white teacher with navajo students“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” ~ Khalil Gibran

My stepdaughter is disappointed about the teacher she has for her course this semester. I don’t like her, she said, She didn’t teach us anything last time I had her. I taught myself everything from the book. I am sorry she isn’t happy with her teacher but I keep thinking wow, what was an extraordinary thing to learn.

“Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?” ~ Walt Whitman

My yoga teacher told us about one of her teachers who yelled at them in class and was generally nasty while holding them in difficult postures. Why in the world did you stay with a teacher who treated you like that? I asked. She stopped and got serious. Oh my gosh, she said, I learned so much from her. It’s where I found the serenity in my practice.

Teaching and learning are happening all the time whether we realize it or not. But we often think about teaching and learning narrowly: the teacher is up there teaching and the students are out there learning.

teachers & students 1

Sometimes teachers will say things like I learn so much from my students! Making the exchange of teaching and learning look something like this:

teachers & students 2

But that’s not quite accurate either. Here’s what’s actually happening all the time. Everybody, whether they know it or not is both teaching and learning from everybody else. So it actually looks more like this:

teachers & students 3


We’re all teachers. We’re all students.
We teach by the choices we make. We learn by the perspective we take.
What do you want to teach? What do you want to learn?
When I am clear on this, I know how to live.

Whatever it is, remember this little mind-blowing nugget of brilliance from Momastery blogger, Glennon Doyle Melton:

“You do not teach by teaching – you teach by loving.”

Imagine standing in this room

// & students 3

if all those colored lines, were lines of love.


P13 gophers sharing celery“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Whether you believe it or not, you are a teacher. The way you move through the world necessarily affects others. Principle 13 invites us to be authentic, honest teachers by listening deeply to what happens around us and the sensations that happen within us … and then sharing what we sense.

It’s simple but not always easy: there is so much to distract us internally and externally. The power not just of this principle but of the practice we share is to mindfully make choices for ourselves that positively affect the world around us. No matter who you are and no matter what you do, whether you practice Nia or needlepoint, the promise of the Unofficial Guide is to move and speak and choose from the inside out.

Today. Right now. Share something from your experience that moves you, touches you, makes a difference for you. Plant the seeds. It’s all we can do.

Next week, I’ll launch Practical Joy, a new routine which will integrate all thirteen principles into one holistic experience. It’s got a little bit of everything — Doobie Brothers Remixed, Melissa Etheridge, Zydeco, soul, swing, Madonna, Alanis, dang! — so take a breathe and hold onto your hats.

A few dates of upcoming events and happenings:

– Free ChakraDancer class open to all! Begin the holiday season with this meditative and energizing experience in a beautiful old dance hall (now parish hall!) ~ Friday, November 21 at 6pm at Buck Mountain Episcopal Church. The event is free and open to all so please join us and bring a friend. All the details are here.

– Thanksgiving Nia at acac downtown! What better way to start off the greatest holiday of all time with some mindful playful movement? Join me on Thursday, November 27 at 9am at acac downtown in the Group Exercise Studio for Practical Joy, some songs about pie and some seriously groovy gratitude. Bring your family and friends (for free!), or leave them home and get some time just for you.

– Winter “Black Out” Jam! Winter Solstice Nia Jam with Mary Linn, Anne and Susan ~ Friday, December 19, 545-7pm at acac downtown. Non-members welcome! Members can bring a guest for free!

As always, please let me know how I can help more.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

Monday, Nov 17, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Sharing What You Sense

North 6:49 Afro Celt Sound System
North, Pt. 2 3:01 Afro Celt Sound System
When You’re Falling [Featuring Peter Gabriel] 5:14 Afro Celt Sound System
Colossus 6:44 Afro Celt Sound System
Lagan 4:05 Afro Celt Sound System
Shadowman 6:36 Afro Celt Sound System
Life Begins Again [Featuring Robert Plant] 6:22 Afro Celt Sound System
Further in Time 6:32 Afro Celt Sound System
Persistence of Memory [Remix] 5:14 Afro Celt Sound System
All Remains 7:30 Afro Celt Sound System

Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Sharing What You Sense

North 6:49 Afro Celt Sound System
North, Pt. 2 3:01 Afro Celt Sound System
When You’re Falling [Featuring Peter Gabriel] 5:14 Afro Celt Sound System
Colossus 6:44 Afro Celt Sound System
Lagan 4:05 Afro Celt Sound System
Shadowman 6:36 Afro Celt Sound System
Life Begins Again [Featuring Robert Plant] 6:22 Afro Celt Sound System
Further in Time 6:32 Afro Celt Sound System
Persistence of Memory [Remix] 5:14 Afro Celt Sound System
All Remains 7:30 Afro Celt Sound System

Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014, 1055am ~ Principle 13 Play with Mary Linn

How To Get Ahead 5:27 Frontera
Nourah 6:51 Makyo
Somptin Hapnin (Water In Me) 10:32 Adham Shaikh
Sufani 5:33 Gaudi
Open Sesame (G’s Talking Drum Mix) 6:10 Crosstown Traffic
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu
Orange Sky 6:11 Alexi Murdoch
Sweet Timelessness 10:39 Kenya Masala

Thursday, Nov 20, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Sharing What You Sense

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss
Let The Groove Get In 7:12 Justin Timberlake
Listen to the Music (DJ Malibu Mix) 5:01 The Doobie Brothers
What Do You Say 5:00 Haley
Oye Como Va (Latin/Trance Mix) 4:17 Celia Cruz
The Sound Of Winter 3:27 Bush
Drop It Low 3:45 Kat DeLuna
Fly 3:33 Bart Hafeman
Back In Business 5:13 Madonna
And She Was 3:39 Talking Heads
You Learn 4:00 Alanis Morissette
Sense Of Purpose 3:03 The Pretenders
Flying 6:13 Garth Stevenson


For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at…

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!

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

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

P13 sharing guinea pigs

Principle 13 – Sharing What You Sense

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

When we began teaching Nia in 1983, … we just moved and focused on pleasure and pain, two sensations we knew well. Over time and with practice, something amazing began to happen: We began to develop a deeper awareness of all body sensations—and so too did our students, as we shared what we sensed with them.

…we realized the simplest of truths: it is through the body that we are able to connect to the whole being: body, mind, emotions and spirit. This truth continues to be the foundation of Nia.

Nia is about allowing people to have their own revelations, discoveries and experiences by simply sensing their bodies—and most importantly, by connecting to the Joy of Movement.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“I don’t teach no devotees. I only teach teachers.” ~  Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland

During the TEDx Charlottesville talks on Friday, I only cried once. This is an extraordinary thing since I cry at most everything: romantic movies, when the underdog wins, and at pretty much any flashmob video (especially ours!).

The TEDx Charlottesville talk that brought me to tears was given by the three co-founders of the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore – Ali Smith, Atman Smith and Andres Gonzalez – and two of their young teachers. The three men started the Holistic Life Foundation in 2001 to nurture the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care. Part of their presentation was a video that showed scenes from their elementary after-school program: dozens of kids in stocking feet on pink and purple mats breathing with eyes closed and later shrieking with joy at the prospect of getting to do Tree Pose.

In Atman’s part of the talk, he said that following their own yoga teacher’s wisdom, they strive to teach teachers not students. By empowering even pre-school kids to lead their peers and their families, the HLF programs expand their reach deep into the community. It makes sense. Teach a devotee and they are dependent on the teacher. Teach a teacher, and they spread the learning.

This week, we reach the last principle in the Unofficial Guide: Principle 13 ~ Sharing What You Sense. Officially, this principle is about how Nia teachers share what they sense with their students.  But I’m with Atman’s yoga teacher: I’m more interested in teaching teachers.

The Official Principle 13 has a three-step process to Sharing What You Sense: listen to the music, dance to the music, share what you sense. Two parts receiving to one part sharing. From a Nia teaching perspective, the benefit of this is that what the teacher says comes from an embodied experience rather than her head. Nia, when taught from Principle 13, is an experience of feeling rather than thinking.

From our unofficial, practical, Nia-or-not perspective, I suggest a similar three-part process: listen, embody, and share. Whether you are designing gardens or raising children or writing novels or dancing Nia: first listen, then embody, then share.

Listen ~ to the people around you, to the sounds around you, to the intuition within you. Be open to what is happening around you and inside you. Whatever the activity, be present in it.

Embody ~ bring your whole self to whatever you are doing. Use your body to sense and move and embrace what you’re doing. Use your mind to investigate and inquire and discover. Use your emotions to make an authentic connection to your experience. No one can do this like you can, so bring yourself fully to it.

Share ~ share something from your experience. Tell someone something about what you learned or what inspired you or what moved you. Pass on a picture you took or a poem you wrote or bread that you baked. Share an article that excited you or a practice that helped you or a film that changed you. Let the ripples of benefit keep going. Be a teacher.

At the end of the Holistic Life Foundation presentation, 10-year-old Shamar Brooks led the sold-out Paramount Theater in a love exercise. He invited us to close our eyes, see the light within us and tell ourselves, “I love you.” Then he had us tell a person sitting nearby and finally to say “I love you” to everybody in the theater. I’m pretty sure mine were not the only tears in the house.

The TED motto is “ideas worth spreading” and the HLF ideas are most definitely worth spreading.

Unofficially, the Principle 13: Sharing What You Sense motto is “sensations worth spreading.”

Don’t keep it to yourself. Be a teacher. Pass it on.

Nia class extendingMy yoga teacher recently said to an experienced student in full January class: “I know you know what you’re doing, but be aware that there are lots of new students in class today.”

We are all teachers. What do you want to teach?

A thoughtless act teaches me to be kind.
A stingy act teaches me to be generous.
A harsh word teaches me to be gentle.
A half-truth teaches me to be honest.

We are all students. What do you want to learn?

Teachers and students are everywhere. Have the courage to learn from everyone and to teach everyone.

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