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Gratitude

 

Gratitude is a powerful force. I can let gratitude guide my choices, help me make decisions and abide by them. I can also use gratitude to transform a situation that I’m resisting into one that I appreciate. Thank you to every-body who came out to dance this holiday week – in person and virtually! I am lucky to get to play with you all. For those celebrating it…Happy Thanksgiving!

The playlists from the week are below. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! Put the music we dance together with other pieces that lift you up, calm you, and challenge you!

But first, here are a couple of things you want to know about:

Every One of Us: A Conversation with Ruby Sales, Weds, Nov 29, 6-730pm

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities is proud to welcome civil rights icon and public theologian Ruby Sales in a conversation with Charles Marsh, professor of religious studies and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia, moderated by Justin Reid, director of African American programs at VFH. The event will take place from 6:00-7:30 PM at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center at 233 4th St. NW in Charlottesville.
This free, community event has been made possible by the Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost at the University of Virginia. Additional support has been provided by the Black Student Alliance at UVA, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at UVA, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity at UVA, and the Project on Lived Theology at UVA.
Register here to receive event updates and an event reminder: [https://vfh-ruby-sales.eventbrite.com/] Seating is general admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Please arrive early to ensure you get a seat. You do not need to bring your ticket to the event.

Nia classes for people with cancer, survivors, caregivers & staff at UVA with Susan Tate ~ on Mondays and Wednesdays
Join Susan Tate, Black Belt Nia Instructor for Nia classes with a focus on moving to heal on Mondays, 5:30-6:30pm & Wednesdays,12-1pm on the 4th Floor of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center. These free classes start October 16 with a kick-off celebration class at 5:30 pm.  Registration is not required. Contact Susan Tate at susan@susantate.orgfor more information.

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

Monday, Nov 20, 2017, 1045am ~ Gratitude Guides, Decides & Abides

A Thousand Beautiful Things 3:07 Annie Lennox
Pavement Cracks 5:10 Annie Lennox
Hero Dead And Gone (Discotheque Mix) 4:55 De-Phazz
Back to the Earth 5:27 Rusted Root When I Woke
Papa Dukie & The Mud People 4:39 The Subdudes
Something To Believe In 4:44 Parachute
Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars) 4:31 Mark Ronson
Love Is Eternal Sacred Light 4:02 Paul Simon
Yahoo 7:33 Veeresh & The Humaniversity Sound
Kind And Generous 4:06 Natalie Merchant
Let Your Light Shine 4:06 Keb’ Mo’
Gratitude 6:27 Jamie Catto & Alex Forster

(below is the poem I shared at the end of class)

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017, 840am ~ Gratitude Guides, Decides & Abides

A Thousand Beautiful Things 3:07 Annie Lennox
Pavement Cracks 5:10 Annie Lennox
Back to the Earth 5:27 Rusted Root
Qalanderi 7:10 Cheb i Sabbah
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars) 4:31 Mark Ronson
Shoofly Pie 3:57 The Wood Brothers
Yahoo 7:33 Veeresh & The Humaniversity Sound
Something To Believe In 4:44 Parachute
Let Your Light Shine 4:06 Keb’ Mo’
Paddle and Portage 3:36 Solitudes

(below is the poem I shared at the end of class)

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017, 11am ~ Gratitude Guides, Decides & Abides

Sweet Potato Pie 3:14 Al Jarreau
Down To Earth 5:59 Peter Gabriel
Qalanderi 7:10 Cheb i Sabbah
Freedom 2:50 Tyrone Wells
Coolsville 4:53 Rick Braun
Woke Up This Morning 3:55 Ruthie Foster
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco
I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) 3:52 Michael Franti & Spearhead
I Feel Lucky 3:33 Mary Chapin Carpenter
sugar pie 3:39 The Subdudes
Paddle and Portage 3:36 Solitudes

Thanksgiving, Nov 23, 2017, 830am ~ Let Us Give Thanks That Life is High Adventure

Sweet Potato Pie 3:14 Al Jarreau
Down To Earth 5:59 Peter Gabriel
Home 5:05 Marc Broussard
Say Hey (I Love You) (Featuring Cherine Anderson) 3:56 Michael Franti
Coolsville 4:53 Rick Braun
Shoofly Pie 3:57 The Wood Brothers
Start Wearing Purple 3:43 Gogol Bordello
Long Train Running (Groovy Dooby Mix) 5:07 DJ’s Brothers
I Feel Lucky 3:33 Mary Chapin Carpenter
Thankful 4:04 Jonny Lang/Michael McDonald
Sweet Potato Pie 3:46 James Taylor & Ray Charles
What a Wonderful World 5:45 Eva Cassidy
Paddle and Portage 3:36 Solitudes

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NIA?

For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at http://www.nianow.com…
If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.
Interested in teaching or deepening your practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training. They are offered all around the world so you can find one near you or where you may want to go!

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When I get clear about what I’m grateful for, lots of other things get clear. Mindful gratitude guides me and helps me make decisions about how to spend my time and energy, what to work on, what to stand up for, what to take care of. And once I’ve made those decisions, gratitude helps me abide by them.

Gratitude Guides.

Gratitude Decides.

Gratitude Abides.

Or, said more eloquently…

Thanks to Kate Bennis for sharing this poem.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

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“…instead of resisting emotional pain, we [can] say Yes to our experience. The instant we agree to feel fear or vulnerability, greed or agitation, we are holding our life with an unconditionally friendly heart.” – Tara Brach

Imagine yourself sitting at a holiday table with your nearest and dearest. The table is set with shining glasses and dishes and is heavy with steaming, delicious food. As you get ready to eat, you ask everyone to say what it is that they are grateful for. The first person says:

“I’m grateful for my family, my friends and this food.”

The next person says:

“I’m grateful for making art with my step-daughter and niece. I’m grateful for my husband’s resourcefulness and his creative mind. I’m grateful for my friend Rebecca’s honesty and deep compassion. I’m grateful for smooth, satisfying potatoes, for rich roasted brussels sprouts, and sweet creamy pie.”

How do these two feel different when you hear them?

The first response is an idea, a thought about those people and that nourishment. The second, a more embodied gratitude, is based on noticing details and specifics about the objects of gratitude.

Gratitude. People have expounded upon it for as long as people have expounded. In this space alone, I’ve written about gratitude not once, not twice, but more more more more times than that. The reason everyone else and I write about it so often is that gratitude, if deeply felt, is a powerful transformational force. Gratitude can change everything.

Going back to our holiday table, I see that I can get stuck in the idea of gratitude instead of living the felt experience of gratitude. At its most basic level, gratitude is about appreciating what is happening now…whatever that is. We will have preferences, likes and dislikes, but real gratitude, gratitude that stretches our capacity to feel our lives, makes space for everything that is happening.

Once when I was all twisted up in my feelings about what was happening in my family, a friend said, “How do you know this isn’t exactly what needs to happen?” I sputtered around for a while about how it was obviously not what should happen, and she said, calmly and peacefully, “How do you know?” I had to admit that I didn’t.*

I think of that conversation often when I’m resisting my feelings about whatever is going on. And I recall that conversation when I read these two extraordinarily wise pieces by two teachers far more articulate and insightful than I could ever be. I recommend them highly.

Tara Brach, The Practice of Saying Yes

John Tarrant, How To Welcome the End of The World

Rumi’s classic poem, The Guesthouse, speaks succinctly of this gratitude practice of welcoming everything fully.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Gratitude is being present to whatever feelings are happening and saying yes, welcoming it all. My ability to fully embrace the challenging parts allows me to be fully present with the joyful, pleasurable, loving ones.

“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

*An important post script: I am in no way suggesting that anyone who has suffered trauma or loss should say “yes” to the loss, only to allow for any feelings that arise. As Tara Brach says in the piece I reference above:

I do caution my students, however, that it is not always wise to say Yes to inner experience. If we have been traumatized in the past, old feelings of terror may be triggered. We might not have the balance or resiliency in a particular moment to meet our experience with unconditional friendliness, and our attempts at Yes might actually end up flooding us with fear. It would be better instead to find a way to alleviate the fear, perhaps by seeking comfort with a friend, doing vigorous exercise, or taking prescribed medication. For the time being, saying No to what feels like too much, and Yes to what simply works to keep us balanced, is the most compassionate response we can offer ourselves.

Deepest regret for my inadequate words and any resulting misunderstanding on this point.

support hand lettering project 052416

Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, 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.

When I started writing the Support ~ Seen & Unseen post this week, I was struggling some. It had rained in Charlottesville every day for a zillion days (or 24-ish, but still) and I am processing the bittersweetness of our boy’s college graduation and preparing a presentation for my 30th college reunion (?!). I was feeling the paradox of heaviness and disorientation of time zooming past. I simultaneously felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and that I needed to put my head down.

When I started thinking about support, though, my perspective shifted. I thought about support first in my body but it quickly spiraled into all the things and organizations and people that support me all the time. It’s easy to get caught in concern about what’s not working – my knee that suddenly hurts for no reason, the washing machine leaking, the person who says the not-so-nice thing – but without much effort, I can quickly see all the things that are supporting me and helping me right now.

The Art in Action practice this week is to simple, just one step: pause during the day and ask yourself,
“What is supporting me right now?”
Do it a few times during the day and see how broadly you can expand your vision for what is offering you support in any moment.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve uncovered…

Standing in my bathroom brushing my teeth, I am supported by:
• My teeth and the inventor of toothpaste
• The designers of the modern bidet
• The city water system
• The makers of soft towels
• Whoever figured out that if you put that soft stuff on the outside of an elastic band, it doesn’t get all tangled and rip your hair out by the roots.

Driving in my car to teach my class, I am supported by:
• The city for creating the road infrastructure and all the people who keep the roads maintained
• My fellow drivers for obeying the rules of the road to keep us all safe
• The library where I returned a book which helps me to continue to learn … for free!
• My eyes and ears and brain that allow me to drive and follow the convoluted signs around construction
• The fitness center that has employed me for 16 years

Getting into bed, I am supported by:
• The person who built my bed (who also happens to be next to me in it!)
• The maker of memory foam
• The writer of the excellent book I’m reading (which I recommend to everybody)
• The maker of the meditation app I use (which I also recommend to everybody)
• My autonomic nervous system which will conveniently keep me alive while I sleep
• And of course, sleep

The practice of identifying what supports me can look a lot like gratitude and I am grateful for that support. But more than that, seeing clearly the support that is around me helps me feel less alone and more connected to the world. It reminds me of the Invisible Net of Love that surrounds us all.


season of contrast globes 121915

What is up with me and this time of year? I find myself feeling all awkward and wonky like clapping off the beat and tripping over the curb.

I’m not one for organized religion but even my odd spiritual amalgam does allow me to see that this is a special season in many ways. It’s just that I feel out of sync and clumsy for most of it.

Perhaps more than any other time of year, there are a whole tangle forces at work: nature and culture, sacred and secular, light and dark, giving and receiving, grief and celebration. Life is always full of everything but in December, there is a lot more of everything. In fact, part of the reason I feel buffeted by the holidays is that this is the season of contrasts and contradictions.

For example,

  • Our side of the earth will be its darkest in just a few days. Nature’s natural cycle lends itself to nurturing introspection and healing rest now. And yet, flash-sparkly lights are strung on everything that doesn’t move and some things that do. The artificial pop and shimmer can be fun, breath-taking, delightful… and disorienting.
  • Temperatures drop (usually) into the windshield-scraping zone which makes me want to snug-bundle by the fire with an unending pot of tea and the warm, quiet company of cat and man. And yet, we have more parties and gatherings and high-heel-wearing occasions in the next two weeks than in any other time.
  • Gratitude and generosity are at the heart of the season. I love offering gifts of love to the people for whom I am thankful all year. And yet, it is also now when empty chairs are painfully obvious. Whether separated by distance or death, anger or the Army, feelings of loss stand fully alongside those of connection.

With all these wildly contrasting forces at work, it’s no wonder I feel a little scrambled up inside: I’m swinging between life’s extremes and after a while, that swinging makes me want to put my head down.

Instead of swaying back and forth between contradictory conditions, what happens if I opened enough to feel both at the same time? Appreciate the inky depths of the solstice sky and the simultaneously glowing moon. Snuggle into the warmth and nurture of company and community. Fully feel the complicated love for those who are here and those who aren’t.

Simultaneously light and heavy, bright and dark. Giving and receiving. Grateful and grieving.

A tricky balance, I grant you, but perhaps less confusing and unsettling to feel it together.

Contrasts coexisting concurrently.


 

LEAVE A COMMENT, GET A GIFT ~ ‘Tis the season of appreciation for Focus Pocus readers! Please add a comment below or at the Focus Pocus Facebook page and I’ll send you a gift for creative meditation! You can choose from the super-cool one from last week about The Gap (it’s got a hidden message!) or a new one for this week (which I haven’t made yet so who knows what it will be!). ❤


 

Gratitude & Grace 112015

Gratitude

Just this, each day: bear yourself up on small wings to receive what is given. — Marcia Brown (full text is here. bring tissues.*)

If you read this blog, it’s not news that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In addition to my sincere love of autumnal foodstuffs and having a super-long weekend for hiking and hanging with loved ones, I also am a big believer in the power of gratitude.

In this space I’ve written about Gratitude Feasting and Gratitude Fasting, The High Adventure of Gratitude and Graduate Gratitude.

In recent years, I’ve kept gratitude journals of various kinds, I do my best to write thank you notes for gifts big and small and I say a gratitude prayer before every meal (and this week I joined Mandy Blake’s Embody Gratitude project – want to do it with me? It’s free!). One of my favorite yoga teachers invites me in every class to identify one thing for which I am grateful (she cleverly does this right after the most intense pose of the practice when I’m sometimes hatin’ life) and every time, I’m appreciative to come back into a grateful heart.

A grateful heart is a light and spacious heart no matter what is happening around it. Grateful eyes see a world full of abundance and possibilities even when things are pretty bleak.

And yet for all these practices and despite my abiding love for gratitude, there is one thing I always forget. Over and over, I pour my gratitude out onto others, to the many gifts in my life, to Nature and the Earth. But over and over, I forget to be grateful for myself. I remember to be grateful for my health and my body and all it allows me to do, but for ME? For the I that I am? That, I always forget.

Which is understandable in some ways, since I grew up with an emphasis on humility (which sometimes wanders into the realm of self-deprecation) and besides, nobody likes to be around a braggy pants. But my lack of self-directed gratitude is surprising, even shocking, given that it’s what I teach about and write about all. the. time.

So in this sweet season of remembering to be thankful to the embarrassment of riches that is my life, I commit to adding myself to that list. If you happen to have the same habit for forgetting what a gift you are in the world, I hope you’ll do the same.

Grace

Grace finds goodness in everything – U2

Grace. I just love the word: Grace.

I love it in part for its multiple meanings**. On the spiritual front: unmerited divine assistance given humans and a virtue coming from God and a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace. (“State of Sanctification”! I just love that.)

On the secular side: approval, favor, mercy, pardon, reprieve, and the disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

On the physical plane: a charming or attractive trait or characteristic. And of course, one of my favorites as a movement teacher: ease and suppleness of movement or bearing.

And finally, in this season of gratitude, grace is also a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks. Of course it means that. To give thanks, to ask for blessing is by its very nature an act of ease and suppleness.

I’m often an awkward thing: heavy-walking, tripping and bumping into things; slow on the uptake, at a loss for the right thing to say or do; missing emotional cues or blundering in sensitive situations. But I set an intention for grace and I’ve noticed that the most direct route to grace is gratitude. For suppleness and ease in my interactions, mercy and pardon for myself and others when things get bumpy, nothing gets me to grace more cleanly than gratitude. Grace puts the world and everyone in it in a state of sanctification because even the most awkward and misguided of us are sacred.

At this time of year, gratitude is the headliner as it should be. And gratitude will inevitably take me to grace It is a truth we observe and feel in our bones: when a heart is full of gratitude, it is also a heart full of grace.


 

* Thanks to Mary Linn for this quote and poem and for teaching me more in the past year about gratitude & grace than I’ve learned in a lifetime.

** all of these definitions come from Merriam Webster

generosity receive open hands“Life gives to each one of us in so many ways. … You don’t earn these things. You can’t. They are just given. The best you can do is to receive them. That helps fill your own cup, which is good for both you and others.” ~ from Rick Hanson “Receive Generosity”

As a teenager, I was an awkward gift-receiver (sometimes I still am). Oh, I wrote thank you notes and all that, but from the inside, receiving a gift, particularly a generous gift, was a swirl of conflicting emotion. Receiving filled me with excitement and anxiety. There was often a bunch of blushing and stammering involved. I felt special and loved when receiving a gift but immediately on the heels of that was the concern that I didn’t deserve it and that I could never repay it.

The result was that I didn’t fully acknowledge the gifts I was given.
What’s more, I wasn’t able to truly receive them, to fully appreciate and take them in.

The very first thing each of us did in this world was to receive a breath. From the moment of birth (and before then, too, when considering the gifts of the womb), life continuously gives generously to each of us. No matter what your circumstances, life offers staggering generosity.

As Rick Hanson points out brilliantly in “Receive Generosity,” everything from the kindness of friends and family, to strangers whose work and lives have positively impacted yours, to the great bountiful gifts in nature, to your very DNA are all gifts flowing to you all the time.

Life is so extraordinarily generous, in fact, that it can be easy to take it for granted, or not notice the gifts at all. I can also have attachments or beliefs around receiving: an anxious feeling that I’m not worthy of the gift or the suspicion that there are strings attached.

Experiment with receiving generosity graciously: to notice a gift for all that it is, to soften and to accept it gratefully. You can do it in this moment by receiving graciously the gift of your senses. Take in the colors and shapes that you can see, the sounds you can hear, the touch you can feel, the fragrance of the moment, and the taste in your mouth.

As Dr. Hanson suggests, we can expand this further to the gifts the natural world, the material gifts of our lives, the gifts of the people around us, even things that are challenging, difficult, even heart-breaking. Honestly, life’s generosity is stunning but the key is feeling your worthiness to receive it.

In a recent post on her genius Momastery blog, Glennon Doyle Melton tells her visit to a community-building organization called Caminante in Dominican Republic. She describes Benjamin whose life was caught in drugs and violence. He came to Caminante to get job skills but he described how he received much more than that. He said, “We know that when we give, we should give from the heart, but I didn’t know that when we receive, we need to receive from the heart as well. My teacher showed me how to receive the love that exists for me. I have to believe I’m worthy of receiving it. I receive it now. By teaching me to receive love, my teacher created a new me.”

The emphasis in Benjamin’s quote is mine. Feel the truth of this ~ you need to receive from the heart and you are worthy of receiving.

What I’m suggesting is, in part, a practice of gratitude, but more than that, it is a practice of allowing yourself to receive with an open, undefended heart. Practice fully noticing, appreciating and allowing in the gifts and love that is generously given. To receive generosity and to do so graciously is part of living mindfully and of loving fully.

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