Tag Archives: Elephant Journal

MLK your day 011816
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.

Martin Luther King, Jr. lived an extraordinary life. He was, of course, a great teacher, preacher, leader, activist. But he was also a man. As we honor his life and his legacy of love, I often feel intimidated by all he did and the lasting positive impact of his work. I think, “I could never do that.”

For this week’s Art in Action, let’s follow six quotes from Dr. King and remember that we can all make a positive difference if we act in the name of love. Even small acts of love ripple out – from ourselves, to our lives, our communities, and ultimately our world.

1. “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Yourself –
Two or three times today, ask how you can offer yourself service. Treat yourself like a friend. Do yourself a kindness. Make yourself a cup of soup. Take a break from your screen in the middle of the day to stretch. Read that article you want to read.

Others – Look at a chore or an aspect of your job that feels like an annoyance, a drag or even a dread. Can you see that chore as service? Reframe the work in terms of who you are helping and the gift you are offering by doing it.

2. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Yourself – If something matters to you, say something. Especially if you tend to let others’ needs come before your own, make a point of speaking up for yourself. You don’t have to be all bossy pants about it, but if it matters, say so.

Others – Pay particular kindness to someone with less power than you (perhaps a child, an elderly person, an immigrant or a waiter/cashier). See them, thank them, help them, if you can. And if you notice that someone with less power than you is being mistreated — in a small or big way — stand up for them. Staying silent is complicity.

3. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

Yourself – We all make choices that run against our intentions, goals and even our best interests. Instead of seeing yourself as your own worst enemy, see if you can look at those choices with love. What need is at the heart of the “enemy” choice? Is the choice for more cookies actually a need for comfort? Is the procrastination around a difficult work project actually a need for freedom? Is the frustration with a child or partner a need for clear communication? Make friends with the need at the root of the “enemy” choices by approaching them with love.

Others – Seek out someone who disagrees with you…and treat them with love. Suspend your judgment and hear them out. Listen carefully to what they are saying and to what is at the root of their position. Have a conversation with someone on the other side of a political position, participate in an online discussion of something you care about, read a news source that you don’t usually read. Be as open and kind to the other side as you can. You may learn something about them and about yourself that you didn’t know before. (For more on this, check out this great piece, “The ‘Other Side’ is not Dumb.”)

4, 5, 6. (The Love/Hate Triumvirate)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

I used to date a man whose friends joked that he “hated everything.” He hated certain football teams. He hated bar soap. He hated squash. He hated people who had more money than he did. He hated it when Christmas was over. He definitely hated a truckload of politicians. After a while, all that hate was tough to be around. For me, his hate was too great a burden to bear.

Notice if you find yourself bristling at or hating something. Whatever it is, experiment with loving it instead. Hate your knees because they hurt when you go down stairs? See how they feel when you love them for getting you around the best they can. Hate traffic that snarls your morning commute? See how it feels to love the luxury of having a car and living in a thriving community. Hate the politicians on the other side? See how it feels to love them for doing their best – and get behind those who are motivated by love. They are the ones who will lead us to freedom.

curly circle 011716

FUN NEWS: elephant journal picked up two of my essays! As an aspiring writer, I’m delighted to share my work with more people, so I would love it if you would check them out by clicking here and here and if you think they would be of benefit, please share them! I am grateful for your help in spreading the word!


“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

moutain of despair stone of hope 011616

In celebration of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, this week’s post is published on elephant journal! Please click here to read it and if you’re moved, please share it with anyone who might benefit.

And if you’d like more MLK inspiration, enjoy these two archived posts on his legacy of love. Find one here that features new glasses and foot walking and other acts of love and a super short one (and one of my favorites) here.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

hope in the rubble 011616

mundane miracle sjm 010616

** Want your own Mundane Miracle art to color and enjoy? Just email me at and I’ll send you your very own! ❤

Below are the playlists for the week. You can listen to all the playlists for free on Spotify ! Sign up 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!
Here are some cool things you want to know about:

• Two Essays Published on Elephant Journal! ~ Help me spread the word!
I’m delighted and excited to say that elephant journal has picked up two of my essays this week. Whoot! You can check out the ones about Intentions vs. Resolutions here and the one about the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. here. I’m so grateful to everyone who’s willing to help out a budding writer by reading and sharing!

• Ageless Grace with Sheila Queen now a regular class at ACAC ~ Thursdays, 130-215pm, acac downtown Studio A
Great news! The fun, seated workout for body and mind is now regularly offered by Sheila at acac downtown! The perfect solution for anyone with physical limitations! Based on the science of neuroplasticity, the music-centered work out is great for for body and brain!

• Winter Nia Jam: Spiritual High with Anne, Mary Linn & Susan ~ Friday, January 22, 545-7pm at acac downtown
We are returning to the music and focus of a long-ago Nia routine originally created 20 years ago by our teacher, Carlos Rosas. Together, we’ll create a new take on the music, movement and magic. Free for members and members can bring a friend for free!

• dance. sit. write. draw. Saturday, January 23, 2016 – Now is the time to pave the way for 2016!
We’re dancing, sitting and writing again and this time, we’re drawing, too! There are still some spots left so please register now and join me for a day of exploration at the intersection of movement, stillness and creativity. Find all the information at and register at on

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 . ***

Monday, Jan 4, 2016, 1045am ~ Magical Mundane

Primavera 6:19 Santana
Africa Bamba 4:43 Santana
Smooth 4:58 Santana Feat. Rob Thomas
Corazon Espinado 4:36 Maná/Santana
De le Yaleo 5:56 Santana
Migra 5:29 Santana
Hermes 4:09 Carlos Santana
Wishing It Was 4:53 Eagle-Eye Cherry/Santana
The Calling 12:28 Santana Feat. Eric Clapton
El Farol 4:51 Santana
Ordinary Miracle 3:04 Sarah McLachlan

Tuesday, Jan 5, 2016, 840am ~ Magical Mundane

Primavera 6:19 Santana
Africa Bamba 4:43 Santana
Smooth 4:58 Santana Feat. Rob Thomas
Corazon Espinado 4:36 Maná/Santana
De le Yaleo 5:56 Santana
Migra 5:29 Santana
Hermes 4:09 Carlos Santana
Wishing It Was 4:53 Eagle-Eye Cherry/Santana
El Farol 4:51 Santana
Ordinary Miracle 3:04 Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, Jan 6, 2016, 11am ~ Magical Mundane

Primavera 6:19 Santana
Africa Bamba 4:43 Santana
Smooth 4:58 Santana Feat. Rob Thomas
Corazon Espinado 4:36 Maná/Santana
De le Yaleo 5:56 Santana
Migra 5:29 Santana
Hermes 4:09 Carlos Santana
Up In Indiana 4:36 Lyle Lovett
Soak Up The Sun 4:52 Sheryl Crow
All We Are 3:37 Matt Nathanson
Wishing It Was 4:53 Eagle-Eye Cherry/Santana
Ordinary Miracle 3:04 Sarah McLachlan

Thursday, Jan 5, 2016, 840am ~ Magical Mundane

Primavera 6:19 Santana
Africa Bamba 4:43 Santana
Smooth 4:58 Santana Feat. Rob Thomas
Corazon Espinado 4:36 Maná/Santana
De le Yaleo 5:56 Santana
Migra 5:29 Santana
Hermes 4:09 Carlos Santana
Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong 3:54 Spin Doctors
Supermassive Black Hole 3:30 Muse
All We Are 3:37 Matt Nathanson
Waiting On The World To Change 3:21 John Mayer
Ordinary Miracle 3:04 Sarah McLachlan


For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at…
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!

A in A miracle in the mundane 010416
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.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” ― Abraham Joshua Heschel

Now that the rush and tumble and delightful distraction of the holidays is over, we can really dig into the magic of everyday wonders. Whether you are relieved or disappointed that the string of special occasions is behind us, here are four simple ways to tap into the magic of the mundane. These are great to do any time but perhaps particularly when you are feeling bored or disappointed or frustrated. It’s really about noticing the good that is all around that we usually take for granted.

1. Senses
Pause and notice what your five senses are letting you experience: the sweet sour taste of grapefruit, your sweater against your skin, the smell of coffee, sight of colors and shapes and light and dark, the sounds of traffic and kids playing and a basketball slipping through a net. For the moment, set aside your preferences and just notice (and even wonder at) what your senses allow into your awareness.

2. Body Functions
It’s easy to focus on what’s not working well in our bodies whether it’s a persistent cold, a nagging injury or a chronic illness or disease. And yet, even when our physical health is poor, as long as we are alive, there are things in our bodies that are working. Identify as many things you can that feel good and that *are* functioning before diving into address what’s not working.

3. Everything That Works
And it’s not just in the body: it’s also easy to put all our attention on the transmission that’s gone south or the pipe that’s leaking or the political system that’s broken down. Balance your view of your house, your life, your country by looking at what *is* working. After traveling in our camper all summer, hot water coming out of a faucet struck me as an incredible miracle. It’s not about ignoring what needs to be fixed, but rather about seeing the whole picture that includes clean air, maintained roads, the World Wide Interwebs and showers.

4. Details
Look at your hand. Take in all the details of color and texture and shape. Then move your hand: stretch your fingers, make a fist, touch your thumb and each finger. Suddenly, this appendage that we use all day can become an extraordinary work of art and engineering. Any time you’re feeling annoyed or disillusioned, look at the details of something simple that you don’t think about much: your tea cup, a leaf that the kids tracked in, your own eyes in the mirror. All at once, you’re looking at a miracle.

Share what you notice and how you find the magic in the mundane in the comments below or at the Focus Pocus Facebook page. We can inspire each other with what we find! And if you leave a comment, I will be happy to send you some art that you can make miraculous in your own way!

FUN NEWS: elephant journal just picked up one of my essays! As a budding writer, I’m delighted to share my work with more people. To help further that cause, I would love it if you would check it out by clicking here and if you think it would be of benefit, to share it with someone! The more views the piece gets in the first few days, the more promotional support it gets from the site. I am grateful for your help in spreading the word!

Civil Rights Confrontation
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

My life is ridiculously comfortable and convenient. The extraordinary good fortune that has been heaped upon my head would be enough to up the quality of life of an entire island nation. It’s incredible, really.

And yet, that’s not enough to stop me from behaving badly when iTunes crashes or I spill a quart of coconut water on the kitchen floor or my new password manager is wonky.

Yep, that’s all it took: a wonky password manager.

After a security breach on my husband’s computer, the two of us agreed to put all our passwords into a password manager. An excellent idea since I am more than a little lax in the computer security department and the scrap of paper with all my passwords on it (that I’ve had since 2002) was getting a difficult to read.

Only I’m impatient when learning new computer stuff and when the program wasn’t working the way I thought it would and I got locked out of my Twitter account, I got irritated (irkitated, even). I went on a rant about how dishonest and malicious people require us to invest time, money and energy into these stupid programs and the only person it really keeps out of my accounts is me and then I slammed a couple of doors.

A ridiculously first-world problem, up to my armpits in comfort and convenience, and I’m acting like a four-year-old.

Which brings me to hot yoga.

Wonky computer programs notwithstanding, choosing to spend time in a challenging and uncomfortable environment helps me build resources to draw on when challenge and controversy show up uninvited.

When I started hot yoga in December 2012, I thought it would be a physical challenge and a new way to keep my body healthy. It is that, for sure, but the biggest benefit I’ve gotten from yoga is its effect on my mind. After 467 90-minute classes in a humid, 100+ degree studio, more and more I’m able to stay calm in times of challenge and controversy.

My teachers often talk about breathing calmly and steadily even when the body is under stress or concentrated effort. By focusing on the steady, even flow of breath, my nervous system is less anxious and startled by the discomfort.  I’m able to literally and figuratively stay in the room.

After practicing hot yoga, I have higher tolerance for other uncomfortable situations.

In the past couple of years, I’ve had unpleasant and alarming experiences, I’ve had friends upset with and disappointed in me, and I’ve taught classes under emotional and stressful circumstances. In all those situations, I’ve shown up more relaxed, more present, calmer than I used to.

Obviously, it doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes, I still get twisted up over things and stomp around. But spending time in the hot room or sitting in meditation even when my back hurts or staying low in sumo stance until my legs shake, gives me confidence that translates into my life. My mind learns I can do this. Choosing challenge helps me stay calm or regain my calm quicker when things go awry.

When I think about the challenge and controversy endured by brave people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who participated in the civil rights movement (and people today who are fighting diligently for civil and human rights, environmental protection, and social equality), I wonder how they managed to behave so well when under such duress. I wonder how they built their resources to be steady and calm in the face of so much hatred.

Given my track record, I suspect I wouldn’t have had the strength or courage for it. I think I would have slammed a lot of doors in Alabama. But perhaps, in some small way, by choosing to challenge myself, I can rise to some of the challenging occasions in my life … and maybe even be a force for love.

Principle 10: X-Ray Anatomy

P10 two bodies

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

Two Announcements on the Writing Front!

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

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

Meduim: Watercolor on stonedge natural paper Size: 18" x 13"

It’s been a while since I’ve connected with my favorite Hindu goddess, Akhilanda.

Okay, I admit that she’s my favorite Hindu goddess because she is the only Hindu goddess I know.

Akhilanda.  Her name means Never Not Broken, she rides a spinning crocodile on the river of fear, she is a cut crystal in the sun shedding new light on every reality, and she is powerful beyond measure.  Oh yeah, I could use some of that ju-ju.  It’s time she and I hang out again.

Akhilanda first spun into my field of view in the fall of 2011, when I read this piece by JC Peters in Elephant Journal. Then I wrote about Akhilanda in April 2012, when I was about to begin a four-month sabbatical from teaching Nia, and everything about my practice felt broken. Now, in what I am lovingly calling The Sucky Summer of 2014, I am writing about her again.

Akhilanda’s Never-Not-Broken power lies in the breaking of entrenched patterns and habits and making ourselves new.  Of course, this can be uncomfortable to put it mildly.  The Never-Not-Broken feeling can be one we go to great lengths to avoid.  When difficult circumstances arise, it’s easy to shake my fist at the heavens and curse those damn Hindu goddesses.  The spinning, multi-faceted jewel of Akhilanda, however, offers 10,000 perspectives on every situation.

Akhilanda rides through the body.

As Frank rebuilds his strength after six weeks of virtual immobility, he experiences one of the body’s paradoxes: in order to build strength in the muscles, the very fiber of the muscles must be broken. The process of breaking and healing makes the muscle stronger than it was.

Akhilanda rides through emotions.

To see my tall, strong husband buckled over, in a wheel chair, then slid into the MRI machine felt like more than I could bear.  The temptation to stay in the waiting room, to look away, to keep my emotions at a manageable mid-range was strong.  Akhilanda’s wisdom invites me to jump into the river of emotion and allow myself to feel the depths of sadness, grief, fear.  Like strengthening a muscle, as I stretch my capacity for feeling painful emotions, I also increase how much joy, happiness and love I can let in.

Akhilanda is rides through scary situations, those things we think we cannot do.

I feared Frank aging and being disabled for a thousand reasons not the least of which was that I believed that would be a cross, angry, useless, horrible caregiver.  My prediction was that when in the presence of my beloved in serious pain, I would be pathetic mess.  Not surprisingly, I have feared any circumstance that would reveal this ugly side of myself.

Then, I found myself spun right into the heart of just such a circumstance.  My partner injured and pain with just me to look after him.

Mother Theresa, I am not. Sometimes I am a cross, angry, useless horrible caregiver and a pathetic mess.  But surprisingly, this is the exception.  Mostly, I can stay present and connected and do what needs doing and offer whatever comfort and service I can with love.  In this scary and painful situation that I feared, I discovered something unexpected about me and about our relationship.

All of which begs the question, of course: is it actually a Sucky Summer or just a crocodile-riding one?

%d bloggers like this: