Ever had shoulder pain?  No???  You are lucky and very unusual.  I totally remember my first bout.  Scooping really hard ice cream at a school fundraiser, this giant container of vanilla, the table way too high for a short gal like me.  Feel that?  But I was fine doling it out for a couple hours.  It wasn’t until the next day I noticed a dull ache about three inches south of the shoulder joint.  Classic.  And so began my personal introduction to rotator cuff dysfunction.

Way different than learning about it in a textbook, for sure.  But that’s how it’s been in my lifetime. I am the living result of a very active existence moving with a multitude of illuminating misfortunes.  A recipient of the inside story on body aches and challenges.  Ranging from the annoying to the severe.  Low back and hip and neck pain, nerve impingement, foot and knee difficulties, tennis elbow, ankle sprain, patellar fracture, scoliosis, forearm/thumb irritation.  Don’t get me started.

My rotator cuff chapter lasted on and off for a decade. In fact, the somatic memory of it is still with me, awakened because I’ve comfort-inducing-slept on my right side too much lately.  I did not learn what I needed to know about the necessary rehab and management from books or, sad to say, going for physical therapy.  There is such an emphasis in current clinical practice on strengthening and range of motion.  The ubiquitous “fingers up the wall” and the predictable tubing external rotation is still the all too common prescription.  A treatment that can actually be extremely irritating.  I’m sorry if this sounds familiar to you.

On my own, I waded through deep study of the anatomical mechanics and ongoing trial and error and observation.  I kept my sights on what was tight and needing release. I experimented my way to creating subtle stability, gained proficiency in shoulder taping. I had a couple cortisone injections.  Only then, gradually and respectfully, could strength and range of motion be added in.  My healing scenario of three steps forward and two steps back was the same frustrating roller coaster I coach every one else through.

Combine the shoulder’s amazing range of movement, the demands we continually place on it  and the delicate way it is pieced together…well, it’s amazing it functions well at all.   If you are super-curious, this video will answer all your geeky questions about the mechanics of the fascinating shoulder complex.

In Thursday and Friday Essentials this week we play in this deep shoulder field.  We always start with a little slide show of the territory.  The imagination is so powerful in healing.  We release the entire spine, shoulder blades, legs and organ body and then dive into creating subtle core stability.  Warrior 2 will be the perfect simple pose to feel the way the rotator cuff gently cinches the ball of the humerus into the shallow socket of the scapula.  To feel the way the gentle cinching is supported by the release and stability we have awakened in our earlier practice.  We’ve added the use of blocks and access to a wall to our practice.  Don’t have yet?  I always offer alternatives.

On Saturday, in once a month Essential Recharge we coast through the territory covered in February.  Feel the heart basket in its entirety: thoracic vertebrae, ribs and sternum, heart and lungs and diaphragm, the deep musculature that creates movement.  Recharge is for you if you’ve never experienced Essentials.  And it’s totally for you if you want a luxurious slow ride through how to be loose, long and strong.

My second vaccine is this Sunday.  Which means I will finally be available for in person physical therapy visits in my East Sac studio.  Transmission is still an open question, so unless you have been vaccinated, double masking for both of us will be required.  I will continue on Zoom probably as long as I remain in practice.  It has been amazing to see many of you beyond the bounds of my local geography.  It has limitations that the advantages far outweigh.

The shoulders…we can sometimes feel as if we carry the weight of the world there.  It’s been said that it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. True that.  Let’s learn to carry with ease…❤️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.

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

In a year when much has been lost, we turn to gratitude Thursday.  We give thanks for all we still have.  Which is what I really want to write about this morning.  But first this invitation.   I bet you have food on your table.  Probably in abundance.

“It’s such a critical time in food access.
Food security is a top priority for every community.”
Nicole McNeely, executive director of a food bank

Everything about food moves me and the suffering due to lack calls me to action.  Please join me Thursday morning at 10:00 for Basic Essentials…to feed the hungry.  While we practice, while we remember all that we still have, 100% of proceeds will go directly to Run to Feed the Hungry. So where food is critically needed, there will be food on the table.  Thank you for joining me.  And now a word about what we still have….

The Holidays.  A phrase layered with a weird combination of joy and foreboding in this special year. Traditions steeped in childhood and layered through ensuing decades usually shepherd us through these coming weeks.  A time of year when each day dawns darker and colder than the last.  Checking in…how you doing with all this out there in weird-ville?

This is where I turn all Zen on you, since it appears we’re all enrolled in the same unique school.  A school repeatedly testing us on our connection with form.  A task-master demanding we watch the forms we have counted on dissolve.  Again and again and again.  I’ve had more practice letting go and being with disappointment than I ever dreamed possible.  Take something as straight up as The Holidays.

Don’t gather with your family indoors.  Don’t gather to worship.  Don’t get on an airplane.  Don’t go to parties.  Don’t go shopping.  Re-think how to cook and share your favorites with loved ones.  Wonder about gift giving.  Don’t even think about intimate gatherings to sing or dance or just hang out by the fire.  In other words: give up tried and true forms.

I’m not addressing those folks who think all these new fangled rules are political in origin, meant to infringe on precious personal freedom.  That would be a different essay.  I’m talking to you intelligent but exhausted people.  Am I the only one who feels this undercurrent of desperate spinning wheels?  This anguished struggle to hold on to old forms, even if it means risking the health and life of people we love the most?

In the absence of tried and true old forms, what do we have left?  Maybe my vision is clouded but from where I sit, I see only two possibilities: create new forms or get comfortable with the formless.  We can count the amazing array of ways we’ve invented new forms.  You only have to look as far as Zoom space to see something we never would have envisioned a year ago.  Multiply that by a hundred.  The creative juices have been astounding in so many areas of our lives.

But in our rush to keep going, in our American can-do-it-ness, we could miss a big lesson offered in the curriculum of this mass cultural Zen training.  Perhaps this is our time to viscerally learn what formlessness means. Not the hypothetical notion of emptiness, but emptiness itself.  Not the intellectual understanding about being with things exactly as they are, but the nitty-gritty experience of equanimity.

So my question today is this:  what has value that is also formless?  When we strip away exterior constructs, some really juicy stuff patiently awaits.  Ineffable, ephemeral, indescribable….maybe this is the surprise blessing of living in weird-ville.  When we peel away the hoopla and tinsel and razzle-dazzle from The Holidays we find the formless treasures that were always there. The foundational sensibility supporting the spirit of this season.

Breath is formless.  Presence is formless.  Love is formless.  When we release our slavery to form, these jewels can really shine.  Can’t you feel this?  Isn’t this what we want to share with each other?  In whatever way is safely possible?  And so I ask…what is hidden underneath all the complex structures and forms historically laid down over our lifetimes?  What remains?  What is formlessly asking to be recognized?

When we get quiet enough, when we bring our focus to the internal weather, when we bravely stay with…the formless is revealed.  Come practice with me on Thursday and Sunday this week.  It’s so close right now you can touch it.

Love, Bella

The physical practice of yoga captured my attention in 1971 at U.C.S.F. during my final physical therapy year.  A progressive instructor introduced it as an exercise modality and I fell in love with sun salutations at the same time I fell in love with anatomy.  When I moved to Sacramento after graduation there were no yoga studios, so I started my regular living room practice with Lilias Folan on PBS. 
In the ensuing years—marriage, work, travel, children—I dove in and out time and again.  Something kept pulling me back.  Finally enough spare time and a bounty of intrigue coincided in 2005 to pull me toward the Eastern principles foundational to this ancient practice.  I am aware of the conversation around cultural appropriation and, though nobody “owns” yoga, I am acknowledging yoga’s debt to the Hindu faith’s ancient traditions.  Yoga—the union of body and mind—is not about a mat or triangle pose or how to breathe.  Interestingly enough, those are relatively recent add-ons.  I’ve circled back around countless times, exploring the tenets of the complex eight-limbed philosophy. 
The first limb, the yamas, are the front door to the practice.  Not tree pose.  In this charged climate of personal uncertainty and cultural turmoil I find the yamas comforting guidance.   A concise map for human responsibility as I move in relationship with others and the global community.   And, of course, as I spend time with myself.  Wouldn’t you know that the very first of the five principles is kindness?   Do no harm. 
Life begins somewhere for all of us and I don’t know how yours began.  But there was a paucity of kindness in my early years.  Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word for this first belief, which translates as non-violence.  Unfortunately it’s opposite is much easier to spot these days.  We don’t have to look very far for alarming examples of cruelty, brutality, creation of mayhem.  It’s a bit more challenging to turn that lens inward and catch our own speech and actions. Moments of hostility, cynicism, impatience, vehemence—directed outward as well as inward. 
Practice reveals for us over and again that non-violence begins with numero uno.  We show up on the dance floor and the mat with all our tendencies.  What does it mean to act kindly to our own bodies?  To not push?  To do no harm?  What light does that behavior shed on how I conduct myself with my partner, the clerk at the Co-op, the earth under my feet?  It’s super-useful that the second tenet is satya—truth telling.  Here we are again with obvious opposites so apparent: little white lies, half truths, exaggeration, misinformation.
As I practice presence with whatever arises, if I pay attention and am willing to be honest, I know my foot hurts, my heart is aching, my mind is utterly confused or distracted or looping.  This self-knowledge, this honest assessment supports kindness—to myself, to you, to the world at large.  Despite our best intentions we’re pulled every day into behaviors less than optimal.  Ancient leashes tether and surprise us with their tenacity.  Showing up kind and honest 100% of the time is a beautiful and unrealistic expectation. 
I’m on to it right now and actively cultivating the pause.  There is a potent moment right before the words emerge or the action manifests.  Asking myself to slow down.  Take a breath.  Maybe silence or stillness is the best response.  Maybe there is a way to soften in the beat, in the heat.  Maybe it’s time to turn the other cheek.  Lucky me—my honor to embody and teach this marriage of ahimsa and satya four days in a row this last week.  Next yama? Asteya, which literally translates as not stealing.  We’ll see how it shows up Thurday and Friday morning on our mats. Envy, jealousy and greed are the oh-so-human signals that flash red when that yucky pit yawns before us.  Wednesday night we’ll dance in honor of the incredible minds that deliver us in and out of these pits.  Sunday Sweat?  Who knows?  Time will tell.
Closing with this Dalai Lama quote:
“Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.”
I hope we meet on mat or dance floor soon.  Until then, let’s be kind and give ourselves the break we deserve.  It’s hard out there, loves.  Let’s take a breath together right here…..❤️Bella

Been thinking about resiliency.  The way we desperately need it right now.  What it takes to build it.  This gratitude-filled surprise to feel the most resilient I’ve ever felt in my life.  I kid you not.  Curious musing here about why that might be, starting with the dictionary definition.
Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape
Maybe this ability to recover quickly builds (or not) through negotiating the challenges and trials of childhood and young adulthood.  In middle age some of us tap that resilience reservoir and buckle down, get with the program.  Me?  I took the traditional road.  Before I could snap my fingers, I was immersed in the traditional trappings of mid-life: discovering how to live in a marriage, stumbling and fumbling through parenthood, signing my life away to a thirty year mortgage, negotiating career moves that morphed to entrepreneur-ship.  In retrospect all that doing looks daunting.  In the midst, I just kept moving through, deeply tapping reserves I didn’t even know had accumulated.
Perhaps resiliency multiplies in response to being mined.  Anyway, making it all the way to now wasn’t just resiliency; I had a ton of luck and an equal amount of privilege delivering me past the bounds of middle age.  It surprises me every day to be here.  And in this current crisis, the huge demands of middle age are magnified while ease is expanded for some elders.  I put myself in that category.

Still, when someone asks how I’m doing, what it’s like for me these crazy days, my answer depends on the moment.  If they really want to know, if they have a bit of time, I speak a truth full of ups and downs, suffering and freedom, struggle and surrender, anguish and surprise. To live in this chaos, to be present with this level of unknown, can exhaust us.

If you’re more tired than usual, you’re totally normal.  Our nervous systems are pushed beyond their comfort zones.  I’ve had my share of weariness.  But these months have been illuminating my ability to lean into a deep well of personal resilience.  A reserve built over a lifetime, and not just through the sheer act of making it through.  There is something more: the way I’ve consistently cared for myself over time is serving up a wallop of endurance, a stamina that feels uber-essential for survival in this chaos.

This Saturday’s Essential Recharge offers a practice for building resilience.  All these “R” words keep tumbling out of what’s in store for us in two hours of Recharge:
Reflexes: instinctual response to the moment, heightened with practice
Resilience: built through finding balance between power and fluidity
Release: step one, key to unleashing all that power and fluidity
Resourced: by the dynamic duo of subtle strength and soft surrender
Reverence: connecting us to a greater power than our own
Two hours to gently receive an introduction/refresh of all the essentials.  You choose how to follow up at home with access to real-time recording.  Bits and pieces you can dive into in the privacy of your home, on your timeline.  Here’s a quick YouTube video-shot of the territory we’ll cover on Saturday. 

If all this intrigues you and you want additional support, on-line classes begin again every Thursday and Friday morning starting September 17.  And I’m listening.  You have been talking to me, telling me the positive effects you are feeling from this practice.  Wow…who knew resiliency could feel this good.
Come feel with me…..❤️Bella
P.S.  Link to pre-enroll/donate for Essential Recharge is at the bottom of this page: Yoga On-Line.

Feels like a chapter, this chunk of time spanning pandemic initiation until now.  I didn’t know it was a whole book.  The first few pages found many teachers cobbling together a way to teach on line.  I hopped right in, this early scramble motivated by need: a clear calling to support community and to personally remain creatively alive through the uncertainty. The learning curve of being an online student/teacher was steep and relentless for us all, a mirror of everything else we were absorbing, digesting, getting the hang of.  March drifted into April, May and June.  Now that I know it’s a book, I feel how this first chapter is complete.  So I’m taking a bit of a break this month, resting, dreaming, listening…feeling into the next chapter. 
Wednesday Waves is on a break.  Sunday Sweat Your Prayers continues two ways through July: Zoom online in your home AND simulcast live from the garden—limited enrollment, physically distanced dancers. We’re keeping a close watch on local COVID trends and will cancel the live component if we must.  I’ll dance on Sundays but teach only July 19.  After three tentative weeks, the incredibly respectful community present, Majica and I feel the palpable benefit of this in person offering outweighs the low risk.  Links below for each version.
For months, during Tuesday Essentials and Friday Deeper Being, I witnessed us all on our home mats   I’m holding that vision, inviting us to continue coming to our mats independently this month.  To support us, to gather us, to call in those of you unable to join us on a weekday morning, I’m offering Essential Recharge Saturday July 18 10:00-noon—a round up of everything we’ve been exploring.  It will be recorded for you to tap into the rest of the month. 
The thread woven all the way through these upcoming two hours?  Psoas awareness and the way it functions as body barometer.  This amazing muscle always activates in response to stress. Our lives are chock full of that tension response right now.  That activation can be a life-saver.  But sometimes it is culturally conditioned or personally habitual.  No matter, an uptight psoas is still the result and can wreak havoc.   The antidote?  We can learn to read it’s useful and not so useful signals as clues.  And we can tend psoas—soften & soothe, tone & lengthen.   Come feel it.
Right now, at the end of this chapter, I feel similar offerings emerging in August.  Stay tuned.  I’m leaving this morning for many days in the forest and hope to do as much camping as possible in July.  Being close to the earth, away from technology and media, tracking the sun and moon and stars.  I call it “going feral” and it never fails to nourish, inspire and replenish.  

Sending love and support through the ethers this morning…Bella

Just a few moments ago, instead of sitting down to write, I aimlessly wandered the internal cocoon of my home, putting things away.  This belongs here.  Throw this away.  Change this to here.  As if.  My subconscious having a field day, putting the thousand things to right in my little controllable world.  Spinning dreams out of my frustration and my longing and my agitation.  Triggering my emotions in novel and unfamiliar ways.  And I keep listening to you.  I am not alone in this.
We are fumbling our way out of extreme isolation and flirting with what might be next.  Studies of humans emerging from isolation indicate “an inflection point where the frustration and hardship of being cooped up inside gets suddenly harder to bear.” And everyone is unique in the particulars. What is feeling safe for you in order to bit by bit emerge? 

This was brought home to me when I accepted an invitation to gather for a small dinner party.  With people I love and trust.  I was explicit about my need to gather outdoors but apparently not clear about my continued need to maintain physical distance.  I was so uncomfortable with the reality of the evening and even more dismayed by my inability to stand by my own requirements. 
Let me say it again.  We are all going to move through this differently.  There was nothing wrong with my friend’s boundaries.  There was nothing wrong with the lines I had drawn.  Being with the discomfort of our differences—holding each other with kindness and respect and understanding—this is the ride we are on now.  I have children and grandchildren I am deeply missing.  My relationship with them and my need to be physically close with them is my highest priority.  Therefore, I have to respect the boundaries they have set in their lives so that I might be with them as soon as possible.  Wow.  It seems as if nothing or perhaps everything in my life so far has prepared me for this.
And in the wee early hours of this morning, a dawn that ushers in the hottest of days, I coaxed myself up, meditated and then took my weepy walk to East Portal Park.  And as soon as I hit send on this writing, I’ll roll out my mat to move and breathe and feel some more. I can’t even imagine how haywire the shenanigans of my sub-conscious would be without this essential self-care.  This dedicated time is as important as the food I consume, the rest I hold sacred, the personal connections I foster in whatever way possible. 
One activity that keeps me sane is holding space for others to discover ways to yoke body and mind.  Yoke?  The root word of yoga.  So many interpretations of what exactly is being yoked and how this term emerged.  The story I love is this one.  Picture an untamed and unruly ox, kinda like your wild mind.   Add a perfectly functional wooden cart, a metaphor for your blessed body.  How to bring these two together so they might move through the world with ease and efficiency and joy?  We yoke body and mind via breath.  So simple.  So incredibly challenging.  But it’s what I’m offering as essential self-care.  Dance with me.  Be on the mat with me.  Let’s yoke together. 
I love the Essential territory we’ve dropped into Tuesday/Friday. Yes, of course, we’re rolling out that fascial tension.  Creating deep pleasure as we restore suppleness and fluidity to the wooden cart.  And we’re connecting deep core tone with the truth of what arms and legs need to do in the real world.  See this video, a glimpse into building functional power in those incredible weight-bearing legs.  And since it’s all done in the context and cradle of breath, restless mind gets corralled in for a bit.  Been loving this foray, your enthusiastic feedback keeps me traveling this territory.  
So grab your mat and roller and double tennis balls and join me tomorrow morning at ten.  Here’s the link, for the last time on this web page.  See this web page for what’s happening in June right here: https://bodyjoy.net/yoga-on-line-offerings/ .  Let’s tame the wild beast and support each other on this rowdy ride.  Let’s yoke together.
Love, bella

Leaning in.  Right?  That’s what’s called for.  Mostly I’m plunked down right in the discomfort, tenderness, vexation, despair, confusion, distress.  It’s breath-taking to bear witness to such a variety of emotional onslaught.  Then moments like yesterday sneak up and the urgent need to crawl out of my skin becomes overwhelming.  And leaning in feels like some new age sorry ass joke.  In the midst of losing it, my asleep-on-the-job inner sage shook herself alert and ordered me OUTSIDE.  Within minutes of landing at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area , my nervous system hummed into equanimity.  Wide open sky, egrets flirting in the reeds, gravel crunch under sneakers, even a family of otters huffing us to steer clear.  And then, in a random patch of clover, I found a four leaf one.  Stuff like that happens when I’m present.

I don’t think I’m the only future-focused human.  Which makes it challenging to be present.  What lies ahead is compelling and worthy of contemplation.  To a certain extent.  But the most gigantic truth is that WE DON’T KNOW.  And our minds and hearts, when they’re not drowning in sorrow and compassion for what was and what is, leap ahead to teeter totter between anticipatory grief  (awesome read) and, in the best moments, a cautious optimism.  It is exhausting.

Which is why I want to write about self-care.  Except it’s been written about in every get yourself together essay out there these days ad nauseum.  But it’s been my hot topic of choice for about forever.  I won’t dive in and flesh out the obvious—good food, quality rest, creative outlet, human connection, stillness, exercise.  But I am going to talk about tending our human bodies because that little hunk of self-care is my thing.  And it was utter joy to meet with many of you thru the ethers last Tuesday for a first ever on line Essentials.  After we said good-bye at eleven, I sat for a long time in stunned silence.  Completely surprised at how well this particular work—self-release with foam rolling—translated in the Zoom room. 

Don’t get me wrong…I adore teaching a room of living breathing human beings.  Offering my touch and on the spot guidance.  Yet here we are.  And my strong suit as a teacher—the ability to clearly articulate physical instruction—it serves well at home on your mat.  You don’t even need to see the screen.  I’m with you.  When you do look at the screen, close up technique views, never available in a group setting, create a ton of ease.  It feels  like magic.  Who would have guessed?

Soap box moment: this offering is all about self-care.  Always has been.  Yet I’m aware now, more than ever, we’re being called to crank it up a notch.  One step beyond self-care.  It feels like something steeper: self-reliance.  Those of us who regularly lean into hands-on support—massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, energy healing—have to do without for a spell.  This is an opportunity to learn an uncomplicated way to be our own best body worker.

So I’m moving forward, but I’m in no hurry.  Because I sense we’re in this for a while.  And maybe even when we’re not, maybe even when this is over (future focus!), on line might be a viable way to offer this medicine.  Whatever. This Tuesday we’ll review the foundational roller techniques from last Tuesday and see what we’re ready to add on.  Each class will stand alone. So you can drop in on any Tuesday that works for you.  Or dive in with regularity, feel your home practice emerge as we gently build together.

Current link for Zoom, equipment purchase, option to donate—all on this web page: LINK Want to review what we did last Tuesday?  Catch the first part of this YouTube LINK.

Lean in, be well and I am totally jazzed to practice with you this Tuesday. 

Love, bella

Some years pass, marked by a birthday, and just to recall where I was on that day a year ago requires a deep dig.  Even pulling up remarkable events that came to pass during the previous year can be baffling.  Know what I mean?  It’s not exactly same-old, same-old but youth bulges with sizable change: kindergarten becomes first grade, size 10 becomes size 14, marriage happens, degrees are earned, babies arrive, first jobs become second ones.  And then, to a relative extent, maybe we settle in and appreciate more subtle evolution: a book leaves a mark, a trip opens new worlds, a practice opens internal doorways, a friendship goes deep.  Not that the inevitable shifts in the big stuff—birth, illness, death, relationship—go away.

And maybe illness is why this last year shimmers so memorable for me.  On my last birthday I camped at Kirk Creek, Big Sur coast.  Magic with wildflowers, total non-cellular quiet, only waves for sound, sweet connection.  Around that time I began to admit that my body was experiencing change, something frightening was up.  All through the summer I lived in a mystifying eddy of doctor appointments, dread, surrender, denial.  A shocking and ever-increasing tolerance for mystery.  Didn’t stop me from cooking soup at the new restaurant, camping many times in the bus, travelling to Belarus to touch the earth and dance, exploring film at Esalen for an invigorating week, celebrating hubby’s 70th here and in LA and finally dancing to my heart’s content for eleven days in NYC. 

Each of these events are crystal clear to me, heightened as they were by deep mystery, this not-knowing what was up, this outrageous consideration that perhaps the time I had remaining was brief.  Everything sped up end of September, swimming deep in the world of medical diagnosis.  But even obtaining a diagnosis did not make everything entirely clear.  Didn’t keep us from hiking a glorious week in the Grand Canyon. 

Surgery in November settled the uncertainty and then all my energy became a devotional non-stop healing prayer, knowing there was still a course of radiation in February. I had no idea how much the radiation took out of me energetically and physically until it was complete.  I can just imagine my immune system in total tears.  No surprise that beginning in March and continuing all the way through mid-April I rode a roller coaster of chronic cold, deep cough, infection, fever, virus.  There was a week where I felt sure this was the new normal of my life. 

I can see now that it was what I had to move through. And really, I give big credit to the shift in the way I am eating , now in place for two months, for fueling me spiritually and psychologically and most likely physically as well.  To pull me up and through this year long tunnel.  To boost me into the final passage of this memorable year.  To complete this journey into hard-to-fathom darkness and deliver me into what truly feels like spectacular light. 

There has been astounding growth for me this year.  And I wouldn’t wish this impetus for growth on anyone.  But I am grateful and know that if we keep doing our work, harvesting the challenging episodes that inevitably befall us, is one of the big pay offs.  I can feel it in spades of clarity, in my voice that I seem to no longer second guess, simply trust implicitly, in the spontaneity of my teaching, in the sophistication of my one-on-one work, in how clean the field of relationship feels, in the way I can touch/sense my deepest being.  Cultivating Destiny was perhaps the best of what I have ever been able to offer.

I never had even one iota of gall about what passed or ever considered it unfair.  I have no requests to be spared further troubles. Yet today it is my birthday again and I feel it as a passage into the next chapter.  I totally get what a privilege it is to be alive, well enough to stand on the brink of seventy decades on the planet.  There are dues to pay for this honor all along the line and they come with increasing frequency as the years go by.  It’s just the way it is.  I wouldn’t want one thing to be different.

Thanks for all the joy and challenge, the curiosity and tenderness, the full range of emotion and love that you bring into my life.  Love, bella

inner strength

What is power and why would I choose this term in naming the Fluidity, Power and Release trilogy? I love the dictionary. Remember those big old well-used ones on the library lectern? Well, though Merriam Webster on-line lacks the intrigue and veracity, the definition is clear enough: the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality. And I love this piece: the ability to act or produce an effect. It doesn’t include brawny or tough or struggle. Nope. Just clarity in action. I had a moment like that Sunday.

There is this potent stillness moment on any given Sunday morning. We’ve danced two hours, the room utterly quiet, vibrantly alive. Whether I’m up front or on the floor, I’m breathing, being, landing, resting. The only difference about being up front is the necessity of closing our time together. Which can be done infinite ways. Much easier to say a few words and let people go. But if I’m curious in that moment and feel it is in service, I call us together and invite participants to share their experience.

I continue to grow the clarity in action needed to hold a circle of verbal sharing. From too many painful episodes I’ve learned to tactfully frame it as a forum to speak to the experience of the previous two hours. Anyone who has been present at a hijacked circle knows to what “painful” refers. I spent years as a student in closing circles never saying a word and so I often speak to the gift of articulation. That your experience may be akin to something a quiet person has felt but has no words for. After setting the stage, there is the formidable moment of simply sitting, breathing, waiting.

This Sunday, after offering up what was apparently a provocative practice mid-waves, I opened the circle for sharing, listening as people contributed. Since the group is well-versed in guidelines, I’ve begun to notice that reflections fall into three categories. First are those who take on the simple instruction offered mid-wave and share their experience around that. Second are those that come to dance with their own active internal process, pretty much set aside the instruction and share their personal process with the group. Sometimes in this type of share there is objection about how the instruction, the offered language, interferes with the internal agenda. And thirdly (and there is a special place in my heart for these folks because I have plenty of experience along these lines) there are the courageous who speak about their resistance to the particulars of the instruction and how they worked with that.

What tickled me on Sunday is the obvious passion sparking these three types of share. Fiery animation informs me that people have been challenged and moved and, on whatever level, transformed. And for me, this is the ripe fruit of my labor. It’s why I keep showing up. This is the obvious.

But on a more personal level, I am heartened at how my response to a highly charged situation is a signpost of how I have risen out of a background of defensiveness. There is a cumulative feel to staying present as clear neutral witness to whatever arises. With a modicum of grace. Not being stroked by the student who elaborates on the value of the teaching. Not dismayed by those who ignore the offering. Not provoked by someone who objects to the use of language. Not triggered by the dancer who resists the particulars of the instruction. And it is not lost on me that modeling the power of clear witnessing is one of the things I offer.

This ability does not stand alone. It is grown out of the shifting sand of fluidity, ever able to remain flexibly aware of what is happening in present time.   Power is exercised in response to what is happening in the moment. Response can be delivered with a hard defensive or judgmental edge. Some people might call this being direct. I totally know how to do this. Practicing a powerful response that is soft and clear continues to be the practice of a lifetime. And I am so not done. That’s why I’m moved to offer this workshop; we teach what we need to know.

If you’re ready to trust your gut, come for an afternoon on March 3 of nurturing an inner strength. Feel the possibility of moving and expressing from the inside out. We’ll start with the rollers to establish that flexibly aware fluidity. And then we have a luxurious amount of time to feel into the deep belly place from which focused power arises. This will be a subtle and dynamic exploration of your deepest being.

I’m picturing you there with me.

Love, bella