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new sensation inxs 041316

Robert Plant’s, Song to the Siren, was the last song my teacher, Carlos AyaRosas, played in a Nia class. One of the lines is:

Oh my heart, oh my heart
Shies from the sorrow

We all do this– we pull away from difficult or intense feelings and sensations. Intensity of all kinds can feel scary even though feeling is the reason we’re here! The practice is to lean into all sensations and allow our bodies and minds to become accustomed to feeling. Then, when life presents us with intensity, we have practiced feeling it and staying in it rather than shutting down or running. The practice is to feel life.

This week we danced to my routine, Unity which is based on Carlos’ routine Humanity. You can find all playlists below or you can choose to listen to them by going to Spotify! You can listen for free at Spotify! Sign up for free, follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen!

Here are the upcoming special classes and events — I hope you’ll join us!

• Earth Day, Friday, April 22, 545-7pm, acac downtown ~ Group Ex Studio
Susan & Mary Linn are teaming up for a special class celebrating our big mama, Earth. Join us for a playful exploration of how the elements of earth, wind, water and fire manifest in movement and in our bodies.

• A Spring Thing, Friday, April 29, 545-715pm, Buck Mountain Episcopal Parish Hall*, Earlysville
Join Susan & Mary Linn for an evening of movement choices. Spring can be a time of both riding the ebullient wave of upward energy and finding peace in the midst of all that blossoming and growing! The first portion of the evening will be a look at some of the basics of Nia movement and how each can be adjusted as to the needs of your body in the moment. Then we’ll practice those movements in a Spring Thing Nia class experience. Free to everybody (donations gratefully accepted for the Buck Mountain Health and Wellness Ministry).
* 4133 Earlysville Road, Earlysville VA 22936 ~ GPS will take you to the church; the Parish Hall is the small white building just past the church.

• dance. sit. write. draw. returns! Saturday, May 7, 830am-5pm – EARLY REGISTRATION RATE OF $80 EXTENDED TO APRIL 15!
Did you know that Albert Einstein used the practice of “combinatory play” to help him solve difficult problems? He would spend a few hours playing his violin and when he was done, he had the solution! Spending the day blending the practices of movement, meditation, writing and drawing is a way of opening the channel of your artist self ~ giving it some oxygen and space no matter what your experience is. Join us for a delicious day. Early registration rate of $80 extended to April 15! If you’re on the fence, my friends, now’s the time to hop off.

The dance. sit. write. draw. four-part mini-video series is complete. You can watch them all in about 10 minutes to get more information about the retreat and why you might choose to join us.
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!)
Dance. sit. write. draw. (Your medicine)
Go to susanmcculley.com/workshops for the details and to register. Or email sjmnia@gmail.com with questions.

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, Apr 11, 2016, 1045am ~ Stay in Sensation (Unity based on Humanity)

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
Qalanderi 7:10 Cheb i Sabbah
Sunshine 3:34 Matisyahu
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Give Love (Infinite Love Mix) 5:29 MC Yogi
Nataraj 6:02 Ganga Giri
Body Language / Interpretation 5:00 Booka Shade
Common Threads 4:17 Bobby McFerrin
Don’t Leave 4:03 Faithless
Song To The Siren 5:51 Robert Plant

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2016, 840am ~ Stay in Sensation (Unity based on Humanity)

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
Qalanderi 7:10 Cheb i Sabbah
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Give Love (Infinite Love Mix) 5:29 MC Yogi
Nataraj 6:02 Ganga Giri
Body Language / Interpretation 5:00 Booka Shade
Common Threads 4:17 Bobby McFerrin
Don’t Leave 4:03 Faithless
Song To The Siren 5:51 Robert Plant

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016, 11am ~ Stay in Sensation (Unity based on Humanity)

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
Qalanderi 7:10 Cheb i Sabbah
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Give Love (Infinite Love Mix) 5:29 MC Yogi
Nataraj 6:02 Ganga Giri
New Sensation 3:39 INXS
Common Threads 4:17 Bobby McFerrin
Don’t Leave 4:03 Faithless
Song To The Siren 5:51 Robert Plant

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016, 840am ~ Stay in Sensation (Unity based on Humanity)

Aquarius 4:48 Hair, the Musical
What I Got 3:21 Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
Qalanderi 7:10 Cheb i Sabbah
Legend In My Living Room 3:46 Annie Lennox
Give Love (Infinite Love Mix) 5:29 MC Yogi
Nataraj 6:02 Ganga Giri
New Sensation 3:39 INXS
Common Threads 4:17 Bobby McFerrin
Don’t Leave 4:03 Faithless
Song To The Siren 5:51 Robert Plant

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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Stay in Sensation 040916

Comfort is king in our culture. So much so that sometimes I don’t notice what great lengths I go to stay that way. We heat and cool our houses to an exact temperature. Our beds have pillow tops and our shoes have cushiony insoles. Cars have personalized lumbar support, precision environmental controls, heated seats and sunroofs. We all like it the way we like it: super comfy.


In December of 2011, Carlos AyaRosas, co-founder of The Nia Technique, my teacher and trainer for more than a decade, retired from the practice. His departure knocked the wind out of me. I was already feeling disconnected and disillusioned with my teaching and now with Carlos gone I felt…well, I a lot of things that I did not want to feel.


It’s not just physical comfort that I crave. I want to feel comfortable mentally, too. That’s part of the reason habits are so seductive: they feel easy and “normal.” This morning I put a bracelet on my left wrist that I usually wear on my right. Shazam. My mind scrambled all day – prickling with the awkwardness of “different.” Break a habit and you’ll feel the squirm of discomfort.


Oddly enough (or maybe not), I spent my 4-month sabbatical in 2012 dancing to Carlos’ last routine, Humanity. In a way, I felt like he was still around since he was right there in my living room. So I pushed aside my feelings about him leaving, danced the Crazy Bird and the Criss-Cross Kick and pretended nothing had happened.

At the end of my sabbatical, I created two routines back-to-back and my practice felt full of energy. But sitting there on the edge of my desk, staring at me, was Carlos’ last routine. I was reluctant to teach it. First, I didn’t think it was his best work. There were strokes of brilliance but his heart didn’t seem entirely in it. Besides, to teach his last routine would stir up my feelings about his retirement and I didn’t want that.

So I avoided it. I eyed the file on the edge of my desk and let it sit there.


Feelings are messy, irrational, and replete with tears and runny noses. Sadness, anger, grief – we do our best to avoid them. We pretend they aren’t happening or dull them with our drug of choice. And it’s not just difficult emotions, but joyful ones that we resist feeling fully. I often deflect compliments instead of taking them in, or rush to the next thing instead of celebrating what I’ve accomplished. We prefer, somehow, to hang out in the unmessy middle – not feeling much of anything.


As much as I resisted and ignored them, as soon as I picked up Humanity again, my feelings about Carlos’ retirement floated fast to the surface. First, I was angry. I counted on him to deliver the work and teach me in his impeccable, sometimes confounding way. How could he leave and abandon us? Abandon me?

And I was afraid. What did his departure mean for the practice, my business, for me? Did I still want to teach Nia without him leading? What would happen to this practice into which I was so deeply invested?

And behind the fear was the biggest one: I was sad. I was so sad he was gone.


Moving toward and leaning into sensation – whether it is physical, mental or emotional – is like strengthening a muscle. The more I allow myself to feel — without resisting or running, grasping or holding on — the stronger my system becomes. I’m able to stay connected even when I’m in the swirl of sensation. Staying with sensation allows me to be present rather than panic. Staying with sensation allows me to respond rather than react. Staying with sensation allows me to be at peace with whatever is occurring.


As a way to honor Carlos and honor myself and all my messy feelings, I created a routine called Unity (because Unity is within hUmaNITY!). The routine blends his music and choreography with mine into an integrated piece. [You can read my original post about it here. ] The process of creating the routine gave me a chance to process the feelings and to let them move.

Comfortable is cool. I’m all for pillow tops and heated seats. But moving into, staying in sensation is how we transform and grow – physically, mentally, emotionally.

What are we here for anyway — in these bodies, in this life, in this world — but to feel it all?

core is to extremities as... SAT testRemember logic analogies on standardized tests? Those equation-y things that read:

A : B :: C : D (or in English: A is to B as C is to D).

Remember those? The whole testing thing made me crazy. I would begin those tests with an anxious heart and knitted eyebrows and end in a hyperventilating heap. Logic analogies were simply a microcosm of the tests.

I’d start out okay…

wave : crest : : _________ : peak
a. water
b. top
c. moving
d. mountain (this one, definitely)

And then get into more tricky territory…

falling : gravitation : : collapse : __________
a. balloon
b. electricity
c. pressure (um, yeah, this one)
d. destruction

And then I’d start getting a scrambly brain…

extort : obtain ::
a. pilfer : steal (this one…or wait is it??)
b. plagiarize : borrow (maybe this…)
c. explode : ignite
d. purify : strain
e. consider : appeal

And then the wimpering would begin…

equanimity : harried ::
a. celebrity : infamous
b. erudition : urbane
c. moderation : dissolute (I think it’s this but I’m not exactly…ahhh!)
d. distinction : singular
e. intuition : logical

The whole process left me quivering. I’m grateful beyond measure that it is unlikely that I will EVER have to take a standardized test again.

But lately, logic analogies have piqued my curiosity. Logic analogies are really all about relationships between thing and relationships interest me a lot.

So here are a couple of logic analogies Frank and I came up with:

Tree trunk : leaves :: torso : hands

Right? The trunk holds the space for the leaves to reach and grow and move, just like the torso stabilizes so the arms can reach out with more freedom. For most of us, most of the time, this is the way we use the core and extremities. But what about this one:

Ends of a Slinky : middle of the slinky :: feet : core

Can you see how this is also true? The ends of a Slinky ground down so the middle can move – and we can do that in the body, too. Think of Downward Facing Dog or Wheel Pose (photos below) in yoga: in both cases, the extremities stabilize to allow for more movement in the spine and core.

core is to extremities as... downward dogcore is to extremities as... wheel pose

So what is the relationship between the extremities and the core of the body? What is the logic that connects the core to the arms & legs? In the introduction of his routine SkyDancing, Carlos AyaRosas invites us to cultivate a sensory relationship between these different physical structures: the three body weights of pelvis, chest & head and the arms & legs. Like any long-standing relationship, it is a rich and varied one in which the players can change roles with ease. Through movement, we can play with variations on this complex relationship in our own bodies.

Logic analogies show just a few of the ways the relationship can manifest …

Extremities : Core :: Mobility : Stability
Extremities : Core :: Stability : Mobility
Extremities : Core :: Freedom : Foundation
Extremities : Core :: Foundation : Freedom
Extremities : Core :: Agility : Strength
Extremities : Core :: Strength : Agility
Extremities : Core :: Flexibility : Strength
Extremities : Core :: Strength : Flexibility

There are as many variations on this relationship as there are bodies. Unlike the cursed SAT, there are no wrong answers. I’d love to hear how you experience it in yours (add them in the comments below or at the Focus Pocus Facebook page. Your participation is a gift to everyBody) !

————

NOTE TO CVILLE NIA MOVERS: I’m back from a couple of weeks away and am teaching lots before I leave again!
Sun, Jul 12, 330 – 445pm, acac Downtown
Mon, Jul 13, 1045-12noon, acac Albemarle Square (SkyDancing with Mary Linn!)
Tue, Jul 14, 840-940am, acac Downtown (SkyDancing with Mary Linn!)
Tue, Jul 14, 530-630am, acac Albemarle Square (SkyDancing with Mary Linn!)
Wed, Jul 15, 1055-12noon, acac Albemarle Square
Thu, Jul 16, 840-940am, acac Downtown
Thu, Jul 16, 630-730pm, Albemarle Square
Sat, Jul 18, Nia 101 1230-1245pm, then class 1245-145pm, Albemarle Square
Mon, Jul 20, 1045-12noon, acac Albemarle Square
Tue, Jul 21, 840-940am, acac Downtown
Wed, Jul 22, 1055-12noon, acac Albemarle Square
Thu, Jul 23, 840-940am, acac Downtown
Sat, Jul 25, Nia 101 1230-1245pm, then class 1245-145pm, Albemarle Square

carlos 1(happy birthday Carlos — and Rachel!)

Relaxation is who you are.

The practice is about being who you are.

So the practice is about relaxation.

Simple as that.

Welllll, sometimes less simple when life gets complicated or scary or painful or overwhelming. Which is why we practice when the stakes are low: on the cushion, on the mat, in the studio, or in Starbucks when that guy is doing that thing with his stirrer.

Keep relaxing into whatever is happening. Keep relaxing into presence.

This week I’ve been playing with a new routine called Elegant Stumbling. Thank you to all for being my guinea pigs and for being willing to relax with the creative process. Thank you also to Rachel Horsley for dropping in to teach a song on Wednesday (it was not just her birthday, but Carlos AyaRosas’ birthday!) and for embodying relaxation.

A note about music: many of the songs in Elegant Stumbling were given to me (part of the reason this piece has its name is that I stumbled into much of the music). My yoga teachers, Mia Hamza and Monica Buckley, are incredible music resources. Sara Marks reminded me of the great song Ooh Child which inspired the unusual case of the same song used twice in one routine. And Rachel Horsley gave me Catherine MacLellan’s Everything’ll Be Alright (which I needed. I really did). So if you have music you love, I would love it if you’d share it!

Below are all the playlists from the week. Join me on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ where you can listen to all the music for free! Just 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!  <strong>Note that if you are using the Spotify app for mobile devices, the program inserts “recommended” music that is not on my original playlist.</strong> 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 reminders:

  • TUESDAY & THURSDAY DOWNTOWN 840-940AM! ~ acac downtown Tuesday and Thursday morning Nia with Susan is from 840am-940am! Come play and let your practice embody your whole day!
  • NEW NIA 101 SATURDAYS FROM 1230-1245 WITH MARY LINN! ~ Mary Linn offer Nia 101 before her Saturday class: an introduction to Nia’s 52 Moves to refresh current students and help new students get a feel for the moves. Nia 101 is from 1230-1245 and class is from 1245-145, at Albemarle Square, Studio A.
  • 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 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. What you find below is exactly what I used in class. ***

Monday, Jun 8, 2015, 1045am ~ Keep Relaxing

Relax                     5:56        Deep-Dive-Corp. Feat. Michele Adamson
The Hush                             5:24        Rae & Christian
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
Sandstorm                          7:26        Darude
I Don’t Like It, I Love It (feat. Robin Thicke & Verdine White)                        3:44        Flo Rida
Unpack Your Heart                          3:16        Phillip Phillips
Ooh Child ((Remix))                        3:33        Nina Simone
Everything’ll Be Alright                   4:07        Catherine MacLellan
Þú Ert Jörðin                       4:34        Ólafur Arnalds

Tuesday, Jun 9, 2015, 840am ~ Keep Relaxing

Relax                     5:56        Deep-Dive-Corp. Feat. Michele Adamson
The Hush                             5:24        Rae & Christian
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
Here It Goes Again                          3:00        OK Go
I Don’t Like It, I Love It (feat. Robin Thicke & Verdine White)                        3:44        Flo Rida
Unpack Your Heart                          3:16        Phillip Phillips
Ooh Child ((Remix))                        3:33        Nina Simone
Everything’ll Be Alright                   4:07        Catherine MacLellan
Rise                        3:06        Afro Celt Sound System

Wednesday, Jun 10, 2015, 1055am ~ Keep Relaxing

Ooh Child (Alternate Version)                    3:54        Beth Orton
Finally Moving                   4:38        Pretty Lights
Souvenir                              5:39        Kaledj feat. Neko
I Love You                           2:43        Asie Payton
Smokey Quartz                 6:59        Shakatura
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix)                   7:11        Miango
Mad World (feat. Safri Duo & Isam B) [Raaban Edit]                         3:34        Michael Parsberg
I Don’t Like It, I Love It (feat. Robin Thicke & Verdine White)                        3:44        Flo Rida
Unpack Your Heart                          3:16        Phillip Phillips
Ooh Child ((Remix))                        3:33        Nina Simone
Everything’ll Be Alright                   4:07        Catherine MacLellan
Waters of Miriam (Live at Esalen) Part 2                 4:42        Josh Brill

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015, 9am ~ Keep Relaxing

Ooh Child (Alternate Version) 3:54 Beth Orton
Finally Moving 4:38 Pretty Lights
I Believe (feat. Michael Franti & Nahko) 3:23 SOJA
I Love You 2:43 Asie Payton
Belly Belly Nice 3:53 Dave Matthews Band
Mussiki é (Jungle Mix) 7:11 Miango
Tribal 4:09 Badmarsh & Shri
Mad World (feat. Safri Duo & Isam B) [Raaban Edit] 3:34 Michael Parsberg
I Don’t Like It, I Love It (feat. Robin Thicke & Verdine White) 3:44 Flo Rida
Unpack Your Heart 3:16 Phillip Phillips
Ooh Child ((Remix)) 3:33 Nina Simone
Everything’ll Be Alright 4:07 Catherine MacLellan
Waters of Miriam (Live at Esalen) Part 2 4:42 Josh Brill

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&#8230;
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!

eye energy eye closeupFew are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. ~ Albert Einstein

My husband, Frank, and I are moving house. Last month we sold our beautiful and beloved work of Frank Art and next month, we will leave it. We are happy about the move and the process requires lots of letting go. It’s healthy and challenging and sometimes I have to put my head down on some packing materials.

Over the past few months, we’ve been purging the eddies in our house: the closets and cabinets and drawers where we mindlessly stick things until they stack up like a jumble of sticks and leaves on the swirling edge of a stream.

One of those eddies was my Nia and journal cabinet. This precious cabinet held every notebook and journal from every Nia training, meditation retreat, and workshop I’d attended in 15 years…although I’d almost never gone to it. When I swung open the cabinet, I felt my heart clench, “I NEED all of this. I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned.”

To placate my rising panic, I promised myself that I would collect all the wisdom in a Word document so I could keep the insights but let go of the dozens of spiral notebooks.

carlos has an ear for every instrument

To my shock, when I read through my Nia notebooks, I didn’t feel the need to capture much at all (although I did scan a couple of doodles like the one above). Almost everything I either knew in my bones or wasn’t relevant. In the end, out of all those journals, I entered precisely two lines into the Word document. They came from a Blue Belt (the second level of training focused on communication, relationship, and intimacy) from my teacher, Carlos AyaRosas:

~ Can you let go of the need to check the outside world to see if you are doing okay?
~ Can you use your eyes to look out and stay in your body?

Ah. Yes. Right. This, I want to keep. There is more to learn here.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti or gaze. In the Hawaiian Huna tradition makia means “energy flows where attention goes.” In Nia, one of the 52 Moves is Head & Eye Movement. As highly visual creatures, the way we use our eyes affects body, mind, and emotions. Eyes are movers of energy and how I choose to use them has a direct connection to where my energy goes, how much I have available, and how much I give away.

Tomorrow, I’ll look more closely at Carlos’ two pearls. Keep an eye out for it.

The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

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

P3 music-thinking

Principle 3 – Music and the 8BC System

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

“Music is the festive dress of silence.” – Chamalu (my teacher Carlos’s teacher)

When we began, we wanted to create Nia in a way that addressed the entire human being – body, mind, emotions and spirit. We view Nia through the triad of Music, Movement and Magic. Music is the canvas upon which the body moves. Magic is what happens inside you. We do not divide Nia into 33.3% music, 33.3% movement and 33.3% magic. Rather, each is 100% valued. When you masterfully connect music and movement, magic is created.

The 8BC System is a notation system used in Nia to become intimate with the structure and flow of the music we use. By intimately knowing your music, you are free to teach rather than count and your music becomes a resource to create a powerful experience. The 8BC system is the roadmap you use to visually format the structure and landmarks of your music and choreography.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“Dance is the festive dress of stillness.” – Susan (based on Chamalu)

Teen-aged me loved sprawling on the living room floor in a sea of album covers and liner notes, memorizing lyrics, listening for the guitar solo, feeling the intricacies of the beat. This music-crazy part of me was rekindled when I started teaching Nia and using the 8BC system to map music. If given half a chance, I will wax rhapsodic about this genius method of creating a visual map of sound. (A genius method, I should point out, that I resisted stubbornly for two years.) If you’re interested, I’d love to tell you all about it, but pack a lunch. Once I get going, it takes a while to stop me.

Fascinating and functional as the 8BC system is, as a practitioner it’s less important to use the 8BCs and more important to put the essence of this principle into practice. Principle 3 is about using the state of Relaxed, Alert and Waiting to listen to the details, silence and sound in music – the music that is everywhere.

At the core of Principle 3 is the practice of RAW – Relaxed, Alert and Waiting. In Nia, we first use RAW for listening to music: a relaxed body with upright spine, an alert mind without preference, and a waiting spirit allowing for whatever may happen in the sound.

Unofficially, the state of RAW is powerfully practical whether you teach Nia or not. RAW is meditative and centering and applicable to any situation in which you want to be fully present.

Since learning to be RAW when mapping music for Nia class, I now use it whenever I step in to teach, in any important conversation, or when working on a creative project. The state of RAW integrates body, mind and spirit and in this way is a healthy and balanced foundation any time I want to hear all the details in the universal music around me.

In the Unofficial Guide, we can use Principle 3 as a reminder that music is everywhere. There is music in weather and nature, in cities and traffic, and in people, always in people. RAW gives us the space to listen deeply and attentively to whatever music is playing.

Right now, sit with a straight spine, take a breath and relax, get attentive and wait to see what you hear. Do you hear leaves rustling in the wind, dogs barking, the hum of air conditioning, traffic breathing on the road, conversation happening in the next room? As you listen, notice that sounds come and go. You don’t have to do anything about them. Notice when they start and when they end, notice the silences between them. Notice the details in the sounds: when volume shifts or tone changes. If you’re having a conversation with someone, notice what they are saying when they stop speaking. Notice when their voice sounds tight and when it sounds relaxed regardless of the words they are using.

Music is everywhere. Principle 3 gives us the practice of RAW to listen deeply and allow that music to play through our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits.

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.]

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