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curiosity brain scanA friend had a brain tumor. I thought that just happened on soap operas. Evidently not. She told me that it was scary (well, yeah, I said) but that the medical science of scanning her brain and doing the surgery were fascinating to her. She was curious about everything they were doing and how they were doing it. She looked at all the pictures of her gray matter and asked lots of questions. My friend was still shaken by her experience, for sure, but her curiosity shifted it from just frightening to a deeper connection. And yes, she’s fine now.

Berglandia continues 013In-law family holiday celebration in northern Minnesota.
Sub- sub- sub-zero temperatures.
No walks on the river.

Instead I dance in the basement.

I brought the Nia HQ routine Fly on a whim.
Moving to it every day
I feel strong and flexible.
I feel crisp and fluid.
I feel awesome.

In this new year, I ask you, not what is your resolution.
Rather, how do you want to feel?
What do you intend to feel more often?

Peace. Strength. Relaxation. Courage. Creativity. Playfulness. Power. Excitement. Love.

What?

Before making choices this year inquire: will this bring more of that feeling?

inquiry 1This week, we focused on Inquiry in my classes:  allowing ourselves to experience both the pleasurable (in which case the inquiry was around how to sustain and increase that sensation) or painful/uncomfortable (in which case, we inquired into the suffering without needing to fix or change it).  Often when we sense something uncomfortable or painful, we treat it with distain, irritation or criticism…or we ignore it.  The invitation of Inquiry is to meet those difficult things with kindness, tenderness, and gentleness. In several classes, I mentioned the possibility of using the self-befriending words of Buddhist master Thich Nhất Hạnh:  “Darling, I care about this suffering.”  I’ve been saying this to myself often this week (since I confess I find myself pushing away uncomfortable feelings almost contantly!) and I’m finding some ease there.

I hope you do, too.

Love,

Susan

Inquiry – Monday, January 7, 2013, 1045am

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – 5:48 – Paul Simon

All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints – 3:15 – Paul Simon

Prelude to the End of the Game – 0:21 – Sting

The Obvious Child – 4:10 – Paul Simon

Graceland – 4:51 – Paul Simon

I Know What I Know – 3:13 – Paul Simon

The Boy in the Bubble – 3:59 – Paul Simon

Prelude to the End of the Game – 0:21 – Sting

You Can Call Me Al – 4:40 – Paul Simon

Crazy Love, Volume II – 4:19 – Paul Simon

Gumboots – 2:45 – Paul Simon

Prelude to the End of the Game – 0:21 – Sting

Can’t Run But – 3:37 – Paul Simon

So Beautiful Or So What – 4:09 – Paul Simon

Born At The Right Time – 3:48 – Paul Simon

Spirit Voices – 3:56 – Paul Simon

Prelude to the End of the Game – 0:21 – Sting

Under African Skies – 3:37 – Paul Simon

Questions For The Angels – 3:50 – Paul Simon

The Boy In The Bubble – 4:30 – Peter Gabriel

Inquiry – Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 1045am

Snakeroot – 7:58 – Lis Addison

Sun Is Shining (Out Of Sight Remix) – 7:30 – ReUnited

Wide Open Spaces – 3:46 – Dixie Chicks

Walk Into The Sun – 5:21 – Dirty Vegas

Moon & Sun – 6:02 – Dalminjo Fjörd Fusioneer

Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) – 6:23 – Afterlife

What I Be – 4:45 – Michael Franti & Spearhead

Release Yourself (DJ Tampinhas Remix) – 5:48 – Antoine Clamaran

Bodyrock – 3:36 – Moby

City Knows Your Name  – 4:59 – Chris Coco

Questions – 4:10 – Jack Johnson

Horizon – 4:00 – Garth Stevenson

Inquiry – Thursday, January 10, 2013, 9am

A Thousand Beautiful Things – 3:07 – Annie Lennox

Pavement Cracks – 5:10 – Annie Lennox

Marisi – 6:33 – Cantoma

Nostalgia Worship – 6:46 – Bassnectar

September – 3:36 – Earth, Wind & Fire

Drive By – 3:16 – Train

Ali Click – Trance Mix – 7:29 – Brian Eno

Stairway To Heaven – 8:03 – Led Zeppelin

Everloving – 3:26 – Moby

Lie to Me – 4:11 – Jonny Lang

Stolen Car – 3:58 – Sting

Father I Know (Mix 1) – 3:08 – Jamie Catto

Cold – 4:22 – Annie Lennox

Inquiry – Friday, January 11, 2013, 9am

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – 5:48 – Paul Simon

Living In The Moment – 3:55 – Jason Mraz

The Obvious Child – 4:10 – Paul Simon

Drifting Away (Paradiso Mix) – 5:07 – Faithless

I Know What I Know – 3:13 – Paul Simon

Drop – 4:56 – Cornelius

You Can Call Me Al – 4:40 – Paul Simon

So Beautiful Or So What – 4:09 – Paul Simon

Stairway To Heaven – 8:03 – Led Zeppelin

Everloving – 3:26 – Moby

Spirit Voices – 3:56 – Paul Simon

Under African Skies – 3:37 – Paul Simon

The Boy In The Bubble – 4:30 – Peter Gabriel

inquiry 2Focus Pocus:  The Magic of Inquiry and Intent.

Inquiry seeks truth, information, knowledge.  Inquiry -> curiosity -> focused attention -> distraction-resistant mind.  Undistracted minds are calm and creative.  Good.

In Nia, inquire into your experience of sensation, movement.  Tweak as needed to sustain and increase pleasure.

The spirit of inquiry offers space.

“In between stimulus and response is a space.  In that space lies our power and freedom to choose.  How we wield those choices determines our happiness.”  — Viktor Frankl

Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness offers space.  Highly recommended.

Does inquiry shift intense, uncomfortable situations or repetitive, familiar ones?  Do tell!

inquiry 1As I helpfully pointed out last week, the title of this blog is “Focus Pocus:  The Magic of Inquiry and Intent.”  I’d love to tell you that to come up with the name, I researched and did focus groups and hired a marketing consultant.  Actually, it came to me like a hiccup as I drove over the Spudnuts Bridge on the way to teach class.

Not a terribly sophisticated process, I grant you, but it’s a good name and I believe in it.

Last week, I wrote about Intent, and some of you shared your intentions (thank you for that!).  Intent is the fuel for what we do.  Intent is WHY we do what we do.

Inquiry?

So what about Inquiry?

Inquiry means (among other things) a seeking or request for truth, information or knowledge.  Inquiry presumes some amount of curiosity.  Curiosity provides some amount of focused attention.  Focused attention trains the mind to resist distraction.  An undistracted mind is calm and creative.  So inquiry is really about directing the energy of the mind in a calm and creative way.  Worth pursuing, I must say (to quote Ed Grimley)!

Inquiry in Nia

In Nia, our inquiry is the mind’s exploration and investigation of the body’s experience.  When an instructor (invoking Principle 13) says, “Everybody sense your feet,” it is an invitation to inquire into your experience of your feet.  When we do a repeated movement, the invitation is to inquire into your body’s experience of that movement – and how you can tweak it to sustain and increase pleasure.  When emotions come up, these too are invitations to inquire and investigate the sensations and experience (no need to analyze!).

Inquiry in Life

The practice of inquiry isn’t limited to Nia class, though.  Approaching all experiences in the spirit of inquiry can offer a bit of space between ourselves and our sensations, thoughts and emotions.  That space, in turn, gives us time to respond with curiosity and creativity.  To simply to be present with what is happening.  The truth is, that although I resist this truth, the truth really is that everything changes and mostly we don’t have to do anything but simply observe.

The Wheel of Awareness

Dan Siegel, psychiatrist, researcher, author and award-winning educator, created a practice of inquiry called The Wheel of Awareness.  Dr. Siegel’s Wheel practice begins with the image of sitting at the bottom of the ocean where all is calm, quiet and peaceful.  At the surface of the ocean, storms may be raging or waves crashing, but we are observing those movements from the stillness of the ocean depth.  The practice is then to turn attention, shift the dial of awareness, to various experiences:  the breath, physical sensation, thoughts and emotions, connections with others and even awareness itself.  This curious inquiry is one that allows investigation without needing to change or fix any experience that is occurring.  The wheel gives us the opportunity to “change the channel” rather than getting stuck on one experience or another.  Dr. Siegel’s Wheel demonstrates we do have the ability to observe but not get tangled in what is happening.  Rather than bobbing like a cork on a turbulent sea, we can sit a bit apart and watch what is happening on the surface.  At the same time, The Wheel of Awareness practice can offer insights and clarity into an otherwise muddled or stormy situation.

Inquiry!

In class and in life this week, inquire into your experience and see what you observe.  Resist the temptation to change, fix, analyze or understand.  Simply notice and respond with calm, curious interest.  See how inquiry can shift either intense or uncomfortable situations as well as repetitive, familiar or even boring ones.  As always, I love LOVE to hear about how you are using this and what you notice as you practice.

Focus Pocus, y’all!

intention 3As you probably know, the name of this blog is “Focus Pocus:  The Magic of Inquiry and Intent.”  After a year of writing it, I realize that it’s a misnomer.  There is no magic in inquiry and intent – only power.  Inquiry is our willingness to dive in, explore and investigate.  Intent is the fuel behind what we do.  Intent is the direction that we go.  If it’s a conscious intent, we will go where we want to go.  If it’s an unconscious intent, we’ll go where we happen to go.  Intention’s not magic, but it has the potential to guide us to where we want to be.

What am I putting into my GPS?

The thing is, usually, I’m not conscious or clear about what my intent is.  I am so driven by habit and conditioning, that I do what I do without thinking too precisely about WHY I am doing it!  Even when I do think about why, my intentions are rarely well-defined about the outcome I want.  It’s like getting in the car and typing just any ol’ thing into my GPS.  I might end up somewhere great but if I do, it wasn’t because I gave it any thought or planning.

Nia Cycle 1:  Focus and Intent

In Cycle 1 of every Nia class, the instructor sets the focus and intent.  The focus is what we place our attention on:  it may be a body part or a movement or a sensation.  The intent is the why:  the result that we want to create.  For example, the focus might be on the feet with the intent of cultivating stability, or the focus could be on the feet with the intent of promoting mobility.  Same focus:  different experiences and outcomes because of a different intent.

In my experience (both in my classes and in others’), the intent often goes unspoken and sometimes even unconsidered.  And this is a missed opportunity.  In my experience, when I direct my intention clearly, I have a much more powerful experience and I get closer to the outcomes I really want.

The Habit of Focus on Focus

But somehow, it’s easy not to do.  Somehow I just find myself driving aimlessly!  As I prepared to return from my sabbatical this fall, I made a commitment to be more clear about my intentions for my classes (and my life choices, too!).  And dang, it’s been a challenging commitment to fulfill.  My habit of thinking a lot about the what and not give so much attention to the why, the result is a habit that dies hard.

Not to worry, though, it’s all a practice!  Tomorrow, I’ll post Part II in which we’ll look at simple ways to frame an intent to make it positive and effective!  Stay tuned!  See you tomorrow!

When I was in Texas re-doing the Nia Blue Belt, most mornings I got up early to run in the (usually already-humid) morning air.  On the long Soma Ranch drive, I saw birds and rabbits, deer and donkeys (the latter gave me quite the robust morning salutations) and a couple of times; I saw a beautiful box turtle hanging out on the side of the drive.  She paused there as if wondering if she could make it across the road before the people woke up and started driving their cars.

I love turtles in part because they seem so implacable and cool, and in part given the depth of their imagery in our culture.  The turtle often represents wisdom, self-sufficiency, persistence, patience and risk-taking.  Turtles have been with me throughout my sabbatical and in the next three Focus Pocus posts, I’m going to Talk Turtle:  Turtle In, Turtle Out and Turtle GO (that is, introspection, risk-taking and persistence).

The day I returned home from Blue Belt, my husband and step-son left for a week-long trip to Haiti to do a service project.  They were taking off as I was landing, so I didn’t see them before they left.  I told my friend and Nia trainer, Helen Terry how much I missed them and how sad I felt at the thought of a week at home alone.  She kindly reminded me that our teacher and Nia co-founder, Carlos AyaRosas, invited us to take “Turtle Time.”  He suggested that Turtle Time — taking time to go inward, be quiet and process, especially after a stimulating, complex or rich experience — is helpful and even essential to integrate and embody it.

Turtle Time.  I remember stories that Carlos would tell about taking time to tuck in and see what came through.  The original experience, he said, may well have been full of learning and information and Turtle Time can offer further refinement and insight.

So without planning it, I had some Turtle Time.  I never would have chosen it, and there is was:  a week alone.  With Carlos in mind, I didn’t plan a whole lot.  It was strange to be on my own so much and it was sometimes lonely…and it was great.  The number of realizations and clarifications that either came to me or that I sorted out were astonishing.  Don’t get me wrong, I was literally standing in the driveway waiting when their car pulled in.  I had missed them terribly and I was ready for them to be home.  And the Universe was smarter than I to arrange things to give me some Turtle Time.

First, I realize that Turtle Time gets back to the practice of mindfulness and meditation that I’ve been writing about in Focus Pocus for months.  Meditation teachers often use the imagery of the startled or stimulated mind as a pond that has been stirred up.  In the stirred-up state, leaves and dirt and mud are all swirling in the water, and if we just let it be still for a while, all of the crap settles down and the water itself is clear again.  That happened for me during that week of Turtle Time:  the simple act of quieting down allowed me to see and think and process more clearly.

Second, when I have “flooded” myself with ideas and experiences, when I have allowed myself to take in a variety of sensations, I find that I’m ripe for drawing insight and connection.  After I’ve saturated myself with receiving and I get quiet and grounded, I get clarity.  I have conversations with the people who ask the right questions.  I read a blog that sparks a connection.  I hear a song and the lyrics explain something that I didn’t understand before.  When I look for what is essential with the intention of clarifying, there it is.

Quieting the mind helps me find clarity.  And “flooding” myself with experience makes the soil ripe for receiving insight.  And there is something else that’s happening in Turtle Time.  Something unseen and a little bit magic.  Maybe a lot magic.

In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho wrote, “And when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  I love that, “the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  Have you ever felt this?  In the past few weeks, I have.  Almost as if little wings are flapping and gears are turning to help me get what I need and know what I need to know.

I know, I know.  It can sound kind of woo-woo and at the very least, counter-intuitive.  How would “turtle-ing” in help us make connections and have insights about our outward circumstances?  How is it that wanting something and focusing on it sets unseen forces into motion to help make it so?  It sounds crazy … and this has been my experience.  This is the magic of inquiry and intent:  preparing the soil, planting lots of seeds and then getting quiet, settling down and waiting for what shows up.

So give yourself some Turtle Time this week.  Even if it’s just five minutes of settling down and getting quiet and seeing what grows.  It may feel self-indulgent, or pointless.  And I think it’s worth experimenting.  My experience is that Turtle Time is a powerful and direct way to get to the heart of the matter.

Turtle In!

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