For months now, I’ve been noticing the connection between healing and creativity. As I pay deep attention, as I find the willingness to step into whatever is happening (in my body, my heart, my mind, my spirit, the world), creative energy becomes available — energy for expression, for insight, for solutions, for presence.

When Mary Linn and I decided to focus on this connection in our classes this week (we’re teaching together on July 4! Do join us at acac albemarle square 11am-1215pm!), we didn’t really know what we were doing.

She mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert…that’s where I found the quote for the art piece above.

Then I read this genius blog post from Lisa Jakub, called Can You Make Art During a Crisis? (Spoiler Alert: YES. Hell YES you can and must and YES please. But read her post since she says it better than I did.)

And then this from Graeme Seabrook came up on my Facebook feed:

All around me I hear artists, writers, musicians, coaches, healers – all kinds of creators – questioning themselves and their work in the world.
Should they stop writing jokes, or painting, or making t-shirts, or candles, or poetry, or, or, or? Shouldn’t they put away these frivolous things and fight?
At the same time I see people all over social media thirsty for good news, for inspiration, for joy. I see my friends and family in my offline community searching for peace, for some comfort.
To the creators, to the makers, to the healers and the coaches, the writers and all the bringers of light I beg you: PLEASE KEEP CREATING.
We need to be reminded of what life can be.
We need to be shown our highest selves.
We need to remember what we are fighting FOR and not only what we are fighting against.
We need hope.
So please keep creating. We need you now more than ever.

And then Mary Linn and I kept finding music that we wanted to create new choreography for and there it was, flowing through me, the energy that is released when I have the courage to heal.

Step into this with us. Dance in it — however you do. What we create out of our healing is what makes all the difference.

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<h4>Coming Soon! Buddha Cat: my first book!</h4>
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I’ve finalized the pages and the cover mechanical is done (doesn’t that sound official and cool? I have no real idea what it means). Please join me in the adventure of the publication of my first book. Go to and sign up to be a Buddha Cat Backer! You’ll get updates, insights, goodies and discounts! Can’t wait to do this together.


Sohpia FloatiesA Focus Pocus guest post by Sara Marks

This week’s Focus Pocus post is by my friend and Nia student, Sara Marks. She’d told me about her “floaties” and I loved the image. I knew she was a writer, so I asked her to guest post. The first part (posted yesterday), I love as as an awesome depiction of recent posts: Rush the Resistance and Structure, Expression & Wasabi Peas. The second part, below, I just love. I hope you do, too. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your art. ~ Susan

Floaties, floaties, floaties. I just like saying it, so I do — again and again. If I close my eyes I can see her. My daughter, my beautiful, curly-topped Sophia. Her bright eyes are all intensity, intelligence, and strength. I’m amazed at her will and tenacity and filled with wonder how I could have even partially created that. I see her bobbing around the water in her purple Nike floaties. She looks like a red and white fishing bobber, bobbling along in the Coralla pool.

She lifts her arms when her head gets too hot (much to the dismay of the lifeguard who now thinks for the third time today that she is drowning) and dunks herself under the cool water. She pops right back up and smiles, amused with her little game with the unsuspecting lifeguard.

We had argued earlier. I knew she could swim. I made sure before we went on vacation that she could swim. I had watched her in her swimming lessons and I knew she was a good swimmer. She knew, I knew. Somehow however, in a hastily packed pool bag, her floaties made it in. At four, I think she’s too old for floaties. They are for babies I told her, not for big girls. “Are you a baby?” My words sound harsh as I remember them now, but frustration and expectation had pushed me to the edge.

I couldn’t see it yet. I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face, smiling at me. “Look at me! Take my picture! Look at me here in my floaties.”

I use floaties. I use them all the time. Not actual floaties, of course, because ( A) they don’t make purple Nike floaties in my size and (B) people might think I’m odd. I don’t want to be odd, I want to be the normal, well, normal like the cool people. That’s why I’m afraid of writing. I’m certain that if someone read anything I wrote, they would think I was a fake. Or odd. And not in a cool way. I’m not enlightened or brilliant or anything, because if I were, then naturally, by now, I would be a writer.

My secure, safe, spectacular floaties carry me through my day. Effortlessly, I drift along, and I miss things. I miss connections, relationships, and joy. Real joy takes energy…and risk. “I’m sorry, I can’t play now. I have to clean this, bake this, do this, avoid that. I’m sorry, I can’t engage in conversation about politics, it’s too hard, I feel too strongly. How many children were killed? Where? I used to live near there. I’m so tired.” It’s scary, so my floaties are on.

“Slip sliding away.” I nap. I daydream. I read rubbish and trashy magazines about reality TV stars. I give in to fantasy and block out anything I deem too hard. I do everything I can to not engage in reality, to not be actively involved in my own space. This was my life. “A good day ain’t got no rain.” Everyone knows the song, and I am sure that if I asked Paul Simon what he wrote this song about, he would answer, “Floaties. I wrote it about floaties and I wrote it for you.”

But, after years of floatie-wearing, something is happening. I am happening. I’m not really sure when it started, how it started, or why it started. I started. I’m starting.

Whatever the reason, I began to see. I go to Nia as always, though now I raise my eyes in class. I used to tell myself that I needed to look down at my feet so as not to fall. Raising my eyes requires effort, and it is startling, strange, and surreal. The faces I was so apprehensive about are reassuring, smiling, comforting, and inviting. I doubt at first that the smiles are directed at me, the awkward tall woman who can’t keep on beat to save her life, stumbling around aimless, alone, and afraid. I’d tell myself, “just go dance in your little corner of the room, they’re not smiling at you.” But they are.

I am dancing my own dance to my own beat. All I need to do is show up, really show up. I was looking at my joy all along — my rhythm is mine and I am the one who needs to be happy and at ease with it. I smile back. I begin to raise my eyes in other places, too, and see more smiles and feel myself smiling back.

For some reason, I reach out to Susan while she’s on sabbatical. A radical act of bravery and courage that led to more. A domino effect. Susan, my friend and my teacher, is one of my hero-ific friends. The friends and the people who inspire me to aspire. It occurs to me that we all affect each other in ways that we might not realize. So I wonder: what affect do I have with my floaties on … and with them off?

I begin to spend less time in the floaties and more time on my real legs. Treadmills give way to long, quiet walks in the woods where I really look at what was blooming and growing and really listen to all the buzzing and chirping. I walk with my family, and my dogs too. Board games and UNO take the place of the trashy magazines. Daydreams become more embedded in reality. When I engage, I became more engaging. My conversations become richer. I talk with strangers, who then are no longer strangers. My wit becomes less snarky and my relationships blossom.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my floaties, but I use them differently now. Floaties are part of being human. I use them for fun and rest as long as I put my feet down more than up. My floaties now have a surgeon general’s warning imbedded on them. “Use when necessary, DO NOT OVERUSE.”

If I close my eyes, I can see her again: my bright, bobbing Sophia. Maybe she was tired that day and her little legs and arms didn’t want to swim. After all, she was on vacation, too, right? Maybe she wanted to float for a bit, her big brown eyes facing up to the sun and dream big and fantastic and unflawed dreams.

She was right. Everyone deserves to use floaties once in a while. Occasional floaties give us a respite from bills, stress, and troubles until courage to deal presents itself. I’ve learned to recognize when I need them and when I don’t. I see how useful they are, but how tight and restrictive they can be. Mine help me stay on my rocker until I can get a firmer grip, but then off they come and out I go on my long, strong legs.

Sohpia jumpingA Focus Pocus guest post by Sara Marks

This week’s Focus Pocus post is by my friend and Nia student, Sara Marks. She’d told me about her “floaties” and I loved the image. I knew she was a writer, so I asked her to guest post. The first part, I love as as an awesome depiction of recent posts: Rush the Resistance and Structure, Expression & Wasabi Peas. The second part (which we’ll post tomorrow), I just love. I hope you do, too. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your art. ~ Susan

Susan asked me to write about floaties her blog! My first reaction is complete joy and eagerness, followed almost immediately by humongous fear and resistance.

How do I explain floaties? Where would I even begin? I should just sit down and write, that typically gets my creative juices flowing. But no, I think I most assuredly need to think about it. A lot. I need to really ponder what a blog is. I’ve never written a blog. Blogs are honest. I should be honest. No, I should be funny; people will think I’m crazy if I’m honest. Who am I kidding? Who do I think I am?

Immediately, I get busy, very busy. I clean the bathroom, and there is all that laundry. I certainly can’t expect everyone to wear dirty clothes because I have to write a blog. Here’s the issue though: I want to write this. I want to feel confident and at ease enough with myself to just sit down and spill it out. All of it.

“Slip sliding away.” Thus, begins the ritual and the habit. “A good day, ain’t got no rain.” Singing to myself is part of the ritual of avoiding things I don’t want, or can’t bring myself to do. Avoiding mirrors at all costs in my house despite having to clean them. Avoiding having to look, to really look at what it is I’m avoiding.

Disappointment. I write all the time, why can’t I do this? Isn’t this what I want? What good is a writer who won’t let anyone read what they write? What good is a poet who cannot bring herself to actually show up and read her work aloud when asked? Only once in my “grown up” life have I let someone hear me read what I wrote. My father’s eulogy. It brought the house down in a funeral-y kind of way. If I had looked up, I might have seen the smiles of love and support and felt the sweet connection of grief.

For encouragement, I get out a college paper I wrote for Professor Anslement. Twenty-six papers for the man: fourteen B+s, eleven A-s, and this one, an A. I remember my millisecond of pride, the teacher who never gave As, and somehow I got one. Closely following the pride was my decision that he knew I was graduating, so it couldn’t have been real, it couldn’t have been deserved. Encouragement turned into further disappointment. Did I peak with this paper? Have I wasted myself? I cannot write this blog piece, I cannot write it because I’m afraid. I’ve let anxiety and insecurity eat up a good portion of my life. What if nobody likes it? What if nobody reads it? What if they don’t agree and the comments are mean? So before I even begin, I make the decision not to even try.

And that decision is where I actually do begin. I see how I let my floaties cut off the circulation in my arms and my spirit. I see how I put them on instinctively when faced with a challenge and begin to drift securely away.

resistance we are all artists nowWho knew that the resistance could be so much fun?  Nice to know that those uncomfortable feelings just mean we’re on the right track.

So, for our video selections this week, first, the Song of the Week (a.k.a. A Private Gathering of the Silly Creatures, and quite possibly the best music video I’ve seen all year), Do It Anyway by Ben Folds Five. (In another life, I will play piano like this and get to dance with Fraggles.)

A lovely accoustic version of Lyle Lovett’s You Can’t Resist It — complete with cello!  Mmm-hmm.

And, Switchfoot’s This Is Your Life — a song that I got from my mentor, teacher and friend, Helen Terry.

This week, a happy, belated, Firedance birthday to John and a welcome to Charlottesville Nia to my longest Portlandia friend, Zan!

Next week, I’ll be away — hiking in the mountains. All my ACAC classes, including on July 4 will be covered by the amazing Nia Team, so check the ACAC Schedule page for the details. Happy 4th and I’ll see you the following week.

EnJOY, every-body!

Rush the Resistance – Monday, Jun 24, 2013, 1045am

This Is Your Life – 4:18 – Switchfoot
Deeper In – 3:15 – Aluta & The Mystics
Calling – 5:52 – Bliss
Lovers House – 4:49 – City Reverb
One World, One People – 4:43 – Xcultures
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) – 5:53 – City Reverb
Shakin’ It Up – 6:15 – Ganga Girl
Do It Anyway – 4:23 – Ben Folds Five
You Can’t Resist It – 3:11 – Lyle Lovett
Shine – 4:12 – Joshua
Speck of Gold – 5:37 – Afterlife
Song Of The Nile – 8:00 – Dead Can Dance

Rush the Resistance – Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013, 9am

This Is Your Life – 4:18 – Switchfoot
Deeper In – 3:15 – Aluta & The Mystics
Sun Is Shining (Out Of Sight Remix) – 7:30 – ReUnited
Find It (Featuring Farda P.) – 5:46 – Rodney Hunter
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) – 5:53 – City Reverb
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix) – 6:57 – Beyonce
Shakin’ It Up – 6:15 – Ganga Girl
Do It Anyway – 4:23 – Ben Folds Five
Bodyrock – 3:36 – Moby
Shine – 4:12 – Joshua
100 Billions Stars – 5:10 – Lux

Rush the Resistance (Firedance, belated for John’s birthday and summer!) – Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013, 1055am

Reel Around the Sun – 8:42 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
The Heart’s Cry – 2:28 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
Countess Cathleen/Women of the Sidhe – 5:42 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
Shivna – 3:38 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
A Mhuirnín Ó – 5:01 – Clannad
Firedance – 6:04 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
Slip into Spring – 3:46 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
Siamsa – 4:28 – Ronan Hardiman, Riverdance II
Riverdance – 5:45 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
The Flowing Bowl/Marie Breatnachs #1/The Doon/The Mason’s Man – 3:55 – Solas
Lift the Wings – 5:00 – Bill Whalen, Riverdance
The Buzzard – 3:50 – Old Blind Dogs

Rush the Resistance – Thursday, Jun 27, 2013, 9am

This Is Your Life – 4:18 – Switchfoot
Deeper In – 3:15 – Aluta & The Mystics
Calling – 5:52 – Bliss
I Know I’m Not Alone – 4:04 – Michael Franti, Spearhead
One World, One People – 4:43 – Xcultures
Ghosts in My Machine – 3:33 – Annie Lennox
The Thing That Helps Me Get Through – 4:35 – Spearhead, Michael Franti
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix) – 6:57 – Beyonce
Never Coming Home – 5:00 – Sting
Do It Anyway – 4:23 – Ben Folds Five
You Can’t Resist It – 3:11 – Lyle Lovett
Drive – 3:53 – Incubus
Speck of Gold – 5:37 – Afterlife

Resistance The Icarus Deception“The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.” – Seth Godin

That’s really the heart of it. What Seth said. When uncomfortable resistance arises, I know I’m right where I need to be: dancing on the edge of challenge and healing. Between what is and what is possible. I can’t heal what is without resistance. I can’t get to what is possible without resistance. Resistance isn’t futile…it’s essential.

Where do you feel resistance? Celebrate it. Rush to it. Resistance is the lifeblood of doing something meaningful.

And please read Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception — soon.

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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