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Natural Time

At 5pm, my office window looks onto nothing but blackness.
In these so short days, I can easily slide into seeing nothing but darkness.

A favorite song for decades, I’m reminded of Cat Steven’s Moonshadow.
The simple light melody tells the ultimate silver lining story.

“And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more.”

So on the week of the Winter Solstice, I’m allowing myself to be followed by a moonshadow.

Even the darkest of days aren’t only dark.

Listen to Moonshadow here. Maybe put it on Repeat.

073116 grbrh

The blueberry bushes in Rebecca’s back yard tower over me, their lanky branches intertwined like a roof. Armed with my colander, I snake around, between, and under. I keep thinking I’ve found all the ripe berries but when I circle around again and look from a different angle, inevitably there is fruit that I’ve missed.

The way I dance around the blueberry bushes is the way I dance around my days. Big issues plant themselves in front of me – love, parenting, friendship, money, vocation, art – and I spiral around them. As soon as I think I’ve figured it out, as soon as I nod confidently and say “oh, yeah, I’ve got this,” I look from a different perspective and see something new I’ve never seen before.

Wednesday, August 3 is my 52nd birthday. Most people would say it isn’t a “big” one but for me, it’s the biggest yet.

In the 13 Moon Natural Time calendar, every day is unique. Every day has its own Galactic Signature: 260 unique fingerprints made up of combinations of four colors, thirteen tones and twenty tribes.

  • Today’s Galactic Signature is Yellow Electric Seed.
  • The Galactic Signature on Thanksgiving Day will be Yellow Lunar Sun.
  • The Bicentennial in 1976 was Red Magnetic Earth.
  • September 11, 2001 was Blue Self-Existing Monkey.
  • The day Donald Trump was born was Blue Electric Hand.
  • The day Hillary Clinton was born was White Galactic World-Bridger.
  • The day you were born had a signature, too. (You can look it up here.)

Each of the 260 signatures has a meditation that decodes its energy and essence (you’ll find that here, as well.)

On the day I was born, August 3, 1964, the Galactic Signature was Blue Rhythmic Hand and the meditation is:

I Organize in order to Know
Balancing Healing
I seal the Store of Accomplishment
With the Rhythmic tone of Equality
I am guided by my own power doubled

Every 260 days since I was born, Blue Rhythmic Hand has been the signature of the day. But never since the day I was born has that signature fallen on August 3…until this year. After 52 years, a cycle is complete and a new cycle begins. In the 13 Moon Calendar, the 52nd birthday is called the Galactic Return.

Fifty-two, then, is a BIG birthday. The Galactic Return is celebrated as a time of rebirth and renewal , the finishing of a cycle and the beginning of something new. My friend and Nia colleague, Zan Tewksbury, says that her Galactic Return was about the freedom and responsibility to write her own story. Her willingness to step out of the expectations of society, family and even herself allows her to live more authentically from her essence. And while that can be disorienting and scary, the unfolding adventure is worth the discomfort.

“The day came,” wrote essayist Anais Nin, “when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Perhaps that day comes on the Galactic Return or maybe it happens at another time. The Galactic Return routine celebrates all courageous human choices to see life from different perspectives and to reimagine ourselves. It’s about all our returnings and rewritings.

We are all circling and spiraling through time – experiencing repeating patterns and cycles. What’s more, all our circles and spirals are intersecting and interweaving. Galactic Return: Blue Rhythmic Hand is a physical and symbolic honoring of all of us swimming in the river of time, circling together through past and present and now.

[I’ll launch the Galactic Return: Blue Rhythmic Hand routine on Wednesday, August 3 at 11am at acac Albemarle Square and then teach it again on Thursday, August 4 at 840am at acac downtown. I’ll then be traveling for a couple of weeks and will return to teaching the routine on August 29.]

Just the second week into the 13-weeks adventure of the Unofficial Guide to the 13 Principles of Nia and we’re already into a rich exploration of both the body and how we move energy through our posture, walk, voice, dance…and life.

13 moon calendar glif

Part 1 of Principle 2 is Natural Time which takes us from the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar* to the movement of 13 joints and measure of 20 digits in the body. If you’re interested in following the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar, you can receive daily emails from my friend and Nia Trainer, Helen Terry, by signing up here.
I also use a great 13-Moon Calendar app on my phone that you can find here.

p2 9MF Rainbow

Part 2 of Principle 2 explores the nine movement forms (three dance arts, three martial arts and three healing arts ~ for more, click here) the energy and essence of which Nia uses to train, condition, and heal the body. Even cooler, we can use that same energy to find balance and ease in our lives.

Below are the playlists from the week with some annotations as to our focus for each piece of music. Enjoy.

In Lakesh**, y’all.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

* Hey, did anyone decode their birthdate? If so, tell us your galactic signature in the comments below!
** “In Lakesh” is a Mayan greeting that translated to “I am another you.”

Monday, Aug 25, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes 5:48 Paul Simon (focus on ankles)
All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints 3:15 Paul Simon (focus on knees)
Gulf Breeze 6:30 Eat Static (focus on hips)
Splitting World 8:35 Eat Static (focus on spine)
Papa Dukie & The Mud People 4:39 The Subdudes (base/spine freedance)
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic (focus on shoulders)
Drive By 3:16 Train (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Through Cinemas 5:55 Loop Guru (upper body freedance)
Monday, Monday 3:25 The Mamas And The Papas (13 joints floorplay)
Subtle Body 7:02 Wayne Jones (integration)

Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Symbol I 6:35 Children of the Bong (focus on ankles) 25th Century 6:30 Timeshard (focus on knees) Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp. (focus on ankle and knee integration)
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco (focus on hips)
Up In Indiana 4:36 Lyle Lovett (ankle, knee, hip freedance)
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger (focus on spine and shoulders)
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix) 6:57 Beyonce (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Airborne 3:48 Rain Perry (spine and upper body freedance)
Sometime Tuesday Morning 4:25 Johnny A. (13 joints floorplay)
Inlakesh 3:58 Lou Rhodes (integration)

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wonderwall 4:09 Ryan Adams (focus on Tai Chi)
A Different Space 8:43 Bob Holroyd (focus on Duncan Dance)
Plane Shift 6:14 Loop Guru (focus on Aikido)
More Than This 4:07 10,000 Maniacs (focus on Alexander Technique)
Soullala 4:08 Candy Dulfer (focus on Jazz)
Everything Comes From You 4:42 Big Blue Ball featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinéad O’Connor, Guo Yue (focus on Feldenkrais)
Passion 5:46 Michael Franti (Focus on Tae Kwon Do)
Dawa 4:18 Sacred Spirits (focus on Yoga)
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley (focus on Modern Dance)
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond (freedance/floorplay of all nine movement forms)
First Impressions 4:08 Yo Yo Ma, Mark O’Connor, Edgar Meyer (integration)

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss (focus on Tai Chi)
A Canterbury Tale 8:41 Dreadzone (focus on Duncan Dance)
Lovers House 4:49 City Reverb (focus on Alexander Technique)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction 2:41 Devo (focus on Feldenkrais)
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) 5:53 City Reverb (focus on Jazz)
Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) 6:23 Afterlife (focus on Tae Kwon Do)
What I Be 4:45 Michael Franti & Spearhead (focus on Yoga)
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu (focus on Aikido & Tae Kwon Do)
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System (freedance of nine movement forms)
The Memory of Trees 4:22 Enya (floorplay with nine movement forms)
Lux Aurumque 4:16 Eric Whitacre Singers

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 http://www.nianow.com/white-belt. There is one planned in Richmond next month and lots of other places, too.

The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in the world the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

p2 9MF Rainbow

Principle 2 (Part II) – The Nine Movement Forms

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

In traditional fitness, choreography is constructed by changing steps and patterns frequently, presumably to hold students’ interest or challenge them. In Nia, we use the energy of the [nine different] movement forms [from the dance arts, martial arts and healing arts] to emphasize specific and unique feelings and sensations. Thus, Nia approaches choreography from an energetic point of view; we repeat the same step and pattern, but change the movement form in order to change the energy. This allows us to stay with the same pattern for longer periods of time, giving both teacher and student time to deepen their connection to body sensations and form. When choreography stays simple, people can feel and express themselves more playfully [and, I would add, in a more healthy and integrated way].

For the official scoop on all nine movement forms, click here.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

The first part of Principle 2 is Natural Time. Which I’m sure you know about since you read about it, right? As you know, then, the 13-moon calendar is based on a 13:20 code that recognizes the natural cycles of the Universe. Which sounds a bit woo-woo and highfalutin but actually, 13:20 is right there in your bones: the human body has 13 major joints and 20 digits.

The second part of Principle 2 is a natural extension of the first. Part 2 of Principle 2 addresses how Nia trains, conditions, and heals this 13:20 body using the energy and essence of the nine movement forms. In a Nia class, we can do any movement in these different ways, each affecting the body differently. For example, a front kick executed with Tae Kwon Do energy is going to emphasize strength, power and stability, while the same front kick executed with Alexander Technique will focus on lift through the crown of the head, length in the spine and an graceful, easeful alignment. As we practice, any movement can be infused with the energy of any of the nine movement forms which offers both teacher and student enormous freedom within the form.

This is all excellent and juicy-good, but even if you’ve never done Nia, you can use the energy and essence of the nine movement forms in anything you do. We all have our style and habits around how we approach the world. Take a look at the descriptions of the movement forms (or even better, move them), and you will notice that some come easily and feel familiar and others feel awkward and strange.

Notice which movement forms you tend to gravitate toward and then explore the ones that are outside your habit. By exploring all nine of movement forms we have access to a broader range of options for approaching anything. Especially if my habitual way isn’t working, the nine movement forms give me options for another approach.

Me? I tend toward Jazz and Tae Kwon Do. The energy and power of these two movement forms is great for some things but in lots of situations and relationships, they work about as well as wearing a red sequined dress to a funeral.

For example, if I have a daunting pile of work to do around the house, instead of powering through it Tae Kwon Do style, I can choose to take the Tai Chi approach of mindful, relaxed grace or use the creative possibilities of Modern Dance. When I’m talking to my step-kids, instead of being my Jazzy expressive self, I might choose a Feldenkrais approach by slowing down and reconnecting or tap into the harmonious, circular flow of Aikido.

There are lots of ways to move through the world. The nine movement forms give us more options to explore what energy might serve each situation, each relationship, each moment best.

Principle 2 (Part I) – Natural Time…briefly

13 moon shield

Natural Time is fluid, non-linear, radial, expansive but how practical is that in the regular world? Our culture’s addiction to clocks and calendars can entrain us to make choices and decisions based on when it is rather than what we need.

The Natural Time code of 13:20 is in our bones: 13 joints and 20 digits. The sensation of Natural Time is to use the joints to move and the digits to measure. Find your own rhythm and cadence without rushing or dawdling.

Natural Time invites us to monitor physical energy: transmit with clarity and receive with openness.

The Unofficial Guide

to the 13 Nia Principles

~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in the Sam Hill the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

13 moon calendar glif

Principle 2 (Part I) – Natural Time

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

Natural Time is fluid, non-linear, radial, and expansive. It is centered in now; not tomorrow, not yesterday, not on deadlines, but Now. It reconnects us to the cyclical rhythms of nature, the rhythms that unite all life forms. The same basic movement of rising and falling, inhaling and exhaling, of birth and death, runs through every body of life. We are connected by cyclical rhythms. In Nia, we refer to Natural Time as 13/20, a code recognized and recorded by the Mayans. The Mayans understood 13 moons complete one year, and taught us that there are ongoing cycles in the Universe made up of 13 and 20. In Nia, 13 represents the number of joints in your body; 20 the number of digits.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

The flowy, easy-breezy notion of Natural Time made me crazy in my early days (okay, years) of doing Nia. Natural time is all well and good for, who?, maybe an independently wealthy artist working alone in her studio?  In my life there are appointments, meetings, classes that need to start on linear, precise, chronological time. The world that I live in isn’t particularly forgiving about a “non-linear, radial and expansive” approach to these things. Even Nia trainings have an elaborate bell system to make sure that everybody is ready to start on time. So how does that square with Natural Time?

When I presented my disgruntlement about Natural Time to my teacher, Carlos, he talked to me about balance, about body and mind, and about listening deeply. He pointed out that we are often so entrained by the clock and calendar that we make choices based on WHEN it is rather than on what we really need.

Carlos was right. As a kid, I remember being scolded for eating lunch early because it wasn’t time for lunch – even though I was hungry. And I know I’ve felt a certain way on a Monday and Friday just because it’s a Monday or a Friday. In school, in sports and in business, it was important to keep up, regardless of my own natural rhythms or skills. In all those arenas, I had experiences of being chastised for going too slow and too fast.

My conversation with Carlos reminded me of following the freedom within the form. Show up to class on time, and release attachment to getting the choreography right. Be punctual to the meeting, and have the courage to think beyond the agenda. Set aside time for writing and creativity and if I sometimes stare blankly out the window, well, that’s just the way it goes.

As a practice of art, intention and creativity, I love following the 13-Moon Calendar to shake up my attachment to the 12-month Gregorian calendar. The 13-Moon calendar is both simple and complex and I only understand its most basic underpinnings. Even so, following it shifts my perspective on time. The calendar tracks 260-day cycles in which every day is a unique combination of four colors, 13 tones and 20 tribes. You can find your personal signature by decoding your birthdate which might give you some non-linear, radial insights about you. You can even get an application on your phone that tells you about the signature of the day (search “13 Moon Calendar”)!

One of my favorite parts about following the 13-Moon Natural Time calendar is that I play with choosing what I wear every day based on the signature of the day. Check it out, you can always tell what the color of the day is by something I’m wearing.*

We all have to live in the world with its timetables, schedules and agendas. Natural Time is the invitation to expand our thinking within that form and to allow our awareness, rather than the calendar, to drive our choices.

Principle 2 has two parts, so stay tuned ~ the second part, the Nine Movement Forms, comes Tuesday!

* FOCUS POCUS NATURAL TIME MUSIC GIVE AWAY:  Email me (sjmnia@gmail.com) a picture of yourself wearing the 13-Moon Calendar color of the day one day this week and I’ll send you (or hand it to you if you’re in Cville) a CD of Nia music!  I’m not going to announce this anywhere else so only Focus Pocus readers are in on this!  [And even though it sounds like a McDonald’s contest disclaimer:  good for the week of Aug 24-28, 2014; US only; limit one per person; while supplies last; void where prohibited.]

Happy New Year!!

Did you know that in the 13 Moon Natural Time Calendar, a new year started this week?

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t either.

When I did my first Nia training in 2000, I learned about the Natural Time calendar and while I’m no expert on its intricacies, I do enjoy following its patterns of symmetry and uniqueness.  At its core, it’s pretty simple:  rather than the 12 uneven months of the Gregorian calendar, the Natural Time Calendar follows the moon cycles.  As the Law of Time Web site describes in its tutorial:

13 Moons x 28 days = 364 days = 52 seven-day weeks. The 365th day of the year is called the Day Out of Time, a day to celebrate peace through culture, time is art and practice universal forgiveness so that everyone can start the next year fresh!

Wednesday, July 25 was this 365th day:  the Day Out of Time.  This is a unique day that is separate from the perfect order of 13 moons with 28 days each.  The Day Out of Time is a pause between the old year and the new, and it’s used to celebrate and reflect.  Natural Time folks around the world celebrate “peace through culture” on this day, but I prefer to focus on forgiveness and releasing resentments for the Day Out of Time.

On Wednesday, I was thinking about the Day Out of Time and I wondered, “Who or what do I need to forgive today?”  No big grudge or transgression that I needed to let go of came to mind.  As is my radical sabbatical practice, I did an early-morning loving kindness, or metta, meditation – offering good wishes for safety and health and well-being to people in my life.  As I went through name after name, offering my good wishes, I noticed when I came to a couple of people that I had a little tightening or holding.  Not a great wrenching, just a little tightening.  I was somewhat surprised since some of those people I tightened up about are near and dear to me and I love them very much.

So what’s up with that?

I remembered a post from Rick Hanson about forgiveness, so I went back to it.  What he wrote was helpful.  He said,

 forgiveness can seem lofty, like it only applies to big things, like crimes or adultery. But most forgiving is for the small bruises of daily life, when others let you down, thwart or hassle you, or just rub you the wrong way.

And I realized that this was exactly what I was feeling.  No major wrongdoing, just little nigglings of resentment.

For me, it’s easy to either ignore or devalue these little upsets.  It might be a sense that a friend is too busy for you, or that your teenager isn’t being responsible in the way you think she should.  Maybe you find your partner’s habit of leaving the dishes in the sink an annoyance, or you feel resentment that you haven’t gotten any decent sleep since the new baby arrived.  We may have different things that give us the sense of being slighted or bruised.  I often find these little splinters of feelings come up with those who I’m closest to, and since I love them and care deeply for them, often I don’t give myself the chance to really feel  and acknowledge them.  Some part of me says, “You shouldn’t feel that way about your friend/partner/child/baby,” and I nudge the feeling aside.  It’s still there, like a tiny splinter of glass in my foot that hurts when I step a certain way.  That splinter has me walking off-balance until I take the time to find it and take it out.  Dr. Hanson reminds me that forgiveness can be for the little things, and the Day Out of Time is an opportunity to notice the feelings of resentment or hurt and let them go.

Importantly, forgiveness doesn’t mean either approval of offending behavior or letting someone have a free pass for what has happened.  As Dr. Hanson writes, “Finding forgiveness can walk hand in hand with pursuing justice.”  And forgiveness doesn’t mean that I don’t need to address the situation that is causing the hurt or resentment.  If someone keeps leaving her peanut butter sandwich remnants on the coffee table, that someone needs a reminder about what to do with leftovers and dirty dishes.  Forgiveness, in my experience, isn’t about avoiding the conversation or setting the boundary or even taking legal action.  Forgiveness allows me to do those things more skillfully and with compassion for everyone involved. Forgiveness allows me to release the pinch of bitterness.  Forgiveness is about letting go and being ready to either take the next steps or to start again.

Dr. Hanson goes on to point out that paradoxically, when I forgive someone, it’s me that gets the benefit.  He offers, “Consider two situations: in one, someone has a grudge against you but then forgives you; in the other situation, you have a grudge against someone but then let it go. Which situation takes more of a weight off of your heart? Generally it’s the second one, since you take your own heart wherever you go.”  Sitting on my cushion on Wednesday morning, that’s exactly what I felt:  a loosening of my heart as I recognized the hurt and chose to let it go.

It may seem like a small thing:  to notice an injury and let it go without speaking a word to anyone.  A small act and one that frees up a lot of energy.  For me, it is a great way to clear my heart and mind for a new year.  So whether you’ve ever heard of the Natural Time Calendar or not, whether you even knew we were starting a new year or not, the invitation is the same:  take some time this week to notice any pinching feelings you have about anyone in your life (or even on the news) – be it your family, friends or the cashier at the grocery store.  See if you can take your own Day Out of Time to let the resentment go, and make choices from there about how to move forward skillfully.

Happy New Year, everybody.  In Lak’ech!*

 

* In Lak’ech is a Mayan greeting that means “I am another you” or “I am you, you are me.”

 

 

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