Archive

Awareness

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! FocusPocus is now one complete post (art, focus, playlists and announcements) all together on Thursdays! So whether you come to the blog for the art, the information, the music or the latest happenings and offerings, you are in the right place. Every Thursday, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

Bids for our attention and connection are all around us. The invitation of our practice is to notice the bids that come to you and then make a conscious choice about whether you turn toward and accept them or turn away and reject them. Our focus is on the bids that come to us in three areas: relationships, in our movement (and other community) practice, and in your body & heart.

Bids in relationships.

Few things have had as powerful impact on my relationships than the approach of accepting the bid. Once I knew about this idea, I suddenly saw when my partner, friends, students, step-children were offering me a bid for connection, I could make clear choices about how to accept them. Whether it is a direct question (“Do you want to walk up the road with me?”), a subtle comment (“Oh wow, look at that!”) or a sigh, a facial expression or a gesture, I see them all as an attempt to connect. I have also noticed when I am or am not making bids in my relationships. Here are a few things to give you more about how bids happen in relationships:

The Easiest Way to Improve Your Relationship | The Gottman Institute

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Emotional Bids

When It Comes to Relationships The Little Things Count

Bids in class.

In the moving experiences we do together (and really, any group experience whether it’s a team at work, your worship community or a PTO meeting), there is an abundance of bids for attention and connection. The teacher or leader may suggest or offer something and it’s up to each of us how to respond. Do we turn toward the offering or do we receive it more neutrally or do we actively reject it? The music in class bids for attention with its rhythms, melodies and sounds. Again, how do you respond to the bids from the music? Do you turn toward it or turn away?

Bids in your body & heart.

The body is constantly offering sensation ~ it is the language of the body. Emotions and thoughts also have physical sensations that are giving us information about what is happening in our body/mind. Just like your partner asks for our attention, or the mc bids for us to respond, the body offers sensation for us to turn toward or away from. Do I adjust how I’m moving or what I’m doing based on what I sense or do I override the sensation and ignore it?

It is my hope that the practice of noticing and responding to bids for connection will enrich your relationships, your interactions in your practices and in your community and your connection with your self. And as always, I love hearing from you! Please comment below about what you noticed about the bids that came to you this week.

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

Lots of events are unfolding, friends, so before the playlists, here is all the details on what’s coming up!

TEDx Charlottesville at the Paramount Theater on Friday, Nov 8!
One of my very favorite Charlottesville event is happening this week! TEDx Charlottesville is a delicious day of inspiration, community and connection. Over 20 speakers will share their most impassioned ideas worth sharing in the beautiful historic Paramount Theater. You’ll be well-fed in body, mind and spirit. I am coaching two of the speakers: Sahara Clemons (speaking in the morning) and Tim Cunningham (speaking in the afternoon). Tickets are still available! And if you aren’t in Cville or can’t join us, you can check out the live feed on Friday here.

Full Moon Restorative Yoga with Shandoah Goldman ~~ Mon, Nov 11, 430-6pm ~~~ SOLD OUT! WAITING LIST STARTED…
The full moon is a time of completion. The fullness of the cycle lends itself to a practice of non-doing. Join Shandoah Goldman at The Studio at Dancing Water (2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville) for a deeply nourishing practice of restorative yoga. Using props to offer support and comfort, the body is invited to profoundly let go and unwind. Rather than efforting or stretching, this is the practice of releasing and relaxing. We’ll celebrate what is finished and soften into the next cycle. Shandoah is a gifted guide for deep release and is a Shiatsu practitioner offering hands on assists during class. All bodies welcome, no experience in yoga or anything else is needed.
Monday (Moonday!), Nov 11, 430-6pm at The Studio at Dancing Water, $30

Nia teaching shift ~ Loring on Wednesdays at 11am, Rachel on Tuesdays at 545pm
After teaching almost exclusively at acac for nearly 20 years, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to teach mindful movement in a healing environment. I’ve been offered the chance to move with people recovering from eating disorders and in order to do it, I will let go of the Wednesday 11am class. Starting on October 30, Loring will teach on Wednesdays at Albemarle Square so I can follow this opportunity. Jeanne’s circumstances have also shifted so starting on October 29, Rachel will be teaching the Tuesday evening class at 545pm.

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings at 11am!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 11am ~~ my mix of guided and unguided movement, meditation and creativity! Please go to http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop for the details. Come join us in the trees by the river for grounded, flowing, spacious movement. Second Thursdays are followed by a pot luck lunch! Nourish yourself with movement and bring something nourishing to share! There is space in upcoming classes so please go HERE to sign up!
* The Studio at Dancing Water is at 2370 Old Lynchburg Road ~ detailed directions at http://www.susanmcculley.com and via email when you sign up!

November Nourishment at Dancing Water ~ 2 Nourishing Movement classes for $20!
As the holidays approach, nurture yourself with 2 classes of Nourishing movement at The Studio at Dancing Water. Two Thursdays, November 14 and 21 from 11-12:15pm for just $20. Must be purchased by November 14!

Scholarships Available for all Experiences at The Studio at Dancing Water
We have delicious experiences coming up at The Studio AND we have scholarships available for them. If finances are stopping you from joining us, please reach out and let me know (PM me or connect at sjmnia@gmail.com).

Book Signing and Art Demonstration at Cville Arts
Saturday, December 14, 11-12noon
Come see how Octabusy was made with an art demonstration and book signing at Cville Arts on the downtown mall!

ORDER OCTABUSY!
Support local booksellers by ordering Octabusy
at Over The Moon Bookstore in Crozet (overthemoonbookstore.com, (434) 823-1144, Anne@OvertheMoonBookstore.com)
and buy it at New Dominion Bookshop on Charlottesville’s downtown mall (ndbookshop.com, 434-295-2552, staff@ndbookshop.com)
You can also order signed copies of Octabusy (including discounts on multiple copies) now on my website at susanmcculley.com/shop
and get Kindle and paperback editions on Amazon!
(And wherever you buy it, please leave a review there!)

The Movement Barn offers the GYROTONIC Method
Note from Susan: I recently had the good fortune to meet, move and have a GYROTONIC session with Casey Turner. I love the circular, functional, mindful approach of this technique. And I loved doing it with a view of the mountains in a field of flowers! Please check out her beautiful offerings.
The Movement Barn is a boutique fitness studio in Charlottesville, VA offering private GYROTONIC® sessions in a picturesque setting. Located in a field of wildflowers, The Movement Barn provides a unique workout experience for people of all ages and levels of ability. The GYROTONIC® Method is designed to increase strength, agility, and range of movement. This low impact system uses flowing exercises with circular and spiral motion to open energy pathways, stimulate the nervous system, and create space in the joints. For more information, visit http://www.themovementbarn.com, email catherine@themovementbarn.com, or follow @themovementbarn on Instagram!

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Dec 6 at 11:25am
Nia Freedance is an opportunity to play and tap into the creative wisdom in our body, emotions, mind and spirit. For a full hour we get to dance together with the intention of stimulating our own unique movement creativity. The next Nia Freedance will be at ACAC Albemarle Square Friday, Sep 6 from 11:25 -12:25.

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

Monday, Nov 4, 2019, 1045am ~ Accepting the Bid

Amazing 4:15 One Eskimo
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Wounded In All The Right Places [Feat. k.d. lang] 4:33 1 Giant Leap
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Just Groovin 7:12 Groove Junkies
Gabryelle (Spiritual South Mix) 6:18 Dj Spen
It’s Alright 3:28 Dar Williams
Just Say Yes 4:41 Snow Patrol
Burfli (Hills and Land) 4:49 Global Collective
Landslide 3:20 Fleetwood Mac
The Spirit of the Earth Continues (Floating Earth Remix) 6:32 Cybertribe

Tuesday, Nov 5, 2019, 840am ~ Accepting the Bid

Amazing 4:15 One Eskimo
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Wounded In All The Right Places [Feat. k.d. lang] 4:33 1 Giant Leap
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Just Groovin 7:12 Groove Junkies
Gabryelle (Spiritual South Mix) 6:18 Dj Spen
It’s Alright 3:28 Dar Williams
Just Say Yes 4:41 Snow Patrol
Burfli (Hills and Land) 4:49 Global Collective
Landslide 3:20 Fleetwood Mac
Gentle Exit 4:15 The Happening

Thursday, Nov 7, 2019, 11am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ Accepting the Bid

Give-A-Way 7:21 Alain Eskinasi/Brainscapes
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Wounded In All The Right Places [Feat. k.d. lang] 4:33 1 Giant Leap
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Just Groovin 7:12 Groove Junkies
Gabryelle (Spiritual South Mix) 6:18 Dj Spen
It’s Alright 3:28 Dar Williams
Just Say Yes 4:41 Snow Patrol
Burfli (Hills and Land) 4:49 Global Collective
Landslide 3:20 Fleetwood Mac
Gentle Exit 4:15 The Happening

Am I accepting bids for connection?

This preview of the focus for my classes this week underscores the small choices that we make all the time about whether to turn toward or turn away from any bid for our attention. Whether it’s in relationships, in movement, in community, or in the body, the more we turn TOWARD the bid rather than away, the more we ACCEPT the bid rather than reject it, the healthier our connections are.
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I’ll post much more here on Thursday and for now, be on the lookout for bids for connection in all kinds of realms. I’d love to hear about what you notice.

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! As you may have noticed, I’ve been rolling the two weekly FocusPocus posts (art and content on Sundays, playlists and announcements on Thursdays) into one complete post. So whether you come to the blog for the art, the information, the music or the latest happenings and offerings, you are in the right place. Every Thursday, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

Multitasking. It’s an idea that I have snuggled up to affectionately for years. It never was a relationship that loved me back, though. Even before I learned that the human brain cannot do more than one thing at a time, multitasking always leaves me feeling scattered, jangled and incomplete.

When I was writing my book, Octabusy: How to Let Go in a Sea of Doing, I thought I was being terribly clever to choose an octopus as the main character in my fable about the cultural norm of busyness. What could be a better poster child for doing many things at once than an eight-armed creature?

When I was nearly finished with the book, I read Sy Montgomery’s Soul of an Octopus and learned that an octopus’s nervous system is distributed through its arms and therefore actually can effectively multitask. Gah.

My mistake notwithstanding, the human lesson remains. And in the book, the Sea Turtle is the teacher who reminds Octabusy about the wisdom of doing one thing at a time. She invites the practice of creating space around what we choose to do by pausing, relaxing and then doing.

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

SO MUCH is happening, friends, so before the playlists, here is all the details on what’s coming up!

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings at 11am!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 11am ~~ my mix of guided and unguided movement, meditation and creativity! Please go to http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop for the details. Come join us in the trees by the river for grounded, flowing, spacious movement. Second Thursdays are followed by a pot luck lunch! Nourish yourself with movement and bring something nourishing to share! There is space in upcoming classes so please go HERE to sign up!
* The Studio at Dancing Water is at 2370 Old Lynchburg Road ~ detailed directions at http://www.susanmcculley.com and via email when you sign up!

Restorative Yoga with Octabusy: Letting Go of Doing to Restore Your Most Precious Device ~ Sunday, October 13, 4-6:30pm at The Studio at Dancing Water – JUST 3 SPACES LEFT
What better way to celebrate the release of my book, Octabusy: Letting Go in a Sea of Doing, than an afternoon of deep restorative yoga, a reading and signing of the book, and some refreshment? Join me and my teacher, Shandoah Goldman for a recuperative practice for anyone who needs another coffee, rests only while sleeping, are healing anything, need permission to do nothing, or feel that your energy is running low. You’ll also receive a copy of the book (signed however you’d like ~ and you’ll also be able to buy additional copies of the book at 25% off!).
Shandoah’s guidance will help you recharge your body’s batteries and slow down your nervous system through restorative yoga, shiatsu pressure points, visualizations and breathing techniques. We will use bolsters, blankets and blocks designed to bring your body into postures which access the parasympathetic nervous system and give you the permission for deep rest rather than ‘stretch.’ Prepare to come back to neutral with an energized readiness. Please bring socks, a long sleeve shirt and an extra layer.
I’ll read some from the book and offer tea and refreshment to fill out this truly psychosomatic experience that will leave you restored, recharged and rested. $65 with signed copy of Octabusy. Space is limited, please register here.

Octobusy Launch Celebration at New Dominion Bookshop ~ Saturday, October 19, 7-8pm
I’m thrilled to be celebrating the release of my new book, Octabusy: How to Let Go in a Sea of Doing at the wonderful New Dominion Bookshop on the Charlottesville downtown mall on Saturday evening, October 19 from 7-8pm. I’ll read a little, talk a little, sign a little, snack and do a happy dance! You can get the information here and here and if you can’t be there, you CAN preorder from NDB!

Saturday October 26, 9-12noon – Nourishing the Nervous System with Mindful Movement ~ CLASS IS FULL & WAITING LIST AVAILABLE
NOTE from Susan: I am thrilled, honored, excited to welcome Emily Wright to teach at Dancing Water. She is an extraordinary, approachable, gifted teacher. I can’t wait to do this with her. Will you join me?
The body is a central portal to nervous system regulation. When we are regulated and integrated, we have the capacity to be our most awake, available, creative, curious, flexible selves. Using a blend of guided movement work, journaling, visual art-making, poetry, and mindfulness practices, participants will explore states of autonomic nervous system regulation as a means to establish safe, nourishing connections to ourselves, each other, and the natural world.
About the instructor:
Emily Wright, MFA, PhD, is a movement educator, author, and practitioner. She offers classes and workshops in functional movement, contact improvisation, and intergenerational community dance informed by her extensive background in dance and other somatic disciplines.

Scholarships Available for all Experiences at The Studio at Dancing Water
We have delicious experiences coming up at The Studio AND we have scholarships available for them. Whether you’re interested in Shandoah Goldman’s Restorative Yoga + Octabusy book celebration on Oct 13 or Nourishing Movement classes with me on Thursday mornings at 11am, we can help with any of them. If finances are stopping you from joining us, please reach out and let me know (PM me or connect at sjmnia@gmail.com) .

The Movement Barn offers the GYROTONIC Method
Note from Susan: I recently had the good fortune to meet, move and have a GYROTONIC session with Casey Turner. I love the circular, functional, mindful approach of this technique. And I loved doing it with a view of the mountains in a field of flowers! Please check out her beautiful offerings.
The Movement Barn is a boutique fitness studio in Charlottesville, VA offering private GYROTONIC® sessions in a picturesque setting. Located in a field of wildflowers, The Movement Barn provides a unique workout experience for people of all ages and levels of ability. The GYROTONIC® Method is designed to increase strength, agility, and range of movement. This low impact system uses flowing exercises with circular and spiral motion to open energy pathways, stimulate the nervous system, and create space in the joints. For more information, visit http://www.themovementbarn.com, email catherine@themovementbarn.com, or follow @themovementbarn on Instagram!

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Oct 4 at 11:25am
Nia Freedance is an opportunity to play and tap into the creative wisdom in our body, emotions, mind and spirit. For a full hour we get to dance together with the intention of stimulating our own unique movement creativity. The next Nia Freedance will be at ACAC Albemarle Square Friday, Sep 6 from 11:25 -12:25.

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

Monday, Sep 30, 2019, 1045am ~ One Thing at a Time: Pause. Relax. Do.

Breathe In (feat. Wafia) 3:20 Japanese Wallpaper
From Mumbai 7:20 Sebastian Taylor
Isla De La Piedra 5:05 Phontaine
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
Mundian to Bach Ke 3:46 Panjabi MC
Desert Days 5:31 John Kelley
Inner Membrane 5:19 Govinda
Since Supernatural 4:32 Governor Washington/Melky Jean/Santana
Finally Moving 4:38 Pretty Lights
Melt 5:13 Leftfield
Peace 4:05 George Winston

Tuesday, Oct 1, 2019, 840am ~ One Thing at a Time: Pause. Relax. Do.

Breathe In (feat. Wafia) 3:20 Japanese Wallpaper
From Mumbai 7:20 Sebastian Taylor
Isla De La Piedra 5:05 Phontaine
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
Mundian to Bach Ke 3:46 Panjabi MC
Desert Days 5:31 John Kelley
Inner Membrane 5:19 Govinda
Finally Moving 4:38 Pretty Lights
Melt 5:13 Leftfield
Peace 4:05 George Winston

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2019, 11am ~ One Thing at a Time: Pause. Relax. Do.

Breathe In (feat. Wafia) 3:20 Japanese Wallpaper
Terrapin 4:31 Bonobo
From Mumbai 7:20 Sebastian Taylor
Souk Rok 5:25 Ranu Raraku
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
The Dream of the Blue Turtles/Demolition Man 6:09 Sting
Desert Days 5:31 John Kelley
Inner Membrane 5:19 Govinda
One Of These Things First 4:49 Nick Drake
Sea Turtle 3:41 Balos Hideaway
Melt 5:13 Leftfield
Peace 4:05 George Winston

Thursday, Oct 3, 2019, 11am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ One Thing at a Time: Pause. Relax. Do.

Breathe In (feat. Wafia) 3:20 Japanese Wallpaper
Terrapin 4:31 Bonobo
From Mumbai 7:20 Sebastian Taylor
Sea Turtle 3:41 Balos Hideaway
Gonna Be [Ben Human Remix] 4:10 Mo’ Horizons
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
Desert Days 5:31 John Kelley
Grateful 3:54 Nimesh Patel & Daniel Nahmod
Moon Walking 5:24 Bjarno
Feel Your Body Float 7:29 Anuvida & Nik Tynhall

Saturday, Oct 5, 2019, 9am ~ Guest Teach for Anne

Out Of Town 5:20 Cantoma
Leaving Babylon 6:42 Bluetech
Back Home 5:19 Fishtank
In This Love Together 5:12 Michael Bernard Beckwith
BOOM 2:45 X Ambassadors
Shadowman 6:36 Afro Celt Sound System
Hermes 4:08 Santana
Gold Dust Woman 5:02 Fleetwood Mac
Stand Up 3:41 Sugarland
Gravity 4:06 John Mayer
Lavender Hill 4:33 Lex van Someren
Ascension 4:52 Lex van Someren

I have a friend who listens to me with his whole being. He sits absolutely still and just…listens. Not many people in our culture do this. At first, it was disconcerting. I thought that maybe he wasn’t understanding me because he wasn’t nodding or “uh-huh”-ing or anything. He gets still and listens with the intention to understand. He listens to really hear me. And his listening sometimes allows him to hear things that even I can’t hear. He can hear what I am saying and also what I’m not. There is something deeply nourishing about talking with him. I can feel it in my cells.

It’s as simple as this:

Deep listening = Paying close attention

Paying close attention = Love

Deep listening = Love

So my question for you is this: what are you listening to? who are you listening to? can you listen deeply? what are you half listening to? listening to while doing other things? listening to while deciding what you’ll say in response?

What are you deeply, fully, completely listening to?

Whatever it is, you are loving it.

Listen and love.

A NOTE about the Focus Pocus art: I am in the middle of a book project called Octabusy: How To Let Go in a Sea of Doing. I’m excited about it and want to focus my art-making energy on it. So instead of making complex art pieces for the Focus Pocus blog, I make cartoons like this one that feature characters from the book. This week, the Sea Star (an expert in small steps and choices) goes where she wants to go one tiny choice at a time.

Three years ago this month, my husband Frank and I put an offer on the land on which our house now stands. We made the big choice to build a house three years ago but what got the house built was thousands and thousands of small choices every day. Each night when he came back from working on the project, I’d ask how it went that day. Each night, he’d tell me what they’d done and say, “Little by little, sweetie. Little by little.” Three years later, we’re living in the result of that series of choices.

From September to June, I was part of the coaching team for my friend, teacher, and nutritionist Cecily Armstrong’s transformational healing program called Love Your Body Love Your Life. I loved being part of this experience and witnessing the changes that this group of courageous woman made over the time we spent together. Near the end of the program, a participant shared a story about saying no to toxic food at an office gathering. In response, Cecily said something that keeps coming back to me:

“Small Choices Matter. You Matter.”

How many times? How many times do I intend to do something (or not do something), but when I’m tired or stressed or hungry I don’t. And how many times when this happens, I hear myself say, “Gah, it doesn’t matter.” What Cecily points out is that saying this is really saying “I don’t matter.”

In her program A Year to Clear, Stephanie Bennet Vogt invites this journaling prompt:

• Telling myself that “I matter” makes me feel______ (psst, notice any weather (emotional waves) that arises as you contemplate this statement and breathe into that)

When presented with this prompt, I sometimes bump into feelings of insecurity or old stories of self-importance come up. And it’s worth investigating what is at the root of the stories. Then I can find ways of reinforcing self-worth and the impact of incremental choices on my broader vision.

When Cecily and I were talking about the “small choices” approach and she shared this genius essay by Alexandrea Franzen called Ice. Imagine being in a frozen room and raising the temperature one degree a day. For a long time, it would seem like nothing was happening but keep at it, one degree a day, the cumulative effect of those small choices would transform everything.

Whatever we do over and over, day in and day out – whether conscious or not – is the most powerful force there is. As C.S. Lewis said,

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”

Chart the course with big choices — know where you want to go — but know that the way to get there is with the small choices you make every moment.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more information on Cecily Armstrong’s work including her 9-month Love Your Body Love Your Life transformational healing program, you can go to her website and sign up for her FREE online workshops
Cecily Armstrong Web siteWeb siteWeb site
Cecily’s Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom ~ 3 mini-workshops
Cecily’s Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom ~ 1-hour workshop

This week’s post and art are from a couple of years ago. I found the approach to be helpful to revisit. I hope you do, too.

~~ Originally posted October 11, 2015 ~~
The first time I hear the phrase it pops me awake in a 615am yoga class at Kripalu . I’ve been on the road for a week. I haven’t slept well for days. It is, as I mentioned, just after 6am. I am fuzzy foggy at best but as soon as the instructor says it, I snap to attention:

How you do anything is how you do everything.

She says it and I think, Wait a minute, no, wait. That’s not right. Is it? We have only just started the class. I am only in Child’s Pose. How is it possible that I am doing Child’s Pose in the same way I do Wheel pose or teach my classes or hug my husband or write my blog?

For an hour, it ricochets around in my head: my argument about it couldn’t be true that how I do anything is how I do everything.

A few years later, I hear it again in another yoga class with an added phrase that also wakes me up:

How you do anything is how you do everything. Let your practice be a metaphor for your life.

The intervening time — that has included a sabbatical from and then a reinvigorated return to teaching and an equally reinvigorated yoga practice — has me more receptive to the idea. I begin to get it that the qualities, the intentions, the habits I bring along with me onto the mat are the same ones I bring everywhere else.

But not just that: Let your practice be a metaphor for your life. I have a choice about how I do everything I do.

The whole concept is intriguing enough that I want to investigate. It seems that the laboratory of the yoga studio is a good place to start. My first step is a down-to-the-bones honest observation. When I think about my yoga practice in the abstract when I’m off the mat, I go quickly to the distortions of I-suck-beat-myself-up or well-hey-I’m-pretty-darn-good-at-that – which is neither accurate nor helpful. Instead, I honestly observe myself as I’m doing my practice and ask myself How do I do this?

This is what I find:
1. I put in a good deal of effort – sometimes more than necessary.
2. I am dedicated to the point of obsession.
3. I am easily distracted until I get in the groove and then I’m focused.
4. I love learning but can get frustrated at the beginning when things are awkward.
5. I compare myself to others (especially in the distracted stage of #3).
6. I am strong and open in some ways, weak and resistant in others.
7. I tend to rush through and want to get to the next part.
8. For better or for worse, I easily fall into habit.
9. Interruptions (especially once I’m in the groove of #3) and the unexpected can upset me.

I’m sure there are other things that are also observable and true about my practice but Yes. That is how I do yoga. But is it how I do everything? Really?

I take my How I Do Yoga list and start running through my life: Writing, teaching, meditation, relationships, art, cooking. Gosh, would you look at that? Spot on. Every one. Every. Single. One.

Dang.

This is somehow simultaneously humbling and comforting. There I am. On the yoga mat, on the dance floor, at my desk, in my kitchen, in my life.

So the question is, what do I do with this metaphor for my life? I look at how I do yoga and ask, Is this how I want to do yoga? Is that how I want to teach? And write? And draw? And make dinner? And love people?

Some of it yes and some of it not so much. The truth is I can take the current metaphor and I can edit it. Just like I rework sentences and paragraphs in my posts so they are in closer alignment with what I want to say, I can choose to adjust my practice to be in closer alignment to how I’d like to live. And those edits on the mat will expand into everything I do.

Aritostle, widely remembered as an extremely clever guy, said [2019 NOTE: Turns out that not Aristotle, but Will Durant said this. More on that here.]

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

I have a choice about the habits I cultivate on the mat and in my classes and in my writing and everywhere. As I make even small changes to doing anything, how I do everything will change, too.

It’s like an essay that I am reworking or a routine I’ve taught many times: Observe. Edit. Repeat.

So. (And you knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

How do you practice? How do you do the chores? How do you drive? How do you talk to people? What are your habits? Are they what you want them to be? Observe. Edit. Repeat.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

A NOTE about the Focus Pocus art: I am in the middle of a book project called Octabusy: How To Let Go in a Sea of Doing. I’m excited about it and want to focus my art-making energy on it in the next couple of months. So instead of making more complex art pieces for the Focus Pocus blog, I make little cartoons like this one that features characters from the book. This week, Octabusy is counseled by the sea turtle and hatchet fish to remember to BOTH mix it up and keep it stable.

How does the wisdom of an ancient Greek philosopher (as interpreted by a 20th Century writer) and a Belgian psychotherapist intersect? What does that wisdom have to do with movement and living in the human body?

Last week, we focused on Mixing It Up and how variety — whether it is in our diets, our movement or our relationships — brings health and aliveness to any system. As we practiced together, I noticed that variety was not the only thing at play. There was something at the root of the experimentation and exploration.

Aristotle wrote, “as it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy….these virtues are formed in man by his doing the right actions.” You might be more familiar with Will Durant’s explanation of Aristotle (words which are often misattributed to Aristotle himself):

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Will Durant (Not Aristotle)

Accumulation of repeated actions that give a result. What we do over and over builds our lives. Mindfully choosing what we do over and over, then determines the kind of life we live.

As much as I teach and practice changing things up and breaking habit, I also know the deep importance of intentional, value-driven, positive habit formation. As human beings, our brains respond to repetition and predictability. We are wired to expend a large amount of mental energy on learning something. Our brains then quickly shift to making it a habit.

Think about a time when you learned something new — whether it was a movement pattern or a foreign language or a new app. What did that feel like? I sometimes call the feeling of leaning “egg beater brain” — as if my neuropathways are scrambling to reconfigure themselves. Once we’ve learned something, our brains then do their very best to make it routine. This is when we are *practicing* something that we’ve learned. This is an utterly different sensation, right? This is the difference between roughly bushwhacking a trail through the forest, and walking it every day, clearing the way and making it easier and easier to walk that same path. After a while, taking that path becomes familiar, easy, peaceful. Walking that path might allow you to be so relaxed that it’s transportive and expansive.

Athletes and artists often call this the flow state. And we need this, we need the stability of familiarity and the groundedness of the known in order to open to creativity and possibility.

Relationship therapist Esther Perel’s amazing podcast Where Should We Begin? looks squarely at the intricacies of intimacy and reveals that human beings fundamentally need both stability and excitement. She writes:

“Love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning.” ― Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic

Without stability, we have nothing to launch off from. Security allows us to relax. Without adventure and change, parts of ourselves wither and die. Whether you are in a long-term relationship with another person or not, we all have one relationship that we all have had since day one: our relationship with our body.

How can you create this balance of security and adventure, of practicing and learning, of stability and mobility in your body, your movement, your life?

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