LIfe As Art

Two weeks away and I’ve been on all sorts of adventures! Want to see? This is what I’ve been up to…

AND as promised, here are playlists from the amazing Mary Linn Bergstrom who, in addition to the rest of the Nia team covered my classes while I was away. Big gratitude to them all and ENJOY!

Wed July 18 and Thurs July 19 GNO adapted to B.B. King
1. Need Your Love So Bad/B.B. King & Sheryl Crow
2. Sweet Little Angel (1990 Live at San Quentin)
3. The Thrill is Gone (1990 Live at San Quentin)
4. Every Day I Have the Blues (1990 Live at San Quentin)
5. Into the Night (1990 Live at San Quentin)
6. Rock This House/B.B. King & Elton John
7. When Love Comes to Town/B.B. King & U2
8. Let the Good Times Roll (1990 Live at San Quentin)
9. Whole Lot of Lovin’ (1990 Live at San Quentin)
10. Peace to the World (1990 Live at San Quentin)
11. Rock Me Baby/B.B. King & Eric Clapton
12. Come Rain or Come Shine/B.B. King & Eric Clapton
Tues July 24, Wed July 25, and Thurs July 26 Sexi adapted to Alicia Keys
1. Wild Horses (live version from Unplugged album)
2. You Don’t Know My Name (live version from VH1 Storytellers album)
3. She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv
4. Rock Wit U
5. Girl Can’t Be Herself
6. No One (live version from VH1 Storytellers album)
7. The Gospel
8. Pawn It All (CLEAN version)
9. Blended Family
10. Work On It
11. Superwoman
12. Holy War
Tues, July 31
1. Orange Sky/Alexi Murdoch
2. Nourah/Makyo
3. Qalanderi/Cheb i Sabbah
4. I Shall Be Free/Kid Beyond
5. Never Goin’ Down (Ben Chapman Remix)/Adamski
6. Yanni Hu Wey/One At Last
7. Piece of My Heart/Melissa Etheridge
8. Mercy/Melissa Etheridge
9. Free/Zac Brown Band


Last week I took a break from teaching in order to put my attention on some creative and healing projects. I had this idea that in this week, I’d be able to clean up the corners, tuck in the edges, and close the files on these things I wanted to do.

The week was full of everything. I did much of the art and health work that I’d intended. I worked on my book and made some real strides. I did yoga every day, danced at home, played with new music, and listened deeply to what my body is telling me. I also met with a couple of friends, got distracted, did a bunch of cooking, got stuck in my head, felt discouraged and spun my wheels.

It might sound like the latter things were a pull away from my intention. It might sound like in those times I wasn’t doing what I’d promised myself I’d do. As it turns out, all of those things contributed to a really wonderful, surprising, and productive week.

I needed to do it all.

I went into my time away with this piece of art

I come back from the week realizing that there are many nouns that I need to remember are actually verbs. Balance, health, and life aren’t destinations, they aren’t a place to land and stop. They are all processes and ways of approaching the flow of our days.

This week, if you find yourself thinking there is some place you’re supposed to be, some state you think you ought to end up in, play with making whatever that word is into a verb.

For me, Martin Luther King Day is January’s bright spot.

The past couple of years, especially.

Every year, I hghlight an MLK quote and create a focus around it.

This year, I bring three.

Only the first isn’t actually an MLK quote.

Last January, I listened almost obsessively to Leonard Cohen’s song, Anthem. It struck me as the most beautiful and hopeful of songs in the middle of hopelessness. I think it speaks to our illusion of perfection. Our sense that we have to have it all together before we can really do anything.

One of the downsides of having a hero like MLK, is that we think we have to be as great as he was in order to make any positive change in the world.

Which is snorgle hockey, of course. But we forget. Cohen’s song reminds us that we just have to bring what we have.

It’s okay to be a mess. Everything’s a mess.

Thank you to Laura DeVault for reminding me about Cohen’s genius song but for pointing me to this wonderful Dharma talk by Sharon Beckman-Brindley from a couple of weeks ago that uses the song as a jumping off point. Check it out here. It is well worth the listen.

As is the song. Even if you’ve heard it before. Listen again. 

And from the man himself:

I love the idea of a “disciplined nonconformist.” Not someone who is bucking the system just to do it, but someone who is discerning, acting from their own sense of value and not afraid to go a different way than the crowd. Nia movers know all about this: our practice is all about sensing first, then acting rather than following for the sake of it.

Be a disciplined nonconformist and ring the bells.

I thought I was going to make a third piece of art around a third quote. But nope. It didn’t happen. Lots of other things happened this week, but not that. I guess I can forget my perfect offering.

One of the sub-foci of the Sacred routine choreographed by Kelle Rae Oien is spirals and rotations. Since I’m not ready to leave Sacred entirely, this week I’ll be spiraling the routine with others. This post from a few years ago plus some new spiralicious art captures some of my fascination with the spirals around us and in us.

(originally posted on November 9, 2012)

I’ve been an admirer of straight-shooting for most of my adult life.  Tell it like it is.  Say what needs saying.  Cut to the chase.  I’m a bit ham-handed with it, to be honest, often saying the blunt rather than incisive thing, but in principle I’m down with telling it straight.  After reading Real Love by Greg Baer  and A Complaint-Free World by Will Bowen, as well as living with my kind and clever husband for 13 years, I’m beginning to understand the wisdom of less-direct, more spiral communication.

Especially in regards to sensitive topics, my husband, Frank, has shown me the skillfulness in quietly listening.  Where I might jump in and say my piece, he will be still and then circle back to something later when everybody’s more receptive to questions and conversation.  The wisdom of spirals.

I started the complaint-free challenge on October 26: endeavoring to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, criticizing or gossiping.  It’s been humbling.  So far, I’ve made it as long as 3 days before having to restart, and my tongue has a definite bite mark in it.  I’m being far less direct than usual, and I’m discovering that spiraling, when it comes to relationships, is often the wise way to go.

Not a surprise, really, since spiraling is The Body’s Way, too. There are few straight lines in the body.  As Amanda Latchmore’s beautifully writes in her Harrogate Yoga Blog:

Our bodies are composed of spirals. The heart is both an organ and a muscle that spirals in and around itself – formed by the gushing of blood from the Mother’s placenta into two tubes of spiraling muscle. The bones spiral, recede and curve, the striations within them spiraling downwards, so that the force of weight can be transferred to the earth. In turn, our muscles wrap around the bones in a continuous network of spiraling movement.

Nia movements reflect the power of spiraling and invite movements that rotate, wrap and revolve.  Moves like Knee Sweep, Palm Directions, Sink and Pivot Table Wipe all create systemic spiraling that echo the spirals in the body.

And the spirals are, indeed, systemic in the human body!  In her article, The Double Spiral Arrangement of the Human Musculature, Carol Porter McCullough describes Raymond Dart, a 20th Century anatomist, anthropologist and Alexander Technique enthusiast who discovered the double spiral design of the body.  She explains,

The spirals of the human musculature are mirror images of each other. Designating the right side of the pelvis as a starting point, the muscle sheet of one of the spirals travels diagonally around the side of the torso, crossing over the front mid-section to wrap diagonally upward to the left side of the torso, where the road of muscle makes a “Y,” one avenue junctioning with the muscles of the left arm, the other avenue snaking its way diagonally across the back, continuing on its diagonal journey across the neck to hook onto the head behind the ear in its original hemisphere of the right side (Dart 1996, 69).

Dart  believed in ‘the universality of spiral movement’ and said “all things move spirally and … all growth is helical (Dart 1996, 57).”  I can see the truth in this when watching a morning glory bloom or a baby roll over.  And when I circle back around to a conversation a few days later and find that it is easeful and healing to say what I want to say and that my words can actually be heard.

This week, we’ll focus on rotation and spirals in class.  Whether we are dancing together or not, I invite you into the practice of noticing how spirals have a healing effect on body, mind and relationships!  I’d love to hear what you discover!

For the next two weeks, we’ll be dancing a new-to-me routine called Sacred, choreographed by Nia Trainer Kelle Rae Oien. The focus of the routine is the bones with the intent of creating sustainability in the body. In my White Belt Nia training, I studied the bones for the first time, in part by using an Anatomy Coloring Book. In working with the routine, I deepened my fascination with the art of the bones: their names, their functions, their sculptured design. 


The word “sacrum” is from the Latin for “sacred” or “holy bone.” The obvious question is, why sacred? Here are some of the theories:

  • the pelvis is the container of the scared organs of procreation
  • the sacrum is the last bone to decompose after death so ancient people perhaps saw this as the bone from which the afterlife begins
  • the sacrum may have been used as a vessel for holding offerings or sacrifices

What do you think the sacrum resembles?

The xiphoid process at the tip of the sternum is made of cartilage in a child and gradually changed to bone by the time an adult is around 40.

The manubrium, connects with the clavicles or collarbones (we’ll look at those in detail next week!) and connects to the 1st pair of ribs. The body of the sternum, the gladiolus, connects with the next 6 pairs of ribs. Together, these 7 pairs of ribs are known as the true ribs, beneath those are two false ribs (indirectly connected to the sternum) and two floating ribs (not connected to the sternum at all).

The neurocranium is the part that is around the brain as opposed to the viscerocranium which are the facial bones.

The sphenoid bone is one of the most complex in the body due to its connection to facial bones, ligaments, and muscles. It’s in the middle of the skull near the front and forms much of the nasal cavity.

The ethmoid bone (Greek for sieve) is a small bone with a lacy construction (hence the name) separates the nasal cavity from the brain.

These days as winter approaches. These days that get darker and darker. These days when the cold settles in. Every single year, these days challenge me body, mind and spirit.

In search of inspiration last week, I stumbled upon a poem that I wrote two Decembers ago when the world felt as dark as I’d ever remembered. Like a friend giving you back your own words of encouragement, it was oddly helpful to read what I myself had written 24 months ago. It reminded me of the constant cycle of things and that it is, as ever, our own light that is needed in the darkest of days.

Be the light, my friends. Blessings on this solstice.

Shine On

Darkness descends on our little city
(Maybe on yours, too. Or maybe on you.)

December with its Solstice silent blanket
And shadows darker under Nature’s night:
Disappearance and death
Violent violation
Agony, isolation

Even so
There is the moon
Luminous, listening
Receiving, reflecting
Illuminated from the source
Bright enough to wake us
So we can marvel

The city’s sinew
Its strongest femur
Bruised blue-black
Deep-rooted dis-ease
Stories and secrets
Defensive denial
Tangled doubt

Even so
There is the sun
Radiant, reassuring
Ever-generous, if shy these days
Self-sourced force toward which
the amaryllis aches and arches

Darkness is part of us
Shadows spiral in our fibers
Charcoal curtains can narrow vision

Each of us glow, reflect, radiate

But in these dark days
We bundle and trundle it
Beneath heavy coats of despair
Zip up and button down
Tuck in and turn out
Crossed arms over lost heart
Sighing sideways eyes
Furtively looking to see
Who will spark the shift
And shine the light

You are the light
You are the sun
The very source
You are the moon
Tender reflection

In the darkest of days
Show up
Shine out
Shine on.

savoring seeing millicent pieceMillicent is a sculptor. She is a serious artist and a serious person. She creates with her hands sunk deep into soil and clay. She reads poetry and makes intricate and mysterious art from horse hair and stones. She is a sculptor and an artist and when I met her I felt intrigued and intimidated. Fascinated and shy.

Millicent’s pieces – whether built of wood or clay or plant – strike me. I don’t fully understand them and that is part of why I love them. It seems that they’ve grown rather than been made. As if they emerge with their own genealogy and history. I love being around the complexity and ambiguity of her work.

Years ago, Millicent created a series of clay globes – some the size of a softball that fit perfectly in a palm, others bigger than a beach ball that could be seen from a distance. Each one perfectly round with imperfectly smoky glaze. Like the eggs of mythical birds, she displayed them in gardens and studios and writer’s desks. Perched in mounds of thyme or on a rough cut slab of pine or on an espresso saucer to keep it from rolling to the floor.

prayer flags and globes 012

I commissioned two of her extraordinary extra-large globes for our garden. One nestled perfectly in a triangle of hostas. Another I kept moving around until it found a home under to a dwarf pine behind some columbine.

She came to visit one summer afternoon near my birthday. She came to the door and we walked around the garden, looking at what was blooming, looking at what was dying back and looking at what needed weeding. She kept wandering back to the front step with a strange smile.

When it was time for her to go, she took my hand and led me to a bed of Solomon’s Seal by the front door. We had walked around it for half an hour, but I hadn’t seen the basketball-sized globe that she had secretly set by the front step.

prayer flags and globes 008

“This is for you,” she said. What she didn’t say, or maybe she did, was that I hadn’t seen it.

There is a hotly disputed story that natives standing on the shore were unable to see Columbus’ ships on the horizon. Their eyes had no expectation of such things. Their brains had no stories for them. So the ships remained invisible until someone pointed them out.

I felt abashed once Millicent pointed out her Columbus globe. I was the mindfulness teacher who had mindlessly walked past the new addition to the garden. Even so, there was magic in her revelation. A gift both literal and figurative. The difference between looking and seeing.

chickens on the ball 3 121612

%d bloggers like this: