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This quote from Jane Goodall struck a chord with me. She said,

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.

There have been times in my life when I’ve turned my eyes away and decided that my choices didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. Sometimes I convince myself that it doesn’t really matter if I buy water in plastic bottles or don’t send a thank you note or don’t vote in all the elections. There are so many people and the world is so big, what difference can it possibly make if I leave the lights on or don’t write to my senator about the latest injustice? So I throw up my hands and figure it doesn’t matter.

On the other side, there have been times when I have poured myself, dedicated myself, committed myself to what feels like skillful and right action. My choice, for example, to eat a whole food plant-based diet and not to eat meat or factory-farmed eggs is grounded in my understanding of the catastrophic impact of livestock farming on the environment and that meat is unnecessary for good health. I know that the diet I choose is better for the earth, for my body and it’s definitely better for the animals but when I see that well over 90% of Americans eat meat and a lot of it, I feel the utter futility of my choices. Why bother recycling or writing a blog every week or being kind to strangers?

I’m a drop in the ocean. A grain of sand in the desert. Nothing I do or don’t do can possibly make any difference whatsoever.

And yet my body knows this isn’t true. The small choices I make every day to move mindfully, to drink plenty of water, to sleep and breathe and take care of myself does make a difference. Just one week of sitting in a car and not eating / sleeping / hydrating / moving as I usually do showed up in all kinds of discomforts.

My mind knows this isn’t true. The daily choice to meditate even for a few minutes ripples out in how I approach the world and myself.

My heart knows this isn’t true. My intention to connect with people — my family and friends, my students, my co-workers, cashiers and waiters and delivery folks — has a powerful impact on my sense of my community and my place in it.

I am a drop in the ocean and at the same time I am, as the 13th Century Persian poet Rumi said, “[I am] the entire ocean in a drop.”

I know in my bones and breath and heart that I am connected to everything. My choices matter. This is why I set an intention at the beginning of every class. This is why I choose One Word at the beginning of every year. I know I can’t help but have an impact on the world around me. I get to decide the kind of difference I want to make.


IMPORTANT NOTE: All of this is not to say that I’ve got all this figured out and that when I set an intention I always do it all the time. In fact, that’s absolutely not the case and that’s actually a great thing. We’ll dance with that, my friends, next week.

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For the past 13 years, I’ve been a vegetarian.  I eat fish and eggs and dairy, but not meat or chicken of any kind.  I love eating this way:  it feels good in my body, and it’s healthier for the environment (not to mention healthier for the animals!).  Living in Charlottesville, when I tell people this, I hardly get a reaction.  People here, at least to my face, seem to take it in stride and not to think much about it.

This week, we traveled with friends to visit their Midwestern parents who are wintering in Myrtle Beach.  When our friend told her parents that we were vegetarians, I think they were worried.  They had no idea what to buy for us or how to find places where we could eat.  Although we did our best to assure them that (a) it isn’t difficult to find vegetarian alternatives in grocery stores and restaurants and (b) that we were self-sufficient and would bring food with us, they were concerned about how it could possibly work.

Once we arrived, they were kind and welcoming and were obviously delighted to have us with them.  Yet when it came to food, they seemed baffled by our plant-based choices.  It was strange for me, after all these years, to be with people who seemed to find my diet to be eccentric or even bizarre.

Sometimes this happens to me with Nia.  Someone asks me about what I do or at the club they see me teaching a class and they make a comment (either spoken or unspoken) that tells me that they think what I do is odd.  Some people make jokes about how silly they would look or how much alcohol they would have to drink before they would join my class.  And when that happens, I sometimes can feel myself shrink, ever-so-slightly, from my Body’s Way.  Even in class, there are times when I am moving in my own particular, peculiar way, and I see that nobody else is moving that way, and a part of me wants to be not-so-different.

We all have a range of tolerance of being different.  It is my hope as a Nia instructor, that Nia offers a safe place to be ourselves without judgment or comparison.  Yet it is in our own minds that the real safety is created.  How does it feel when you are the different one?  Or when someone comes to class and they move differently – maybe taking up more space or (gasp!) standing in your spot?  Play with what it feels like to fully be yourself, and allowing others to be completely themselves.  Imagine how it would feel to live in a family, a community, a country in which nobody – and everybody — was a weirdo.

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