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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”  — Shunryu Suzuki (see link to original lecture)

We spent the week revisiting routines that I learned when I was a Nia beginner. The practice is to bring that same energy of curiosity, spaciousness, and possibility to even those things we know well.

All the playlists from the week are below or you can listen to them by going to Spotify! Dance for free at Spotify! Sign up, follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen!

And first the announce-y type things:

• Scheduling Question: Wednesday class
Looking toward the summer schedule, there is some talk of moving back our Wednesday class time to 11:15am-12:30pm to give more space between Nia and the class that comes before. I’m curious to know how/if this would effect people. Please let me know what you think in the comments below or by emailing me at sjmnia@gmail.com. Thank you for your input.

• Safety & Awareness Reminder
Some, especially in the Downtown Group Ex studio, are choosing to dance with weights during freedance. I don’t recommend this particularly (I’m happy to elaborate if you’re interested) but if you do this, please be mindful that you are moving with weights in a room full of barefoot dancers who are moving sometimes quickly around the room. Please do any weight-dancing on the edges so dancers can easily stay clear and engage lots of awareness about where you are in space. Thank you for your awareness!

•SPRING NIA JAM: MARCH 17
Join Kate Aust, Mary Linn Bergstrom, and Rachel Horsley for our spring Nia Jam! Friday, March 17, 5:45-7pm Downtown in Studio A. *Please note, we will be downstairs in A rather than upstairs in “the big room”. Also, there will be no Nia 101 this week – class begins at 5:45pm!

• FREE Workshop: Conscious Communication with Mary Linn & Susan ~ March 25, 3-5pm
A FREE heARTful Action gathering, Saturday, March 25, 2o17, 3-5pm
at the Quaker Meeting House at 1104 Forest St, Charlottesville
In our polarized, highly-charged political environment, a simple conversation can be tricky, scary and even dangerous. More and more, we may find ourselves avoiding conversations about the things that matter to us most for fear of an argument or damaging a relationship.
In this free workshop, we will explore practical ways to approach conversations (either in person or on-line) that promote connection, curiosity and clarity. Join us to learn ways of talking to even the prickliest people with calm and kindness. Bring a journal and a friend!
Please RSVP to sjmnia@gmail.com or on the Facebook event page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1921663034719326/) so we know how many people to expect. Wear comfortable clothes, bring a journal and a friend!

• Love Warrior: embody a movement ~ Friday, Apr 7, 6-730pm
a moving experience of activism in support The Front Porch at 219 Water Street E, Cville
Join Susan to experience a new routine called Love Warrior. This is a movement experience designed for everyBody that allows us to experience the sensation of the change we want to see in the world. We can then translate that sensation directly into action.

At a time when the arts and creative education are being undermined and undervalued, it is more important than ever to support the arts in our community and creativity in ourselves! The Front Porch will offer music and refreshments will be available before and after we dance. Enjoy an evening of movement, music, and community.
Donate-What-You-Can ~ All proceeds from the event will go to The Front Porch

DOUBLE BONUS: Love Warrior shirts with original art
Just because times are tough doesn’t mean we have to wear black all the time. I’ve been working on a Love Warrior shirt design and together with the people at CustomInk, we created this – check it out!
Would you like one? It’s the perfect outfit for protests, marches, and of course, Love Warrior dancing! If you’re interested, please email me and let me know including what size you’d like. The more we print, the less each shirt will be (if we order 25, they will be around $16) so share this with your friends and I’ll let you know what shakes out before anyone has to commit to anything. Nevertheless…

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Sunday, Mar 12, 2017, 315pm ~ Beginner’s Mind

Adiemus 4:02 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Tintinnabulum 11:03 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Cantus Inaequalis 3:18 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Cantus Insolitus 5:40 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Adagio for Strings [Remix by Ferry Corsten] 6:35 William Orbit
Cantus Iteratus 6:42 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Kayama 7:58 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Hymn 2:42 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley

Monday, Mar 13, 2017, 1045am ~ Beginner’s Mind

All I Want 6:52 Shantal
Dance of Sarasvati 9:07 Kitaro
Agolo 4:50 Angelique Kidjo
Spellbound 5:43 Rae & Christian
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Wombo Lombo 4:17 Angelique Kidjo
New Beginning 5:32 Tracy Chapman
Jamming 5:24 Candy Dulfer
Where the Story Ends… 5:44 Shantel
Bless This 7:21 Deseo Remixes (original by Jon Anderson)

Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017, 840am ~ Beginner’s Mind

All I Want 6:52 Shantal
Beauty & the East (Banco de Gaia Remix) 6:51 Bombay Dub Orchestra
Agolo 4:50 Angelique Kidjo
Spellbound 5:43 Rae & Christian
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
Wombo Lombo 4:17 Angelique Kidjo
The Basement 3:35 Eric Hutchinson
Jamming 5:24 Candy Dulfer
Revolution 3:40 Coco Love Alcorn
Hymn to the Fallen 4:43 Voces8

Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017, 11am ~ Beginner’s Mind (Firedance Enhanced)

Reel Around the Sun 8:42 Bill Whelan
The Heart’s Cry 2:28 Bill Whelan
Alba 5:16 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Journeyman 3:48 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Shivna 3:38 Bill Whelan
Firedance 6:04 Bill Whelan
Dalmore 3:59 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Stranger in a Strange Land 6:20 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Siamsa 4:28 Ronan Hardiman
Riverdance 5:45 Bill Whalen
Aran Boat Song 5:27 Aryeh Frankfurter & Lisa Lynne
Caoineadh Cu Chulainn (Lament) 4:11 Bill Whalen

Thursday, Mar 16, 2017, 840am ~ Beginner’s Mind (Firedance Enhanced)

Reel Around the Sun 8:42 Bill Whelan
Alba 5:16 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Journeyman 3:48 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Shivna 3:38 Bill Whelan
Firedance 6:04 Bill Whelan
Dalmore 3:59 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Stranger in a Strange Land 6:20 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Riverdance 5:45 Bill Whalen
Aran Boat Song 5:27 Aryeh Frankfurter & Lisa Lynne
Caoineadh Cu Chulainn (Lament) 4:11 Bill Whalen

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!

New heARTful Action Post at http://www.susanmcculley.com/heartful-blog/ !

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ” — Maya Angelou

heARTful is a word I made up to mean awareness from and leading with the heart. heARTful Action posts focus on how to stand up and create a culture of health, inclusion and kindness. heARTful Action posts are calls to love warriors everywhere.Please note that heARTful Action is its own blog now, separate from Focus Pocus. Please find it here where you can sign up to receive posts directly. And if they are helpful to you, please do pass them on.

Me and you and you and you
Just wanna be free yeah
But you see all the world is just as we’ve made it
And until we got a new world
I’ve got to say that love is not a whisper or a weakness

– Mercy by Dave Matthews Band

I love my teacher, Jamie Catto, but when this post came up from him on Facebook last week, I hated it.

Let’s say it plainly: Trump is an embodiment of all of our collective, denied Shadows. (Continue reading here.)

all-in-this-together-tomlin-011817

For MLK Week, we danced the paradox of both being unique individuals dancing our dance and being inextricably interdependent and connected.

Our In This Together playlists from the week are below or you can listen to them by going to Spotify! Dance for free at Spotify! Sign up, follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen!

And first the announce-y things:

• New Nia 5 Stages class with Anne at acac downtown on Friday mornings
Black Belt Nia Instructor, Anne Wolf is now offering a Nia 5 Stages class on Friday mornings 8:30-8:55 am at ACAC downtown. Nia 5 Stages is an integrative practice based on the five stages of human development: Embryonic, Creeping, Crawling, Standing and Walking. Each stage is a foundation for the next. Combined, all 5 stages help people to integrate physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When practiced daily and in the correct sequence, these stages facilitate optimal alignment and function. Come join Anne to explore these stages and cultivate your  practice.

• FREE Workshop: Finding Your Focus with Mary Linn & Susan ~ January 28, 3-5pm
These days, there are seemingly endless worthy causes that could use our money, time, and energy. Many of us are left feeling overwhelmed, scattered, or even helpless.
In this free workshop, we will explore what matters to you most, ultimately discovering the unique purpose to which each one of us may give our devotion.
As we share our insights, we will create a sense of relaxed readiness, knowing that we are not taking on the world alone.
Bring a journal, something you’re comfortable sitting on and a friend!
This is a FREE heARTful Action gathering~ Saturday, January 28, 2o17, 3-5pm
at the Quaker Friends Meeting House, 1104 Forest St,  Cville*
*Please RSVP to sjmnia@gmail.com or on the Facebook event page (https://tinyurl.com/z9tq33f) so we know how many we will be.

• dance.sit.create. day-treat on Saturday, Feb 18, 2017, 8:30am-5pm
There is still some space for dance.sit.create on Saturday, Feb 18 (snow date, March 4) at Buck Mountain Episcopal Parish Hall, 4133 Earlysville Rd, Earlysville, VA 22936
What better way to spend a winter day than in giving power and time to your unique creativity? As a human being, you are an artist. While we can’t make creativity happen, we can provide fertile terrain for inspiration to land and take root. In this supportive, delicious, fun experience, step into your own creative life. Join Susan McCulley, Nia Black Belt, mindfulness teacher, writer and artist for a day-treat playing at the intersection of movement, stillness and your artist self. If you have dance.sit.created before, new surprises await. If not, this is the perfect time to join us.
Susan provides guidance and inspiration for the day. Rebecca George’s Dragonfly Kitchen provides extraordinary vegetarian, gluten-free, seasonal food (tea, snack, lunch). ALSO INCLUDED is a new 6-week series of music, meditations, and prompts to keep the flow of the day going. $125 / please register by February 15. Limited to 20 participants. Go here for all the details and to register.

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Monday, Jan 16, 2017, 1045am ~ In This Together: Dancing The Paradox

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Blackbird 3:09 Dionne Farris
I Shall Be Free 6:13 Kid Beyond
You Might Die Trying 4:44 Dave Matthews Band
Pride (In The Name Of Love) 4:27 U2
One World, One People 4:43 Xcultures
So Beautiful Or So What 4:09 Paul Simon
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane
Black Or White 3:19 Michael Jackson
Ain’t No Man 3:34 The Avett Brothers
Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar) 4:50 Beyoncé
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free 4:09 Derek Trucks Band
Woke Up This Morning 3:55 Ruthie Foster
Spiritual High, Pt. 3 5:14 Moodswings
Love Rescue Me 3:48 Playing For Change
MLK 2:34 U2

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017, 840am ~ In This Together: Dancing The Paradox

Blackbird 3:09 Dionne Farris
I Shall Be Free 6:13 Kid Beyond
You Might Die Trying 4:44 Dave Matthews Band
Pride (In The Name Of Love) 4:27 U2
So Beautiful Or So What 4:09 Paul Simon
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane
Black Or White 3:19 Michael Jackson
Ain’t No Man 3:34 The Avett Brothers
Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar) 4:50 Beyoncé
Woke Up This Morning 3:55 Ruthie Foster
Spiritual High, Pt. 3 5:14 Moodswings
Love Rescue Me 3:48 Playing For Change

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2017, 11am ~ In This Together: Dancing The Paradox

We Are All Connected 7:07 Magic Sound Fabric
The Obvious Child 4:10 Paul Simon
You Might Die Trying 4:44 Dave Matthews Band
Pride (In The Name Of Love) 4:27 U2
I Know What I Know 3:13 Paul Simon
The Boy in the Bubble 3:59 Paul Simon
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane
Born This Way 4:20 Lady Gaga
Higher Ground 3:22 Red Hot Chili Peppers
Waking the Spirits (African Travels Re-Awakening Remix) 5:56 Bob Holroyd
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free 4:09 Derek Trucks Band
The River 5:31 Suzanne Sterling
Imagine 3:27 Playing For Change
Plegaria para el Alma de Layla 3:19 Pedro Aznar

Take courage friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
Take courage.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.
– Wayne B. Arnason

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017, 840am ~ In This Together: Dancing The Paradox

We Are All Connected 7:07 Magic Sound Fabric
The Obvious Child 4:10 Paul Simon
You Might Die Trying 4:44 Dave Matthews Band
Pride (In The Name Of Love) 4:27 U2
The Boy in the Bubble 3:59 Paul Simon
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane
Higher Ground 3:22 Red Hot Chili Peppers
Waking the Spirits (African Travels Re-Awakening Remix) 5:56 Bob Holroyd
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free 4:09 Derek Trucks Band
The River 5:31 Suzanne Sterling
Imagine 3:27 Playing For Change

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!

New heARTful Action Post at at http://www.susanmcculley.com/heartful-blog/ !

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ” — Maya Angelou

heARTful is a word I made up to mean awareness from and leading with the heart. heARTful Action posts focus on how to stand up and create a culture of health, inclusion and kindness. heARTful Action posts are calls to love warriors everywhere.Please note that heARTful Action is its own blog now, separate from Focus Pocus. Please find it here where you can sign up to receive posts directly. And please, if they are helpful to you, please do pass them on.

In this Martin Luther King week, I’ve been thinking about the quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Which is powerful good, but it’s helped me to look at that quote within the context of the paragraph in which it appears.

Continue reading here.

This post first went up on Focus Pocus three years ago in February, 2013, and it’s worth revisiting. I’ve taught for 16 years now and I still observe the same thing in movers’ bodies: people don’t move their hips much. It’s still unclear how many hip replacements are performed in the US every year: I found stats indicating 200,000, 285,000, and 332,000. A lot. My niece, Olivia, now 14, is a competitive swimmer and she still has super healthy hips. I’ve added some illustrations for fun but otherwise, here is a some onscreen sheen from 2013 — enJOY!

jive to the hip 022116

In 13 years of teaching Nia, I’ve watched a lot of people move. And here’s what I notice: most people don’t move their hips much.

I don’t know how many hip replacements are performed in the US every year. I did my best to find out and found wildly different numbers from 120,000 to 178,000 to 500,000!  Suffice it to say, it’s a lot.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t have the research, but I think there is a connection. Hips that move are healthy hips and, well, as I mentioned, most Americans just don’t move their hips.

No great shock, really.  Ours is a comfort and convenience culture. Most of us don’t regularly sit on the floor, lift of heavy objects, or even walk much.  In addition, large or circular hip movements tend to be connected with sexuality, and sexuality with embarrassment or fear. So we Americans tend to zip up, button down, and keep our tails from wagging.

What a bummer, since the hips are major storehouses of strength, mobility and energy. The strongest joint in the body, the hip offers circular mobility (instead of one plane like the knee or elbow) as the ball (femoral head) turns in the socket (acetabulum). The hip joint is also layered with lots of connective tissue and muscle which gives the joint both strength and stability.

hip joint Hip_Muscles hip joint muscles

Mobililty, strength and stability – so we can walk, run, balance, jump, turn…and wag our tails! The hips are meant to fold completely (as in a squat – a common pose of ease in many countries) and open completely (as in the yogic Wheel pose, below). But how often do we actually allow the hips to move as they are designed?

jive to the hip full squat 022116

jive to the hip wheel 022116

Most of the hips I see primarily sit, stand, and walk: small range of motion, mostly front/back. Think about what you and your hips do during your waking hours. I spend at least half my day sitting…and I’m a movement teacher!

These limited movements have big repercussions for the health of hips and their owners. Physically, when hip movement is limited, some muscles and connective tissue get over-worked or over-stretched while others get underused and weak. This causes imbalances in the body that can result in physical pain (like lower back pain and tight hamstrings).

What’s more, the hips and pelvis contain our sexual and emotional energy. Locking down hip movement locks down that energy. Freeing the hip joints allows it move.  As a result, when people start moving their hips, it’s not uncommon for them to feel waves of sadness or anger or excitement. After a Nia class, a new participant will often sheepishly approach me and say, “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I felt like I was going to cry (or laugh or scream) during class!”  I don’t think they’re crazy, I think they are self-healing. And I think more hip movement would do them a world of good.

With all the connective muscle and tissue around the hip joints, hip movement strengthens and stretches abdominal, back, leg and pelvic muscles. A little tail wagging goes a long way toward creating more health all through the midsection of the body!

As children, most of us had strong, mobile hips. Our little bodies easily folded up and unfolded again. We were up and down off the floor and wiggling around in all sorts of ways. (Below is a picture of my niece, Olivia, when she was a toddler. She’s 11 now and still squats and wiggles beautifully.)

hips olivia squat

The practice of Nia invites us back into our playful, easeful, child-like bodies.  It invites us, at least for an hour every day, to let go of the cultural corset and allow our bodies – and, in turn, our minds and emotions – to flow and relax.  Whether you are taking Nia this week, or you are just dancing through your life, I invite you to start allowing your hips more movement and range of motion.  If hip movement feels new or awkward to you, start gently and slowly, breathing all the way.  Your hips are designed to move, so have fun!  Before getting out of bed, pull a knee into your chest and gently rotate your thigh in the hip socket.  Sit on the floor to put on your shoes!  Stand up from your computer right now and wag your tail!  And most daring of all, walk with a swing in your hips – no matter your age, gender, or professional title!

Now you’re hip to the jive so give some jive to the hip!

Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

What better time than Thanksgiving week to look at the interconnection of gratitude and grace? Here are 8 practices that will help you experience how gratitude leads to grace and grace to gratitude (the first is so powerful it comes in three delicious flavors!):

1. Gratitude Journals

Vanilla Gratitude Journal – Vanilla isn’t boring, it’s simple and rich. The practice of writing down three things you’re grateful for at the end of every day cannot help but change the way you see the world.

Chocolate Gratitude Journal – Every day write down one unique thing you are grateful for. No duplicates. Make it something you’ve never written in your journal before. You might find yourself alert to the world differently as you search for your one thing (some of my recent ones: the smell of cilantro, orange feet on a black bird, the kindness of the man at the doctor’s office).

Salted Caramel Gratitude Journal – Every day identify three gratitudes – one in each of these categories:
Ordinary. One mundane, oft-overlooked thing (clean water, a breathing easily through your nose, food on the grocery shelves),
You. One thing about you (extra bonus for naming four – one physical, one mental, one emotional, one spiritual),
Ouch. one about something difficult, something you resisted, something that you didn’t want

2. Gratitude Meditation

Get quiet and meditate on gratitude. I’ve been using the Insight Timer Application on my phone and loving it. You can find lots of great guided meditations there including

– “Gratitude Meditation” by Sarah McLean
– “Meditation on Gratitude” by Adam Dacey
– “Cultivate Gratitude Mediation” by Mija Speakman

3. Bad Day Turn Around

Having a craptastic day? Things not how you want them to be? Pause and identify something you’re grateful for in this situation. Get down to the bones of things and see beyond the narrow circumstance. Stuck in traffic? You’ve got a car. Busy at work? You’ve got a job. Got a snarky teenager? You’ve got a teenager who is healthy enough to be snarky.

4. Thank you note

Write a thank you letter to someone in your life you haven’t properly thanked. If you can, read it to them. If not, read it out loud with the intention of them receiving your thanks. (BONUS TIP: Thanks to Mandy Blake for this idea from her Embody Gratitude program. Want to join me in this rich month of gratefulness? It’s free and awesome. Click here.)

5. Move as One Body

When feeling physically awkward, take a breath and move your body as a whole, as a system rather than a collection of parts. While it can be helpful to put your attention on how you’re holding your shoulders or positioning your feet, for grace, move as one body.

6. Social Grace

Add grace to an awkward social interaction by identifying something in the situation you are grateful for. Even if it’s as simple as, “I’m glad to see you” or “I’m glad you asked me that.”

7. Let Us Give Thanks

Say a simple grace of thanks before eating. (A family I know sits down together, holds hands, looks around the table and says, “YAYYYY!!!”)

8. Forgive

Forgive someone. Forgive a debt. Forgive a hurt. Forgive a meanness. And if you’re not ready to forgive someone else, forgive yourself for that.

Merry Thanksgiving, every body! I’m grateful for you.

Pause & Breathe…

A Thousand Beautiful Things

In the sweet little slice of time between sleeping and waking up, sometimes I have ideas. The other morning, I had a glimpse of something I wanted to draw. Two things actually.

This is the process to the first one:

IMG_20150923_202813322

IMG_20150923_204143391

IMG_20150923_205534589

IMG_20150923_211643283

pause bubble 092315

and this is the path to the second one

IMG_20150923_212244392

IMG_20150923_213257858

IMG_20150923_214306622

IMG_20150923_215926502

breathe bubble 092315

They don’t look exactly like what I saw in that sleepy in-betweenie morning space. But that’s the way art goes.

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