“…Now I give praise and thanks
for what could not be avoided
and for every foolhardy choice

I cherish my wounds and their cures
and the sweet enervations of bliss
My book is an open life…”

I opened email this morning and this excerpt from a James Broughton poem that I love—Having Come This Far—just leaped off the screen into my heart.  I love when that happens.  An invitation to seize the moment, sit right down, feel deeply and write.

This upcoming local offering, Undefended Heart, is right here in Sacramento October 4-6.  And there are still two scholarships available.  The name itself—Undefended Heart— pierces me, reminds me of my own journey.

Because in my 40s—in the midst of raising two kids, moving through middle-age marriage, starting my own clinical practice—I somehow managed to squeeze in weekly therapeutic counseling. I hold this clinical practice in high regard.  It truly helped me understand the roots of my behavior.  An intellectual handle on why I sometimes acted in ways that mystified me.  Why numbness was sometimes my most available go-to emotion. It all began to make sense.  Here’s the deal.  That understanding, as revealing as it was, did not translate much into actual personal change. In fact, this new level of self-awareness often made my reality frustrating.  To know why we are behaving certain ways and to continue the same pattern….well, maybe you know what I’m talking about.

At fifty, in a random stroke of fate, I fell into 5Rhythms practice. The practice has a whole landscape of deep dive workshops—Heartbeat, Cycles, Mirrors.  After a year of dancing, I dove in, took my first Heartbeat workshop at Esalen.  Within a couple days the extent of work necessary to make a real-time personal shift became quite clear.   I sought out the teacher that week and shared this daunting revelation. Told her I didn’t think I could possibly live long enough to peel away what I had glimpsed—the entrenched layers around my crusty old heart. She looked at me, clear as a bell, and said, “What else are you doing?”

I am forever grateful for her guidance and encouragement.  Moving and feeling is very different than talking and feeling.  I began to embody the potent library of human emotion—panic and despair, joy and dread, sorrow and bliss, rage and compassion, love and contempt—in my bones, my blood, my breath.  Once I began to dance the expression of what had its roots in couch counseling…things really did start to change. Not quickly, but steadily, drop by embodied drop.  “…Now I give praise and thanks for what could not be avoided and for every foolhardy choice.  I cherish my wounds and their cures and the sweet enervations of bliss.  My book is an open life…”

It has been nearly twenty years now. There are people in my life who have witnessed this shift. Back then I never imagined teaching this practice. But the magic it manifested in my life became medicine I wanted to hold space for. I have danced in many far-off places but here’s what I know: when we do this type of tending practice in the lap of our own community it is exponentially transformative.  I have danced with the teacher for this local offering, Davida Taurek , as long as I’ve danced this practice. She is a kindred warrior spirit…we have softened together over the years. I am really looking forward to moving out there with you Sacramento…there are always more layers to peel away on our way to living with an undefended heart.

Love, bella