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Tag Archives: James Clear

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! As you may have noticed, I’ve been rolling the two weekly FocusPocus posts (art and content on Sundays, playlists and announcements on Thursdays) into one complete post. 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 week on Thursdays, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

The world is big and full of everything. So much is happening and most of it feels chaotic and cataclysmic. What can I possibly do that would make a difference? (I wrote a Facebook essay/post about what has been on my mind and heart about this. You can read it here.)

Our lives are big and full of everything. So much is happening. It can be joyful and exciting and terrifying and crazy. When I was a kid, I thought adults always knew what to do. Now I’m adult (and have been one for a while), I know that adults are just kids in a bigger outfit.

When I feel overwhelmed, when the project feels unwieldy, when I don’t know what to do. When I think that whatever I do doesn’t matter, when I feel myself zoning out or numbing out, first breathe. Then ask: what’s one thing I could do? What’s one step I could take? What’s one choice that would move me in the direction I want to go?

Life is big. It takes courage to be making our way through it. And in every moment, just breathe and do one thing.

Here’s an interesting question from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits,

Can my current habits carry me to my desired future?

And a reminder from basketball great, John R. Wooden,

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

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!

And friends, I am always ALWAYS looking for new music. Do you have a song that you love to move to or that moves you? I’d love to know what it is! Please respond in the comments below or email me at sjmnia@gmail.com!

Before the playlists, here is the scoop on a whole slew of great things happening this summer!

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings ~~ 9am on Aug 29 and 11am in September and beyond!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 9am on Aug 29 and in September and on, 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!

Nia Jam: Balance is a Verb ~ Saturday, September 21, 1230-145pm at acac Albemarle Square Studio A with Susan & Jeanne (No Nia 101 and class will start at 1230!)
Balance isn’t something we have, it’s something we do. Balance is a constant dance of push and pull, squeeze and release, reach and root. In our fall equinox jam, we’ll focus on balance in the body and in particular in shoulders and hips. Jeanne & Susan will play with all the balances that happen between upper/lower, left/right, front/back, diagonal lines as well as fast/slow, challenge/recuperation, sharp/fluid and everything in between. Please note that there will be no Nia 101 and that the jam will begin at 1230! And don’t forget, you can bring a friend for FREE so grab a buddy and join us!

Saturday September 28, 9-12noon – Moving & Writing with Light: Nourishing Body & Eyes with Susan & Rebecca
Susan & Rebecca offer a morning to expand your perspective on two things that everybody has: a body and a smartphone. The word “photography” means “writing with light.” A photo isn’t a copy of something— it’s a story written *by light*! And light is weaving stories all around us, all the time. Using the simple cameras that we all carry —the ones in our phones! — we’ll play with the stories of light around us and experience how changing our perspectives can change everything. Susan will weave movement and mindfulness into the morning to practice being with light & shadow. No experience in photography or movement needed, just bring a phone or tablet with a built-in camera and your body. No experience with movement or photography is needed or expected. If you like, from 12-2pm, bring a lunch and savor it on the porch, on the bench overlooking the river or on a rock in the middle of it. $75. Register at http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop.

Saturday October 26, 9-12noon – Nourishing the Nervous System with Mindful Movement
NOTE from Susan: I am thrilled, honored, excited to welcome Emily Wright to teach at Dancing Water. She is an extraordinary, approachable, gifted teacher. I can’t wait to do this with her. Will you join me?
The body is a central portal to nervous system regulation. When we are regulated and integrated, we have the capacity to be our most awake, available, creative, curious, flexible selves. Using a blend of guided movement work, journaling, visual art-making, poetry, and mindfulness practices, participants will explore states of autonomic nervous system regulation as a means to establish safe, nourishing connections to ourselves, each other, and the natural world. $75. Register at http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop.
About the instructor:
Emily Wright, MFA, PhD, is a movement educator, author, and practitioner. She offers classes and workshops in functional movement, contact improvisation, and intergenerational community dance informed by her extensive background in dance and other somatic disciplines.

Nia resumes in Studio A at acac downtown
Nia is back in Studio A at acac downtown:
Mondays 4:15–5:15pm ~ Rachel
Wednesdays 6-7pm ~ Jeanne
Fridays 9-10:10am ~ Loring
Saturdays 9-10:10am ~ Anne
Sundays 3:30-4:30pm ~ Anne
PLUS
at acac Albemarle Square, Tuesdays 12-1pm Nia Moving to Heal ~ Rachel (starting Sept 3)

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom ~ Video Series with Cecily Armstrong
Over the past few years I’ve been inspired and energized by the teaching and guidance of Cecily Armstrong. She is so generous with her offerings ~ her latest is a three-part video workshop Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom. If you’ve ever felt confused about how best to nourish yourself and live your healthiest, happiest life, Cecily offers amazing insights. You can sign up for the video series here. And/or you can get access to a longer 1-hour on-line workshop with Cecily here! https://cecilyarmstrong.com/decoding-your-bodys-wisdom-workshop/

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom [optin]

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Sep 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, Sep 6 from 11:25 -12:25.

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

Monday, Aug 26, 2019, 1045am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
A Go Go (Boozoo Bajou Mix) 5:47 Truby Trio
Galactivation 4:41 Shakatura
Each Step Moves Us On [Feat. Zap Mama & Speech] 8:34 1 Giant Leap
Blue 6:29 LaTour
Riding the Waves 6:35 Afro Celt Sound System
Better Man 5:21 Playing For Change
Windmills Of Your Mind 4:17 Sting
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Tuesday, Aug 27, 2019, 840am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
A Go Go (Boozoo Bajou Mix) 5:47 Truby Trio
Galactivation 4:41 Shakatura
Blue 6:29 LaTour
Riding the Waves 6:35 Afro Celt Sound System
Better Man 5:21 Playing For Change
Windmills Of Your Mind 4:17 Sting
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2019, 11am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
Each Step Moves Us On [Feat. Zap Mama & Speech] 8:34 1 Giant Leap
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Wristband 3:18 Paul Simon
The Wait 3:36 The Pretenders
Fly 3:33 Bart Hafeman
Lovetown 5:29 Peter Gabriel
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Light 4:29 The Album Leaf

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019, 9am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ One Thing

The Spirit of the Earth Continues (Floating Earth Remix) 6:32 Cybertribe
Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
Each Step Moves Us On [Feat. Zap Mama & Speech] 8:34 1 Giant Leap
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Wristband 3:18 Paul Simon
Fly 3:33 Bart Hafeman
Lovetown 5:29 Peter Gabriel
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Light 4:29 The Album Leaf

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NIA?

For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at http://www.nianow.com…
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!

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! As you may have noticed, I’ve been rolling the two weekly FocusPocus posts (art and content on Sundays, playlists and announcements on Thursdays) into one complete post. 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 week on Thursdays, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

The world is big and full of everything. So much is happening and most of it feels chaotic and cataclysmic. What can I possibly do that would make a difference? (I wrote a Facebook essay/post about what has been on my mind and heart about this. You can read it here.)

Our lives are big and full of everything. So much is happening. It can be joyful and exciting and terrifying and crazy. When I was a kid, I thought adults always knew what to do. Now I’m adult (and have been one for a while), I know that adults are just kids in a bigger outfit.

When I feel overwhelmed, when the project feels unwieldy, when I don’t know what to do. When I think that whatever I do doesn’t matter, when I feel myself zoning out or numbing out, I do my best to pause, to breathe. Then ask: what’s one thing I could do? What’s one step I could take? What’s one choice that would move me in the direction I want to go? As Glennon Doyle said, “Just do the next right thing one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.”

Life is big. It takes courage to be making our way through it. And in every moment, just breathe and do one thing.

Here’s an interesting question from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits,

Can my current habits carry me to my desired future?

And here’s a quote that’s been helping me this week from basketball great, John Wooden,

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

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!

And friends, I am always ALWAYS looking for new music. Do you have a song that you love to move to or that moves you? I’d love to know what it is! Please respond in the comments below or email me at sjmnia@gmail.com!

Before the playlists, here is the scoop on a whole slew of great things happening this summer!

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings ~~ 9am on Aug 29 and 11am in September and beyond!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 9am on Aug 29 and in September and on, 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!

Labor Day Nia with Susan at acac Albemarle Square ~ Monday, September 2, 1045-12noon
It’s Labor Day on September 2! As summer winds down and life transitions toward fall, please join Susan for nourishing mindful movement at her regular class time and place on Labor Day: Monday, September 2, 1045-12noon at acac Albemarle Square.

Guest Teaching for Jeanne! ~ Thur, September 5, 840-940am acac downtown
I’m delighted to be jumping in to teach for Jeanne on Thursday morning next week! An extra opportunity to move together!

Nia Jam: Balance is a Verb ~ Saturday, September 21, 1230-145pm at acac Albemarle Square Studio A with Susan & Jeanne (No Nia 101 and class will start at 1230!)
Balance isn’t something we have, it’s something we do. Balance is a constant dance of push and pull, squeeze and release, reach and root. In our fall equinox jam, we’ll focus on balance in the body and in particular in shoulders and hips. Jeanne & Susan will play with all the balances that happen between upper/lower, left/right, front/back, diagonal lines as well as fast/slow, challenge/recuperation, sharp/fluid and everything in between. Please note that there will be no Nia 101 and that the jam will begin at 1230! And don’t forget, you can bring a friend for FREE so grab a buddy and join us!

Saturday September 28, 9-12noon – Moving & Writing with Light: Nourishing Body & Eyes with Susan & Rebecca
Susan & Rebecca offer a morning to expand your perspective on two things that everybody has: a body and a smartphone. The word “photography” means “writing with light.” A photo isn’t a copy of something— it’s a story written *by light*! And light is weaving stories all around us, all the time. Using the simple cameras that we all carry —the ones in our phones! — we’ll play with the stories of light around us and experience how changing our perspectives can change everything. Susan will weave movement and mindfulness into the morning to practice being with light & shadow. No experience in photography or movement needed, just bring a phone or tablet with a built-in camera and your body. No experience with movement or photography is needed or expected. If you like, from 12-2pm, bring a lunch and savor it on the porch, on the bench overlooking the river or on a rock in the middle of it. $75. Register at http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop.

Saturday October 26, 9-12noon – Nourishing the Nervous System with Mindful Movement
NOTE from Susan: I am thrilled, honored, excited to welcome Emily Wright to teach at Dancing Water. She is an extraordinary, approachable, gifted teacher. I can’t wait to do this with her. Will you join me?
The body is a central portal to nervous system regulation. When we are regulated and integrated, we have the capacity to be our most awake, available, creative, curious, flexible selves. Using a blend of guided movement work, journaling, visual art-making, poetry, and mindfulness practices, participants will explore states of autonomic nervous system regulation as a means to establish safe, nourishing connections to ourselves, each other, and the natural world.
About the instructor:
Emily Wright, MFA, PhD, is a movement educator, author, and practitioner. She offers classes and workshops in functional movement, contact improvisation, and intergenerational community dance informed by her extensive background in dance and other somatic disciplines.

Nia resumes in Studio A at acac downtown
Nia is back in Studio A at acac downtown:
Mondays 4:15–5:15pm ~ Rachel
Wednesdays 6-7pm ~ Jeanne
Fridays 9-10:10am ~ Loring
Saturdays 9-10:10am ~ Anne
Sundays 3:30-4:30pm ~ Anne
PLUS
at acac Albemarle Square, Tuesdays 12-1pm Nia Moving to Heal ~ Rachel (starting Sept 3)

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom ~ Video Series with Cecily Armstrong
Over the past few years I’ve been inspired and energized by the teaching and guidance of Cecily Armstrong. She is so generous with her offerings ~ her latest is a three-part video workshop Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom. If you’ve ever felt confused about how best to nourish yourself and live your healthiest, happiest life, Cecily offers amazing insights. You can sign up for the video series here. And/or you can get access to a longer 1-hour on-line workshop with Cecily here! https://cecilyarmstrong.com/decoding-your-bodys-wisdom-workshop/

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom [optin]

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Sep 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, Sep 6 from 11:25 -12:25.

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

Monday, Aug 26, 2019, 1045am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
A Go Go (Boozoo Bajou Mix) 5:47 Truby Trio
Galactivation 4:41 Shakatura
Each Step Moves Us On [Feat. Zap Mama & Speech] 8:34 1 Giant Leap
Blue 6:29 LaTour
Riding the Waves 6:35 Afro Celt Sound System
Better Man 5:21 Playing For Change
Windmills Of Your Mind 4:17 Sting
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Tuesday, Aug 27, 2019, 840am ~ One Thing

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Little By Little 5:30 Groove Armada
A Go Go (Boozoo Bajou Mix) 5:47 Truby Trio
Galactivation 4:41 Shakatura
Blue 6:29 LaTour
Riding the Waves 6:35 Afro Celt Sound System
Better Man 5:21 Playing For Change
Windmills Of Your Mind 4:17 Sting
One Step Closer To You 4:41 Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Essence One 3:24 Jeroen Elfferich

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2019, 11am ~ One Thing

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019, 9am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ One Thing

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NIA?

For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at http://www.nianow.com…
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!

The timing of Thanksgiving — at the precipice of the darkest and coldest days of the year — turns out to be a helpful thing.

Just when the speed of life picks up and the weather closes in, we have the chance to pause and frame it all in the context of gratitude.

Our focus this week was inspired by a recent post by James Clear, one of my favorite bloggers. In it, he suggests that by changing one word, we can shift from being stressed to thankful, from harried to happy. Changing “I have to” to “I get to,” changes everything. It’s a wonderful, perspective-changing post and I hope you’ll read it.

These days, what with building a business as an author and artist, and my husband building us a house and the holidays building in intensity, the list of things I want to accomplish every day is long. Sometimes when I look at everything that is asking for my attention, my head spins…and sometimes I get crabby and resentful.

Recently, I’ve created a practice around my To Do List ~ espeicially when it’s got me feeling a little wobbly in the knees and tight in the heart. I practice looking at each item on the list in one of three ways: Self-Care, Service or Both.

I’m finding that at least one of the categories works for everything. When I’m carving out time for my yoga practice, I remind myself that getting on my mat is an act of self-care. When I’m cleaning the cat box and filling her food bowl, I think of it as an act of service. When I’m planning healthy, whole-food, plant-based meals, I remind myself that the time and effort it takes is an act of self-care for me, and service to anyone I’m feeding.

My favorite scenario is when I find a way for whativer I’m doing to be BOTH self-care and service. This morning, for example, when cleaning out the cat box, I squatted down in such a way as to stretch my hips and low back. Suddenly * BOOM *- the chore which I was doing in service to the Buddha cat ALSO became an act of self-care.

We all have full and busy lives and this season tends to pick up speed, momentum… and stress. See if changing your language from “I have to” to “I get to” changes how your To Do List feels. And while you’re at it, you can experiment with making everything on that list an act of self-care, service…or both.

Thank you, dear reader! I’m grateful for you. Happy Thanksgiving. 

When I teach Nia, here is my habit: I start with the focus. I think about it, read about it, draw and write about it. I post what I come up with here on this blog. Then I create playlists for the week based on that focus, choosing choreography and lyrics and energy that lend themselves to where we’re putting our attention. Then I listen to the music, review or create choreography, and BOOM, I’m ready to teach for the week.

I like it. It works for me. And it is definitely, without question my habit.

Several years ago, I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I found it to be utterly fascinating and I still think about it all the time. I totally recommend the book and you could also read/listen to this NPR interview to get a taste of the science behind how we do what we do. One of the things Duhigg talks about is how much of what we do is habit. Research shows that 40-45% of the choices we make aren’t choices, they are habits. There are excellent reasons for why our brains do this (like efficiency and freeing up space to do more creative things) but it’s worth understanding how habits work so we can make choices about them.

Habits aren’t just fascinating to me but to some of my favorite writers:

James Clear recently wrote about replacing bad habits with better ones (and before that, wrote about how habits work…based on Charles Duhigg’s book!)

Leo Babauta, blogger at Zen Habits writes extensively about habits (obvio from his blog title) so there’s lots to explore on his site but I like his Habit Change Cheatsheet as a starting point.

Seth Godin writes a genius blog with short, wonderful posts. You can see some good ones about habits here, here and here.

In my experience, habit-breaking isn’t just beneficial for the results it can offer (like quitting smoking or meditating regularly or eating more dark leafies). I believe that there are intrinsic benefits to breaking any habitual pattern. Years ago, my friend Marga Odahowski, author of The Way of the Hammock,told me that she would start habits intentionally (chewing gum was the one I remember) in order to then break it. And I think there is something to this.

It is an act of mindful awareness to notice what we are doing and how we are doing it. Do you always step onto the first stair with your dominant foot? Do you always put take your right shoe off first? Do you always dance the same way during freedance? There isn’t anything inherently wrong with doing any of those things and (unlike smoking or eating Hardee’s every day) they aren’t likely to hurt you much. But what if the very choice, the very act of doing something new or doing something old differently has tremendous benefits? Would you be willing to play with the possibility of changing things up?

We’re going to explore neuroplasticity in a future focus (you can read a little about it here and there is lots more to find on the Interwebs) but my short answer is YES. Understanding the way habits work is the first step toward not only building the habits you want to have but also to making your brain stronger and healthier.

So, here’s what I’m doing: I’m breaking my class-preparation habit this week. I’m picking music based on my whim. Then for each class, I will let a focus show up somehow in the time just before class: it might be something someone says to me, something that I see on the drive in, or something that pops into my head as I set up the stereo. It is what it is and we’ll see what it is. For each class, I’ll do a sketch or some piece of art for the focus that arrives. We’ll see what it is and it is what it is.

The idea is that breaking the habit of how I do what I do makes it more than whatever it is.

Focus Gallery

Mon, April 30, 2018, 1045am

Trust. The health of any relationship comes down to the trust that each side has for each other. Think of the relationship you have with a friend, a business, your body, a beloved. What do you trust? What don’t you trust? What is the sensation of trust?

Tue, May 1, 2018, 840am

Chest: the home of the heart. I woke up this morning with a tender, achy heart. A tendency when I feel this way can be to stabilize my chest to protect my hurting heart. Instead, this morning we focused on mobilizing the chest to keep the heart soft and sensation alive rather than numbed. Breathe into the feeling.

Wed, May 2, 2018, 11am

First Chakra. On a physical level, we focused on releasing the low spine/sacrum and engaging the low abdominals. On an energetic level, we focused on the first chakra which resides at the sacrum. The first chakra is the center of security, stability, and your right to take up space in the world. By releasing the low back and engaging the low abdominals, we offer ourselves support from the inside while also resting in the support below us. Any time you accept help or fully relax and let go you are energizing your first chakra.

Thu, May 3, 2018, 840am

Squeeze & Release. Energize and relax your body in the most basic and powerful way. Your heart and lungs and muscles all work in this way. Feel it for yourself.

Especially this time of year and especially as Americans, we can get hyper-focused on goals. “THIS,” I say to myself, “is what I want to achieve/do/be!”

But what if goals actually get in our way more than they get us where we want to go?

Writer James Clear in his article Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on Process Instead, argues that goals actually discourage us and don’t motivate us to keep going. By focusing on the process or the system, we get to what we strive for (and beyond) with more ease and success. Read his great piece here.

I love how Eric Thomas puts it. I can really relate to focusing on falling in love with the process over looking far ahead to a big goal. You can hear him talk about his own story of falling in love with the process here.

OK, so I adulterated the famous Chinese proverb from Lao Tzu a little. But you get the idea. Looking into the future doesn’t help us as much as focusing on what we can do now to get where we want to go. Set up a system and put your energy there. This short video explains it succinctly and persuasively.

Bonus Extra Opportunity to Apply This Wisdom!

Here’s something that you can play with: write down goals for each of the realms – body, mind, emotions & spirit. (This is actually optional, but I find it to be helpful to get to the next step.) THEN write down the processes and systems that will move you little by little, day by day, step by step in that direction. For example, here is mine for my mental realm:

Susan’s System:
Make art every day and share it. Learn new approaches every week – new songs, new drawing materials/exercises, new subject matter. Every week, challenge my habits and learn how to reach more of people who are turned on by what I do.

Susan’s Goal/Mental Realm (again, this is optional, but it’s helpful in creating the system):
I am a professional artist who creates images and experiences that awaken, inspire & delight as many people as possible.

I recommend actually writing these down — even better if you do it with a real pen on actual paper! It changes the brain to do this clearly and explicitly. Then post it somewhere you can see it and put your system into your schedule.

I’d love to hear how this works for you and even examples of your Goals/Systems if you’re willing to share them.

Breathe Deep, my friends. Shine Bright. Show Up.

eye never before never again 070916

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” ― Rachel Carson

I open my eyes, all I see is trees. Overlays of green leaves, columns of gray bark and lemon light. When we travel in our camper, we sleep windows-open-shades-up so when we wake, we see trees –and each others’ sleepy faces.

While traveling, I often think of Rachel Carson’s profound words. Since I’m going to new places, ones to which I am unlikely to return, both things are true: I am often seeing things for the first…and last time.

When we’re in a new place and I know this is the first and last time, I look with more than my eyes: I breathe in the smells, feel the sensations, listen deeply, taste the essence, and with my eyes, I look for all the details I can find.

Look out a window. Imagine this was the first time you’d ever taken in this view or that it was the last. How would that change the way you saw it?

Look at someone you care about, imagine this was the first time you’d ever seen their face or that it was the last. How would that change the way you look at them?

Look at your own hand. Imagine this was the first time you’d ever seen your hand or that you were leaving your body and this was the last. How would that change how you saw your hand, your body?

Never before. Never again. This is a courageous, whole-hearted way of looking at the world that requires the curious, open eyes of the very young and the tender, wise eyes of the very old.

Rachel Carson’s quote is related to the Zen concept of Beginner’s Mind (a previous Focus Pocus post is here and the original lecture from which the concept of Beginner’s Mind comes here). Writer James Clear wrote a nice piece about the concept last week in relationship to learning and mastering something. In it, he warns that expertise and experience can be hindrance that lulls the mind into a trance of “knowing.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen that, I’ve done that, I already know that.”

But have you really?

Clear writes:

The problem is that when you are an expert you actually need to pay more attention, not less. Why? Because when you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a topic, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent.

The same is true for familiarity. When you’ve been somewhere often or done something a lot or lived with someone for decades, you actually need to pay more attention, not less.

So it turns out that going to new places and seeing new things is the easy part. In those situations, it’s natural to open up and really let them in. The real practice begins when we are in the familiar, where we must pay more attention to the things that make up our lives.

For while it may be obvious when you see something for the first time, we rarely know when we are seeing it for the last.

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