Body Joy: Physical Therapy with Bella Dreizler

hope 2

I saw Moonlight last night, an incredible film that placed me squarely in the life of a gay black young man growing up in a drug drenched neighborhood. In her review, Carla Meyer commented on the movie’s conclusion: “Because an insistence on hope is as much a part of the American psyche as the demand for uninterrupted liberty.” I loved this movie, the way it ended and how it reminded me of my own journey toward hope this week. I was as far as you can get from hope when I woke Wednesday morning.   In an unusual scheduling twist, I had zero obligations until class that night. I stayed in my pajamas all day, grateful for a witnessing awareness that kept me processing as the day passed…I travelled light years in the space of a few hours. Maybe you caught this Facebook post already, documenting that journey:

Woke at four this morning , each time I remembered to breathe, I wept some more. Empty, wiped clean, strangely calm. The headline spread upon my lap serves to evoke deep feelings cycling through me. I witness each emotion rise, peak, fall away. I watch, I breathe. Fear and her gloomy sister, despair are the two that rise again and again. I keep courageously surfing this pair across the immense divide. My own fear and despair connect me with half of this nation. Those citizens I have rejected, discounted, ridiculed. People I can barely acknowledge, somehow feel more evolved than, superior to. Human beings just like me. Shielded in this big bubble we call California. And so this is where the shit hits the spiritual fan, my loves. Practice is over. This is where it gets real. I believe in the basic goodness of all sentient beings. And that includes this new president and all the fearful, despairing people who are just like me that voted for him. Every cell in my body knows fear and despair. We are all suffering and we are all human. May all beings be well. May all beings be at peace. May all beings be a force for unity in this very needy world. And since it is what I do, I’ll dance tonight. I’ll hold space at Clara so community can gather and feel this together. I don’t know how I’ll do that. But I’m willing to show up, feel my feet on the ground, breathe and move and pray and be open to the healing that happens every time we do this.

And we have danced. Each time despair and anguish and pessimism arise, I keep moving, using the suffering to create art that bridges the great divide. A trail of tears to connect with these “other people”. Human beings who have children, gather for the holidays, walk their dogs, cherish their loved ones…and are also frustrated with an ineffective and broken political process. We only have to go one crisis back, consider Standing Rock, yesterday’s situation d’jour. We are all so busy finger pointing at the Feds and the oil companies as we complacently continue with lifestyles that create a situation like this. We don’t think twice about our perceived need for everything from airline travel to blow driers (including myself here!) even as we voice our protest about environmental rape. When I heard that Obama was planning to re-route the pipeline so that it was not on sacred land I about fell over. What land is NOT sacred? See above about ineffective and broken. The frustration we all share is yet another unifying element for the populace.

And what about hope? I had the privilege of dancing with Kathy Altman on Saturday and for the umpteenth time danced the Buddhist-inspired dragon gate. Three dancers taking a turn at three stations. On one end of the gate, all the shapes of hope. On the other, all the shapes of hopelessness. In the middle? An opportunity to dance this polarity. With ease, I fell into despair as I held one end. It was anger so muted by sadness that it just collapsed. The weight of it never allowed me to rise past my knees, small sobbing movements. It felt familiar and I skillfully surfed it to connect with the perceived “other”. When it was time to hold hope, I initially felt lost. So I lifted into what seemed the shape of it and immediately I felt across the divide because surely this is what the “other” is feeling right now. And I got it. It was a small flame and it grew and grew and soon it became mine as well. It became our hope. And truly, I am feeling both in this moment. And I am grateful for that possibility. We stand on a threshold, awake and alert. We do not know what the future holds. Why not have hope?

Mistress of hope, Maya Angelou, said “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”   From her poem Pulse of Morning:

“Lift up your hearts

each new hour holds new chances

for a new beginning.

Do not be wedded forever to fear, yoked eternally

to brutishness.”

Come dance with me across the divide…..love, bella

feet 2

 

Must have been early 2007 when my right foot started to complain about holding me up. This was something new and extremely disconcerting: my physical connection to the ground no longer dependable. If you’re alive and weight bearing on this gravity-infused planet, there’s a likelihood you know this one: pain emanating from the sole of the foot. Starts with a little twinge, a random ache here and there, a curiosity. Then it starts to get louder. Wow, first step out of bed exquisitely painful, easing a bit as it warms up. When it never really goes away, when it begins to haunt your every move…well now it has your attention. It can be very shaky ground.

You want to know what it is and how to get rid of it. These days we seek help from a variety of sources. We Google it (is that a verb now?), talk to friends, maybe eventually seek treatment from a GP, chiropractor, acupuncturist, podiatrist, physical therapist, massage practitioner, sports medicine doctor. Each of these experts look through a particular lens to determine a course of treatment.

Speaking from a place of experience, I venture that the overwhelming winner in the diagnosis department will be plantar fasciitis. The single most common answer you’ll receive to “what it is”. On the “how to get rid of it” front, most of these practitioners will focus on where the pain is: the bottom of the foot. Depending on their training, they’ll prescribe anti-inflammatory, cold, heat, massage, walking boot, night splint, expensive shoes, orthotics. I know this because I see folks after they have done many of these things with limited or no success.

And because in 2007, I limped along this same journey. I used my own skilled hands to dig into and massage plantar fascia, took meds, experimented with support, rested as much as possible, found every which way to dance on one foot. After a couple months I went to a physical therapist, a specialist in foot treatment. Did he treat the bottom of my foot where the pain was? No. I couldn’t believe how dense I had been in my self-care. My treatment day is full of releasing body structures that are pain-free and tight AND are responsible for creating pain in a related region. Can I repeat that? Pain-free and tight. With all I knew, why had I limited my investigation to the plantar fascia?

Well, I stopped being hard on myself and just soaked up his beautiful and extremely painful wisdom. He unzipped this black pouch and took out a plastic tool that looked like a meat tenderizer. And then he began to apply that demon implement to my inner shin in deep sweeping strokes, breaking up some very rigid connective tissue. Remember “pain-free and tight”? I had no idea that this shin tightness had been present and was causing the foot pain. It took about five minutes of extremely heavy breathing on my part but when I stood up, the foot pain was much better.

My inner leg? It turned black and blue over the next couple days and, when it recovered, I followed up with my own digging. Not on the sole of the foot, but in the posterior tibialis which (duh) sends all it’s tendons to the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia is just a cover up for an extremely rich tendinous region down there. All of those tendons originate from muscles in the lower leg. My recovery did not end with just the release of course. The principles of loose, long and strong are the foundation of a full healing journey. I learned not only to consistently loosen up the tight tissue, but also how to stretch it accurately and strengthen it too.

Over this last decade I have treated many of your feet, rarely finding it necessary to dig into the sole. I also don’t need to use any demon tools. My thumbs are good enough…and so are yours. Sometimes we need help figuring out exactly where to apply that pressure, how to lengthen with specificity and how to strengthen. If you need help, please contact me. A single session can get you going in the right direction.

And there are general principles that apply across the board to all of our feet. To that end, I created the upcoming three hour workshop at It’s All Yoga, Feet First . Maybe your foot hurts right now, maybe you’re AOK but this pesky foot thing periodically crops up, maybe you are just curious about how to prevent this challenging and universal problem. Come get educated and inspired on Sunday afternoon November 13. Those tootsies will love you for it.

Love, bella

 

 

mAMMO 1

Presence does not seem like such an optimal strategy when your breast is squished between two hard plastic plates, the technician prompting you to hold your breath and the rat-a-tat sound of technology like incoming wounded. I watch myself take a swift left turn into numbness and then just as quickly call myself back. There has been a lot of growth over twenty-six years of practice in this annual predicament. Breathe, be here, be grateful.

Frozen is an easier emotional state for me than angry, which is the other terrifying place I go in the face of unwanted medical procedure. Twice I’ve been called back for false positives, lingo for detection of something requiring a closer look via ultra-sound.   My feeble attempts to turn it into a rich opportunity to be with extreme fear for a few days, like a prolonged bout of airplane turbulence, were not met with great success either. Luckily each call back resulted in a “woops…never mind.”

Each year I reluctantly return, despite current evidence that calls this procedure into question. And some well-meaning friends who poo-poo the whole thing. When your mother has died of breast cancer it changes your lens on current evidence, alternative outlooks, the fundamental orientation of Western medicine. I wrote the original version of this poem in 2002. I pulled it out today when I came home from the Imaging Center (what a euphemism) and amended it to reflect fourteen years of change. The compassionate doctor (Denny Anspach for those of you who remember) used to deliver results to you right after exam back then. How humane. Now I wait 7-10 days for a letter in the mail.

Mammography Walk

The air is thick, charged with dread hope.

I take solace in the emergent green

gracing naked stems everywhere.

Pink buds rise in early season warmth.

I whisper protection prayers for the walk home.

 

I drag myself through limbo, flanked by frosted glass,

green paperwork stamped with breasts,

the most personal of questions:

when was your last period, your first pregnancy

and how did your mother die?

 

This tender fleshly duality—astonishing me in youth,

immediate change agents of form and reality,

source of desire and delight for decades,

nourishing life into two babies—now pressed

into compliance by hands anonymous and sterile.

 

Clickety rick click: veiled rays piercing,

on the look out for wanton errant traces.

 

Abandoned now, numb with morbidity,

I cling to Gourmet, sure that even this

quiet comfort will be wrenched from me soon.

The door opens and a vision in white decrees

reprieve for yet another year,

 

sets me free from the color of cancer.

I drift back onto the street; those same pink buds

now open in gratitude and spectral light

glistens delicate with this annual pardon:

this time…not my turn.

 

Thanks for listening today…bella

 

 

study

Musings from the Portland airport…no matter what their unique specialty, medical professionals tend to treat their own problems. I’m no different. Mostly that’s worked well over a lifetime of various musculoskeletal challenges. But last year at this time, I needed a partner in treatment: another set of skilled hands and eyes, a coach and witness. I’ve known Risa McDonald, PT about forever. We had our babies together when we worked at Sutter, did long-term orthopedic manual therapy training together, hung out a shingle for private practice the very same year in 1990. It was natural to ask her help for persistent hip pain and long term scoliosis management. Spending time with her is the reason I landed in Portland.

Over the years Risa carved out a specialty in women’s pelvic health. She is the absolute go to person in this community for issues of pelvic pain, incontinence, prolapse and sexual health. It may surprise you that one in four women have some version of aforementioned issues. Not many people are willing to talk about this fact. I would like to see this silence change. Physical therapists have emerged in this developing field as premier providers of a non-surgical approach to healing pelvic dysfunction. Surprise to me, even though I sought Risa’s expertise for an orthopedic problem, her examination included an internal pelvic exam. Now is the time to stop reading if this is just too much information for you.

What she did on the interior of my pelvic bowl was no different than what she did on the outside. A manual therapist assesses joint and soft tissue structures for tenderness, mobility, length and strength. Her internal exam revealed left obturator internus, a deep hip rotator that lines the pelvic bowl, as tender and tight. She assessed and treated much more than this of course, but the release of this impossible-to-access-from-the-outside muscle was a key component in my healing. Who knew?

I have assessed and treated about every joint, muscle and connective tissue structure from top of head to soles of feet. This past year, it has been extraordinary to discover and tiptoe my way into this vital interior region that responds to manual therapy and exercise just like the rest of the body. Over this ensuing year I have learned to self-treat my own pelvic floor and, completely intrigued, went on to complete 30 hours of online education in all things pelvis. This education delivered me to the literal threshold of internal assessment. I have been poised on this brink for months and if you’re still reading, maybe you can fire up an active imagination to conjure up my three days in Portland. Picture a hospital room full of fifty courageous practitioners learning the hands on skill to evaluate and treat inside the pelvic bowl. Yup, you got it. Over the top, awe-inspiring journey.

I am thrilled to be able to offer this adjunct treatment to individuals seeking help for persistent hip and low back pain. For now, I am limiting this internal care to my women patients only. But, in addition to the orthopedic population that comprises the bulk of my practice, this has opened a whole world of additional possibility. If you read the opening list and wonder if I may be talking to you, I want you to know that urinary incontinence affects 25% of young women, 50% of middle-aged and post menopausal women and 75% of older women. It is treatable, loves. 15% of women will have surgical repair for pelvic organ prolapse. Sometimes a conservative approach can work.   And 15-25% of women have chronic pelvic pain created by these problems as well as pain associated with menses, intercourse, pregnancy, post-partum and endometriosus. As you might guess, any general pain in the abdominal, pelvic or hip region might respond well to manual therapy, education and exercise of the pelvic floor and bowl.

If this intrigues you, please check this link  for more information. And, in utter humble acknowledgement that I am in a steep learning curve moment, I want to offer initial assessment for new women patients with primarily pelvic complaints at a reduced rate of $100 between now and year’s end. Thank you for entrusting me with your care. I know it will be an amazing journey for each and every one of us.

Love, bella

planet 1

Back deck the other night, completely feeling my place on this planet, aligned between myriad stars blinking away up there and molten center of earth deep below. We folks in teaching-land love to throw concepts like “grounded” and “centered” out there as instruction platform. Here is what I felt that night: there is simply no way you can think or understand your way into the physical sensation of being grounded. Let alone the metaphorical poetic meaning of it. And centered? This is not something you wrap your head around and “get”. It’s energetic meaning emerges from the felt physical sense of our 24/7 conversation with gravity. Our pull to the center of the earth has to be acknowledged and utterly experienced if we want a clue about these high falutin’ concepts we bandy about. Divine alignment? Perhaps it is a somatic experience before it becomes an esoteric one.

Stand up a moment to feel feet on ground; bring equal weight to ball and heel. Feel balanced front to back around the central line running through your middle. This axis meets the earth surface beneath you like an arrow pointed to the center of this ball on which we spin around the universe. Gently bring your weight back on heels and try to balance. Feel the effort it takes to negotiate this off-center relationship with gravity. Now you have a sense of what we are (mostly) unconsciously up against through our waking day.

That central axis runs through what I’ve been calling the four B’s: base, bowl (of the pelvis), basket (of the heart—rib cage), ball (of the head). Our posture, the way we hold ourselves, is a product of our relationship (or lack of one) with gravity. When we stack base, bowl, basket and ball, we have a happy partnership with this potent force. Standing, sitting, moving actually have potential for a graceful effortlessness. We all have delightful, almost mysterious moments of lightness and ease. And we all have moments of collapse, when it feels like we’re slogging through mud.

If we had been consciously stacking those 4 B’s since day one, all would be well. But injuries and habits and genetics have had their way with us by now. Some of us are just unaware, sinking into “vulture-asana” as we hunch over our devices and steering wheels. Aware or not, many of us do not have the freedom to optimally stack those bones relative to gravity even if we wanted to. The daily grind has created tightness in connective tissue that pulls us out of alignment, out of a healthy alliance with gravity. We also have some muscles that are weak, resulting in collapse. As much as we would like to align, it takes more effort than we can muster.

For this entire past year I have been a re-negotiating with gravity. How do I gently invite my right pelvis, lumbar spine and organs to live a bit more forward and turned toward left? How do I knit my left ribs as I turn left lung to the right, softly expanding right lung? When I find myself resting on my right foot, left waist collapsed, can I come back to my central axis? It is a persistent conversation AND it is supported by very specific almost every day self-care. There would be no hope for this conversation without this “get down there and do it, Bella” support.

O.K. You know where I’m going with this. Loose, Long and Strong is where the specificity comes in to address the daily grind dysfunction. I can see you one-on-one to figure out the most effective fifteen minutes to support the 4 B’s lining up (and create a home video just for you). AND/OR on Saturday afternoons Oct 15 & 29 and Nov 12 you can come figure it out in community…

We have three hours carved out each session to dial in:

1) Loose: where am I tight? Rollers & balls, exploring side-to-side differences, releasing.

2) Strong: where am I weak? Subtle core power, continued investigation of asymmetry.

3) Long: how do I align? Postural stability in relation to gravity, fluid stretching, yin shapes.

And here’s what so brand spanking new and exciting. Upon completion of each three hour session you have access to a 20 minute private YouTube video empowering you to keep on keeping on at home. That would be the point. You can attend all three sessions (such a deal) or any one session. Here’s the link to enroll.

Imagine for just a moment standing on the moon or rather hovering above it’s surface. No doubt there would be other worries, but we just would not have to deal with how to be loose, long and strong so that we can be in a fruitful and life supporting partnership with gravity. It’s all in divine alignment.

May the force be with you.

Love, bella

 

gravity

Sometimes I’m just up in my studio, minding my own business, moving freely to some new tune and, without warning, inner worlds collide. The analytical part of me wants to know what creates a fertile ground like this, as if I could hang on to it, or make it happen at will. Not so simple. But three elements always seem present in an alchemical moment. Something—a concept, an abstraction, a teaching—has piqued my interest, my body is in a wave of motion, my mind is relatively unengaged. It always comes on like a download from the universe.

Gravity has captured my interest. You are actively negotiating with this ever-present pull toward earth central as you read. Seated on sit bones, not tilted toward pubic bone or tail bone, just right in the middle, spine, ribs and head stack for minimal effort. But still there is negotiation with gravity. So I’m feeling gravity while I dance, this dialogue with the perpendicular downward pull, tempting me into inertia, full on surrender, a tired desire to just give way to this force. Yet I also want to move.

In this studio download moment I actual feel myself harness the power of the pull down, bend it 90 degrees so it parallels the earth and transform it into the power of momentum. I am flying around the room, paradoxically fueled by the force of gravity. It feels like something Newtonian or Einsteinian is sustaining me.

This brilliant moment gives birth to a broader insight. For the umpteenth time, my very pragmatic body-based attention was being held in the context of a 5Rhythms shamanic wave. I used to wonder if my internal anatomy geek really could find full expression in this practice. I am done wondering. This embodied foundation is what opens me to the poetry that lives inside each and every one of us.

The longer I played, the more deeply I felt my exact place between heaven and earth. Simply by trusting my attention to rest in bones and organs and dancing the question of how they meet this force field, poetic insight emerges:

And there it is:

gravity, the force of it

pulling me toward Rilke

in the heart of the world.

Root tugging

perpendicular energy

informing my daily negotiations,

this potent influence,

this vital relationship,

me and gravity:

dangling together

on this hallowed ground.

I harness the pull downward,

transmute it to parallel power:

momentum which harbors

seeds of rising,

gravity defied,

only the stars to hold me back.

So many opportunities to exercise this trust, to let embodied attention be held in the context of shamanic practice. Be surprised by the authentic meaning that spontaneously arises. “It takes discipline to be a free spirit.” G.R. Yes. It does. But those poetry-filled moments of freedom…so worth it.

Love, bella

 

cell tower

A strangely cloaked woman lurked outside the Berkeley workshop, her pinched facial features the only skin visible. She was unable to enter the room until all cell phones were turned off. It took two days before everyone understood that off means off…not mute, not airplane mode. Apparently there are highly sensitive canaries out in our world, people who adversely sense the man-made electromagnetic field (EMF) that has quickly been established on our planet. Without voting on it, without research, without careful consideration…we surrounded ourselves first with electrical wires and now with cell towers. All of this technology emits EMF 24/7 so we can stay 24/7 connected. According to some research, though most of us are symptom free, there are subtle and not so subtle ways our very cell membranes are being altered. This is all so very new, we really have no idea what the implications are, but many people I grew to respect at this conference believe Wi Fi is the new smoking and that in 30-50 years it will no longer be in use.   The medical is intriguing, but I’m taking us to the behavioral relationship we have with our devices because that is something we can actually do something about.

Synchronicity had it’s way with me this week. After unwittingly being part of this Berkeley conversation, I came home to attend a yoga retreat I had signed up for two months ago: Unplug! It’s Important. And here I am plugged in, talking to a plugged in-you. Ironic. But I want to meet you where we are and stoke the fire of this conversation…again. Long time readers know I periodically go here. Thank you to Kim Orr and Elan Freydenson for much of the information in this current rant.

If you were born before 2000, you’re an analog native, you grew up relating to information and creating meaning from it in a particular way. Geezers learned to read full sentences, left to right, without interruption. Many of them, one after another. Think book. A skill that grew us into the neural ability to sustain attention. If you were born after 2000 (probably no one reading this!) you’re a digital native. Even an analog native might approach this newsletter like I often do while reaping screen information. Like a digital native. Skimming, scanning, jumping ahead, focusing on the pictures, searching for headlines, sound bytes. If, as a writer, I paid heed to “blogging rules” I would never have more than 3 sentences in a paragraph and, after those three sentences, there would be a picture. This paragraph has ten sentences. How did you take in its meaning?

A fortune has been invested in market research on how to “hook” us with variable stimulation, how to keep us always hunting for the next interesting thing. We are manipulated into craving interruption, literally programmed to feel like we’re missing something if we are undisturbed. Our glands work overtime producing cortisol in response to all this speed and blue light, our plastic neurology is shifting toward inability to sustain attention, these smooth keyboards and touch pads are creating sensori-motor deprivation. Our multi-tasking cheats us from full presence to any one thing. Delayed gratification is a quality of the past. The desire for immediate answers yanks us right out of the beautiful Rilke place of “living the question”? Why bother when Google will tell you.

All of this current reality can add up to a sense of deep dissatisfaction. Young people, digital natives who have no history of anything else, know something is missing, but they don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?   Gordon Ufelt writes about “the pursuit and preservation of proximity”, basic attachment theory. We are a tribal people, we crave connection. Our glands respond to device time more with cortisol and less with the oxytocin hit that actually satisfies the body. We evolved to engage in face to face time, we need to be touched. Screens are not people.

What to do? If we want to pursue vitality and well-being and health—and I assume that about this audience—-an excessive amount of time spent with devices and screens interferes with that intention. Do you care? And what is excessive? The ideal tool to explore (and recover from) our relationship to technology is embodied mindfulness practice. When we raise awareness, behavior change usually follows. Pay attention. It’s all this unconsciousness that keeps us plugged in.

I’ve been paying attention and right now I’ve been relatively divorced for ten days. I feel a lightness, a joy, like something’s happening here and I do know what it is. Sometimes a pervasive sense of restless dissatisfaction settles on me like a fog. It is creeping in right now since this is the longest I have been in front of a screen for a week. I feel the pull to stay. It’s time to take a break and I feel my resistance to that.  OK…leaving now, back later…..

O.K. Back for the end. This is an invitation to bring all your developing consciousness to bear on this basic question: what does the digital fix do for me? Can we stay curious and ask this key question as we reach for a device. Does it bridge separation? Does it relieve boredom? Does it make me feel like I am known? Does it answer a question so I can be relieved of (oh no!) not knowing? Is it possible for me to set some small new boundary? What arises when I consider doing that? For me, it is cell phone and computer turned off for stretches of the day and an answering of questions above when I reach to plug back in.

Unplugging…what arises for you?

Love, bella

 

embryo

“Let me tell you a story.” Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen opened with this invitation after lunch break, every imaginable student body imprint sprawled over Asian rugs. The story of the egg poured equally over us all. The egg that lived in your mother, inside your grandmother, the egg that became you. The valiant brotherhood of sperm, one triumphant. The first division to yolk sac and amniotic cavity, evolving into front body and back body. The front giving rise to breath and digest, the back enveloping skin, sense organs. One side to nourish, the other to protect. Front and back melting downward, meeting, invaginating upward to create middle body. Mesoderm differentiating into bone, flesh, heart, miracle organs. Primitive streak, perineal body rising out of the root. Primitive knot, future pituitary at crown yearning downward, meeting, stretching into notocord, future spinal column.

It is the poetry of dream, elements miraculous, nonsensical, fantastic…until we begin to move. Alone at first, sensing, breathing, moving from front body to back body to front body. Feeling the ancient cellular down drift, the rise up the center growing to create mesoderm, palpably extending out to side body. Moving from all three at once, meeting a partner from this place. The sense of fully embodied presence. From dream to embodied reality. It is what I came for.

A workshop like this, exquisite mix of new information and old remembrances, is a tender reminder that knowledge is almost a shedding, that wisdom grows in a fertile field of not knowing. But in so many ways this event fortifies one certainty: an embodied practice, indeed an embodied life, is the ground, the seed, the root from which awareness grows. We have all periodically tasted the goods and we want more: insight, aha moments, transcendent states, regular stretches of being awake and knowing it, enlightenment, intuition, clear seeing, wisdom, soul, spirit. The juicy stuff. And here’s the unavoidable catch: without the body, we are bound to endlessly flounder in story, dream, wishful thinking.

Experiences like this workshop serve to renew my dedication to bringing embodied practice to community. Regular physical practice reliably delivers us to the pragmatic hands on language of embodiment. There are no shortcuts. You cannot read about weight, gravity and fluidity and become fluent. Only somatic practice will lay the foundation for breath awareness, physical understanding of center, deep sensing of pulse, harnessing of power. Regular repeating experiences of release and alignment and stillness bring these notions out of the dream realm into our tangible, touchable world. This is the grounded medicine that ultimately delivers authentic prescriptive meaning. This is the underlying baseline for transformative shamanic experience.

The third workshop day frustrated me. First hour plus, so much open-ended talk, unfocused sharing, so heady. And though amazing key concepts were presented, the rest of the day lacked the embodied nectar I needed to anchor the conceptual. As fate would have it, a participant announced a Berkeley conscious dance class that evening. My yearning body landed on that floor with so much gratitude. All the dream, the concepts, the story enlivened their way into reality. Each breath, each step, each gesture turned abstraction to actuality: fluid weight; front, middle, back body; skin, flesh, bone; root, notocord, crown. There was a quality of presence from moment to moment that was novel yet remembered, ancient and fresh at once. Then it was gone, then it was back, nothing to hang on to but so clearly, unavoidably anchored in practice.

Everyday we have opportunity to turn our dreams into reality. It begins right there with that breath. Feel it enter and open you to the miracle that is you. Let it go and make a contribution to the miracle that is us.

Blessed to be right here, right now.

Love, bella

potential 1

Last year at this time I was entering “body not operating as expected” zone. Know that one? Pain in my left hip increasing in severity and everything I knew not creating the shift needed. I was yet to travel to Italy, seek out physical therapy from someone other than me and obtain that illuminating X-ray. I had no idea the hell I was going to go through from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, before things would begin to shift for the better. I am recalling this right now and remembering that the potential for change—good or bad—is alive in every moment. Wondering what life has in store.

Just so you know, I am doing very well in this moment, physical healing continues steady and enlightening. The other day I read this line in Wisdom of the Body Moving by Linda Hartley: “Bone is living tissue subject to change and renewal. The whole skeleton is in fact entirely renewed over a period of two years.” O.K. Let that factoid sink in, possibly re-read that line. This offers such hope for us all and completely validated key pieces of my own journey. By placing accurate stress on particular body structures with intentional movement, we can manifest change. I see it every day—in my patients, in my students, in myself. Over and over.

Of course, working with the physical channel reveals parallel energetic threads, if we are willing to pay close attention.   Our response to disability and the way we approach our own self-care…well, as the saying goes, “the way we do one thing is the way we do everything”. I watched myself in the spiral of denial, the doldrums of despair, the surrender of acceptance, the zeal of taking myself on. I watched my patience come and go, my focus waver between open-ended curious and automatic I-can’t-assess-this- anymore pilot, my discipline skiing on a slope of gentle servant to drill sergeant. And despite all the shenanigan moments, there has been almost a very full year of fairly consistent follow through. The results at times astound me and at other times, seem predictable. I will comparative X-ray in October and see how well this bone, this living tissue has renewed.

But the way I feel is more than enough evidence for me to keep on keeping on. The other night I dreamed I was standing on a shoreline when a humongous wave engulfed me. My feet were planted firm in gritty sand; I was shaken but strongly held my ground. When I looked over my shoulder, another way bigger wave was approaching. I was not afraid in the dream, but my own whimpering awakened me. We assign meaning to these night visitations. Who knows? Is there yet another physical challenge coming my way? Or is this a professional reading. I thought of how in 2002 the wild call of the dance swept over me in such a big way, whisked me right out of the safety of my clinical world. All of my chosen education since has been in the realm of dance and yoga. Now I stand on the brink of two educational experiences that pull me back to my roots. Is this the second wave? Through this collapsed left side body experience I am getting increasingly strong messages to nurture the yin, slow it way down, produce less, rest more. Is this the second wave?

See above…the potential for change—good or bad—is alive in every moment. We never know what life has in store. We are all poised on the shoreline awaiting the second wave. I am grateful for a practice or two that supports me in being with thing the way they are. What else can we do?

Love, bella

 

protest

I had radar-anticipated a personal nice easy slide into July and it was just not happening. For ten days my post-Texas homecoming churned a nightmarish stew of daily new computer “issues” mixed with a raspy hanger-on bronchitis. I was at a personal nadir when the Dallas news splashed all over my breakfast table. I had just fallen in love with people in Dallas so these familiar scenes and déjà vu phrases were tinctured with immediate poignancy.

All the shock and despair and frustration, along with a messy dollop of exhaustion, landed on the couch with me when I sat down to pull music on Saturday. In a bit of a daze, I did not really know what Sunday’s Sweat was about. But sometimes the music is a spirit balm, speaks to me, tracks appear out of the jumble of the iTunes screen, magic shaping intention, the reason for showing up on yet another Sunday.

Recent events stirred the turbulence of the sixties to life inside me: the assassination of RFK and King, Watts burning, LBJ, Viet Nam, Nixon. History is repeating and I found myself following it further back. How 300 years ago people from one continent came across the sea and in quick time decimated the Native American people who had lived in North America for centuries. And, as if that were not enough, topped this fundamental wrong-doing with another: boldly sending ships back across the ocean to retrieve slaves for the hard work of building this nation.

I am wondering what it will take to stop this endless cycle of pain and suffering, to heal this miserably dishonorable legacy.   Theologian Peter Adam spoke out about the Australian aborigines and said our prosperity ”has come from the proceeds of crime”. My home is built on this bloody real estate and all the abundance and privilege I enjoy is funded by this inheritance. Might we consider that current events have roots this deep? Michael Waters, a Dallas pastor, asks “How can we encourage those who follow us to express their fears, vent their anger, take action, but avoid violence at all cost…(affirm that) injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This is my way. To name it out loud in words and song, invite us to move and feel, provide a refuge for us to meditate and be with, invite a conversation, dare to think in historical context, question my complacent comfort. Maybe this is just the rant of an old person who has lived long enough to see the past re-surface with the wretchedness of Groundhog’s Day. Remember that movie with Bill Murray? The wheel of samasara is relentless.

And so I dredged all that up Sunday morning and then offered the en-courage-ing resource of basic goodness. We can look up and out and touch the simple experience of aliveness. The way the breeze is lilting the bamboo, the slice of sunlight on my left hand, old cat asleep on the rug. We can wake up again and again, feel the basic human goodness, our commonality. See the full text of Sunday’s poem Clearing. You can “create a clearing in the dense forest of your life” and there discover this ground of goodness. Without it we cannot hope to give ourselves “to this world so worthy of rescue.” I am simply offering a place to begin.

Love, bella