self care

From the time I could wrestle a newspaper open, I was an avid reader of Dear Abby. Kind of embarrassing. Yet there was something reassuring about this daily drop into the human condition, knowing she would always provide a pat answer. When I figured out that “pat” didn’t cut it in the real world, I outgrew Abby. So when the Bee starting carrying Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax, I figured it would be Dear Abby Re-dux. But she’s not. She is always spot on, real deal, cut to the chase and deliver. Who would believe I would glean totally pertinent self-care advice from this writer?

This question was from a reader at ten on the stress scale, wondering “how do I do self-care in an unfixable situation?” Read the column at the link if you wish. Carolyn’s answer is so thoughtful, I’m moved to expand upon it. She covers the obvious and the not so obvious in a basic list for sustaining healthy existence. And when the s—t hits the fan, this is a life jacket for survival. If you’re like most of us, the listed suggestions are often the first to go in those s—t moments. Practicing when life is easy is the best insurance around.

  1. Sleep. Enough. Many of us believe we need less than we actually do. Lots of research confirming we are a sleep-deprived nation. Turn off the technology at least an hour before bed. Go there when it is your time.
  2. Good nutrition. We can get obsessive about this one but before we spend a ton of energy, we might just focus on eating when we are hungry. Stop eating when we are not. Drink water. Learn to prepare simple meals. Eat a wide variety of wholesome food, heavy on the items found on the perimeter of the grocery store.
  3. Exercise. If you are not moving, get in motion thirty to sixty minutes every day. What do you like? Walking, biking, dancing, hop scotch…whatever. Just move it. This can be fine-tuned once the wheels are actually turning. Pushing the heart rate up, yoga, stretching, going to the gym, strength training, consciously breathing, gardening. It’s all good: 30-60 minutes. Every day.
  4. Art. I love that she included this. Listening to or making music, drawing or painting, singing, creating a collage or altar, knitting or sewing or quilting, artful cooking, arranging flowers, going to a museum or concert or play or film, playing with clay, taking photographs. Bring some beauty in, allow the creative juices to flow, everyone is an artist.
  5. Sensory comfort. Wow, now we’re talking. I read that, lit the fireplace and nestled a little closer into this velvet couch. Kitty just plopped down on my fuzzy slippers. Get it? I’m big on this one. One of my favorite daily moments? Going to total comfort bed: multi-pillows, down comforter, soft lights, soothing artwork, quiet color. Think texture and color when it comes to décor and food and clothing. Reach out for hugs, stroke a pet, touch somebody. Cover the rest of the sensory bases: bring on the music and quiet conversation and the smell of oatmeal cookies warming in the oven. Hot baths…
  6. Emotional and spiritual support. This is huge territory. We thrive on both extending and receiving empathy and love: family, friends, loved ones, counselors, teachers. Sometimes in our hurry hurry, nourishing connection is missed: grocery checker, neighbor, curious child, stray dog, any random opening to encounter and be enriched by the mystery. Spiritual support might be a matter of showing up to a class or to church or to god wherever she is for you. For the last two weeks I’ve kept a personal appointment outside in a natural setting for an hour each day. I can feel the vital support to my spirit. Meditating, reading poetry, inspirational writings, journal keeping. Maybe this base is covered in #3 or #4 above.

So the invitation is to consider this simple list and see how it compares to your day yesterday, or what you think may be in store for today. It is never too late to make a course correction. I love how, other than sleep (and there will be a break where this would be possible!) all these bases are covered in Saturday’s Cultivating Instinct. Because as it says in the liner notes “in this supportive environment with a variety of modalities, you attune to your innate body wisdom and establish your own authentic prescription for optimal self-care, stress management and health.” This is an opportunity to tap your basic animal wisdom. After all, a turtle doesn’t need a self-care list…she just knows. Come feel the support and have a good time finding out.

Love, bella

turtle

Your-Brain-in-Your-Belly

Maybe you already know this: we have a brain in our belly—literally, scientifically, experientially.   Our heads, in this intelligence-biased, information-intensive era are super-loud. So it is quite easy to bypass this rich fertile more quiet region. This Sunday we spent all day belly-rooted in the SF Tending workshop. A student there reminded me about Philip Shepherd and an interview in Sun Magazine April 2014. What follows is pulled from this fascinating source. Full interview at this LINK: [http://philipshepherd.com/the-sun-magazine-interview/]

It’s true. We have an intricate nerve web lining our gut that perceives, thinks and learns in it’s own unique way. Our bellies make decisions that translate into action and then store those memories in the brainy bowl of the pelvis. Makes the admonition “trust your gut” more than a catchy phrase. A map of the enteric nervous system is nothing new. Not surprising that it has been marginalized in medical literature since the early 1900’s. But way before Western medicine, humans had language for it: the Japanese call it hara and there are words in Incan and Mayan and Chinese culture as well.

Not to demonize our amazing analyzer head brain. It allows us to think in intriguing abstraction, breaks the whole into parts and puts it back together again in innovative ways. The head brain tends to conceptualize itself as separate from the rest of the world, kind of a “me & you” brain. In the classic masculine-feminine polarity, the head brain is way up there touching divinity and getting things done in masculine-land. The belly brain is miles south simply being, earth-rooted in a feminine sensibility that is not separate from the world. This down to earth self does not rush around all day until it finally remembers to pause and listen to the body. Like the body is some outside source that needs to be dialed in. It is being….a body. The belly brain is fundamental animal wisdom: seasonal knowing and weather tracking and food hunting and water smelling. It knows how the children are doing and what phase of the moon is shining….without analyzing.

What is so obvious, what seems on the sad verge of extinction, is that we need both of these brains for a balanced existence. I do believe that most of us would agree that we spend much more time up there than down here. I’m up here figuring out how to communicate this and writing and typing and you’re out there fumbling with your mouse, hunched before a screen, reading and wondering what, if anything, this has to do with you. All this head-time emphasis leads down the road to the unquestioned trust of head brain over belly brain. I love the image of the two of them meeting in the heart; it is so very chakra-world. The grounded downward facing elemental triangle interfacing with the knowing, intuitive spirit-connected upward facing triangle….right there in anahata fourth chakra-land.

There was some kind of weird meeting of earth and sky, a grounded divine intervention that set me up for teaching three workshops in a row exactly two weeks apart from each other. I have never done that many offerings close together and wouldn’t have ever planned it this way. But because I am immersed in this belly world, they are all pelvic bowl oriented. First the yoga-based offering with the mirrors: Grow Loose, Long & Strong. Then add in the spice of the dance: Tending Your Moving Body. And finally, a week from this Saturday, layer in the earthy element of molding and shaping and playing with clay all day: Cultivating Instinct. [LINK] How did this happen? I am crediting a deep listening to my own belly brain, it has been guiding me my whole life and lately, it seems to be gaining in volume.

Philip Shepherd says “ If you open yourself to the hum of the world—if you live in the present rather than your idea of it—it will change you…You cannot reason your way into being present. You cannot reason your way into love. You cannot reason your way into fullfilment.”

Go lower than reason, deeper than logic, cultivate a sweet nest of silence…it has always been whispering there. It is waiting for you…love, bella

Rumi gut

FullSizeRender

When it came to those college level non-life science classes like physics and chemistry…well, I scraped by. But I totally get this Gabrielle Roth basic physics quote:

“Energy moves in waves. Waves move in patterns. Patterns move in rhythms. Human beings are just that, energy, waves, patterns, and rhythms…nothing more, nothing less…a dance.
”

Waves happen all around us and any practice that moves from stillness to crescendo and back down again is bound to deliver some visceral truth. The upcoming workshop Cultivating Instinct was borne at a wave low point, hour on inward hour present to arising sensation, breath reception, attunement to instinctual healing. This went on a long time; I was just being with, never suspected there was a workshop in infancy forming.

Over time the energy built, as it does. After long enough in the flow it became known that healing instinct takes dedicated time, supportive environment. Attention to the body at rest, in shapes and with physical movement. And investigation of all flotsam generated by the physical, all the energetic stuff that begs to be fleshed out.   How the heart is engaged, what mindful insight surfaces, the mythical way it fits in with the soul journey, how spirit moves right through and along side the whole thing.   The eventual appearance of fiery organizational power seems magical. But the movement toward clear direction and vibrant expression predictably emerges from all this swirling seemingly indecipherable motion.

It was in this focused state I found myself dancing one Sunday morning and, in a pivotal moment, looked at Majica Phillips and immediately knew she would be doing this workshop with me. Because a big part of her life’s work is art therapy, a powerful gentle therapeutic tool that supports us in that complementary energetic plane I am speaking about. And so here is where the creative process got so juicy. We began to trade sessions: I saw her for art therapy, she came to me for physical therapy. Instead of that creative wave moving toward crescendo here, it necessarily receded again, as we slowly began to explore what was going to emerge from and between us.

Back and forth, receptive, open, breathing, oh-so-willing to not know. It begins to unfold: both of us are at a physical healing centered around the pelvic bowl, the deep belly, how it connects to legs and spine. In her space, I explored this in art therapy: drawing and three-dimensional creation. She explored this in physical therapy: breath, release, subtle power, shape, dance— territory I’ve been treading for months on my own. Amazing synchronicity had brought us together and by trade #three, the mist parted and clarity pointed in a singular direction. In that magic moment, on the cusp of staccato and chaos, the border between focus and creation, we both looked toward an installation-in-progress in my studio corner (picture up top). An elk spine and pelvis found on an Idaho hike years ago with a clay bowl cradled deep inside its basin.

All of a sudden we knew this workshop was about cultivating deep belly instinct. Instinct nourished through fluid and powerful physical experiences balanced with an ongoing artistic investigation working the medium of clay. Since then, the unpredictable back and forth creative dialogue has been such a joy-filled collaborative ride. I can feel the wave near-cresting as we move into the playful realm of timing and materials, balancing that with our shared utter need for mystery, a continued element of spacious unknowing.

I humbly invite you to come take this healing ride with us.   Come feel your energy move in waves, in patterns, in rhythm. Majica and I are mid-creation, carving out such a full and nourishing day at Coloma Center for all of us. Together, in the cradle of community, we’ll see what emerges.

Love, bella

P.S. Scholarship awaiting for you: https://bodyjoy.net/scholarship-opportunities/

 

 

 

girl

Remember Joe Montana? I am so NOT a football fan. In fact, I’m thrilled the movie Concussion is outing the incredible damage this violent past time incurs on the gladiators who give up quality of life for our insatiable entertainment need. Sorry if I am offending. But incredible damage and Joe Montana played a big role in my professional life. It was 1986 when he sustained a severe back injury and getting back out on the field is paramount when you’re a player of this caliber. He rehabbed at St. Mary’s Spine Center in San Francisco and this healing caught the attention of every orthopedic physical therapist in the region.

The new emerging buzz word back then? Core stabilization. I travelled down there more than once, spending days with the experts trending this concept into the world. And it quickly became integral to the way I treated patients. Montana hired a St. Mary’s P.T. to live, breathe and be with him 24/7, holding him forever true to a powerful, neutral and aligned spine. Always: walking, eating, sitting, sleeping, playing. And he came through with flying colors, going on to win many championships.

Why am I telling this old story? I never know who’s reading this. I just put it out there and move on. Regular readers know I’ve been through major physical challenge the last few months. Many of you I saw over the holidays expressed concern and so let this serve as update. I would never wish what I’m moving through on any human. But I also would not change any of it. Even if I had a magic wand. Because it has so much to do with my own incredible growth and healing and therefore everything to do with how I am treating you one-on-one and how I am teaching. I am humbly grateful for this steep, personal ongoing learning curve.   And what does this have to do with Joe Montana? Well, I am living that 24/7 rehab life, except that I am Joe and the live-in P.T. all wrapped into one.

I finally got a spine X-ray confirming my suspicion: a very collapsed lumbar spine with a matching thoracic curve in the other direction. This visual forced me to get real, dedicate myself to serious healing. To consciously modify the way I sleep, sit, stand, walk, do yoga and dance. 24/7, no compromises. And it is working. I am better and better every day. This prodded me to circle back to the way I clinically conceptualized self-care fifteen years ago. Before I let the specific strength piece go, believing it would come naturally though yoga and dance.

To feel our best, to give ourselves top shot at maintaining physical health, we need to focus equally on growing three ways:

  1. loose—yes, yes to the rollers and balls
  2. long—yes, yes to practices that lengthen connective tissue AND lengthen spine
  3. strong—yes, yes to core stability—subtle asymmetrical investigation and the application of that knowledge to function

We actually cannot be long through the spine without being loose and strong. Believe me, I am feeling all this Big Time.

Wanna feel it, too?  Check the web site:  www.bodyjoy.net

It’s All Yoga: Friday night 6:00, Tues/Thurs morning 8:30. Jeanne and I are collaborating all over the place on finding ways to make this practice-practical.

Yoga Seed: February 7. Three dedicated guided hours to work in front of the mirror on the subtle aspects of core stability, length and alignment.

Presidio SF: Feb 21. Four hours to feel the way all this fits in with the dance. This is my practice. It is amazing to get loose, long and strong while you dance.

Coloma Center: March 5. All day to cultivate instinct for this: roll, dance, paint, stretch…repeat. How do I weave self love-care into a way of being?

My studio: anytime, call me make an appointment. I am always amazed at the power of a single wake up call session. There is nothing like it.

Can you feel my aliveness, my excitement, my dedication? I hope so. Let’s co-create a year to come filled with vibrant good health. Let’s grow loose, long and strong.

 

 

self hug7e

 

For twenty-five years my morning ritual has held fast. I sit in meditation. The commitment has not wavered though focus and technique have varied. If meditation success is measured via reduced thoughts, longer periods of quiet mind, this practice has been utter failure. But improvement has been vast if favorable outcome points to a snowballing ability to witness what is happening moment by moment. And that spills off the cushion in so many ways, some of them less than pleasant. Gone are the days of unconscious, less than optimal behavior. I have the skilled privilege of watching myself f–k up. Like using the F word in a newsletter. Really? Yup. Because labeling behavior as f—king up is exactly what I want to talk about.

“Research proves that trading self-criticism for self-compassion is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.” Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind

Regular readers know I’ve been deep in relationship with my own challenged body. Please know I’ve come a long way and am living with great hope and less pain, continuing to be amazed and grateful for all of the learning being delivered right at my doorstep, or my spine-step so to speak. It feels like a miracle. One way this challenge manifests is sharp, unpredictable pain in the first hour of my day. I joke that I’m living with TSD instead of PTSD and look forward to entering the “post” phase. I am not one who believes in the trite new age-y “everything happens for a reason”. Spare me.   But I do know we have the opportunity to search for meaning in whatever shows up on that doorstep.

The intersection of this daily harrowing experience with this long-standing meditation practice has not been lost on me and has been incredibly rich. So in the morning I sit at the edge of the bed, hands on my heart, and tap into a meditation technique designed to build skill in self-compassion. I acknowledge right off that this is a moment of suffering. I don’t beg for it to be different, I don’t rage at it, I refrain from despair. I just get that it hurts…in all ways, not just physically. And then I soberly remember that all beings suffer. I think of the immigrants on feeble boats in choppy seas, of families blown apart by the latest gun massacre, of the bent old man leaning hard on his cane yesterday. This is always part of the human experience. We are not guaranteed pain free existence. This moment of remembrance is so utterly poignant and leads me to renewed awareness of my connection with all beings. And then I call up kindness, love directed inward, toward me. This is not a moment that I have f—ked up. This is a moment that calls for support, warm-hearted caring I would easily extend to anyone. And I give it to myself and recognize that this simple act, this moment of acceptance, nourishes the self-compassion seedling, strengthens its roots. These are the 4 elements of the technique.

Research shows that “self-compassionate people are much less likely to be anxious, depressed, and stressed out…than those who are self-critical. They’re also more optimistic and satisfied with their lives, and better able to cope effectively with adversity.” Not because they are Pollyanna, blissed-out, positive affirmation types. But because they are willing to be with the hard stuff, muck around in it, fully feel it. I am learning so much from this unpleasant experience on the physical plane—that is another newsletter. Here’s the gist of the repeating news line: the physical gateway will always deliver us to the heart, if we breathe and wonder and imagine and allow.   We just have to be willing to be with the fullness of our experience…and it is simply not all pleasant.

Yours in communion on this one…bella

dy dead46

The Mohawk people, in their indigenous wisdom, practiced condolence ritual, “where they tend to the bereaved with an elegant series of gestures, wiping tears from the eyes with the soft skin of a fawn.” This poignant image and so much more from an interview with Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. He told of the Southwest Pueblo tribe with their “crying songs to help move grief along.”

For sure I’m no expert here, just life slapping me upside the head on a regular basis, confirming that denial and avoidance and distraction is a one way ticket to flat line living. When we don’t feel grief and fear and despair, we don’t feel joy and love and compassion. Key phrase: we don’t feel. The losses suffered in my early tender years were dealt with in the American Way. My family didn’t know any better. They too had been cut off from traditions handed down through generations from time immemorial. As a young child I mastered the twin skills of bucking up and moving on.

Now you might be thinking, Debbie Downer is at it again. If so, you’re a good fit with the current feel good at all cost culture where being cheerful, staying optimistic and avoiding the dark is rampant. In the face of loss, this culture prefers us to go it alone and then expects us to get over it, get on with it, get back to normal. But in the long history of the world, this is way off base and Prozac for the multitudes is like something out of Brave New Worlds. No thank you.

We’ve all lost. We lose what and who we love, we lose our health, we lose our way. It’s part of the planet package. When it comes to losing people, societies have a wide variety of communal rituals for moving through, some more, some less effective. “If we have both an adequate level of companionship in our sorrow and periods of solitude that aren’t about distraction or avoidance, then grief will transform itself into tender melancholy…the ability to be present with the bittersweet reality of life, which always includes loss.” So we can avoid it OR we might use grief as beautiful and powerful transformative experience.

And that brings us to tribe. I did a lot of personal work reconciling the losses of the first fifty years. Good work, no regrets. Yet it wasn’t until I started moving this grief in an embodied way in community that I first began to savor the taste of “tender melancholy…bittersweet reality…joyful sorrow.” There is head-in-the-sand denial and we can exist there for a long time.   Then there is intellectual understanding and we might believe that we have finally dealt with it. But beyond denial, beyond mental gymnastics, there is the healing salve of embodied awareness in the cradle of community. And I’m pretty sure there is no substitute.

Sometimes I wonder what we are doing out there on the mat, on the dance floor. I doubt the value, I lose my way, I fumble. And then I remember: embodied awareness in the cradle of community. Come bathe in this medicinal balm. Many cultures have an annual day of remembrance in the Fall, a communal appointment to let go just like the leaves, a time to let the grieving process continue. November 1 is All Soul’s Day, the Christian version. Latinos call it Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. In Thursday Waves we’ll utilize the bones of 5Rhythms to explore ritual and release. Sunday Sweat Your Prayers will feature an altar to place images of those who have passed, to feel them with us, to remember, to practice embodied awareness in the cradle of community.

We are so very fortunate to have this type of tenderly evolving container. It is sorely needed in these hurry up times. Thank you for being there with me….bella

 

Adam Barley

Just off the phone with a local yoga teacher calling for an appointment for her ailing body. She talked about what it was like to stand in front of her class last night and name it. What it was like to watch the class do what she could not. What it was like to have a hard time accepting the sympathy extended after class. What it was like to be real. My body is no different than hers. My body is no different than yours. Lately I have been quite challenged. Hard times, whether they are mental or emotional or physical, come and go in life like that. No one is exempt. And through it all, the easy, the difficult, the neutral we are called upon to simply be real. Of course this is the topic of the upcoming workshop: Being Real with Adam Barley November 6-8. I asked Adam to speak in my place today and so these words are from London….bella

P.S. Since he’ll be here, I asked him to teach Thursday Night Waves November 5. So whether you are joining us or not for the workshop….do drop in.

Back in 1991 just before I really got into the 5Rhythms, a psychic told me he could see “America” written above my head in neon lights. I’d never been drawn to travel to the States so I was quite taken aback, but within a year I was dancing in California with Gabrielle, and I’d fallen in love with the place as well as the dance. I am delighted to be coming over the water again in November, and to dive into the roots of this incredible practice with all of you.

Here’s a recent blog post I wrote titled The Tyranny of Authenticity

I often have people asking me, clearly troubled, about how they can be more authentic in their movement. They’re seeking total authenticity in their movement as a goal.

I empathize. Been there.

What I’ve found is that seeking authenticity like this as a goal quickly becomes a monstrous inner tyrant.

Fuck it! Dance! What if it didn’t matter?

What if in fact, you cannot ever be anything other than authentic in your movement? Your body is the one part of you that is reliably 100% present and 100% real. It never goes anywhere other than here /now, and it is incapable of being inauthentic. All that stuff about being honest etc is to do with your feelings and thoughts. But the body itself – it’s always right there being itself. It’s not even a question. So if you find yourself straining to be authentic, or head-tripping about that, you could just shift your attention to the body and let it lead the way. Let the body come first. If you let go of all those ideas about who you are in this moment and how you can embody that, and simply trust your body with all of that, you don’t need to think about it.

Or another way around: if you’re divided from yourself, fighting yourself, etc, that’s what’s going to show up in your dance. How about being interested in that state of division rather than striving for some idea of how you should be? When did you last investigate in-authenticity with genuine curiosity and artistry? Fascinating……

“The body doesn’t lie” Gabrielle Roth

Being real is a no-brainer of course when we’re moving. It just happens. There’s nowhere else to go. Move, breathe, and be present with what arises. That’s enough.

See you there?

Adam

Sixteen hours of airline travel, coming home, excited? Yes…and surprised at this feel of reluctance, the tug of Paris still strong, time carved from the norm, daily adventure, wandering with abandon. Wondering about “the norm”, the possibility of not falling back into it, the magnetic pull of habit, the comfort of the familiar. How to maintain freshness, awaken each morning wondering what might happen, do something different. 

Break free, drop the same old same old, move out of the box.

So at the heart of a 5Rhythms practice. Travel inherently holds this practice possibility. Take the rhythm of flow: how many ways can we let things in? Travel just invites weirdness: long luxurious bath looking down Tuscany hill slope, circling and turning 360 degree on high ground, feet meandering narrow shadowy passages, brutally affected by immigrant beggar in Metro, letting Monet in through thin skin, harp on the steps of Sacre Couer piercing heart..flowing with whatever comes. Or watching overwhelm turn to stubborn inertia, taking a deep breath, waiting for it to pass.

So much opportunity to do something different lifted from the guiding realm of staccato. Following directions, maps, GPS. Tracking the sun and orienting to the compass. Turning left, turning right. Watching rigidity develop around all that, exhaling, dropping it. Feeling guarded, internal, shy…new people everywhere, odd customs, strange language…letting ourselves out anyway. Making connections wherever possible: waiters and clerks, park benches and bus seats, hotel staff and guides. Watching the heart close. Opening. Getting uber-tense. Shifting to a softened clarity.

Many moments of chaos. How about the time we completely lost our way hiking and ran out of water as well? Breathing fully, gathering and assessing, trusting intuition…in the psychic empty space, someone appears who knows the way. Or that time, unbenownst, failed to properly validate train ticket. Mean spirited conductor, $120 Euro fine on the spot. No confusion, just a quick and total knowing to let go, shake it off, move on. Another moment: on the Metro, deep in the earth bowels, train stops, lights off, pitch black, interminable. What else to do? Keep releasing, shifting weight, surrendering. Apparently a cat on the track. Every bone tells us to get off at the next stop and do something different. We listen.

All this awareness and attention just sets the stage for utterly long stretches of lyrical existence, following our feet and hearts, knowing when to pause, when to go, treasuring the smallest of things: a cobblestone crack for yellow flower so alive, grapes pregnant with promise, children on skateboards speaking perfect Italian, arugula so fresh it makes your whole mouth pucker, heart melted by hot tears, sharing such a timeless experience with someone to whom a glance is the only necessary language. Feeling spacey, coming back.

Long stretches of complete stillness: a bench in Luxembourg Garden, a cafe chair in filtered sunshine Montalcino, a let’s not get up yet in more places than one. A day after day lesson witnessing the unified field: going to work, dropping the kids at school, caring for infants, giving up a seat for the infirm, shopping, enjoying food and drink, worshipping and celebrating in community, burying and honoring the dead, building up, tearing down, inevitable warring, the struggle for peace…we are the same everywhere.

And now it is time to come home and do all that in my own community again. Return to a formal practice that opens the door to freshness, invites us to actually follow our own feet, the deep belly, vulnerable-ize our heart, clear our mind for the juicy stuff. Pave the way for full expression of this once-only soul. Hollow us out for spirit to move on through. Tall order. Come practice. 

Missing you. Ready. Maybe. 

love, bella

dad and me

Buddhist teachers, existential philosophers and hard knocks college all hammer away on the same topic: old age, ill health and death are coming to us all. If we are lucky. If you’re like me you might hit the delete button right now; I wouldn’t blame you. I like the sand. Especially when my head is in it.

But the last five days with my almost 90 y/o mother-in-law and almost 91 y/o father have me looking around wide-eyed alive. Despite way too much airport time. Last night when my sweet hubby and I were finally on our own, I followed my urge for a glass of wine (not entirely surprising) and then lapsed into an hour of mindless TV (totally out of character). This behavior put me squarely in the 50% enlightened realm, according to Pema Chodron. I know I’ve been quoting Pema lots lately. In the last 15 years she’s been my main teacher other than Gabrielle. If you haven’t taken advantage of her incredibly accessible Buddhist sensibility…maybe now’s your moment.

Paraphrasing here…well, you can wake up in a New York minute. Say your doctor tells you death is coming with the next cigarette, so you quit smoking immediately. Cold turkey. Instant enlightenment 100%. No looking back, no slippage, no second guessing. But the 50% place, the status for many of us for so long, lifetimes perhaps, is to know what we are up to and make less than optimal choices. Time and again.

I could have sat in that sterile Hyatt room and stayed with the rich array of all that was arising: newly soft and exquisitely tender father love; acute despair about the downward turn in his ability to communicate; belly fear that I might never see him again. The 50% place is not for the faint of heart. I indulged in that wine with 100% awareness of the way it erected a wall of safety between me and the utter complexity of all my feelings…this too is a very uncomfortable place in its own right. Especially since I was not willing to drink an amount that would take me completely away from it all.

That’s more the choice for the 5% folks. Awake enough to have an inkling that there are better choices, but taking every available measure to actively avoid them. If you have read this far you probably remember those days. Or maybe it’s your current main hangout zone. Noticing those vague stirrings and whispered misgivings, and then quickly turning the other way. This can go on a long time as well. Lifetimes. Less painful than 50% territory in many ways.

Here’s the good Buddhist news. All three places—100, 50, 5%—are rich and entirely workable arenas. Every place on the continuum is a launch pad for wakefulness. So before the flight whisked me home, I called my dad and basked in mutual delight for the awesome memories we had just created: side-by-side hand holding in pool inner tubes, Texas BBQ on butcher paper, hours watching all the activity at the bird feeder. I let his voice stir up my just below the surface joy, trigger those right there tears. All at once. And here on the plane (being a very marginal flier), welcoming moments of turbulence, entry zones for generic flat out scared. No walls of safety this morning. Recognizing a bit more about my particular strategies for being with intensity. Maybe a need for a bit of a break before I’m ready to let it all in. Remembering that I used to not let it in at all. Grateful to be on the path and feeling so very much.

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There was something about teaching every Thursday night that kept me grounded, providing an anchor in a strange and variable schedule. Unhooked for more than a month now, I find myself never quite sure what day of the week it is or whether it is the weekend or not. Factor in travelling east and west on 80 for the past week and it adds up to a bit of very welcome befuddlement. Just returned from San Francisco and looked at the next few days: patients to treat and teaching to do: Rock & Roll Tuesday morning (wow, loving this…) and my last time to hold the Sweat this season at Coloma on Sunday.

So what, pray tell, is happening on Thursday night this fall and why is there a flier called Breaking Waves? Well, the name came when Juliette and I sat down at Old Soul one morning to dream up something new, something to crack open the way things had been and pave the way for emergence. So this is breaking news about Breaking Waves. Which will be at the same time and in the same place and will offer up the same great music variety. But that’s about all we can say will be the same. Because when two people are co-anchoring the wheel, things have a way of becoming less predictable. Not that I was ever a big fan of predictable. But after ten years I certainly had some inevitable ways.

You know you can drop in any night to this Thursday class. But we are big time inviting you to pre-enroll and here’s why:

  • SHOW UP: Commitment is love in action. Commit to a weekly date with yourself and your practice. You are worth it. Commit and contribute to sustaining this precious community, built from scratch by awesome people like you.
  • SAVE: Geez, do the math. Pre-enroll by Aug 3 for $13.90 a class.   Pre-enroll by Sept 10 for $15 a class. Can you still drop in? Yes, $20 a class.   Four partial scholarships available: email bella@bodyjoy.net.
  • GUEST TEACHERS: Pre-enrollment of 35 or more? We invite guest teachers.
  • DO IT: on line City of Sacramento.org-dance (code 14404) OR  pre-enroll at the door September 10.

Thursday Night Fall Waves is all about 5Rhythms and runs September 10 through Dec 17. Gabrielle Roth says, “free your body, express your heart, empty your mind, awaken your soul, embody your spirit.” Who doesn’t want this juicy movement medicine for connection: within, with others, with community.   Come hone and refine your skill in full-fledged authenticity and fly-by-the-seat-of-pants freedom. This is a possible outcome when you learn to meditate in motion. Are you edge-y enough to commit to that prospect?

Do it….love, bella