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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?

intention 2Happy New Year, Everybody!  Below are the playlists from the Intent classes this week.  If you haven’t already, I’d love to hear your intent or your One Little Word for 2013!  Do share it in the comments section!  (My word for the year is SPACIOUS.)

In several classes, I shared this poem by May Sarton:

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

“New Year Resolve” by May Sarton, from Collected Poems 1930-1993. © W.W. Norton & Co., 1993.

May 2013 be happy, healthy and uncluttered.

Love, Susan

Intent – Monday, December 31, 2012, 1045am

Say – 3:51 – John Mayer

Living In The Moment – 3:55 – Jason Mraz

Africa Bamba – 4:45 – Santana

Corazon Espinado – 4:38 – Santana

Nungabunda – 6:20 – Ganga Girl

Shadowman – 6:36 – Afro Celt Sound System

Raag Trance – 5:32 – Biddu

Unwritten – 4:19 – Natasha Bedingfield

Free – 4:09 – Illumine

Where the Story Ends… – 5:44 – Shantel

What a Year for a New Year – 4:06 – Dan Wilson

Horizon – 4:00 – Garth Stevenson

Intent – Wednesday, January 2, 2013, 1045am

Use Me                – 3:44 – Bill Withers

Cookie – 5:03 – Candy Dulfer

Mr. Slim – 4:06 – Candy Dulfer

What Does It Take – 4:18 – Candy Dulfer

Soullala – 4:08 – Candy Dulfer

I’m the One – 3:51 – Candy Dulfer

Island Lady – 4:56 – Candy Dulfer

Dance Til You Bop – 5:10 – Candy Dulfer

Fever (Adam Freeland Extended Remix) – 7:03 – Sarah Vaughan

2025 – 4:45 – Candy Dulfer

So Cool – 5:43 – Candy Dulfer

Because – 2:22 – Elliott Smith

What a Year for a New Year – 4:06 – Dan Wilson

Intent – Thursday, January 3, 2013, 9am

We Are All Connected – 7:07 – Magic Sound Fabric

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

Lovers House – 4:49 – City Reverb

Find It (Featuring Farda P.) – 5:46 – Rodney Hunter

City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) – 5:53 – City Reverb

Star Power (Rui Da Silva Remix) – 7:56 – City Reverb

Shakin’ It Up – 6:15 – Ganga Girl

Tamacun – 3:26 – Rodrigo y Gabriela

Bodyrock – 3:36 – Moby

Shine – 4:12 – Joshua

100 Billions Stars – 5:10 – Lux

What a Year for a New Year – 4:06 – Dan Wilson

Intent – Friday, January 4, 2013

Snakeroot – 7:58 – Lis Addison

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

Mr. Slim – 4:06 – Candy Dulfer

Walk Into The Sun – 5:21 – Dirty Vegas

Moon & Sun – 6:02 – Dalminjo Fjörd

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

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

Fever (Adam Freeland Extended Remix) – 7:03 – Sarah Vaughan

Bodyrock – 3:36 – Moby

City Knows Your Name – 4:59 – Chris Coco

What a Year for a New Year – 4:06 – Dan Wilson

Horizon – 4:00 – Garth Stevenson

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 4It’s pretty simple.  Not even sure 100 words are needed.  Intent is the fuel.  Intent is the direction we are pointing ourselves.  Intent is our GPS of Your Life.  Intent is the why of what we do; the result we want to create.  What is the most important and beautiful intention of your body, your mind, your heart?  An intent is worth setting.

To set an intent:  get clear, write it down, make it important, make it positive and in the present tense, and put yourself in it.  Then share it!

Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to each other.  Happy 2013.

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!

To begin, a little Buddha paraphrasing:

Life is full of suffering.  The cause of suffering is holding on or pushing away.  Freedom from suffering comes when we let go.  Or, the cause of all suffering is wanting things to be different than they are.  To let go of that resistance is to let go of suffering.

Imagine you stop to buy some apples at a roadside stand.  You’re in a hurry, but you love Staymans and you figure you can be on your way in 5 minutes.  After scooping up the apples, a man steps to the cashier just before you.  He pats his pockets to find his wallet.  He’s forgotten tomatoes and goes to find them.  He chats with the cashier about the weather.  He counts out nickels and pennies.  You think your hair will melt with impatience.

The Sensation of Suffering

We’ve all been there.  Things are not going the way we want them to go and we suffer mightily.  When you are in that state of suffering, what do you sense in your body?  What is the physical sensation of suffering?

In my experience, when I am suffering, when I want things to be different than they are, somewhere in my body I am holding tension.  Tension is the physical manifestation of suffering.  And when I am tense, my mind is unclear and my heart is closed.

When it comes right down to it, what I want to learn in my life and practice is to let go.  I don’t mean to “let my body go” – I do my best to keep my body as healthy and fit as I can.  And I don’t mean to be a passive doormat – letting go does not mean that we can’t ask for and work for change.  I mean to let go of chronic tension and holding so I can be open to life and all the people (and beings) in it.

Miracle & Wonder Intent

Last week, my post was about the focus of the Miracle & Wonder routine.  The Focus (what we do and where we place our attention) is on ankles and wrists.  The intent (what we want to happen as a result of the focus) of the Miracle & Wonder routine is to relax the body and open the heart.

This may seem like a leap:  from ankles and wrists to an open heart.  But, the four joints of ankles and wrists are common places to hold chronic, oft-unnoticed tension.  By mindfully moving the joints in varied ways, I can release tension and free up energy, not just in my extremities but in my whole body.  As I let go of physical tension, my mind is clearer and my heart can open.

Letting Go Through the Body

In her lovely dharma talk, “Letting Go Through the Body,” Debra Chamberlin-Taylor tells about a turbulent landing on a flight into Albuquerque.  She’d made the trip many times and knew that turbulence was normal.  Nonetheless, she noticed that her belly clenched — as if the tension in her gut would hold the plane in the air!  As she consciously released her belly grip, her awareness expanded to the terrified women in the next row.  As she let go, she was able to open her heart to those around her.

Think of a time when you were irritated or angry and things were not going the way you wanted.  In that moment, how open were you to others?  Were you able to be kind to yourself and to those around you?  I know that when I feel anxious or threatened even in a small way, my perception narrows and my body, mind and heart tighten up.

Let. It. Go.

The mindful movement of Nia offers a possibility: in moments of tension and suffering, we can let go and make a different choice.  Using awareness, we have the opportunity to notice layers of tension that we unknowingly carry around.  As we release tension, we naturally allow our minds and hearts to let go, too.

Our physical, mental and emotional selves are deeply intertwined.  By letting go of physical holding, we can let go of our minds and hearts.  Whether you are dancing with me or not this week, see if you can become aware of even small holdings of tension and mindfully make a choice to let them go.

If suffering is tension, and letting go of tension is freedom from suffering, maybe it’s not such a leap after all:  move your ankles and wrists to open your heart!

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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