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FOCUS POCUS NOTE! FocusPocus is now one complete post (art, focus, playlists and announcements) all together on Thursdays! So whether you come to the blog for the art, the information, the music or the latest happenings and offerings, you are in the right place. Every Thursday, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

Full disclosure: I don’t like winter. I never have. Sure, when I was a kid I enjoyed the occasional Connecticut snow day but I would have traded them all for summer sun and swimming and watermelon. So it was eye-opening for me to read a piece by Dr. Deepak Chopra called Transform Winter into a Restorative Season (I really hope you’ll read it.)

Dr. Chopra describes the natural wisdom of winter and invites us to tap into the balanced renewal that is possible in the darker, colder, grayer months. His first direction is to focus attention on energy ~ not just energy quantity but energy quality. He says,

… keep your quality of energy at a comfortable place of balance. … Dynamic balance is known medically as homeostasis, and the body-mind is designed to maintain it. So, your goal is simply to cooperate with what your body-mind wants to do.

Here are some thoughts (from the hibernating bear, of course) about how to do that:

His second suggestion is to focus on renewal and healing. Beyond balance, these are activities and perspectives that help us fill ourselves up and keep us from getting depleted. Dr. Chopra recommends that we follow renewing pursuits: creativity, appreciation, acceptance, self healing, service, kindness and that

Healing should not be approached with an attitude of ‘I have to fix myself.’ Healing is a natural process of the body-mind that you only need to cooperate with.

Our culture of get-’er-done and go-all-out-all-the-time, tends to skip over the stage of renewal, restoration and recuperation. The Gestalt Cycle of Experience shows the natural cycle of anything we experience. For example, you might wake up in the morning with a soft sense of emptiness, what we might call the fertile void. Then you have a sensation of thirst. You might have the awareness of a dry throat or tongue so you shift to mobilzation by deciding what to do about your thirst and action as you move out of bed to the sink (if it’s me, I go straight to the faucet, but my husband is all civilized and uses a glass). As the water connects with your mouth and throat, you feel contact and then satisfaction. With your thirst need met, you can withdraw from that experience and return to the fertile void.

Americans are all about the mobilzation/action/contact/satisfaction part of the cycle and then skip over the rest, zooming off to the next mobilization. Dr. Chopra and the season of winter itself asks us to pause in the lower half of the cycle.

Really, winter offers us a unique opportunity to pay attention and invest in self-awareness. Winter is about listening to the cycle of nature and our own bodies to align with balance and recuperation. What are some ways that you might spend more time in creating dynamic balance, restoration and self-awareness in the second half of this winter season?

Below are our playlists for the week. If you’d like to listen to the music, you can find almost all the songs on Spotify (you can listen for free)! As always, please let me know if you have any questions about any of the music we dance to!

Things are happening, y’all! Before the playlists, here is all the details on what’s coming up!

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings at 11am!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 11am ~~ my mix of guided and unguided movement, meditation and creativity! Please go to http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop for the details. Come join us in the trees by the river for grounded, flowing, spacious movement. Second Thursdays are followed by a pot luck lunch! Nourish yourself with movement and bring something nourishing to share! There is space in upcoming classes so please go HERE to sign up!
* The Studio at Dancing Water is at 2370 Old Lynchburg Road ~ detailed directions at http://www.susanmcculley.com and via email when you sign up!

Welcome Spring with Four Thursdays of Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water in March ~ with Special Guest Teacher, Susan Tate on March 26!!
As winter wends to an end and spring starts springing, join us for 4 Nourishing Movement classes in March on Thursdays, Mar 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 11am-1215pm for just $40. On Thu, Mar 26, I’m delighted that author, teacher, wellness visionary, Nia Black Belt (and one of Susan McCulley’s first Nia teachers!), Susan Tate will be guest teaching! Prepare for the growth of the season with classes with two Susans! Go here to join us!

Full Moon Restorative Yoga with Shandoah ~ Moonday, March 9, 430-6pm
Shandoah Goldman returns to The Studio at Dancing Water (2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville) to continue the full moon restorative practice! The full moon is a time of completion. The fullness of the cycle lends itself to a practice of non-doing. Join Shandoah for a deeply nourishing practice of restorative yoga. Using props to offer support and comfort, the body is invited to profoundly let go and unwind. Rather than efforting or stretching, this is the practice of releasing and relaxing. We’ll celebrate what is finished and soften into the next cycle. Shandoah is a gifted guide for deep release and is a Shiatsu practitioner offering hands on assists during class. All bodies welcome, no experience in yoga or anything else is needed. Email Susan at sjmnia@gmail.com to get on the waiting list.
Monday (Moonday!), March 9, 430-6pm at The Studio at Dancing Water ~ $30, $25 if registered before Feb 28!

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Mar 6 at 11:25am
Nia Freedance is an opportunity to play and tap into the creative wisdom in our body, emotions, mind and spirit. For a full hour we get to dance together with the intention of stimulating our own unique movement creativity. The next Nia Freedance will be at ACAC Albemarle Square Friday, Mar 6 from 11:25 -12:25.

New Nia Classes + Workshop with Susan Tate!
Susan Tate will be offering Nia classes at the beautiful Charlottesville Tango on Water Studio beginning with a FREE celebration class at 11 am on Sunday, March 1. Thereafter, classes will be on Sundays at 11 am.
$18 drop in/or discounted class card
Charlottesville Tango on Water at 208 E Water Street.
More info: http://www.susantate.org
AND To introduce people to the studio and Nia in this new space, Susan will offer her MindHEARTBody Balance: Letting Love Lead the Way Nia workshop there on Saturday, February 22 from 1 – 4 pm. Early registration is $50 / $65 day of. For more info and to register: https://mind-heart-body-balance-charlottesville-2-22-20.eventbrite.com

Resetting & Balancing the Nervous System with Mindful Practices & Herbal Nourishment: Book Signing and Workshop with Susan & Heather ~ Saturday, February 29, 2020 ~ 10am-12pm at Nourish Louisa
“Stop the glorification of busy….It is OK not to be busy. Repeat this with me: it is OK not to be busy.” ~ Joshua Becker
Mid-winter is the perfect time to look inward at the rush and tumble of our days and practice ways of reconnecting and restoring our frazzled nervous systems. Join teacher and artist Susan McCulley and Clinical Herbalist Heather Wetzel to explore a realignment of our busy, over-scheduled days at the beautiful Nourish Louisa shop (http://www.nourishlouisa.com/) at 205 W. Main Street, Louisa, VA 23093
10:00-11:00: Book signing and conversation about the counter cultural choice for presence and less busyness with Susan, author of Octabusy: How to Let Go in a Sea of Doing. Come talk with Susan, watch an art demonstration, and have a cup of something warm.
11:00 – 12:00: Susan and Heather will present a short workshop focusing on re-balancing body, mind, and spirit using mindfulness life hacks and herbal strategies for moving from the habitual responses of our nervous system’s “fright, flight, or freeze” reactions into a more balanced, flowing, and peaceful state of “rest and digest.”. Topics include:
· How to support yourself to be more centered, calm and relaxed.
· Physical and mindful practices that can bring you back to center and be done anywhere, no matter what is happening around you.
· Tastings (including recipes) of tried and true adaptogenic herbal preparations to enhance your resilience to stress
· New ideas to support and encourage graceful adaptation to change and less reactive to stress
We all need encouragement and new ideas to support us as we move through our fast-paced, stress-ridden world. Reserve your seat now as space is limited at http://www.nourishlouisa.com/! Saturday, February 29, 2020 ~ 10am-12pm ~ $15 ~ includes lunch and small drink of your choice / Limited to 12 participants.
Interview about Octabusy & Other Things on Lisa Jakub’s Embrace Your Weird podcast!
It was my honor and pleasure to have a conversation with Lisa Jakub about the seduction of busyness and ways of navigating it on her fantastic podcast, Embrace Your Weird. Please listen, share, review and spread the word! Go here to check it out!

WHERE TO FIND OCTABUSY!
Support local retailers by buying Octabusy
at New Dominion Bookshop on Charlottesville’s downtown mall (ndbookshop.com, 434-295-2552, staff@ndbookshop.com)
and at The Telegraph Art & Comics https://www.telegraphcomics.com/
and at the beautiful Nourish Louisa shop in downtown Louisa! Go here http://www.nourishlouisa.com/ for more. I’ll be sharing more soon on events at this super-cool spot!
And just this week: both Buddha Cat and Octabusy are now available at the lovely Wine & Country Shop in Ivy! Please check them out here. It’s an amazing store full of wonderful finds, not just super-cool books!
You can also order signed copies of Octabusy (including discounts on multiple copies) now on my website at susanmcculley.com/shop
and get Kindle and paperback editions on Amazon!
(And wherever you buy it, please leave a review there!)

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

Monday, Feb 10, 2020, 1045am ~ Restorative Winter: Energy & Renewal

To Mend 4:42 Bluetech, Lynx, Janover
Love’s Divine 4:39 Seal
Lady Delay 7:03 Anton Kubikov & Maxim Miyutenko
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
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System
Lovers of Light 3:58 Afro Celt Sound System
A Little Bit Of Riddim (Featuring Cherine Anderson) 4:19 Michael Franti
The Mummer’s Dance 6:13 Loreena McKimmet
A Thousand Beautiful Things 3:07 Annie Lennox
Vespers 4:13 Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy

Tuesday, Feb 11, 2020, 840am ~ Restorative Winter: Energy & Renewal

To Mend 4:42 Bluetech, Lynx, Janover
Love’s Divine 4:39 Seal
Lady Delay 7:03 Anton Kubikov & Maxim Miyutenko
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
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System
Lovers of Light 3:58 Afro Celt Sound System
The Mummer’s Dance 6:13 Loreena McKimmet
A Thousand Beautiful Things 3:07 Annie Lennox
Vespers 4:13 Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy

Thursday, Feb 13, 2020, 11am at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ Restorative Winter: Energy & Renewal

Beyond This Moment 4:47 Patrick O’Hearn
To Mend 4:42 Bluetech, Lynx, Janover
Love’s Divine 4:39 Seal
Lady Delay 7:03 Anton Kubikov & Maxim Miyutenko
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
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System
Lovers of Light 3:58 Afro Celt Sound System
The Mummer’s Dance 6:13 Loreena McKimmet
A Thousand Beautiful Things 3:07 Annie Lennox
Vespers 4:13 Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy

wasabi peas 2Yesterday, I wrote about an argument I overheard over wasabi peas. Oddly, it was very much like arguments that I have in my own head all the time. Turns out that most people have one part of them which is about discipline and toeing the line and another that is about creativity and spontaneity. Not surprisingly, these two are almost always fiercely at loggerheads.

CLAW brawladine-vs-chains-n-cheeriosThink Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers. Fierce. Grim. Intense.  No compromise.  No middle ground.  No way.  Grrrrrrr.

In Gestalt Therapy, these two sides of the personality are called Top Dog and Underdog (for more information, click here and here) which invites looking clearly at the needs underneath the seemingly contradictory positions both sides tend to hold.

James Yates, a Charlottesville Gestalt Therapist, offers the best description I’ve found of these two sides of ourselves in his book, A Career with Heart: A Step-By-Step Guide to Discovering Your Life Path:

The Top Dog, similar to Freud’s Superego, is made up of beliefs and behaviors that are attempts to adapt the self to social reality, i.e., to get love and acceptance and to avoid punishment, abuse, rejection, abandonment, and criticism. This includes controlling the Underdog’s behavior with ‘shoulds,’ ‘have to’s’ and self-defeating beliefs such as ‘You don’t deserve it,’ ‘There’s something wrong with you,’ and ‘You’re bad.’ A common Top Dog strategy is to suppress emotions including anger, grief, and fear, as well as joy and excitement.

The Underdog represents the spontaneous, expressive self who is focused on self-fulfillment, self-expression, and expressing and satisfying wants. In the face of the Top Dog’s domination and continual demands, the Underdog may withdraw, drag its feet, rebel, or do whatever it can to maintain some dignity and get its needs met.

Much like those Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers, when I look at the root of their arguments, usually they are not contradictory at all (both CLAW competitors really just want to have fun, put on a great show and raise money for worthy causes). Both sides want the best for me, want me to be happy, want me to be safe and loved, but their approaches to get this is wildly different.

Instead of passively sitting aside and letting these two attack each other, I’m finding that when a Wasabi Pea incident comes up (oh yes, many times a day), what works is to listen to both sides. By paying attention to both parts, I can help them see that they want the same things and how they can both get their needs met. By letting Structure (Top Dog) and Expression (Underdog) talk to each other and integrate their needs, then I tend to make better decisions that really address all sides of me.

In my meditation example, I might listen to both sides of the argument and say to Expression, “Okay, how about if we just sit for 5 minutes? If you still want to get up and do something else then, we can.” Or, I might suggest sitting for the full 20 minutes and ask Structure to schedule 40 minutes of expressive, creative play later. Funny as it sounds, it really is like having arguing kids or a fighting young couple in my head and it’s my job to help them understand each other and get along.

Play with this for yourself. Notice when you start having your own internal Wasabi Pea fight. Maybe you are resisting getting up early to go for a run, or you want to cut back on sugar but find that you consistently overeat chocolate, or Ben & Jerry’s keeps winning out over kale. Whatever it is for you, see if you can recognize the two sides of yourself and instead of allowing them to have a knock-down, drag-out, listen to them both compassionately and see what you learn and how everybody can get their needs met.

With a little attention and care, the international aisles of our minds and of Harris Teeters everywhere might be more integrated and peaceful. As always, I’d love to hear how this goes for you!

wasabi peas 1Recently in a Harris Teeter, I was scouring the international section looking hopelessly for toasted sesame oil. As I scanned each shelf, finding everything from tamari to sweet and sour sauce, rice noodles to seaweed snacks, a young couple came down the aisle. This is what I overheard:

She: Okay, so would you like some spaghetti? That’s inexpensive and…
He: Hey! Wasabi Peas!! I love wasabi peas! Let’s get some.
She: No, we’re not getting wasabi peas. They’re expensive and you’ll eat them in one second. What about the spaghetti? Do you want spaghetti?
He: No, I want wasabi peas. Here’s another kind, I haven’t had these before. Let’s get these.
She: No, we’re not getting wasabi peas! We only have $40 to spend and we’re not buying an expensive snack that isn’t even that good for you.
He: (picking up another container of wasabi peas) Yeah, I want some wasabi peas.

I don’t know exactly how the conversation continued, since (still without any sesame oil) I moved on to the condiments aisle. But later, when the couple came up behind us in the checkout line, there in their cart was a box of spaghetti and a 12-pack of Corona, and a big can of wasabi peas.

My stomach hurt a little after overhearing their fight. At first, my discomfort was just at the sadness of conflict in a relationship. I’ve had variations on the Wasabi Pea Fight with lovers, children, and friends, for sure, and it never feels good. Neither side is listening, just butting against each other. As I sat with it, though, what hit even closer to home was that I have the Wasabi Pea Fight in my own head all the time.

In my mind, probably several times a day, there is a fight between the structured and disciplined side of me vs. the expressive, creative side of me. The two of them argue almost exactly like the couple. So for example, Structure & Discipline wants me to meditate every day for 20 minutes. She knows that when I do this, I am more balanced all day, more focused, and happier. She knows it’s good for me to sit every day. Expression & Creativity, on the other hand, hates to be tied down into sitting regularly. She’d rather have the freedom to do what she wants: maybe have another cup of tea, or listen to some music, or fiddle around on Facebook. So the two sides of me have a big, fat Wasabi Pea Fight right there in the international aisle of my mind.

We all have these two sides – Structure and Expression — that tend to butt up against each other and seem constantly at odds with each other. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how Fritz Perls described these two forces in Gestalt Therapy and how to shift the conversation. In the meantime, let me know what your two sides are arguing about today.

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