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Energy

I love summer.

Despite its signature heat and humidity, I love the long, sunny days, all the growth and abundance and berries and watermelon. I also know that especially in the hot height of summer, I need to stay grounded. All that swirling, rising heat energy requires grounding my body, mind and heart. Summer is a time for meditation, siestas, being near water and sitting in the sand.

For me, it’s also a time for connection: gathering fresh fruit and vegetables (either from a garden, a blueberry bush or Misfit Market!), walking in the forest or near water, visiting and entertaining friends and family. (Conversely, I think this is why I winter holiday parties when my energy is quiet and attention is inward totally do not work for me.)

These dual needs for grounding and reaching, are reflected in the very design of the human body: in particular the lower legs and forearms. Take a look at the bone structure of the lower arms and legs:

On the surface of it, the two structures look almost identical: two bones next to each other, one noticeably larger than the other, the ends of which connect to similar structures — a hinge joint at one end and a gliding synovial joint at the other. But while the forms looks the same, their functions are not. The bones of the lower leg are designed to stabilize and ground while the bones of the lower arm are designed to flow and reach out.

The forearms and lower legs are the Bones of Summer.

The two lower leg bones are the tibia and the fibula. The second longest bone in the body, the tibia runs along the inside of the lower leg, attaching to the femur/thigh bone at the top and the ankle at the bottom. Run your fingers along what you think of as your shin bone and you are feeling your tibia. The fibula is another long bone but is narrower and runs parallel to and acts as support of the tibia. In the lower leg, the tibia provides strength and weight-bearing while the fibula provides mobility and range of motion with stability being primary focus of the lower leg.

The forearm bones are the radius, on the thumb-side of the arm, and the ulna that runs down the pinkie side of the arm. Similar to the leg bones, these bones provide both strength and mobility but in the arm, the focus is on mobility. The structure of the joints in the forearm allow the radius to rotate around the ulna — the only two bones in the body that cross each other! — which allows the hand and wrist to rotate more completely than the foot (thank goodness, that wouldn’t go well). This intricate design allows extraordinary flexibility and dexterity for everything from lifting heavy boxes to doing caligraphy.

The Bones of Summer remind us that when energy is moving and things heat up, we need to stay both grounded and fluid. We need to rest in the support of the earth under us but also reach out and connect to the ripening fruit of the season. Both stability and mobility are nourishing to the body in the summer heat and the same is true for the mind and heart.

To skillfully navigate a heated situation — rising anger, an intense disagreement or a hot political conflict —  we need to stay both grounded and fluid. Feel yourself present and rooted as well as open and expansive. It can help me to feel my feet and legs (maybe even feeling my feet or legs with my hands) and also breathe and reach out for connection and perspective. So when I get tangled in a Facebook morass, for example, I can feel my body and breath and also go outside, pet the cat and get a hug from my level-headed husband. This connection to both stability and mobility are what allows relaxation, a settling of stirred-up energy as well as openness to possibility and solution.

Hot summer days can be full of pleasure but they can also stir me up and get me over-stimulated. I have to remind myself to find strength and support as well as openness and connection. Walks in the woods, resting on rocks in a river and picking berries from the vine offer ancient balance to the heat of the season. However you navigate the heat, connect with the Bones of Summer in the lower legs and forearms for a physical sensation of grounded fluidity.

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When I say the word “kiss” what comes to mind?

Do you think of what you gave your grandmother?
Do you think of what you give your child?
Do you think of what you get from your dog?
Do you think of what you get from your love?

What if you expanded your view of kiss?
What if you thought of your touch as a kiss?
What if you thought of your gaze as a kiss?
What if you thought of your breath as a kiss?
How could you move and think and speak like a kiss?

Can you let yourself kiss the world and (and this is important) be kissed by the world?

Rumi’s poem is the kiss I long for. Let’s move into that kiss this week.

Some Kiss

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face into mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.


What’s the difference between falling and flying?

My intention?
My ability?
My landing?

Recently, I’ve had Grace Potter & The Nocturnals song, Falling and Flying playing in my ears and in my head. I can feel that both falling and flying are full of energy. Both falling and flying can be scary and unsettling and both can be exciting and eye-opening. So what’s the difference?

Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestault Therapy said this about that:

What if the difference between falling and flying is breathing?

Breath has the power to nourish and cleanse, to energize and relax, to ground and empower. Let your breath flow and you convert falling into flying, fear into excitement, panic into peace.

This week, whenever you feel the grip of fear, go to your breath. Do whatever you can to breathe into the tight, stuck places. Let the energy move rather than be held rigid.

Breathe and transform falling into flying.

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

Dive into the realm of the heart and find layers to explore, sense, and heal.

Body

Build strength in the heart and mobility in the body by moving the heart around in space. Taking it up and down, side to side, front and back — even without moving the feet — develops cardiovascular strength.

In Nia, we use the three planes of movement to build cardiovascular health. Moving the heart, even slightly, low middle and high gives powerful training to this all important muscle. Early in my Nia training, at my Blue Belt with Carlos Rosas we were working through the 52 moves of Nia. We went through them one by one, over and over so we could feel the nuances of each move. There are only 7 Core moves, so when we began them I thought, “Easy peasy!” But when we got to Spinal Rolls, we’d only done about 6 before I was sweating. What in the world? “That,” said Carlos, “is the power of the three planes.”

Emotion

The emotional energy of the heart is (not shockingly) compassion. The heart chakra (or energy center) has two aspects — one in the front in the center of the chest and one in the back between the shoulder blades. The front aspect is where we feel love, happiness, joy. The back aspect is where we feel sadness, grief, sorrow. A healthy emotional heart is balanced between the two: front and back, light and dark.

Years ago, after a long, drawn-out breakup, I got a massage. Face down on the table, the therapist asked me how I was doing. “Oh, I’m FINE,” I said. “Just FINE. It was a long time coming and the right thing to do.” But when she put her hand on the middle of my back she said, “Your heart feels like concrete.” As the warmth of her hand softened into my back, I started to cry. Grief and sadness were trapped in my “FINE” heart chakra.

I recommend this short piece on healing and balancing the energetic heart.

Spirit

What is your heart’s desire? What do you feel pulled to do with your one precious life?

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.” ~ Martha Graham

Graham is talking about your heart spirit, that energy which is uniquely yours and which is really a combination of the energy of your Will Center at your solar plexis and your Expression Center at your throat. Be alert to those “urges that motivate” you. Pay attention and follow them. The world needs your heart spirit.

About the Art

Sometimes I get ideas for pieces in the misty squishy place between sleeping and waking. That’s what happened here: an image of a layered piece reflecting the aspects of the heart materialized at about 5am (and then there was no more sleeping).

The first layer is a simple image of the physical heart painted in shades of green (the color for the Heart Chakra).

The second is a collage of green hearts over the painting ~ all cut from a Yoga Journal magazine that a friend gave me this week!

The third is a collage of tissue paper hearts in yellow (color of Solar Plexis Chakra) and blue (color of Throat Chakra) over the other two layers.

When I first heard about the chakras, the energy system of the body, I didn’t buy it.
At all.
I had seen a rainbow poster of sanskrit symbols in a health food store that smelled of patchouli and wheat grass and thought it was hippie dippy nonsense.

As it turns out, the chakra system (“chakra” simply means “wheel” in Sanskrit) is one of the most practical and useful things I’ve learned in 18 years of practicing mind~body movement. So here’s my very own rainbow art of the system.

On the left is the number of the chakra and where it’s located on the body. The first chakra points down to the earth and the 7th chakra points up to the sky and the others run front to back in the body. The colors are not actually random hippie dippy but rather a reflection of the vibration of each center (This also means there is a sound associated with each center so the music I’ll use in classes this week will be tuned to these vibrations. Just listening to the music can balance your energy. Pretty cool, right?). On the right is the main issue associated with each chakra and an affirmation/intention for each.

Does it sound like a bunch of bunkum to you? Check this excerpt from a post I wrote a while back (you can read the whole thing here):

• Ever felt tightness at the base of your belly when you were worried about money? Or ever known someone insecure who acted like a tight-ass? That’s the first chakra, the base.
• Ever meet someone super-attractive and feel a rush in your stomach? That’s the second chakra, the sexual center.
• Ever had a gut feeling that something was (or wasn’t) the right thing to do? That’s the third chakra, the will center.
• Ever feel heart-broken or like your heart would burst with love? That’s the fourth chakra, the heart center.
• Ever feel a lump in your throat when you wanted to cry? Or a tightness in your throat when you were afraid to say something? That’s the fifth chakra, the throat center.
• Ever just have a feeling that something was happening? Ever get an intuition to call someone? That’s the sixth chakra, the third eye.
• Ever have an expansive feeling of connection far beyond yourself? That’s the seventh chakra, the crown.

We’ve all felt the energetic sensations of the chakra system but often we don’t listen to them. Our culture discourages paying attention to these sensations, but tuning into them is both practical and wise.

Next time you feel emotional in any way – sad or angry or excited – just pause and sense where you feel it in your body. Listening to the subtle energy from the chakra system offers insight and clarity about what is really going on.

When something feels off in our physical bodies, paying attention to it and responding so it can heal is a wise practice. The same is true for the chakra system. To help with that, I’ve created a simple table that gives practical information about how to balance each center (and how to know if it’s out of whack). You can find a PDF of that by clicking on this link ~ Non woo woo table pdf

And if you’d like even more information, check out this post that shares The Nia Technique’s approach to the chakras.

The more I listen to the sensations in the chakra system, the more I can discern what’s happening and make choices about how to proceed with skill and self-awareness. So the next time you feel a lump in your throat or you get a gut feeling, know that paying attention and taking care of that is not hippie dippy woo-woo but skillful self healing.

One year ago this week, the world changed.
Or perhaps, to be more accurate, the world did what the world does and I changed.
Maybe both.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year summed up in six words:

Breathe Deep ~
Take care of yourself. Breathe. Move and feel what’s happening in your body. Eat well. Drink water. Sleep. Take a break when you need to. You can’t do what you need to do if you are running on empty, stressed, and overwhelmed.

Shine Bright ~
There is an energy that only you can bring. You have gifts that no one else has. Sharing that energy and those gifts isn’t just your opportunity, it’s your responsibility. We need what you have to give.

Show Up ~
Stand up. Speak up. Have an opinion. Collapsing and pulling the covers over your head only works in the shortest of terms. Do your best and show up.

Sometimes in the past year, I’ve emphasized one more than the others but in times of challenge, we need all three.

These six words have helped get me through times when I’ve felt afraid, but the more I practice them, the more it seems like they are a good choice no matter what’s happening.

You can do it.

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