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One of my long-time teachers, James Yates says, “To make any life transition, you need three things: support, support, support.”

(And, I would add, since life is just a series of transitions, we all need support all the time.)

Support is all around us and in us. What’s curious is how often we don’t lean into the support that’s available.

The earth itself is always ready to take our full weight and hold us unconditionally. And yet, I find myself not relaxing into this steadfast support. Notice right now, are you?

I have internal resources that I can draw on, too. My physical strength (no matter how ill or injured I am), my very bones, my life force — until my dying breath are all there for me.

We are available to support each other. Know who you can go to for whatever support you need. Who can you go to when you need someone to listen? Who can you go to for advice? Who can you go to for inspiration? Who can you go to for laughter?

It doesn’t matter what you call it: the Universe, Nature, Spirit, God, the Mystery. That which is larger than we are is there to support you, too. Can you trust that this support is available? Can you be awake enough to feel it?

Earth support. Internal support. External support. Spirit support.
Tap into it.

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Lots of juicy, awareness-expanding and heart-stretching dancing this week. Thanks to Helen Terry and Mary Linn for a jamba jam on Friday night. If you couldn’t be with us and would like to offer some love the the Nia Houston community, you can go here.

After seeing the art for this week’s focus, my friend Adrienne sent me this beautiful essay by Thich Nhat Hanh that eloquently explains the Both And principle.

And this is the poem I read in some classes this week:

Surrender by James Yates

Surrendering to all that arises,
Surrendering to the resistance to all that arises,
Letting it have its way with me,
Letting it break my heart open,
Letting it break the barrier between
Me and you,
Mine and yours,
Here and there,
Now and then,
Within and without,
Right and wrong,
Life and death,
Suffering and enlightenment,
Between one and all.

The playlists from the week are below. If you’d like to listen to them, you can find almost all the music on Spotify where you can listen for free! Put the music we dance together with other pieces that lift you up, calm you, and challenge you!

There is so much happening in our vibrant community. Here is a listing of the seriously great things coming up:

CHARLOTTESVILLE WHITE BELT TRAINING public classes
In addition to the training, Helen will be offering classes open to the public at the Parish Hall of the Buck Mountain Episcopal Church in Earlysville (4133 Earlysville Road, Earlysville VA ~ the small white building just past the church). The remaining classes are:
Saturday, Sept 16 6-7pm
Sunday, Sept 17 10-11am
Classes are $15 each or 4/$40

Autumn Equinox Event at Sevenoaks Retreat Center in Madison on September 19
Find Equanimity in these Turbulent Times at an Autumn Equinox Ceremony at Sevenoaks Retreat Center
(403 Pathwork Way, Madison, Va. 22727). Tuesday September 19, 12 noon – 8:00 PM – Come for any or all of the day. Strengthen and ground in this ancient and universal seasonal ritual and remember the inner union and peace that underlie our outer dramas and conflicts.
Remembering our depth will help us weather the storms of Life that disturb the changing surface, but do not touch the eternal Center.

I’m glad to be part of this afternoon/evening celebration. I’ll be teaching the Love Warrior routine from 12:30-1:45pm and there are lots of other offerings to enjoy. The day will include:
Equinox Medicine Wheel Ceremony
Drumming class
“Love Warrior” NIA dance class with Susan (12:30-1:45pm)
Falling into Winter: Dying into Death: A Pathwork Process of Surrender.
Deepen through story into Source–from “Women Who Run With Wolves”
A Quaker/ Meditation Meeting,
Pot-luck supper,
Ending with a Fire Circle.
Come for any or all events.
Contribution requested, but open to everyone. For more information and to register: https://www.sevenoaksretreat.org/events/autumn-equinox-ceremony/

A Day Away: a retreat for you
Take a day to rest, to move and dance, to make something, to eat nourishing food, to be together. On September 30, join me and Rebecca George for a day of self-care and relaxation at the Buck Mountain Episcopal Parish Hall in Earlysville.

Set down whatever you’re carrying, take a breath and feel the restorative power of a day away.

$100. Please register by September 25. Limited to 20 participants.
Checks to SusaNia LLC and mailed to 1255 Sunset Avenue Ext., Charlottesville VA 22903 with indication of any food intolerances or at http://www.susanmcculley.com.

Moving to Heal Nia Training October 8-9 with Jule Aquirre
This training is designed for teachers and non-teachers and will be held on Sat and Sun, October 7 & 8 with trainer Jule Aquirre at the Tango Studio downtown. Designed with the unifying theme of healing, Moving to Heal (MTH) training provides you with the knowledge and skills to deliver and experience therapeutic benefits in the Nia class experience. For more information and to register go to: https://nianow.com/node/1182936
ALSO, Jule will offer a master class on that Saturday (10/7) at the Tango studio at 5:30 pm

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

*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Monday, Sep 11, 2017, 11am ~ Both And

Dark Road 3:49 Annie Lennox
Light You Up 3:51 Shawn Mullins
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco
Reconfluence 6:19 Bob Holroyd
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
Lovers of Light 3:58 Afro Celt Sound System
Dark Moon, High Tide 4:12 Afro Celt Sound System
Long As I Can See the Light 3:16 Marc Cohn
Light 7:22 Hans Zimmer & Johnny Mori

Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017, 840am ~ Both And

Dark Road 3:49 Annie Lennox
Light You Up 3:51 Shawn Mullins
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco
Reconfluence 6:19 Bob Holroyd
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
Lovers of Light 3:58 Afro Celt Sound System
Dark Moon, High Tide 4:12 Afro Celt Sound System
Long As I Can See the Light 3:16 Marc Cohn

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017, 11am ~ Both And

Dark Road 3:49 Annie Lennox
Light You Up 3:51 Shawn Mullins
The Flame 6:51 Deep Dive Corp.
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Down To Love 6:34 Hot Toddy
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
Scare Away the Dark 4:39 Passenger
Let Your Light Shine 4:06 Keb’ Mo’
Put Your Lights On 4:45 Santana Feat. Everlast
Long As I Can See the Light 3:16 Marc Cohn
Light 7:22 Hans Zimmer & Johnny Mori

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017, 840am ~ Both And

Dark Road 3:49 Annie Lennox
Light You Up 3:51 Shawn Mullins
The Flame 6:51 Deep Dive Corp.
Heartbreaker 5:24 Crazy P
Down To Love 6:34 Hot Toddy
Steal Drum 7:07 The Martin Brothers
Let Your Light Shine 4:06 Keb’ Mo’
Put Your Lights On 4:45 Santana Feat. Everlast
Long As I Can See the Light 3:16 Marc Cohn
Light 7:22 Hans Zimmer & Johnny Mori

Friday, Sep 15, 2017, 9am for Anne ~ Both And

Dark Road 3:49 Annie Lennox
Light You Up 3:51 Shawn Mullins
Rafiki (Sidewalk Mix) 6:25 Bob Holroyd
Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp.
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco
Reconfluence 6:19 Bob Holroyd
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
Shining Light 4:32 Annie Lennox
Long As I Can See the Light 3:16 Marc Cohn
Light 7:22 Hans Zimmer & Johnny Mori

Friday, Sep 15, 2017, 7-815pm~ Dance and Donate: Jam for Nia Houston with Mary Linn and Helen

You’ve Got a Friend (feat. Aretha Franklin) 6:02 Tapestry Revisited – Bebe & Cece Winans featuring Aretha Franklin
American Honey 3:45 Lady Antebellum
Drumming Up a Storm 6:01 Bob Holroyd
Texas Flood 5:22 Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
I Feel The Earth Move 5:00 Eternal
Let the Good Times Roll (San Quentin) 5:08 B.B. King Live at San Quentin
We Come Together (Fishy Beat Mix) 3:48 Goldfish Feat. Sakhile Moleshe
Texas Cookin’ 4:25 George Strait
That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas) 4:55 Lyle Lovett
Give A Little Bit 3:36 The Goo Goo Dolls
Dark Waters 4:35 Bob Holroyd
The Water is Wide 3:03 James Taylor
One Voice 3:24 The Wailin’ Jennys

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!

willing-to-feel-012717

“What do you do when you meditate and dance and you still feel angry?”

Her hair is sweaty, her cheeks are pink and her eyes exhausted.

It’s a good question…and I draw a complete blank. What do we do?

Alice Walker said “Hard times call for furious dancing” and heaven knows that’s what I’ve been doing. But the knot in my heart doesn’t seem to shift. The tightness in my belly and the swirl in my brain don’t go away.

As I look into her tired face looking for an answer, what pops into my mind is what my therapist, James Yates says: the only way out is through.

Gah, I hate it when he says that and he says it all the freaking time. I usually roll my eyes and make a face at him since it means I can’t skirt around the pain. I can’t take a pill or say a mantra or distract myself and think it will shift or heal. The bumper sticker truth is: The Only Way to Heal it is to Feel it.

One of the Nia Technique founders, Debbie Rosas told me once that when people ask her about what she does for work, she says, “I teach people to feel.” Which I thought was all woo-woo and gauzy dresses and Enya at the time. But after 17 years of teaching, I see that she is right. Somatic practices like Nia and yoga (and any body~mind method) are all about feeling sensation.

And doesn’t take much self or human observation to notice how much effort we put into avoiding feeling anything.

Maybe it’s natural to do the easiest thing. Water flows down the path of least resistance, why shouldn’t we? Our car seats have gotten cushier and smooshier. Our houses and offices can be heated and cooled to the precise degree. Our sneakers have air pockets, our jeans are prewashed, our fleece jackets are so soft and light that it’s like wearing a warm cloud. In the midst of all this comfort, we spend most of our time denying, avoiding, and running from any intense feeling.

Life has a way of overturning all our ardent efforts to make our days comfortable, easy, and convenient. It doesn’t matter how much money I pour into my custom-made luxuriousness. It doesn’t matter how obsessively I secure myself against difficulty (Check out Evan Osnos’ New Yorker piece, Survival of the Richest on people who are attempting this now.). It doesn’t matter. One way or another, discomfort and challenge will happen. It is the nature of human life.

The question is, how will I handle it when it inevitably arises? The answer lies in how much I’ve practiced being present in the face of difficulty. The skillfulness of my thoughts, words, and actions in adversity comes down to how comfortable I am with discomfort.

“Hard times call for furious dancing.” I’ve always thought that meant that dancing makes it feel better, makes the hardness not so hard. But now I’m realizing that furious dancing allows us to feel.

She asked a good question: what do you do when you’ve practiced and you still feel angry (or sad or afraid or…)? The answer is that practicing Nia or yoga or meditation isn’t meant to make the sensations go away. Practicing is meant to increase our capacity to feel all of it. Since without feeling it, it will never ease, it will never heal.

Dammit if James isn’t right: the only way out is through.


If you enjoyed this post, great! Please share it!
And you might also like this one from November 2013: Voluntary Discomfort

welcome winter 122215
Winter Solstice. Darkness. Light. Cold. Warm. Contrasts abound this week. Thanks to all who took time in this busy season to come out to dance and be together. And to all who join us remotely for music, art, conversation and connection here on the blog. Special thanks to Mary Linn for teaching Embracing Darkness with me early this Christmas Eve morning and for Guy Lushin for generously offering his beautiful voice.

A seed of intention for next week: every year instead of making resolutions about things I think I should or should not be doing, I pick a word to guide my choices for the year. So far:
2011 – Open
2012 – Release
2013 – Spacious
2014 – Worthy
2015 – Freedom

I’m waiting for a word for 2016 to find me. Perhaps you want to be on the lookout for a word for you.

Below are the playlists for the week. You can listen to all the playlists for free on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ ! Sign up for free, follow me at “susanmcculley” and you’ll find my public playlists ~ just click and listen! No matter where you are, we can listen and dance together!

Here are some cool things you want to know about:

• Introduction to Ageless Grace at ACAC Downtown Studio A, Thursday: December 31, 1:30-2:15
Ageless Grace is a fitness and wellness program designed for all ages and abilities. It combines physical activity, brain exercises, imagination and a sense of humor with music to stimulate a sense of pleasure and well-being! It is done seated, making it inviting for those with physical or cognitive limitations, balance concerns, or healing issues. There is no choreography to learn. Movements are easy, natural and organic and varied based on the music! Come experience how we can create lifelong comfort and ease physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Sheila Queen, Ageless Grace Certified Educator, will offer this introductory class December 31, 130-215pm at acac Downtown, Studio A. Members can bring a friend for free.

• Winter Nia Jam: Spiritual High with Anne, Mary Linn & Susan ~ Friday, January 22, 545-7pm at acac downtown
We are returning to the music and focus of a long-ago Nia routine originally created around 1995 by our teacher, Carlos Rosas. Together, we’ll create a new take on the music, movement and magic. Free for members and members can bring a friend for free!

• dance. sit. write. draw. Saturday, January 23, 2016 – Still spaces available!
We’re dancing, sitting and writing again and this time, we’re drawing, too! Join me for a day of exploration at the intersection of movement, stillness and creativity. Find all the information at http://www.susanmcculley.com/workshops-retreats/ and register at http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop/dance-sit-write-draw-day-retreat-1 on http://www.susanmcculley.com

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig
*** PLAYLIST NOTE: My playlists can also be found on Spotify https://www.spotify.com/us/ by following “susanmcculley” (no space) and look for Public Playlists. Sometimes music is not available on Spotify so I may replace with another version or skip songs . ***

Monday, Dec 21, 2015, 1045am ~ Contrasts Coexisting

Awake My Soul 4:16 Mumford & Sons
Dance of Sarasvati 9:07 Kitaro
Back to the Earth 5:27 Rusted Root
Good Life 4:13 OneRepublic
Sweet Inspiration 4:41 Derek Trucks Band
Ma’ Africa 4:49 Mahotella Queens/Ulali
Carol of the Bells Medley 3:25 Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Unpack Your Heart 3:16 Phillip Phillips
Daphne 7:03 Eddi Reader/Mahotella Queens/Revetti Sakalar
Dark Waters 4:35 Bob Holroyd
Cello Song (Feat. Jose Gonzalez) 3:54 Cook Da Book
When Comes December 4:04 Tim Story

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015, 840am ~ Contrasts Coexisting

We Are All Connected 7:07 Magic Sound Fabric
Calling 5:52 Bliss
Lovers House 4:49 City Reverb
One World, One People 4:43 Xcultures
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) 5:53 City Reverb
Shakin’ It Up 6:15 Ganga Giri
Wizards In Winter 3:06 Trans-Siberian Orchestra
All We Are 3:37 Matt Nathanson
Shine 4:12 Joshua
Speck of Gold 5:37 Afterlife

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015, 11am ~ Contrasts Coexisting (playlist from Tue, Dec 23, 2014*)

What Child is This? 3:00 Dan Crary
When Doves Cry 4:04 The Be Good Tanyas
Breathe 4:12 Blue Stone
Water Down the Ganges 7:10 Prem Joshua & Manish Vyas
Qalanderi 6:55 Cheb I Sabbah
Freedom 2:50 Tyrone Wells
Played A Live 6:46 Safri Duo
Carol of the Bells Medley 3:25 Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Why Must I Feel Like This Today? [Feat. Baaba Maal, Michael Franti, Ulali, Radio Active & Krishna Das] 9:28 1GiantLeap
The Hounds Of Winter 5:51 Sting
Greensleeves 4:29 Steve Erquiaga
When Comes December 4:04 Tim Story

*In honor of Mary Linn Bergstrom, Chloe Rose Leong and everyone who is missing someone in this season. On the night of December 22, 2014, I got a text from Mary Linn telling me there had been an accident, asking me to pray. On the morning of December 23, I got the terrible news that Chloe had died. I had no time before my 9am class to even consider re-doing the playlist so just taught the one I had created two days before. This is what we danced to that day.

Thursday, Dec 24, 2015, 840am ~ Embracing Darkness with Mary Linn & Guy

Yulunga [Spirit Dance] 6:56 Dead Can Dance
Why 5:00 Enigma
Towards the Within 7:07 Dead Can Dance
In Caelum Fero 7:49 Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System
Spirit In the Dark 5:04 Diane Schuur & B.B. King
Curried Ripples 5:03 Ganga Girl
Devorzhum 6:13 Dead Can Dance

Endarkenment by James Yates

Endarkenment:
The flip-side of enlightenment.
Light and dark,
No dark: no light.
Carrying a lantern,
We unwittingly explore darkness in vain.
To know darkness we must
Enter into,
Be present with,
Experience,
Be
The dark,
Unknown,
Hidden,
Painful,
Fearful
Places within ourselves
And our world.
Know dark: know light.

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!

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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