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Energy

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.

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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.

This week’s post is about intensity. More specifically, it’s about the benefits of mindfully choosing intensity. Even so, the topic can be a little, well, intense. So I offer the post in illustrations and color with a black cat on the side…

I know I find myself doing this. Avoid riding my bike because it’s easier to drive. Avoid doing another back bend because GAH! Do you do this, too? If so…Click here on the link to the research. It’s kind of amazing.

You can do that right now. Take a moment to take a deep breath before you keep reading. Okay, two more reasons to mindfully choose intensity.

To be clear, mindfully choosing intensity does NOT mean to beat yourself up, push yourself to exhaustion or anything like that. This is about feeling the urgency of intensity and allowing yourself to find the place where you are challenging yourself and able to keep breathing, stay balanced and present. Mindful intensity is an opportunity to offer kindness and strength to yourself. SO…

Meow, y’all.


P.S. Let me know what you think about the illustrated post!

You’re original, with your own path
You’re original, got your own way
Leftfield, Original

echoes reverberating with echoes 020616Love like a signal you call
Touching my body my soul
Bring to me, you to meet me here
Moodswings, Spiritual High, Part I

Everything’s a remix. Everything. Everything is derivative. Even the things we think of as wildly original. Everything is an echo of what came before. Even you.


When I heard Queen Latifa’s 2004 album of standards, The Dana Owens Album (Dana Owens was her name before she Queened herself), my favorite track was Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. It’s an awesome song that I love to use in class. If you listen to Queen’s version, you’ll hear her talk at the beginning. Check it out.

Cool.

But then I heard Cannonball Adderly’s 1966 original Mercy Mercy Mercy in the jazz appreciation course I’m taking. Evidently, one thing Cannonball was famous for was doing a little talking introduction to his numbers. Listen to what he says in his intro.

Super cool. Not only was Queen Latifa creating a kickin’ cover of a classic, she was echoing Adderly while she was doing it.


When it comes to humor, I am totally low brow. Show me a clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos of someone wiping out on a sledding run and I will laugh myself senseless. (A trait that was perhaps once endearing to Frank now is just an eye-roller.)

corkystclairIt stands to reason then, that a Christopher Guest mockumentary complete with ridiculous wigs and goofy songs about terriers and “armadillos in their trousers” is right up my alley. In Guest’s spoof on folk music reunions, A Mighty Wind, we meet the daft trio The Folksmen. Their series of 60s-era albums (covers complete with matching outfits and silly poses) include Ramblin’, Wishin’, Hitchin’, Pickin’.

ramblinwishin

hitchin

pickinWhich cracks me up.

But then I learned about The Miles Davis Quintet. In 1956, in a dash to fulfill their contract with Prestige records so they could sign with Columbia, Davis’ first great quintet recorded four albums in two days. The names of those great albums? Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, Steamin.’

Suddenly, Guest’s joke about the lame folk trio is even funnier for its echo to one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.


Every time you move your body, whether you are doing a lay-up or swinging a golf club or bustin’ a bad-to-the-bone dance move, you are echoing movement that has come before you. Someone taught you to walk, but no one walks like you. Someone can show you how to swing a tennis racket or do downward dog, but only you do it like you. There is the form of the movement and the form of your body and the form of this moment and the three come together in an alchemy of originality.


Every movement choice you make with your body, or for that matter, every thought you think and emotion you feel echoes in your bones. Especially choices you make regularly – always carrying your bag on your left shoulder, always running without stretching, always telling yourself that you aren’t good enough – will leave lasting impressions. Like the wind that blows and blows and blows to sculpt the pines, the choices we make echo into our future.


We have a similar impact on each other. Right now, you can think of a time when the words or actions of someone left a lasting impression of love and healing … or of pain and suffering. Just like your own choices, connections with others echo in our bodies and minds far into the future.


We are echoes reverberating with echoes. Original echoes. What is the tone you want to send into your future self and the future world?

carlosYesterday, I wrote about spotting two gems in an old Nia notebook from a long-ago training with Carlos AyaRosas.

~ Can you let go of the need to check the outside world to see if you are doing okay?
~ Can you use your eyes to look out and stay in your body?

We use our eyes so much, so constantly, we are such visual creatures, that almost always we are unconscious about how we use them. Today, let’s look more closely at each of these eye-pearls from Carlos. The first pearl is connected with confidence and security (or lack thereof) and the second is about balance between self and other.

~ Can you let go of the need to check the outside world to see if you are doing okay?

eye energy Michael_scott

My decision to teach mindful movement classes was both exciting and full-on terrifying. Getting up in front of people in tight pants and suggesting that they watch my body for an hour is a journey in vulnerability — even 15 years into the practice.

I still grapple with insecurity and self-consciousness but early on, I was awash in it. Worried that I wasn’t doing it right or that I wasn’t measuring up to more experienced teachers, I found myself checking out my students’ reactions to see if I was doing okay. I suspect I looked like Michael Scott, Steve Carrell’s character from The Office as my eyes darted from face to face. (In the show’s mockumentary format, Michael is forever glancing to the camera with wince-worthy awkwardness to see if he’s getting the laugh or praise or approval he’s after. Yep, that was me.)

It’s a natural human (albeit caveman-y) reaction to check in to see how what we say or do lands with others. We want to know that we’re still welcome to sit around the fire with our tribe and nibble on elderberry jerky with them. When I find myself doing it to distraction (mine and others), however, I know that I’ve lost my footing and am giving away my energy in an attempt to please my fellow cave folk.

It’s likely that you don’t get in front of people with pink polka dotted pants on and shake your daisy. It may be that your “checking the outside world” isn’t as painfully obvious as Michael Scott’s or mine. But notice when you feel yourself doing or saying something and then looking to see if you’re still accepted by the tribe. That’s a good time to feel your feet, stay in your body and breathe into your own self.

~ Can you use your eyes to look out and stay in your body?

eye energy grand canyonBeauty can bring me to tears. When I watched the sun come up over Grand Canyon, the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains, and when my children were part of the Walker Upper Elementary School Olympic Ceremony each time I was a weepy mess. There are times when I can cry, feel deep emotion, and still stay connected to my body and sensation but often intensity causes me to vacate the premises. When I see something lovely or frightening or sad, it’s easy for me to ellipt into the other ~ whether it is mountain range or a beloved child ~ and lose myself entirely.

This is a shame, really, since the sensations that arise when I look at the world are helpful and informative. Feeling the tightness in my throat when I see cruelty or injustice tells me that I have something I want to say. Sensing the spaciousness in my heart and tingling on my skin when I see the light touching the towering Grand Canyon walls, tells me that I am part of something larger. All sensations, even painful ones, offer me an experience of aliveness.

What happens when you look out, can you stay connected to yourself, to your physical sensation in the moment?

It’s worth practicing on little things like the new blossoms in your garden or the sweet view from your window before you take on the big stuff like natural wonders of the world or middle school performances. However you do it, though, it’s worth practicing being connected with something or someone outside of you and staying connected to yourself.

How we use our eyes affects the physical body and movement — and it is largely about exchanging energy. Mindfulness around that exchange can help me stay balanced:  both offer my energy and hold onto my own power.

This week, keep an eye on how you use your eyes.

eye energy eye closeupFew are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. ~ Albert Einstein

My husband, Frank, and I are moving house. Last month we sold our beautiful and beloved work of Frank Art and next month, we will leave it. We are happy about the move and the process requires lots of letting go. It’s healthy and challenging and sometimes I have to put my head down on some packing materials.

Over the past few months, we’ve been purging the eddies in our house: the closets and cabinets and drawers where we mindlessly stick things until they stack up like a jumble of sticks and leaves on the swirling edge of a stream.

One of those eddies was my Nia and journal cabinet. This precious cabinet held every notebook and journal from every Nia training, meditation retreat, and workshop I’d attended in 15 years…although I’d almost never gone to it. When I swung open the cabinet, I felt my heart clench, “I NEED all of this. I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned.”

To placate my rising panic, I promised myself that I would collect all the wisdom in a Word document so I could keep the insights but let go of the dozens of spiral notebooks.

carlos has an ear for every instrument

To my shock, when I read through my Nia notebooks, I didn’t feel the need to capture much at all (although I did scan a couple of doodles like the one above). Almost everything I either knew in my bones or wasn’t relevant. In the end, out of all those journals, I entered precisely two lines into the Word document. They came from a Blue Belt (the second level of training focused on communication, relationship, and intimacy) from my teacher, Carlos AyaRosas:

~ Can you let go of the need to check the outside world to see if you are doing okay?
~ Can you use your eyes to look out and stay in your body?

Ah. Yes. Right. This, I want to keep. There is more to learn here.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti or gaze. In the Hawaiian Huna tradition makia means “energy flows where attention goes.” In Nia, one of the 52 Moves is Head & Eye Movement. As highly visual creatures, the way we use our eyes affects body, mind, and emotions. Eyes are movers of energy and how I choose to use them has a direct connection to where my energy goes, how much I have available, and how much I give away.

Tomorrow, I’ll look more closely at Carlos’ two pearls. Keep an eye out for it.

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