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Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.
~ Brene Brown from Midlife Unraveling on http://www.brenebrown.com

Brene Brown’s essay Midlife Unraveling showed up in my inbox somehow this week. I don’t know how it got there, but I was amazed at how she echos our focus: let go of the protecting and defending, feel your own strength and support. From there, soften and open your heart wide to anything, everything and everyone. (Christine Gyovai then pointed me to a wonderful interview with Brene Brown on the On Being podcast. I recommend it highly. You can find it here.

You can find this week’s Strong Back Soft Heart playlists below. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the music we dance to!

But first, here are some things I know you want to know about:

Cville Dance Co-Op: Falling or Flying with Susan ~ Sunday, Jun 10, 1015am-1215pm
I’m putting together a playlist for the Cville Dance Co-Op based on the song Falling or Flying by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51crtZBSWRk) I’ve been thinking about how both falling and flying are full of energy. And how both falling and flying could be scary and unsettling and both could also be exciting and eye-opening. Are we falling or flying? Are we living or dying?
I’ll be offering the music and holding the space for the Cville Dance Co-op on Sunday, June 10 from 10:15-12noon at Common Ground in the Jefferson School. The Co-op http://www.cvilledancecoop.com/who-we-are/ is a substance free, non-verbal, barefoot, 115 minutes of freedance. No steps to learn, no teacher, nothing but what’s flowing and moving in your own body. Let’s fall and fly together. I hope you’ll join us.
C’ville Dance Co-op, http://cvilledancecoop.com
Location (Common Ground, 2nd floor of Jefferson School, 233 4th St NW)
Date/time: Sunday, Jun 10: doors open at 10:15am for warming up, entrance locks at 10:45am, dancing until noon, then closing circle (come for the whole time!)
What to bring: Water bottle, comfortable clothes, optional donation for Common Ground
You can RSVP or ask questions at the Facebook event here.

Rachel’s Birthday Class ~ Sunday, Jun 10, 315-430pm
It’s Rachel’s birthday and she’s hosting a dance part! Come join her, Mary Linn, Anne, Antje, Jeanne and me for some serious play. Whenever we celebrate any one of us, we celebrate us all. Wear your party hat.

Nia Freedance First Fridays with Kate at ACAC ~ Friday, Jul 6!
Every first Friday Kate Aust shares a Nia freedance class at ACAC Albemarle Square. Nia Freedance gives you an opportunity to play for a full hour moving your body’s way. We each get to tap into the creative wisdom of our body, emotions, mind and spirit stimulating our own unique movement creativity. The next Nia Freedance class will be Friday, Jul 6 from 11:25 to 12:25 in studio B.

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

Monday, Jun 4, 2018, 1045am ~ Strong Back Soft Heart

Throw Off the Shackles 6:21 Moodswings
Moodswings Overture 5:53 Moodswings
Problem Solved 8:13 Moodswings
Rainsong 6:30 Moodswings
100% Total Success 3:52 Moodswings
Microcosmic 4:24 Moodswings
Spiritual High, Pt. 1 10:09 Moodswings
Overcome (feat. Nile Rodgers) 3:11 Laura Mvula
Climb On (A Back That’s Strong) 4:16 Shawn Colvin
Human 3:20 Rag’n’Bone Man
Show the Way 3:44 David Wilcox

Tuesday, Jun 5, 2018, 840am ~ Strong Back Soft Heart

Throw Off the Shackles 6:21 Moodswings
Moodswings Overture 5:53 Moodswings
Problem Solved 8:13 Moodswings
Rainsong 6:30 Moodswings
Spiritual High, Pt. 1 10:09 Moodswings
Overcome (feat. Nile Rodgers) 3:11 Laura Mvula
Climb On (A Back That’s Strong) 4:16 Shawn Colvin
Human 3:20 Rag’n’Bone Man
Show the Way 3:44 David Wilcox

Wednesday, Jun 6, 2017, 11am ~ Strong Back Soft Heart

All Colours Pt 3 2:50 Bob Holroyd
Factor 30 9:34 Bjarno
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Torch 7:49 Bob Holroyd
Afronaut 5:23 Shaman’s Dream
Free Souls Part 3 (DUBLEX INC. Remix) 5:43 Nickodemus & Osiris
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Father Space 5:56 Bjarno

Thursday, Jun 7, 2017, 840am ~ Strong Back Soft Heart

All Colours Pt 3 2:50 Bob Holroyd
Factor 30 9:34 Bjarno
Sunday Morning, Up All Night 4:54 NYXYSS
One Hundred Lights (Grouch Remix) 5:31 Kaya Project
Tala Odyssey (Drumspyder Remix) 6:07 Desert Dwellers
Torch 7:49 Bob Holroyd
Free Souls Part 3 (DUBLEX INC. Remix) 5:43 Nickodemus & Osiris
Mumbai Madness 4:49 Mashti + Jean Baden
Father Space 5:56 Bjarno

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!

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This summer, I loved reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. I recommend it highly no matter if you are working for freedom and justice, building a company, parenting a child or loving someone. Here’s more about the messy middle:

“To pretend that we can get to helping, generous, and brave without navigating through tough emotions like desperation, shame, and panic is a profoundly dangerous and misguided assumption.” 
― Brené Brown, Rising Strong

We can’t skip the messy middle.

The playlists from the week are below. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! Put the music we dance together with other pieces that lift you up, calm you, and challenge you!

But first, here are a couple of things you want to know about:

LOVE UNITY HEALING Nia class with Jule Aguirre ~ Saturday, October 7, 6-7pm
Come dance with Nia Trainer, Jule Aguirre who will be here from Dallas this weekend. Jule is a mind-body psychotherapist, Nia First Degree Black Belt Somatic Educator and Trainer. Proceeds to go to United C-ville Victim Relief
https://www.gofundme.com/united-cville-victim-relief
The Tango Studio is in the Glass Bldg downtown.
Email Susan Tate at susan@susantate.org to register or find more here https://tinyurl.com/yct9c9kk Space is limited.

Moving to Heal Nia Training October 8-9 with Jule Aquirre
This training is designed for teachers and non-teachers and will be held on Sat and Sun, October 7 & 8 with trainer Jule Aquirre at the Tango Studio downtown. Designed with the unifying theme of healing, Moving to Heal (MTH) training provides you with the knowledge and skills to deliver and experience therapeutic benefits in the Nia class experience. For more information and to register go to: https://nianow.com/node/1182936
ALSO, Jule will offer a master class on that Saturday (10/7)  with a focus of Love-Unity-Healing at the Tango studio at 6:00pm — with all proceeds going to United C-ville Victim Relief.

Nia classes for people with cancer, survivors, caregivers & staff at UVA with Susan Tate ~ starts October 16
Join Susan Tate, Black Belt Nia Instructor for Nia classes with a focus on moving to heal on Mondays, 5:30-6:30pm & Wednesdays,12-1pm on the 4th Floor of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center.These free classes start October 16 with a kick-off celebration class at 5:30 pm.  Registration is not required. Contact Susan Tate at susan@susantate.orgfor more information.

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, Sep 25, 2017, 1045am ~ Messy Middle Magic

Damascus 2:03 Conjure One Feat. Chemda
Center Of The Sun 5:01 Conjure One Feat. Poe
Tears From The Moon 4:18 Conjure One Feat. Sinéad O’ Connor
SuNu 5:05 Rising Appalachia
Belly Belly Nice 3:53 Dave Matthews Band
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango Mussiki é
Gonna Be [Ben Human Remix] 4:10 Mo’ Horizons
Mad World (feat. Safri Duo & Isam B) [Raaban Edit] 3:34 Michael Parsberg
Never Coming Home 5:00 Sting
Lean On Me 4:18 Glee
The River 5:31 Suzanne Sterling
Why 4:54 Annie Lennox
Waters of Miriam (Live at Esalen) Part 2 4:42 Josh Brill

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017, 840am ~ Messy Middle Magic

Damascus 2:03 Conjure One Feat. Chemda
Center Of The Sun 5:01 Conjure One Feat. Poe
Tears From The Moon 4:18 Conjure One Feat. Sinéad O’ Connor
SuNu 5:05 Rising Appalachia
Belly Belly Nice 3:53 Dave Matthews Band
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango Mussiki é
Gonna Be [Ben Human Remix] 4:10 Mo’ Horizons
Mad World (feat. Safri Duo & Isam B) [Raaban Edit] 3:34 Michael Parsberg
Never Coming Home 5:00 Sting
Lean On Me 4:18 Glee
Why 4:54 Annie Lennox
Waters of Miriam (Live at Esalen) Part 2 4:42 Josh Brill

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017, 11am ~ Messy Middle Magic

A Reminiscent Drive 3:27 Ambrosia
Alba 5:16 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Journeyman 3:48 Nahoo
Dalmore 3:59 Nahoo
Stranger in a Strange Land 6:20 Nahoo
Hold On 3:00 KT Tunstall
As Terras Baixas da Holanda 3:45 Nahoo
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic 4:21 The Police
burundi 6:26 Star Sounds Orchestra
The River 5:31 Suzanne Sterling
Everything’ll Be Alright 4:07 Catherine MacLellan
The Space Between 6:02 Zero 7

Thursday, Sep 28, 2017, 840am ~ Messy Middle Magic

A Reminiscent Drive 3:27 Ambrosia
Alba 5:16 Paul Mounsey Featuring Nahoo
Journeyman 3:48 Nahoo
Dalmore 3:59 Nahoo
Stranger in a Strange Land 6:20 Nahoo
Hold On 3:00 KT Tunstall
As Terras Baixas da Holanda 3:45 Nahoo
burundi 6:26 Star Sounds Orchestra
The River 5:31 Suzanne Sterling
Everything’ll Be Alright 4:07 Catherine MacLellan
The Space Between 6:02 Zero 7

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!

https://focuspocusnow.com/fingers-and-toes-from-the-nia-white-belt-manual/

 

What DOES, your little pinky finger have to do with compassion, anyway?

You can find Brene Brown’s audio course here. 

Here’s what she says in the course: “The most compassionate people I have interviewed in the past 15 years…oh my God, what do these people have in common? They are SO compassionate. I thought it was going to be spirituality, religion, faith, inherent kindness, tragedy in their past. I didn’t know what these people were going to have in common. But when we started digging in we found they only had one thing in common. There was only one variable threaded through every single one of their life experiences. And you know what it was? Boundaries.”

 

In her course, Brene Brown says: “The most compassionate people I have ever met and interviewed are by far the most boundaried. Because it is impossible to extend an assumption of generosity to someone who is taking advantage of you, being disrespectful, hurting you, not hearing you, not seeing you. You cannot be generous toward those people. We can only be generous to people with whom we have set boundaries, demand boundaries and stay in our integrity.” 

 

 

Here’s what Dr. Brown says, “But this gets up in how many of us were raised: To be easy, to not ask for what you need, to suck it up. But that is the only way we can extend true compassion to other people is from a place from where I am clear on my boundaries, I’m clear on your boundaries, I’m standing solidly in my integrity and from here I can be generous in my assumptions of you.”

So many times, I’ve attempted to be kind and compassionate but without boundaries and it NEVER went well. Judgment and resentment were always immediately in the mix. And uncomfortable as it might have been, I always feel genuinely open-hearted and generous when I am clear about my boundaries. What about you? What do you notice about the connection between generosity, compassion and integrity?

Want to learn even more about fingers and toes? Check out this post from 2013!

 

struggle without suffering hike 090316

“You are imperfect. You are wired for struggle. You are worthy of love and belonging.” ~ Brene Brown

“Gah! This is so easy for you!”

I look up with exasperation at my long-legged husband standing high on a pile of boulders which is actually the trail we’re hiking. He’s only a yard or two ahead of me but the trail is so steep that his feet are in line with my head. In three big easy steps, he has climbed effortlessly up the huge chunks of rock. Now I have to figure out how to hoist myself up there.

He is my best friend and the love of my life but for a moment in the midst of my struggle, I hate him.

Okay, I don’t really hate him. But in small-minded moments, I get all kinds of cranky watching someone do painlessly what I am staggering to accomplish.

On the trail that day, there were two different struggles going on: my body was struggling with the physical difficulty of clambering up the rocky path and my mind was struggling because that’s not the way I wanted it to be. The first is simply a truth about human life. The second is suffering and it’s a choice.

Suffering is the desire for things to be different than they are. I can grapple with something without getting myself twisted up about how the grappling is going. Struggling without suffering is possible, but me wanting a stride as strong and long as Frank’s is suffering.

Struggle less. ~ My yoga teacher, Mia on Tuesday afternoon
Struggle more. ~ My yoga teacher, Julia on Wednesday afternoon

Two instructions from my two teachers might seem contradictory, but they actually speak to the difference between what it means to struggle and what it means to suffer. Mia invites us to relax our minds about how we think our practice should look or feel while we do the postures. Julia invites us to work past the habits and patterns of our practice and dig in to find our fullest expression of even difficult poses. They both could have said, “Struggle without suffering.”

My mind is so intent on avoiding discomfort that when I’m struggling, it is quick to want it to be easier (like it is for THAT FRANK). In that way, my mind almost always lumps struggle and suffering together. As the Zen guys say, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Our minds might want to make them the same but it’s up to us whether or not they are.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl

What would happen if I don’t choose to make struggle and suffering the same thing? What would happen if I allow myself to labor with something (physical, mental or emotional) and see that as part of the human experience rather than something to be avoided? Imagine what we could accomplish, build, create if we were willing to struggle without suffering.

a in a courage 021516Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, 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.

Strength, courage and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along
Strength, courage and wisdom
Inside of me
— India Arie

Heart is the root of courage. The English word, courage, comes from the Latin cor (which led to the French coeur) which means heart. Courage, then, is bravery with heart. As we face mid-winter and political uncertainty on top of any personal challenges we have, the practice is to be with it all with heart, with courage.

Here are 4 ways to approach your days with the brave heart of courage:

1. Move Your Body with Courage

Your body was designed to move and movement is the best thing you can offer your physical self. But in our all-or-nothing culture, we can have a tendency to push, force and over-do or to sit at a desk/dining table/couch for the lion’s share of the day. Even for those who move regularly, the body thrives when we give it variety, but getting stuck in habit is the norm.

Courageous movement is about deepening your awareness and connection to what your body needs. Move every day and be open to experimenting with new things, rather than only doing what you habitually do.

~ take a different class or run/hike/walk a different route, walk while talking on the phone or dance while making dinner
~ do a stretch you don’t usually do or do one you usually do differently and see how it feels
~ within your usual movement (either at the gym or through your day) play with details like foot placement, core engagement or body alignment and notice what happens.
~ play with speeding up or slowing down movement that you usually do and see what you notice

2. Use Your Mind with Courage

Be open to ideas and opinions that are outside your usual sources. Read a different columnist or the lead story from a source or on a topic you might usually avoid. While you might not agree (or understand), see if you can simply be open before either launching into your argument against or abandoning the experiment entirely.

3. Express Your Emotions with Courage

As I mentioned in this week’s main post, Brené Brown reminds us that “in one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’”

Even though most people would agree that love and relationships are at the core of life, many of us are taught to be cautious with our expressions of love, gratitude and joy.

Instead, express with courage. Think about someone you care about deeply, someone who is important to you. Think about how you feel about them. Make the courageous step to express those feelings – in person, in writing, or over the phone. If the person you are thinking of is no longer living, write them a letter anyway. Tell all your heart.

4. Live with Courage

Once you’ve warmed up your courage muscles with the first three, it’s time for the big one. In her book Top Five Regrets of the Dying, palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware says that the number one regret of dying patients is:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Says Ware, “This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

Living true to ourselves takes more courage perhaps than the author or we realize, but it is essential to living a life of passion and purpose. Take some time to get clear on your heart’s deepest desire. Get that desire down to its essentials rather than hooking your dream to that which may be out of your control. For example, if your desire is to have a child and you are not in circumstances that allow that, find a way to spend time with children. If your dream is to have a home, ask yourself what is at the root of that – security, perhaps, or groundedness or relaxation – and do what you can to cultivate those feelings. If your dream is to write a book, start writing a few pages a day in a journal.

Take a step, even a small micro step, in the direction you want to go. Move even incrementally toward a life that is true to you.

Any day lived in the service of our highest purpose – no matter how far along we get in the fulfillment of that purpose — is a good day to die.

One February 14 years ago, I picked up my boy, Robert, from school. He was about 9 and he wanted to go straight home but I needed to stop at the grocery store. He was a little crabby about the delay and asked if he could stay in the car instead of trundle through Harris Teeter with me. Sure, I said, but do me a favor and count all the men you see leaving the store with flowers. He looked at me like sideways but shrugged and said he would. I was in the store no more than 10 minutes. When I came back he was bouncing on the seat with wide eyes. There were twenty-seven, Susan! Twenty-seven men with flowers! There’s another! Twenty-eight! He looked at me curiously, Why are all those men buying flowers? It's Valentine's Day. It's tradition, I told him. (And money-making marketing.) Romance, I told him. (And peer/culture pressure.) It’s a way to say I love you, I told him. (Without actually saying anything.) I explained that originally the holiday was a celebration of romantic love but that in our family and in his school, it was just about love. It was a day to tell the people you care about how important they are to you and the best way to do that is in your own words. These days, the word I love on Valentine’s Day is courage. In this week of champagne and candy, in a culture that values the money spent in place of connection vulnerably made, what we need is courage. As Brene Brown says, Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.’ Our culture creates lots of ways to spend money and avoid true connection with each other. If I buy you a bouquet, I don’t have to say what you really mean to me. It can be scary to tell from the heart, so why not buy some earrings and call it done? Rather than buying flowers or chocolates or diamonds, show your heart. Courageously say how much you love the people in your life…and not just romantic partners. Friends, colleagues, family, children, everyone. (If you want to do that on a beautiful, hand-made card, go for it! If you don’t make it yourself, here are some awesome ones.) To speak up, to say what is important, to reveal yourself are acts of courage and acts of love. May this be the focus of both Valentine's Day and Brownies for Breakfast on February 18. I was actually surprised that day in the Harris Teeter parking lot by the sheer number of blossom-bearing men (as I was yesterday in Whole Foods to see a similar parade men with flowers in their baskets). I hope they (and their partners) demonstrated not just floral generosity but also courage to tell all their hearts.

be inspired 110915

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.

Creativity isn’t something that some people have and some people don’t. Creativity is a way of moving through the world, a way of approaching life. Creativity is a choice. And while we have no control over how and why we get inspiration (or don’t), we do have the ability to put ourselves in a receptive position to receive it. Get curious about the circumstances in which you are inspired.

Here are 4 Ws for intentionally seeking inspiration; four ways to increase your chances of being there when the light bulb comes on.

1. Who – Ever spend time with someone and walk away with your heart humming and your spirit tingling? Some people are just inspiring to be with. Notice how you feel when you hang out with different people and make a point to spend time with at least one inspiring person every day. It might be your child or your writer friend or it might be watching Oprah or reading Brené Brown. Whoever it is, make time to be with them today.

2. What – Notice what you’re doing when you have even the smallest feeling of – Ah! Cool! That’s it! Knowing what activities inspire you can be huge in creating a creative life – and what you notice may surprise you. I get great ideas when I’m weeding. A friend gets her writing inspirations in the shower. Another person I know gets insights while driving. Yet another when swimming laps. Meditation and prayer are a common time to have flashes of insight. Be aware of what you’re doing when the lightning bolts (or the tiny sparks) hit … then do those things often and with a notebook handy.

3. Where – There are places that open us up and light us up. Where are you when you feel the breath of inspiration? Walking in nature? Sitting in a chapel? Lying in the grass? Swinging on a swing? Working in your office? Going to those places doesn’t guarantee that inspiration will be there, but it’s like watching for shooting stars: it’s not a sure thing you’ll see them as you gaze at the night sky but you can be absolutely positive you won’t see them while watching Survivor.

4. When – Some times of the day are more fertile for creativity. For some people, it’s late at night. Or maybe after the kids have left for school. Some get great ideas when they are tired and others when they are well-rested. For me, I get all kinds of inspiration in that slippery sliver of time when I’m not really sleeping and not really awake. Over time, I’ve learned to take those little early morning bubbles of creativity seriously. They are ideas worth pursuing. Which leads to…

BONUS W – Work it. Once you’ve gotten a hit of inspiration, act on it. If you have an idea about a story to write or a way to solve a problem at work, use it, act on it, do it. If you get a flash that you should give someone that book you love or take your kiddo to a concert or plant 600 daffodils in your yard, go do it. You might come up against resistance (in yourself or in others). Check that. You definitely will come up against resistance. When you do, rather than giving up on the idea, get curious about what’s stopping you. It might be a valid issue (you live in an apartment with three flower pots – no room for 600 bulbs). And the resistance might be (it probably is) fear wanting to keep you from stepping outside doing things as usual. As Seth Godin says, resistance is great. It means you’re on the right track and onto something big. So instead of giving up, work it.

Inspiration feels great. It’s a worthy endeavor to pursue situations that inspire you. And once you get the spark … act on it. Follow through. See what happens. The outcome isn’t your business, your job is to show up and allow what comes through to actually come through you.

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