Archive

Mindfulness

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! As you may have noticed, I’ve been rolling the two weekly FocusPocus posts (art and content on Sundays, playlists and announcements on Thursdays) into one complete post. 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 week on Thursdays, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

The world is big and full of everything. So much is happening and most of it feels chaotic and cataclysmic. What can I possibly do that would make a difference? (I wrote a Facebook essay/post about what has been on my mind and heart about this. You can read it here.)

Our lives are big and full of everything. So much is happening. It can be joyful and exciting and terrifying and crazy. When I was a kid, I thought adults always knew what to do. Now I’m adult (and have been one for a while), I know that adults are just kids in a bigger outfit.

When I feel overwhelmed, when the project feels unwieldy, when I don’t know what to do. When I think that whatever I do doesn’t matter, when I feel myself zoning out or numbing out, I do my best to pause, to breathe. Then ask: what’s one thing I could do? What’s one step I could take? What’s one choice that would move me in the direction I want to go? As Glennon Doyle said, “Just do the next right thing one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.”

Life is big. It takes courage to be making our way through it. And in every moment, just breathe and do one thing.

Here’s an interesting question from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits,

Can my current habits carry me to my desired future?

And here’s a quote that’s been helping me this week from basketball great, John Wooden,

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

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!

And friends, I am always ALWAYS looking for new music. Do you have a song that you love to move to or that moves you? I’d love to know what it is! Please respond in the comments below or email me at sjmnia@gmail.com!

Before the playlists, here is the scoop on a whole slew of great things happening this summer!

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings ~~ 9am on Aug 29 and 11am in September and beyond!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 9am on Aug 29 and in September and on, 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!

Labor Day Nia with Susan at acac Albemarle Square ~ Monday, September 2, 1045-12noon
It’s Labor Day on September 2! As summer winds down and life transitions toward fall, please join Susan for nourishing mindful movement at her regular class time and place on Labor Day: Monday, September 2, 1045-12noon at acac Albemarle Square.

Guest Teaching for Jeanne! ~ Thur, September 5, 840-940am acac downtown
I’m delighted to be jumping in to teach for Jeanne on Thursday morning next week! An extra opportunity to move together!

Nia Jam: Balance is a Verb ~ Saturday, September 21, 1230-145pm at acac Albemarle Square Studio A with Susan & Jeanne (No Nia 101 and class will start at 1230!)
Balance isn’t something we have, it’s something we do. Balance is a constant dance of push and pull, squeeze and release, reach and root. In our fall equinox jam, we’ll focus on balance in the body and in particular in shoulders and hips. Jeanne & Susan will play with all the balances that happen between upper/lower, left/right, front/back, diagonal lines as well as fast/slow, challenge/recuperation, sharp/fluid and everything in between. Please note that there will be no Nia 101 and that the jam will begin at 1230! And don’t forget, you can bring a friend for FREE so grab a buddy and join us!

Saturday September 28, 9-12noon – Moving & Writing with Light: Nourishing Body & Eyes with Susan & Rebecca
Susan & Rebecca offer a morning to expand your perspective on two things that everybody has: a body and a smartphone. The word “photography” means “writing with light.” A photo isn’t a copy of something— it’s a story written *by light*! And light is weaving stories all around us, all the time. Using the simple cameras that we all carry —the ones in our phones! — we’ll play with the stories of light around us and experience how changing our perspectives can change everything. Susan will weave movement and mindfulness into the morning to practice being with light & shadow. No experience in photography or movement needed, just bring a phone or tablet with a built-in camera and your body. No experience with movement or photography is needed or expected. If you like, from 12-2pm, bring a lunch and savor it on the porch, on the bench overlooking the river or on a rock in the middle of it. $75. Register at http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop.

Saturday October 26, 9-12noon – Nourishing the Nervous System with Mindful Movement
NOTE from Susan: I am thrilled, honored, excited to welcome Emily Wright to teach at Dancing Water. She is an extraordinary, approachable, gifted teacher. I can’t wait to do this with her. Will you join me?
The body is a central portal to nervous system regulation. When we are regulated and integrated, we have the capacity to be our most awake, available, creative, curious, flexible selves. Using a blend of guided movement work, journaling, visual art-making, poetry, and mindfulness practices, participants will explore states of autonomic nervous system regulation as a means to establish safe, nourishing connections to ourselves, each other, and the natural world.
About the instructor:
Emily Wright, MFA, PhD, is a movement educator, author, and practitioner. She offers classes and workshops in functional movement, contact improvisation, and intergenerational community dance informed by her extensive background in dance and other somatic disciplines.

Nia resumes in Studio A at acac downtown
Nia is back in Studio A at acac downtown:
Mondays 4:15–5:15pm ~ Rachel
Wednesdays 6-7pm ~ Jeanne
Fridays 9-10:10am ~ Loring
Saturdays 9-10:10am ~ Anne
Sundays 3:30-4:30pm ~ Anne
PLUS
at acac Albemarle Square, Tuesdays 12-1pm Nia Moving to Heal ~ Rachel (starting Sept 3)

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom ~ Video Series with Cecily Armstrong
Over the past few years I’ve been inspired and energized by the teaching and guidance of Cecily Armstrong. She is so generous with her offerings ~ her latest is a three-part video workshop Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom. If you’ve ever felt confused about how best to nourish yourself and live your healthiest, happiest life, Cecily offers amazing insights. You can sign up for the video series here. And/or you can get access to a longer 1-hour on-line workshop with Cecily here! https://cecilyarmstrong.com/decoding-your-bodys-wisdom-workshop/

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom [optin]

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Sep 6 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, Aug 26, 2019, 1045am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
A Go Go (Boozoo Bajou Mix) 5:47 Truby Trio
Galactivation 4:41 Shakatura
Each Step Moves Us On [Feat. Zap Mama & Speech] 8:34 1 Giant Leap
Blue 6:29 LaTour
Riding the Waves 6:35 Afro Celt Sound System
Better Man 5:21 Playing For Change
Windmills Of Your Mind 4:17 Sting
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Tuesday, Aug 27, 2019, 840am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
A Go Go (Boozoo Bajou Mix) 5:47 Truby Trio
Galactivation 4:41 Shakatura
Blue 6:29 LaTour
Riding the Waves 6:35 Afro Celt Sound System
Better Man 5:21 Playing For Change
Windmills Of Your Mind 4:17 Sting
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2019, 11am ~ One Thing

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019, 9am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ One Thing

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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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail speaks to an essential truth: everything, all life, is interconnected. Everything affects everything else.

The examples are everywhere.
We know this in the body: when I have pain in my knee, it impacts my whole body.
We know this in our relationships: one angry member of the family impacts everybody.
We know this in on the Earth: the extinction of a species sends a ripple of change through an entire eco-system.
We know this in our society. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

To honor the work and life of Martin Luther King, expand your perspective. Notice with deep awareness how everything affects everything else.

And if you could use a little additional inspiration in these days of darkness and tumult, I recommend either reading or better yet, listening, to Dr. King’s Love Your Enemies sermon from November 17, 1957. This is a reminder I need every day.

NOTE: Due to unexpected travel for a family funeral, we never did get to dancing this focus. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to it.

Ponder this for a moment.

Nature and experience show us that everything is connected. Nothing exists in isolation. The body, mind, and emotions are the same: utterly and inextricably interconnected.

Not long ago, I was running late to teach class and I was all up in my head about what I was teaching and how I really needed to stop rushing around and how I wished my low back would feel better than it did. As I slid through the employee breakroom to clock in, there was a basket I’d never seen before with an Alice In Wonderland sign on it:

Inspirational Words ~ Take One.

So I did.

It said, “Your body hears everything your mind says.”

Of course. I know this and I forget. My body is always doing its best for me. Like a loyal and kind friend, it is always doing whatever it can to support me. And it believes me. It believes everything I say.

So if my mind says, “I don’t like the way you look” or “my stupid old low back” or “I hate my knees/thighs/skin” my body hears it all.

If I say out loud, “I’m not angry” when my body knows full-well that I am, what can result but confusion?

If I think, “everybody moves better than I do” or “I am the oldest/fattest/most injured person here” or “nobody is suffering the way I am” or “nobody is as crazy as I am,” my body believes the illusion of disconnection.

The practice is to pay attention to what my mind says and ask is that something I want to say to a loyal, supportive friend who unconditionally loves and believes me?


If I asked you to list your senses, most of us would go with the obvious five: touch, hearing, taste, smell and sight. These are huge, for sure. To deepen mindfulness and awareness, these are rich and important to pay attention to.

There are, however, two additional sense systems that are essential to our healthy, integrated functioning: Proprioception and Interoception.

Proprioception is the 6th sense: the body’s ability to sense itself in space. It’s a fascinating system that resides largely in receptors in the joints and the hands and feet. It’s the system that allows you to scratch an itch you cannot see, to move without looking and to move fluidly. I love playing with proprioception and I’ve written about it before.

For a deep dive into it, please go to The Secret Sense post from Nov 29, 2015. For proprioceptive practical particulars, please check out Art In Action: 4 Ways to Strengthen Proprioception from Dec 1 2015.

The 7th sense is Interoception: your ability to sense yourself from the inside. Interoception is what allows you to feel your heart beating and tells you when you are thirsty, hungry or need to go to the bathroom. Interoception also allows you to feel your emotions. Many of us don’t pay close attention to these sensations and can confuse them. Ever eat when you’re actually thirsty or bored or stressed? That’s just muddled interoception. (This great article about Interoception and Autism isn’t just for people on the spectrum, I certainly find myself having similar experiences as those described here.)

The practice of mindful movement invites us to pay attention to both proprioception and interoception with focus and clarity. Strengthening the 6th and 7th senses allows us to move through the world with more ease and grace.

In a recent Contact Improvisation class with experienced teacher and mover, Brad Stoller, he taught about the sensations of full and empty. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the feelings of full and empty in physical movement, in breath and in awareness. Can I feel full without overflowing, without being overwhelmed or overdoing? Can I feel empty without feeling depleted?

Brad taught that full and empty allows for a wider range of movement, sensation, and experience than we might typically feel. Full and empty sounds both mundane and esoteric. We know the idea of full and empty, but how often to we embody them? I’ve been thinking about and experimenting with full and empty in three primary ways: breath, weight and attention.

Breath

“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.” ~ Andrew Weil

How often am I breathing in the mushy middle? Most of  my breaths are shallow ones that don’t really fill or empty my lungs. There is aliveness, groundedness, and energy in breathing in fully and emptying completely. You can do it right now: take three deep breaths, drawing as much air as you can in — then take a little extra sip at the top — and then letting go as much air as you can out — then squeezing the last drops out. It’s like working a muscle, stretching and strengthening what hasn’t been used to allow your body to expand its ability to nourish and cleanse itself. It can be a heady business so take your time but full and complete breathing is one of the most healthful, centering, and empowering things you can do for your body, mind and spirit.

Weight

All movement is weight shift. The only way an earth-bound being can move is by shifting weight. It’s common to shuffle or drag our feet, to not really push off the ground but to hesitantly scuffle along with the mistaken notion that it’s safer. I notice this scuffle-tendency in particular when I’m walking up stairs or doing movements that are unfamiliar. Experiment with movement with clear weight shift: really engaging whatever is in contact with the floor to put your full weight into and out of each movement.

You can also do this in your metaphorical weight in life. Decide when to show up with your full weight, your full presence. If something feels important to you, step in fully. If something isn’t important or feels dangerous in some way, step out completely. When you are engaged, engage fully. When you disengage, really disengage. Notice when you are scuffling along in a situation.

Attention

There is a scene is the 1997 movie, As Good As It Gets in which Carol (Helen Hunt) is driving with Simon (Greg Kinnear) and Melvin (Jack Nickolson). Simon is telling her a difficult story about his past and she says, “I’m going to pull over so I can give you my full attention.” Melvin squirms in the back seat since her full attention is exactly what he wants and she is ignoring him. Attention is a powerful thing when we direct it.

Much of the time, our attention is diluted. I’m making dinner and listening to a podcast. I’m driving and thinking about my next class. I’m watching a documentary and making art. As with breath and movement, there is a completely different sensation when I bring my full attention to what I’m doing.

Notice where you are putting your attention and make the choice to bring it fully or to let it go.

Our culture is one of distraction so few of us are comfortable with the sensations of full and empty. This week, see if you can stretch the edges of how completely you are willing to step in…and out.

How do I know that I’ve had enough sleep?
Enough food?
Enough movement?

I can feel it.
My mind might want to over-rule it, but the “enough” feeling remains.

Cultivate clarity with the sensation of enough.
It’s an important thing to be intimately familiar with.

Knowing the feeling of “enough” can help us avoid injury and stay healthy in our physical lives but it’s also helpful in the rest of our lives.

How do I know when I’ve had enough with a stressful job?
How do I know when I’ve given enough to a relationship?
How do I know when I have enough money?

I can feel it.
You can feel it.
Our minds might want to over-rule it, but the “enough” feeling remains.

Cultivate clarity with the sensation of enough.
It can support us in a myriad of ways.

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

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

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

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

Meow, y’all.


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

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