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integrate sky 040216

When I was a girl, my favorite gifts were art supplies. (Come to think of it, you can still seriously score with me with anything arty.) In my elementary school years (before the pressures of homework and the absorption of teenage friendships), you could usually find me nestled in my neon green beanbag chair, drawing with crayons and markers and pastels.

In first grade, I had the grooviest art teacher ever. It was the early 70s. She wore clothes with embroidery and fringe, her brown hair swirling and big rings with sparkly crystals that clicked as she worked. She was the first person I’d ever known to eat yogurt. I hung on her every word.

One April, we were painting scenes of spring. I carefully brushed a stroke of blue along the top edge of my paper. Of course. The sky is up there, so that’s where I put it.

ecm pear tree with sky

Pear Tree by my sister, Elizabeth, circa 1972. Subsequently rendered in needlepoint by my mother.

My art teacher saw my picture and took me to the window. She pointed out across the playground and said, Look at the sky. It comes all the way down to the ground. This was an utter revelation to me. First, to look at (and draw) what is rather than what I think in my head. And second, to realize that when I’m walking to school and swinging on the swings and sliding down the slide, I’m in the sky.

Seeing the true nature of the sky — coming all the way down to us on the ground – feels enormously spacious. I feel like I’m swimming, even flying, in the sky. When I see it this way, I breathe deeper. I feel the bigness of the space around me and that big space can hold anything I bring to it. No problem, no joy, no grief, no worry is too big for a sky that reaches all the way to where I stand.

That big space makes breathing easier and my inside more spacious. As I inhale, I can stretch open tight and twisted up parts and receive oxygen to fuel my body and mind. As I exhale, I strengthen my body and integrate that nourishment. I breathe in the sky and make it part of me.

There is power in the integration of external and internal space. As I move in the studio, on my mat and through my day, I play with connecting breath to movement. Inhale and reach up, exhale and fold. Inhale and lengthen, exhale contract. Inhale get the salad bowl out of the high cabinet, exhale put in on the counter. Inhale, open my arms; exhale, hug. Connecting breath to movement keeps me in the body. Being in the body keeps me in the present moment …where life is actually happening.

Move in the sky. Breathe in the sky. Integrate the sky.


PLEASE NOTE!

Tuesday & Thursday classes this week:

This week in my classes we will return to my 2013 routine, Airborne. You can read about it here. Classes on Tuesday and Thursday at 840am at acac downtown will happen on the rooftop deck, Lord willin’ and the rains don’t come. At this moment, Tuesday looks clear and cool; Thursday looks like a possibility of showers. Check the forecast, wear an extra layer and light shoes, and if you’re not sure, call Member Services at 434.984.3800 to see if we’re on to dance in the sky (I’ll make a decision by 730am). My Monday and Wednesday classes will be as usual at 1045am and 11am, respectively at acac Albemarle Square and all other acac classes will be held as usual.

A mini mini series about dance. sit. write. draw. ~~ early bird rate ends April 7!

Here are three mini videos about the dance. sit. write. draw retreat on May 7 (for more go here). You can binge-watch this mini series in under 10 minutes!

Why dance. sit. write. draw.?
Wait, why dance. sit. write. draw., again? (Or, Why Pablo Picasso and I Want You To Come To The Retreat)
Dance. sit. write. draw. (It’s a thing!)

The early bird rate of $80 (for the whole day! Including amazing food!) ends on April 7. Please join us!

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Elizabeth Truslow 2015
This week we danced the rich relationship between the core and extremities, as well as the play of mind and body as we tune our awareness to that relationship. We also honored the passing of our friend and fellow Nia dancer, Elizabeth Truslow. Her kind radiance and bright, gentle spirit is a terrible loss. We will miss her tremendously.
Really, it all comes down to relationship. What we bring to our interactions with everyone and everything is all we can control. May you always bring what you want to bring.
Below are all the playlists for the week and you can also find them on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ where you can listen to all the music for free! Follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen! No matter where you are, we can listen and dance together! Note that if you are using the Spotify app for mobile devices, the program inserts “recommended” music that is not on my original playlist. Also, Spotify doesn’t have all the music I have, so sometimes I’ll put up a different version of a song or skip it all together. Have fun with it.
A couple of things to know about:
• New Blog ~ A Thousand Beautiful Things http://1kbeautifulthings.com/ ~ I’m going to be traveling for about half the summer, so I’m writing a separate blog for photographs (phone camera only!), words, and essays about gratitude, beauty, mindfulness and whatever I discover on my adventures! Please join me there!
SAVE THE DATE: DANCE. SIT. WRITE. DAY SHOP HAPPENS SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2015 ~ Mark your calendar for the next opportunity to spend the day playing in the intersection of movement, meditation and creativity! More details to come this summer (you can follow along at https://www.facebook.com/events/443642725810963/ ) Let me know if you have questions (sjmnia@gmail.com)
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 – and this is particularly true for SkyDancing — music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs. What you find below is exactly what I used in class. ***

Sunday, Jul 12, 2015, 330pm ~ Core & Extremities

Beach Drifter 4:02 Plazza
A New Day 4:03 Laya Project
Biene Maya 4:06 Daniel Levez
Resolution (Rewound By Thievery Corporation) 4:02 Thievery Corporation
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System
Shisha 5:20 Naked Rhythm
Once Again (Live) 6:04 Hang Massive
Curried Ripples 5:03 Ganga Girl
Outro 6:24 Hang Massive
Wishful Thinking 5:32 The Album Leaf
A Stream With Bright Fish 3:57 Brian Eno & Harold Budd

Monday, Jul 13, 2015, 1045am ~ Core & Extremities

Driver 4:12 Galen Butler (aka Shakatura)
Clouds 6:33 Feuerhake
Takshaka 10:42 Makyo
Lung Fu 7:41 Galen Butler (aka Shakatura)
Come With Us 4:58 Chemical Brothers
Maha Lakshmi 5:19 El Cosmo Group
Denmark 5:07 Chemical Brothers
Lavender Hill 4:33 Lex van Someren
Ascension 4:52 Lex van Someren
A Sound Meditation 5:30 Benjamin Iobst

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015, 840am & 530pm ~ Core & Extremities

Driver 4:12 Galen Butler (aka Shakatura)
Clouds 6:33 Feuerhake
Takshaka 10:42 Makyo
Lung Fu 7:41 Galen Butler (aka Shakatura)
Come With Us 4:58 Chemical Brothers
Maha Lakshmi 5:19 El Cosmo Group
Denmark 5:07 Chemical Brothers
Lavender Hill 4:33 Lex van Someren
Ascension 4:52 Lex van Someren

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015, 1055am ~ Core & Extremities

Altus Silva 6:07 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Ronan Browne, Deep Forest, James McNally, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Vernon Reid
Whole Thing 5:27 Big Blue Ball featuring Francis Bebey, Alex Faku, Tim Finn, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger, Andy White
Habibe 7:12 Big Blue Ball featuring Natacha Atlas, Hossam Ramzy, Neil Sparkes, The Hossam Ramzy Egyptian Ensemble (Adel Eskander, Wael Abu Bakr, Momtaz Talaat
Shadow 4:28 Big Blue Ball featuring Juan Cañizares, Papa Wemba
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger
Everything Comes From You 4:42 Big Blue Ball featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinéad O’Connor, Guo Yue
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
Forest 6:17 Big Blue Ball featuring Levon Minassian, Arona N’Diaye, Vernon Reid, Hukwe Zawose
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

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015, 840am ~ Celebration of Elizabeth

Big Sky 4:04 Annie Lennox
Down To Earth 5:59 Peter Gabriel
Breathe 4:12 Blue Stone
Water Down the Ganges 7:10 Prem Joshua & Manish Vyas
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
Dust in the Wind 3:30 Daughter Darling
Feel It All – Band Jam 3:50 KT Tunstall
Child Come Home Foxtrot Delta 2 3:29 Jamie Catto
Love Rescue Me 3:48 Playing For Change

In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015, 630pm ~ Core & Extremities

Big Sky 4:04 Annie Lennox
Down To Earth 5:59 Peter Gabriel
Breathe 4:12 Blue Stone
Water Down the Ganges 7:10 Prem Joshua & Manish Vyas
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
Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That 3:31 Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Dust in the Wind 3:30 Daughter Darling
Feel It All – Band Jam 3:50 KT Tunstall
Child Come Home Foxtrot Delta 2 3:29 Jamie Catto
Hymn 5:25 Andrew McPherson

Saturday, Jul 17, 2015, 1245pm ~ Core & Extremities

Altus Silva 6:07 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Ronan Browne, Deep Forest, James McNally, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Vernon Reid
Whole Thing 5:27 Big Blue Ball featuring Francis Bebey, Alex Faku, Tim Finn, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger, Andy White
Habibe 7:12 Big Blue Ball featuring Natacha Atlas, Hossam Ramzy, Neil Sparkes, The Hossam Ramzy Egyptian Ensemble (Adel Eskander, Wael Abu Bakr, Momtaz Talaat
Shadow 4:28 Big Blue Ball featuring Juan Cañizares, Papa Wemba
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger
Everything Comes From You 4:42 Big Blue Ball featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinéad O’Connor, Guo Yue
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
Jijy 4:00 Big Blue Ball featuring Arona N’Diaye, Rossy, Jah Wobble
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

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!

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!

le que high bridge state park 101813 011Riding on the High Bridge Trail, 100 feet above the river. Big sky. Trees below.

A bad-ass gang* of vultures on the bridge warming their wings.

We approach.

They casually lift off and fly, no flapping.
We are at their level; high enough to see eye-to-eye. They dip fast, lift, and circle.
Looking for food? Stretching flying muscles? Showing off for pretty Lady Vultures?

Maybe.

Or do they soar because it’s fun? For the pleasure of it? For the Joy?
Sometimes, does it take their breath away?

Maybe.

I hope so.

Do you?

* Actually, a “venue” or “kettle” whilst flying.

le que high bridge state park 101813 024SPACIOUS is my word in 2013. Every year, I pick a word, focus on it in varying degrees of intensity, and follow it where it leads. Airborne, the routine I’m launching this week, was inspired by my experience with SPACIOUS.

This is how it came to be.

For me, winter can be like wearing a too-tight, too-short turtleneck. I tend to be little cold, fidgety, and cranky in winter. This year is no exception. So as I start 2013, I am feeling constricted, itchy, and goosebumpy. SPACIOUS? Yes, please, I’d like some of that.

I start with the sky. No matter the weather, whenever I look at the sky, my body relaxes and my breath deepens. (Go look and see if it’s true for you.) Even though I know that sky gazing helps me, especially in winter, I sit at my desk, drive my car, teach in the studio. I live boxed in most of my days. So in 2013, I make a point to look at the sky every day to encourage myself to relax and to remind myself how much space there really is all the time.

Years ago, my Nia teacher Carlos Rosas, created a routine called SkyDancing. Given the name, I always imagined Carlos up in the air, dancing in the clouds. But as I look at the SPACIOUS sky every day, I realize that the sky isn’t “up there.” The sky comes all the way down to the ground, all the way to me. Wherever we are, we are moving and living and dancing in the sky. I like this and feel far less cranky.

Every human life begins with an inhalation and ends with an exhalation. Breath means alive. In January, I begin a Bikram yoga practice. Deep, conscious breath is a big part of it. Breath work in yoga — pranayama in Sanskrit – expands the space in the lungs by increasing their elasticity. In my first few months of practice, I can feel my breath lengthen and deepen. The little intercostal muscles between my ribs stretch and feel more pliable. One afternoon, while doing Nia on my back deck, find myself blending my two practices: as I dance, I breathe in the sky. “Sky Breathing” feels physically SPACIOUS inside my chest and lungs. It also opens up space in my heart and mind. My breath stretches gaps between my thoughts and (sometimes) allows me to be with whatever happens to be happening.

Spring arrives, and I notice the essential, life-giving power of air. Humans can live three weeks without food, and three days without water but not three minutes without air. As flowers bloom and the garden sprouts, I notice that every element needs air. Earth without air is too hard to grow anything. Water without oxygen is just hydrogen gas. And fire without air sputters and dies. Air breathes life into everything.

le que high bridge state park 101813 021All of this is swirling around in my days: the spaciousness of the sky, dancing in the sky, breathing space in, the essential quality of air. And then, in August, my husband gives me a new, red bike for my birthday. Huzzah! I start riding it to yoga. Sweet Sweaty Summer Sensations, my friends! Let me tell you what! Coming out of the hot yoga studio, flushed with heat and wet with sweat, I get on my bike and fly home down Locust Avenue. It is beyond breathtakingly glorious. (And the day it rains on my way home? Durn near orgasmic.) With the wind in my face and on my skin, I feel expansive, free. I ride every chance I get: on trails, on the beach, in nature preserves, on gravel roads, to teach, to run errands, and, of course, to yoga – especially if it’s raining.

All together, focusing on the word SPACIOUS this year leads me to create the routine Airborne. The music is about sky and earth and wind and water. The movements are designed to expand breath and space inside the body and accentuate the external sensation of air on skin. The magic of aliveness that emerges from awareness, breath, and space runs all the way through.

We are born of air. There is no life without air. As long as we are alive, we are airborne.

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