I guess you might say I’m a medicine woman, deeply connected with the wide array of sacred ways we nurture our health and alleviate our suffering…all things healing. The dictionary defines medicine as a practice, as if with enough repetition you might get it right some day. I know I’ve been at it for more than fifty years and I’m still learning on so many levels.  This afternoon, up in my studio, I’ll meet a new patient with a shoulder problem, lean into all I know, stay open to emerging creative freshness.  In class tomorrow morning I’ll share ways to create fluid pain free feet and connect them powerfully to our bellies.  All the while attuned to those present, ready to shift on a dime if something different is needed.  On the dance floor last night I weaved a dose of how to stay present when things fall apart.   It is all a practice of medicine.

And I believe it is a calling, one I heard oh so long ago.  My sister was born six years after me.  I delighted in, loved this young sib and it was so child-like painful to watch my mom become increasingly concerned with her slow development.  I unconsciously absorbed what it means to be a family in crisis.  I felt suffering first hand on the most cellular level.  And I grew up on a mission to alleviate it.  Never waivered.  Of course, practicing medicine is not for everyone.

On Take Your Daughter to Work Day 1993, my thirteen year old came along with me.  Over the years she’d been with me at clinics but had never watched me work with patients.  She trailed me room to room, observing as I took histories, examined patients in motion, laid hands on for treatment.  She was atypically quiet as we drove home, so I nudged.  “So what do you think about the work I do?”  Without hesitation she shot back “Your job is so disgusting!”

I could see how a thirteen year old might come to that conclusion.  This work means stepping into rooms with complete strangers, suspending all judgment, listening to stories, attuning to bodies, touching in the most intimate places.  It is all that plus sensitizing to the nuances of developing relationships.  And it is all this plus feeling into the choice points, the this or that of treatment decisions based on everything you’ve learned so far. Even as you acknowledge the depth of the unknown. It is only 50% science.  The rest is art.

How clearly I recall that six year old aching artist, the one who ended up dedicating a lifetime to healing. As a teen I read with wonder about Florence Nightingale and hospital candy-striped.  My first physical therapy job was with handicapped children. Sometimes it takes decades to develop perspective.  I didn’t realize the roots of this calling until way later.   Maybe concurrent to my first exposure to Buddhism 101.  I was blown away by the four noble truths: there is suffering; there is a cause of suffering; there is an end to suffering; the way out is the eightfold path.

We all suffer.  In ways big and small.  In our aching bodies.  In our vulnerable hearts.  In our crazy-making minds.    And alleviation of that is my jam.  I absolutely love this work in the world.  Come be with me: on the mat, on the dance floor, on the treatment table.

Bella 🙏🏼

I was blessed by a pair of cinema angels this past week.  She Said and Women Talking on consecutive evenings, films that courageously dive into sexual harassment/abuse.  Minimal time is devoted to the actual perpetrators or the acts of violence.   Because the focus is on the women: directed by women and giving voice to women, just as the titles indicate.  Powerful.  Highly recommended.

There is a scene in She Said, the two young journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story quietly sharing a meal in a restaurant.  A man approaches and does that yuk overt coming on thing.  They are polite at first but he is unfazed.  He persists.  Until finally one of them stands up, looks him right in the eye and shouts “F—k off!”  Which he does.  I get chills recalling it.

Because here’s the deal.  I clearly remember the moment in 1968 when I first heard the word feminist.  Like it was yesterday.  It registered in every bone of my body, a young woman, first time considering that gender inequality was real.  Realizing all the implications and how that had played out in my short life thus far.  And I remember through young adulthood and middle age coming frustratingly face-to-face with all that meant.  And at least having a label for it.  Twenty years down the road, in 1988, exasperation fueled my exit from a job.  A clinic dominated by a man that did everything he could to keep me small.  I ended up starting my own business.  Which was a brilliant move.  But did I ever stand up, look him right in the eye and shout “F—k off!”  No.

Because I knew about gender based inequality but, at that point in history, did not have the support, the language or the skills to express myself in a healthy constructive way.  It is incredibly heartening to bear witness to women in mid-life right now.  Women who have support, language and skills.  Women who are willing to make what was once only a notion into a reality.  And the next generation?  OMG.  No bullshit allowed.  Period.  So much hope for the future.

The range of problems stemming from gender inequity is steep, running the gamut from disrespect to brutality.  I’ve been lucky in this regard.  Am I comparing utter lack of regard in the workplace to acts of physical violence?  No.  Do they stem from a related root?  Yes. There are so many ways to view this complex issue.

This week I want to use the lens of boundary to investigate this cultural hot button.  We are humans in need of safety.  We create lines to protect our personal well-being.  Sometimes those lines are hard and fast and clear.  Sometimes those lines are squishy and confused or faint.  Those lines change on a dime and those lines are person and situation dependent.  And people, regardless of gender, step over those lines in such a creative variety of ways.  From blatant and overbearing to subtle and manipulative.

In any given moment a thought and/or an emotion can signal us to create a line.  If you know me, you know what’s coming here.  A truly authentic response in the moment originates in the body.  It is a signal throbbing deep down in belly, insistently pounding in chest.  We can learn to trust those sensations with practice.  It’s what I love about the dance floor.  We practice with our bodies.  I’m not sure how many times I’ve facilitated this embodied exploration of yes/no/boundaries.  A dozen?  But it is always fresh and alive.  It lives in the heart beat, the pulse, the rhythm of staccato.  It is a practice in polarity.  It is a practice of the physical expression of thought and feeling.

Come out to Wednesday Waves and feel this with me.
❤️Bella

River waters nudge the levee.  Wind borderline terrifying.  Windows pelted, elder trees topple.  Grateful for bodily safety but my heart aches and my spirit feels damp as the yard.  Pervasive grey outside matches my inside.  Winter is not my happy-joy season. I’ve learned to appreciate the gifts darkness bestows.  Just not today, thank you.

Now I could run this story line all day.  Or all week.  Or until spring delivers us.  But, if I’m honest, the physical yuk—chest knot, leaden belly, shoulder sag, teary—didn’t last that long.  Once I let it have its way with me.  Here’s what we know: the felt experience of emotion, the actual physiological response time, is about 90 seconds.  Any additional time is about resisting or running with the story.  Really.

Once I let it have its way with me.  Well, what exactly does that mean?  Here’s the simple: be with the experience of breath and physical sensation in the present moment.  Oh that.  But really, take a moment.  Consider the multitude of ways these bodies speak.

Can I open my eyes right here, take in the whole room?  What sound is audible? What’s the weather report inside my chest and belly?  Speedy? Still? Spacious? Chilly?  Constricted? Hot?  My breath: easy, shallow, holding, fast, deep, gaspy, labored?  Signals emanate from all the parts: head to spine to tail to hips to thighs to shins to feet.  Heartbeat to shoulders to elbows to hands.  Organ body, orifices, thirst/hunger/taste in the mouth/smells.  How is my left side compared to right and which way is north? How is my body arranged on this chair and can I feel the pull of gravity? What’s it like right in my smack dab center?

This is the physiology, the fire of neurons, language of our body.  And I’ve been ruminating about this language and how it informs spirit.  The term spiritual transcendence has some relevance here. Transcendence: from the Latin trans-, meaning “beyond,” and scandare, meaning “to climb.”  A spiritual state of moving beyond physical needs and realities.  Many have chimed in about this elevated state.  So many!  I love Viktor Frankl’s concise definition in Man’s Search for Meaning:

  1. a shift in focus from self to others
  2. a move away from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation
  3. an increase in moral concern and (as a result)
  4. a preponderance of emotions like awe, ecstasy, amazement

Indeed.  What a beautiful list.  Who doesn’t want that?  I’ve also been curious about the look-alike: not transcendence, but spiritual bypass.  I’m pretty sure we’ve all been in the presence of or (yikes!) heard ourselves spouting bypass-ese.  Using spiritual concepts to avoid emotional challenge.  Like hearing the response  “love and light” in the face of someone’s acute grief.   Or using spiritual phrases as shiny defense mechanism.  As in, “rising above” when confronted by an angry being.  Dismissal instead of resolution.  Glossing over rather than working through.

When we actually stand in the presence of grief, listen as the body speaks, feel 90 seconds of sensation crash over us…an authentic response has a chance to emerge. If we stay with rage’s physical discomfort for a full minute and a half we might set a clear boundary.  Spiritual bypass? Maybe it originates in physical bypass.  And the corollary: spiritual transcendence and all the promise it holds…deeply rooted in physical presence.

This is my experience.  I’m about the body.  Holding space in a variety of ways with infinite invitations to go in, track, stay in, tend, come back, notice.  And you can count on this: the truth of all the feels, the beauty of authentic insight, that divine shift in devotion from self to others, both motivation and morality deeply personal—all that emerges from a cellular level. With roots deep in these earthly bodies, spirit has an accessible physical conduit to render joy, to light us up in awe, to baptize us in wonder.

“And that is the purpose of the presence and the power of this work-
there is nothing more beautiful than seeing someone
turn on to their own divinity.”    Gabrielle Roth

When I’m with you on the treatment table or the yoga mat or the dance floor…there is nothing more incredible than witnessing you turn on to your own brilliant magic.  Thank you for all those moments.

❤️Bella

Intention          Resolution          Pledge         Commitment
A weighty tradition, a call to action, tethered to year’s end….
Reflection         Contemplation         Musing         Meditation
Days damp chill, balanced by marathon nights…I dream

Rain and snow cancelled tentative plans, nestled me snuggle-worth at home.  And I’ve been gently reflecting.   This paper scrap has been in a prominent studio spot since July, softly nudging through the second half of 2022.

Right Speech: a Buddhist precept encouraging mindfulness as we say those words, express that thought, offer that opinion.  What does it mean to only speak truth? To refrain from gossip or harshness?  To avoid useless speech?  After the fact, I catch myself time and again having engaged in less than mindful speech.  Chagrin…may be a fine prompt for awakening.

That paper list nutshells it for me.  Six months of random observation has revealed a few things.  Foremost?  Ironically, my life long attachment to truth-telling can get me in trouble.  Just because something is true does not mean it needs a voice. Truth can be a slippery slope that can deliver an utterance less than caring.  I guess we all know how awful it feels to wish we could take back what we just said.

Here’s another piece: my aging brain is slowing a bit.  In group conversation flying fast and furious, sometimes it’s too much effort to contribute.  I can track and enjoy the dialogue, but the speed to articulate a response has decreased.  The moment to participate passes before I’m ready.  When I just relax into this shift, I realize that mindful listening,  the sister to mindful speech, is in itself a valuable contribution.  What a great skill for an opinionated person to cultivate.

One more piece: is it the right time?  Indeed, it might really be true and absolutely necessary.  And there is a kindly way to express it.  But “is it the right time” takes “necessary” to the next level.  The impact of language is so woven with timing.  All those child-raising years…such oft-repeated practice.  Learning the hard way to hold my tongue in situational heat.  Better to wait.  Better to save it for the tender moment it might be received with ease.

If we turn our lens to the use and abuse of  the written word on social media, all of the above is super-conspicuous.  The propensity for lies to multiply, for content to expand beyond our capacity to absorb, for hate to proliferate becomes exponential.  Imagine a world where posts are screened for truth, for necessity, for kindness.  Hmmm…..

So though I am not big on resolution, this musing is front and center as I step into the unknown of 2023.  So much came to pass in 2022…some delightful, some awful, some meh. Trusting 2023 will deliver to each and every one of us just exactly what is necessary and what is true.  And may it be delivered with a huge dollop of kindness.

❤️Bella

The altar space pictured above organically emerged in my studio in 2020 right along with Covid.  Just know that visual creativity is not my artistic go-to expression.  So it’s intriguing that installations, the visual imagery that sets the tone for 5Rhythms sessions, have ramped up in fascination for me over the years.  Just recently personal time in this studio suffered a too long hiatus.  Travel, a nasty cold, heater on the fritz…I yearned for self care moments up there that sustain me on the regular.  Sigh.

But finally, on Saturday, I turned to the west wall, where all my salvaged treasures await: bones and shells, rocks and wood, textured fabrics and feathers, little sculptures and hearts of all kinds.  A lot of this and plenty of that.  Sometimes something moving in me calls for concrete form.  But this time I created right out of the empty space, trusting what emerged each step of the way.  First a branch turned into a white cave.  Then a rock became a throne for a reclining goddess from Santiago.   Moss from New Brighton Beach.  Bird spine perfectly echoing goddess spine.  Bird skull meticulously fastened to branch with chunk of glue stick.  In my utter trance I knocked over a full tea thermos. I threw the toweled wet mess off the landing and glanced down to spy last year’s Halloween raven mask.  Of course.  Sometimes it happens just like that.

And sometimes I pull a card from the Osho deck and ask, “What do you have to tell me about this creation?”  I already had my own thoughts on that question, but I spread the cards face down on the floor, hovering over the choices with my receptive left hand.  Finally I zeroed in on one card that just did not want to come out of the deck, avoiding my finger grip with a tenacity that made me double down my effort.  Clearly that was the one!

And there it was: the Completion card, final image in the Major Arcana. I just about lost it.  A few excerpted words here:

“… in the ever-changing flow of life there are moments we come to a point of completion….we are able to perceive the whole picture…either be in despair because we don’t want the situation to come to an end, or we can be grateful and accepting…that life is full of endings and new beginnings.  Whatever has been absorbing your time and energy is coming to an end.  In completing, you clear space for something new to begin.  Use this interval to celebrate both—the end of the old and the coming of the new.”

Indeed. Isn’t this exactly the time of year we dial ourselves in to those flow of life seasonal shifts?  The heavens gift us with transitions based in the whole picture eternal. The sun so south-low blankets our northern hemisphere in darkness, a twilight that reflects all that is ending, in completion, finished.  Damp ground moulders and incubates all that has been shed. I trust that mouldering, this interval, this gestation.  It was Tolkein who wrote:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
not all those who wander are lost.
The old that is strong does not wither,
deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

A Zoom call this morning included a meditation to engage in active wishing.  Wishing felt a bit exotic, like I was granted permission to be in youthful delight.  Yet in this child like reverie I noticed the notion of inspiration arise.  Not just for me, but for you, for us, for this needy planet.  Inspiration fueled by wonder, stoked by an imagination released from the need to take immediate action.  Inspiration fueled by wander, by playful meandering, by casting about without fear of disappointment or failure or expectation.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Albert Einstein

And so, as this year, this season, this whatever draws to a close, the perception of conclusion, of endings, may surface for each of us in its own distinct way.  My wish?  May we open our eyes to the mystery inherent in this moment of completion.  May we grant ourselves a proper pause.  May we be gifted with revelations nourished by un-tethered wonder and the joy of haphazard wandering.

May it be so….and bountiful wishes of healing and holiness to you and yours.

Love, bella

Summer 2021: I begin to save recordings of Roll, Release, Align on-line.  The sessions seemed to have value for students beyond our together practice.  They report ease in breaking 90 minute sessions into shorter practices.  Or the support of repeating classes in their entirety.  So I begin to build a library.

By the time I stopped teaching in September, 55 classes had gathered themselves, arranged in eight anatomically inspired chapters.  Teaching principles of loose, long and strong has been in evolution in one form or another since 1983.  Imparting this knowledge is starting to feel a bit of a legacy.   This life-long work in progress is a living breathing organism, always growing as I track my own internal experience and observe responses in yours.  Sensation, injuries, reaction and adaptation to new techniques, total curiosity…so much keeps it ever fresh. This particular on-line year is a snapshot of that continual evolution as we travelled through the entire body.

Each class has every element needed for optimal self-care:  release with balls and rollers, core strength, stretching tightness, a bit of yoga asana.  Visuals, music, poetry to spark an embodied imagination.  If you’re intrigued about how to enter this richly resourced world of self-care, there are many easy ways to slide in:

The Triplet:
Whenever the mood strikes, I’m creating three short videos focused on a particular body region.  The current triplet is about the rib cage.  I like the Swedish translation: heart basket.  Because we want this body part to be more like a basket and less like a cage!  Roll out your mat, give it a try.  Let it inspire.  This content is free.  Next up when the mood strikes?  A loose, long and strong psoas.

Intro to the Essentials:
The slow and easy basics—four one hour classes—digest at your own pace for free.  Care for your unique and beautiful body…it’s a pleasure!  Feel confident when you come to your mat, with or without the support of a teacher.  Learn the basic skills utilized in Video Library classes.  I’ll guide you through the essentials: foam rolling, tennis ball releases, core strength, stretching out.  After just one session roll your mat out at home with self-assured expertise.  Props you need at this LINK.

A One-on-One moment:
Many students come for individual physical therapy either before they begin practice or as they run into roadblocks along the way.  In a single session, in person or on-line, we suss out your unique challenges.  This paves the way for you to practice with workable modifications AND clearly focuses you on your unique asymmetries.  Not a one of us is perfectly balanced!  Practice is so much more interesting and productive when there is a felt sense of the particulars.

The Video Library:
Watch the short introductory video, choose a chapter and then take your pick of classes.  Feel the evolution doing them in chronological order.  Classes toward the end give you a feel of practice in its more current form, launch point for the upcoming live offering. By monthly subscription.

LIVE:

Release and Realign:  free preview Friday December 16 10:00 at Clara Auditorium. Enter parking lot from O St. ‘tween 24th & 26th St. Turn left, enter brown double doors.  Drop in fee $20 starting January 6.  Bring mat, 3 foot roller, two soft balls, two pair wrapped tennis balls, two blocks, blanket, strap.  Props available for purchase for preview class and each Friday morning in January.

Tune Up Your Moving Body: committed series at Yoga Shala Saturdays Feb 4, 11, 18 12:00-1:30.  Limited to 16 students.  Registration link coming soon.

The time is ripe.  So many ways to enter into the pleasure of self-care.  And speaking of pleasure….I experienced such a brilliant session as a student at Sunday Sweat Your Prayers.  We dance for so many reasons and transcendence is not at the top of my list.  But there it was, a total dissolve moment. No separation between me and you and us. And of course, then it was gone. The realization of meaning is only an echo of the actual experience.  But the physical memory of this universal truth, this felt sense of non-duality, is anchored in my bones. The reverberations bring me enormous pleasure.  5Rhythms dance 2022 runs through December 18 before we break until January 8, 2023.

This life-long work in progress is a living breathing organism, always growing as I track my own experience and yours. Ever fresh. Knowledge filtered through experience occasionally translates to a bit of wisdom.  Sharing that, offering whatever happens to come through feels a bit of a legacy.

❤️Bella

It was autumn ’72 when I graduated from UCSF medical school, clutching a degree in physical therapy, pretty much clueless about the journey to come.  It would be another thirty years before persistent dabbling in yoga and dance would begin to fully inform this chosen vocation.  I had no idea that the nature of this work was evolutionary.  No notion that it might look different fifty years down the road.

A few weeks after graduation I landed in pediatrics in Sacramento and my boyfriend, hard at work on the McGovern campaign, joined me here. We were footloose and ready for about anything, thrilled to move into a big house on 7th Avenue after living in a string of small apartments.  We had some nebulous plan about staying in this cow town three years and then moving to where we really wanted to be.  We had no idea we would still be here fifty years down the road.

On Thanksgiving Day we married in that 7th Avenue house. Twenty-five people witnessed this relatively spontaneous ceremony and joined us for a veritable feast of giving thanks spread on a ping-pong table.  Many of those people are gone now, but I wonder how many present imagined that those two hippy-dippy kids would still be married fifty years down the road.

I was twenty-two!  When I’m around twenty some-things—even my own children are way past that point—I’m uber-conscious of the launch this moment portends.  How the innocent choices made in trusting naivete wield such power.  And I’m also aware that 2022 is different than 1972.  Maybe growing up in the 1950’s hoodwinked me into believing my life would echo my parent’s.  And that my children’s future would look like the one I faced. I likely harbored an assumption that things would kinda stay the same.

But change was all around me.  New concepts whispered their way into the vernacular: ecology, feminism, racial justice.  Radical events spilled in black and white into our living rooms.  Watergate and riots and protests were daily news. The war on drugs ran concurrent with the war in Vietnam. And rock and roll, a continual backdrop to my life, so incredibly revolutionary.  Lots of twenty some-things were actually fueling this change.  I did my share.

The future….maybe always feels tenuous and unpredictable.  We can guess, but we never know what it holds.  But the past—looking back and recognizing how we arrived here—that’s a known. These fifty years have held so much loss and grief, buckets of joy and surprise, oodles of nose to the grindstone, keep on keeping on.

“There is something that happens to us when we practice:
we find we have a bigger perspective on our lives.
This feels almost like a blessing or a gift.”  Pema Chodron

I suppose I’m having a bigger perspective moment.  And this golden milestone, this pinpoint in time, has me reflecting.  There’s been fruition alongside the pain, serendipity in the wake of mistakes, crazy synchronicity and plenty of near misses.  A surprising amount tracks back to those wet-behind-the-ears choices made fifty years ago.  So much has been given as a result of those decisions.  You know, it’s the work of a lifetime to just keep harvesting what we’re given to keep waking up.  Indeed, this golden anniversary feels like a reaping, a gift, a true blessing.

Feeling enormous gratitude for what I’ve been given.  All of it.   This season of darkness might be a good time to reflect on just that.   Quiet moments to cultivate a big perspective, recognize what we’ve been given.  Consider that it might be exactly what we need to awaken.

Blessings on you and yours….Bella

Dear Bella,

Oh those body tales of woe…our stories.  Myriad chapters spread over time.  My current troubles began as many do.  Insidiously.  Which the dictionary defines as “proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.”  Right?  A shadowy ache in forearm, there one day, gone the next.  Elusive then lingering.  Lifting a full tea kettle: ouch.  Tenderness in elbow.  Not  debilitating, but unpleasant, worrisome.  And after wishing it away a bit too long, I deeply massage forearm and that definitely helps.  But right hand starts to complain about so much tedious work.

And then magic happens.  A déjà vu moment that’s regularly recurred in this life dedicated to treating body ailments…mine AND yours.  So I’m minding my own business, tennis ball rolling out my shins when the bulb lights up.  Shin.  Forearm.  Same!  Two parallel bones spanning knee and ankle just like the two bones that connect elbow and wrist.  In a posture of utter supplication, I roll the forearms just like the shins, cruise up into elbow and dig into triceps. Which are, of course, part of the drama.  Such a tearful moment: relief, gratitude, awe…all wrapped into one juicy sensory experience. Quick video:

Here’s the rest of the story.  A variation on this synchronicity has occurred countless times in my work.  The very next morning a young cello player comes to my studio with chronic left forearm pain.  We had work to do in her thoracic spine, scapula, rib cage.  It’s all connected.  But we finished the session with this very technique.  I kid you not.

I am not a traditionally religious person. But every so often I feel god working through me.  Bestowing me with ailments to feel into, move through. And then this gentle nudge to pass the healing magic on.  Is this forearm thing behind me yet?  Well, no.  Just like you I do the self-care I need and then get busy or neglectful or fate-tempting or downright stubborn.  Resistant to the obvious: this body needs consistent care and attention and love.  And then I come back.  Just like you.

It’s that coming back that I am here to support.  Read on a bit about these two juicy things if you want a leg up:

  • About Yoga: a triplet of free videos to inspire you. Pull out your mat and jump start your practice. New offerings on this page as the spirit moves me.  This triplet is to help you foster a rib cage loose, long and strong.
  • Release and Realign: we finally named this Friday morning drop in class that officially begins January 6.  But don’t wait…come out for the free class December 16 10:00 Clara and meet the “we”.

Who is this “we” of rotating teachers?  Kim Wagaman and I met in 2007 at Yoga Solution.  Her openness, attention to alignment and breath and balance and asymmetry, her sparky curiosity and sprinklings of poetry utterly moved me.  Ever since those early days we’ve been mining possibilities.  We’ve taught workshops together and went parallel online when Covid came to call.  Jeanne Munoz was in my teacher group at It’s All Yoga 2012.  As soon as we completed training we collaborated on a Friday night Roll & Release class.  Until she had twins and we had to take a pause.  We knew we’d be back together someday.   It was meant to be.  That day has finally come.

If you have a body tale of woe–a current story or multiple chapters spread over a lifetime, maybe something insidious that is proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, with harmful effects—I’m right here for you.  Did you know that back in my clinical era I used to see 12 patients a day?  That was hecka training.  Now?  One a day.  Love it.  Because it is so nourishing relaxed, focused and creative, spontaneous yet individualized.  So utterly uncompromised.  I adore this work.

No matter where we meet—on the dance floor, on the mat, on the treatment table—-please be welcome.  Join me for a tearful moment: relief, gratitude, awe…all wrapped into one juicy sensory experience.

❤️Bella

Love Letters to a Raven, an online event, began October 22 on the 10 year anniversary of Gabrielle Roth’s death.  It was a global invitation to post pictures and reflections, installations and musings, a 10 day wave with two days dedicated to each rhythm.

As folks chimed in from all around the world, perception quickly grew of how impactful this overall practice is.  But what I really appreciated was how much potent and particular medicine each individual rhythm holds.  An invitation to write every other day?  From Day 1, I just dove in, of course:

FLOW:
I had already written earlier that week about Gabrielle so I simply posted the link in Love Letters in thanks for these two woke feet.  How every practitioner out there has a story to tell about when and how the 5Rhythms earthquake shifted their bedrock.  How  Gabrielle left a legacy that woke my feet up and then my whole body followed suit.  And my hope that she knows every day I give thanks for these two woke feet, wordlessly moving me across this ever-shifting ground.  Woke feet: so the essence of an instinct-laden flow.

STACCATO:
Right away I knew in my bones this was my home rhythm. How embarrassing! In my naivety I secretly wished I could be all ravishing flowing or dramatically chaotic or even serenely still. Staccato seemed so lock step ordinary boring. Hah! So little did I know of the massive steely layers surrounding my soft beating tender heart. Clueless about the journey I was embarking on that would melt my steel cage father wound. How I would finally dance my way into utter forgiveness. The incredible impact of softening around my edges…without losing one bit of my fiery clarity. Staccato…I worship you, my home rhythm, for so many years I buckled under your mastery. And now, in a strange twist of fate, you are in abject service to me every day….

This morning as I staccato-collage I am remembering Embodied Heart in Tiburon 2005? 2006? Gabrielle asked us to bring a picture of our father and by day’s end there was an entire wall filled with the photos of 80 fathers. I spent countless hours at this wall. I looked at each man and saw his utter capacity for heartless cruelty. By week’s end I was able to see the soft tenderness emanating from each photo. What an incredible gift that immersion was.

Hmmm…staccato notions reverberating! Before day’s end just one more thing about this rhythm so close to my heart. First couple years of practice: teachers who utilized this rhythm to facilitate an exploration of boundaries. It felt like there was an assumption that we all needed to “work” on building/improving/strengthening our personal boundaries. Clearly some of my partners were challenged to create clear strong easy to read lines. I finally got that my work was something different. My lines were over the top powerful, boundaries up the wazoo. Offering up a softer version of clarity was my investigation. This has been an ongoing process. Now, when I teach in this arena, I hold it as an exploration of a continuum. The highly defended at one end, the sweet pushovers at the other. And then everywhere in between. And so often it is situational. I love to play in the rhythm of staccato exploring that entire juicy continuum.

CHAOS:
And if staccato was my home rhythm, chaos was a foreign land.  One by one, over the years, there was a moment when each rhythm anchored into my body.  It was palpable.  But there was something about chaos that just wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t land.  It took a world wide pandemic.  There was loss that dropped me into heart-wracking grief in a way I had just never had time to allow in the past.  The sleepless pain of it, the overwhelming empathic distress stripped me naked.  It went on for weeks.  In the midst of it, in my dance, I noticed the green EXIT sign over our auditorium door.  I realized if I could read it, my head was not released.  In an instant, my head let go in a way I had never experienced, sending a reverberating wave to tail bone and shooting out fingers and toes.  It was an extended journey from control and confusion to all out surrender.  And since then, the quality of surrender is weaving its way gently through all the rhythms/all my life.  Gabrielle used to say that sometimes you go for it and sometimes you have to wait for it.  Chaos….thank god, you have been well worth the wait.

LYRICAL:
Shapeshifter extraordinare, so many ways to move through the portal of flow, staccato, chaos. I call lyrical “The Big Whatever”. And, yes to the universal experience of lightness and joy and air, which became so real in Year One when happenstance dance-lifted me in front of a huge fan. Yes. But the cycles, the life cycles brought me home to the lyrical medicine deeps. I began this practice with my life in chaotic glorious confusion. As I stayed with, kept moving from trizophrenia toward integrity, as my body began to sister with my heart, my mind began to shhhh….the reason I was born here on Planet Earth emerged from shadow. Everything from inside out, the masculine feminine merge to creation, effortlessly shape-shifted into a lyrical destiny that had always been patiently awaiting. For me, the rhythm of lyrical is about alignment. The cohesion necessary to allow our soul to bear true fruit. And now, in gratitude, in the abundance of fall’s harvest, all these years later, I slip slide toward stillness.

STILLNESS:
I once asked Gabrielle, “So at the end of a wave, at the end of a class, at the end of a workshop…what is it, what sensibility, are you aiming for, wanting to create?” With not a moment of hesitation, she replied. “Emptiness and unity.” I call that up on the regular. I’m only just beginning to understand that it might be the same answer for the end of a life.

So much more I could have expressed.  The gestalt is reverberating inside me.  Love Letters to a Raven was an ephemeral cyber-space moment, no longer visible, just like the dance.  But, if this is your practice, this elicits such a beautiful DIY possibility.  A couple days to feel into each rhythm.  Meditation, writing, artwork.  Or simply noticing each particular energetic vibration—flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness— as it arises in your day, in your body, in your movement, in your heart, in your awareness.  Attune to your soul—what does it need right now?  Empty out, be still, let spirit inform you.

And if you want to investigate the territory as it was meant to be explored, come dance Wednesday Waves at Clara tonight November 2 6:30 and Sunday Sweat Your Prayers November 6 10:00, actually back in the garden just for this week and next.  There is nothing like it.

Love, Bella

Recent travel immersed me in the duality of moving with continual change: joy and exasperation, craziness and wonder.  Planes, trains, automobiles (remember that hysterical film with Steve Martin and John Candy?) only began this journey.  Every time I turned around another moment of transition was at hand.  And really…how is that any different from a same-old, same-old day?

All those daily under the radar transition moments: we wake from sleep, we stand from our chair, we open the door and go outside.  It’s sunny, then overcast. The wind is blowing, then it stops.  The mid-level transitions: we’re in one city then another.  Relationships and jobs begin and then they end.  We move from one home to another.  It’s a new day, the next week, the following month…the year turns over.  And then the Big Passages: a pandemic emerges, wars flare up and die down, elections alter the course of history, regimes come and go.  The climate changes.  Babies are born.  People die.

You know the Buddhist axiom: all things rise and fall.  But every transition, from the micro to the mega, has one thing in common.  The in-between phase.  The mystery betwixt before and after. Building skill at recognizing that moment is the work of a lifetime.  Because in that precise moment we have opportunity.  Sometimes an active choice can be made.  We can go right or we can go left.  We can turn toward or turn away.  We can speak or be still.   And sometimes we can make a choice to be passive.  Simply surrender to the way the wind blows, the direction the water flows.  Yield to the shifting ground, submit to the prevailing momentum.  We can surrender to being with things just as they are and patiently wait for time to pass.

Faster than ever, small and big changes happen all around us.  We can cultivate our responsiveness muscle during that pause between moments.  How?  Feel inside: breath, sensation, instinct, emotion, intuition.  Look out and tune into the big picture, the broad perspective and, at the same time, attend to the devil that lives in the details.  Awareness and attention, our allies in transition, paving the way to action or surrender.

Class practice invites honing that skill.  On Sunday we paused in the ready made transition between songs and I had a total aha moment.  I’ve spent twenty years growing my DJ-ing ability, part of which involves making the transitions as seamless as possible.  What’s that about?  What kind of preparation for life is that?  I was all about abrupt on Sunday.  Challenging the habitual is definitely a means to boost awareness and attention.

Cultivation of awareness and attention is a thread weaving through all Body Joy offerings.  This web page is a vision of change in progress; scroll down to see all three listings:

Tend Your Aging Body:  New people have shown up every Saturday for this 90 minutes of pleasure. They slide right into this slow gentle practice.  Since I have tons of prop options available and a great ability to articulate the practice and lots of knowledge on how to modify so its just right for you and clear visuals and divine music…well, it’s a good thing and this Saturday Oct 29 is the last chance to indulge until January.  Treat yourself.

Wilbur Hot Springs:  Do you know this oasis 90 minutes from Sac? I’ll be on the enclosed deck November 19-20 offering 3 Roll, Release, Align sessions (all props included).  These classes are included with your day pass or overnight stay. Come soak, come hike, come let go. I love this Northern California gem. Please join me! You need to reserve your day pass or overnight stay soon with Wilbur Hot Springs.  They sell out  on weekends.

Roll, Release, Align:  Actively in transition: name is a draft, description is a draft.  But a free class on a Friday in December is in the works.  Stay tuned!  Clara is definitely rented. Us three (from left to right: Kim Wagaman, myself, Jeanne Munoz) are totally excited, committed and ready to rotate Fridays 10:00 beginning in January.

Each way-experienced teacher puts her spin on loose, long and strong.  When I’m not teaching I’ll be on my mat out there with you.  It’s a bring-your-own-props class. I’ll be retailing what you need out of my trunk in the parking lot before each class in January.

And, of course, all things 5Rhythms:
Wednesday Waves tonight Oct 26 6:30pm.
Sweat Your Prayers Sunday Oct 30 10:00am with guest teacher Rachel Jordana from Santa Cruz holding it down for a Halloween celebration. Come dressed up!! Alter Egos are welcome.
Moon Lodge  Dec 5-9 at Esalen with Lucia Horan.  I’ll be assisting at my favorite place on Planet Earth.  Wanna come with?

Closing with this quote from Leon C. Megginson:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.”

Let’s build that responsiveness together…❤️Bella