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The blueberry bushes in Rebecca’s back yard tower over me, their lanky branches intertwined like a roof. Armed with my colander, I snake around, between, and under. I keep thinking I’ve found all the ripe berries but when I circle around again and look from a different angle, inevitably there is fruit that I’ve missed.

The way I dance around the blueberry bushes is the way I dance around my days. Big issues plant themselves in front of me – love, parenting, friendship, money, vocation, art – and I spiral around them. As soon as I think I’ve figured it out, as soon as I nod confidently and say “oh, yeah, I’ve got this,” I look from a different perspective and see something new I’ve never seen before.

Wednesday, August 3 is my 52nd birthday. Most people would say it isn’t a “big” one but for me, it’s the biggest yet.

In the 13 Moon Natural Time calendar, every day is unique. Every day has its own Galactic Signature: 260 unique fingerprints made up of combinations of four colors, thirteen tones and twenty tribes.

  • Today’s Galactic Signature is Yellow Electric Seed.
  • The Galactic Signature on Thanksgiving Day will be Yellow Lunar Sun.
  • The Bicentennial in 1976 was Red Magnetic Earth.
  • September 11, 2001 was Blue Self-Existing Monkey.
  • The day Donald Trump was born was Blue Electric Hand.
  • The day Hillary Clinton was born was White Galactic World-Bridger.
  • The day you were born had a signature, too. (You can look it up here.)

Each of the 260 signatures has a meditation that decodes its energy and essence (you’ll find that here, as well.)

On the day I was born, August 3, 1964, the Galactic Signature was Blue Rhythmic Hand and the meditation is:

I Organize in order to Know
Balancing Healing
I seal the Store of Accomplishment
With the Rhythmic tone of Equality
I am guided by my own power doubled

Every 260 days since I was born, Blue Rhythmic Hand has been the signature of the day. But never since the day I was born has that signature fallen on August 3…until this year. After 52 years, a cycle is complete and a new cycle begins. In the 13 Moon Calendar, the 52nd birthday is called the Galactic Return.

Fifty-two, then, is a BIG birthday. The Galactic Return is celebrated as a time of rebirth and renewal , the finishing of a cycle and the beginning of something new. My friend and Nia colleague, Zan Tewksbury, says that her Galactic Return was about the freedom and responsibility to write her own story. Her willingness to step out of the expectations of society, family and even herself allows her to live more authentically from her essence. And while that can be disorienting and scary, the unfolding adventure is worth the discomfort.

“The day came,” wrote essayist Anais Nin, “when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Perhaps that day comes on the Galactic Return or maybe it happens at another time. The Galactic Return routine celebrates all courageous human choices to see life from different perspectives and to reimagine ourselves. It’s about all our returnings and rewritings.

We are all circling and spiraling through time – experiencing repeating patterns and cycles. What’s more, all our circles and spirals are intersecting and interweaving. Galactic Return: Blue Rhythmic Hand is a physical and symbolic honoring of all of us swimming in the river of time, circling together through past and present and now.

[I’ll launch the Galactic Return: Blue Rhythmic Hand routine on Wednesday, August 3 at 11am at acac Albemarle Square and then teach it again on Thursday, August 4 at 840am at acac downtown. I’ll then be traveling for a couple of weeks and will return to teaching the routine on August 29.]

Just the second week into the 13-weeks adventure of the Unofficial Guide to the 13 Principles of Nia and we’re already into a rich exploration of both the body and how we move energy through our posture, walk, voice, dance…and life.

13 moon calendar glif

Part 1 of Principle 2 is Natural Time which takes us from the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar* to the movement of 13 joints and measure of 20 digits in the body. If you’re interested in following the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar, you can receive daily emails from my friend and Nia Trainer, Helen Terry, by signing up here.
I also use a great 13-Moon Calendar app on my phone that you can find here.

p2 9MF Rainbow

Part 2 of Principle 2 explores the nine movement forms (three dance arts, three martial arts and three healing arts ~ for more, click here) the energy and essence of which Nia uses to train, condition, and heal the body. Even cooler, we can use that same energy to find balance and ease in our lives.

Below are the playlists from the week with some annotations as to our focus for each piece of music. Enjoy.

In Lakesh**, y’all.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

* Hey, did anyone decode their birthdate? If so, tell us your galactic signature in the comments below!
** “In Lakesh” is a Mayan greeting that translated to “I am another you.”

Monday, Aug 25, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes 5:48 Paul Simon (focus on ankles)
All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints 3:15 Paul Simon (focus on knees)
Gulf Breeze 6:30 Eat Static (focus on hips)
Splitting World 8:35 Eat Static (focus on spine)
Papa Dukie & The Mud People 4:39 The Subdudes (base/spine freedance)
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic (focus on shoulders)
Drive By 3:16 Train (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Through Cinemas 5:55 Loop Guru (upper body freedance)
Monday, Monday 3:25 The Mamas And The Papas (13 joints floorplay)
Subtle Body 7:02 Wayne Jones (integration)

Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Symbol I 6:35 Children of the Bong (focus on ankles) 25th Century 6:30 Timeshard (focus on knees) Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp. (focus on ankle and knee integration)
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco (focus on hips)
Up In Indiana 4:36 Lyle Lovett (ankle, knee, hip freedance)
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger (focus on spine and shoulders)
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix) 6:57 Beyonce (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Airborne 3:48 Rain Perry (spine and upper body freedance)
Sometime Tuesday Morning 4:25 Johnny A. (13 joints floorplay)
Inlakesh 3:58 Lou Rhodes (integration)

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wonderwall 4:09 Ryan Adams (focus on Tai Chi)
A Different Space 8:43 Bob Holroyd (focus on Duncan Dance)
Plane Shift 6:14 Loop Guru (focus on Aikido)
More Than This 4:07 10,000 Maniacs (focus on Alexander Technique)
Soullala 4:08 Candy Dulfer (focus on Jazz)
Everything Comes From You 4:42 Big Blue Ball featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinéad O’Connor, Guo Yue (focus on Feldenkrais)
Passion 5:46 Michael Franti (Focus on Tae Kwon Do)
Dawa 4:18 Sacred Spirits (focus on Yoga)
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley (focus on Modern Dance)
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond (freedance/floorplay of all nine movement forms)
First Impressions 4:08 Yo Yo Ma, Mark O’Connor, Edgar Meyer (integration)

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss (focus on Tai Chi)
A Canterbury Tale 8:41 Dreadzone (focus on Duncan Dance)
Lovers House 4:49 City Reverb (focus on Alexander Technique)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction 2:41 Devo (focus on Feldenkrais)
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) 5:53 City Reverb (focus on Jazz)
Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) 6:23 Afterlife (focus on Tae Kwon Do)
What I Be 4:45 Michael Franti & Spearhead (focus on Yoga)
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu (focus on Aikido & Tae Kwon Do)
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System (freedance of nine movement forms)
The Memory of Trees 4:22 Enya (floorplay with nine movement forms)
Lux Aurumque 4:16 Eric Whitacre Singers

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 http://www.nianow.com/white-belt. There is one planned in Richmond next month and lots of other places, too.

The Unofficial Guide

to the 13 Nia Principles

~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

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

13 moon calendar glif

Principle 2 (Part I) – Natural Time

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

Natural Time is fluid, non-linear, radial, and expansive. It is centered in now; not tomorrow, not yesterday, not on deadlines, but Now. It reconnects us to the cyclical rhythms of nature, the rhythms that unite all life forms. The same basic movement of rising and falling, inhaling and exhaling, of birth and death, runs through every body of life. We are connected by cyclical rhythms. In Nia, we refer to Natural Time as 13/20, a code recognized and recorded by the Mayans. The Mayans understood 13 moons complete one year, and taught us that there are ongoing cycles in the Universe made up of 13 and 20. In Nia, 13 represents the number of joints in your body; 20 the number of digits.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

The flowy, easy-breezy notion of Natural Time made me crazy in my early days (okay, years) of doing Nia. Natural time is all well and good for, who?, maybe an independently wealthy artist working alone in her studio?  In my life there are appointments, meetings, classes that need to start on linear, precise, chronological time. The world that I live in isn’t particularly forgiving about a “non-linear, radial and expansive” approach to these things. Even Nia trainings have an elaborate bell system to make sure that everybody is ready to start on time. So how does that square with Natural Time?

When I presented my disgruntlement about Natural Time to my teacher, Carlos, he talked to me about balance, about body and mind, and about listening deeply. He pointed out that we are often so entrained by the clock and calendar that we make choices based on WHEN it is rather than on what we really need.

Carlos was right. As a kid, I remember being scolded for eating lunch early because it wasn’t time for lunch – even though I was hungry. And I know I’ve felt a certain way on a Monday and Friday just because it’s a Monday or a Friday. In school, in sports and in business, it was important to keep up, regardless of my own natural rhythms or skills. In all those arenas, I had experiences of being chastised for going too slow and too fast.

My conversation with Carlos reminded me of following the freedom within the form. Show up to class on time, and release attachment to getting the choreography right. Be punctual to the meeting, and have the courage to think beyond the agenda. Set aside time for writing and creativity and if I sometimes stare blankly out the window, well, that’s just the way it goes.

As a practice of art, intention and creativity, I love following the 13-Moon Calendar to shake up my attachment to the 12-month Gregorian calendar. The 13-Moon calendar is both simple and complex and I only understand its most basic underpinnings. Even so, following it shifts my perspective on time. The calendar tracks 260-day cycles in which every day is a unique combination of four colors, 13 tones and 20 tribes. You can find your personal signature by decoding your birthdate which might give you some non-linear, radial insights about you. You can even get an application on your phone that tells you about the signature of the day (search “13 Moon Calendar”)!

One of my favorite parts about following the 13-Moon Natural Time calendar is that I play with choosing what I wear every day based on the signature of the day. Check it out, you can always tell what the color of the day is by something I’m wearing.*

We all have to live in the world with its timetables, schedules and agendas. Natural Time is the invitation to expand our thinking within that form and to allow our awareness, rather than the calendar, to drive our choices.

Principle 2 has two parts, so stay tuned ~ the second part, the Nine Movement Forms, comes Tuesday!

* FOCUS POCUS NATURAL TIME MUSIC GIVE AWAY:  Email me (sjmnia@gmail.com) a picture of yourself wearing the 13-Moon Calendar color of the day one day this week and I’ll send you (or hand it to you if you’re in Cville) a CD of Nia music!  I’m not going to announce this anywhere else so only Focus Pocus readers are in on this!  [And even though it sounds like a McDonald’s contest disclaimer:  good for the week of Aug 24-28, 2014; US only; limit one per person; while supplies last; void where prohibited.]

eyebrow yoga cobra guy“He was thinking that in nearly every person there was some special physical part kept always guarded. With the mute his hands. The kid Mick picked at the front of her blouse to keep the cloth from rubbing the new, tender nipples beginning to come out on her breast. With Alice it was her hair; she used never to let him sleep with her when he rubbed oil in his scalp. And with himself?”

~ Carson McCullers, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

1. Notice

I take my right shoe off before my left.
When I step forward, my little toe comes down before my big toe.
When coasting on my bike, I usually have my right foot in front.
When he’s absorbed in reading, he clicks his fingernail against his tooth.
She almost always wears navy blue.
There is a picture of purple and yellow flowers above the Martha Jefferson MRI machine.

2. Notice What You Notice

Sometimes all I see are the flowers. Sometimes, I only see the weeds.

Sometimes I put all my attention on what is working well. Teaching the same focus during the week with different routines for each class. Making meals like tacos and salads and sandwiches that everyone can customize for themselves. Following the 13 Moon Calendar and wearing the color of the day. Feeling the ease in my feet and neck.

Other times my focus is on what’s not working. My cueing is too late. I’m procrastinating around writing. I’m not sleeping well. My right shoulder aches.

I have good reasons for noticing both. And for noticing what I’m noticing.

3. Notice What You Don’t Notice

A dear, wise friend gave me a book, The Pen and The Bell by Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes. I love it.  It’s like Nia for writing!  The chapter I read last night suggests:

Each day, try to look closely at something you think you already know well….Observe it for longer than a few seconds. Can you pick up on any forgotten or unexpected details?

I love this idea but I don’t have time for that these days.

Later, stroking the hair I’ve stroked for 16 years I notice that it’s grayer than I realized near his temples, almost completely dark brown at the back. He hasn’t gotten it cut since he’s been hurt, so now it curls around his ears and along his neck.

* * *

As I lift up into Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), Sara says, “Look up with your eyes, not your eyebrows.” Oh my gosh.  I realize I’m straining so hard with my eyebrows, they’re practically up under my hair. I’d never noticed that before.  And then in every pose, I realize I’m almost always lifting my eyebrows. And when I’m brushing my teeth and trolling through the grocery store and talking and watching soccer…

* * *

“Swing your arms, sweetie!” says Frank as we’re hiking through a pine forest. I am often unaware that I’m walking with only my lower body and I’m not letting my arms swing free. Hmm. I wonder if that’s why my shoulder hurts?

Happy New Year!!

Did you know that in the 13 Moon Natural Time Calendar, a new year started this week?

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t either.

When I did my first Nia training in 2000, I learned about the Natural Time calendar and while I’m no expert on its intricacies, I do enjoy following its patterns of symmetry and uniqueness.  At its core, it’s pretty simple:  rather than the 12 uneven months of the Gregorian calendar, the Natural Time Calendar follows the moon cycles.  As the Law of Time Web site describes in its tutorial:

13 Moons x 28 days = 364 days = 52 seven-day weeks. The 365th day of the year is called the Day Out of Time, a day to celebrate peace through culture, time is art and practice universal forgiveness so that everyone can start the next year fresh!

Wednesday, July 25 was this 365th day:  the Day Out of Time.  This is a unique day that is separate from the perfect order of 13 moons with 28 days each.  The Day Out of Time is a pause between the old year and the new, and it’s used to celebrate and reflect.  Natural Time folks around the world celebrate “peace through culture” on this day, but I prefer to focus on forgiveness and releasing resentments for the Day Out of Time.

On Wednesday, I was thinking about the Day Out of Time and I wondered, “Who or what do I need to forgive today?”  No big grudge or transgression that I needed to let go of came to mind.  As is my radical sabbatical practice, I did an early-morning loving kindness, or metta, meditation – offering good wishes for safety and health and well-being to people in my life.  As I went through name after name, offering my good wishes, I noticed when I came to a couple of people that I had a little tightening or holding.  Not a great wrenching, just a little tightening.  I was somewhat surprised since some of those people I tightened up about are near and dear to me and I love them very much.

So what’s up with that?

I remembered a post from Rick Hanson about forgiveness, so I went back to it.  What he wrote was helpful.  He said,

 forgiveness can seem lofty, like it only applies to big things, like crimes or adultery. But most forgiving is for the small bruises of daily life, when others let you down, thwart or hassle you, or just rub you the wrong way.

And I realized that this was exactly what I was feeling.  No major wrongdoing, just little nigglings of resentment.

For me, it’s easy to either ignore or devalue these little upsets.  It might be a sense that a friend is too busy for you, or that your teenager isn’t being responsible in the way you think she should.  Maybe you find your partner’s habit of leaving the dishes in the sink an annoyance, or you feel resentment that you haven’t gotten any decent sleep since the new baby arrived.  We may have different things that give us the sense of being slighted or bruised.  I often find these little splinters of feelings come up with those who I’m closest to, and since I love them and care deeply for them, often I don’t give myself the chance to really feel  and acknowledge them.  Some part of me says, “You shouldn’t feel that way about your friend/partner/child/baby,” and I nudge the feeling aside.  It’s still there, like a tiny splinter of glass in my foot that hurts when I step a certain way.  That splinter has me walking off-balance until I take the time to find it and take it out.  Dr. Hanson reminds me that forgiveness can be for the little things, and the Day Out of Time is an opportunity to notice the feelings of resentment or hurt and let them go.

Importantly, forgiveness doesn’t mean either approval of offending behavior or letting someone have a free pass for what has happened.  As Dr. Hanson writes, “Finding forgiveness can walk hand in hand with pursuing justice.”  And forgiveness doesn’t mean that I don’t need to address the situation that is causing the hurt or resentment.  If someone keeps leaving her peanut butter sandwich remnants on the coffee table, that someone needs a reminder about what to do with leftovers and dirty dishes.  Forgiveness, in my experience, isn’t about avoiding the conversation or setting the boundary or even taking legal action.  Forgiveness allows me to do those things more skillfully and with compassion for everyone involved. Forgiveness allows me to release the pinch of bitterness.  Forgiveness is about letting go and being ready to either take the next steps or to start again.

Dr. Hanson goes on to point out that paradoxically, when I forgive someone, it’s me that gets the benefit.  He offers, “Consider two situations: in one, someone has a grudge against you but then forgives you; in the other situation, you have a grudge against someone but then let it go. Which situation takes more of a weight off of your heart? Generally it’s the second one, since you take your own heart wherever you go.”  Sitting on my cushion on Wednesday morning, that’s exactly what I felt:  a loosening of my heart as I recognized the hurt and chose to let it go.

It may seem like a small thing:  to notice an injury and let it go without speaking a word to anyone.  A small act and one that frees up a lot of energy.  For me, it is a great way to clear my heart and mind for a new year.  So whether you’ve ever heard of the Natural Time Calendar or not, whether you even knew we were starting a new year or not, the invitation is the same:  take some time this week to notice any pinching feelings you have about anyone in your life (or even on the news) – be it your family, friends or the cashier at the grocery store.  See if you can take your own Day Out of Time to let the resentment go, and make choices from there about how to move forward skillfully.

Happy New Year, everybody.  In Lak’ech!*

 

* In Lak’ech is a Mayan greeting that means “I am another you” or “I am you, you are me.”

 

 

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