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Three years ago today, we saw the land that we now live on for the first time. I think of it as a birthday of sorts. Below is an essay that I wrote then and never shared until today..

Come join us at The Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday, July 11 from 9-1015am. If you’ve not been out to the space, this is a great week to do it! We’ll move in the trees by the river and then, if you like, sit on the porch with tea and potluck snacks! I would love to have you there to be part of the nourishing movement and a little celebration.

Dancing Water

July 2016

This weekend, I fell in love. Which is crazy since I’m nearly 52 and I’ve been happily married for almost 17 years and we just moved into a new house he renovated less than a year ago. But love is like that. Love sneaks up on you at inappropriate times, and takes your breath away and there is just not a damned thing you can do about it.

My husband, Frank, fell in love this weekend, too. He looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I can hardly breathe.” I said, “I know” but really, it’s not my breath… it’s my heart. My heart is beating out of my chest.

We could hear it before we could see it. We walked through the ironwood trees and over lichened rocks and skittered a little down the steep hill and then there it was. They are called the falls at Natural Dam on the North Fork of the Hardware River and they are part of a property that we now very much want to buy.

I started laughing and shaking my head. Unbelievable. Only Frank could do this. We shucked off our clothes and stepped into the frothing water. I let the cool green current swirl around my shoulders and between my fingers and I looked at Frank with tears in my eyes and said, “You did this.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Two weeks before, we’d been traveling with our little camper in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are mountains there, of course, but what we were looking for, what we always look for, are rivers and waterfalls. Most days found us hiking along creeks and rivers, doing dramatic crossings over rocks, sharing a granola bar while perched on a miniature island, playing in found swimming holes and whenever we could being near water falling over stone.

Near the end of our trip, we were in the middle of a river on a mossy rock dappled with sunlight alternately snapping crisp bites off an apple. My shoes were off and I let my feet play on the moving surface of the water.

Frank said, “I know we just moved into our house and we both love it but we both also love water. Have you ever thought about living near water? Near the ocean or a lake or something?”
I laughed and closed my eyes and leaned against him. I smelled his rich sweaty dirty smell after hours of hiking.

“I love the ocean and I love lakes,” I said, “but the only water I would consider living near is a river. I love this sound. I love the feel of it. That’s the only water I’d move for.”

“Well, then we should manifest a piece of land on a river within 10 miles of Charlottesville for the money we have that I can build a house on!” he said, just like that, as if there are such things.

I laughed in a hard burst since it was the silliest thing to even say, let alone pretend to manifest.

“Yeah, okay Frank,” I said, closing my eyes again and feeling the warm sun on my face and the strength of him sitting next to me. “We’ll do that.”

But I should know better. After all these years, I should know that he can do it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Since we’ve been home from the Smokies, I’ve been working like a wild thing – teaching more classes while my colleagues are out of town and working on writing and art pieces that had been neglected while we were away. Frank is looking for a house to renovate. He finds one that looks promising but it’s already got an offer on it. And then another, that could work but no, it’s got not only an offer but back up offers. He tells me he’s going to check out Craigslist just in case there is something there.

On Saturday, when I come back from teaching I’m famished and making lunch. He walks into the kitchen holding open his computer and hands it to me. “What about this?” he says.

I’m chopping an egg and I’m distracted with hunger and I lean over to see what he’s showing me. It looks like a waterfall.

“Wait, what?” I say, “What is that?”
“It’s a property. It’s for sale. It’s got a waterfall on it.”

I’ve driven to dozens and dozens of houses and properties with this man. He renovates old houses and he’s got vision. So when he sees something that looks like it might work he says, “Want to drive out and see it with me?” I always say yes. Almost always, it’s in a terrible neighborhood or built on top of the train line or it’s falling right down to the ground. Almost always, it doesn’t work.

We drive to where we think this property “where you can hear the water from anywhere” is and we can’t see or hear a thing. We wander around and we both find ticks crawling on us. Another disappointment. Oh well.

But when we get home and he calls the number on the ad. The man tells us we were in the wrong place. So we put on our hiking boots again and as we head back out. Frank drives and I hold the hand-drawn map he’s made: past the old farm house and the meadow and down the gravel road and under the power lines and there’s the turn out.

We get out of the car and I can hear the water.

It’s 9 miles from Charlottesville. It costs exactly the amount we have. And it’s got a waterfall.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Love is a funny thing. Maybe the funniest thing there is. Even after being struck with lightning-bolt love, it’s never simple. Even when your heart pounds and your breath catches, maybe especially then. Love is full of everything and drags you all over tarnation.

Two days after seeing it, less than 48 hours after we slid down the hill and into the green water, we placed an offer on the land. Early that morning Frank came into the kitchen and said, “Here’s what I think: I think we should put in an offer. My whole life, I’ve made decisions with my heart and I’ve never once regretted it. When I met you, I could have said it was too soon and you didn’t really want kids and it was too complicated, but I didn’t. You could say the timing isn’t right on this land and it’s going to be complicated to build, but I just looked at the video I took on Saturday and I saw this…”

He handed me his phone. After we’d swum in the river on that first day, after we’d stared in wonder at the woods and rocks and water, we got dressed and Frank took a video. I hadn’t realized it but in the first split second, he caught me in the frame. I was beaming.

“Look at your face,” he said. “That’s why I think we should make an offer.”

The offer was contingent on figuring out the road into the property. Maybe we could share the existing road that led to two nearby houses. The property has a right of way through a neighboring property but it would require taking out dozens of trees. Or we thought so but the actual location of not only the right of way but the property itself wasn’t clear. We knew we couldn’t build near the river or at any grade of 25% or more. We knew we needed 30,000 square feet of buildable land on this side of the river. But the deed and the county’s on-line topographical maps were full of discrepancies. The county said we didn’t have enough space to build on. The owner assured us we did.

While the owner made arrangements for a surveyor to come re-measure the property and the right of way, Frank started learning. He learned about county regulations. No, you can’t share a road with two other houses. He learned about how much tree removal and putting in culverts and buying tons of gravel would cost. He learned about how the county’s topographical maps were drawn and that maybe they weren’t particularly accurate in forested areas. He learned about challenging interactions between adjoining property owners and arguments about how the land could be used. He learned about engineered septic fields and how much it would be to dig a well. In the first week he designed and redesigned the house four times. He measured and remeasured where he would position it on the land, shifting it again and again to avoid the biggest hardwood trees. He relearned the Sketch Up software so he could see the design in 3D and how the sun would come in the windows.

He learned about chiggers. After a couple of times to the property, we both discovered our bodies – especially our most tender places – covered with wildly itchy bites. Chiggers are nymph-stage arachnids that hang out on long grasses in wet places. They hop onto birds and turtles and people. They are so small as to be invisible and can go right through most fabric. They find a tender spot, inject an enzyme that liquefies the skin which they then drink down and hop off, leaving an irritated bite that made us want to take belt sanders to our ankles and crotches.

After reading a series of alternately disgusting and hilarious sites about chigger avoidance, we determined where we were picking them up and how to stop the itching. We’d have to keep the grass by the river cut short but we figured we could even work around the chiggers.

But we couldn’t work around anything if we didn’t have enough buildable land. Without 30,000 square feet on the south end of the property, everything else was moot.

The owner arranged for a surveyor to come out to measure everything the day before we left for a trip to Minnesota to visit Frank’s family. Frank went out with them in the hopes of getting a definitive answer before we left but all the measurements had to be fed into a computer for the final results.

We’d been with his family for 24 hours before we told them about the land and our hopes to build. As Frank showed his design to his parents, sister and brother-in-law, my phone buzzed with a text. It was the owner. We had 30,000 feet and more.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

July 2019

At least a million things have happened since we got confirmation that we could build Frank’s vision. At least a million problems that looked like they made the whole proposition untenable. And yet one miracle after another kept happening: financing, a genius road builder, a hard-working creative engaged crew, materials off of Craigslist, a genius septic system installer (even if he was a teensy bit late), and Frank there all along working and creating every minute. A whole cascade of miracles leading up to today and right now. I am writing these words in the house the Frank manifested, designed, and built with his two hands. I can hear the water outside the window. And I’m beaming.

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[I’m traveling this week, visiting a friend in California. I’ll resume our exploration of the Unofficial Guide to the Nia Principles with Principle 11 next week. For now, here is an essay. Enjoy.]

relishing radishes easter eggs

Relishing Radishes

“We forget that every person, including ourselves, is new every moment.” ~ Tara Brach from Radical Acceptance

My Great Uncle Phil appeared in the world of my childhood twice a year. My memory of my grandmother’s younger brother, Philip, is of him sitting at her Thanksgiving and Christmas tables talking about the current plight of the New England Patriots and eating radishes.

Nana carefully set a precious pile of red radishes in a cut glass bowl by his plate for every holiday meal. Just for him. I asked why in the world she would do such a thing.

“Oh,” she said casually, as if this was a perfectly obvious sister-thing to do, “Philip loves radishes.”

At our family holiday gatherings, I hovered around the raw vegetable platter. Nana called it the “relish tray” which made no sense to me since relish was that pickley condiment we put on hot dogs. Whatever the name, I would stand by the spread and eat a steady stream of hand-cut carrot sticks, crunchy celery (sometimes fancily stuffed with cream cheese), cherry tomatoes (that exploded, so I had to remember to close my mouth), and cucumber spears with stripes of green skin peeled clean.

I devoured the relish tray, but I would never, ever go near the radishes. Their sometimes-spicy hotness made my childish palette wary. Pretty though they were—little ornaments of crisp red and white – I could not abide their bitterness.

Even when my parents grew Easter egg radishes in their fancy, space-aged hydroponic tubes, I never ate a single one. I stayed away even from these truly gorgeous globes of white and red, pink and purple. I knew that sharpness and bite lurked in the beautiful baubles. Even as a young adult, I was certain I wouldn’t like them so I never tasted them.

As I expect is true for most people, radish avoidance was rarely an issue for me, especially after meeting my husband, Frank, who detested them as I did. “They taste like crushed aspirin,” he said the first time the topic of radishes came up (as it inevitably must). The accuracy of his description was almost sexy.

Years passed and my story about me hating the bitter, aspirin-y radish persisted until my 50th summer, when a close friend brought a bunch of radishes from a farmer’s market. (How did she not know about my distaste for the repulsive little things?) Sheepishly, I accepted them and then fed them to the chickens who enjoyed the greens but struggled with the roots just as I did. Then, not three weeks later, another dear friend dropped off a picnic lunch which included a bright blue bowl full of radishes.

After she’d left the generous basket on our table, I raised an eyebrow and asked Frank why anyone would ever eat a radish. Knowing the food wisdom of both these wise friends, I thought I’d look it up.

Who’d have guessed it? A member of the notoriously nutritious cruciferous vegetable family, radishes are high in Vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants and low in calories.

Huh.

I picked one up and eyeballed it. Beautiful as ever, lovingly trimmed, chilled and fresh. I looked at Frank dangerously and popped in in my mouth.

Sharp and crunchy and, yes, a little bitter but not unpleasantly so. Thinking of all that nourishment, I popped another. Frank looked first at them then at me. With lips pulled back, he nibbled the teeniest bite of one. Huh. Not bad.

Before long, the bright blue bowl was empty.

I buy radishes regularly now. I eat them as a snack and love them on salad. We just harvested our first crop of Easter eggs from our garden. They are beautiful and delicious and the chickens get the greens.

Impermanence is the nature of being human. Change is happening all the time. It is the way the world works. Even our preferences are always in flux. Hot yoga, traveling in a camper, and raising chickens are all things that I never even contemplated until just a few years ago (or poo-poo’ed them as crazy, tacky, and impractical, respectively).

Now I love them all.

My mind wanted the preferences of my childhood to be permanent so it grabbed onto the radish-hating story and never let go. My mind and its story kept me from years of lovely radishes. My mind told the story over and over and I believed it. I never stopped to question it. My new-found radish love makes me wonder: what else is my mind keeping me from?

P10 supershero with capeWhat could be cooler than a week of super (s)hero X-Ray powers? Next time, though, I definitely want to wear a cape.

Principle 10, X-Ray Anatomy, gives us the tools to observe how we do what we do with kindness and make choices for re-alignment. We can do it with our physical structure and in our lives. As we move through the world we can observe ourselves and make adjustments that promote healing in all realms. A friend of mine says that all interactions are either positive or negative; there is no neutral. X-Ray Anatomy helps to us recognize this and move toward positive as we dance through our days.

For those who are interested in the exploits of this recovering English major, I had a new essay published this week on Elephant Journal about feeling irritated and annoyed. Thanks for reading and sharing ~ it makes a huge difference for a new writer!

And a few dates of upcoming events and happenings:

  • I’m traveling next week and am grateful to the stellar acac Nia team for covering my classes: Mon, Oct 27, 1045am – Loring; Tue, Oct 28, 9am – Kate; Wed, Oct 29, 1055am – Anne; Thu, Oct 30, 9am – Mary Linn
  • On November 2 at 2pm at The Writer’s House in Charlottesville, I’ll be reading from one of my essays along with some amazing writers. We’re celebrating the Charlottesville-based site Full Grown People, and the publication of their first book. All the details are here.
  • Did you know TED is in Cville? Come to the TEDx Charlottesville event on Friday, November 14 at the Paramount! I’ve been lucky enough to coach two of the speaker and I’m tremendously excited for the day of ideas worth spreading.
  • Students often ask if I teach classes outside of acac. I do! And one is coming up on Friday, November 21 at 6pm at Buck Mountain Episcopal Church. It’s a beautiful space and we’ll be doing the meditative and energizing routine, ChakraDancer. The event is free so please join us and bring a friend. All the details are here.

And finally, welcome home to Charlottesville’s newest White Belt! A big shout out to Rachel Horsely who returned from her Nia White Belt training this week! Congratulations, Rachel!

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

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

Monday, Oct 20, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: X-Ray Anatomy

Qurna 7:09 Banco de Gaia
Down To Earth 5:59 Peter Gabriel
The Fire From Within 4:12 Tryptamoon
Water Down the Ganges 7:10 Prem Joshua & Manish Vyas
Succumb to Me 5:15 Terence Trent D’Arby
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger
Maha Lakshmi 5:19 El Cosmo Group
Blinded 5:25 Julie Buddha-Bar, Vol. V
Suddenly I See 3:22 KT Tunstall
I Can See Clearly Now 2:43 Johnny Nash
Dark Waters 4:35 Bob Holroyd
Superman’s Song 4:31 Crash Test Dummies

Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: X-Ray Anatomy

Big Sky 4:04 Annie Lennox
Down To Earth 5:59 Peter Gabriel
The Fire From Within 4:12 Tryptamoon
Water Down the Ganges 7:10 Prem Joshua & Manish Vyas
Succumb to Me 5:15 Terence Trent D’Arby
Freedom 2:50 Tyrone Wells
Nothing But The Water (II) 5:19 Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) 3:52 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Dr. Bones 3:34 Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
Dust in the Wind 3:30 Daughter Darling
Feel It All – Band Jam 3:50 KT Tunstall
Dark Waters 4:35 Bob Holroyd
Jai Radha Madhav 6:27 Deva Premal

Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: X-Ray Anatomy

Headphones 4:18 Michael Franti & Spearhead
I’ll Be Waiting 4:40 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Never Know 3:33 Jack Johnson
Drifting Away (Paradiso Mix) 5:07 Faithless
Drive By 3:16 Train
Drop 4:56 Cornelius
Stairway To Heaven 8:03 Led Zeppelin
Why Must I Feel Like This Today? [Feat. Baaba Maal, Michael Franti, Ulali, Radio Active & Krishna Das] 9:28 1 Giant Leap
Gloria (feat. Cherine Anderson) 4:12 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Father I Know 3:08 Jamie Catto
Have a Little Faith 3:54 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Peace 4:05 George Winston

Thursday, Oct 23, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: X-Ray Anatomy

We Are All Connected 7:07 Magic Sound Fabric
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
X-Ray Vision 4:37 TKA
I’m Looking Through You 2:24 The Beatles
Shine 4:12 Joshua
Manana 5:59 Christophe Goze
Superman’s Song 4:31 Crash Test Dummies
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight 3:08 Amos Lee

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!

Principle 10: X-Ray Anatomy

P10 two bodies

Principle 10 may not seem like a super-power. To see beneath the skin to the bones may seem like a skill with minimal applications. At its core though, X-Ray Anatomy invites us to notice the patterns that a lifetime of movement and thinking and emotion have left on the body…and then to make choices to increase ease, health and pleasure. Applied with compassion and non-judgment, X-Ray Anatomy builds on Principles 2, 4 and 5 to tighten some things and loosen others and change not just our bodies but our lives.

Two Announcements on the Writing Front!

* A new essay of mine just went up on Elephant Journal! I called it “Irkitated” but they gave it a racy title. Check it out!

* Join me for a celebration of non-fiction essay writing at the Writer’s House on November 2 at 2pm. We’re celebrating the awesome, Cville-based site Full Grown People and their first anthology that just came out. My essay isn’t in the book but I’ll be reading at the event! Do join us!

Joe L's 90th
This week we celebrated our friend Joe Lieberman’s 90th birthday as well as Principle 7’s invitation to make choices from love rather than fear.

All the music from classes is below!

As some of you know, I am both Nia instructor and writer. Today, one of my pieces was published on the (wonderful) site, Full Grown People. You can read it here. EnJoy.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

P.S. FOCUS POCUS MUSIC GIVE AWAY (MORE WAYS TO SCORE GREAT NIA MUSIC!): The offer is still good that I made in the Principle 2: Natural Time Post: email me (sjmnia@gmail.com) a picture of yourself wearing the 13-Moon Calendar color of the day (or wear the color to class and TELL me that you did it intentionally and didn’t just HAPPEN to) and I’ll send you (or hand it to you if you’re in Cville) a CD of official Nia music, either Sanjana or Dreamwalker or the Official Playlist for the Unofficial Guide! Another way to play: comment below (or on the Focus Pocus Facebook Page) about how you used any of the principles in your life recently! I’m only announcing this here so only Focus Pocus readers are in on this! [And even though it sounds like a McDonald’s contest disclaimer: good in the US only (unless you want me to email you the tunes); limit one per person; while supplies last; void where prohibited.]

Monday, Sep 29, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Three Planes of Movement

Coming Back To Life 6:19 Pink Floyd
Living In The Moment 3:55 Jason Mraz
Never Know 3:33 Jack Johnson
Drifting Away (Paradiso Mix) 5:07 Faithless
Drive By 3:16 Train
Drop 4:56 Cornelius
Breathe (Extreme Mix) 4:04 Soulfood
Stairway To Heaven 8:03 Led Zeppelin
Proud 4:30 Heather Small
Everloving 3:26 Moby
Father I Know (Mix 1) 3:08 Jamie Catto
Balance 3:10 Bob Holroyd
Peace & Harmony 5:29 Relaxation Harmony & Wellness

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Three Planes of Movement

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes 5:48 Paul Simon
Whole Thing 5:27 Big Blue Ball featuring Francis Bebey, Alex Faku, Tim Finn, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger, Andy White
The Obvious Child 4:10 Paul Simon
Shadow 4:28 Big Blue Ball featuring Juan Cañizares, Papa Wemba
I Know What I Know 3:13 Paul Simon
The Boy in the Bubble 3:59 Paul Simon
You Can Call Me Al 4:40 Paul Simon
Burn You Up Burn You Down 4:31 Big Blue Ball featuring Billy Cobham, Peter Gabriel, The Holmes Brothers, Wendy Melvoin, Arona N’diaye, Jah Wobble
Me And Julio Down By The School Yard 2:45 Paul Simon
So Beautiful Or So What 4:09 Paul Simon
Get Up and Get Down 3:10 The Dramatics
Rivers 5:45 Big Blue Ball featuring Vernon Reid, Márta Sebestyén, Karl Wallinger
Big Blue Ball 4:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Peter Gabriel, Manu Katché, Karl Wallinger
The Boy In The Bubble 4:30 Peter Gabriel

Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Three Levels of Intensity

Healing Senses 8:27 Parijat
Mulatica Mia (Cuba Remix) 5:32 The Tao Of Groove
Palais Mascotte 5:47 Patrick Duvoisin
No Quiero Nada Mas 4:46 Sancti Spiritus
Keep On Searching 5:08 Kraak & Smaak
Dance Floor (Nu Brazilia Remix) 5:28 The Tao Of Groove
Give A Little Bit More 5:54 Physics
Rhythm Is? (Marques Wyatt Mix) 5:49 Afro-Mystik
Sunsethighway 4:00 Kiln
Universalfemalebreathchoir 4:54 Kiln

Thursday, Sep 25, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Three Levels of Intensity

Snakeroot 7:58 Lis Addison
Always Waiting (fest. Irina Milkhailova) 7:08 Kaya Project
Quero Saber (fest. Orieta Pines) 6:29 Rodney Hunter
Walk Into The Sun 5:21 Dirty Vegas
Moon & Sun 6:02 Dalminjo Fjörd Fusioneer
More Love, Less Attitude 4:39 Curtis Salgado
Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) 6:23 Afterlife
A Little Less Conversation [JXL Radio Edit Remix] 3:33 Elvis Presley
City Knows Your Name 4:59 Chris Coco
Shanti (Peace Out) 6:59 MC Yogi

RETREAT WITH NIA RICHMOND AT SEVENOAKS RETREAT CENTER IN MADISON Oct 10-12

Join Marybeth Grinnan, Niki Schemmel, and Susan Proffitt for another fun weekend at Sevenoaks. Play, create, get centered. Take some time for yourself before the demanding holiday season begins and return to your home energized and focused! Consider joining us for the optional Friday night activities which include dinner followed by Nia and a Fire Circle.

Get schedule and registration info here:
http://www.chasepro.com/E&E/registration.html

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! 

writing life 003A couple of months ago, I went to a friend’s birthday luncheon. It was her 40th and it was at a restaurant and I wore nice shoes so it was a “luncheon,” not a “lunch” thankyouverymuch. At said luncheon, I was introduced by two different people as … a writer.

Both times, I cast sideways eyes to see who the introducer was talking about. Both times, I froze a little and attempted to get into my glass of iced tea.

Me? A writer? Am I a writer?

I’m not suffering from a case of the impostor syndrome – the psychological phenomenon in which a person cannot take in their accomplishments and see them instead as luck, timing, or a fluke. It’s just that I’ve been a movement teacher for years and that’s how I see myself. As I write more and even publish some, my view of myself is running to catch up with what I’m actually doing.

Oh, that’s some happy crappy. It’s the impostor syndrome.

So when a new writer friend, Zsofi McMullin, invited me to participate in a blog hop about my writing life, I had to laugh and say “My what??” and then take a breath and say, “Yes, this is actually something I do.”

1. What am I writing or working on?

My blog. After teaching movement and mindfulness for a dozen years, I started Focus Pocus: The Magic of Inquiry and Intent in 2012. My original idea was to write about the focus for classes every week, and provide links to further information and resource. It’s turned into a way for me to tell stories about my own practice in and out of the studio. What started as a way to share more information about anatomy and the body~mind connection became a new way for me to connect with people, to encourage them to take their practice out into life … and to play with the craft and art of writing. I love doing it. It’s challenging and mysterious, scary and exhilarating. And I keep finding more things I wanted to write about. Which then led to…

Non-fiction essays. I have a file of essays in various states of done-ness and/or disrepair that I continuously add to and work on. I have a vision for a book (or an e-book, or a live performance piece, or something) that is sometimes in clearer focus than others. In the meantime, I have submitted essays to sites that I enjoy and respect…and sometimes they get published! Which is tremendously exciting. But even when that doesn’t happen, I love the cocktail of discipline and inspiration and solitude and connection that writing offers. So I keep doing it.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It doesn’t if I’ve been reading authors that I admire. If I’m reading Anne Lamott or David Sedaris or Claire Dederer, I tend to write lame imitations of them. Honestly, though, everybody has their own voice, things that only they can say, and everybody who chooses to write (or speak or dance or teach or make art or, well, live) has their preciously unique style and message. In Buddhism, it’s called dharma: your purpose or calling, the medicine that only you can bring to the world. Everybody’s got their dharma, it’s just a matter of finding and following it. When the stars align and I get out of my own way, I write entertaining pieces that might provoke thought and inspire inquiry. I’m a sucker for a good metaphor so I look for ways of connecting ideas and images to make the confusing and confounding less so. And if what I write is only entertaining, that’s fine with me, too.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a teacher at heart. I love to connect with people and share my own slapstick stumblings and banana peel dipsy doodles. I’m also an extrovert who needs to spend about half of her time alone so writing balances nicely with my teaching. I love the music and movement and magic that a group of people moving together creates. So I go out in the world with my funny pants on and dance around and invite people into their bodies. Then I come home and go into my dark little office den and create and connect in a different way. I love doing both ~ coming at the same thing from totally different angles.

4. How does my writing process work?

My process is in process.

I have little pads of paper all around my house and in my car. When I have an idea or see or hear something that catches my attention, I write myself a little note. “Serious Play,” “Act Your Age,” and (inexplicably) “Wear More Orange” are all recent ones. When I sit at my computer, I sort through the scraps of paper and pick one that feels like it has some juice in it and see what happens.

I’m a believer in Anne Lamott’s “shitty first draft.” I blat out whatever comes then leave it for a day or so and come back to it. Then I delete the pedantic crap (or some of it, anyway) and get to the story. After all the deletions and changes, it doesn’t look like a mess thanks to the wonders of word processing technology. Which is lovely for someone who is just a teensy bit obsessive-compulsive.

I don’t write every day which seems like breaking a Writer’s Law. I’d love to be writing more, but I’d also love to be working on my teaching more and doing more yoga and gardening more and traveling with my husband more. So I do what I can do. Instead of writing at the same time every day, I make appointments with myself to write throughout the week. I set aside two days a week that I leave open for creative work and then slide other writing time into the other days when I can.

Sometimes, I have an idea brewing, I sit down and it flows out like melted butter.

Okay, that happened one time.

Sometimes, I look at my blank screen and decide my nails need filing.

As I recently wrote on my blog, I take the Be An Ant approach and figure if I keep writing, little by little, after a while, I’ll have something. Maybe what I’ll have is just a pile of not so-terribly-good essays and maybe I’ll have a book. Either way, I’m enjoying my (so called) writing life.

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Now I’m passing the blog hop baton to one of my favorite bloggers who will share her stories and process! Check her out. You’ll love her, too:

Melissa Sarno is a writer and producer living in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Communications at Cornell University and received an MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University. After a few years working in television production, she made the switch to children’s media. When she’s not writing elegant prose for preschool toys and games, she writes novels and short stories. She’s currently seeking publication for her first novel and is at work on her second. She blogs at http://melissasarno.com and tweets at @melissasarno.

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