Took a few days to read a New York Times Magazine special feature about the past, present and future of the human life span.  I had to take it in mini-bouts.  Put our current state of affairs into stunning perspective.  Did you know that between 1920 and 2020 the average human life span doubled?  A number that never really varied much throughout human
history?  That until mid 18th century, 35 years was all you got?  If you were lucky.  Because only three out of five children survived to brief adulthood.

Three pivotal breakthroughs shifted all this: germ theory, antibiotics and (you guessed it) vaccines.  Each development a fascinating story woven of scientific curiosity, public resistance and socio-political activism. Take vaccines: there’s evidence the original vaccine—variolation—originated in India thousands of years ago.  By the 1600’s variolation was saving lives in China, India and Persia.  Enslaved Africans brought it to the American colonies.  This scientific technique has been around the block for centuries.  But it took social and political activism to bring it to widespread use.  And begin gifting us years beyond 35.  And, as with every other breakthrough, once again we’re experiencing the resistance that inevitably accompanies change.

The long and winding road eradicating small pox, cholera and typhoid is paved with different details but the same elements.  Chlorination, pasteurization, penicillin.  Science first, activism second.  And the creativity and inventiveness resulting in reduced mortality has opened a Pandora’s box of new problems.  Can earth support this long-lived population?  Some believe our interconnected globe and its dependence on industrial livestock is leading us into an age of pandemic.  Population explosion and climate change are intricately entwined.  Oh lord.  Enough already.

I put the article down and looked out into my garden.  The flowers know nothing of this and keep on blooming.  The tomato plants are setting fruit.  The sky is vast, infinite, incredible.  I am still breathing, grateful, present.  Curious how to navigate these monumental changes and scale them down to a local, practical, rooted in the moment level.  How to continue to serve community in the face of all this.

Somewhere in all this musing I feel the onus of responsibility shifting.  For more than a year, I willingly embraced a form of guardianship.  Finding ways to keep us safe AND connected: teaching on line; distance garden dancing Sundays; Wednesday Waves on/off with masks, fans, open doors; Essential Recharge for the vaccinated.  I’m not sure when to let go.  When to trust that our individual self-care choices will not put ourselves or others at risk.  It feels like the burden of responsibility may be moving on to the shoulders of the unvaccinated.  Clearly I don’t know.  It just keeps changing and I keep placing my finger on that pulse.  Listening.

So I’ll keep offering up this strange hybrid.  Because it is in the field of practice where clarity continues to arise. For me, for you, for us.  This is how the current hybrid looks:

  • ON LINE Dance Essentials Saturday May 15 10:00-11:30.  So turned on teaching Unbound with Erik Iversen last Saturday. Exposing a contingent of folks around the globe for their first experience on a foam roller.  And the way it ushers us into the free form joy of dancing through space.  Really.  This Saturday we start with release, move into dance and end with stretch/shivasana.  Ninety minutes of joy in the safe comfort of your home.
  • LIVE Wednesday Waves Clara May 19-June 30 6:30-8:30.  Eight sessions, limited to 12 participants.  The incomparable depth of a committed group. Beginning our session with physical distance, masks, fans, open doors. Feeling into the group, arriving at consensus about these details as we begin to move together.
  • LIVE and ON LINE Sunday Sweat Your Prayers May 16 10:00-11:30.  I’m up front this week simulcasting from the garden.  We continue to keep physical distance out there, masks optional…so much space.
  • ON LINE Essentials every Thursday/Friday 10:00-11:30 in May.  Choose your day, lay out your mat: roller, tennis balls, blocks, blanket.  90 minutes to release those fascial binds, access/tone deep subtle core, stretch out those needy tight spots, feel it come together in asana. Drop in; recordings always available; music always stellar.
  • LIVE Essential Recharge 11:30-1:30 Saturday May 22.  For the vaccinated, pre-enrollment required.  Over the top amazing to be with you in the flesh last month.  A good landing zone if you are new to practice, great support for cyber-practitioners.  This month I’m bringing a box of infamous pokey balls so we can get a bit deeper into shoulder and hip release.
  • LIVE Cultivate Being residential retreat July 23-25 Four Springs Center.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is the fifth in a five year series that we had to cancel exactly one year ago. We will be dancing, making art, swimming in the pool, frolicking in the forest from Friday night to Sunday noon. My son Ross is catering the event.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll make some soup!  Harbin Hot Springs is four miles away.  I’ll be at Harbin all day Friday and will return there after the retreat on Sunday.  Masks will be optional at this residential gathering.  Take a moment to read the details and join us please!

Take a look out your window right now.  Take a full breath in and out. In this moment it appears all is well with the world. I’ll take that.

Love, Bella

That first pair arrived as harbingers of middle age.  Cheap readers from the drugstore.  Every year or two the numbers rose: 1.0, 2.25, 3.5…you get the picture.  Maybe you’re living it.  In no time the number could not go high enough, my arms were just not long enough, the lighting was just never strong enough.  When I caved, I found my distance vision wasn’t so hot either.  By the time I was fifty, it was full time bifocal-ville…trifocals before too long.

This is to say that I can’t even remember what it’s like to clearly see the outside world without peering through a lens.  And what a world it is!  When I first received that distance prescription I could not believe what I had been missing.  The clear edge of a blade of grass.  The distinction of individual leaves on trees.  The infinite shades of green out there.  It was mind blowing.

But those prescription numbers just kept advancing as predictably as the arrival of each birthday.  My final distance prescription was the strongest available.  In this last year I could not (safely) drive at night.  Or (at all) into the glare of the sun.  And still the world looked like an impressionist painting…all soft around the edges.  Discernible, just not definite.   Actually quite beautiful in its own way.  There is strong evidence both Degas and Monet suffered from cataracts.  Which is exactly what I learned was going on in my peepers.

It came as a shock to learn that the average human lens operates fairly well only maybe 65 years.  And then not so much.  Opthamologist said I was lucky to be granted extra time.  Who knew?  It took a few months to let this information in and surrender. But I am here to sing some praises (once again) to modern medicine.  Oh my gosh.  With only one eye complete (next one soon) all those discrete borders, vibrancy of color we take for granted, all the beauty available out in the world without a blocking barrier… well, it’s gonna take some getting used to.  I’m willing!

Has it affected my ability to work?  Hah!  Only that I can now dance and actually see who is with me.  Or be on my mat and not worry about crashing into my glasses when I plop face down.  Or see you in treatment without a thing between us.  Still need them to read, but apparently those drugstore readers will suffice again. If that’s not a miracle, well what is?

Let’s take a moment to focus (bad pun) on what’s upcoming that might just suit you:

Unbound: moving from lockdown to freedom is this Saturday 11:00-2:00.  Yes, still on Zoom.  How else could I possibly teach with one of my favorite dancers on the planet, Erik Iversen from Montreal.  Take a look at Erik’s bio and you’ll know why I love to move with him.  We’re holding this space together from east and west coast for you to totally embody what it means to break out.  Rolling & dancing, of course.  You just need your curiosity, roller, pen and paper, and willingness.  Check it out.

Launching LIVE LIMITED COMMITED #2  Wednesday Waves at Clara May 19-June 30 6:30-8:30.  Pretty amazing to move in the flesh together and uber-surprising how quickly masks, fans and open doors fade away in the glory of real time contact.  And Sunday Sweat Your Prayers does not miss a beat.  Mother’s Day this Sunday—bring your kids LIVE or on Zoom.

Essentials every Thursday/Friday 10:00-11:30 in May.  Choose your day, lay out your mat, roller, tennis balls, blocks, blanket.  90 minutes to release fascial binds, access/tone deep subtle core, stretch out needy tight spots, bring it home in asana. Until May 7 pre-enroll in all 4 sessions: commit and save.  Drop in always possible; recordings always available; music always stellar.

Essential Recharge LIVE again 11:30-1:30 Saturday May 22 at Clara.  For the vaccinated, pre-enrollment required.  To be with you in the flesh last month…sigh.  A good landing zone if you’re new to practice, great support for cyber-practitioners.  This month I’ll bring the infamous pokey balls so we can get a bit deeper into shoulder and hip releases.

Consider launching your mat practice. Building on the linear discipline of the mat to experience the free form joy of dancing through space.  Really.  We start with release, move into dance and end with stretch/shivasana.  Ninety minutes of joy.  Dance Essentials is May 15.

Alrighty then…wishing clear vision for us all….bella

P.S.  Intrigued with the physical experience of moving from lockdown to freedom? We’ve been steadily expanding and refining this zone in Essentials…take a taste with this video.

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/

Bhandha: a gesture in which a segment of the body is sealed, isolated or constricted in some manner.  Sanskrit for lock, bind, hold captive.  And why would a body want to do that?  Sounds like the undesirable opposite of release and freedom, doesn’t it?  Well, yes…but I find myself spiraling back around to this wisdom, another layer in subtle core toning.

Embodied personal investigation and research into the dual wisdom of physical therapy and hatha yoga—this is my preferred way to incorporate new stuff.  And though this spiraling journey has only recently begun, I’m taking Essential students along for the ride.  Our focus is the middle lock, uddiyana bhandha, translated as “to rise up, to fly.”  And when you feel it, you know why it is named this.  In physical therapy it is called hypopressive technique.  Whatever you want to call it, this unique physical contraction offers deep structural support to organs in the pelvis, abdomen and spine.  Check this schedule for Essential current offerings.
Deep Essentials
Friday March 19
10:00-11:30am

Basic Essentials
Thursday March 25
10:00-11:15am

Essential Recharge
Saturday March 27
10:00am-noon

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
March 21
10:00-11:30am
Zoom or LIVE

Wednesday Waves
March 24
9:00am &/or 6:30pm

Dance Essentials
Saturday April 17
10:00-11:30am

This practice is all the rage in Europe right now—kinda like Pilates was—but the practice is ancient, timeless.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipikasays “of all the bhandhas, uddiyana is the best.  Once it is mastered, liberation occurs spontaneously…even an old person can become young when uddiyana bhandha is done regularly.”  My own road to mastery happened in kundalini yoga teacher training  2006, the full story is a different essay.  Suffice it to say that 18 months of 4:00-6:30 morning practice deeply embedded bhandhas in my being.   All this history tumbled back over me as I incorporated uddiyana into my current practice.  The deep structural support I feel kicking in is a pleasant surprise since I’ve been so subtle core tone focused since 2015.  I consider myself already pretty strong and this practice, without being all boot-campy, takes it to the next level.

The benefits of regular uddiyana bhandha practice are wide-ranging and super-attractive: improved breath efficiency and capacity, increased core strength, enhanced digestion, improved circulation to the brain and organ body, calming of the nervous system.  Physical therapy utilizes it to treat pelvic floor issues for both men’s and women’s health.  The energetic benefits are a whole other story.  But, since it is practiced with breath retention, in that potent pause of prana flow, there is cessation of thought.  It is a meditation booster for sure.

A sensation is worth a thousand words.  Wanna feel a light uddiyana bhandha?  Seated right there, take a full inhale, especially invite lower rib cage to expand.  As you exhale, gently place palm over mouth and nostrils. Completely relax through torso until every last bit of breath exits.  Now attempt the physical motion of inhale even though you’ve tightly covered the entrance for breath.  No breath comes in.  Feel the flare of lower rib cage, the vacuum you’ve created in chest cavity.  The way organs are being compressed and diaphragm is being stretched horizontally.  When it’s time to inhale breath (don’t push the length of breath holding!), first release the lock, then release your hand, then gently breathe in through pursed lips like sucking on a straw.   Allow a few normal breaths.  Notice the agni/fire you have created in the belly.  After the block there is unblock and the prana flows more freely.  Enjoy the sensation.

We’re slowly building this hypopressive/uddiyana bhandha practice in Essentials.  You can join us any Thursday or Friday morning.  Essential Recharge, Saturday March 27 will include a solid introduction to this practice.  Of course we loosen up the whole body first, including a delicious belly massage before this particular part of the practice.  And it is awesome to feel this fired up core contributing to simple asana practice before we stretch out and rest in shivasana.

Can you feel the parallel out in our altered world?  It’s like the world prana has been sealed, isolated, constricted for a year.  Can you feel the sense of easing, the return of communal life force? There is block…and there is unblock.  What a beautiful time for Spring to arrive.  Surprisingly, I continue to love teaching all this on-line.  Students love the ease of Zoom at home and want me to stay there.  I can imagine that.  And I also imagine a local in person practice session being born as well.  I miss being with you, being together, seeing you in practice, offering touch and instruction based on what is happening in current time.   I’m fully vaccinated so starting March 22 I open my studio for one-on-one physical therapy sessions.  Ready for hands on help with that physical challenge?  I can’t wait to feel you on my treatment table—albeit with masks.

Nothing like Rumi to sum it all up:

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted.
Then there’s another way:
a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”

Locked.  Bound.  Held captive.  I feel like we have learned so much from a year of bhandha.  Feeling this quality—and its release—in the breath, in the body…it can take us all the way to infinity.  Let’s go there together.

❤️Bella

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

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

Valentine’s Day dawned overcast and cold and damp.  No matter.  Because since June, every Sunday morning, you’ll find me outside on farmland bordering the Sacramento River.  Music radiates from my trusty old Mackies and a hardy group spreads out all over the property to dance.  We have now moved through three seasons together, missing only four Sundays due to rain, smoke, extreme heat.

I sat by the fire on Valentine’s Day and thought of the morning ahead.  I had some music pulled but my heart felt foggy as my window view.  What was this day about…really?  What measly words could serve as inspiration in such dark times?  And what’s love got to do with it?  My meandering mind pivoted to the previous night and the cat Zoom phenomena:

I was cast by the spell of this ridiculousness Saturday night.  Played it five times over.  Ended up in a floor heap, out of control laughter and tears.  What was that about?  Why did this video go viral?  Right now?  Why are people multiple watching and sharing?  What deep longing does it evoke?  Then it registered: in these estranged times, when solitude can overwhelm, this crazy video connects us.  Laughter connects us.  Tears connect us.

Feeling connects us.  Everybody knows frustration and worry.  Each and every one of us experience moments of gutsy courage.  We get pissed off and we forgive. We have moments of tenderness.  We know how it aches to care.  To be cared about.  You get my drift.  When we climb inside our own vulnerability, when we sense that everybody feels, we touch our common humanity.  We remember we are not alone.

And there is certain comfort in that.  Every time we laugh at the cat filter saying “I am not a cat” we re-connect with each other.  And here’s the thing.  I may not spontaneously trust that connection to another, someone unknown, someone seemingly different.  Gender, age, politics, color, economic status.  All these qualities of human being that superficially separate us.  But everybody laughs.  Everybody cries.

Separation is a lens we choose.  When I remember that you also laugh, when I imagine your tears, I soften and open and the yawning expanse between us fills with possibility.  With a merciful lens, the space between us morphs into a bridge.  A bridge we can learn to navigate, to negotiate.  To maybe even cross over.  Each step buoyed by remembering that we all laugh…and we all cry.

We danced open our hearts and eyes, felt into that bridge Sunday morning…on Zoom, in the garden.  And this was the one-class-a-month fundraiser, all proceeds donated to a local cause.  The river property we’ve been moving on is slated to undergo big levee reconstruction changes.  This community raised $950 for tree restoration.  Wow.  I am in a state of stunned gratitude.  Thank you.

Any community practice, whether on line or live, puts us squarely in the presence of that bridge.  We can choose to ignore that.  Eyes closed, in the comfort of our familiar skin bag.  Now we can even turn off our video.  There are times that is exactly what we need.

But we can also open our eyes, be curious, track our desire to hide out, reach out, space out.  Tap the universal sensation of vulnerability.  Trust the space between, knowing we all feel variations on this thread.  What’s love got to do with it?  Writer Sue Jaye Johnson in telling a story of my fellow teacher Peter Fodera said, “Life is not a spectator sport.  To know love, you first have to be present for it.”   That presence begins on the bridge.

I have a hankering to create some bridges in the alternative Zoom universe this Wednesday.  Johnson also said “You can’t get to love by reading about it or studying it.  You have to throw yourself in the pool.”  Throw yourself in the pool, take a walk on a bridge…plenty of opportunity this week.  Come feel. ❤️Bella

All links to these sessions:

Wednesday Waves
February 17
9:00am &/or 6:30pm

Basic Essentials
Thursday February 18
10:00-11:15am

Deep Essentials
Friday February 19
10:00-11:30am

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
February 21 10:00-11:30am
Zoom in your home
Live in the garden

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

Essential Recharge
Saturday January 30
10:00am-noon