Sunday, January 31, 2010

Embodiment This Week: Ending January 31st

This is a new weekly post that I want to give a try that supports my word of the year, Embodiment. On Sundays, I thought I would look back and give a brief account of changes I've made, things I've tried, successes, challenges.

Here we go.

The biggest thing this week was that I, once again, really challenged my boundaries -- personal, emotional, physical, all of them -- by going last night to a public ballroom dance. I only know two dances at this point, so being a novice in front of others was a big deal to my dancer ego. But I went anyway (wearing the bling-y shirt above), and I am pretty proud of myself for that. I also had a good time, which was kinda a bonus compared to defeating some big demons named Perfection and, well, Perfection.

I am reading a book by the physician Frank Lipman called Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again. This is my second time through, and this time, I am actually making some changes rather than just contemplating them. As I write this, I am drinking my first breakfast smoothie (or smoovie, as we like to call it), filled with avocado, greens, and whey powder among other things. I'd like to report that I don't hate it. (And apparently, neither does Toby the Kitten, who is trying to taste it...Toby!)

I created a homework sheet for myself that now hangs on the refrigerator to remind me of things that I want to be doing daily and weekly in terms of nurturing my dancer self. This trick is working. I see it, feel a slight twinge of (healthy) guilt, and then I get busy. Though I did not accomplish as much as I wanted, I know each week will build on the previous.

I am back to daily yoga. Though I never felt bad about being away from yoga because I was dancing, I do enjoy my Kundalini with Ana Brett & Ravi Sing and am happy that it feels so darn good again -- mentally. Yoga of every sort was just boring me for a while when I went back to the excitement of dance, but I recently had a breakthrough about movement and yoga reentered my life full force. I do it every day early in the day -- on top of all the dancing, of course.

I am learning more and more every day about my approach to spiritual and physical well being. I am learning, for instance, that the word FUN is too often forgotten in our quest for happy and I will be writing about that more and more.

How was your week in your body? Or did you forget you even have one?...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Night Fever!

This is what I will be up to tonight.

Not quite, since I've only had three classes, but a girl can dream:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Healing, Part 3: Friends

I wanted to finish my thoughts about healing from grief, before moving on to some new and exciting (I think) content starting next week.

Marcy and I are blessed with many good and kind and thoughtful friends in our life.

I go dancing with one weekly, and that class is beyond important to me. We also meet with writing group once a week, and though we talk about writing, we are general creative and emotional support for one another.

Whatever is going on in our lives, we know Writing Group cares and wants to know and talk about it and talk about it some more. (You know, because it distracts us from the work we have or have not done!!)

Dr. Captain America, from writing group, stopped by spontaneously two days after Rosie passed and brought flowers (see above), wine, a card, and Giant Smiles and Hugs. He also brought his delightful son (or "sun"), who was a wonderful distraction in his excitement to meet Miss Zoe.

The number of cards we received with the "we understand" notes was overwhelming.

The same goes for the number of notes online. I want to thank all of the people who have made contact with us in so many ways to say, "I understand, I see you, I feel the same..."

There is nothing "virtual" about the value of these interactions.

I think about the whole debate over online friends, and it reminds me of God skeptics. I pray to Mary everyday, though I have never seen her (except when she dances on my bedside table...).

That relationship is as real to me as my relationship with humans I can touch. My relationship with our cats when they enter their Sparkle Suits remains as real as when they were in their Fur Suits.

You get the point.

My world of friends has gotten larger and deeper and more meaningful since I started this blog, and during times of grief, friends make a difference -- wherever they come from.

Oh! And an exciting side note:

Dr. Captain America writes this amazing blog, which has been nominated for TWO medical blog awards. Go here and vote! Help that cool son of his win an iPod Touch!! :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Following the Bread Crumbs

When I got home from YogaDance teacher training at the beginning of December, I made a couple of Big Decisions.

First, I decided that there was No Way I would even start to pursue the possibility of teaching and where and how and all of that until about April. I needed time, I told Marcy, to hone my craft, to get in better shape, I came up with lots of reasons for this timing.

Second, I decided that I was completely and utterly confused about my entire life.

It had changed rapidly in less than six months, and though I was positive that I had finally found my original essence and that I had, once and for all, pretty much defeated depression because of this (and I am being serious right there, but just right there), though I knew those two things, I knew Nothing Else.

Nothing. Else.

I mean, now that I had found my Dancer self again, what next? What training should I go to next? Should I go back to college? Who would have me?!

On and on went the Diva's dramas.

Marcy told me, "Just do the next one thing that catches your fancy."

Marissa from my training said, "Just do the next thing...follow the bread crumbs."

Sure. Easy for them to say! They did not know the stress of all this change or the worries or the, the, the, well, they just had no clue what they were talking about.

But, of course, they did.

I signed up for ballroom dance. It caught my fancy. It had years ago, really, and we now had a friend I could go with, with whom I felt comfortable.

It turned out the ballroom dance class was in a Dance Studio. Imagine that!

I got a brilliant, bright idea (self mockery is fun after the fact): I could talk to the studio owner about renting some practice space so I would have more room to do my own thing. I needed to be able to expand and explore movement...for myself.

I went to class.

The studio owner said, "You've danced before...obviously."

The next thing I knew I was yakking away about YogaDance and how I was a certified teacher.

"Let's talk!" She said.

As if it were that easy, said my Diva, it simply cannot be this easy.

But it was and it is and here I am, showing you my poster for my first public classes that will begin on March 4th -- an auspicious day since it is the day before Marcy's birthday.

What I am learning about loving your life and trusting in the process is that things happen and things turn out and picking up one bread crumb just naturally leads to the next.
(If you click on the poster, it should get HUGE and very readable!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Healing, Part 2: Doing What You Love

My first impulse when something "bad" happens is to just stop. I just stop doing all those things that I know will make me feel better, because (confession) I don't want to feel better, damn it.

Is that you, too?

I think this is habit from so many years of succumbing to depression. If I feel at all badly, even in a perfectly normal and appropriate-to-the-situation sort of way, I feel myself slipping into those bad habits, slipping toward that slippery slope. I've written about these habits before.

Now that Dancing is such a huge part of my life, it is the first thing I try to throw out when I feel grouchy, sad, or anxious.

This time, though, something different happened.

After Rosie the Cat passed away, I did not curl up on the couch and cover myself in a blanket and wish for the world to go away.

One of my first thoughts the day after was: "I'll clean today. That makes me feel better, more in control, which is fine, but tomorrow...back to dancing!"

What? Who is this person who knows what she has to do and then, Wait! What? DOES IT!?

Within two days of her passing, I was teaching Marcy a YogaDance class. This is not something you can do without tasting the sweetness that is life and joy. You can resist but it is futile (Borg reference for the geeks out there).

Within four days, I was at my ballroom dance classes. I was laughing, teasing, downright Giggling, and clapping with happy.

Here's the thing: This gift, this bliss you've been given? It's not just for when things are going well. It is HOW things go well. No matter what those "things" are.

Never stop.

Being brave is not for the Sunshine Days. Choosing Bliss is not for the Picnics on the Beach days.

Be Brave. Choose Bliss. In the face of it all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Healing, Part 1: Music

Last night, I had ballroom dance class, and wouldn't this chick love those shoes for some Salsa!? Yet, this chick could not handle those heels!

I was not totally in the mood for ballroom dance class. I was hit by a wave of sadness yesterday. Grief -- it comes and goes and comes and goes. That is its nature.

Staying home and wallowing, I knew, was not an option. In the face of grief, like I said yesterday in more words, we must live our lives.

Besides, I knew once I got to class and the music started that I would be transported to that Soul Place where everything is and has been and will be just as it's supposed to be. Everything is always okay right inside this very moment.

Especially when you add in good music.

I find during times of healing that the music I select is extra important. The nutrition value of the music has to be paid close attention to. What am I imbibing and how is it making me feel?

Here are a few things that I find lift my spirits and create Sunshine -- even during times of internal and external Gloom.

The music from this movie may seem a bit sleepy at first, but it lilts and sways like sunflowers in a summer breeze:

Excuse the twelve second commercial before this video starts. The lead singers outfit is totally worth it. Trust me. And I bet you can barely resist bopping in your chair.

I am a child of the '80's but five seconds of this song, five seconds of this man moving, and I am feeling like life is WONDERFUL!

As I said, I am a child of the '80's:

Music washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.

--Berthold Auerbach, German novelist, 19th C

Monday, January 25, 2010

Moving Forward Despite Our Grief

Taking care of a sick loved one changes everything. As it should. Priorities become crystal clear. Other stuff just falls away.

Since early December, when I returned from the second part of my YogaDance teacher training, we have been nursing Rosie cat, who passed away, as many of you know, this past Thursday evening.

We are sad.

And we are relieved. For her. She was 18, and it was her time. She missed her best friend, and we believe they are reunited.

My point today is that since early December, Rosie has been our number one priority. Sure, things that we might normally be annoyed by, suddenly held little importance, but it's good stuff that falls away too.

My movement schedule became nonexistent. I have continued to dance and do yoga, but not with the dedication and focus I had prior to Rosie becoming ill. As I said, this is how it should be. She deserved our attention.

Now, though, with her passing, we are grieving and yet it's time...

It's time to refocus on what it is that makes me happy.

It's time to refocus on what it is that makes me know me.

It's time to refocus on what it is that challenges me like nothing else ever has.

Rosie is with us always, and she is bossy! She says "get to work, you lazy bum," in her adorable truck stop waitress meow.

It's time to take steps to make that Dream Decree a reality.

Yesterday, during a long Kundalini Yoga session, ideas started coming. I had to get paper and pen and sit them next to my mat or I wouldn't have been able to finish the DVD I was doing. I scribbled, and when I was done, I scribbled some more.

Ideas that will affect the content of this blog were pouring in. Ideas seemingly coming from nowhere, but I know better...

Thanks, Rosie.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Tomorrow is the 2nd Feast Day of our Jobie, the handsome black and white soul above, cuddling his favorite being, Rosie. Rosie, who has tolerated life and us humans for 2 years without her best friend...

Rosie, our sweet, grouchy, Rosie, passed away last night at age 18. It was at home and it was fast. For that, we are grateful.

I imagine that they are napping together, once again and forever, in the warm sun of Sparkle Pond, and Rosie is waking occasionally to complain about something and bathe her new Sparkle Suit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Have No Reason Not to Move

Today, I am writing about movement as meditation over at Awake is Good for Jan's 28 day Meditation challenge. Check it out!

Also, I shared this in a couple of ways already, but I think it's important to share it with as many people as possible. The video is only 4 minutes and shows the true power of dance. Go here.

As I say in the title, after you watch this, you'll know that you have no reason, no excuse in the world, not to move.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's Wrong with Traditional Therapy?

(A little reminder of Spring...can you smell that?)

Yesterday, I wrote about having a day when I wasn't feeling 100% inspired, and how, because I know this happens, I just show up anyway.

I did not always know that. (Understatement of the decade.)

Many years ago, I was severely depressed. Severely. Like, seek help severely. Willingly-take-meds severely. (The meds did not last long, but I was willing to try, which says a lot.)

Try-talk-therapy severely.

I would never tell someone not to try talk therapy. There is a point to it, but you see, I felt like I came to the end of that point rather quickly, and I kept saying, "Yes, yes, but now what?"

Marcy and I decided to do it on our own and figure out that "now what" for me. Because, you see, the specifics of it are different for everyone.

I eventually figured out that "living my bliss" was the key. You know, doing things every single day that bring fulfillment. Bliss, as I keep saying, is not a feeling state. When Joseph Campbell said "live your bliss," he literally meant "GO OUT AND FIND THE THING THAT IS YOUR THING."

And then DO IT.

Every day. If you don't want to do it every day, that's sorta kinda a hint that maybe you are on the wrong path.

Not to say that you won't have hard days. Part of living your bliss is knowing that anything worth doing, anything you're really passionate about, is worth some blood and tears.

I have a point, believe me...

To sum up, knowing your story, knowing how you've ended up not so happy? That is totally important. You can't go forward without knowing where you've been. You can't live your bliss without really knowing yourself, because if you don't really know yourself, you can't begin to imagine who you could be, what you could do.

If you don't know yourself, you will constantly make bad choices based upon false information.

Okay. You've got that, right? Story is important.

But story will only take you so far, and finally, FINALLY, I am vindicated. (Evil laugh.) I was watching this TED talk the other day with one of the leading dudes in psychology and he wanted to confess something. (Beware: he is not the most "dynamic" speaker. Cough.)

He wanted to confess that traditional talk therapies, including cognitive therapies, fail in attempting to make people happy. They can't make people happy, actually.

He wanted to confess that those traditional therapies will take someone from a very depressive or anxious state, for example, to "zero," but they'll never get you past this state of "zero." ("Zero" being that place where you don't feel "sick" any more, where you don't think about dying...)

What does make you happy? What will take you from zero to fifty (in under thirty seconds)?


Meaning and passion will make you happy.

Imagine that. Joseph Campbell can finally rest.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Visitations of the Home Grown Variety

(Some wall painting that Marcy did in our kitchen recently.)

I woke up, after a night of intense and anxiety-ridden dreams, feeling a bit uninspired, so I thought a photo containing an Our Lady of Guadalupe -- who is in my banner, after all -- could only be helpful.

I am surprised by this lack of inspiration today.

I have a table full of ideas that are awaiting me.

I have a fun lunch meeting today and will be scheduling more meetings that will be fruitful in terms of getting YogaDance going here in my hometown.

I had ballroom dance class last night, for goodness sake!

I should be floating.

I should be on fire!

Oh, the dreaded "should."

Here's what I (and all of us) have to remember: Happiness is not some permanent 24/7 State of Giddy. It's more of a marriage than a first date, ya know? And even great marriages have peaks and valleys. What makes the marriage great is the two people's abilities to recognize these as cycles, rather than see them as Harbingers of Doom.

Marriage takes loyalty, determination, faithfulness, patience. You know that list of stuff that usually gets read at weddings. It's true.

Finding your own happiness is the same. It's not perfect. It takes work.

I didn't feel like writing today, but I show up to the page and something happens.

I don't feel like dancing either, but I will and something will happen there, too.

I show up.

Some days, that, all by itself, is the Miracle. Of the Guadalupe sort.

Monday, January 18, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Do you see what you have done to our poor, sweet Toby kitten?

You have exhausted him!

Toby had to select the winner of the six month Flock membership giveaway, and he worked his softly padded fingers to the bone.

Through an arduous process, involving petri dishes, forceps, and a variety of chemical compounds, Toby has finally come to a conclusion.

He would like to announce this himself but is forced to nap.

The six month membership to Flock (along with some singed hairs, a ripped nail, and a lost whisker) goes to...


Gwen wrote this in the comments section:

Just like so many others, I suffer from financial difficulties right now. I'd find the membership to flock meaningful because I've just started a new life in a foreign country and due to not being able to work here yet, I have a lot of juicy free-time on my hands that I'd love to devote to lots of soul care.

Toby says congratulations and asks that you take full advantage of your six months, Gwen, seeing how hard he had to work to make sure the winner was chosen fairly!

Gwen, please email me so we can get your membership started over at Flock!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MusicBliss: 80's Chicks

Marcy and I are working on some YogaDance playlists and decided to do an homage (ha!) to 80's rocker chicks. Who was your favorite?

Oh, the makeup!

And we might have to stretch to the late '70's for this chick.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Something So Small...

(Me, in my pale blue snow pants, giggling in the middle of defeating the ice.)

After writing yesterday's post, I got the chance to meet some of my stronger and more persistent Mind Soldiers. These guys are tough. They know how to camouflage and they know the darkest parts of my brain to hide out in. They are also totally patient, waiting for the perfect moment of weakness.

I was supposed to meet with a few people to begin discussions about some awesome YogaDance teaching opportunities. I was pretty worked up -- excited, nervous, all that.

I thought about my outfit, which notebook I would take -- you know, all the silly little stuff that makes us feel prepared and safe.

I left early so I wouldn't rush and so I could get just the right table. We were meeting at the Cafe at our neighborhood organic grocer. The sun was shining and the air felt a bit warmish on my walk.

What a perfect day to begin a new venture, the story in my head started.

Being new to my cell phone, I didn't check it until they were all a few minutes late. I was sipping on my banana and pineapple smoothie, when I got the message that they were canceling.

It was for perfectly legitimate reasons and we are rescheduling next week, but those Mind Soldiers saw this as the ammo they needed, and poof! Perfect day was just gone!

Like that! (SNAP)

Even with all this awareness and mindfulness that I've managed to cultivate, even with the ability to witness, to watch what was happening to me, I felt like I had no control, no ability to stop it.

In the middle of this firestorm of sorts, I felt annoyed with myself. Why was I doing this?

Because make no mistake, it was ME doing it. Those Soldiers live in my brain -- are a construction of my brain. I take full responsibility for their existence.

I finally got up off my butt and danced for almost an hour and that seemed to pacify those nasty Soldiers and their bullets of pessimism.

But today? I can feel that they were there, that they are still lurking around corners.

Now, though, they know I'm watching, that I see them, and this alone makes it all different.

Patience, Grasshopper, Patience.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Meditation, Movement, & Mayhem of the Mind

(Marcy shoveling our walk, sporting snow pants and a kitten eared hat!)

(Don't forget: There's still time to win a 6 month membership at Flock, the Soulcare Spa started by Magpie Girl. Just leave a comment on here by this Friday, 9 AM, New York time.)

At lunchtime today, I have a meeting with Some People about a Project. That's all I can say, and not because I'm being Super Secretive but because I'm not exactly sure what is going to happen -- if anything.

But I am being open and moving forward into the unknown and that's what matters -- that bit of faith in this life that I used to not possess.

I used to want to control everything, know everything in advance, and as a result, I wasn't having a whole lot of fun.

This is a Huge Learning.

It feels like this desire to control is a first impulse, but that's the dangerous illusion of it, isn't it?

This desire to control is a learned reaction. For whatever reason, a lot of us have learned not to trust the world, so we have programmed ourselves to push down our real, instinctive reactions to things, and on top of that we have layered all sorts of coping mechanisms.

To protect ourselves.

Here's the kicker: We are protecting ourselves, in most cases, from Dangers that existed in the past. Those dangers no longer threaten us, but it can feel like they do.

It's like our brain grew all these little Soldiers for a war that is no longer being waged. Those little Soldiers, though, still have their marching orders, and they are totally skittish.

Any sudden movement, any slight scent of trouble, and they are aiming at things!

How do you decommission these Soldiers, that's the question.

Retraining. Reintegrating. Perhaps a college degree or some sort of certification to put them on a new Path. Maybe a small business loan?

I am being both silly and very serious here.

The soldiers I am referring to, in psychological speak, would be the feeling of Hyper-vigilance that a lot of us live with and react out of.

It all feels so damn real, doesn't it? The danger, the reaction, the logic...

Yet it's just a Brain construction and it's keeping us from living our lives to their fullest potential.

For me, dance is key, but another of my tools to retrain these Soldiers is meditation in all sorts of forms. If you haven't checked out what Jan is doing with her 28 day meditation challenge, go here. Every day, she explores another piece of the meditation puzzle.

How are you retraining your Soldiers? Have you even met them yet? What are they like?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Brave & Finding Bliss in the Ballroom

(That's just a little photo update of the growing Toby kitten, who is now just over 3 months old.)

Monday night, I did something totally big!

My word of the year magic is already working. When you put a word and concept out into the world in a public manner, it has a way of holding you accountable.

Things I would normally knee-jerk react to in the negative, I have to rethink. That rethinking usually then leads to me pushing myself in new directions.

Which I did on Monday night.

How many times did I almost back out with a thousand excuses?

I don't like being touched... it seems way too intimate and I have serious boundaries.

It's just beginner's level...what could that possibly do for me?

I won't like it and then I'll have to stop after starting and I hate letting people down.

I don't want to leave the house.

A typical litany for me.

But my word is Embody and I promised myself after my YogaDance teacher certification that I would keep trying new things, keep challenging my body, keep pushing my spirit to grow.

Finally, Monday night came and I hadn't backed out.

I was a ball of nerves so I danced in the privacy of our home until I was dripping sweat. Then I got ready.

The one thing I was already excited about was the new shoes. New shoes make me happy, and these had 2 inch heels. And t straps. They feel sassy. (Alas there is no glitter -- not yet anyway.)

Our friend came -- the one who very surreptitiously got me to do this -- and we were off.

To Ballroom Dance classes -- two in a row, Rumba and Salsa.

Guess what?

As usual, pushing myself paid off. I had the most marvelous time, and I learned a lot -- and I'm not referring to the dance steps, though there was that.

I learned, for the millionth time, that Dancer is my most basic nature, so it doesn't matter what the dance is, what the level is. I get out of it what I put into it.

I learned that it's not so scary to dance with another human and that it's okay for my physical boundaries to be pushed on a wee bit. (I come from a traditional jazz/modern/ballet type background, and it's me, the stage, and the audience. This one on one partner thing is rather new for me.)

I learned, yet again, that a group of people moving to music -- no matter their abilities -- is a happy group of people.

I learned that if I follow my instincts and tell my excuse-filled brain to just "Shut up!" that the outcome is always positive.

Besides having a glorious time and learning something new, I also made more connections to help with my Dream Decree.

What a night!

Is there something in your life that your instincts say "yes" to, but your brain is listing the reasons to say "no?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Music Deal for All You Blisschicks from One Bliss Dude

If you stopped by here on Saturday, you saw that I posted a video of the Jason Parker Quartet, a jazz group out of Seattle headed by the husband of Darrah over at Artcetera.

Jason is, in many ways, a Bliss Dude. He lives his bliss. He works hard at it. And he's a great role model for people who think there's no way to thrive in our current culture as a musician or an artist.

Some time on Sunday, Jason contacted me and proposed a special offer for the readers of Blisschick.

Here's the deal: if you buy his recent album, entitled "No More, No Less," as a download ($5) or as a CD ($10), you get his previous two albums as downloads for free.

That's 3 great jazz albums for the price of one!

How cool is that?! Jason already prices things so wonderfully, because he sells his own stuff rather than going through someone else, but this offer is amazing.

All you have to do is mention the deal in the Comments to the Seller section when you check out. Mention that you saw it here on Blisschick.

Go here to buy Jason's music and support this Bliss Dude!

Winter and Jazz. All you need is a glass of wine and some lit candles, and you have a perfect evening in.

(Or for readers in the Southern Hemisphere: Summer and Jazz. All you need is a glass of wine and some lit candles, and you have a perfect evening outside. ((smile)) )

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Soul-licious Giveaway Courtesy of Magpie Girl

Many of you probably already read Magpie Girl, but did you know she has opened this great new Soul Care space called Flock?

Though some of the yummy information is available for all to see, there is a membership fee to access the deeper content.

Rachelle is offering a free 6 month membership to one lucky reader of Blisschick. Memberships in the Flock are $45 a month so this is a truly gracious offer.

If you're interested in winning the membership, just leave a comment on this post about what the membership would mean to you.

I (or the Rabbit) will pull a winner on Friday, January 15th. Comments will close for the drawing that morning at 9 AM New York time.

Here's a brief interview with Rachelle, which explains the ideas behind Flock:

One of the projects at Flock is to create customized practices for an eclectic collection of “High Holy Days.” How do you feel the creation of individual-specific rituals and holidays affects overall community (online and/or IRL)?

So many religious communities require strict adherence to a set of practices. The result is that there are always a certain percentage of people within those communities who:

  1. practice the practices even though they don’t get much out of them; or
  2. don’t practice the practices and feel guilty about hiding that from their community.

Our goal in the Flock is to create a set of High Holy Days together where we are sharing an underlying value, or a communal memory, yet we are able to celebrate or commemorate those days with practices that make sense to each person.

The way we do this is to play on the swings. On a swing you push back and then swing up and forward. (This is a common metaphor in post-modern spirituality.) In playing with how we demarcate our year with the High Holy Days, we push back into our history, decide what to take with us, and then swing forward into a creative new future.

In the Flock, we are dedicated to “finding a spirituality that fits” – one that has high functionality and allows you to live with deep authenticity. (Got kids? Make a craft for the occasion. Like cooking? Make traditional recipes. Love solitude? Listen to a meditation in a quiet place. Don’t care about a particular High Holy Day? Skip it! Really. That’s just fine.) There are lots of customize-able spiritual practices in the Flock.

Second, what differentiates Flock from other online workshop sites?

I love online workshops! But I always feel sad to leave the great people I’ve met when the Ecourse ends. I wanted to play with the idea of creating a group that would be on-going – where you could take the courses you were interested in, and remain in touch with the people you met there for long term support, friendship, and encouragement. I call it a “soultribe.” You can join the Flock for just one course – say for our February Read-a-Long—or you can stay all year and grow the connections you’ve made there.

Another way Flock is different from some Ecourses, is that we set a high priority on having a teaching-learning environment. This isn’t one voice sending out lessons on MP3 files. It’s a place to create a common pool of wisdom and to learn from each other’s life experiences. While we do have a staff of professional soulcare providers, we also prioritizing hearing from everyone in the Flock.

And finally, are there other
Magpie Girl projects in the works that you would like to share?

Mmmm! I always have new projects! I’m writing a series of Magpie Girl Guidebooks. The first one, Soulfood: How to cook for a tribe is already available as a free download. (It’s very pretty!) The second in the series, SoulRetreats: How to host a tribe with art and soul, will be available very soon. And I’m really hoping to pick up where we left off with the Do Less Revolution in the Spring. The Magpie Girl mailing list receives discounts on my guide books, or you can follow me on Twitter to know what’s up next!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

MysticBliss: The Power of Memory & Art

Have you ever been to a performance art thing and felt totally embarrassed for the person afterward? As you leave, you don't know what to say, though they stand there with that look of anticipation?

I've been to way too many of those in my life, having started college as a theatre major. Too many to the point where I was pretty convinced that there was no such thing as "good performance art." (Yes, I can be very black and white.)

Then a couple of days ago, I watched this, and it completely changed my perspective.

The power in this piece is explosive -- the spiritual power, the historical power, the power of memory when it is joined to art.

This is why I dance, why I do what I do. Art changes our lives for the better.

I'll be quiet now..just watch it. Watch it all the way through. You won't regret it. You'll probably watch it again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

MusicBliss: Jason Parker Quartet

One of my favorite bloggers is Darrah over at Artcetera. She is definitely a Blisschick, being brave and choosing her bliss.

And her husband, Jason, is one major bliss Dude.

Jazz makes me happy. Brass makes me really happy. When I was looking for music for today, I thought of him.

Bashert is an original composition written by Jason for Darrah. (Here's his website where you could buy and download his recent and past CDs.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Embodiment & Our Built in Obsolescence

We got some news yesterday afternoon.

Our sweet Rosie cat, who is now in her 18th year, does not have hyperthyroidism as we had actually hoped, but rather, she is most likely suffering from a cancer*. From here on out, it will be about palliative care, making sure she is comfortable and happy.

Isn't that true, though, for all of us from the moment of our birth?

(*This is just an educated guess on the vet's part. We don't wish to have any more tests done.)

To embody this life is to accept that it comes to an end. To love and live in this skin suit as fully as possible, we must face the fact that it comes with built in obsolescence.

I could choose to dive into an Ocean of Grief. That is certainly in my nature and I have almost drowned myself there in the past.

But now I make different choices. Now, as that little signature box says at the end of each post, I am Brave; I choose Bliss.

Marcy and I took a wee bit of time to absorb the shock of the news and then we got on with it. "It" being our lives. Lives filled with love and beauty and grace and creativity and peace and, yes, cats and a rabbit.

Rosie is not on a time table. We will enjoy every moment she decides to give us, and when she decides it's time to go to her Sparkle Suit, we will miss her.

Choosing bliss, though, means not regretting a single moment with her. I would never choose to have not known her.

I would never have chosen to have not known our friend, Ken, or our other cats and animal companions who came before.

Being brave in this body and with this body and through this body, I will choose love over fear, knowing that love comes sprinkled generously with loss.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your Senses are a Gateway to Your Spirit

That photo was from inside the bus as I headed toward Albany, New York, on my way to Kripalu in Massachusetts to complete my YogaDance teacher training at the beginning of December. We hadn't had our normal amount of snow at home yet, so this was a welcome sight.

A welcome sight? Winter?! Snow and cold?!

Yes. I also welcome the smell of winter and the quiet and the brisk feeling, the way it wakes you up on the shortest of walks.

This weather has been a part of my life since I was small. We have always lived where there is snow and cold.

As I get older, I appreciate it more and more. I appreciate the variety of seasons that my body is put through in a mere twelve months -- and here in Erie, in the Spring, I could say the variety of seasons my body is put through within a day.

I believe this is a large part of the reason I am here, on this plane of existence: to challenge, invigorate, and stimulate all of my senses in as many ways as possible.

To see, to taste, to feel, to smell, to hear as much of this physical life as possible.

To honor my body as the conduit of experience. To honor my body as the experience itself.

Not to transcend it. I can do that at my death.

I am thinking along these lines, due in large part to a piece that Christine has up today over at Abbey of the Arts. An amazing piece that I will have to print out and ruminate over.

But I am also thinking along these lines on a daily basis, as my word for the year is Embody.

Here are a few questions for you:

If the weather is not to your liking, do you cocoon yourself? Why?

Do you exclusively seek out physical comfort or do you allow your body to reside in discomfort?

When you are exercising, for example, do you judge feelings as "pain" or do you allow them to simply be sensations?

When was the last time you really challenged your body?

Do you see your body as an obstacle to a more "spiritual" life?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Welcome to the New Blisschick!

If you're reading this in a reader or an email today, it's a day that you'll want to click over to the actual Blisschick site, because she is all new! (And awaiting a few minor tweaks, of course.)

Welcome to the new and improved Blisschick, where lots of yummy will be going on in the next couple of months.

In order to facilitate more glitter goodness here, I had to create a site that could function as more than a blog.

Though the blog is still the center of it all. The blog is still the reason this site exists. The interaction with you, dear readers, is why I do this every single day.

At the top, you'll see a brand new header designed by the same wonderfully talented Heidi who designed our Wild Woman poster.

Right below the header, you'll see links to all the other pages. Please explore these! I've had a lot of fun putting together the content.

On the Chickography page, you'll find my new and expanded "about me." On the "Dance&Yoga" page, you'll find my own dance and yoga stories but also lists of recommended resources.

The "Writing&Teaching" page is where a lot of goodness will be coming in the months ahead, including podcasts and workshops. For now, it acts as a bit of a resume type thingie.

On "ChickMap," you'll find me. Everywhere I am on these interwebs. You'll find all the ways you can connect with me, but you'll also find all the other places I have written or been interviewed.

And finally, if you go to "ChickLoves," you'll find a list of blogs I love (that is far from all inclusive), and a list of shiny things that I love from all over cyberspace. This list will grow from time to time.

Let me know what you think.

Let me know, also, what else you want. What sorts of podcasts and workshops do you dream of? What sort of topics do you want covered here?

Much peace and bliss and beauty to all you readers on this, the Epiphany, a perfect day, I thought, for a fresh start.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Pavlov's Dog Can Help You Get Big Things Done

I have completed a novel.

Five years ago, I would have told you that I would never be able to write that sentence. Though I was very good at helping others to overcome their writing and creativity blocks, I did not seem to be able to take my own advice.

Of course, I was writing all sorts of stuff on a regular basis, but the Great Almighty Novel teased me like a Giant Carrot gleaming in a dewy field before a small and hungry rabbit.

I was full of ideas. I had scraps of paper all over the place with titles, character names, two sentence plot descriptions. I had a couple of first chapters that never went anywhere.

One day, not long after Marcy had gotten me a manual 1969 Olivetti Valentine typewriter, I was walking back from the bus stop, and out of the blue, the first few sentences of a novel came to mind. As I walked, I kept repeating the sentences like a mantra. Each time, I knew there was more coming. I walked fast.

I got home and sat down at that typewriter and produced the first chapter.

I was so afraid of what I had done.

I had moved from idea to Real Work, and I wasn't sure that I could sustain this. I had tried and failed so many times before.

Yet the voice of the narrator was strong and I knew what the next chapter would be about and soon I knew what the one following that would be about.

The next day, I sat down to write chapter two. I had notes. I had my typewriter.

Then I accidentally came upon just the magic that I needed.

I slipped in the CD of the soundtrack from the movie Frida.

This music is perfect, because though there are words, they are in Spanish and I don't speak Spanish. (Shame on me.)

After typing for a wee bit, the music receded and I didn't realize that the CD stopped.

I listened to that same CD for the entire time that I wrote that book.

Every time I sat down at that typewriter (or at the computer when I would do the second drafts), I put in that CD, and those first lilting bars of music would send my fingers across the keys.

I told people, "I have Pavlov-Dogged myself."

And I had.

It wasn't just the music, though. It was also that typewriter.

The feel of the keys. The sound of the keys. The way I had to get stronger pinkies to use the keys. The smell of the ink on the ribbon. The winding of the ribbon when it got to the end. The pulling of the paper from the carriage and the piling of it to my right, seeing that pile get higher and higher.

None of this sensual experience of writing happens when we work directly on the computer.

I have used this same technique with working out and dance.

When I first started taking myself seriously as a dancer again, I knew there would be days when I "wouldn't want to" (whine whine whine), and so I used the same few songs every time I started different workouts.

And yes, those Whine filled days come, but all I have to do is get myself to the iPod. If I can do that, I know my body will take over once the music hits me.

It works every time.

Most days, I want to do what I do because it's...what I do, and on most days, I don't have to treat myself like a dog. But I am thankful that on the difficult days, I am a well trained dog.

What kind of rituals have you used to get big, impossible-seeming dreams accomplished? How do you get yourself drooling?

Monday, January 4, 2010

We Have No Excuses Left

Yesterday, I posted a video of a woman dancing Salsa. The first time I read about her, the piece claimed she was 92. Then I saw a piece say she was 80. Finally, we have confirmation from our lovely Tess that she is 75 (see the link in her comment). (Thanks, Tess!)

The age, of course, doesn't matter, because most 25 year olds would like to be able to move like this great grandmother.

Age, of course, does matter because most people over 35 start using age as an excuse to stop doing or trying all sorts of things.

Age is not an excuse, as I have claimed here before.

We all, sitting around a pot of tea or cups of coffee, would nod our heads in agreement if I said this aloud while we were discussing dreams and desires in a lovely cafe.

Deep in the recesses of our brains, though, our excuse making machines would go instantly into overdrive, and by the time we got home, my words spoken in that powerful circle of women would begin to ring...untrue or trite.

But what if I were to say, in that circle of women, that even War and Murder and Terror and Inhumanity were no excuse not to follow our dreams?

What if I were to tell you that things like music and dance become more important in times and places of atrocity, and that we in our, predominantly, comfortable lives are rather...pathetic in our complaints, our litanies of reasons?

Busy? That's your excuse?

How about a child just trying to survive who still knows that singing makes her feel good?

Gremlins? Really?

How about a child taken from his home who knows that playing an instrument makes him special?

Are you mad at me yet for pointing this out?

Yes or no, watch this and let your mind and heart both be opened and changed and challenged.

My God, we have No Excuses left.

My favorite quote from the film comes from that young girl:

When I dance, my problems vanish.
The camp is gone.
I can feel the wind.
I can feel the fresh air.
I am free and I can feel my home.

Everyone has their troubles, but let's keep ours in perspective.

Stop putting off your life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wild Woman of Dance: Great Grandma's Salsa

Everywhere you look, the age of this woman is different. When I found it, the piece said she was 92, and on this one, it says she is 80.

Even if she were 62, I would still be BLOWN AWAY. She dances like a TWENTY two year old.

Keep watching until she takes off her jacket. That's when the salsa starts.

Never say never.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

MusicBliss: 10 Days & Counting

This new album finally releases in the U.S. in ten days. Go here to see a video of the first single. It totally has a party feel, which is perfect for this weekend.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 2010 Dream Decree

Whether we recognize it or not, every day we set intentions. When we are not conscious of this, we end up being reactive rather than proactive.

As I wrote about last year, there's no need to be all self-judgey with these intentions. Intentions like that demean the power of our dreams. Intentions come from a much deeper place.

Intentions are Dreams Decreed (from the Latin "something decided").

We can't get what we don't ask for.

This is not the stuff of "The Secret." You know how I feel about that.

When I set an intention or speak aloud my Precious Dreams, it is a way to hold myself accountable.

Speaking aloud does not make it happen; what makes it happen is the hard work with which I follow the speaking.

Speaking aloud is more like a Contract with Myself.

This Dream Decree takes some courage.

The very act of deciding takes courage, I have found. The setting aside of All the Possibilities can feel frightening and is an act of maturity -- a declaration that I realize my time is limited and that I cannot Have It All if I want anything of substance.

All of that said, my Dream Decree is rather short, in and of itself, but each item is large and glittering and will eventually be broken down into parts.

For now, this is all I will say to the Universe and to you, dear reader: I Decree the following to be my Dreams for 2010 and beyond:

1. I will open a healing movement studio.

2. I will continue to develop as a dancer.

3. I will write my body memoir.

That's "it."

What about you?