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At its essence, embodied presence is about getting body and mind together in the same place at the same time. Simple and complicated as that. It takes practice to gather our scattered parts even for short bursts and it’s one of the main reasons I do the mindful work (and play) we do together. It’s a big enough topic that we’ll be focusing on it next week, too (only a little different flavor).

Kurt Vonnegut reminds us that life is a garden, not a road and what matters is not where you go but what you notice. So what did you notice this week? Spring is springing in Virginia, so there is plenty in the natural world to notice, not to mention in our internal landscapes. Please share any of your noticings in the comments so we can all be reminded to invest in the sensation of the moment. (P.S. Did you notice all the critters and creatures in the garden art?)

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, some announcements of things that are happening!

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ April 5 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, April 5 from 11:25 -12:25.

Honoring the Effect of Trauma in our Lives with Larry Goldstein and Wendy Hubbard April 27
Larry Goldstein and Wendy Hubbard lead a workshop on releasing the grip of trauma using structures work, personal stories, and group work. Structures enable a person to go back safely to a traumatic memory with crucial support that was missing then and offers fresh options — an alternative memory – a different outcome in which basic human needs are met and longing for love and protection are fulfilled. This reconstructs inner implicit memory maps in the brain and helps people become viscerally acquainted with feelings that were lacking early in their lives. Pre-course online class Saturday, April 20, 3-5pm, In Person One-Day Class Saturday, April 27, 10-6p, Post-course online class, Saturday, May 4, 3-5pm. Cost $150. Limited to 12 participants. To register and for more information, contact Wendy Hubbard at whubbard0@gmail.com.

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

Monday, Apr 1 2019, 1045am ~ Embodied Presence: Garden Not a Road

Garden 3:59 Sean Hayes
Cosmopole 6:39 Cantoma
Wander This World 4:51 Jonny Lang
Kintamani (Hanoman’s Forest Mix) 5:46 Transglobal Underground
Baya Baya 5:27 Safri Duo
Fallin’ High 6:00 Safri Duo
Garden Of Delights 2:36 Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
Marjaani Marjaani (From Billu) 5:26 Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh & Pritam
Wanderin’ 2:42 Chris Isaak Speak Of The Devil
New Morning 3:44 Alpha Rev
Tupelo Honey 3:37 Van Morrison
Skin Deep 4:30 Derek Trucks Band with Buddy Guy
Giuseppe Tornatore Suite: Malena (Main theme) 4:22 Yo-Yo Ma, Ennio Morricone & Roma Sinfonietta

Tuesday, Apr 2, 2018, 840am ~ Embodied Presence: Garden Not a Road

Garden 3:59 Sean Hayes
Cosmopole 6:39 Cantoma
Wander This World 4:51 Jonny Lang
Kintamani (Hanoman’s Forest Mix) 5:46 Transglobal Underground
Baya Baya 5:27 Safri Duo
Fallin’ High 6:00 Safri Duo
Garden Of Delights 2:36 Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
Marjaani Marjaani (From Billu) 5:26 Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh & Pritam
New Morning 3:44 Alpha Rev
Tupelo Honey 3:37 Van Morrison
Skin Deep 4:30 Derek Trucks Band with Buddy Guy

Wednesday, Apr 3, 2018, 11am ~ Embodied Presence: Garden Not a Road

Garden 3:59 Sean Hayes
Cosmopole 6:39 Cantoma
Wander This World 4:51 Jonny Lang
Kintamani (Hanoman’s Forest Mix) 5:46 Transglobal Underground
Baya Baya 5:27 Safri Duo
Fallin’ High 6:00 Safri Duo
There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back 3:19 Shawn Mendes
Marjaani Marjaani (From Billu) 5:26 Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh & Pritam
Wanderin’ 2:42 Chris Isaak
New Morning 3:44 Alpha Rev
Tupelo Honey 3:37 Van Morrison
On the Nature of Daylight 6:35 Max Richter Orchestra & Lorenz Dangel

Thursday, Apr 4, 2018, 840am ~ Embodied Presence: Garden Not a Road

Garden 3:59 Sean Hayes
Cosmopole 6:39 Cantoma
Wander This World 4:51 Jonny Lang
Kintamani (Hanoman’s Forest Mix) 5:46 Transglobal Underground
Baya Baya 5:27 Safri Duo
Fallin’ High 6:00 Safri Duo
There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back 3:19 Shawn Mendes
Marjaani Marjaani (From Billu) 5:26 Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh & Pritam
Wanderin’ 2:42 Chris Isaak
Tupelo Honey 3:37 Van Morrison
On the Nature of Daylight 6:35 Max Richter Orchestra & Lorenz Dangel

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!

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“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” – James Joyce

This famous line from The Dubliners amuses me. I can see him: dressed in gray, buttoned to neck, eyes looking back warily. I feel sad for poor, sorry, gray Mr. Duffy. When I think about it, though, am I any different? I’ve spend much of my days in my head, on my screen, out of my body, out of natural rhythms. Who of us, in the past day, hour, or even minute hasn’t lived a short distance from our bodies?

At the core of it, the mindful movement practice we do together is about getting our minds and bodies to be together in the same place at the same time. The mind loves being in the past and future but the body can only reside in the present. So if we want them to be together, the only way is for the mind to join the body in the present moment.

The problem is that our culture, habits and neurology train us to do anything but.

A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Bev Wann and I taught classes on embodied presence to federal executives. These were high level managers in an intensive leadership program which required them to examine their habits and patterns in regards to their professional lives, their management style, and their health. They were intelligent and ambitious with long, successful careers. Many had intense, driven personalities and had challenging relationships and interactions with employees, peers and managers. Most of them didn’t exercise at all, ate poorly, slept worse and were under intense stress. Almost all of them lived almost exclusively in their heads.

Bev and I focused on teaching the execs practices that could help them be present and attend mindfully to their colleagues and their work rather than bulldozing through from their heads and habits. In one session, I’d been leading a group in mindful movement: breathing and feeling their feet as we walked slowly. I suggested that connecting the mind and body in this way is a way to release thinking and drop into sensing.

One man looked at me with annoyance, impatience and exasperation and said, “Why in the world would I ever want to stop thinking?”

Teaching a reluctant and skeptical student has to be one of the biggest challenges a teacher faces. I rarely have an involuntary student but here I was faced with someone who didn’t buy a word I was saying. He stood there in his new white athletic socks utterly fed up with this woo-woo story I was telling. Every achievement he’d ever had in his long career had been because of his thinking. Why, indeed, would he ever want to stop? Even though I’d been sharing the science and benefits of mindfulness, he was having none of it. I felt ill-equipped for the situation. I was embarrassed and I was speechless.

I’ve regretted my inability to reach that man ever since. I wish I’d had words that would have made sense to him. If I could do it again, I would say that thinking is a great tool but we’re addicted to it and use it for everything. (As the carpenters say, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And life is not a nail.) If I could do it again, I’d say that our brains reside not just in our heads but in our bodies and that sensing gives us access to a different kind of intelligence. If I could do it again, I would say that everything that really matters in life – love, connection, creativity, compassion – are experienced in the body, not the mind. If I could do it again, I’d say that being in the body is the only way to be fully alive.

If I could do it again, I’d also share some of the genius wisdom of Tara Brach’s two talks on Embodied Presence. (You can find them here and here.) But since I can’t share them with him, I’m sharing them with you. They are so full of goodness. I truly hope you’ll listen to them. And if you can’t, I’ll bring threads from them into class and the blog for the next couple of weeks.

For now, I invite you to contemplate this question: What’s between me and being at home in my body at this moment? Allow your body and mind to be together in the same place and the same time and see what you notice*.

*The complete Kurt Vonnegut quote is “Life is a garden, not a road. We enter and exit through the same gate. Wandering, it matters less where we go and more what we notice.”

music head– Listen to familiar music as if for the first time.
– Move to music and feel connection of body and soul.
– Listen to unfamiliar music with curiosity.
– Let music melt and breathe you.

Or, what they said (more eloquently):

“Music is, to me, proof of the existence of God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“When I don’t like a piece of music, I make a point of listening to it more closely.” – Florent Schmitt

“Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” ― Anaïs Nin

music hallelujah“Music is, to me, proof of the existence of God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

The first time I heard Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, I was in my early teens and questioning all things religious. Even in the relatively innocuous Congregational church our family attended, I was beginning to bump up against dogma and faith and belief and how those things tangled with my own experience and the expectations of others. But as I stood in that little white sanctuary listening for the first time to our small choir, accompanied by a string quartet, belting out Handel’s famous chorus, my eyes spilled tears. “It can’t just be us,” I thought. “Even the most brilliant of us would need help to create something like that.”

Is there a piece of music that took your breath away the first time you heard it? Does it still? I invite you, right now, to go back and listen to it, even if (or perhaps particularly if) you’ve listened to it 10,000 times since that first time. Whether it’s Handel’s Hallelujah or Rufus Wainwright’s Hallelujah, listen to it again as if you’ve never heard it before.

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

While my thoughts about God and spirituality have evolved a lot since I first heard Handel, I still deeply believe in the power of music to open me up, express beyond words, melt my sharp edges, and remind me of my divinity. In 13 years of teaching movement, I have felt it and witnessed it a thousand times: the recognition in a piece of music of something beyond me. My spirit flies, my heart unlocks. The practice of combining rich and resonant music with expressive movement makes magic: body and soul. Even more than listening or movement alone (both powerful practices in and of themselves), moving to music enlivens me like nothing else. As Beethoven said, music bridges that which is deliciously human and that which is beyond human. You can do this now, too, put on a piece of music and breathe, move, dance, or conduct to it. Savor the mediation of essence and form.

“When I don’t like a piece of music, I make a point of listening to it more closely.” – Florent Schmitt

It’s a practice to listen with open curiosity and without expectation. In Nia, we call it the state of RAW: Relaxed, Alert and Waiting. RAW turns listening to any piece of music into an adventure. When I was young(er), I only listened for the lyrics, and I still am a sucker for the poetry of music. But more recently, I’ve discovered Steely Dan’s jazzy irregularities, the intricacies of The Beatles later songs, the thematic variations in a Dvořák symphony, and the layers of unusual sounds in electronica. Even if I don’t choose a song to use in class or to listen to while I cook, any piece of music can be a chance to notice something new. Ask a friend (preferably someone in another generation or with a completely different musical taste from yours) to suggest a piece of music that you’ve never heard before. Allow yourself to listen to it openly and with curiosity. Notice if judgment, story, or preference pop up. If it does, see if you can gently set it aside and just listen: relaxed, alert and waiting. Here’s one you can play with right now.

“Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” ― Anaïs Nin

For the next couple of weeks, I’m on call for jury duty in Charlottesville. This means that I won’t know until the last minute if I’ll be able to teach class or if I’ll be doing my civic duty (we will do our very best to update the Web site so it is accurate, and you can also dive into the river of the unknown, show up for class and see who’s there). In the spirit of RAW, for these two weeks, whenever I teach, we will draw the routine randomly out of a hat and together, we’ll create a focus. Whether you are dancing with me (or my back-up team mates who are graciously waiting in the wings in case I need them), or you are dancing through your life, I invite you to allow music into your awareness. Listen with mindful curiosity. Entertain the possibility that music is divine expression and that when combined with movement, it is an embodiment of spirit.

PS On Monday, August 5, I will be teaching at 1045am at ACAC Albemarle Square: jury cancelled! 🙂

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