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Change

This week, we’ll play with the inspiration of two quotes. First, Albert Einstein. What if real intelligence isn’t about what you know or think or do, but rather your ability to shift and change?

Then, from Seth Godin’s book/work of art, It’s Your Turn. Think of a situation – in your body, your life, your community – that is changing and the tension that results. Think of somewhere where there is tension – in a muscle, in a relationship, a company – and the change that inevitably, eventually, results.

Hidden within these quotes is not just the sensation of adaptability but of strength and flexibility.
Are you willing to change?

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photo by Rebecca George ~ find her art at https://www.instagram.com/bravedragonfly/

My friend and colleague, Loring Myles, is teaching her last Nia class at acac today. The mother of one of my closest friends is dying. And it feels sincerely unclear to me what the Sam Hill is happening in the world. Endings and uncertainty can leave me wobbly. Which seems like an excellent time to revisit this post from late summer 2013

 

‘The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.’ ”

– from John O’Donohue’s poem For the Interim Time

The past few weeks have been full of everything at our house: family visiting from Minnesota, planning for upcoming travels near and far (including buying a camper!?), a parent’s serious illness (and then amazing recovery!), and then yesterday, we took our second (and last) child to college. Lots of broken routines and unexpected twists, lots of emotions of every color and intensity.

After all that, I feel fragile. Like I might crack if I move too quickly. Or at least bruise at the smallest thing: like when I see a parent laughing with (or angry with) their child, or an elder slowly and gingerly crossing a road, or the rich blue late summer sky filled with plumes of white clouds.

My friend calls it “wobbly.” It’s true. The past few days, I’ve felt all kinds of wobbly.

This week, on her (wonderful!) blog, author (and Nia student!) Deborah Prum posted a quote from Frederick Buechner that is full of paradox and wisdom and speaks directly to how I’m feeling. In part it reads, “We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old.” This is the interim time that John O’Donohue’s perceptive poem blesses. This is the uncomfortable, in-between time when even a familiar path feels uneven and strange. It’s the time when one thing is over but the next hasn’t yet begun. We’ve cast off from shore into a fog bank with no land is in sight.

In part, it’s the time of year. Kids are going to school, sometimes for the first time, or leaving home. I suspect I am not the only one who watched my boy walk away and wondered how my days will be, how my relationship with my partner will be, and who I will be with him gone. Wobbly questions, indeed.

But it’s not just a fall thing and it’s not just a child-going-to-school thing. We are all in transition all the time. We are all letting go of something and waiting for whatever comes next. For you it may be making plans to move, have or adopt a baby, change jobs or embark on a creative project. You may be preparing for retirement or travel or going to school. And of course, navigating the ultimate transitions of aging, illness, and death in ourselves and in others is so filled with uncertainty and fear that it can plop us smartly on our butts. Whether it’s an exciting something you want, or a troubling something you fear, there is always that in-between feeling when you’re leaving one thing and haven’t yet come to the next.

Most of us shrink from this interim time. The discomfort can be intolerable and we will do whatever we can to avoid it. Our unwillingness to be in the awkwardness of transition can lead to all manner of poor, short-sighted decisions. Fear of the interim time is at the root of rebound relationships, ill-considered next jobs, and even trashy magazine reading in the doctor’s office.

Whatever transitions you are in right now, whatever interim time you are wandering in, remind yourself that this is fertile, important ground to walk. It’s worth spending time in the uncomfortable liminal space. It’s important to stay here, breathe, and not run. As John O’Donohue encourages us:

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to sqauander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in the false ground,

That you might come free

From all you have outgrown.

Fear not the wobblies. Welcome them, as they are necessary for growth. Fear not the transitional, in-betweenie feeling. Allow yourself to walk wobbly but wise through the transitions for it is the only way to recognize what you have outgrown and see clearly what is next.

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The blueberry bushes in Rebecca’s back yard tower over me, their lanky branches intertwined like a roof. Armed with my colander, I snake around, between, and under. I keep thinking I’ve found all the ripe berries but when I circle around again and look from a different angle, inevitably there is fruit that I’ve missed.

The way I dance around the blueberry bushes is the way I dance around my days. Big issues plant themselves in front of me – love, parenting, friendship, money, vocation, art – and I spiral around them. As soon as I think I’ve figured it out, as soon as I nod confidently and say “oh, yeah, I’ve got this,” I look from a different perspective and see something new I’ve never seen before.

Wednesday, August 3 is my 52nd birthday. Most people would say it isn’t a “big” one but for me, it’s the biggest yet.

In the 13 Moon Natural Time calendar, every day is unique. Every day has its own Galactic Signature: 260 unique fingerprints made up of combinations of four colors, thirteen tones and twenty tribes.

  • Today’s Galactic Signature is Yellow Electric Seed.
  • The Galactic Signature on Thanksgiving Day will be Yellow Lunar Sun.
  • The Bicentennial in 1976 was Red Magnetic Earth.
  • September 11, 2001 was Blue Self-Existing Monkey.
  • The day Donald Trump was born was Blue Electric Hand.
  • The day Hillary Clinton was born was White Galactic World-Bridger.
  • The day you were born had a signature, too. (You can look it up here.)

Each of the 260 signatures has a meditation that decodes its energy and essence (you’ll find that here, as well.)

On the day I was born, August 3, 1964, the Galactic Signature was Blue Rhythmic Hand and the meditation is:

I Organize in order to Know
Balancing Healing
I seal the Store of Accomplishment
With the Rhythmic tone of Equality
I am guided by my own power doubled

Every 260 days since I was born, Blue Rhythmic Hand has been the signature of the day. But never since the day I was born has that signature fallen on August 3…until this year. After 52 years, a cycle is complete and a new cycle begins. In the 13 Moon Calendar, the 52nd birthday is called the Galactic Return.

Fifty-two, then, is a BIG birthday. The Galactic Return is celebrated as a time of rebirth and renewal , the finishing of a cycle and the beginning of something new. My friend and Nia colleague, Zan Tewksbury, says that her Galactic Return was about the freedom and responsibility to write her own story. Her willingness to step out of the expectations of society, family and even herself allows her to live more authentically from her essence. And while that can be disorienting and scary, the unfolding adventure is worth the discomfort.

“The day came,” wrote essayist Anais Nin, “when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Perhaps that day comes on the Galactic Return or maybe it happens at another time. The Galactic Return routine celebrates all courageous human choices to see life from different perspectives and to reimagine ourselves. It’s about all our returnings and rewritings.

We are all circling and spiraling through time – experiencing repeating patterns and cycles. What’s more, all our circles and spirals are intersecting and interweaving. Galactic Return: Blue Rhythmic Hand is a physical and symbolic honoring of all of us swimming in the river of time, circling together through past and present and now.

[I’ll launch the Galactic Return: Blue Rhythmic Hand routine on Wednesday, August 3 at 11am at acac Albemarle Square and then teach it again on Thursday, August 4 at 840am at acac downtown. I’ll then be traveling for a couple of weeks and will return to teaching the routine on August 29.]

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Our Provider who has given all
from the appearing way – East,
from the cold way – North.
from the disappearing way – West,
from the warm way – South
You Have Spoken

Medicine that you have gotten ready
You have given us
Air, water, fire, soil of the world
Come cleanse us
Our bodies, our mind, our hearts, our accumulative wisdom
Shall be washed thoroughly
Amen

~ translation of Cherokee Going to Water ritual

Jane was totally lost. We met her at a trail intersection in Grayson Highlands State Park in southwest Virginia. She’d lost the trail and had been wandering around alone for an hour and a half. We compared maps, realized we were hiking back to the same parking lot and offered to walk the rest of the way with her.

Jane, it turns out, is a High Pointer. It is her goal to reach the highest point in each state (or 41 of them, anyway, since nine exceed her technical abilities). She’s done about 30 and she’d just checked Virginia’s highest point off her list by hiking to Mount Rogers. She was in pretty good spirits given the way her day was going but I think she found the Virginia endeavor unsatisfying, what with no view at the summit and then the whole 90-minutes lost debacle.

We had also climbed up Mount Rogers that day on the recommendation of a friend. We loved the dark boreal forest at the peak (unusual so far south). The sweet-smelling spruce trees, moss-covered boulders and deep green quiet was so surprising, we half expected a wood nymph to lead us to the summit. No view, it’s true, but potential fairies!

Jane’s goal motivates her to keep hiking and I appreciate that, but I will never be a High Pointer. I love a view as much as anybody, but while a sweeping vista can be breath-taking and perspective-offering, climbing to a peak will never be my first choice for a hike. I’ll always choose water over a summit.

If given the choice, I hike along rivers, streams and creeks. I have walked for hours to see a single waterfall and on one glorious trail in Pennsylvania saw 21 strung together along a single glen (read that story and see the pictures here). There is something restorative about walking near water; something grounding that connects me to the music and movement of life. Hiking along a river offers a flowing stream of sound and images to admire along the way rather than the single goal of reaching a single high point. A moving river reminds me of life’s illusion of permanence. The river may seem to be the same, but it is always moving and changing. No man can ever, as Heraclitus reminds us, step in the same river twice.

People in the Cherokee tribe practiced the ritual of “going to water” most days. They stood waist deep in the water and prayed to be washed clean of whatever bad feelings distanced them from God, their friends and family. This is a practice that makes total sense to me.

After a hike or bike ride, there is nothing I love more than to spend time in moving water. It washes away the sweat, but much more than that. Even when not near a stream or river, I use water to literally and symbolically clear away any accumulated gunk in my system. A shower, a splash on wrists and face, a tall glass drunk deep: water approached with intention is my own version of the Cherokee ritual.

While I admire the fitness and determination it takes to reach a high point and the view a summit (sometimes) offers, I will always choose to go to water.

begin again spiral

There is joy and an important sense of renewal in each effort to begin again. ~ Sharon Salzberg from The Fractal Moment blog post

For a long time, I had a rocky relationship with radishes. But a few years ago, in a miraculous shift of events, I went from detesting the bitter, crushed-aspirin, sorry-excuse-for-a-vegetable things to dancing a little happy dance when the gorgeous Easter egg variety show up in the market. (You can read an essay about it here.)

You’d think I’d learn. You’d think I’d learn that just because I didn’t like something one time doesn’t mean I won’t like it ever. You’d think I’d learn that just because something didn’t go well once doesn’t mean I have to abandon it forever. You’d think.

But no.

The act of beginning again is the essential art of meditation practice. ~ Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness

The very first time I ever sat down to meditate; I listened to a guided one by Sharon Salzberg. In it she says,

If you find your attention has wandered, that’s fine. See if you can practice being patient, being gentle and beginning again. … If you have to begin again a million times in the course of one sitting, that’s the practice. …If your mind wanders or you get lost, nothing is spoiled, nothing is ruined. Just begin again.

Almost every time I sit, I can hear Sharon’s voice in my head: Nothing is ruined.

Years ago when I started taking yoga classes, I found myself disliking one of the people I practiced with. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I got this dislike feeling and I stuck with it. I let the thoughts and feelings of dislike solidify. Like a hard M&M shell of No Like, I found myself avoiding her and setting up my mat on the other side of the room.

When I saw her, I felt like I’d swallowed a peach pit.

And what’s the sense in that? I thought. So I asked myself what would happen if I chose to like her. I greeted her when she came into the locker room. I asked her about her practice and listened when she talked about her job. And when she unrolled her mat next to mine, I smiled and (I realized with some amusement) I was genuinely delighted.

I do this. I think something – I hate radishes, I don’t like that person. — and then I take those thoughts really seriously. I forget to begin again. I forget that nothing is ruined.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to teach all the sixteen routines I’ve created in my sixteen years of teaching. It started off nicely with a string of routines that I enjoy: Supernatural, Dunyakan, 1GiantLeap, Big Blue Ball, Covers Uncovers. But then like the proverbial needle dragging across vinyl, I came to Sense You All.

sense you all worst routine ever 031216

Ug. The Worst Routine I Ever Did. The Worst.

Sense You All was the last routine I created before taking a sabbatical from teaching in 2012. My feelings about teaching and the practice of Nia were ambiguous at best, off-the-charts-negative at worst.

When I taught Sense You All for the first few classes, I kept thinking my choreography was terrible and confusing. I was convinced that all my students hated it — not just some of them, all of them. After teaching it only a couple of weeks, I lost all my notes, all the bars and choreography — hours and hours of work. I sent out a message to my fellow teachers at the time, had anyone seen my folder with all my Sense You All notes?

Nope. Nobody had.

You’ll just have to start over, said Samantha cheerily.

The heck with that (I actually muttered something more colorful and succinct), I’ll never teach it again.

Now as I return to my routines in 2016, I think, Maybe I’ll just skip that one. Nobody will notice. Nobody will know.

Gahh, but that wouldn’t be impeccable. It would feel like a cheat. And besides, there is something sweet about sixteen routines in sixteen years.

Instead, I decided to begin again. I listened to the playlist and, well, gosh, the music was pretty good. I remembered some threads of choreography but mostly I started over. Little by little, I found things that fit together. Now the routine is coming together into something new. Like my relationship with radishes and my yoga friend, my relationship with Sense You All wasn’t ruined. It wasn’t spoiled.

I only had to be willing to change my thinking about it, to be open to it in a new way.
I only had to begin again.

anything & everything block
Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Once I get past the resistance around this idea it turns into a helpful way of looking at how I spend my days and live my life. Especially when I want to cultivate a new approach to something, it’s a great way in make big shifts in a manageable way.

Maybe I want to be more patient or so slow down or I want to finish what I start or be more mindful. Whatever it is, here are four steps to making the shift.

STEP 1. Observe honestly. With a curious eye, observe how you drive across town during rush hour, make a sandwich, work at your desk. Without a story or judgement, just notice how you do anything. Notice what you do with your body. Notice where your mind goes. Notice how you feel emotionally. Are you physically at ease or uncomfortable? Are you scattered or focused? Are you tuned out or anxious or excited? Pay attention to the details of how you do even the smallest thing.

STEP 2. Embrace the Anything/Everything idea. Allow yourself to entertain the possibility that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Let anything you do be a metaphor for your life. Look at what you observe about yourself in this small scenario and see if those traits, habits and tendencies translate into your larger life. It’s not about doing it right or being perfect and it’s not about getting defensive. It’s about noticing how you do what you do and asking yourself if there is something you’d like to do differently. If not, cool! Just keep returning to Step 1 to deepen your connection to and understanding of yourself. If so, move to Step 3.

STEP 3. Start small. If I want to be kinder to a difficult relative, start by being kinder to strangers. If I want to finally finish my book project, start by finishing washing the dishes in the sink – all of them. If I want to make healthier eating choices, start by eating a breakfast that Michelle Obama would be proud of. Start with small, manageable, do-able things that move you in the direction you want to go. It’s easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that the way I treat the testy waiter has nothing to do with how I deal with a challenging sibling. But it does. Think of starting small as a way of sneaking up on the big stuff.

STEP 4. Repeat. As a writer and an artist, I’m constantly going back and seeing what I can learn and revise to make my classes, my writing, my art in closer alignment with my mission and vision. It’s important for me to appreciate the things that go well and to look with compassion at the things that messily flopped. As a human floundering along through my days, the Anything/Everything idea helps me see myself clearly, appreciate what’s flowing smoothly and make manageable adjustments to the jagged edges.

BONUS STEP: Have fun. This process, like most, goes best if I am relaxed and alert instead of sleepwalking or hyper-vigilant. Everybody, always, in every moment is doing their best with what they have to work with. Cut yourself some slack and get interested in knowing yourself better – and recognizing that change is possible if you want it.

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