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Balance


At various times in the past week, my art room spilled from my office into the living room and occasionally onto the kitchen table. I’ve had watercolors drying on one table with pens and pencils scattered around on the floor and paper, notes, and quotes interspersed in all of it. At any given time, there were at least two pairs of glasses in the mix, a couple of rulers, scissors, and some glue.

After art-ing for a while, I take some time to go through what I’ve made and decide which pieces I might use and how. But then I pop up from my art bubble, survey the mess with uneasiness. Even if I know I’m going to make art again in the not-too-distant future, I’ll clean it all up and put everything away.

It’s the process of creating — whether it’s in an art studio, a kitchen, on a construction site, or in a relationship. We messy things up, get out all the tools, the paint, the ladders and then we chop, draw, sauté, talk. Then, we pause and evaluate where we are and clear things up before creating some more.

I know builders who leave the site a jumble of scraps and tools and sawdust throughout a project. I know artists whose studios are in a constant state of disarray. I’ve had times in my life when relationships resided permanently in tangle of unresolved conversations and issues. I’ve heard it said that it’s all a work in progress so why put everything away if you’re just going to get it out again tomorrow?

But when I do that, I can’t find what I’m looking for, I forget what I’m doing, and I get easily distracted from what’s important. Art gets damaged or lost. Time and energy and food gets wasted. People don’t feel heard or seen.

I know people with woodworking shops that are so meticulously organized that they rarely use them. I’ve seen gleaming kitchens of granite and steel that never have sauce on the counter or a pile of pots in the sink. I’ve known relationships that stay neat and tidy and polite and don’t get much below the surface.

When I over-focus on the tidy, creativity and exploration rarely happen. I stay in safer waters, where growth and possibility (and awkward feelings) don’t come into play.

For me, the best is a mix of the messy and the clean. In order to be more centered, clear, creative and adventurous, I have to messy it up, then clean it up, then do it again. Play around. Experiment. Muck about. Then clean it up. From there I can figure out where all my tools are, what the next step might be, and what I needfor the next round of creating.

It’s a cycle of chaos and order, over and over again that moves us forward and keeps us growing. It’s the back and forth from mess to clean that keeps us from getting mired in the clutter or hamstrung by the neatness.

Whatever you’re doing, messy it up, then clean it up, then do it again.

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The human body is designed to move and function as a complete system. Everything is connected. Everything.
In movement, focus on spirals and diagonals to access and stimulate this holistic, systemic movement.

Diagonal movement includes both left/right and upper/lower bodies.

Diagonals integrate the side body and the inside and outside of arms and legs.

Spiral and circular movement incorporates all directions in 360 degrees.

Circles and spirals integrate intrinsic and extrinsic muscles as well as connective tissue.

Notice the sensation of diagonal and spiral movement in the body, mind and heart.
Notice how you might approach your day, your work, your relationships diagonally and spirally.

Move and create and live systemically, holistically. Include all your parts.


Embrace Form…

No matter what you’re doing, form is essential. Structure and boundaries make space for possibility.

but Soften around Form…

Give up getting it right. Nobody is getting it right. Get too tight around form leaves you rigid and unavailable.

Embrace Freedom…

Freedom is the opportunity to go in new directions, experience new things, create what hasn’t been created.

Soften around Freedom…

No matter what you do, habit and auto-pilot will wend their way into freedom. Originality is a myth. Relentless focus on freedom leads to chaos.

Grayson Perry is a fascinating modern artist with boat tons of wisdom about creativity…and some of the craziest outfits you ever saw. He has so many talks and videos and lectures that I really just recommend mucking about and see what you find. AND, I like this piece and this video and this series of lectures (especially the last one).

Every endeavor needs both form and freedom. Embrace them both without a strangle hold. Allow things to be messy and imperfect. Mistakes aren’t the problem. Soften around form and freedom to uncover creative possibility.

Last week I took a break from teaching in order to put my attention on some creative and healing projects. I had this idea that in this week, I’d be able to clean up the corners, tuck in the edges, and close the files on these things I wanted to do.

The week was full of everything. I did much of the art and health work that I’d intended. I worked on my book and made some real strides. I did yoga every day, danced at home, played with new music, and listened deeply to what my body is telling me. I also met with a couple of friends, got distracted, did a bunch of cooking, got stuck in my head, felt discouraged and spun my wheels.

It might sound like the latter things were a pull away from my intention. It might sound like in those times I wasn’t doing what I’d promised myself I’d do. As it turns out, all of those things contributed to a really wonderful, surprising, and productive week.

I needed to do it all.

I went into my time away with this piece of art

I come back from the week realizing that there are many nouns that I need to remember are actually verbs. Balance, health, and life aren’t destinations, they aren’t a place to land and stop. They are all processes and ways of approaching the flow of our days.

This week, if you find yourself thinking there is some place you’re supposed to be, some state you think you ought to end up in, play with making whatever that word is into a verb.

Twenty years ago, Nia Technique Founder Carlos Rosas created the routine Bliss. I was a new Nia student at the time and remember the buoyant, powerful feeling when I danced the routine. I felt like I was flying.

In the intervening years, I come back to some of my favorite songs from Bliss but I rarely teach the routine as a whole. This week, Mary Linn and I will teach our interpretation of this classic routine together on Monday and Thursday* and I’ll offer my own Bliss-ish playlist on Tuesday and Wednesday**.

The original music of the routine is largely selections from Rae & Christian’s 1998 album Northern Sulphuric Soul. I love the variety of sounds and the rich, passionate vocals in these tracks which offer ears and imagination and bones a playground. Bracketing Rae & Christian are three pieces from Shantel’s Higher Than the Funk album, also from 1998. These have a meditative pulsing quality that help my thinking mind relax and my body to explore.

Carlos’ focus was on the balance between gravity’s grounding and the electromagnetic pull up. The image he used was the flame: fueled and rooted to the source while pouring energy up. After dancing this focus in different ways over the years, I think of this energetic balance as the way humans soar. The way we can fly is to push up out of the Earth itself. Earth grounds us and Heaven pulls us. In our bodies, the 1st and 7th Chakras create that even energy pull of rooted and expansive.

And, as Buddha Cat (that wise creature) reminds me, a simpler view of this focus is the balance between up and down.

Please experience Bliss this week — either with us in the studio or wherever you are.

* Bliss with Susan & Mary Linn
Monday, May 14, 1045am-12noon, acac albemarle square
Thursday, May 17, 840-940am, acac downtown
Thursday, May 17, 630-730pm, acac albemarle square

** Bliss-ish with Susan
Tuesday, May 15, 840-940am, acac downtown
Wednesday, May 16, 11-1215pm, acac albemarle square

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön

‘Tis the season of March Madness: the thrilling culmination of the college basketball season. March was once my least favorite month given its not-quite-spring-enough-with-the-winter-already damp, chilly grayness. But then I moved to Charlottesville and married a UVA grad and now I’m right there all month in my orange and blue pulling for the Hoos.

Over time, I’ve discovered that during March Madness (and, well, all year) I need to cultivate two things: the courage to allow myself fully into the energy and excitement and the skill to settle myself down.

It’s not just the way of college basketball. Shaking up and settling down is the way of life. Things pull in and spiral out. Our muscles contract and then lengthen. Breath draws in and relaxes out. My heart and mind and spirit get stirred up and then they quiet again.

Despite this reality, I often fear and resist the excitement, the turmoil, the uncertainty. It feels easier and safer to stay in control, in comfort, in habit.

This is, in part, why I practice on my mat, on the dance floor, and on the cushion. I practice getting stirred up and then settling down. I practice literally shaking myself and finding my center and ground. I practice remembering that this is the way of things and that happiness is rooted in my ability to move in and out of both.

No matter how much I want to avoid the tempest swirl, life doesn’t work that way. Inevitably, I get stirred up. Inevitably, I get activated. If not by March Madness or Wheel Pose or the latest headlines, then by a health crisis or a relationship rift or the loss of a friend. And when this happens, can I be in the swirling stirring with skill and then can I find my way out again to a state of peace?

Join me this week to dance with this courage and skill, to shake it up, shake it off and settle down…and then do it again.

 

How do I know that I’ve had enough sleep?
Enough food?
Enough movement?

I can feel it.
My mind might want to over-rule it, but the “enough” feeling remains.

Cultivate clarity with the sensation of enough.
It’s an important thing to be intimately familiar with.

Knowing the feeling of “enough” can help us avoid injury and stay healthy in our physical lives but it’s also helpful in the rest of our lives.

How do I know when I’ve had enough with a stressful job?
How do I know when I’ve given enough to a relationship?
How do I know when I have enough money?

I can feel it.
You can feel it.
Our minds might want to over-rule it, but the “enough” feeling remains.

Cultivate clarity with the sensation of enough.
It can support us in a myriad of ways.

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