I found myself wallowing in doubt a short while the other day.  Really, who am I to teach a workshop titled Cultivate Being?  What do I know?  I should be teaching the alternative, the one called Cultivate Distraction.  There’s where my expertise lies.  Besides, the last time I held a multiple day retreat was 2014 at Harbin, before it was lost to flames.

But as I wallowed, a persistent voice begged to chime in.  Bella, it murmured, why wouldn’t it be you?  You are poised at the portal where being looms as the final frontier.  Certainly I have cultivated self-observation, recognizing my behavior somewhat objectively.  An ability to witness myself in action has led to glistening moments of self-understanding.  Albeit in fits and starts.  Insights that consistently deliver me to thresholds of change, of transformation, of making a shift.

I’ve felt how staying present, resting in awareness will move me off the transom and open the door.  Destiny persistently prods me from distraction, points my nose to the here and now and says “this is what you need to deal with.”  Real time experience, though I may not like it, though it be inconvenient, generally gifts me exactly what I need. Time and again.

Warning: 5Rhythms geek-iness for next bit.  In the best of scenarios, life moves us through a cycle illuminated by the rhythms.  We’re born to meld and flow with the earthy maternal a few short years. Then we individuate  a spell via the fire of staccato: learn to love another, set boundaries, play by the rules.  Puberty initiates chaos and we can spiral in this energetic vortex for years.  In hindsight, that is how it was for me.

It appeared I’d exited adolescence, dropped into maturity.  There were decades of incredible and all-consuming marriage and children and professional development.  O.K….I did flirt with rebellion, did some crazy
s—t, had some raucous adventures.  But you know what?  I was basically a good girl adhering to my childhood programming.  Years went by.  Sometimes when we’re stuck, the shadow-y stuff is what finally gets our attention.  I careened toward mid-life crisis suffering an ever-diminishing ability to control life and an increasingly painful confusion.

At fifty I began to dance in earnest. The presence and exquisite awareness cultivated in consistent practice lifted me off this festering threshold and opened the door to overdue change.  Thus began ten glorious years of chaotically lyrical transformation.  Years of surrender, years of letting go, years of exploring what maturity really had in store for my gifts.  I rode this turbulent wave to the shore of a destiny very different than I’d imagined.  A melding of personal, creative and professional…no part held separate from the others.

Over the last ten years, my soul has kept ripening. Albeit in fits and starts. Trusting my gut self, loving my undefended self, letting go into living life just as I am.  No abject apology, no crippling doubt, no shame.  Mostly contented peace, deeply profound gratitude. I find myself poised on the cusp of the final rhythm, stillness.  Which is what (being the fifth in a series) Cultivate Being is about.  I’ve lived through so much to arrive at this moment.  Maybe I do know something of this territory.

Perhaps we cultivate being when we simply cultivate living.  Living with awareness through the wave of a lifetime.  Being fully present to all the painful, unexpected, not-in-the-plan stuff, we learn what is essential.  That we are not our appearance, our emotions, our thoughts, our personality.  That we are not some strategy for coping with life. That being in alignment, being authentic is an expression of what’s underneath all that drivel.  When life is free of apology, bitterness, blame and shame we walk a path paved with experience-derivative truth.  And doubt shows up as an aspect of that truth.  But we carry on anyway and cultivate being in order to live from our essence.  There comes a time when the main thing left is to cultivate being. I have been so blessed.

❤️Bella

There I sat, a grandchild nested both sides, focused ready for a re-read of a favorite Dr. Seuss.  It was a golden oldie when my kids loved The Sneetches.  Pretty amazing how this classic has not only endured but telegraphed a future we are now living.  Maybe you’ve not had the pleasure.  The sneetches: large yellow creatures that live on their own planet, some with stars on their bellies.  The star-bellied sneetches parade around, shoulders thrown back, pride smeared all over their faces. Snooty noses way up in the air.  Those with empty bellies slink around ashamed and dejected, obviously in deep longing.

Everything changes when an enterprising young man shows up with his new-fangled star belly-making machine.  Lacking sneetches hungrily line up, pay a fee and come out the other end with “stars upon thars”.  Their noses snoot up as well.  The original sneetches are appalled.  No problem.  The entrepreneur has another machine designed to remove stars.  You get the picture.  Utter chaos ensues as the sneetches try to keep up with the prevailing and ever-changing trend.  Which after awhile is impossible to fathom.

My grandkids, both under twelve, still masked in public, did not miss the convoluted parallel.  We are living in a weird sneetch planet right now, crazy-making judgments flying through public space.  When the sign says no masks required for the vaccinated, what does it mean when someone is masked?  Maybe they’re not vaccinated.  But they could be vaxxed and living with a health risk or dealing with the unknown public every day or wanting to be extra cautious.  And who knows about the unmasked?  They could be rebellious Covid skeptics and/or mask efficacy non-believers.  All this ambiguity tolerance seems healthy on one level.  I could tolerate it better if I were less worried about the spread of the delta variant.

Last month 15,000 vaccine-required New Yorkers filled Madison Square Gardens to enjoy a Foo Fighter concert.  I have yet to experience the unique joy of huge group participation.  There is a ton of research indicating that joy and happiness and laughter are hugely amplified in the company of others.  A few years back I wrote about “collective effervescence”, the energetic harmony generated when folks come together with a common intention.  Dancing, singing, eating, exercising, worshipping…so many collective activities we have put on hold. We’ve had a long haul of lack of opportunity on this front.

Now that we are slowly, tentatively finding our way back, what does it mean to nurture our yearning for collective effervescence when we know some are excluded?  Or have to mask or have to weigh risk over benefit or know that some differ from us in risk assessment?  Sorry, lots of questions.  No answers.  For myself, vaccinated since April, there’s been a slow but steady peeling away of personal concern.  My mask, an accessory for so long, was mostly off the last couple weeks.

But my collective concern still runs deep. There are people I love who are not vaccine-protected.  It seems so clear to me that 7 billion people cannot live on this planet without this miracle that medical science has provided for a century.  There are just too many of us.  These five upcoming events illustrate what a crossroads we are all living upon:

Essentials:  mostly online, most Friday mornings 10:00-11:30.  I love this cavalcade of Zoom-ers.  Some are virtually present, some participate via recording.  The last four weeks: an embodied exploration of fluid spinal cord; sending and receiving of peripheral nervous system; four lobes right and left of cerebrum; and ever on the job brain stem.  Next week: balance and your cerebellum.  Each class in this nervous system series stands alone as we roll and release, subtly strengthen and become ever more flexible.

Sunday 5Rhythms Dance July 18 10:00-noon: live and in person every Sunday (except July 25), entering our fourteenth month outdoors.  Staying with this until we come back to Clara morning of Halloween.

Cultivate Being July 23-25 at Four Springs:  so excited for this long delayed three day 5Rhythms/art creation retreat, live and indoors.  Vaccination or current Covid test required.  We are full up but things change.  Let us know if you want to be on the wait list.

Resource and Renew July 26-30 at Esalen:  I’ll be assisting Lucia Horan for 5 days of dancing and meditating.  I do not need to write about how thrilled I am to return to the magic of Esalen.  Which is 100% live in person.  Maybe you want to come with me.

Release in the Rhythms:  Saturday August 7 10:00-1:00.  100% online.  Which allows me to team up with fellow teacher Erik Iversen in Montreal.  This is for you if you want a dance exploration of the unique way we each embody stress and the basics of rolling that tension away.  And if you love this idea, Fluid Spine is available on demand 100% online through July 23,link at home page bottom.

Yes, feeling that.  This yearning for collective effervescence.  Joy magnified because it is shared.  Maybe you are, too.  So willing to tread these ambiguous waters with you.  It’s better that way.
❤️Bella

I had barely drifted into sleep land Thursday when the barking began.  Not an occasional yip.  A persistent deep-throated arf with only a very occasional pause.   How animal vocal capacity could sustain this woof was beyond hard to fathom.  My irritation grew steadily into frustration which soon escalated to outrage.  After an hour I figured if slumber was to be denied, perhaps practice was called for.  I began to doggedly include the barking.

Buddhism 101 enumerates three torments of the heart, three poisons that create human suffering:

  • We want good stuff.  In fact sometimes we crave as much as we can get. We grab anything pleasurable and greedily hold it close.  More is better, right?
  • We don’t want bad stuff.  We can become more and more skilled at pushing away what pains us, turning away from ugliness and, if it bothers us enough, lashing out in hatred.
  • We don’t care about stuff that doesn’t directly affect us.  We can be indifferent, intolerant, ignorant and head-in-the-sand.

Why do we do all this stuff?  It’s so basic: we can’t believe we’re not  permanently here. All this grabbing, pushing and ignoring guard against considering our demise, keep us from feeling into our inevitable disappearance.  Mortality sucks.  These three strategies work as viable short term solutions to not feeling how fleeting life is. They’re so convoluted though and tend to keep us enslaved to our own self-centeredness. What’s a human to do?  It’s hard out there.  Who wants to suffer?

I don’t want the bad stuff either.  But instead of spending my limited energy lashing out at Mr. Dog, I just stayed still and included him.  Did I sleep?  No.  But I wasn’t all worked up about the situation. I could breathe and feel and rest in this practice of inclusion.  This is a workable possibility when we are stuck in that place of not wanting the bad stuff.  Inclusion can eventually deliver us to compassion.  Sometimes.

Well of course there are antidotes to that greedy place and that not caring place as well but this not wanting the bad stuff place was just not done with me yet.  After the night was over and morning had finally arrived, I climbed the stairs to my studio to Zoom teach Essentials.  As the door opened I was greeted by the piercing screech of the smoke alarm, programmed to emit a warning every 15 seconds.  It’s a longer story of why I could not get it to cease until class was over.  But it is a very short story of what I made of this ridiculous situation.

How obvious could it be that great spirit was not done with this survival lesson about how to embrace it all.  I had spent the night practicing but apparently there was still more to learn.  I just returned to the breathe-feel -rest  place, introduced students to our smoke alarm companion and carried on.  We dove into a class that was about way more than the upper cervical spine.  By the end of ninety minutes I barely noticed the sound.

Polarization is a fact of current life. Color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, financial status…each can be construed to divide us. Practicing exclusivity is what transforms all these human variations into hate.

“We have everything we need to make the present moment the happiest in our life, even if we have a cold or a headache. We don’t have to wait until we get over our cold to be happy. Having a cold is a part of life.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Practicing inclusivity is a moment by moment choice.  Often not an easy one.  Let’s practice……❤️Bella

What happens when you return to the same spot 20 years later?  Here I am again.  The base of Mount Whitney, the eastern slope of the Sierras rising everywhere that is west, straight up and out of the 5,000 foot plains of the Owen Valley.  Who was that in 2001 just beginning a crazy rambling month long odyssey in that red bus?  The one we bought for $9,000 the week before.  Barely six months along a 5Rhythms road beginning to be paved with all my neuroses, flagstones crumbling, re-arranging.  My life shifting around me, tumbleweed wheeling over arid sand.  Moving relentlessly toward wholeness.  Fostering way dormant creative urges, letting them finally have more say.  Carving out space for a more authentic emergence.  A place where surely less and less is needed.  Enough to live this given life exactly as it is.  A place I just could not settle for twenty years ago.  A place that doesn’t feel like “settling” at all.  But rather arriving, surprised at the welcome mat to a life that was always laying right at my feet.

What happens when you return to the same spot 60 years later?  Who was that trusting ten year old, dutifully keeping pace behind mom and dad and my little brother?  As if these wilderness total newbies knew what they were doing.  Their parental daring astounds me.  A left turn out of Lone Pine in that Oldsmobile 88, a trailhead winding into the eastern Sierras.  Laden with a mish-mosh of re-purposed backpacking gear, way before REI was your one stop shop.  Steel cups looped to our belts, scooping water out of icy streams.  Gathering down wood, roasting dinner over flames.  Imprinting a novice fire-tender who single-mindedly hones that skill to this day. No tent for this family, cocooned in red plaid flannel bags, fearless under boundless sky.  Building memories right along with the capacity for innate wonder: sapphire lakes, sterling granite, the potency of time stretching empty.

It feels like a parental spell cast in 1960, the family’s return to this sacred spot every year through my teens…well, it has steadily worked it’s magic. Through the random lifetime rhythms until 2021, a year that has stripped away any remaining ties of binding.  For me, for you perhaps, for so many.  Out here on my mat, the exploration of internal landscape feels like a match for these majestic surrounds.  An embodied sense of  bhanda ties that bind us, utterly released as the inhale moves prana through over and again.  What I am sharing on the mat continues to clarify: the intersection of breath, bhandas/chakras and release. Re-orienting to the shushumna as central touchstone.
Body Joy: Unbound Workshop

Incorporating the mat onto the dance floor unleashes the mythic questions. How has this year rocked our home/work world/balance/reality?  Ways that the lockdown has played with our authentic expression in the world.  Are we listening? Are we being heard?  This is the essence of Unbound: moving from lockdown to freedom online May 8th.  It will be so natural to hold this exploratory space for three hours with Erik Iversen, 5Rhythms teacher from Montreal.  Between us we draw from a combined 140 years of embodied wisdom, each of us deeply embedded in a life of internal landscape exploration.  I love dancing with Erik; his invitations are offered in the accessible language to which my body responds.  I hope you can join us for this three hour experience as each of us, in our own unique way begins the tentative moves from lockdown to freedom.

Moving relentlessly toward wholeness.  Fostering way dormant creative urges, letting them finally have more say.  Carving out space for a more authentic emergence.  A place where surely less and less is needed.  Enough to live this given life exactly as it is….❤️Bella

January and February…quietest months of my life, on mute.  Undoubtedly.  Taught online classes, showed up live for the garden dance each Sunday, Coop shopped once a week.  Saw friends and children outdoors time to time, talked on the phone, read an insane number of books.  Gardening and cooking—saving graces. Too cold to camp.  There was no to-do list.

In this moment, it feels like there was life before vaccination…and then, life since.  Revelations in bits and pieces unfolded over the long winter.  How adept at slumbering, my heart and mind. How effective hibernation can be as a route to survival.  How patient I am when push comes to shove.  How quickly bursts of anger and frustration pass.  How boredom often paves the way to a creative burst.  How life affirming physical sensation is.  How skilled I am at remaining curled up.

Since mid-March my life has slowly been unfurling.  I learned just how extroverted I really am.  Back in the 90’s, when Meyers-Briggs was all the rage, I tested 50/50 on the extrovert/introvert scale.  Change happens.  The medicine of real time connection, hug doses, loved ones in close contact.  Healing in fits and starts, slumbering parts of me stretch open.  I did the best I could this past year—most of us did. I stayed connected to myself and in many ways, sweet hubby and I have never been closer.  But I thrive in the spaciousness of multi-dimensional connection.  I love being out there in public spaces, nourished by the breathing, pulsing, vibrant mass of us.

Spring metaphors have never seemed less trite.  The world bud is poised to blossom.  Maybe.  Everything tentative.  Always has been, just feels more sketchy these days.  We’ve rested dormant through a long Winter and now we enter a Spring that may or may not lead to Summer growth.  Or Fall harvest.  Be that as it may, I feel re-birth rumbling all over me.  Mulched by this year of radical shift in how I work and move in the world.  Compulsory shifts I resisted and railed against and whined about.  Evolution that totally fertilized my work.  You’d think by now I’d trust the inevitable transformative power of change.  I acknowledge a lifetime of initial resistance in response to change.

Yet here’s what’s changing…

 ESSENTIAL RECHARGE: live this month at Clara 10-noon Monday April 19. For those of you fully vaccinated.  I’ve never in the flesh met some of my on line students.  Can’t wait to practice together in that big light-filled room.  Letting class evolve naturally from what I witness.  Offering hands on assistance.  Music gently flowing out those big JBLs.  You’re welcome with or without experience in the essentials for a soft focus on the bhandas, the natural breathing way our bodies move life force and create power.  A bit of rolling, stretching, asana.  Just bring your mat, roller and curious self.  Pre-enroll, no drop in.
WORLDWIDE RAVEN WAVE:Catch this global 5RHYTHMS offering Thursday at 11:00 PT.  Or on demand anytime until May 8.  It is Dance Essentials—roll, dance, stretch—going out virtually into the world, available to the vibrant breathing global pulse of us.
UNBOUND: Stay tuned for this May 8 11:00-2:00 PT collaboration with Erik Iversen, my 5Rhythms compatriot in Montreal.  Between us we offer 140 years of embodied wisdom. UNBOUND: moving from lockdown to freedom is a Zoom in your room episode. Erik is a master of his own unique blend of body play.  Wrapped up, armored, protected for a year…bound.  We’ll co-facilitate to free us up: guided foam roller play to unravel those fascial kinks, a very personal unlocking of your vital essence, your unrelenting life force.  A communal exhale as we dance, connect, collaborate. Inspired and moving together on the breath…unbound.  Must have supplies: your willingness and curiosity, a foam roller, paper and pen.  Web link available soon.

And here’s what’s staying the same…

Essentials: 10:00am Thursday and Friday
Wednesday Waves:  our re-started committed group moving live together at Clara for 4 more weeks.  Masked, ventilated, distanced.  Pre-enrollment only, no drop in.  Stay tuned for tentative next group starting Mid-May.
Sunday Sweat Your Prayers: 10:00am, live or Zoom.
Physical Therapy LIVE: oh my.  The real deal.  Real hands on real bodies.  Up there in my East Sac in the trees studio.  Let’s.

Whatever.  Let’s take a breath together right here.  Let it go and feel kumbhka baya, Sanskrit for breath retention after the exhale.  I have been feeling into that space a lot lately.  The emptiness feels so full of potential.  A momentary lockdown guarding the gates to freedom until we are good and ready.  Everybody at their own pace, their own timing.

Unfurling in fits and starts….❤️Bella

“Not even an inch.” This mantra, established immediately, oft-repeated throughout the reunion week-end. Emphatically, joyously, giggly—over and over. Marveling how crazy close we were to each other.  A vaccinated release from an entire year of no physical contact with my children and grandchildren.  After three glued days it still felt utterly strange, weirdly verboten.

Preview of coming attractions, eh?  This slow shift into shedding spatial and contact vigilance.  We are so in need, so ready, so yearning.  We know the beaucoup science around health benefits of touch.  We’re first hand experiencing our neurological wiring for connection. Where touch is deprived, humans cease to optimally thrive.  Not just physically and emotionally, but mentally, soulfully, spiritually.

It’s a weird coincidence how this year of touch taboo arrived on the heels of #MeToo. We were attuning to appropriate touch in new ways.  Feeling the cultural pendulum swing far enough to right years of wrong.  This unfolding drama abruptly closed for the pandemic season.  And because “so on the dance floor, so in life” this new perception of old behavior was playing out on practice floors around the globe, too.  Who knows if such hard won, freshly developed discernment will survive.

So when the door slammed shut a year ago, none of this went away.  Lack of touch and the longing it creates; graceful/awkward maintenance of physical distance; pandemic-enforced touch taboo concurrent with #MeToo sensibility—unfolds right before my eyes each and every Sunday in Sacramento.  Cuz somehow we’ve been moving together in that spacious garden through three full seasons now: summer, fall, winter.  The intrepid pioneers who initiated this miracle and do everything it takes to keep this practice alive are amazing. Courageous, inventive, respectful.

Now it is spring, things are slowly shifting. Participants are newly venturing out, some are emerging from the singular safety of Zoom, some are vaccinated, some are less than aware.  The territory is changing yet again and we just keep negotiating the unknown.  My partner Majica and I are charged with holding this sacred ever-evolving space. It is a responsibility we have not shouldered lightly.  And since health care delivery continues to be my highest calling, I’m grateful for CDC guidelines.  Especially now that this government organization appears to have re-joined the ranks of integrity.

It feels consummately clear that in a public setting, until we hear it is safe to do otherwise, we need to honor those CDC guidelines.  No matter if you’re sick to death of it, vaccinated, or just feeling rebellious we cannot touch each other out there.  The need to remain physically distant and/or masked is a communal imperative and demonstrates an embodied understanding that unless everyone wins, no one wins.  There are many among us unvaccinated and/or immune system challenged.  It is the wrong time to be selfish. It is the right time for us all to rise up together, as one.  And I cannot imagine a better practice setting for life than dancing out in that garden.

If we can keep the maturity bar high, I truly believe we’re offering some of the best specific medicine out there.  Health care that insures that, if not physically, we persist in connecting emotionally, mentally, soulfully, spiritually.  Strong in our communal desire for everyone to win. We’re practicing it on that dance floor every week.

Soon I’ll be considering how and where to have that first live communal Essentials class—just a one off for now.  But stay tuned.  No need to wait though.  That Zoom thing is established and awesome.  And we are in the introductory phase of feeling into the breathing benefits and subtle core toning available from an accurate practice of uddiyana bhandha.  If you are intrigued with the video below you might read about it in that highlighted link. I am loving how it feels in my body and I am starting to hear the same from you.  This week?  10:00am Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday.  The touch of the roller and the balls?  Not nearly as good as human touch…but an awesome massage just the same…and some of the best specific medicine out there.  Looking forward to that time when we can all be “not even an inch” and until then staying…

in service…Bella

LINKS to classes:https://bodyjoy.net/

By and by the events that pepper our days fall into place.  Our minds, hungry to create meaning, chew on personal stories.  Eventually interpretation breeds perspective.  Which the dictionary defines as the “true understanding of the relative importance of things.”  Sometimes that perspective awakens in a flash.  Which is what happened to me last Thursday.

Minding my own business, doing that Zoom dance thing up in my studio, guided by a Montreal teacher I adore.  Zoom dance, an animal with which I maintain a love-hate relationship.  I’ve learned more about my distraction patterns than I ever wanted to know this past year.  But something clicked that morning.  A kinesthetic memory stirred by the pure joy of my body in fluid motion, a fleshed out perspective of 2019.  2020 had clouded that memory, never allowed it to even fully emerge.

2019: a year that began in the worst of health—post-surgical, a month of radiation, unrelenting bronchitis that morphed into 15 days of unexplained fever.  I was one sick puppy.  I danced on and off through it all.  The loving care of an integrative medicine doc combined with my indefatigable spirit teamed up for healing that commenced mid-April.  I kept dancing.  By summer, feeling good felt brand new, amazing, vital. My dance was taking new form, a springy lightness that had never been there before.

Through the balance of 2019, in closing circle after closing circle, I listened to participants share their dance floor experiences: deep meditation, break through insights, personal transformation.  Variations on all the revelatory truths I had occasionally shared and witnessed in others for twenty years. I intimately knew the territory since my own practice of corralling attention to body, breath, mind often (not always!) yielded juicy personal insight or deep drops into the mystery.

I silently listened during most of these 2019 closing circles.  At the end of each practice I was empty in a way I had never felt before.  Week after week I was dancing two hours of unadulterated joy in motion.  My whole body grinning.  Extreme pleasure was the summation of my experience.  Each and every precious time.  I did not know how precious, even during the last dance at Clara March 11, 2020.

The events of 2020 completely wiped out that barely born experience that was revived Thursday.  Pleasure, foreign yet familiar, felt like it was missing in action, like a long lost friend.  I began to suspect I was not alone in this rusty relationship.  That the events of this long year have placed pleasure on our collective back burner.  On Sunday I invited us to feel how easy it is to be flesh and bone, the simple miracle of an arm winging through space, moving with the space around us as if it were a lover.  Music that allowed the beat to have it’s way with us, a beat we could feel deep and close to our bodies.  The pleasure of release, the savor of surrender.   From the group field response, I gauged I was not alone in this longing.

And so, dear reader, an inquiry.  Your own investigation.  So what’s your  pleasure?  Is it on the back burner?  What would it take to bring it to the front burner for a bit? So curious about us.  What has gone dormant during this collective trauma?  How can the classes I offer be in service to explore, to nourish, to awaken?

Well, the opportunities are all on line for you.  I was actually gonna write about immigration this week, how unless we’re North American native, we’re all immigrants.  How one hundred years ago my grandparents were immigrants.  These thoughts spurned by St. Patrick’s Day and how the Irish were immigrants.  The inspiration for this month’s fundraiser, Dance Essentials, donating all proceeds to the Sacramento chapter of International Rescue Committee  .

Well, so be it.  I had to write about pleasure.   And you can bet there will be a whole lot of pleasure in store for you on Saturday morning as we roll and release kinks, feel the beat deep and close to our dancing bodies and then, like cats in the sun, stretch long.  Plus, the pleasure that comes knowing that 100% of your tuition is helping an immigrant put healthy roots in our community.  Can’t make it Saturday morning?  Just send me your receipt of donation  and I’ll send you the recording.

It’s been a pleasure….love, Bella

A year ago today I matched each rise and fall of my breath with my father’s.  I didn’t know his breath would end the next day.  We never know exactly, do we?  Yet even as I remained bed side attentive, I was aware of fear and restlessness, a longing to know woven with denial, this wondering how long side by side with the wonder.

Within a week of his passage, wrestling with the emotional buffet grief delivers, surrendered to sorrow, a universal version of this feeling state was arising on the heels of the emerging Covid-19 reality. Laced as it was with each of our unique cocktails of inertia and resistance and denial and fright.  It did not stop Spring from arriving: tender grass shoots, buds promise-full, my fingernails creased with dirt wet from nesting seedlings.  What universal good fortune to feel earthly new beginnings, life a-sprout as we daily digested so much strange and dire news. Little did we know this was the beginning of a whole year.  Care to dance into a sense of that fullness on Wednesday or Sunday?

I’m remembering those Spring days tinged with the innocence of the east.  The east?  Why the east? I’ve been deeply rooted in the energetic qualities of cardinal directions for a long time.  My indoctrination is Native American, though cultures around the world have their versions. I’m willing to stand accused of cultural appropriation because I feel this deeply in my bones; there must be an Eastern European version.  Some day!  This year I’m monthly new moon reading Jamie Sams’ The 13 Original Clan Mothers.  Sams delves into Native American grandmother lore.  It mesmerizes me.   East?  In Native American lore, east signifies Spring and birth and new beginnings.  After sensing east, we cycle south to summer, to the innocence of childhood growth.

Last year, in the Northern hemisphere, as spring gave way to summer, we were witness to raging heat shimmering off protest-filled pavements.  Memorial Day slid into July 4th.  For the first time, we gut-felt what a spike was.  Little did we know these were small harbingers of spikes to come.  Summer: time for seeds to set fruit and for children to grow faith and trust and humility.  A period when, according to the Native American crones, we ripen into the primary lesson of childhood: that unless everyone wins, no one wins.  We began to wear masks.  We began to think in terms of months, not weeks.  Grateful for isolated moments of faith or trust.

As we turned west, US elections and wildfires raging, Autumn blew us away with crestingThanksgiving and Christmas spikes.  And even though there was promise of a new administration and expectation of vaccination, it felt risky to even hope.  Faith and trust were all we had.  We turn to the grandmothers again, they tell us Autumn is when dreams are born.  Dreams that will manifest only when we learn to honor the equality of all life forms.  Truly this is when many of us understood that individual dreams and desires don’t manifest in a bubble of alone-ness.   This lesson of inter-dependence has never been more palpable.  The season that began in such chaos turned into utter surrender to that “only one of us here” reality.  Every day another practice in being with what is.

As winter dawned, as the world in unison turned north, those of us lucky enough to have lived through to this point in the cycle, each in our own way…perhaps much the wiser through this life experience.  Or not.  Bring on an insurrection just in case we have not felt enough.  The grandmothers say that in winter we are heart to heart, soul to soul, face to face with eternity.   If we are paying attention to the moldering leaves, the silt pouring from river to sea, the big and little deaths peppering each day…then we know damn sure change is a constant, everything cycles.

Astoundingly, nothing is lost as it/as we continue this journey throughout time.  Every time we welcome winter at our door, every time we are witness to transformation, we step closer to wholeness.  Perhaps our spirits live forever.  Is there any doubt that we are all part of this great mystery?  A full year now. With this under our belts, I feel us taking tentative steps forward into the loom of Spring.  Perhaps a bit wiser.  The fear and restlessness, this longing to know woven with denial, this wondering how long, this wonder…still here.

We never know exactly, do we?  But a couple years ago, when we had conversations about acceptance and peace and hope we did not have the wisdom this year bestowed.  Now each of us, in our distinct way, have matriculated to maybe a fuller possibility.  Did we want this?  Need this?  Ask for this?  Don’t know exactly.  Do know this:  I’m on the journey, you’re on the journey, we’re all on the journey from here to eternity.  It’s more do-able together.  ❤️Bella

I’m old enough to remember the 1955 polio outbreak, the long lines of kids waiting for their vaccine sugar cube.  I can only imagine my parent’s fear. But they had already lived thru scarlet fever, mumps, diptheria, whooping cough.  They had already lost friends and family and felt gratitude for the science behind vaccine.  We’ve all been enjoying a human experience relatively devoid of survival-based fear, which has been part of the human story since we peeked our heads out of the cave.  Perhaps we’ve become pleasantly soft.  What an under-appreciated gift this chapter of softness was.  Now we’re smack dab in the reality of what it has meant to be human for eons.  Everything repeats.  Nothing is certain.  Everything changes.

Take a look at this week’s sessions.  Being embodied is one way to support a challenged immune system.  And learn to be with change.  Links HERE

Wednesday Waves
Feb 10   9:00am & 6:30pm

Basic Essentials
Thursday Feb 11   10:00-11:30am

Deep Essentials
Friday Feb 12     10:00-11:30am

Dance Essentials
Saturday Feb 13   10:00-11:30am

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers FUNDRAISER
Valentine’s Day Feb 14 10:00-11:30am
Zoom in your home
Live in the garden

Essential Recharge
Saturday Feb 27   10:00am-noon

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Reporting from the vaccine front line here, first injection doing magic more than a week now.  Local soreness has dissipated and there is this other-worldy fluctuating lassitude. Chalk it up to the relentless emotional and mental suffering we are all riding?  Maybe.  Almost a year, folks.   Really though…what is my body up to?  How is it building a viral defense wall?  Since most of us will eventually end up waging this internal battle and because I’m a certified science geek, I’m gonna break it down here.

The new buzz technology with this vaccine is messenger RNA.  MRNA is already found in human cells, genetic material our bodies use to produce protein.  Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a synthetic mRNA.  True to it’s messenger calling, it instructs the body’s own cells to create a coronavirus protein called spike.  Our intelligent bodies recognize spike as an invader and mobilize antibody forces against it.  Here’s the magic: if these same antibodies encounter COVID-19 later, they recognize and remember.  And then they whip into action to destroy it before it can cause illness.

To make sure mRNA slides easily into cells, they’re greasy bubble coated with lipid nanoparticles. These weird bubbles alert the fast-acting immune cells which are on constant look out for foreign matter. Once the immune cells spot the greasy bubbles, they sound the alarm with cytokines.  The cytokine commanders recruit other immune cells directly to the injection site.  A swollen sore arm is sign #1 your body is doing exactly what you want it to do.

A healthy immune system is a quick but not very long-lived first responder. It sputters out a couple days post-injection.  But not before it passes the baton to the adaptive immune system.  This network creates antibodies for the long run.  These soldiers stay on the alert, ready to attack if Covid-19 enters the body again. This system needs a few days to study the spike and get ready. By the time the second injection happens, it’s totally amped up, itching for a fight, ready to react way faster.  Check out this incredible intelligence—some of the soldier cells are suspicious and hang out at the injection site, waiting for the invader’s return to the scene of the crime.

And when that second injection arrives, our brilliant immune system remembers and takes it even more seriously this time around.  Our body’s reaction to dose #2 varies greatly but can be flu-like—fever, aches, chills, exhaustion, the works.  Side effects are usually short-lived and pale in comparison to the real deal.  Remember COVID-19 can be utterly debilitating.  Just as alarming as the 2 million deaths is the sometimes months-long, sometimes unresolved ongoing constellation of hanger-on symptoms.

Fear of side effects is not a good reason to forgo the vaccine.  Injection side effects insure us our immune system is activating, though some will feel no side effects at all.  Rest assured…body still working!  We are each so unique in our response.  Nevertheless, first shot stimulates immunity, second one reminds the system the threat is big time.  Let’s the body know in no uncertain terms this peril will require the strongest immune soldiers for any upcoming battle.

Given this incredible internal deployment, it’s no wonder I’m a bit tired sometimes.  My body is hard at work ensuring my future safety.  Grateful it can just do it’s thing and continue to support me in doing mine.  Short video describes the heart-based sessions that span this week, culminating in Valentine’s Day Sweat Your Prayer’s fundraiser on Sunday.  Give your precious body what it needs and come practice with me if you’re able.
❤️Bella

Fifty years ago I kept a 20 week standing date with a cadaver.  Without fail.  Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, eight to noon, scalpel in hand, trusty Gray’s Anatomy propped at my side. My original oft-referenced fifty year old text pictured above.  Me and three intrepid lab partners dived in, layer by amazing layer.  For sure squeamish-get-me-outta-here on Day One…but then curiosity took the reins.  One day all the organs were stealthily removed for the pathology students and on another day the head disappeared, gone in service to dental students.  This absence didn’t faze us; our focus was laser-directed on muscle, bone, tendon, joint, ligament, nerve.  Plenty remained. If you want to consider moving from squeamish to curious check out YouTube anatomist Gil Headley splaying open the heart basket below.  He’s quite the character.

And so began a life-long love affair with this particular aspect of anatomy, a surrender to a working bias for many years.  Thirty years to be exact.  A good chunk of time to steep, long enough to start making connections, drawing meaning from the physical. What does my body know about spirit?  What is the sensation of a feeling arising?  Where exactly do thoughts originate and translate to action?  Where lives the voice of my soul?  The last twenty years have been all about that.

From time to time I love to dive into the organ body those pathology students absconded with.  It fascinates me.  Last week was one of those times, an exploration from diaphragm to pelvic floor.  Heart and lungs will have their turn soon.  Here’s what I notice: when we bring our attention to organ body we invite the parasympathetic nervous system to thrive.  The sympathetic—in charge of adrenaline-based fight flight freeze—quiets.  Focus on the organ body naturally moves us into a field of rest and restore.

Wanna feel?  Take a full inhale and exhale in honor of each organ: left thumb resting under rib cage, hand covering stomach. Under stomach the worm of pancreas. Right hand, same place, other side, overlapping left—liver is way bigger.  Let hands stroke downward over 22 feet of small intestine taking space all the way to pubic bone.  Stroke outward and rest over ascending and descending colon.  Make two fists as you move them under last rib back body; two kidneys. Now one hand sacrum, other pubic bone.  Rectum rests curled in front of sacrum, bladder nests under pubic bone, womb space reclines in between—the sacred protected lineup.  Rest here.  Breathe.  Summon up gratitude.  Restore.

As fate would have it, in the midst of this series of classes, I listened to a Katherine May podcast on how “wintering” replenishes.  We are deep in wintering right now.  Maybe the deepest wintering many of us have ever experienced.  Darkness, rain, cold…it gets under my skin sometimes, feels limiting, depressing, leaves me longing for “summering”.  Yet now is when we might follow the lead of rest and restore body wisdom.  How do we take in nourishment, gather up what is needed to sustain life, digest?  And then what do we do with that?  Our miracle vessels know how to convert that nourishment.  How to assimilate, incorporate, utilize—create life force.  And then?  Hah.  The body innately knows what and how to eliminate. Release what it does not need.  24/7.  Over and over.

Katherine May went on to expound on the power of rest and retreat to remind us that our lives are deeply cyclical.  That everything repeats.  That nothing lasts.  Wintering asks us to wonder what change is coming…  because it always does.

Take a deep breath in.  Open the window between your rib cage and your pelvis.  Feel the deeply cyclical nature of your organ body as it gathers, creates and eliminates.  Take a rest.  February 5 is the exact middle of winter.  We will be Springing in six or seven weeks.  Here are a few ways to support your February wintering….
 
On the mat: 
Essentials Thursday/ Friday 10:00am moves into heart basket.  All month feeling the unique thoracic spine, how ribs connect it with breast bone. How collar bone delicately marries scapula.  The fluid scapula hovering on back body.  How  diaphragm and lungs and heart team up for aliveness.  Loving our journey.  Until February 5 you can pre-enroll in all February Thursdays or Fridays to save $, commit and have the ease of a single Zoom link.
Dance Essentials Saturday February 13 —combining mat and dance floor. For sure we’ll be dancing that heart basket somehow.
Essential Recharge Saturday February 27 will summarize, integrate, culminate this heart basket journey.

On the dance floor: 
Wednesday Waves 9:00am and 6:30pm…either or both—same link. Loving this one hour double dip whether I teach or take.
Sweat Your Prayers Zoom or live in the garden every Sunday 10:00am.  This month’s fundraiser is Valentine’s Day Sunday February 14.  All proceeds, Zoom and live in the garden, go right back to the farm land we’ve been moving on since June.   Deep gratitude to Ray and Judy Tretheway who have generously offered space where we have been able to safely move outdoors through three seasons. All proceeds will help replace trees being removed for levee restoration.  Wanna join us?  Eventbrite ticket purchase holds our capacity upper limit at a very safe thirty.

Bottom line?  Here’s what we’re up to wherever, whenever you land.  Dedicated time to take in some nourishment.  Feel how it supports and generates creative life force.  Lighten your load, release what’s superfluous.

Let’s keep wintering together.
❤️Bella

Gil Headley and the heart basket…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY_7-UgM3Mw