried once. This is an extraordinary thing since I cry at most everything: romantic movies, when the underdog wins, and at pretty much any flashmob video (especially ours!).

The TEDx Charlottesville talk that brought me to tears was given by the three co-founders of the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore – Ali Smith, Atman Smith and Andres Gonzalez – and two of their young teachers. The three men started the Holistic Life Foundation in 2001 to nurture the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care. Part of their presentation was a video that showed scenes from their elementary after-school program: dozens of kids in stocking feet on pink and purple mats breathing with eyes closed and later shrieking with joy at the prospect of getting to do Tree Pose.

In Atman’s part of the talk, he said that following their own yoga teacher’s wisdom, they strive to teach teachers not students. By empowering even pre-school kids to lead their peers and their families, the HLF programs expand their reach deep into the community. It makes sense. Teach a devotee and they are dependent on the teacher. Teach a teacher, and they spread the learning.

This week, we reach the last principle in the Unofficial Guide: Principle 13 ~ Sharing What You Sense. Officially, this principle is about how Nia teachers share what they sense with their students.  But I’m with Atman’s yoga teacher: I’m more interested in teaching teachers.

The Official Principle 13 has a three-step process to Sharing What You Sense: listen to the music, dance to the music, share what you sense. Two parts receiving to one part sharing. From a Nia teaching perspective, the benefit of this is that what the teacher says comes from an embodied experience rather than her head. Nia, when taught from Principle 13, is an experience of feeling rather than thinking.

From our unofficial, practical, Nia-or-not perspective, I suggest a similar three-part process: listen, embody, and share. Whether you are designing gardens or raising children or writing novels or dancing Nia: first listen, then embody, then share.

Listen ~ to the people around you, to the sounds around you, to the intuition within you. Be open to what is happening around you and inside you. Whatever the activity, be present in it.

Embody ~ bring your whole self to whatever you are doing. Use your body to sense and move and embrace what you’re doing. Use your mind to investigate and inquire and discover. Use your emotions to make an authentic connection to your experience. No one can do this like you can, so bring yourself fully to it.

Share ~ share something from your experience. Tell someone something about what you learned or what inspired you or what moved you. Pass on a picture you took or a poem you wrote or bread that you baked. Share an article that excited you or a practice that helped you or a film that changed you. Let the ripples of benefit keep going. Be a teacher.

At the end of the Holistic Life Foundation presentation, 10-year-old Shamar Brooks led the sold-out Paramount Theater in a love exercise. He invited us to close our eyes, see the light within us and tell ourselves, “I love you.” Then he had us tell a person sitting nearby and finally to say “I love you” to everybody in the theater. I’m pretty sure mine were not the only tears in the house.

The TED motto is “ideas worth spreading” and the HLF ideas are most definitely worth spreading.

Unofficially, the Principle 13: Sharing What You Sense motto is “sensations worth spreading.”

Don’t keep it to yourself. Be a teacher. Pass it on.

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