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.

It happens a lot while I’m driving.
It happens when I’m chopping vegetables.
It happens often in the shower, on the dance floor and on the yoga mat.

And while I get a TON of things done in my office, those things are almost never inspired.

Creativity and inspiration, as Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in her book Big Magic, arrives under particular circumstances.
Creativity doesn’t come when we force it.
Inspiration doesn’t come when we are under stress.
Chic Thompson could have said, “Nobody ever got a good idea while being chased by a tiger or having a fight with their kid or fretting about the doom of the planet.”

We can only invite inspiration, and in order to do that, we have to give it space. We can’t make creativity happen but we can create conditions that make it more likely.

One way to start practicing making inspiration space is to notice when your insights and genius shows up. What were you doing? What state of mind and body and heart were you in? Once I notice when creativity shows up, I can start to intentionally create those situations more often. (Perhaps this is why I make so many chopped salads.)

This is one of the reasons that I’m teaching on just Monday (1045am at acac albemarle square) and Tuesday (840am at acac downtown) this week. I’m taking a couple of days away to mark the Solstice, visit my friend Zan in the mountains of West Virginia, and allow in some inspiration. Kate (Wednesday at 11am) and Jeanne (Thursday at 840am) will be dancing with you while I’m away.

And speaking of inspiration, if you missed my extra post yesterday about my first book, Buddha Cat: Learning Awareness, Presence & Self-Care from a Teacher Who Sometimes Barfs on the Bed, check it out here!

Making a book has been a life-long dream and I’m excited about sharing the adventure with you. I would love it if you would help spread the insight and delight of the project. Would you please go to and sign up to become a Buddha Cat Backer? It’s free, of course, and I’ll send you updates, information, discounts and some special goodies that only Buddha Cat Backers will get. Thank you for being one of my sources of inspiration!

PS Here is Buddha Cat herself meditating on her favorite cushion.

Inspired 052816

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.

It’s no coincidence that in English, the word inspiration means both the intake of breath and intake of energy to do something. We might call the first “inspiration-with-a-small-i” and the second “Inspiration-with-a-big-I.”

Interestingly, how we get one is often how we get the other. When we are breathing deeply, we are often on the receiving end of spirit. Of course, part of the thing about breath and spirit is that what takes your breath away and inspires you to action is personal and unique.* And if you’re feeling a little beige around the edges and looking for an influx of inspiration (of either kind), here are some places that I like to go.

1. Nature ~

There is nothing like being outside, seeing the sky and everything growing in it to remind me to breathe and to allow myself to be energized and inspired. When my brain feels scrambled or blah, when I’m feeling down or anxious, going outside is one of the best ways to get me back on my feet and in my heart. Whether I’m in a city or in a forest, feeling the expansiveness of the natural world that exists around all human construction opens my lungs, my heart, and my imagination.

2. Stillness ~

Spending time in conscious stillness is an invaluable way to drop into what I’m experiencing in the moment and also expanding into a broader perspective. Often when I sit, I’ll start by following my breath (I sometimes say “In” and “Out” to myself to really connect with the sound and feel of each breath) and making light mental notes about what I’m feeling in my physical body (“tension in throat,” “tightness in heart,” “aching in ankle,” etc.). Once I’m grounded in the direct experience of the moment, I imagine my peripheral vision (even with my eyes closed) expanding and allow myself to observe my experience with interest but without attachment. I’ll often get caught in thought or planning but as soon as I notice it, I gently bring myself back. Sometimes I get insights or ideas and sometimes I don’t, but always I feel more connected to my breath and what’s actually happening.

3. Art ~

Spending time with provocative and interesting works of art is something that can literally make me catch my breath and be inspired by what people create. For me, watching an excellent film (we just enjoyed Mud the other night), or looking at beautiful photography, or listening to music can change the way I see the world and myself. “Art” may be different for you – perhaps a beautifully designed building, or a typeface, a garden or a fishing lure. Whatever it is that opens your eyes to the creative source that comes through human beings, spend some time with that.

4. People Who Rock ~

Get curious about the people whose work you admire. Read a biography, watch a biopic or listen to an interview. Beware the voices that tell you that some people are creative and inspired and some people aren’t. That’s what we’ve been taught but it’s bull hockey (and actually just a way to hide). Everybody has their own strain of creative genius. Celebrate the people who inspire you, share their work, and then take a breath and get busy being inspired.

* What inspires you? I’ve listed my go-to inspirations but there are as many examples as there are people. I’d love to hear what takes your breath away and gets your heart beating. Jump in to the comment section below or email me at I look forward to connecting with you.

sweet sixteen 052816

“The space between where you are and where you want to be can be a struggle or it can be an inspiration.” ~ Kelly Stine, Yoga Super Shero

“The space between where you were and where you are can be a struggle or it can be an inspiration.” ~ My riff on Kelly

Graduations and reunions are times of looking back. At this time of year, we are often gazing into the past with nostalgia, perhaps longing, and almost always with skewed lenses.

Our boy graduated from college last weekend. It’s easy now to look at this tall, handsome, accomplished young man and sigh and say, “Time flies! It feels like yesterday that you were six.” But when he was six and he wouldn’t put on his shoes and he was screaming and flailing as Frank carried him through the neighborhood to school? Yeah, time was not going so fast that day.

We can look forward and be daunted by the work it will take to do what we want to do.

We can look back and forget the work that it took to get to where we are now.

Since January, I’ve been taking my Nia classes one-by-one through the sixteen routines I’ve created during sixteen years of teaching. And while I hope it has been a fun and interesting journey for my students, I suspect I’ve gotten more out of the exercise than they have.

When I started the retrospective in January, I did it with intention. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next in my work. Not sure where I wanted to focus my attention or what I wanted to create now. I figured I’d start with the body of work I had and see what happened.

As we made our way through each routine, I thought about what was happening in my life at the time, where I was in my training, where I was teaching. I remembered the struggles, the doubts, the excitements, the disappointments, the inspiration. I was aware of the space between then and now. I could see each one as a stepping stone to the next.

In a recent interview, reporter and writer, Neil Strauss said he couldn’t remember how many books he’s written. He said he is always focusing on what he’s doing now, not what he’s done before. While I agree that little can be gained from the proverbial laurel rest, when I’m stuck and unsure what to do next, looking back can be a helpful thing to do.

As long as I do it with clear eyes.

Looking back has the potential of being a big longing wallow ~ wishing to be younger, wishing for how things used to be (or how I think they used to be) ~ which is only a source of suffering. Alternatively, looking back can be a way of learning from yourself. Looking back with clear eyes can show us how far we’ve come …and what still needs to be done.

This week, we will dance the last of the sixteen routines: Inspired. And this week, I begin work on the next routine, the next workshop, and the next retreat. I’m standing on this stone but the fog has cleared and I can see the next ones I want to step to.

Where are you stepping next, my friends? If you’re not sure, looking back is a way to figure it out. Whatever’s happening, share in the comments below about looking back and its relationship to moving forward or email me at and let me know what’s up. I look forward to connecting.

Civil Rights Confrontation
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

My life is ridiculously comfortable and convenient. The extraordinary good fortune that has been heaped upon my head would be enough to up the quality of life of an entire island nation. It’s incredible, really.

And yet, that’s not enough to stop me from behaving badly when iTunes crashes or I spill a quart of coconut water on the kitchen floor or my new password manager is wonky.

Yep, that’s all it took: a wonky password manager.

After a security breach on my husband’s computer, the two of us agreed to put all our passwords into a password manager. An excellent idea since I am more than a little lax in the computer security department and the scrap of paper with all my passwords on it (that I’ve had since 2002) was getting a difficult to read.

Only I’m impatient when learning new computer stuff and when the program wasn’t working the way I thought it would and I got locked out of my Twitter account, I got irritated (irkitated, even). I went on a rant about how dishonest and malicious people require us to invest time, money and energy into these stupid programs and the only person it really keeps out of my accounts is me and then I slammed a couple of doors.

A ridiculously first-world problem, up to my armpits in comfort and convenience, and I’m acting like a four-year-old.

Which brings me to hot yoga.

Wonky computer programs notwithstanding, choosing to spend time in a challenging and uncomfortable environment helps me build resources to draw on when challenge and controversy show up uninvited.

When I started hot yoga in December 2012, I thought it would be a physical challenge and a new way to keep my body healthy. It is that, for sure, but the biggest benefit I’ve gotten from yoga is its effect on my mind. After 467 90-minute classes in a humid, 100+ degree studio, more and more I’m able to stay calm in times of challenge and controversy.

My teachers often talk about breathing calmly and steadily even when the body is under stress or concentrated effort. By focusing on the steady, even flow of breath, my nervous system is less anxious and startled by the discomfort.  I’m able to literally and figuratively stay in the room.

After practicing hot yoga, I have higher tolerance for other uncomfortable situations.

In the past couple of years, I’ve had unpleasant and alarming experiences, I’ve had friends upset with and disappointed in me, and I’ve taught classes under emotional and stressful circumstances. In all those situations, I’ve shown up more relaxed, more present, calmer than I used to.

Obviously, it doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes, I still get twisted up over things and stomp around. But spending time in the hot room or sitting in meditation even when my back hurts or staying low in sumo stance until my legs shake, gives me confidence that translates into my life. My mind learns I can do this. Choosing challenge helps me stay calm or regain my calm quicker when things go awry.

When I think about the challenge and controversy endured by brave people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who participated in the civil rights movement (and people today who are fighting diligently for civil and human rights, environmental protection, and social equality), I wonder how they managed to behave so well when under such duress. I wonder how they built their resources to be steady and calm in the face of so much hatred.

Given my track record, I suspect I wouldn’t have had the strength or courage for it. I think I would have slammed a lot of doors in Alabama. But perhaps, in some small way, by choosing to challenge myself, I can rise to some of the challenging occasions in my life … and maybe even be a force for love.

movement and meaning signs of life bookIn Angeles Arrien’s book Shapes of Life: The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them, she identifies five universal shapes that carry the same meaning across time and culture. The five universal shapes are:

movement and meaning signsoflife shapes

To take the Preferential Shapes Test, rank the five shapes in order of preference. Without thinking too much about it, rank from your most preferred (1) to your least preferred (5).

The following comes directly from Arrien’s book and may offer insights into your internal processes. I’ve also found it interesting to look with a different eye at advertising, art, logos, and business cards, architecture, furniture design and, well, everything!

movement and meaning signsoflife painted shapes

From Signs of Life by Angeles Arrien:

The preference for particular shapes is an announcement of the values and processes active at any time for an individual, a group or a whole society…. The meaning ascribed to each of the five shapes symbolizes and demonstrates an individual’s worldview: the qualities, characteristics, belief structures, actions, and forms of expression used by one person or shared by the members of a society…. The Preferential Shapes Test allows a person to discover one’s own current worldview…. The sequence in which someone places the shapes when taking the test is most important in showing which of the five universal processes of change and growth is being experienced most intensely by that person at that time….

The meanings of the positions:

Position 1 – Where you think you are.

The shape placed here, in this most preferred position, signals the process that now has your attention; it describes the part of yourself of which you are most aware and with which you are most comfortable at this time…. BUT – and this is critical for proper interpretation of the test results – it is not the most accurate indicator of where you actually are right now. It only shows you where you think you are or where you would like to be.

Position 2 – Your strengths.

The shape you have chosen as your second preference exhibits an inherent strength predominant in you at this time, whether you know it or not. You demonstrate this strength to other people without effort. The shape in this position indicates areas of your nature that are currently fluid, strong, and resourceful. This shape reveals the innate talents you are using to assist the growth occurring in Position 3. Many people who have taken this test, report that recent positive feedback and compliments they have received from others correspond to the qualities of the shape found in Position 2.

Position 3 – Where you are.

Though this shape is third in your order of preference, it is the most significant: the shape you put in this position shows your true current growth process. This shape stands for the work that is really going on, right now, at the core of your being. Very often this process is unconscious or overlooked, yet you must be aware of it in order to fully manifest the potential it represents…. The shape in this position can be a source of unlimited creativity and healing when you support the process it signifies.

Position 4 – Your motivation.

Position 4 points to past challenges, tests, and circumstances that have motivated your current process of change. The fourth position of preference and the shape within it discovers the motivation that triggered your move into the core work to be done that is symbolized by the shape in Position 3. This shape furnishes clarifying information about the underlying incentive that has provoked you to do things differently now. Many people have reported that the shape found in this position also describes situations they have resolved or moved beyond.

Position 5 – Old, unfinished business.

This shape, your least preferred, identifies a process you have outgrown or one that you dislike, still resist, or are judging. It indicates old, perhaps unfinished, business. This fifth position is associated with unresolved issues you now wish to put aside. The shape placed here carries a process that you will reclaim and integrate at a later date. It is work to which you should attend in the present; instead, it show areas of boredom, patterns of denial, or disowned parts within yourself.

The Circle Symbolizes: Wholeness, Unity, Independence, Individuation (The Hero Myth)

In Position 1: If the circle is in Position 1, it indicates your desire to be independent and self-sufficient. This is the process that has your attention and that is a source of inspiration to you.
In Position 2: The circle in Position 2 means that the heroic journey currently is effortless for you, whether or not you are aware of that. Your heroic behavior points out to others that your strengths are self-reliance and resourcefulness.
In Position 3: In Position 3, the circle shows that the process of individuation is occur9ing at the core of your nature. When fully engaged, this process of achieving and experiencing independence will allow your natural creative and restorative abilities to flow into all areas of your life.
In Position 4: The Circle in Position 4 denotes that a past heroic journey motivated you to become responsible and self-reliant. The process of individuation was the past challenge that caused you to move to your present core work (defined by the shape you have placed in Position 3 — ).
In Position 5: When the Circle is in Position 5, you may be resisting or denying the process of individuation. The heroic journey currently does not have your attention and you have no interest in exploring it at this time.

The Spiral Symbolizes: Growth & Change, Evolution (Life-renewing stories & myths), Coming to the same point again & again but at a different level, New Perspectives

In Position 1: If the spiral is in Position 1, it shows that the process of growth is the one you believe to be the most important for you at this time. You want to develop flexibility, to handle situations differently from the way you have in the past, and to implement tangible changes in your life.
In Position 2: The spiral in Position 2 denotes that it is easy for you to handle change, whether you know this or not. Your actions let others see that your strengths are flexibility and the ability to do many things at once.
In Position 3: In Position 3, the spiral symbolized that you are profoundly engaged in the process of change. It is essential to honor the changes occurring within your nature. Change and variety are necessary in your life. When you are able to trust this process, great energy will be released into all areas of your life.
In Position 4: Locating the spiral in Position 4 lets you know that you were challenged in the past to make significant changes in your life. Meeting those challenges readied you for your current breakthrough work as shown by the shape in Position 3 – The .
In Position 5: When the spiral is found in Position 5, it means you are unlikely to show interest in the process of growth or change.

The Triangle Symbolizes: Goals, Dreams, Visions, Self-discovery, and Revelation

In Position 1: If the triangle is in Position 1, the process of envisioning seems most significant for you now. You desire to manifest certain goals and dreams within reachable time frames.
In Position 2: The triangle in Position 2 indicates that you carry the gift of vision naturally, though you may be unaware of that. Your behavior indicates to others that you are a visionary that you can create goals and attain them.
In Position 3: In Position 3, the triangle means that the process of envisioning is central to your current development. It is essential for you to honor the goals and dreams that are important to you. When you are completely involved in this process your efforts will assure that your full powers of inspiration and envisioning are easily accessible to you. Now is the time to actualize your goals and dreams.
In Position 4: The triangle in Position 4 shows that your own process of following dreams in the past motivated you to make meaningful changed in your life. Past visions and goals prepared and inspired you to move in the direction of your core work in the present, designated by the shape you have paced in Position 3 — .
In Position 5: When the triangle is found in Position 5, you may be resisting the process of honoring your dreams and establishing goals. The need to manifest your goals or to envision new possibilities is not a desired process for you now.

The Equidistant Cross Symbolizes: Relationship, Integration, Coupling, Synthesizing, Integrating, and Balancing (Twin or Couple Myths & Stories)

In Position 1: If the cross is in Position 1, it means that the process of relationship is what you believe to be most important in your life.
In Position 2: The cross in Position 2 means that the shared journey is currently an effortless process for you, though you may not know this. Your behavior makes it obvious to others that your strength is in people skills, that you develop relationships easily, and that achieving balance is natural to you.
In Position 3: In Position 3, the cross shows that the relationship process is occurring deep within your nature. When you participate fully in this process, your originality and regenerative powers will be fully available to you.
In Position 4: The cross in Position 4 makes clear that a past-shared journey inspired you to become more attentive to partnership and teamwork endeavors. The past challenge stimulated you to begin your core work in the present as designated by the shape in Position 3 — .
In Position 5: When the cross is found in Position 5, you may want to ignore or dismiss the importance of the process of relationship in your life.

The Square Symbolizes: Stability, Solidity, and Security

In Position 1: If the square is in Position 1, stability and authenticity have your attention and are sources of inspiration to you. You value the alignment of words and actions
In Position 2: The Square in Position 2 indicates that your inherent strengths are responsibility, authenticity, and the ability to be fully committed when you give your word. You may not be aware of this ability. Your actions tell others that you are reliable and you are known and valued for your integrity.
In Position 3: In Position 3, the square means that the process of stability is occurring at the core of your nature. It is vitally important for you to stabilize and implement your creative endeavors. You need things to be tangible and productive. Expressing your authenticity is essential for you at this time. When you participate in the process with all your attention, untapped creativity and well being will become available to you.
In Position 4: The square in Position 4 announces that past issues of responsibility and accountability led you to make substantial changes in your life. Past situations requiring consistency and stability prepared and motivated you to move in the direction of your present core work as shown by the shape in Position 3 – The .
In Position 5: When the square is in Position 5, you may be denying the process of stability and responsibility. The need to be consistent and congruent is not a primary focus for you, nor are you interested in exploring it now.

Personal Integration

Tension always exists between the tendencies symbolized in Positions 1 & 5. This tension is sometimes experienced as a conflict…. The first and last positions define an internal struggle. Resolving the struggle means finding a middle ground. Look to Position 3, which often contains the key to personal integration and increased well-being.

Drawing Mandalas

One simple and powerful technique for becoming aware of and empowered by the processes working within you…is to draw or paint an ongoing series of mandalas.

Mandalas are geometric combinations that create a unified whole. Mandala is Sanskrit for “that of essence” (manda – essence, la – of).

Using the symbols that occupy your Positions 1, 3, and 5, experiment with different combinations of these three shapes….As Jung pointed out, symbols are linked with the deep structures of the human psyche. Integrating symbols externally sets up an inner experience that contributes to personal harmony and balance. That is why the mandala exercise, drawn with your primary symbols from Positions 1, 3 and 5, begins to create a symbolic structure that will support personal transformation of energy.

resistance Yves Klein Le Saut dans le vide“The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.” – Seth Godin

Sometimes at the end of class, a student will approach me and say, “I like your class but…
…I really don’t like freedance.”
…I don’t like making sound.”
…I hate that routine.”

There was a time that I would feel terrible at these declarations. I would feel like I had failed them, that I wasn’t doing a good job. But over time, I realized that there was a gift in the dislike. Now, when someone tells me what they hate the most, I love it. Their resistance reveals exactly what they need to do the most. Instead of apologizing and telling them they can skip that part or I won’t teach that again, I say, “That’s awesome. We’ll do it again next class.”

As you might imagine, this is not a popular response.

The resistance can feel uncomfortable, but it is an essential part of growth, learning, and vibrant living. The resistance is essential to living life as art.

The resistance happens physically, too. Right now, gently stretch in any way: arch your back, stretch for your toes, or twist in your chair. At some point, you’ll come to a place where the body resists going further. This is the essential edge to play with and dance on: the edge between challenge and healing. I don’t want to over-do or push beyond where I’m ready to go, but I don’t want to avoid the edge entirely either. Breathe on that edge. The resistance is essential for a healthy body.

Recently, I came across a book that directly addresses this essential resistance. The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin is one of those rare books that shifted the way I see things. Reading it changed the way I approach my work and my life.

In the early 2000s, when I was doing internet marketing for an early dot com company, I heard about Seth Godin. Without investigating, I assumed he was a money-grubbing, narcissistic, capitalist pig looking to take full advantage of the emerging economic landscape for his own personal gain. (I might have been just a teensy bit jaded by some of the people I met at the time.)

In January, I caught a promo for one of my favorite radio shows, On Being with Krista Tippett. I almost always come away inspired, from its rich and insightful interviews with leaders of spirit from a variety of spheres.

But who was the guest this week? Seth Godin! What the…? What is that guy doing on my favorite show??


Luckily, I overcame my indignation, downloaded the show, and listened. What he said was brilliant and it wove together a variety of threads that had been dangling around in my head. He said that in the industrial economy, we were all trained to follow directions, do what we were told, to be good cogs in the wheel. That’s what the owners/leaders/rich people needed. But now, in the post-industrial, “connection” economy, Godin suggests that “we are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists – to create in ways that matter to other people.” (my emphasis)

Hot damn.

His words articulated my experience: of mindful fitness, of teaching and then taking a sabbatical (when I all I felt like was a Good Cog), of inviting people to move and be aware when the culture points toward distraction and multi-tasking, and of writing a blog and a book about such things.

Reading his book crystallized my understanding of my own experience, and it encouraged me to be bold about how I want to teach and of where I go from here. If that kind of shift sounds appealing to you, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is profound and simple, yet many of the short sections hit like lightning bolts.

In particular, I love what he has to say about resistance (click here to read a bit from the book) and how when we feel the resistance, we always know we’re on the right track.

So I ask you: where do you feel resistance? Where do you feel irritation, discomfort, or a need to get up and rearrange your paperclips? In your work or your practice or your life what do you not want to talk about? What do you avoid doing? Celebrate the resistance. Resistance and health are inseparable. Resistance and art are inseparable. Rush to it. What you resist is what you need to do in order to reach your potential.

Resistance is the lifeblood of doing something meaningful.

P.S. I am so excited and inspired by the approach of living life as an artist, that Rebecca George and I are designing a retreat around it. If it sounds exciting and inspiring to you, too, mark your calendar for March 28-30, 2014 in Madison, Virginia…and keep watching this space for more details.

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