Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inspiration for Your "Impossible" Dreams

A lot of people reading this today are pretty much snowed in for the weekend, so I thought some movie suggestions would be welcomed.

If you've not seen these films, you must, simply for their merit as films, but you must watch them, too, if you are in need of some inspiration. The characters all fight different odds and all stick to the conviction that their dreams, their bliss are worth the fight.








Friday, February 26, 2010

Walking Your Bliss Path Sometimes Means Walking Away


(Daydreaming of summertime lake and sky...)


This past year has been full of learning about myself. Really, the things I've learned probably look so basic from the outside that one might wonder if I had ever met myself.

One thing I have come to discover -- or recover or uncover -- is my nature as an Introvert. Coming to know this part of myself and coming to accept it has greatly impacted the quality of my life. I no longer judge my need for downtime. I understand why conversations about trivial matters annoy the hell out of me. I now know how and where I get energy and how and where I lose it.

Which brings me to making really hard choices about how I use my time.

Now that I have come back to dance, I spend a lot more time around other people, but this does not suck away my energy like it normally would, and that's because I'm not around people talking and asking and talking some more. We are dancing. There is music. There are steps to focus on. All of this increases my energy, and for some time now, it has been impacting my level of creativity in other genres as well. The more I dance, for example, the more I find myself writing.

The more I dance, the more book ideas keep flying at me so fast I need a butterfly net to catch them.

I have found that my time has become precious in a new way. I don't have time any more to need time to come down from social interactions. Did you get that sentence? I need that time to dance and to write.

Looking at my life, I have known for some weeks that I have to make some cuts. This has been super difficult for me to admit and for me to make decisions around.

Wait. I just lied.

It has been super difficult to admit, that is true, but I lied when I said it was hard to make the decisions that needed to be made. That part was really easy.

My Dancing Life comes first. Period. It is only second in relation to Marcy and our little family.

What was really hard was telling some very dear people that this or that was being cut. Who wants to disappoint people they care about?

But I did it. I said what I needed to say. I stayed true to my Passion and Purpose, to this Bliss Path. It was not easy, but I did it.

(Our good friend, Christiana, also just wrote about the difficulty of walking her bliss path.)


Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Glorious Pain Free Day!


I had a most amazing day this week: a day when I was Completely Pain Free.

If you live with chronic pain, I don't have to explain that. If you don't live with chronic pain, you should take a moment and thank your body for being so well behaved.

I have had chronic low back pain (as just one example) since my early teens, at least. It could have started earlier than that. I imagine that I have just always had it and that is why the memory of it is so blurry. (A few years ago, I discovered I have many structural issues in my spine, and of course, the more flexible amongst us tend to have pain issues.)

But...I have learned over the last 8 months that the key to my health is movement. The more I move every single day, the more likely I am to get one of those breath-of-fresh-air days of no pain. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. It feels miraculous and freeing.

It feels like I have someone else's body.

I have even very recently gone many days in a row with barely any pain at all. I felt light as a feather (say that in a British accent; it's much better that way).

How is your body doing? Do you give it what it needs? Do you just assume pain is unavoidable? Do you continue with habits that you know only make you more uncomfortable? Like not moving...like sitting on soft furniture...like using pain as an excuse to avoid life?*

*(Remember...I can ask that. I am in pain almost every day but I rarely let it stop me. And do not assume that means my pain is less. It's all relative to our own experiences.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

EmBody Talk: Brooks Hall, Yoga Teacher


Welcome to the inaugural interview in the new series, EmBody Talk.

I envision this series as a way for us to open up and talk about some really difficult stuff, and thus, I see it as a step toward healing.

It's for all of us who think our thighs are "too fat," our nose "too big," our breasts "too small." It is for all of us who have not eaten or eaten and then run to the bathroom to put a finger down our throats. It is for all of us who don't get out there and Shine Our Bliss because we think we are unworthy.

It is for the girl inside who has been told over and over that she is too much, too little, too loud, too quiet...told so many times that we believe it and live out of those beliefs.

It is not enough to just say that we will now start loving ourselves. No. First, we must honestly and openly speak of all the pain. Within the unity of this witnessing process, we will find our way to health and happiness and full embodiment.

Our first interview is with Brooks Hall, the bright and beautiful writer of Yogic Muse.

What is the first story that comes to mind when you are asked how you feel about your body?

Less than a month after Nana passed away, I did my first fast. Before that I knew I could never tell my grandmother that I wasn't eating. It would have disturbed her too much. It was a 28-day raw food cleanse, where the last week was a fast--no solid food was to be eaten during that time. The experience was fine and a little scary at times. There were times when my heart would race and all manner of things were coming out of my body. It certainly was an adventure of going to the toilet!

At the end of the fast a friend/guy/yoga teacher told me how great I looked. A part of me accepted the compliment, and another part of me silently said 'What? I have to starve myself for a month to be beautiful to you... That stinks.' Of course it is not this poor guy's fault. I mean, we are basically trained to think this way by mainstream media and such. But, I don't really imagine that we will be close friends anytime soon, either...

I did three more intense fasts/cleanses over the next year-and-a-half (the last one being over a year ago), and now I'm more interested in cultivating more sustainable, healthy eating habits, rather than putting my body through sudden and shocking dietary changes. So maybe I'm feeling better about myself...

Do you weigh yourself? Why or why not?

Not usually. I don't own a scale. But beyond that it seems a bit irrelevant in my day-to-day life. There are natural fluctuations from morning to night, etc. So to micromanage my weight seems silly to me. But I am generally sensitive to how "fat" I am, if my belly is sticking out for my period, or if it's flabby because I've been eating too many processed foods, and so on. The other day I felt my skin moving all around me as I walked and felt fat. Or I become aware of fat in my face. Also I might feel supple and lean in yoga or aware of some belly fat as I fold forward or twist. So my concerns about weight are more palpable/visual/sensory than numbers-on-a-scale based. But as I say that I also know that when I visit someone's house with a scale in the bathroom, I often will get on it and that there are certain numbers I like to see...

How do you like shopping for bathing suits and/or jeans (or any article of clothing)? How do you feel during the experience and after? What do you typically do about the feelings that are brought up?

Trying on clothes does say something about how others might measure my body. So when I was shopping for yoga clothes at a boutique here in Chicago a couple of years ago and found that the tops seemed to be cut for women who had had breast enhancement, I felt inadequate for those tops. I didn't fill them. Mostly in my life, I've heard people compliment my breasts, but somehow I think that they're small. In many moments I like them, but in terms of what the cultural climate asks of my chest, I am not enough.

What unattainable/unrealistic Rules do you have for your body? (For example, some women believe that only a certain size is acceptable or that certain foods are “bad.”)

I don't have consistent rules for my body, but I have found that certain ways of eating are healthier than others. And perhaps because of my experiences with fasting, I am aware of weight coming onto or off of my body. And I do feel best on the lean side. So I strive to eat to support great energy and a healthy body and mind.

When have you felt best about your body? or When do you currently feel best about your body?

I feel best about my body when I am exploring it through yoga and movement and taking care of it. It also feels great when someone appreciates my body.

What kind of movement does your body crave or do you not notice this craving?

My body loves yoga, swimming, hula hooping and hiking... You know, I just think that my body likes to move.

What story would your body like to tell if you were able to listen?

The story my body tells is different at different times... There are times when I perceive a story about an unsafe world, fear bubbling out from inside. And there are times when I feel a sense of wonderment and bliss coming from inside myself.

Thank you, Brooks, for the honesty here. I admit it -- I, too, am a secret scale user if there is one in a home we are visiting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Celebrating in My Pants


(Please excuse the title...I could NOT resist.)

Being depressed enough for a major portion of your life to the point that you are pretty much disconnected from any real experience of your body does not exactly make for physical fitness. To say the least.

When I have been "thin" in the past, it's been due to a cocktail of under-eating and over-exercising or just such severe anxiety that my body had started to gnaw at itself from the inside.

For the past few years, I have gotten happy "enough" to stop wanting to die, but I was not joyous or exuberant in any way. My main goal in life has been to feel safe, and one of the ways I have done that in the recent past is to stay a bit on the heavy side. I then used that as an excuse to hide, to not wear anything too pretty, too shiny. You know, to stay in the background of life.

And I always had the excuse of "Well...I don't want to buy anything nice...I will lose weight some day and then what?" I'm sure this is familiar to a lot of people.

Then, of course, the unexpected happened and I returned to my first love -- dance. I dance every day, and most days, I dance a lot. And do yoga. And other things.

But I do not own a scale; I do not use a measuring tape; I do not count calories; I do not call some foods "bad" and others "good"; I do not ignore cravings. The scale, the tape, the calories...all of it can be very bad for those of us who have suffered from eating disorders or body image disorders.

Instead of flirting with potential disaster and definite numbers-induced self-hatred, I just do my thing -- dance my joy, every day.

Little by little, I feel my confidence building -- along with my strength and balance and flexibility (all of those literally and metaphorically).

Little by little, I shed things I no longer need -- weight, yes, but also insecurity and the desire to hide. I find myself wanting to look glittery, wanting to show off...a bit...that is hard to admit.

I am...wow...proud of myself. I am grimacing as I write that. That is how weird that feels -- that I am making a freaking face at the screen as I watch that sentence appear before me.

I am proud of myself. I am proud of what I have done, what I will do, who I am, and (god forbid) what I look like -- strong and capable and shiny.

It's not really a thing we girls, in this culture, are ever supposed to say out loud, is it? We are supposed to stay humble, not show off, be quiet.

Nope. Not this Chick. Not any more. I have been graced with gifts but I also work damn hard to improve, to grow, to stretch myself. I'm allowed to claim a little credit.

That little pile in that picture? I went shopping for some clothes to go dancing in, and I was in the dressing room NOT HATING MY BODY.

How f'ing cool is that?

(Tomorrow I'll be posting the first of a new interview series called EmBody Talk. That is called a teaser. ((giggle)) )

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sharing in a Friend's Bliss Discovery


When we first met our friend, Chris, it was because Marcy and I were creating a reading event centered on a novel about the holocaust, which happens to be Chris' area of expertise as a college prof.

She and I clicked immediately, and I found myself sharing things with her that I normally only tell people I have known for quite a while and for whom I don't think the information will be too overwhelming. I'm not as private now that I have opened up through blogging, but when I met Chris, I was still a very closed off person.

We also had some shared memories, as she went to Penn State for her PhD (in history) and I went for my undergrad (in English). Her thesis advisor was one of my favorite teachers there.

At that first meeting, we learned about Chris' other side -- her tarot reading. We found this a wonderfully unexpected combination and from then on introduced her to other friends as the "tarot-reading college professor." (geeks...)

Recently, Chris has had a startling thing happen, and she has had to adjust her ideas about her life. It has been difficult and thrilling to watch this. Difficult because you don't want a friend to have hard times and thrilling because it is opening up this whole new life for her.

This past Friday, we hosted a party for Chris and invited friends to come and experience her great skill and amazing intuitive nature as a Tarot reader. It was a success and our friends were impressed by her, as we knew they would be.

I knew this party would help Chris see her life as not in crisis but in transition -- from one type of teaching to another, but I did not know that the night would be a Night of Epiphanies for her, which she wrote about here.

Eventually her blog will cover all sorts of paranormal interests, so you'll want to keep in touch. She's a gifted writer, an intuitive reader, and an awesome dream interpreter, and soon her skills will be available to you online. For now, soak in her wisdom!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Embodiment This Week: Ending February 21st


(A new favorite place locally.)

This week, I learned something really simple and yet totally profound.

I had some challenges; I felt confused; I wondered what next, how, why...it's been a week of questioning, to say the least.

Yet each challenge, each confusion, each question has been dealt with...dare I say..."gracefully." No major temper tantrums (notice, I qualified with "major"), no serious downturns.

Each time, I have gotten up, turned on music, and danced.

I have followed my Bliss Path.

I did not notice I was doing this until the end of the week, when I did it for, perhaps, the 4th time. I felt angry. Healthy angry. Appropriate angry, for sure, but I wanted to ride it out, so I tried yoga first, but it wasn't working, and I realized, "What am I doing?!" I literally threw the mat aside and turned on really loud music.

I held the anger in me and then I sweat it out.

Just as earlier in the week, I had gently held some questions in my body and then danced out the answers, rushing to paper and pen and back to dancing and all over again.

It is amazing how easy and fun this living thing can be when you are doing your thing.

((Happy Sigh))


Saturday, February 20, 2010

MusicBliss: Jazz in a Local Coffeehouse

Erie happens to be a hotbed of amazing jazz talent. Many of the musicians live here and travel to play, but we also get musicians from all over who stop here on their way elsewhere. Sometimes it's good to live in an in-between place.

Today we got to see Joe Deninzon in a small, locally owned coffeehouse, the Jive, for FREE. For two hours. And it blew our minds and bathed us in music bliss.



Friday, February 19, 2010

An Inside Look at My Bliss


(Orange snack on apple green desk.)

Last Friday, I got a comment on this post that I starred in my inbox. I knew I wanted to respond but was not sure how. Then yesterday, I had this crappy thing happen and the way I handled it was so completely different from how I would have handled it a year ago that I knew then that I was ready to write about this comment from Bethany:

Love how you put into words what I'm only just starting to learn.

I've been reading fewer blogs lately, exercising in the evening. But the other night before bed I clicked on one of yours. I was so tired I couldn't read it through. But I woke up in the morning, asking you this in a dream:

"What does it feel like inside your bliss?"

The way I define Bliss on this blog, as I've said so many times, is the way Joseph Campbell meant it. I think of my bliss, your bliss, as that thing that you were born to pursue (and yes, it can change for some of us over our lifetimes; for others, it won't). Bliss is a concrete thing. It is your Path.

It is not an emotional state.

This is not the same as defining yourself by some external. No. It is not putting yourself in a box or limiting yourself. It is merely a path, that you are compelled to walk. The path and the walker are not one and the same.

Do not, as they say, mistake the map for the territory.

If you are not walking your path, you will have this gnawing feeling in your tummy. You probably know just what I mean. Or you will become angry. Look at our wider culture -- all these angry, walking dead. They have not acknowledged or refuse to acknowledge their paths and so they walk around stuffing themselves full of empty calories -- cars, bigger houses, whatever they can get their hands on -- because thet won't fulfill their purpose for whatever reason -- severe depression, being a common one.

Severe depression has long been my block to a happy and fulfilled life. I was refusing to live, and when I stopped dancing, it was my final and most deadly temper tantrum.

Nothing else could do what dancing did for me. I tried to replace it, but you can't replace your spark.

What does it feel like inside my bliss?

In the morning, it feels like I want to get up and go because I no longer lay there startled or even frustrated that I have awakened. So many mornings, I would wake up and feel disappointed that I had.

I appreciate this life now, there is no other way to put that.

During the day, I am on fire with this appreciation.

I am Exhilarated. I am Challenged. I am Radiant.

No matter what.

Our cat, sweet Rosie, passes away, but I know all is well.

Someone tries to steal some thunder from my work, but I know all is well.

When that crappy thing happened yesterday (and it has to do with ethics and a lack of them), when that happened, I wrote that person a polite email. A year ago, I would have ripped that person six new ones and I would have done so in a very public manner.

For the past 15 years, I have been surrounded by love and beauty but I was still refusing to dance, still refusing to walk my path, and so I was still confined to a Prison Cell of Anger and Self Hatred.

I have flown out of that cell door that was open all along, as Rumi puts it.

The door in the center of my chest has flown wide open and the most amazing, sparkling things are flying out. Things I did not know I had in me.

When I dance, this is when it's most obvious that I have changed myself. By walking on my path, by saying Yes to the life I am meant to live, I have changed on a molecular level. I am a different person. I am the person I was born to be and not the one that was twisted and distorted by circumstances.

When I dance, I fly. There are no words to describe what it feels like in the eye of this bliss storm.

I fly. I am free. I am out of my body and completely settled in my body at the same time. I am a localized expression of this Giant and Beautiful thing called life.

I am fury; I am rage; I am joy; I am rapture; I am ecstasy.

I am prayer.

I am.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Erie Readers: YogaDance Teaching Schedule

As I mentioned in today's earlier post, I get to live my signature widget -- Be Brave. Choose Bliss. -- at the beginning of March, when I finally put myself out there as an Official YogaDance Instructor. Butterflies! Stomach Lurch!

If you are a local(ish) Erie reader, there are a couple of opportunities to try YogaDance with me.

Let me also clarify that I am a Kripalu Certified YogaDance Instructor. We had 140 hours of education over two separate weeks, and I put in a minimum of 20 hours a week doing homework assignments over 2 Months in between those two weeks, for a total of at least 160 MORE hours. I have 15 years of studying yoga under my belt, 8 of those specifically studying Kundalini yoga, and I have danced and studied dance all of my life.

Through yoga and dance, I have overcome chronic depression, anxiety, and body image and eating disorders. This is my life's work, if you haven't figured that out.

Onto the fun!

I will be teaching an ongoing weekly class at Ashley DiMarco's Dance Academy on Thursdays, starting March 4th. There is a morning and an evening class available. You can join at any time of the month or even wait until April! It is ongoing, as I said.

This is a dance class without that competitive environment. Just pure joy and no recital!

If you click on the poster, it will open in a new window and you can read it.

If you just want to initially try one class (with some introduction material), you can also join me on Saturday, March 20th at Julia Hamilton's Dharma Yoga. You need to reserve a spot for this event! The previous Saturday's class is already FULL!

If any of you reading this are coming, please introduce yourself before or after class. I am excited to meet all of you!


40 Delightful Dee-lights: Won't You Join Me & Make Your Own List?


I love this! Megan over at Limitless Living took my 40 Days to Delight in Your Body dare really seriously, and by "seriously" I mean she is going for it!

She has created this cool list of 40 things she could do during these 40 days, and she was a good girl and paid attention to the Rules! She is only listing things that are Fun!

You don't have to make such a list, of course, but if you do, leave a comment here so we can all benefit from each other's Ideas of Fun & Delightful. (Or just leave a comment with a few ideas!)

Now I am pretty "in" my body. I do ballet, yoga, and some other form of dance almost every single day. This does not mean, though, that I am always conscious, always nice, always good to myself. I have issues with rest, as I have mentioned.

I'll keep these things in mind as I make my list:

1. Take a walk to and in our city cemetery.
2. Go outside and find everything that is growing.
3. Read fiction.
4. Read poetry.
5. Go see Alice in Wonderland and eat greasy popcorn!
6. Henna my hair. (Should read: "Have Marcy henna my hair." Giggle)
7. Purchase some real dance clothes -- not yoga clothes.
8. Go to another public ballroom dance.
9. Watch professional ballroom dance videos.
10. Begin the Season of Painted Toe Nails.
11. Acupuncture. Never done it. Need to try it.
12. Sing.
13. Sing some more.
14. Go to hear live music.
15. Repeat.
16. Make friends with my thighs. (Or at least start negotiations)
17. Buy a new lip color balm thing.
18. Wear my tiara.
19. Wear more sparkles.
20. Take a day with no internet.
21. Create a pre-dance self-blessing. (Thanks, Rebecca!)
22. Write down my Biggest Dream Life Ever.
23. Wear my tutu for no reason.
24. Plan our flower gardens -- an exercise in Imagining Beauty.
25. Do Kundalini Yoga breathing exercises before bed.
26. Be brave -- I'll need this in a couple of weeks when I start teaching yogadance!
27. Get rid of all my clothes that are too big. (A Big Act of Faith!)
28. Go to the art museum in Cleveland with Marcy on her birthday weekend. (Weather permitting.)
29. Watch a favorite funny movie.
30. Write someone a letter -- on PAPER.
31. Eat by candle light more often.
32. Make homemade soup.
33. Sit on the front stoop in my snow pants on a clear night to stargaze.
34. Get a red velvet cupcake at Starbucks (I always freaking resist!).
35. Go for Martinis with friends for no reason.
36. Send flowers to someone for no reason.
37. Have an outdoor fire on the equinox no matter the weather.
38. Wear my "diamond" sandals the SECOND the snow is gone.
39. Read a biography of a daring, glittering woman. (Any suggestions?)
40. Be grateful.

Your turn!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This is Why We MUST Claim The Beauty & Delight of Our Bodies

Go here and watch that to which she refers.


40 Days of Delight: My Lenten Diet


Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing.

--Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration

When I was little, night time could be extra scary. I would often awaken to horrible fighting and so as an adult I have had a lifelong struggle with sleeping well. I get intense nightmares, even night terrors. As I live a life filled with love and meaning and joy and beauty, my sleeping gets better, the nightmares less intense and less frequent.

But they are not completely gone. I go through cycles, and when this happens, it turns into something else: Pre-bed anxiety. Just the other night, I finally noticed that this was happening. (It can take me some time to become aware of it, because I can so easily shut off parts of myself.)

As I prepare for bed, taking a warm bath, petting kittens, I notice my anxiety and fear increasing. And the other night, I noticed I was having some fear of death. Death feels much closer at night, in the dark, in the descending quiet of sleep time, when our mind's chatter can become amplified and suddenly seem as though it is the only voice in the world. Things you know during the day -- that you are safe, that life is good -- can be easily drowned by this nasty voice of All Human Fears.

Once I became aware of the arrival of this unwanted and uninvited bedtime guest, I did what I am supposed to do and I told Marcy. We began the process of examining our current life for triggers. They can be different from time to time, depending on what is going on, yet there are some that are consistent.

A few years ago, our TV broke, and we never bothered to get a replacement. Though we watch DVD's and download from iTunes, this has eliminated commercials and unwanted news breaks. This helped my brain's overactive imagination a lot. Media fasts are important for all us but especially for the brain that has been directly exposed to violence on a regular basis, I think.

Yet...

I still have a TV issue. I watch too much. Just because I watch very little compared to the average American does not mean that I still don't watch an excess -- for me. For this brain. For this body.

I was thinking about all of this in the context of my call for you to take the 40 days of lent to delight in your body.

What we put into out bodies matters -- from the food to the media -- so in order to delight in better sleep (and therefore better days), I am going on a TV diet. I try this from time to time, but I think adding it to the idea of Lent will make my Will that much stronger.

At night, instead of being a passive recipient of junk food for the brain, I am going to partake of good, healthy brain food in the form of poetry and (gasp!) excellent fiction. I have been reading far too little as of late -- too much nonfiction, if you ask me -- and I am in need of well constructed story and beautiful language. When I was younger, fiction saved me, acting as balm for my weary heart.

Let the Healing begin.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Blessing for Your Senses


After yesterday's post, sweet, insightful Heather from Fumbling for Words sent me this blessing poem written by John O'Donohue, whom we will miss greatly for his wisdom and mystical spirit.

Heather was right on with this.

I'll be using it as a daily tool in my 40 Days of Delight. It has been printed, cut out, and decorated by Marcy; it will be my bookmark for my Thomas Merton based Lenten book. I think O'Donohue would approve of the company.

For the Senses

May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.

John O'Donohue (1956-2008)


Real Food, Real Health: Our Lives Depend Upon It

Yesterday, Sandy from The Dreaming Cafe referred to this TED talk on her Facebook. None of this information is new to me, but Jamie Oliver's passion about the bigger picture was so captivating and his message is so important that I want to share it with everyone. Starting right here.



I think his message also fits wonderfully into our 40 Days of Delight in our Bodies for Lent. What better way to show gratitude for our physical manifestations than to care for our bodies from the inside out, and therefore, by extension, to care for this planet.

The better we eat, the better we farm.

I am not talking vegetarianism here. I believe every body is different and has different needs, but every community and every individual can step up and support local, sustainable, and humane methods of farming.

Every community can demand that their children's lives (and their own) not be cut short by the very foods we put in their mouths.


Monday, February 15, 2010

40 Days of Delight: A New Approach to Lent


This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and even if you in no way participate in this season, there are some meanings in this story that are relevant to anyone trying to live this life fully, bravely, and blissfully.

On Wednesday, some of us will have ashes placed on our foreheads to mark the beginning of the 40 day journey. The ashes are not a morbid reminder of our impending deaths, but they are, I assert, meant to wake us up to the opportunity of these bodies.

The opportunity is brief and therefore precious.

Many of us are squandering the opportunity, wearing these bodies heavily, as burdens, rather than inhabiting them joyfully. We diminish the Body, placing it at the bottom of a hierarchy of Spirit and Intellect.

Yet...

It is through this body that we enter the ocean and feel the salt water and contemplate our connection to the whole.

It is through this body that we embrace those whom we love and know we are not alone.

It is through this body that we celebrate, that we mourn, that we play, that we rest.

The word Lent itself is of Anglo Saxon origin and simply means spring.

Over these 40 days, the ground will less often be white where I live, and I will start to hear a low murmur of water trickling in the ground. There will be small green shoots pushing up through the top crust of earth. By the time we get to Easter, there will be strongly scented flowers at our front door.

The body of the Earth awakens in these 40 days, and I wonder if we are not meant to go through the same process.

(Lent ends in a death, you protest, so how can it be about joy? But the death is meant to remove the final veil of fear so that we might live in these bodies "free of all anxiety.")

This stretch of 40 days is a time to shed our winter hibernation, but more generally, this year, perhaps it is time to finally shed the idea of Body as Burden. Rather than sacrificing a way of eating or thinking or speaking, perhaps we could take on a different kind of 40 day journey -- one of awakening the body to the light and warmth of our own love for ourselves.

I challenge you...in this very serious time of year...to become less serious and more joyful.

I challenge you to 40 Days of Embodiment. Get in your body and experiment with what your body wants from you. Again, think back to your youth -- what did you like to do when you were little? Ride your bike? Cartwheel in the grass? If you were a sedentary child (for whatever reason), what did other children do that you envied? Did you dream of riding horses? Did you desperately want to learn karate?

For 40 Days, I Dare You to Dare Yourself. I dare you to not feel better about and more connected to your life.

Here are the Rules:

You have to have Fun. If it feels like exercise or obligation, get rid of it. If it is boring, get rid of it. If you have to force yourself to do it by parsing it out in small bits, get rid of it.

You have to sweat and laugh simultaneously. Not continuously. I just mean, if you can't smile or giggle, you are doing the wrong things.

That's it. It's quite simple, really.

For 40 days, no more limitations. No more excuses. No more fear.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Embodiment This Week: Ending February 14th


(Local vegetarian/vegan cafe, The Singing Bowl)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Okay, okay...not everyone does this "hallmark" holiday, and I certainly have scorned it aplenty in the past. But what about LOVE? One day a year focused on love?! I am changing my perspective on this and embracing the whole, schmaltzy thing. Officially. Right now. (There are plenty of reasons to join me; take your pick.)

Besides, Gala Darling is doing this totally cool Radical Self Love thing, and anyone who wears shoes like this should be obeyed. Seriously.

Selfish, selfish, some of you are whispering at the concept of focusing on your Self, but it is only by radically loving who you are that you will ever be able to accept and love others. It is only by doing what you were born to do that you will ever be able to inspire anyone else to do the same.

I've had my say.

Ever since I saw the Radical Self Love challenge, it's been sitting in my brain. I wonder, what would radical self love look like, and here are some things I came up with:

Radical Self Love means my body parts are no longer pulled apart and scrutinized but appreciated for what they can do. I mean, I have the most amazing flexibility and I am strong and I can move like very few people. So there!

Radical Self Love would mean that I would take my own Dreams & Ideas as seriously as I take those of my friends, and I would put the same unadulterated energy into my stuff as I do theirs.

Radical Self Love would mean that I would listen to more Blondie. (Sorry -- Heart of Glass (ha!) just came on my Scissor Sisters Pandora station and I couldn't resist.)

Radical Self Love would allow me to be as enthusiastic as I feel all the time. I would never again squelch my personality for fear of being Silly or Too Much.

Radical Self Love would be So Completely Shiny. I would not buy the more Sensible shoes ever again. I would not fear Standing Out. I would not make myself smaller in any way just to make other people comfortable.

Radical Self Love would also include more bubble bath, more specialty chocolates, Much More Dancing (I know -- HOW can I fit it in!?), but also taking Rest more seriously, these roller skates (yes, I am obsessed), only listening to music that makes me Pleasantly Hyper, Diving Into Every Day wearing something like this by necessity, but having the opportunity to often wear something like this, more time places like this, and, in general, much more time sharing it all with her.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Explanation of YogaDance by a Founder of Dance Kinetics

While studying YogaDance at Kripalu, I was lucky enough to have two hour-long classes with Dan Leven, one of the original founders of Kripalu Dance Kinetics, which then evolved into YogaDance. Dan now has his own modality called Shake Your Soul.

They are all very similar in their approach to dance as healing, and Dan does a great job in a very brief video of giving you a real sense of what I now do.



Friday, February 12, 2010

Active Body, Aware Mind


(Random, wonderfully colored Acorn squash.)

We finally got some snow. We live in a snow belt, but we've had a pretty light year compared to the East coast. Anyway, this is not about weather. The snow was wet and heavy, which means it has generally been wet and cold here.

Dry and cold, wet and warm...those I can take. But wet and cold? That is the stuff of pain for me. My body hates this kind of weather. Spring is extra hard for this reason. Here, spring is the season of mud -- mud with little ice bursts in it.

Right now (ready?)...my lower back hurts, my rib trigger points are inflamed, my brain is foggy, and I am getting migraine brain* symptoms like Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, which I hate. With a passion. It makes me sick just typing out the name of it. I feel it in my stomach.

(*The medical community is finally moving away from an old understanding of migraine as a "bad headache" and starting to understand it as a neurological disorder.)

This migraine brain comes with a whole host of delicate emotional/psychological stuff, too, that I won't get into, but suffice it to say, it makes me edgy, suspicious, and extra OCD.

I am a real pleasure to be around, can't you tell?

But what is really weird about all of this is that I might be a little (or a lot) WhineChick, but overall, I am pretty damn good, and that is true because I am AwareChick.

I see that all of this is going on. For the first time in my life, actually, I can see clearly that I am symptomatic and so I have the symptoms but then I don't respond to them or create stories around them. Before, some of my favorite stories, included (but were not limited to): I must be seriously depressed...here I go! or I am sick and dying, for sure this time.

Those stories might pop up from time to time, but I just say, "Hello, Story, you are just a story," and move on.

Literally. Move. On. Get moving. Go dance. Sweat it out.

When we are dancing (or participating in a type of movement that makes us sweat, laugh, and feel our essential joy), we are completely in and of the Present Moment. When we drop into our bodies, we get out of Brain -- where concepts like the Past and Future reside, otherwise known as Depression and Anxiety.

There is a consciousness in Body that is bigger and smarter than brain, and from this perch of full body Awareness, I can watch the games that Brain plays. Seeing the games for what they are, I no longer engage, and in this way, I win.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Body & Spirit: What Do Your Ancestors Need from You?


I love thinking about the molecules of oxygen that we breathe and how they've been in and out of the lungs of people like Virginia Woolf and Audrey Hepburn and Isadora Duncan and now they are moving, recycled, in and out of yours and mine.

There's nothing new under the sun, ya know? Including the air we breathe and the stardust of which we are made or the thoughts that we may capture on paper or in paint or in a moment of movement.

There's nothing new, except, of course, that you and I are made of ancient stuff and are unique originals at the same time.

That movement of pen, brush, or leg may look the same as one that took place centuries ago, but it's not exactly the same. Only you could have done that, right then, right there.

And yet the oxygen and the stardust and the thoughts...

In this recycling, we are all connected by invisible threads, lighting our way out of the labyrinth or into the center, whichever direction you happen to be headed at the moment. As we pass in and out of this existence, we drop or pick up these lighted threads, and so we continue the narrative, the building, the making.

I wonder about all of this as I dance. Where does this dance come from and why has it chosen me to use as a vehicle? Why has that story chosen that author? Why has that venture chosen that woman?

In reading Twyla Tharp, I came across an interesting possible explanation, one of an infinite number of possible explanations, but it's floating my boat right now, making me think of these things from a slightly different angel -- and slight is all I ask for.

Tharp is writing of memory and she remembers a story she read in the New York Times in March of 2002. It was about a Cambodian dancer:

"We believe our ancestors are watching us, even if we do not see them," Sina Koy said. "It was because of the spirit of the ancestors inside me that I became a dancer." Not long ago, she visited the ancient temples of Angkor and studied the stone bas-reliefs where dancers bend and turn and float just as they do today on the broad bare stage of the practice hall. Seeing them, Sina Koy understood that nothing had changed. Everything that she does today was done then.

Now when I dance, I am going to ask my feet to ask the earth what it is my Ancestors need or want me to do.

Breathing in all the past dancers, breathing out dance...


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All is Well

(The cabin where Marcy wrote for three days.)

I was listening to a talk by Anthony De Mello the other day, and he pointed out that every mystic from every world religion comes to the same exact conclusion: All is well. And furthermore, all shall be well. (To use the wording attributed to Julian of Norwich.)

Monday, Marcy's grandfather was, what we call, actively dying (and he passed away yesterday morning). He was comfortable and had a long life (and he is and will be greatly missed). We were in that time of waiting. Marcy went to work. I told her I would cancel ballroom dance classes for that night.

She said no.

I went. I worried about her, but I also had...fun. I laughed. I felt the joy of dance.

She was right. There is no saying "no." Only "yes" is the appropriate response to this beautiful life.

Yes, yes, yes, to the rhythm of our breath.

Yes, yes, yes, to the last breath.

One final, long, and slow Yes, riding out of this life on Yes, just as we rode in, screaming it at the top of our fresh lungs.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tweeting My Way to Self Understanding


(Marcy in the woods at the writing cabin.)

On Monday morning, I was on twitter and I mentioned the fact that I was having Monday Morning CrankyChick Syndrome. Marcy works late on Mondays at the library and so she is home for the first part of the day and then leaves. This throws both of us off in a variety of ways, even though it has been like this for many years.

Anyway, in response to my Cranky tweet, Birkan Tore (an incredibly sweet intuitive out of Amsterdam) responded with: *throws fairy dust from a safe distance*

Which just made me burst into giggles. Deep tummy giggles that sent some sort of healing vibration throughout my body, I think, because I felt a lot better instantly.

Beyond that, his words made a bunch of vague thoughts and feelings snap into place, and I understood instantly that I have been way out of balance for some time now, and further I understood what the imbalance was about and what has to be done.

All from a little tweet!

Since I have rediscovered dance as my primary path in this life, I have also discovered that it is my primary spiritual path. It is a path that acts much like a strand of DNA -- winding in and out of itself, it includes and blends all of the parts that make up the larger Me. All of them -- this body and this heart and this mind and this spirit and this microcosm and this macrocosm -- it all meets in and melds together in Dance.

A little bit of background: I have always been a "religious" sort of person besides a "spiritual" person. (Sometimes these terms make me want to choke but I have to express this in language or we won't be having a discussion.) Anyway, the religious part of me is very liberation theology Catholic, and specifically, I have a devotion to Mary (very specifically in this form), the last remnant of feminine divinity in all of Western religion.

Since I have been dancing, I have barely paid any attention to her and this has been gnawing at the back of my brain for some time. I don't like this.

But I also understand that things -- all things -- wax and wane. Up and down. In and out. Dark nights and bright days. You know.

Back to dance: I accepted that it is not just my material existence that is fulfilled through dancing but also my spiritual and so I began to relax a bit about the lack of Mary thing. I know it is there, always, deep within me, and that outer expression changes and morphs over time.

But...here is the big but! (giggle)...My dancing life has been morphing into almost exclusively the Mundane. I focus on getting in shape, increasing my flexibility, learning steps for ballroom, finding people to teach.

I love all of that. All of that is Good Stuff.

But my Spirit needs to be tended to, also, and that is what Birkan Tore's fairy dust reminded me of: I need the Sacred along with the Mundane. Again, like that DNA strand, they have to wind in and out of each other or I am not Me.

I am in need of Wonder and Awe and Magic in this life. I am in need of Sparkle -- and I don't mean just shiny, pretty things (thought I do need those) but that kind of Sparkle that I met during my near death experience.

I haven't figured out the details yet, but identifying the problem is half the battle, right?

Besides, Lent starts next week. What better time to be evaluating all of this!?

(Heather, over at Fumbling for Words, is also dealing with some balance issues. For another take on this, go here.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rediscovering Yoga


(We call photos like this "Senior Portraits." The posing!)

I've written very honestly about the fact that once I found dance again, yoga just started to totally bore me. Recently, I had a breakthrough with yoga that reminds me how everything changes. (I'm a bit on the slow side so I have to keep learning these same lessons over and over.)

I was on my mat doing some kundalini yoga. My favorite, as you may know. And it hit me, "This is what I do. I move."

That means nothing to you, but it meant the world to me and was a huge "ah-ha" moment.

It was my body finally getting the message to my brain that everything is dance. All movement is a form of dance.

Movement becomes dance when it is married to consciousness. When you are consciously moving, you are dancing.

I had gotten into a rut with yoga, and so when I stepped on the mat, I lost consciousness. I was just going through the routine. Yoga had become a "should." Yoga was just one more thing to cross off my to-do list, and thus it was good that I just stopped for a while. I put away my mat and the DVD's.

Being dramatic as I tend to be (cough), I thought, "That's it. No more yoga for me. EVER AGAIN!"

Luckily, my DivaChick didn't know what she was talking about. Luckily, I was made to do yoga again at my YogaDance teacher training. And luckily, yes, I said LUCKILY, I put it back on my list of shoulds.

What?! You read that right. Sometimes it's okay to push ourselves, it's okay to make ourselves do something we don't think we want to do. Because lots of times, those shoulds end up being good for us in ways we can't imagine. Sometimes those shoulds turn right into our wants.

Ravi Singh said it best on one of the DVDs I was doing a couple of days ago, "No test, no progress." I love his play on that old and awful "no pain, no gain." Ravi got it right.

Sometimes we have to push because lots of times...we're lazy. I know I can be and being honest about that is just the kick in the ass I need.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Embodiment This Week: Ending February 7th


Part of embodiment is listening to what your body needs and wants in terms of nutrition. Right now, I am just crazy about citrus. I'm eating a large navel orange or grapefruit just about every day. Yum.

And I'm still doing the breakfast smoothie that I talked about last week.

Listening like this has led to a decrease in simple carbs. I've tried to cut those in the past, but it came from this place of "should" and it never worked. Now it's naturally coming from this place of listening. Cool.

In terms of movement this week, I have greatly increased my time spent dancing and doing yoga, and now I even start my day with ballet, which makes me happy in ways that are unexplainable.

What I've noticed about all of this is that my range of motion and my strength continue to improve in small ways every day. At this point, I am easily as flexible as I was at the age of sixteen, if not slightly more!

I know that by the time I turn 42 at the end of this year, I will be in the best shape of my life. Period. Aging!? HA! I laugh in your face!

How about you? What's your body up to? Are you paying attention to her/him?


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bliss in Action



What do you love this much?

What are you willing to give yourself over to this fully?