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Trust

This is a practice of both/and, y’all. It’s not black white, either or. It’s not all of anything and none of another. This mindful movement practice is one that allows and is present for everything. This is true on the micro/personal level as well as the macro/universal/cosmic level. But holy smokes, universal/cosmic seems like a bit much these days… so let’s practice with the body.

Today’s Dharma Dance Swirl practice invites us to both trust and entrust the body. Can I trust my body to guide me, give me information, take care of me? And can I entrust my body to my own care: to listen to it, respond to it and take care of it? Welcome to a practice of connection without comparison, judgment, criticism (but it’s ok if those show up!). Find the video here.

~~~ Music Credits ~~~
Title song for Dancing Water Daily:

Kate’s Waltz 3:44 Bad Snacks, YouTube Audio Library

Thu, May 21, 2020 ~ Dancing Water Daily ~ Dharma Dance Swirl: Connection without Comparison
A Trip Around the Moon 5:18 Unicorn Heads YouTube Audio Library
Rhodesia 4:27 Twin Musicom YouTube Audio Library
Essence 2 3:49 Audionautix YouTube Audio Library
Right On Red 3:49 Audionautix YouTube Audio Library
Rev 4:41 Eveningland YouTube Audio Library
Potato_Deal 2:45 Craig MacArthur YouTube Audio Library
Trouble 3:43 Topher Mohr and Alex Elena YouTube Audio Library
The Machines Dream 4:42 South London HiFi YouTube Audio Library
Hackbeat 4:02 Kevin MacLeod YouTube Audio Library
Morning Mandolin 3:39 Chris Haugen YouTube Audio Library
Beach Walk 6:21 Unicorn Heads YouTube Audio Library

THIS WEEK’S DANCING WATER DAILY PRACTICES ~ Connection without Comparison
Monday, May 18 ~ Nourishing Movement: Connection without Comparison (Courage + Encourage) ~ find it here
Tuesday, May 19 ~ Nourishing Movement: Connection without Comparison (Longing + Belonging) ~ find it here
Wednesday, May 20 ~ Moon River Restorative Yoga: Connection without Comparison (Brace + Embrace)
~ find it here
Thursday, May 21 ~ Dharma Dance Swirl: Connection without Comparison (Trust + Entrust) ~ find it here
Friday, May 22 ~ All Out All You Dance Party: Connection without Comparison
Saturday, May 23 ~ Ajna (Self-Guided) Practice: Connection without Comparison
Sunday, May 24 ~ Moon River Restorative Yoga: Connection without Comparison

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I love to hear from you about how you’re doing and what you need most. I read and respond to every single comment and email and I appreciate them all. Please do reach out with email (sjmnia@gmail.com) or a comment and let me know how I can help more!
Breathe deep. Shine bright. Show up.
Love

trustShould I stay or should I go now? (sings the Clash)

Feeling in the middle and inbetweenie happens to all of us. Liminal time, interim time, whatever you call it, it usually feels uncomfortable.

Despite the oogie-ness of these times, they are a gift. It means there is something interesting happening.

Show up and trust.

It can be tempting to avoid times of uncertainty, but avoidance is the stuff of rebound relationships and other “what have I done?” decisions.

Show up and do the work, even if you don’t see how it will all work out in the end. Show up and trust that it will.

Exciting news, Focus Pocus Fans! I’ve had a piece published in Elephant Journal! Click here to go to it.

Help pass the word of mindful movement (in and out of the studio) by reading, commenting, and sharing! Yippee!

Our first day in Manuel Antonio and it is a completely different feel than what we’ve experienced so far.  First, it’s hot and dry.  Really hot.  The bathing suits and sundresses (mine, not Frank’s) and sandals that have been buried in our backpacks, we’re now happy to have.

The place has the feel of many beach destinations:  a combination of lazy and laid back with a strong line of party hardy and some high pressure scam artists sprinkled on top.  We took the public bus to Manuel Antonio National Park and were a little disappointed to hear that many of the trails and beaches were closed due to some recent storms. 

But for a disappointing day, it wasn’t bad.  We hiked the trails that were available on which we saw monkeys and lots of lizards and agouti.

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After a relatively short hike in the heat, I was very sweaty.

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We spent the rest of the day relaxing, swimming, following lizards and hermit crabs around, shooing away monkeys and actually chasing raccoon-like things.  One of which got away with a gluten-free granola bar.  I hope she appreciated it.

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It was beautiful.

thin ice 4When those enormous earthquakes hit Japan in 2011, I remember hearing a story about a man walking down an avenue in Tokyo.  He felt himself stagger and as his legs give out, and he thought he was having a stroke or a seizure.  His first reaction was, “There can’t be anything wrong with the Earth…it must be me.”

In my post earlier this week, I suggested that many of us spend much of our time standing, walking, moving as if we are walking on thin ice:  not relaxing into the support under us and trusting that we are held.  My invitation was to become aware of how you may be holding yourself up with unnecessary effort and to relax into the support beneath us.

This is a powerful practice that you can do right now:  just sense your body wherever you are and see if there is some tension or feeling of lifting yourself off the floor (or your chair).  See if you can take a breath and relax into the foundation below you.  Can you feel that soft letting go?

But what about when there is an earthquake?  What about when the foundation we count on gives way?  It’s happened to all of us at one time or another:  a phone call in the middle of the night, a surprising shift from someone you thought you knew well, an unexpected death.  These times can take our breath away and feel frighteningly like a solid avenue is crumbling beneath our feet.  What do we do then?

It is absolutely true that life is full of uncertainty.  It could actually be argued that life IS uncertainty.  In the face of this reality, one approach is constant vigilance.  If I am always bracing for the earthquake, I’ll be ready for it, right?  Another approach is to pretend that earthquakes will never happen and move through life denying that we really don’t know what will happen next.  Neither denial or vigilance really work, though.  Either way, our nervous systems just go on autopilot.  Either we expend lots of energy holding ourselves in hyper-alertness or we expend lots of energy pretending that the unexpected won’t happen.

Instead, what if we let go and relax even though we know that nothing is certain and the bottom may fall out at any moment?  What if we trusted that there really is nothing to be done but to keep letting go?  It can feel scary and even unwise, but when we look at what is so, the way things are, there really is no other choice.  As the saying goes, “Let go or be dragged.”

As I’ve suggested, this is graduate level practice, my friends.  Let’s do it together – reminding each other that there really is no better choice.  So thin ice or not, earthquake or not, just relax into it and let go.

Today is September 1, 2012.  It’s official.  My Radical Sabbatical is over.  It was just what I needed and I learned so much, but it definitely didn’t go how I thought it would.   But then again, what does?

Last week, I was listening to a talk by Joan Borysenko called Fire in the Soul – Positive Spiritual Practices for Healing.  The talk was one produced by the National Institute for the Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) as part of their series on spirituality and healing.  I’ve been enjoying the NICABM talks all summer and they have introduced me to lots of powerful ideas and teachers.  But to be honest, I’d never heard of Dr. Borysenko and didn’t really think the topic would speak to me particularly.

In part of her talk, though, Dr. Borysenko talked about the experience that has been called “The Dark Night of the Soul”:  those times when we lose our way and things fall apart.  My ears pricked up:  that’s what happened to me!  I remember sitting in my kitchen telling my husband that I was lost.  It was that feeling that led me to the sabbatical.  I had thought of it as a mid-life crisis or a Nia crisis, but not a dark night of the soul.

Yet as she described the three parts of the Dark Night, I could see that this was my experience.  And it’s not just me, this is a human experience.  We tell the story over and over:  Odysseus, The Wizard of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, Star Wars.

In all these stories and in our lives, the process of the Dark Night happens in three parts:

(1) separate from what was

(2) the interim time when things are no longer but not yet (also called the Liminal Time) and

(3) return transformed.

When the bottom drops out it can be scary and it can also be a time to invite transformation.

In all the classic stories and myths, and in my own Radical Sabbatical, it is the second stage – the liminal time — that is both the most challenging and the most important.  Whether it is sailing on the sea, walking the yellow brick road, or flying on the Millennium Falcon, the in-between time shapes the experience.  The liminal time is when the really juicy stuff happens!

As Dr. Borysenko explains, how someone handles the liminal time is pivotal.  They can get hopeless and depressed, feeling like they are being punished; or they can take it as an opportunity to make new choices based on what is working and what isn’t.  She says, “There is the possibility to return from the dark night with something more precious to offer.”

In John O’Donohue’s poem For the Interim Time (see full text in the Helpful Info menu at right) he writes “‘The old is not old enough to have died away; the new is still too young to be born.’”  The liminal time can be uncomfortable.  It takes patience.  It is time between time.  The liminal time is about being in the unknown.  That’s the whole point.

Often when I’m in the interim time, I look for a way of ending it quickly; to find a resolution and relieve myself of the slippery-ness of the unfamiliar unknown.  And to really let the interim time do what it needs to do, I can’t rush it.  Dr. Borysenko offers three skills weathering Liminal Times:

  • Realism
  • Faith
  • Mindful curiosity

Realism.  When we’re on the brink of stepping away from what was, it can be tempting to fall into optimism or pessimism.  I can stalwartly tell myself, “I have to do what I have to do.  Consequences be damned!  Everything will work out.” (See me standing on the precipice with my fist at my heart and the breeze blowing my super hero cape.) On the other extreme, at 3am, as I stare at the ceiling, I can drop into helplessness and hopelessness and get mired in the muck of despair. (See me as a black and white stick figure, crumpled in the corner with a scribble mark over my head.)  Neither is particularly helpful.  What is helpful is getting real.  How can I support myself or get the support I need?  Where will I live?  What can I realistically do?  What do I really need to make this change?  Realism allows us to step into the liminal time with the resources to make the journey.

Mindful curiosity.  When I have awareness and curiosity about what is happening within me and around me, I can be open, spacious, and flexible.  Mindful curiosity leads to creativity and expansive thinking.  Creativity and expansive thinking opens up new options, new ways of looking at myself and my circumstances.  Without mindful curiosity, I can easily get stuck in my habits and patterns (which, come to think of it, probably brought me to the brink in the first place).  Mindful curiosity opens up my peripheral vision so I can see lots of possible directions to go.

Faith.  Faith is a bit of a tricky word for me.  Dr. Borysenko points out that faith can be religious, but not necessarily.  I see it as trust:  trusting that even though I don’t understand what is happening now, that there is a larger perspective that I don’t yet (and may never) have.  Faith in this sense in my ability to see myself on a rite of passage rather than as a victim of circumstance.  Faith allows me to feel the discomfort of the unknown and relax into it, remembering that it is part of the process.

As I neared the end of my sabbatical, I found that I wanted to tell the story of my experience – both the specifics and the universal.  I loved the intellectual analysis that Dr. Borysenko offered and the insights that any of the classic Dark Night stories reveal.  But I’m not a psychologist.  I’m not a philosopher (well, maybe a little bit).  I’m not a film maker.  I’m a Nia teacher.  I wanted to tell the story of my Radical Sabbatical – and these times of transition and transformation that we all go through – with the music, movement and magic of Nia.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a description of the Radical Sabbatical routine:  the music, the experience, and how we can play in the transitional times and allow them to transform us.  If you dance the routine with me, it may enrich the dance.  If you don’t, the music and lyrics may shed light on your own transitional times.  Either way, I’m happy to share the yellow brick road that I walked (and sometimes skipped and sometimes schlepped and sometimes danced) along.  I hope you’ll come back and read again tomorrow!

 

 

“Don’t just do something, sit there.” ~ Silvia Boorstein

In April, when I announced that I was taking a sabbatical, and people asked what I was going to do with my time, I said, “I have lots of ideas, but I don’t really know.”  “And when are you coming back to teach again?” they’d inquire.  “I don’t know,” I’d say.

Kind of a conversation-stopper, that.  Say “I don’t know,” a couple of times in a row and it’s like talking to a grouchy adolescent.  I wasn’t saying it to be annoying or mysterious.  I was saying it because it was the truest thing I could say.

After a little less than a month of Radical Sabbatical-ing, I realize that somewhere in my brain, I had a notion that clarity would come … quickly.  That I would know right away what I needed, wanted, was ready to let go of.  Ah, it would be glorious to know with angel-singing simplicity what my next steps would be so I could get to the doing of them!  As the Indigo Girls sing, “the sweetest part is acting after making a decision.” And I am ready ready ready for that sweetness!

Um.  Not so much.

The feeling of “I Don’t Know” has continued, unabated.  And I can feel myself getting impatient and uncomfortable with it.  Enough already.  Let’s figure this puppy out.  But it has become obvious to me that if this was something that I could “figure out,” that I would have done it a long time ago.  Instead, I need to hang out with I Don’t Know.

So here are a few things I did this week when I Don’t Know poured into my days:

1. Sit – As the title of Sylvia Boorstein’s book so cleverly points out, one of the best things to do when I don’t know what to do is to sit.  Get still.  Listen.  Watch what’s going on.  Oh, the monkey mind is incredible and the fidgets both physical and mental are astounding.  Yet it helps me somehow to rest in the awareness of the moment and know that I’m okay right now.

2. Write – Following the daily practice of Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, I write stream-of-consciousness for 15-20 minutes.  Just whatever is in my head goes right down my arm, into my pen and out.  It feels a bit like a mental flush.  Here’s a little excerpt from yesterday:

“I am at a loss and time is slippin into the future.  Why aren’t those chickens laying?  Why is that chicken limping?  Why did I plant that garden so close to the cypress?  What to do?  How to be?  What is next?”

Not great reading, I grant you, but perhaps you can see why it felt good to get it out of my head.  Sometimes I also scribble scribble scribble on the page.  That feels good, too.

3. Weed – I am my mother’s daughter.  I love me some weeding.  It’s meditative, it helps the garden and it looks better when I’m done.  It’s a way of taking something that is tending toward chaos and reigns it back in.  I figure if I can’t do it with my professional life, I might as well do it in the lettuce bed.

4. Help – Yesterday, when my afternoon collapsed in on itself, Frank said he needed some help on a project so (after some unattractive resistance and poutiness) I spent my time doing that.  It was unskilled labor, to be sure – pulling carpet staples out of a floor so hardwood can go in – but it felt good to be of service and the repetitive work helped quiet my thoughts.  Come to think of it, it was sort of like weeding indoors!

5. Cook – I’m finding great solace in preparing food for my family and friends.  I’ve been experimenting with new recipes and preparations (Farro Risotto, anyone?).  I’ve delved into a new cookbook (Clean Food!  Thanks for lending it, Laura!).  And I’ve played with new ingredients (anybody know what to do with kohlrabi??).  Both the act of nourishing myself and my dear ones, and the creativity of making a dish are satisfying and easeful to my antsy spirit.

So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?  What allows you to dwell in the unknown a little longer when you need to?  Is there something that soothes your weary “Do-er”?  You have no idea:  I would so love to hear about it.

For now, I’ve decided to stick it out with I Don’t Know.  I figure the space may do me good, and at the very least, the gardens will look better, and I might find a new favorite recipe.

Today was one of those rich and poignant days where everything feels infused with meaning and emotion.  My last Friday morning class before my sabbatical was unspeakably sweet – and not due to anything I did in particular (except cry a lot, perhaps) but because of all the love and presence and kindness that was in the room.

At the beginning and end of class, I read a piece by Jamie Catto called Manifesto.  Jamie Catto is one of the co-creators of 1GiantLeap, a music project that I love and use often in class (check out the two CDs – if you’ve been in my classes, much of the music will be familiar!).  You can find the whole text of the Manifesto here (and in the menu to the right) and Jamie’s TED Talk about his current work here.

About half way through the Manifesto is the line, “We turn up to work every day pretending we’re not neurotic and obsessed and insatiable and full of doubt.”  My voice caught on “doubt.”  I realized that I’ve been carrying on pretending I’m not absolutely and completely full of doubt about the sabbatical and, frankly, just about everything.

What a relief to realize that I’m not alone.  That we are all doubt something, worry about something, are obsessed with something…and doing our best to hide it.  May we all find the courage to drop the pretending and tell it, live it, be it just like it is.

Special thanks to the many wonderful people who made today’s class so special with their offerings of words and flowers and talismans and love.  In particular:  Heather, Rebecca, Marsha, Diana, a slew of Susans, Sheila, Kate, Elizabeth, Cheryl, June & Frank, Denise, Charlotte, Kimber, Melissa and, well, all of you.  I am grateful beyond words.

In Lak’ech (ancient Mayan greeting that means “I am another you”)

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