Archive

Letting go

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! FocusPocus is now one complete post (art, focus, playlists and announcements) all together on Thursdays! 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.

My word for 2019 is CLEAR. I’ve been practicing all sorts of clearing – from my closets and desk, from my computer, from my diet, from my schedule. I can bump up against all kinds of feelings of fear and anxiety (I might need that! I want to hold onto that!) but ultimately, when the clearing comes from a place of alignment, a Big Yes, it always feels like an easeful exhale once I do it.

I love what Stephanie Bennet Vogt says about it:
Clearing is not about getting rid of. It’s not about getting rid of things. It’s not about getting rid of worry. It’s not about getting rid of pain. It’s about letting them go.
What is something you’re wanting (even reluctantly) to let go of? Something physical, a thing? A habit? A pattern of thinking? A toxic relationship? What does it feel like to imagine letting it go instead of getting rid of it?
This meditation from Insight Timer, The Gift Of Receiving by Fleur Chambers helped me soften into the recognition that I cannot receive anything if my hands are already full. https://insig.ht/8H0sRPVs40
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!

Lots of events are unfolding, friends, so before the playlists, here is all the details on what’s coming up!

ARTCHO 2019 ~ Saturday, November 2, 1030am-530pm
I’m excited to be part of ARTCHO 2019: a community art festival in at Ix Art Park in Charlottesville, Virginia (artcho.org). ARTCHO is an annual festival bringing the people of Charlottesville together to enjoy art, music, and food in a relaxed, family-friendly environment. Dozens of artists exhibit high quality artwork at prices that regular folks can afford. Local restaurants and talented musicians will keep you well-fed and entertained while you browse a broad selection of original art by Virginia’s best creatives. The festival is free and open to the public and benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. I’ll be doing art demonstrations at my booth all day ~~ dancing will also be happening! See you there!

Nia teaching shift ~ Loring on Wednesdays at 11am, Rachel on Tuesdays at 545pm
After teaching almost exclusively at acac for nearly 20 years, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to teach mindful movement in a healing environment. I’ve been offered the chance to move with people recovering from eating disorders and in order to do it, I will let go of the Wednesday 11am class. Starting on October 30, Loring will teach on Wednesdays at Albemarle Square so I can follow this opportunity. Jeanne’s circumstances have also shifted so starting on October 29, Rachel will be teaching the Tuesday evening class at 545pm.

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!

November Nourishment at Dancing Water ~ 3 Nourishing Movement classes for $30!
As the holidays approach, nurture yourself with 3 classes of Nourishing movement at The Studio at Dancing Water. Three Thursdays, November 7, 14 and 21 from 11-12:15pm for just $30. Must be purchased by November 7!

Full Moon Restorative Yoga with Shandoah Goldman ~~ Mon, Nov 11, 430-6pm

The full moon is a time of completion. The fullness of the cycle lends itself to a practice of non-doing. Join Shandoah Goldman at The Studio at Dancing Water (2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville) for a deeply nourishing practice of restorative yoga. Using props to offer support and comfort, the body is invited to profoundly let go and unwind. Rather than efforting or stretching, this is the practice of releasing and relaxing. We’ll celebrate what is finished and soften into the next cycle. Shandoah is a gifted guide for deep release and is a Shiatsu practitioner offering hands on assists during class. All bodies welcome, no experience in yoga or anything else is needed.
Monday (Moonday!), Nov 11, 430-6pm at The Studio at Dancing Water, $30

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. If finances are stopping you from joining us, please reach out and let me know (PM me or connect at sjmnia@gmail.com).

Book Signing and Art Demonstration at Cville Arts
Saturday, December 14, 11-12noon
Come see how Octabusy was made with an art demonstration and book signing at Cville Arts on the downtown mall!

ORDER OCTABUSY!
Support local booksellers by ordering Octabusy
at Over The Moon Bookstore in Crozet (overthemoonbookstore.com, (434) 823-1144, Anne@OvertheMoonBookstore.com)
and buy it at New Dominion Bookshop on Charlottesville’s downtown mall (ndbookshop.com, 434-295-2552, staff@ndbookshop.com)
You can also order signed copies of Octabusy (including discounts on multiple copies) now on my website at susanmcculley.com/shop
and get Kindle and paperback editions on Amazon!
(And wherever you buy it, please leave a review there!)

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 ~ Nov 1 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, Oct 28, 2019, 1045am ~ Let Go (Not Get Rid Of)

Snakeroot 7:58 Lis Addison
Alhambra Pt 1 1:21 Natacha Atlas
Live Life Free 5:41 Rapsody
Quero Saber (fest. Orieta Pines) 6:29 Rodney Hunter
Tus Pies (Your Feet) 5:21 Nahko and Medicine for the People
Lizobuya (The Return) 5:40 Mbongeni Ngema
Get Up 4:51 Badmarsh & Shri
Got To Give It Up (long version sax solo) 6:02 Marvin Gaye
Let Go 4:11 Frou Frou
Ho Doi 13:40 Yulara

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2019, 840am ~ Let Go (Not Get Rid Of)

Snakeroot 7:58 Lis Addison
Alhambra Pt 1 1:21 Natacha Atlas
Live Life Free 5:41 Rapsody
Quero Saber (fest. Orieta Pines) 6:29 Rodney Hunter
Tus Pies (Your Feet) 5:21 Nahko and Medicine for the People
Lizobuya (The Return) 5:40 Mbongeni Ngema
Get Up 4:51 Badmarsh & Shri
Got To Give It Up (long version sax solo) 6:02 Marvin Gaye
Let Go 4:11 Frou Frou
The Essence Ten 4:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Thursday, Oct 31, 2019, 11am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ Let Go (Not Get Rid Of)

Edge Hill 7:01 Groove Armada
Kecharitomene 6:35 Loreena McKennitt
Alhambra Pt 1 1:21 Natacha Atlas
Live Life Free 5:41 Rapsody
Quero Saber (fest. Orieta Pines) 6:29 Rodney Hunter
Tus Pies (Your Feet) 5:21 Nahko and Medicine for the People
Lizobuya (The Return) 5:40 Mbongeni Ngema
Get Up 4:51 Badmarsh & Shri
Got To Give It Up (long version sax solo) 6:02 Marvin Gaye
Let Go 4:11 Frou Frou
The Essence Ten 4:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Here’s a question to ponder: What’s the difference between destruction and transformation? (I’ll let you noodle on that for a bit.)

When things feel dangerous, difficult and dark, I long for the miracle of a transformation. I love the idea that change, even radical change, is possible. Not only over glacial eons but real-time, witness-able change.

Take the classic: caterpillar to butterfly. Especially after a long winter, that’s what I’m all about. Until relatively recently, here’s how I thought about the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis:

  1. Bumpy, lumpy caterpillar gorges herself on leaves.
  2. Bumpy, lumpy caterpillar gets more bumpy and lumpy.
  3. Bumpy, lumpy caterpillar cleverly makes a chrysalis. Like I Dream of Jeannie’s bottle, this chrysalis is a groovy little apartment with a little makeup table, velvet pillows and nice-smelling lotions.
  4. As she rests comfortably on her soft sofa, the caterpillar’s sticky, knobby feet elegantly turn into delicate, slender legs.
  5. Out of the bumpy, lumpy caterpillar’s back iridescent wings gently unfold while her body lengthens and narrows.
  6. She gingerly cuts open her groovy little apartment, hangs out for a bit to get her bearings, and then off she flutters looking for lovely flowers to sip on.


As nice as it sounds, it actually doesn’t happen anything like that. This is how Scientific American describes it:

To become a butterfly, a caterpillar first digests itself. But certain groups of cells survive, turning the soup into eyes, wings, antennae and other adult structures.

Digests itself?? Caterpillar soup?? What about the glamorous apartment with the comfy couch and the cute pillows to rest on? What about the calm, organized process of changing from one thing into something else? The science of it sounds like a complete mess and incredibly, unavoidably uncomfortable.

Think about a time of change in your life, when something big was happening. You have a baby (or want to have one and don’t). You get a new job (or lose one). You move to a new city, go on big trip, get a divorce, or your kid moves away. Whatever it was, think about it. Was it neat and organized with soft music playing and a cashmere shawl around your shoulders?

Nope.
(Not for me, anyway. If it is for you, please start writing a blog so I can read it.)

It’s nerve-wracking and crying and fear and mud tracked into the living room and maple syrup spilled in the fridge and pickled herring on the floor. It’s a mess. It’s a life soup. And it’s out of that that something new emerges.

So, back to the original question: what’s the difference between transformation and destruction? On the surface of it, the two seem to be made from the same ingredients. But the difference? Resistance and intention.

Things are going to change. Everything is going to change. Sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly. Resisting change, wanting it to be different than it is, is a recipe for suffering. Intentionally flowing with change, seeing possibilities for growth, is a recipe for metamorphosis soup.

It’s not neat. Or pretty. Or organized. There are rarely velvet pillows. It’s better than that. It’s a miracle.


When I was a girl, my Nana had a wooden toy box in her living room full of old, unusual, fascinating things. There was an antique tin top with a plunger that would spin like crazy. There was an old set of tiddlywinks that were worth playing with just to say the word out loud. There was a classic set of Barrel Full of Monkeys.

But my favorite toy in Nana’s box was a kaleidoscope.

I could sit in the sun on her scratchy orange sofa and look through that thing for hours. (If you’ve never played with a kaleidoscope, here’s what it looks like when you look into it and turn it.)

“Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change, and all patterns alter.” – Sharon Salzberg

Our mindful movement practice reveals that all parts of the human body are connected. A movement in any part impacts them all. A misalignment in one place reverberates through your whole form. If one part of the body is in pain, instead of narrowing our attention only to that one part, the real practice and healing come from expanding our attention to the whole system. Sharon Salzberg reminds us that life is the same way.

Unbeknownst to us, when parking our beloved Le Que camper last fall, the roof got a crack in it that has left it open to the elements…for the whole winter. Which was, here in Virginia, the wettest winter on record. The inside of the framing is utterly soaked and ruined. The insurance company confirmed that it is a total loss.

It felt like a punch in the stomach. Traveling together in Le Que has been an adventurous joy. Despite the wretchedness of the discovery, I watched Frank turn the kaleidoscope of the situation. We talked about what we love about Le Que…and some of the things we don’t. We started to look into possible replacements and maybe even possible uses for the injured Le Que. What felt like a mess is shifting into a slew of interesting possibilities.

Kaleidoscope perspective isn’t necessarily one of sunny optimism (although that can be a happy side effect). Kaleidoscope perspective is about seeing the large and the small and all the ever-changing parts. Wayne Dyer suggests “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If you are in a disagreement, can you see perhaps the fear behind your side and the unmet needs behind theirs? If you are looking at a sunset, can you see both the expansive swash of colors and the details in the silhouetted branches of the trees? If your team loses in the basketball tournament, can you see the joy in the other team’s faces? (Nope, I can’t do that, either.)

Sarah Susanka, in her wonderful book, The Not So Big Life writes about this phenomenon and how the kaleidoscope shift requires a spacious attention to whatever is happening. Rather than narrowing our focus on one particular thing, we can open our peripheral vision to see more. She writes,

The flow of moments and synchronous happenings occurs whether or not we are present, but it is only when we are present that those dynamics are observable. (p. 145)

Our bodies, minds, emotions, and lives are full of kaleidoscopic changes. Nudging any situation – even a little – can change a simple handful of beads and colored glass into a fascinating, radiant rainbow. All we have to do is stay present and open and see what there is to see.

CALL FOR KALEIDOSCOPES! If you come to classes this week and have a kaleidoscope you’d be willing to share, bring it for show and tell! 


“Oh. Your jaw.”
I’d been dancing with enthusiasm and energy when my wise friend caught sight of me. She gently touched her own jaw with her fingertips.
“Your jaw.”
As soon as she said it, I could feel it: my jaw was stiff and locked. I felt the tension in my face, neck and shoulders. It’s a long-held habit that somewhere in my awareness is connected with not saying what I want to say.
I shook my head a little, opened my mouth and stretched it wide.
Then my dance really took off.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Walking up the path behind my husband, I see his familiar walk, the way he holds his head, the stride of his long legs. And his hands. I see his hands curved into the shape of the hammers and drills and circular saws that he’s used for years. Holding tools that he’d put down long ago.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Where do you hold tension? Do you know? For many of us, the patterns are so old that we don’t even notice them. Is it in your eyes? Your shoulders? Your feet? Your belly?

Chronically held tension in the body isn’t a bad thing. It is a teacher, an instruction of where we are stuck and where needs attention. Chronically held tension is a direct link to our growing edges.

Notice where tension gathers in you. Get curious about it. Instead of immediately shaking it out, inquire into what it has to tell you. What is it doing for you? How is it attempting to help you? What does it need? And what would happen if you released it?


The first time I heard these words, from meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt, I found them simultaneously confounding and profound. He was teaching about grasping and aversion, about clinging and resistance, about wantingwantingwanting and notwantingthatnotatall. He suggested that instead of pushing and pulling and fighting whatever was happening to open attention and simply acknowledge that this is what is happening right now.

Right now, this raspberry tastes sweet and cold and delicious.

Right now, my heart hurts from hearing the news.

Right now, this hot shower falling on my skin feels wonderful.

Right now, my hip hurts.

My mind is so quick to rush to the future — the next raspberry (and the next and the next), the cataclysm of what will become of the world, the apprehension about stepping into the cold bathroom, the fear that my hip will never be well. Instead I can say, “Right now, it’s like this” and just leave it at that.

Amazing.

The other thing my mind is quick to do is to compare what’s happening right now with the past and if it’s similar (even in the smallest way), my mind says, “Oh, I know this. This is the same as that. So I don’t have to pay any attention.”

Which is horse hockey, of course. Every moment is brand new. Every sensation is new. Every feeling/thought/awareness is new.

There is aliveness in this.

Especially when I’m resisting whatever is happening, I love Silvia Boorstein’s practice of choosing to meet each moment fully and as a friend. These two parts are important. It makes a difference to be both all in and with friendliness. She writes about how she uses this practice here. 

One definition of suffering is wanting things to be different than they are. This week, play with the possibility of making space for whatever is happening. Your mind will judge it — good, bad, like, not like — that’s what minds do. But this practice invites us to be with whatever is happening and letting go of the suffering.

Imagine that. No wonder every meditation teacher I’ve ever had says some version of “Right now, it’s like this.”

photo by Rebecca George ~ find her art at https://www.instagram.com/bravedragonfly/

My friend and colleague, Loring Myles, is teaching her last Nia class at acac today. The mother of one of my closest friends is dying. And it feels sincerely unclear to me what the Sam Hill is happening in the world. Endings and uncertainty can leave me wobbly. Which seems like an excellent time to revisit this post from late summer 2013

 

‘The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.’ ”

– from John O’Donohue’s poem For the Interim Time

The past few weeks have been full of everything at our house: family visiting from Minnesota, planning for upcoming travels near and far (including buying a camper!?), a parent’s serious illness (and then amazing recovery!), and then yesterday, we took our second (and last) child to college. Lots of broken routines and unexpected twists, lots of emotions of every color and intensity.

After all that, I feel fragile. Like I might crack if I move too quickly. Or at least bruise at the smallest thing: like when I see a parent laughing with (or angry with) their child, or an elder slowly and gingerly crossing a road, or the rich blue late summer sky filled with plumes of white clouds.

My friend calls it “wobbly.” It’s true. The past few days, I’ve felt all kinds of wobbly.

This week, on her (wonderful!) blog, author (and Nia student!) Deborah Prum posted a quote from Frederick Buechner that is full of paradox and wisdom and speaks directly to how I’m feeling. In part it reads, “We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old.” This is the interim time that John O’Donohue’s perceptive poem blesses. This is the uncomfortable, in-between time when even a familiar path feels uneven and strange. It’s the time when one thing is over but the next hasn’t yet begun. We’ve cast off from shore into a fog bank with no land is in sight.

In part, it’s the time of year. Kids are going to school, sometimes for the first time, or leaving home. I suspect I am not the only one who watched my boy walk away and wondered how my days will be, how my relationship with my partner will be, and who I will be with him gone. Wobbly questions, indeed.

But it’s not just a fall thing and it’s not just a child-going-to-school thing. We are all in transition all the time. We are all letting go of something and waiting for whatever comes next. For you it may be making plans to move, have or adopt a baby, change jobs or embark on a creative project. You may be preparing for retirement or travel or going to school. And of course, navigating the ultimate transitions of aging, illness, and death in ourselves and in others is so filled with uncertainty and fear that it can plop us smartly on our butts. Whether it’s an exciting something you want, or a troubling something you fear, there is always that in-between feeling when you’re leaving one thing and haven’t yet come to the next.

Most of us shrink from this interim time. The discomfort can be intolerable and we will do whatever we can to avoid it. Our unwillingness to be in the awkwardness of transition can lead to all manner of poor, short-sighted decisions. Fear of the interim time is at the root of rebound relationships, ill-considered next jobs, and even trashy magazine reading in the doctor’s office.

Whatever transitions you are in right now, whatever interim time you are wandering in, remind yourself that this is fertile, important ground to walk. It’s worth spending time in the uncomfortable liminal space. It’s important to stay here, breathe, and not run. As John O’Donohue encourages us:

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to sqauander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in the false ground,

That you might come free

From all you have outgrown.

Fear not the wobblies. Welcome them, as they are necessary for growth. Fear not the transitional, in-betweenie feeling. Allow yourself to walk wobbly but wise through the transitions for it is the only way to recognize what you have outgrown and see clearly what is next.

ice-to-water-to-steam-012217
With a new administration taking over in the US this week, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this post about expectations from December 2014. “From Ice to Water, from Water to Steam.” – SJM

Melting Expectations (originally posted December 7, 2014)

“Expectations are resentments under construction.”
~ Anne Lamott

‘Tis the season of expectation. I mean, honestly, it’s practically what December in the U.S. is about. What with the Christian season of advent (complete with an expecting mother and expectation of salvation), children everywhere writing lists of expected gifts, and all of us expecting the light and warmth to return to our side of the planet, expectation is woven into everything.

Desire and intention are one thing … but expectation has teeth. Expectation has an edge. There are inevitable consequences if expectations aren’t met. An expectation means that somebody is attached to an outcome and as a Buddhist teacher once pointed out, “Attachment to outcome: BEEEG problem.”

Especially at this time of year, it seems we have expectations for everything. We have expectations for meals and decorations and celebrations. For the way our friends and families should behave. For the way our children should respond. For way this time of year should feel. And Lord knows we have expectations of ourselves: to give a certain kind of gift, to look a certain way, and to be calm or cheerful or reverent or jolly.

Expectations are tricky and sticky. Trained as we are to gain approval and love from outside sources, most of us are programmed to do whatever we can to live up to expectations. But striving to get love for meeting someone’s expectations (including our own) is the prelude to resentment.

“The genius Taoists constantly give their full presence to scanning their whole body, locating any blocked or hard-to-describe discomforts, whereupon they say ‘Ice to Water, Water to Steam’ and literally use their imagination to SEE that place dissolve and the steam leave their body”. ~ Jamie Catto (see his full post here)

Expectations are the way we think things should be and that feels tight. There is next to no wiggle room in an expectation. Expectations are breath-holding brittleness and they are such a part of our lives that we often don’t realize they are there.

Expectations create tension in our activities, our meals, our parties, in our bodies. Expectations constrict. Something that started out as “I like to do it this way” (or “our family/religion/country likes to do it this way”) can morph into “I always do it this way” and then can mutate into “I have to do it this way.”

Stop reading for a second and notice anywhere where you feel tension in your body. Tension is where energy is stuck. Whether it is in your hamstrings or your heart, your thighs or your throat, tension is the body’s way of signaling to release and let flow. Release tension and more energy is available.

Especially at this time of year, our bodies and our minds can feel tight and dry. Mindful movement is a way of melting the dry tightness and introduces more liquid warmth to our experience. Whether mental, physical, or emotional tension, movement can allow the bristly edges of expectation soften.

Physicality affects the mind and emotions. Even just getting up from your desk to stretch and clear your mind can break up and melt the brittle hardness.

Our thoughts and imaginations affect the physical body. Imagining breathing space around you or light and love in and out of you can relax tension wherever it is lodged.

Sweat and tears and imagination all lend themselves to melting the hard edges of expectation and by extension, reducing the inevitable resentment that follows.

Let your intention be the hot skillet to icy expectation…Ice to water, water to steam.

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