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connection confection body sculptureIn nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What is it about Western culture that we see things in isolation? Somehow we think that everything is separate from everything else, or at the very least, that if it works one place, that it will work everywhere.

Hawaiian sugar plantation owners imported the mongoose to the island to kill the rat population. Turns out that mongoose are diurnal and rats are nocturnal, so the two never actually met. But the mongoose did a number on the native bird population in a hurry.

Examples of “separatist thinking” are everywhere:

Importing European rabbits to Australia,
Transplanting Asian kudzu in the southern U.S.
 Attempting to do Trikonasana/Triangle pose with just my legs and not my arms and core
 Imposing the religion of one culture onto another

All these actions demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding about the way things work: healthy systems are balanced. And the balance of every complex system — be it an eco-system, a society, or a human being — is, by its very nature, dependent on interconnectedness and integration. Ignoring interconnection eventually ends in crying and chaos.

Separation is the story we tell ourselves. The truth is that everything – and I mean everything — is connected to everything and everyone else. Indigenous people seem to have a core understanding that we simply cannot separate body from spirit, human beings from nature, or the individual from the society. We could sooner separate the waves from the ocean or the blue from the sky.

Mindful movement works with the interconnection of the body. If you have an injury, say, in your left shoulder, practice moving both sides of your body equally. Even if you have greater range of motion in your right shoulder, practice keeping both sides balanced. Otherwise, some parts get stronger, some get weaker, some get overused, and some get underused. The whole muscular skeletal system can get all kitty-whompus. More than that, though, your mind and emotions receive the message from the body that they are out of whack, not well, injured. And that has an effect not just on the body but the whole person. Moving with balance sends a message of healing.

We can extrapolate this understanding of interconnection to families, organizations, and cultures: even if we ignore the suffering in one part, the rest is negatively affected. The health or illness of any part affects the whole.  It’s time to stop pulling things apart and instead, start drawing them together.

Celebrate connection as the sweet system in which this world exists. Jane Goodall wisely says that “you cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” The choices I make in all areas of my life ripple out all around me.

You are not inconsequential. As you make choices today — about everything from how you move, to what you eat, from how you spend your time, to what you do with your waste, from how you treat your Starbucks barista, to the holiday gifts you purchase — remember that each choice reverberates out. What kind of difference do you want to make?

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unityIntegration is health.

Dan Siegel said it. I love it. His book, Mindsight, rocks.

Any complex system – a human body, a family, a company, a country – is integrated when the parts are both differentiated and linked. Integrated is flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized and stable. Without integration (dis-integration??), systems move into either rigidity or chaos.

My Teacher, Carlos, retired from Nia in 2011. Sigh. His last routine, Humanity, focused on yin and yang. My routine, Unity, integrates his music and mine, his choreography and mine. Student honors Teacher…and lets him go.

Integration. Balance. Harmony.

Unity is within Humanity.

Inlakesh, Carlos.

carlos 1Yesterday, I wrote about how Dr. Dan Siegel’s definition, Integration is health, sparked my imagination and inspired my flagging teaching practice.

In May 2012, at the same time that Dr. Siegel’s gem came to me, I was playing with Carlos Rosas’ Nia routine, Humanity, the last routine he created before he retired in 2011. I wasn’t really planning to learn it or teach it (I didn’t even know if I’d resume teaching) but I’d been dancing it in my living room to see if I could recapture my Joy of Movement. The focus of Humanity is yin and yang, in the sense of masculine and feminine but also polarity and opposites. “When you do this routine,” Carlos says, “you will find and create balance and unity.”

Two inspirations from two teachers merged into the routine I’ll be teaching this week. I call it Unity because, as Carlos points out, “unity” is contained within “humanity.” In Unity, I use a blend of Carlos’ music and mine, a combination of his choreography and mine. The focus of Unity is integration. The intent is to create healthy bodies, minds and relationships through that integration. Beyond that, this routine is meant to be a tribute to my beloved teacher, Carlos, and a launch of my teaching career without him.

As I wrote last week, this routine has been a long time a-comin’. I have worked on it and tweaked it and noodled on it (and looked at it sitting there on my desk) for months and months. Now I am ready to share it.

With this routine (and I dare say in my teaching henceforth), we’ll play with integration of body and mind in general and specifically:
• Right / Left brain – creativity, emotion, spontaneity, and sensation on the right; linear, logical and linguistic on the left
• Upper / Lower brain – the attunement, emotional balance, insight and intuition of the upper/prefrontal brain; and the direct, visceral experience of the lower/limbic brain
• Upper and Lower Body – allowing both parts to be active and engaged either doing the same or different movements
• Left and Right Body – noticing differences between dominant and non-dominant sides, keeping awareness in both
• Internal and External Sensation – taking in the direct experience of the body as well as the information coming from the five senses
• Rhythm and Melody – noticing the unique effect of rhythmic patterns on the body and mind in contrast to the more freeform sounds in melody and the felt sense of musical harmony
Notice that in all of these pairings, one side is not better than the other – in all cases, we need them both. In all of these realms, the intent will be to honor the differences and also open connection between both sides of the polarities.

Whether you are with me on the dance floor this week, or you’re dancing through life somewhere else, I invite you to notice these opposites and see how you might find integration. Whether it’s doodling with your non-dominant hand, or listening to vocal music (an inspiring one or one if you’re feeling a little bit silly) with your full attention, play with integration and feel the harmony and balance. Here’s to integration in all realms!

Dr. Siegel 1Sometimes, an idea finds its way to you … and suddenly things get clear. Your dirty windshield is clean. A window opens in a hot, stuffy room. All at once, things make sense. It hasn’t happened often to me, but when it does? DANG, it rocks.

Eleven months ago, I’d just begun my 4-month Radical Sabbatical. I didn’t know what the future held for my teaching or my practice. After 12 years of leading body~mind movement and mindfulness experiences, I felt confused and uninspired.

One sunny spring morning, I was at the gym working out while listening to a talk by Dr. Daniel Siegel. He’s a psychiatrist and neuroscientist whose interdisciplinary approach to the brain, mind, and mental health has led to scientific breakthroughs as well as a greater overall understanding of brain science. The talk I was listening to was the 2010 Keynote address The Mind, Brain, and Relationships: Integration as a Key to Mental Health (you can download it for free here). In that talk, he said, just as simple as can be:

Integration is health.

It stopped me. I said to myself, “Yes. Yes, of course.”

Since then, I’ve listened to dozens of Dr. Siegel’s talks and read his book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. He is a gifted writer and speaker and his approach to mental health and well-being are revolutionary. But this definition of health as integration is what really inspires me. It is an idea worth building – or rebuilding – a career around.

In Mindsight, Dr. Siegel defines integration as “a process by which separate elements are linked together into a working whole” and as a state essential to well-being in the brain, the mind and in relationships or any system. An integrated system is flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized and stable. Without integration, systems move out of healthy balance and into either rigidity or chaos. Integration is about allowing separate parts to be both differentiated and linked.

Think about any system in your experience: a relationship, your family, a company, your body. That system will be integrated when the parts are clearly differentiated while retaining connection between the parts. So whether it is your feet and hands, your mind and emotions, you and your child, your boss and your colleague, a senator and her constituent, if two things are integrated, they are separate with full, open connection. Without both differentiation and linkage, the system will seize up into rigidity (e.g., compulsive or habitual behavior, incommunicative relationships, panic) or fly apart into chaos (e.g., intrusive thoughts, emotional fights, lashing out in anger).

This week, notice how integration creates harmonious, balanced, healthy systems of all kinds. In your body, mind, emotions, or in your family, friendships, or work life: if things don’t feel balanced and integrated, ask yourself, “Has this system diverged into rigidity or chaos? Are the parts both linked and connected? And how can I open up the flow of energy and information to bring it back into harmony?”

Tomorrow, I’ll share about how this inspiration wove itself into a new routine that I’ll be launching this week. Until then, may all your systems be integrated!

In 7th grade, I owned 2 albums:  Rumors and Boston.

I listened constantly until I knew every word, every note.

As a Nia teacher, I do that!  Nia uses movement to emBODY music.

David Byrne connects movement and music so audiences connect to sounds they might have missed.

SEE the artistry in music.  When I listen with not just ears but my whole body, I integrate body and mind, internal to external.

Notice all music:  in class, on the radio, of traffic, in conversation.  Notice details, nuances — then make magic and connect yourself to what you hear.  Conduct!

Integrate body to sound.

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