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Awareness

At the heart of the practice of Nia is the principle of awareness. We pay close attention, we invest ourselves in witnessing how we do what we do so we can make conscious choices rather than be carried along by habit.

It is a powerful practice that has served me well for nearly two decades.

I have always thought of awareness and the witness as being objective, non-judging, almost clinical. This is important for seeing things as they are.

But last weekend, at a Mindful Self Compassion workshop with Laura DeVault and Sharon Beckman Brinley, they introduced the idea of Affectionate Awareness. What if I observe myself with both objectivity and kindness? What if I see what is so with tenderness? As if I was observing a close friend or a child? 

Take a moment and think of a time that a friend came to you with a difficulty and they were suffering in some way. Think about how you spoke to them, what tone you used, what your posture was. Then think of a time that you were struggling or that you messed up or failed in some way. How did you speak to yourself?

Imagine for a moment, saying what you say to yourself to your friend. The thought of that took my breath away.

The practice of Mindful Self Compassion is based on the work and research of Kristin Neff and it is full of eye-opening and heart-opening practices. And if you, like me, thought that it all sounds like unicorns and rainbows and that there is really important work that needs doing and other people are suffering more than you are and you don’t deserve this kind of work, think again. MSC is a courageous choice to feel your suffering and others’. It can shift not only your relationship with yourself and those around you, but can shift the discord in our communities and the world.

Learn more about Dr. Neff’s work and the practices that can support you whenever you need them in this Google Talk and her TEDx Talk. Her book on Mindful Self Compassion is here.

Breathe deep and offer yourself some Affectionate Awareness.

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Not long ago, I watched this short video about deafness and music. The piece talks about how sound isn’t something only to be listened to but to be felt with the whole body. It’s really worth watching.

Hearing impaired and deaf folks know that sound is a vibration, a wave that can be felt — not just heard. Anyone can experience what it feels like to listen with every bone, with every cell.

Don’t just listen to music (and birds, and conversation, and the highway breathing and LIFE!), bathe your whole body in sound!

While we were traveling, I kept having this both-and feeling.

How could I feel so much love, see so much beauty, experience so much joy and yet at the very same time, feel grief and fear and deep sadness about what was happening in Charlottesville?

Both. And.
Every day was a practice in opening up to both-and.

It sometimes feels like it would be easier to go with either-or. To go all in with one and ignore the other. But that’s not the way life works.

Life is light and dark
Life is joy and grief.
Life is beauty and ugliness.
Life is both-and.

Connections between bones are what make movement possible. How we align one bone effects the position of those around it. Inevitably, every movement choice ripples through the skeleton.

 

My husband calls his shoulder blades his “wings.” As in, “Ooh, scratch me below my wing.” But the clavicals look like wings to me, too, even though their name means “small key.” The clavical is one of the easiest bones to feel through the skin. Find yours and then turn your palms up and down and see if you can feel it move. Have you ever broken your clavical? It’s the most commonly broken bone in the body.

The design principle of structural hierarchy that is present in your bones – tubular structures made of tubular structures – was used in the design of the Eiffel Tower. Check out this cool (and short) video for more!

When looking at the bones of the feet, there is no question which one is designed to strike the ground! The bone is also known as the os calcis or chalk bone.

“The best way to prepare for the next pose is to be fully in this one.” – Kelly Stine

When I was in 3rd grade Mrs. Schneider had us do an exercise: write down and then tell the class something that you are good at. That clever Mrs. Schneider was way ahead of her time, assigning self-love to 8-year-olds in the early 1970s. I remember feeling uncomfortable to identify something I thought I did well, but I was nothing if not a direction-follower, so I did it.

Here’s what it was: I am organized.

My 3rd-grade-self loved keeping track of things, keeping my notebook in order and organizing what I was supposed to be doing. Even then, I was a list-making-planner, getting ready for what was coming.

To this day, I like having a plan. I like the neatness of a plan. A plan relaxes me and makes me feel ready. And yes thankyouverymuch, I do recognize that it is a way for me to pretend I have control over everything when I utterly and completely do not. I also recognize that this is a nervous person’s strategy. Thinking back on it, I feel tenderness for my little girl self that was already looking for ways of battening down the anxiety hatches.

These days, when my teachers talk about the almighty present moment and about staying in the Now instead of looking forward or back, I chafe a little. I mean, I get it. I know that Now is where life is happening and “Now is a gift; that’s why we call it the present” and all that. But we have to plan things, otherwise, the kids have no money for college, there is no food in the house at dinner time, and we’re homeless when we retire.

My genius yoga teacher, Kelly Stine says, “The best way to prepare for the next pose is to be fully in this one.”

My mind likes to think that I am already doing that, but my body knows different. I can feel it when I do yoga. Before I’m completely in Warrior I, I’m already beginning to open my hips and arms to get into Warrior II. Then, before I get into Warrior II, I’m flipping my front palm and reaching up and back for Reverse Warrior. If I keep projecting myself into the next pose, I’m never really in any of them.

I can feel it in Nia, too. I know another movement is coming up and I don’t really finish the one I’m doing to get the class ready for the next one. Kelly teaches that instead of mushing the two movements together, or having one dribble out, to be fully in the first right up until I’m in the next.

Like my organized, nervous 3rd grade self, I can see that this tendency to be projecting ahead happens often when I’m anxious about something.

Have you ever been at a cocktail party, having a conversation with someone, but they aren’t really looking at you? With eyes and attention wandering, they are casting around the room to see who is there and who might be the next person to talk to.

It’s possible that my love of planning and organizing is a way for me to get myself ready. It’s also a way to dissipate anxiety (social or otherwise) and disengage from whatever is happening in the moment. Instead, I could see whatever I’m doing right now as my planning. Fully engaged, present … and ready.

I don’t want to be a distracted flitting-ahead yogi. I don’t want to be that preoccupied person at the cocktail party. I want to be the one who is fully up to her eyebrows in the conversation she’s having right now. And when it’s over, it’s over and I have another full-on conversation.

I want to be ready now.

Every once in a while, my toes get painful little cracks in them. They always appear in the same place: at the base of my big toes. They hurt like the devil when they show up and given their vulnerable placement, it takes weeks for them to heal. The only way I’ve found to fix them is to tape my toes. It’s not a great look for a barefoot dance teacher but I’ve yet to find a better option.

For years, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening – was it the weather, when I danced on unfamiliar surfaces, what?? Finally, I turned on my witness – high caliber awareness – and paid close attention to what was going on when the toe tape came out. The witness revealed that these teeny injuries happen when I’m learning new choreography and stepping back onto my toes rather than the ball of my foot.

Even with the witness’s observation, I still have to tape up my toes now and again (as anyone in classes this week knows) but at least now I know how I do what I do…and what the consequences are. Without that information, no choice or change is possible.

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

And first the announce-y type things:

Marie-Therese Pain Obituary
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and long-time dancer, Marie Pain. You can find her obituary here. I will be attending the service on Saturday to deliver our community condolences (I have a card if you’d like to sign it) and welcome anyone who would like to join me.

Memorial Day Nia – Monday, May 29 from 11-12:15pm
For the holiday, acac has a slightly modified schedule so on Memorial Day (and all Monday holidays), Nia at acac Albemarle Square will be from 11am-1215pm! Come spend some of your day off with your body and with us!

dance.sit.create… Saturday, Jun 24, 2o17, 8:30am-5pm
Come spend a delicious day playing at the sweet intersection of movement, stillness and art. We’ll explore the creative magic of the number 7 and the power of play for inspiration and restoration. No experience in anything is necessary. All you need is a willingness to see what happens and eat delicious, healthy meals. The retreat provides everything you need for an uplifting, rejuvenating day. Susan offers the structure and guidance for movement, meditation, and creative jaunts. Rebecca caters extraordinary vegetarian, gluten-free, seasonal food (tea, snack, lunch). And it doesn’t stop with one day. Also included is a 6-week series of music, meditations, and prompts to keep you in the flow. Some scholarship is available ~ email me for more on that (sjmnia@gmail.com).
Early Bird: $100 if registered by May 24. Late Bird: $125 if registered by June 20
Limited to 20 participants.
Checks to SusaNia LLC and mailed to 1255 Sunset Avenue Ext., Charlottesville VA 22903 with registration form or at http://www.susanmcculley.com.

dance.sit.create… research question
Please help me prepare for the upcoming retreat by answering this question: Are you an artist? If you said yes, what is it about you and/or your life that makes you one? If you said no, what would have to be different about you and/or your life for you to be one? Please feel free to answer in the comments or PM me! Thanks, y’all.

CHARLOTTESVILLE WHITE BELT TRAINING in September
Our friend, mentor and Nia Trainer, Helen Terry is coming to Charlottesville to offer a White Belt training! White Belt is the first level of Nia training, designed to provide body-centered training to anyone interested in living better in a body or teaching Nia. Helen is a First Generation Nia Trainer, chosen years ago by the creators of Nia to be one of the first Nia trainers. She’ll be retiring soon, so don’t miss your chance to learn from this amazing teacher and trainer! For more information and to register, please visit: https://nianow.com/node/1139984. Please feel free to contact Mary Linn at marylinnl@acac.com with any questions!
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 . ***

Sunday, May 7, 2017, 3pm ~ Love Warrior at the Quaker Friends Meeting House

I See Fire 5:01 Ed Sheeran
Beauty & the East (Banco de Gaia Remix) 6:51 Bombay Dub Orchestra
Wristband 3:18 Paul Simon
Mexican Chef 3:49 Xenia Rubinos
Ain’t No Man 3:34 The Avett Brothers
American Idiot 2:54 Green Day
Faith (feat. Ariana Grande) 2:43 Stevie Wonder
Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar) 4:50 Beyoncé
That’s What Makes Us Great (feat. Bruce Springsteen) 3:25 Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers
Revolution 3:40 Coco Love Alcorn
This Land Is Your Land 4:38 Little Feat
Mercy 4:31 Dave Matthews Band
We Are the Ones 2:51 Sweet Honey In the Rock
Gentle Exit 4:15 The Happening

Monday, May 8, 2017, 1045am ~ Witness Choice Variety

Here We Go 5:59 Deep Dive Corp. Ft. Hush Forever
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Torch 7:49 Bob Holroyd
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
Any Way You Want It 3:24 Journey
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Elephant (Dub) 6:07 Spiral System
Empty Vessel 3:46 Bob Holroyd
Stillpoint 4:18 Oliver Shanti & Friends

Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 840am ~ Witness Choice Variety

Here We Go 5:59 Deep Dive Corp. Ft. Hush Forever
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Torch 7:49 Bob Holroyd
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
#1 Spice 3:51 Young Cardamom & HAB
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Elephant (Dub) 6:07 Spiral System
Empty Vessel 3:46 Bob Holroyd
10 Questions for the Dalai Lama 3:15 Peter Kater

Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 11am ~ Witness Choice Variety

We Are All Connected 7:07 Magic Sound Fabric
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
One World, One People 4:43 Xcultures
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Torch 7:49 Bob Holroyd
Moon & Sun 6:02 Dalminjo Fjörd Fusioneer
Do Your Thing 4:45 Basement Jaxx
A Little Bit Of Riddim (Featuring Cherine Anderson) 4:19 Michael Franti
Give It Away 5:17 Zero 7
Witness 4:48 Sarah McLachlan

Thursday, May 11, 2017, 840am ~ Witness Choice Variety

We Are All Connected 7:07 Magic Sound Fabric
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One World, One People 4:43 Xcultures
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Torch 7:49 Bob Holroyd
Moon & Sun 6:02 Dalminjo Fjörd Fusioneer
Do Your Thing 4:45 Basement Jaxx
A Little Bit Of Riddim (Featuring Cherine Anderson) 4:19 Michael Franti
Give It Away 5:17 Zero 7
Let It Go 2:16 Jamie Catto & Alex Forster

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!

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