Archive

Choice

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

Throughout the month of October, we’ll be celebrating the launch of my book Octabusy: How to Let Go in a Sea of Doing by focusing on one of the teachings from the book each week. This week, we look at the wisdom of the Sea Turtle who reminds us that we can really only do one thing at a time.

More on the myth of multitasking on Thursday but in the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a couple upcoming things.
Until then, keep moving and breathing and showing up.

Love,

 

 

 

Special Octabusy Celebration at Dancing Water in October ~ 4 Nourishing Movement classes for $32!
In celebration of the October release of my book Octabusy, you can sign up for 4 classes on Thursdays in October at 11am for $8 each (Octa-of course!). We will focus on 4 themes of the book and physical practices to help us embody them including mindfulness practices, stretches and restorative poses. Go to http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop to sign up by Oct 3!
Oct 3 ~ Focus: One Thing At A Time (Feet, Hips, Shoulders)
Oct 10 ~ Focus: Little By Little (Hands & Posture)
Oct 24 ~ Focus: Go with the Flow / Less is More (Spine)
Oct 31 ~ Focus: What do you want to let go of? (Breath)

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 by connecting at sjmnia@gmail.com .

At the beginning of each year, I pick one word as my intention for the next 12 months. This has been a powerful practice that has guided and inspired all kinds of things over the years and this year is no exception.
2011 – OPEN
2012 – RELEASE
2013 – SPACIOUS
2014 — WORTHY
2015 — FREEDOM
2016 – heARTful
2017 – AWAKE
2018 – HEALING
2019 — CLEAR

There are roughly 100 days left in 2019. Whether you chose a word in January or not, whether you’ve forgotten all about it or have been aware of it all along, this can be a time of reconnection and resetting of intention. I invite you to choose or revisit your word this week. I invite you to set the intention, put it into action with non-identification and compassion.

I usually post on Thursdays, but this week I wanted to give you a chance to dust off (or find) your 2019 word and see where it takes you. Here’s the post I wrote in January about it.


The practice of setting an intention is a way of consciously making a difference in our movement, our lives, and in the world. We make a difference whether we realize it or not. Setting an intention is a way of choosing the difference we want to make. (Check out last week’s post for more on this including a genius quote from Jane Goodall.)

What’s interesting, of course, is that we are human. Even if we set an intention, we won’t be able to stay with it. Not all the time. (Even though we know that it’s impossible, writer Leo Babauta suggests aspiring to that goal in his post Mindfulness All The Time. It’s a good read and I recommend it.) We’ll get distracted, get pulled into habit, go on auto-pilot. We’ll get pulled or pull ourselves away from our intention. That’s just the way it goes…for everybody.

The cool thing is that getting off track is not a bad thing. It’s actually fantastic. The moment that we find ourselves no longer connected to the intention we set is what Sharon Salzberg calls The Magic Moment (read her wonderful blog post about it here.) In her post, she’s talking about following the sensation of the breath in meditation as the intention. She writes,

if something arises — sensations, emotions, memories, plans, whatever it might be — that’s strong enough to take your attention away from the feeling of the breath, or if you’ve fallen asleep, or get lost in some incredible fantasy, the moment you realize you’ve been distracted is the magic moment.

It’s in that magic moment that we have the opportunity to really practice. We have the chance to begin again and to choose our intention again.

Stephanie Bennett Vogt teaches the A Year to Clear course that I’m taking right now (you can check that and other offerings at the Daily Om). She says that when creating a new practice, changing a habit or endeavoring to make any change, it requires four things:

Intent
Action
Non-Identification
Compassion

Her approach is that we need all four in order to create real and lasting change. If we only have Intent and no Action, the thought or desire just stays in our head. If we just have Action and no Intent, the action is unfocused, and arbitrary. If we have intention and action but don’t have non-identification and compassion, we’ll beat ourselves up when we get distracted and we’ll tend to quit.

I see it as a cycle more than a list. I see Intent as being the first step, knowing what we want to happen. Then Action is essential for embodiment and manifestation of what we want to occur. The Non-Identification (or as Buddhists would say, Non-Attachment) is not getting hooked on the outcome. Non-Identification is an allowing for things to unfold as they do without fighting against it. And then Compassion is the recognition that we are human and that we’ll forget and mess up in any number of ways and that’s just part of the process. I see it this way:

The Magic Moment happens with the Non-Identification and the Compassion: it’s when we realize we’ve veered from our intent in some way and that it’s time to return to it and make another action.

This mindful practice that we do together is impossible. No one can do it. And that is the whole point. It’s not about being perfect or never messing up. It’s about realizing we’ve lost our intention and then gently, kindly, beginning again.

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.

On January 17, 2019, Mary Oliver died.

She was one of my favorite poets and her writing has changed me and my work. The first time I heard her words was at a Unitarian Universalist church in the late 1990s. I’m not sure if it was Wild Geese or In Blackwater Woods or what it was, but it took my breath away. How could someone so clearly and succinctly say what I didn’t even know I wanted to say? She taught me things that I thought I knew, but didn’t until I heard her poem. Since then, I’m reminded over and over that she saw and expressed what really matters in this world. Mary Oliver got to the essence of things.

Two of her poems, Three Things to Remember and Instructions for Living a Life, have particularly impacted my creative work and teaching. Three Things is in the piece of art above. I love it not only for its mention of dancing but for its reminder that rules are often self-imposed. As a first born, I can get attached to following them and getting others to follow them, too. More and more though, I know that “there are fewer rules than you think” (as my friend and teacher, Mary Linn Bergstrom says).

What is your relationship to rules? Are you a follower? Does “doing it right” matter to you? Or does “doing it right” get you stuck? Or both? Are you a rebel? Are you someone who wants to know what the rules are just so you know what you are not going to do? When do you want to follow rules and when do you think they get in the way?

This is her poem, Instructions for Living a Life:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

And this is the piece of art I made based on her poem.

I made this piece at one of my own workshops on creativity called Living Life As An Artist. Ironically, it is the first piece of art I ever sold. Think of that: Mary Oliver made me a professional artist.

What do you think of her instructions? Do you follow them? Do you follow them in only some situations? Is there one you do more than the others?

Since her death, I’ve reconnected to Mary Oliver’s work and how it’s impacted me. I’ve also been introduced to poems I either had forgotten or didn’t know. If you have a favorite Mary Oliver poem, will you please share it? I may work them into class somehow or share them in some way or make art with them or … something.

Poetry gives us a new look at things we might not have noticed before — including parts of ourselves. I’d love to hear how poetry, Mary Oliver’s and others’, has changed how you see things, how you see yourself, or how you live. Please leave a comment below to share your favorite poem and your experience of poetry power.

Here’s to following instructions and breaking rules.

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