Archive

calm mind

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.

The weeks between Halloween and the Solstice are challenging for me: the darkness and cold creeping in, the cultural frenzy of shopping and eating and jingling leaves my nervous system jangling. So for these next few weeks, we’ll be focusing on practical practices that we can do to soothe and strengthen our nervous systems. We’ll be focusing on things we do in class all the time but calling attention to them so we have easier access to them as we move through the world.

This week: shake it out. In nature, when an animal is under stress and their systems are pumped with adrenaline and other stress hormones, those chemicals propel the body into action of fighting or running. In our culture, we are pumped with the same hormones on a regular basis but almost never do we expend that energy in any way. The result is a backlog of stress and tension that has long-lasting negative impacts to body, mind and emotions.

Conscious, intentional shaking is a way of dispersing the tension of stress and processing the chemicals that prepare us for fight or flight.

Do it right now. Start by shaking out your hands and fingers. Pay particular attention to the big muscles around your thumbs. Then let the shake move into your arms. Stand up and shake your core, legs, feet and head (if you’re reading this in a public place, either hop into the rest room or just shake it out right where you are ~ people will wonder what you’re up to!). Then pause and notice how you feel.

Sometimes, if things are really hairy and the stress is big and triggering, we don’t have access to a lot of movement. For myself, when I’m really hit with something, I can barely move. It’s in those situations that we can go back to some of the earlier practices: ground & orient, squeeze and release. Do these a few times and see if you can find a little shimmy to shake.

This week, when things get going over the holidays, shake your feet under the table, go out into the yard and shake with the kids and the dog, or put on some great music (see below!) and shake it down to the ground. I’d love to hear how this practice works for you!

I found this interesting piece on shaking off trauma and a technique that I’d not heard of before called TRE. Anybody know about it or experienced it?

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!

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!

December Nourishment at Dancing Water ~ 4 Nourishing Movement classes for $40!
The light wanes and temperatures drop. It’s now that making a commitment to ourselves and our well-being is essential. Register for 4 Nourishing Movement classes at The Studio at Dancing Water on Thursdays, December 5, 12, 19 & 26 from 11-12:15pm for $40. Must be purchased by December 5! ~ THREE SPOTS LEFT!
Shandoah Goldman returns to The Studio at Dancing Water (2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville) to continue the full moon restorative practice! The full moon is a time of completion. The fullness of the cycle lends itself to a practice of non-doing. Join Shandoah 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!), December 9, 430-6pm at The Studio at Dancing Water, $30 or $25 if registered before December 1. (Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming Full Moon classes will be on January 13 and February 10!)

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
This week, I refreshed my display at Cville Arts in preparation for the holiday season and my upcoming event! Come see how Octabusy was made with an art demonstration and book signing at Cville Arts on the downtown mall!

ORDER OCTABUSY!
Support local retailers 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)
and at The Telegraph Art & Comics
and coming soon to the beautiful Nourish Louisa shop in downtown Louisa! Go here for more. I’ll be sharing more soon on events at this super-cool spot!

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!)

Winter Solstice Restorative Yoga + Sound Experience with Shandoah Goldman ~ Sat Dec 21, 2019 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm ~ TWO SPOTS LEFT!
Immerse in the return of light as you cocoon yourself by candles and hearth. The experience is set within a quartz faced historic hall. Rest deep into restoring postures while being serenaded by crystal bowl soundscapes + alchemist delights for the senses and an energy gift bag to take home.
WHEN Saturday December 21st optional walk on scenic trails arrive by 3:30pm / Experience begins at 4:30pm and ends at 6pm
BRING a yoga mat/ two blankets/ two firm pillows or 1 bolster / warm layers / water
LOCATION Private home in Esmont revealed after purchase of ticket
WHO Restorative Yoga guided by Shandoah Goldman | Somatic Cville \ Sounds by Waverly Davis | Sacra Space \  Alchemist delights by Chloe Morgan
TICKETS Limited spaces available $44 before 12/1/19 $52 after  https://www.tickettailor.com/events/somaticcville/320206

On My Last Nerve: Achieving Balance Using Practices & Herbs ~ a Book Signing and Workshop at The Elderberry ~~ Saturday, January 4, 2020 ~ 12noon – 2pm FREE!
It’s time to come back to ourselves after the holiday frenzy! Join teacher and artist Susan McCulley and Clinical Herbalist Heather Wetzel to explore a realignment of ourselves following the swirl of the holidays.
12:00-1:00: Book signing and conversation about the counter cultural choice for presence and less busyness with Susan, author of Octabusy: How to Let Go in a Sea of Doing conversation
1:00 – 2:00: Susan and Heather will present a short workshop focusing on re-balancing body, mind, and spirit after the holidays utilizing life hacks and herbal strategies for moving from the habitual responses of our nervous system’s “fright, flight, or freeze” reactions into a more balanced, flowing, and peaceful state of “rest and digest” for the new year. Topics include:
· How to support yourself to be more centered, calm and relaxed.
· Physical and mindful practices that can bring you back to center and be done anywhere, no matter what is happening around you.
· Tastings (including recipes) of tried and true adaptogenic herbal preparations to enhance your  resilience to stress
· New ideas to support and encourage graceful adaptation to change and less reactive to stress
We all need encouragement and new ideas to support us as we step into change-filled 2020 and beyond. Reserve your seat now as space is limited ~ go HERE https://www.elderberryherbals.com/calendar/on-my-last-nerve-achieving-balance-using-practices-amp-herbs-book-signing-and-workshop-saturday-january-4-2020-12noon-2pm!

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 25, 2019, 1045am ~ Soothing the Nervous System: Shake it Out

Shake It Loose 3:33 Dolphin Boy
Oolong Journey 4:31 Purekane
Liberation Front 4:55 Thievery Corporation
Moonsmith 5:50 Marisi choreo
Shake Down 2:34 Epidemic Sound
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger
Tribal Phunk (Tribal Phunk Original Mix) 7:08 JeanClaudeMaurice
Shakin’ It Up 6:15 Ganga Giri
The Truth Is Changing [Feat. Will Young & Amapondo] 4:27 1 Giant Leap
Shake It Off 4:06 Ryan Adams
All Remains 7:30 Afro Celt Sound System

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019, 840am ~ Soothing the Nervous System: Shake it Out

Shake It Loose 3:33 Dolphin Boy
Oolong Journey 4:31 Purekane
Liberation Front 4:55 Thievery Corporation
Moonsmith 5:50 Marisi choreo
Shake Down 2:34 Epidemic Sound
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger
Tribal Phunk (Tribal Phunk Original Mix) 7:08 JeanClaudeMaurice
Shakin’ It Up 6:15 Ganga Giri
The Truth Is Changing [Feat. Will Young & Amapondo] 4:27 1 Giant Leap
Shake It Off 4:06 Ryan Adams

Happy Thanksgiving, everyBody!

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.

The weeks between Halloween and the Winter Solstice are challenging for me: the darkness and cold creeping in, the cultural frenzy of shopping and eating and holly jolly jingling leave my nervous system jangling. So for these next few weeks, we’ll be focusing on practical practices that we can do to soothe and strengthen our nervous systems. We’ll be focusing on things we do in class all the time but calling attention to them so we have easier access to them as we move through the world.

This week, we start with an essential practice: grounding and orienting. One of the most powerful things we can do to turn on our parasympathetic nervous system is to feel our support, our ground and get ourselves oriented. Physically, we usually ground with our feet (but we can ground and feel supported by any part that is in contact with the earth) and orient with our hands (but again, this can also happen with our spine, our joints, our eyes, etc.).

Do it right now. Wherever you are. Feel the support that is under you and allow yourself to both sink and relax into that support and feel how the ground doesn’t stop at your skin, but lifts up and through your whole body. Then notice the space around you however feels right: it might be stretching with your arms and hands, but it might also be looking around, listening more intently, or moving in the space.

Grounding and orienting are great ways to calm and nourish your nervous system in times when you feel stressed or pressed or scrambly or, well, nervous. As always, I’d love to hear how you are using this in and out of class.

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!

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!

December Nourishment at Dancing Water ~ 4 Nourishing Movement classes for $40!
The light wanes and temperatures drop. It’s now that making a commitment to ourselves and our well-being is essential. Register for 4 Nourishing Movement classes at The Studio at Dancing Water on Thursdays, December 5, 12, 19 & 26 from 11-12:15pm for $40. Must be purchased by December 5!

Full Moon Restorative Yoga with Shandoah Goldman ~ Moonday, December 9, 430-6pm
Shandoah Goldman returns to The Studio at Dancing Water (2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville) to continue the full moon restorative practice! The full moon is a time of completion. The fullness of the cycle lends itself to a practice of non-doing. Join Shandoah 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!), December 9, 430-6pm at The Studio at Dancing Water, $30 or $25 if registered before December 1. (Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming Full Moon classes will be on January 13 and February 10!)

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 on 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!)

Winter Solstice Restorative Yoga + Sound Experience with Shandoah Goldman ~ Sat Dec 21, 2019 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Immerse in the return of light as you cocoon yourself by candles and hearth. The experience is set within a quartz faced historic hall. Rest deep into restoring postures while being serenaded by crystal bowl soundscapes + alchemist delights for the senses and an energy gift bag to take home.
WHEN Saturday December 21st optional walk on scenic trails arrive by 3:30pm / Experience begins at 4:30pm and ends at 6pm
BRING a yoga mat/ two blankets/ two firm pillows or 1 bolster / warm layers / water
LOCATION Private home in Esmont revealed after purchase of ticket
WHO Restorative Yoga guided by Shandoah Goldman | Somatic Cville \ Sounds by Waverly Davis | Sacra Space \  Alchemist delights by Chloe Morgan
TICKETS Limited spaces available $44 before 12/1/19 $52 after  https://www.tickettailor.com/events/somaticcville/320206

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.

Octabusy & Adaptogens: Stress Relieving Support with Practices & Herbs at The Elderberry
A combination open house, book signing, and workshop on stress reducing practices and herbal support with adaptogens on Saturday, January 4 from 12-2pm. More details soon!

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

Monday, Nov 11, 2019, 1045am ~ Soothing the Nervous System: Ground & Orient

Mantra of Ecstasy 5:52 Matthew Jaidev
Seed 6:25 Afro Celt Sound System
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Strobe’s Nanafushi (Satori Mix) 5:45
Afronaut 5:23 Shaman’s Dream
Deeper In 3:15 Aluta & The Mystics
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Hit the Ground 3:31 Lizz Wright
Father Space 5:56 Bjarno Sacred

Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019, 840am ~ Soothing the Nervous System: Ground & Orient

Mantra of Ecstasy 5:52 Matthew Jaidev
Seed 6:25 Afro Celt Sound System
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Strobe’s Nanafushi (Satori Mix) 5:45
Afronaut 5:23 Shaman’s Dream
Deeper In 3:15 Aluta & The Mystics
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Hit the Ground 3:31 Lizz Wright
Father Space 5:56 Bjarno Sacred

Thursday, Nov 14, 2019, 11am ~ Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ Soothing the Nervous System: Ground & Orient

Visitors extended 6:32 Dylan Sitts
Mantra of Ecstasy 5:52 Matthew Jaidev
Seed 6:25 Afro Celt Sound System
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Strobe’s Nanafushi (Satori Mix) 5:45
Afronaut 5:23 Shaman’s Dream
Deeper In 3:15 Aluta & The Mystics
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Hit the Ground 3:31 Lizz Wright
Father Space 5:56 Bjarno Sacred

Before you get up.
Before you eat.
Before you go to the next thing.
Before you hit SEND.
Before you speak.
Before…pause.

Even in the middle of everything.
A nourishing, intentional, sacred pause can make all the difference.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DANCING WATER CLASSES ~ ~ ~ I’m delighted to announce that I will start offering classes at the studio at Dancing Water* on Thursday mornings from 11-1215pm starting THIS THURSDAY, May 2. Come join us in the trees by the river for grounded, flowing, spacious movement. For the month of May, I’m offering a discounted rate while we work out the kinks together! Go HERE to sign up!

 

  • Dancing Water ~ 2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville VA 22903 (detailed directions can be found in the SHOP section under Additional Information).

I told myself not to say it. I think I actually bit my tongue. But suddenly, I heard the unkind, impatient thing fly right out of my mouth. I saw the words, sludgy and dripping, hang in the air between us and immediately, I regretted them.

I saw his face and shoulders fall. He responded with his feelings and I did my best, I really did, to feel my feet and my breath, to reflect back what he’d said, to be present.

Instead, I was swamped with pain and regret and a mind-flood of talk about what a bitchy jerk I am and how I always do this and how the people I admire would never say such a thing. In a heart beat, in a breath, the discomfort was so strong that I unplugged and split from my body.

Embodied presence – connecting mind and body, being in the present moment – sounds simple and easy enough. We’re living in these bodies all the time, after all, so how tough can it be to be in there? The truth is that it’s a huge challenge for most of us even when we’re sitting quietly on a cushion with sunlight in our hair and flower petals falling around us. When we are upset, angry, tired, hungry, in pain, afraid, or uncomfortable in any way, the practice of keeping body and mind in the same place at the same time can feel utterly impossible.

In her two dharma talks about Embodied Presence (which you can find here and here), Tara Brach invites us to explore the unpredictable wilderness of the body. The mind does what it can to control the uncontrollable and tuck in all the loose edges but that neatness is a false refuge. The body in all its messiness is the only place to connect to empathy, love, freedom and unfolding of life itself. The only place. She suggests that whenever we leave the body, when we vacate the premises, it comes down to one thing: there is something we are unwilling to feel. We find ourselves disconnected and separated from direct experience because there is something that feels scary or dangerous or uncomfortable and on some level we think we can’t handle it. So we run.

Last week, we focused on Embodied Presence and the practice of getting body and mind in the same place at the same time. This week, we continue this exploration by looking at the ways we take ourselves out of the body and how to get back in.

It’s such a common state, to be up in the control tower of our heads that we might not even realize we’re doing it. Tara Brach offers four signs of being in trance and out of the body:

  1. obsessive thoughts on a loop often as a way to prepare to avoid something bad,
  2. negative judgment about myself or others (see above example of me thinkingthinkingthinking about being an impatient jerky pants),
  3. distraction of any kind especially on screens or online (like habitually reaching to check my phone when I feel nervous, for example),
  4. speeding around and rushing, as if getting more done will keep the difficult feelings at bay

When you see this list, do any of these feel familiar? Perhaps you’re like me and they ALL feel familiar. When we are in this auto-pilot, sleepwalking state, we are intentionally (although often subconsciously) avoiding feeling something edgy or uncomfortable. Mindfulness – in movement, in meditation, or in the moment – invites us back into the lush wilderness of the body.

Brach teaches that the intensity of any of these states is in direct proportion to our unwillingness to feel what’s in our bodies. In order to come into embodied presence, we have to make the courageous and intentional choice to wake up. She teaches that first, we must notice what’s happening (ah, I have hurt someone’s feelings and that feels wretched), then name it (pain in my heart and heaviness in my stomach), and breathe (amazingly difficult when I’m suffering) and interrupt the pattern – even briefly – by allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is.

This practice leads to what is sometimes called The Lion’s Roar which is the ability to be with, to roll with anything, ANYTHING that happens. The Lion’s Roar is the fearless proclamation that everything that happens is workable and that I have the ability to handle and feel anything. Imagine the freedom of trusting in our capacity to be with whatever life delivers.

Notice that this state of presence is not called “The Roaring Lion” which feels startling, fierce, and threatening. Instead, the Lion’s Roar is the energy of confidence. It is the knowledge that this power is available no matter what arrives. When we practice, The Lion’s Roar is a strength that infuses life like an aura, a light that allows me to face anything.

Few of us will be able to claim the Lion’s Roar as our way of being all the time, but the practice of noticing, naming, breathing and interrupting the well-worn sleepwalking pattern offers glimpses into the possibility of freedom.

The next time you find yourself caught in one of the signs of being out of the body, ask yourself, “What am I unwilling to feel?” This question alone is the first step toward finding your Roar.


I had a dream that I died. Or that I was about to die. I had gotten some kind of diagnosis and (true to my food-centric, vegetarian form) the plan was to eat my lunch salad, then take a pill that would end my life.

This might sound like a bummer of a dream but it wasn’t. First, I was overjoyed to wake up. Then I was intensely aware of the unspeakable sweetness of living…and of its impermanence.

Since The Dream, I’ve been renegotiating my relationship to time. I’ve been paying attention to when I rush through, scrabble over, gobble up my life. I’m doing my best to slow down, savor more, embody presence.

Sometimes it goes better than others.

Last week, I was having a rough go of it when I came across two dharma talks by meditation teacher and author, Tara Brach. Her words often inspire me but these connected straight to everything I’ve been feeling about transience. The two talks are Impermanence: Awakening Through Insecurity, Part 1 & Part 2, and I strongly recommend them both. Listening to them brought me to tears and to laughter. Her stories and words reverberate in my heart and mind still. (These two talks have planted seeds for a whole slew of focuses for our movement together, so stay tuned for more on them in coming weeks.)

In the second talk, Tara tells the story of a woman who’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with the prognosis of one year to live. She has a 2-year-old daughter. Her mantra, her mission becomes this:

No Time To Rush.

When we are truly aware, not in an intellectual way but in a heart and soul way, that our lives will one day be over, what becomes important? What matters? Perhaps counterintuitively, all my hurrying to accomplish things, all my squeezing as much as I possibly can into every single day suddenly seems like the opposite of what is important.

Yesterday, at the busy, noisy grocery store, I waited in the cashier’s line to pay for a cart full of vegetables. When it was my turn, the cashier hastily picked up my reusable bags, “I’m sorry, hold on, please,” he said as he set them up on the counter, “Let me get your bags ready to load.” With the dharma talk words moving around in me, I looked at him and said, “It’s no rush. Take your time.”

He stopped propping the bags up and look straight at me.
“Did you say, ‘It’s no rush’?” he asked.
“I did.”
“Well, let me take a sip of coffee then,” he smiled and stopped long enough for a swig from his travel cup.
He took a breath and so did I.

Rushing is contagious. I wonder about the countless times I’ve impatiently checked out of grocery stores, silently urging the cashier to go faster. In all those hurry-up encounters, the humanness of the moment, and actually, the moment itself was lost. In our Get ‘Er Done culture, it is a gift to give each other a little time, a little breathing room, a sip of coffee.

It’s been a curious exploration to slow down my rushing. Coincidentally (if you believe in those things), I am reading Sarah Susanka’s book The Not So Big Life. In it, she invites the exploration of priorities, questioning of choices and an examination how we spend our time. She writes,

Now is experienced not as time but as presence and although we are aware of flow, it’s as if its duration is incidental, it barely touches us, much as a leaf floating along on a stream would barely be aware of the water’s movement. (p. 147)

This is the dance of No Time To Rush. Allow time to be a flow rather than a commodity. Allow myself to be the leaf floating effortlessly rather than the dam trying to control it.

It is inexpressibly precious, this life. Even with all its messiness and pain and confusion, it is exquisite and worth savoring. None of us has time to rush.

In this season, it can be easy to get caught up in the things, the activities, the expectations. I know I get focused on what am I going to give, cook, do? Who will we see, what are the plans, what will I wear and do I have everything? But the truth is, this season — and this life — is about our ability to show up. It’s about our presence.

Take some time every day, especially in this week, to drop into the sensations of your body, to notice with your full attention whatever is happening. Make the choice — especially when things feel familiar and are full of memory — to really smell the spices, to taste the cookie, to hear the laughter, to see the faces, to hold the hands. Make the courageous choice to really BE with the people you are with — including yourself.

Presence is the real gift.


ONE WORD 2018 & 2019

As the year comes to its end, it’s a great time to find One Word for 2019. For the past many years, instead of making a resolution, I’ve been choosing one word to guide me through the year. I often think think think about it for a while and then when I stop and ask myself how I want to FEEL in the coming year, the word finds me.

These are the words I’ve lived with for the past several years:

2011 – OPEN

2012 – RELEASE

2013 – SPACIOUS

2014 — WORTHY

2015 — FREEDOM

2016 – heARTful

2017 – AWAKE

2018 – HEALING

Living with one word for a year is a simple way of creating a year-long focus to guide and inspire choices. Now is a great time to open your attention to the word you might like to be with for 2019. And if you had a word for 2018, now is a great time to reconnect with it.


My husband is building us a house. It’s a big and exciting project full of details and a dozen workers. When I tell people about it, the one question that nearly everyone asks is,

“When will you move in?”

Sigh. Who knows? Maybe December. Maybe January. Maybe March. There are so many variables and so many things that are in flux and changing. We have no idea. But that’s not the answer anybody wants.

Our culture is addicted to attempting to know what will happen. Whole industries have been created around predicting the future.

Polling for elections.
Odds-making for sporting events.
And everyone’s favorite: weather forecasts.

These predictions have varying degrees of accuracy. (Hurricane Florence and the Trump presidential campaign are two good examples of predictions that looked pretty certain and then swung wildly and suddenly at the end.) Which begs the question, Why do we keep listening to them?

Fear.

We are afraid of not knowing. It is uncomfortable to live in uncertainty. So we create illusions that we know what will happen that give our brains a false sense of solidity and clarity.

Instead, what if we practiced getting comfortable with not knowing? What if we focused on allowing ourselves to relax into uncertainty? What if we were willing to embrace the bigger truth of complete groundlessness, as Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron calls it?

Experiment with letting your body and mind relax and let go of their grip on wanting to know. Soften into not knowing.

And when we move into the house, I promise I’ll tell you.

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