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“Really? That’s just an old story.” Ever been on the receiving end of this condescending comment after baring your naked soul? Confiding hard-earned insight, true childhood root of why your all grown-up self just behaved like that? Maybe you actually censored that insight all on your own or maybe this pearl dropped from your own lips in response to a friend’s revelation. It’s a pop culture catch phrase. “That’s just an old story.” As if our old stories have no value. Ah but they do, they deeply shape us.

AGE February 20-22, the upcoming workshop with Kate Shela, has me reflecting on these stories and the way they shape each of us individually and as a community. The circumstances around our helpless early years, depending on whoever was taking care or not taking care of our every basic need. Big important story. Young children at the mercy of whoever taught us or didn’t, modeled for us or didn’t, how to connect to our feelings and learn to love another. Huge story. And as we made our way out into the world, were we supported in creatively exploring our budding independence…or not so much? Poignant story. Now add in each story every decade weaves in – in our bodies, in our hearts, in our minds. This creates our basic soul operating system.

We can know the stories are an illusion, that believing in and blaming stories creates suffering, keeps us victimized, separate, screws with our sense of belonging. Personally, in my world, there is only one way to break through illusion and it is not via groovy- spiritual-bypass-transcendence. We break on through the messy way: head on, warrior like, straight through.

In AGE we step back and take a look at the broad story. In Kate Shela’s words: “The investigation is life and death. Where are we now with all that has brought us to this point? How well are we aging? How old do we feel? Are we alive enough so that the fear of death does not kill us in the moment? Is living allowing us to be fully present to and in our lives? We are all given mysterious bodies that transform, regenerate and ultimately age. It is through the body that we experience our world and that we connect to the world. It is also from within our bodies that we make commitments for our timeline ahead. Let us show up in our wisdom no matter our age and discover how we wish to spend our time living so that we know how we wish to age.”

I’ve danced this territory with incredible guidance over the years. Multiple times, various ways, many hours. Without fail, every time, an unexpected layer peels away. You start thinking there can’t be any more. Yet each time there is a fresh tender vulnerable softness that gains footing, blooms, flourishes. And we are just that much more exquisitely, palpably free. How do you put a price on freedom? Early bird price through January 22 is $275. Worth every dollar.

Speaking of dollars. Have received several request for scholarship assistance for this workshop. The well has run dry. But we are doing something about that. Movement as Medicine is March 15. Join us in celebration – dance and yoga, drumming and expressive art – and raising funds (all by donation) for Yoga Seed Collective and that scholarship fund. Here is how you can help right now:

1. RSVP for volunteer meeting post-Sweat Sunday January 25. You could help with the silent auction, the retail, the set up/break down, at the door. But more importantly, you can be an integral part of this community and eat burritos.

2. Root through your drawers and give me an old nano or iPod you are not using. Gonna load it waves for the raffle. Email me.

3. Like us on Facebook

4. Why wait? Donate now. And thank you.

Come discover the stories alive in those bodies. Come move with me on a floor somewhere this week Thursday, Friday or Sunday. We are all at such a tender age…bella

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I had opportunity and loving support to bathe in deep silence for a long-short two and a half days. Long enough to know my busy and future-oriented mind, which is not new information. In the quiet frigid days there was beauty sprinkled, as well. I walked across forest floor meditating into an eternity reflected in plant decay at my feet, enjoyed the pure and intense physical pleasure of just breathing, marveled at delightfully easy heart access. And for about an hour, well into the second day, a clear sense of teaching territory spontaneously revealed itself.

To welcome this with me, ground yourself, enjoy the pure and intense physical pleasure of just breathing: Receive the in-breath into left side body, feel your feminine earth body roots. Express the out-breath clearly into the world via right side body, know your masculine fiery heart nature. Repeat several times until it feels true.

Collect the next in-breath through entire back body, let your watery nature dissolve feminine-masculine into a degree of union, backed by community, past and present. Breathe out front body, grateful for air, aligned with your soul’s presence in the world. Repeat several times until it feels true.

Breathe in through the soles of your feet down deep in earth. Draw breath up through center and out crown, as high as you can manifest. Feel the still center of your being awaiting. Greet spirit as you exhale down the same route. Repeat several times until it feels true.

That middle piece, the territory of back body, capability to dissolve into a degree of divine feminine/sacred masculine union…this landscape calls me. In 5Rhythms practice we’re talking chaos. No surprise this community (including myself here!) has a maturity that demands a deepening of this domain. Integration of these poles – to feel, to understand, to appreciate, to utilize – develops in fits and spurts over a lifetime. There are times we are quite at odds within, more battleground than happy union in there. And the unique way this manifests within is reflected in all our outside relationships. Including how we show up on the dance floor.

So it was with a bit of trepidation I gently invited us to dance this question Sunday: “Sometimes this is what comes up for me about being a man/woman on this dance floor.” You had a lot to say and then you moved with it. And then you had a lot more to say. Many of us can airy-fairy talk about the “illusion of separation”, we can glibly intellectualize about one-ness. We glimpse possibility. I’m totally interested in the mechanics of this so-called illusion, because it does not feel like an illusion when we suffer about not belonging or we are unsure about when, where and how to draw boundaries or we have very complicated rules around trust or we would choose any route other than the intimate one, or we are quite sure that life (or the dance floor) would be perfect except for this one person or when being triggered has become a predictable outcome, excuse or default. None of this separation feels like an illusion.

I’ve been married 42 years, two friggin’ thirds of my life..to the same man, no less. I remember past monumental battlegrounds in our relationship; truly they were reflections of my interior world. I am not going to tell you I have it all integrated now. Sorry. We still have our skirmishes, still paralleled on the inside. But to a certain extent, a quiet peaceful truce has developed over the last decade compared to the early ones. That’s why I need your help. This Thursday we’ll dance (of course!) and expand what we did on Sunday…a little more talk, a little more fleshing out.

I want to hear from you, I want to co-create with you, I want to shape our practice to serve whatever we feel our needs are. I know we need to ground, be fluid, receptive and I know we need to be clear-hearted in our expression. We need to shake it all out and land in a real place of integrity, not some look alike, feel good, reasonable facsimile of alignment. I know this is a tall order. Other than posing the question, I’m pretty unsure about how to create answers. But I trust our practice. And you. I invite you to come out and create this for yourself, for each other, for us.

And check out that sidebar. January 22 is the early bird deadline for AGE. Promise to write about that in more detail next week. Movement as Medicine March 15 is moving to the front burner. Ditto on more detail next week.

Of course, this would be Rumi: “…How much longer do I have to wonder apart? Take me back to love’s first place where we were in union…”

Inching toward union….bella

“We are the ones we have been waiting for…”

The origin of this phrase is controversial but its inherent, powerful truth resonates deeply. Hopi elders used this expression to conclude a well known metaphor: a river flowing swiftly, letting go of the shore, seeing who is with you and celebrating…creating your community, being good to each other…and to not look outside yourself for the leader. This timely perspective on leadership is becoming increasingly clear to me.

I’ve been gifted with several incredible teachers in this lifetime. And for that I am very grateful. They showed up in fortuitous moments, providing exactly what was needed. Some of these relationships were challenging, their value unapparent until history proved otherwise. The student-teacher connection is a tricky one. There is a built in invitation for the student to “look outside yourself for the leader.” There can be a surrender of power in service to the greater good of learning. This negotiation requires skillful awareness that sometimes is lacking in one party or both. Despite these tricky dynamics, I have been blessed with a lifetime of learning from teachers.

And now, in this 65th year, I know I am the one I have been waiting for. Don’t get me wrong…I will never be done learning. Remember? I am enrolled in the school of life. You are my teacher, the way the sun is glistening on the bamboo right now is my teacher, the driver who cut me off yesterday is my teacher. Teachers abound. But for me, at this later rather than sooner chapter in my life, to turn to an authority, to seek advice from someone who knows more, to ask how or what or when…this actually denies me a golden opportunity to go in there, root around, listen deeply, cultivate wisdom and find out for myself. Truly, at this point I am more interested in gathering with my peers and sharing wisdom than sitting at the feet of one who knows in order to receive. And, of course, this is only right now, this moment…and we all know what happens when now morphs in to later.

You may or may not know of the many shifts and changes in the world of 5Rhythms since Gabrielle’s death more than two years ago. It is a universal story: charismatic leader passes, disciples scatter in many directions. As it should be. See above about not looking outside yourself for a leader. Gabrielle did her job, created a hardy bunch of practitioners solid enough to rise up and choose their own way of being in the world. My northern California teachers, women I have turned to for answers for twelve years, are going in a new direction. Some 5Rhythms teachers are going with them. For months I wondered if I was going, too. And in this moment I have settled into the fact that, at least for now, I am not.

I love these teachers and wish them well and they know that. And I know I’ll continue to learn from them, taking classes as I am able, offerings that call me in and support me. But to add yet another title to my name, to become certified to teach another practice…this is not the time in my life to pour my energies other than where they are currently pouring. I am dedicated to continuing to develop as a solid witness and coach in this community. The three practices I am skilled in sharing provide infinite possibility for our co-investigation. That’s the kind of teacher-student relationship I love, we are so in this together. The integration of physical therapy and 5Rhythms and yoga is so ripe. Most days there is more to do and more moving through me than I feel like I have time for. I am abundantly overflowing. And truly, I have you to thank for that. What a beautiful ride we are on.

This is the last newsletter for 2014. It’s time for me to get quiet now, celebrating with family and spending some precious time in retreat. At this turn of the year, I invite you to take this topic on as a personal investigation. What are you waiting for? Are we the ones we have been waiting for? Know that I am here to support you in becoming your own best leader. The best possible outcome for me is when you rise up and do your own inspired thing. Nothing makes me feel more blessed in my teaching life. This is my time, this is your time, this is our time. Let’s do it together.

So much love…bella

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We are all so very human and more or less aware of our inherited and self-generated interior cast of characters who show up for those better or worse curtain calls depending on what’s playing out in our lives…a personal population evolving from a very tender age. Recently, someone who knows me all too well named one player in my internal troupe: “the good little soldier”.

The craziest of the bunch tend to come out in the most challenging moments. Had one of those moments a couple weeks ago, watched him take over and do what the producer needs to do and then banish me to stand frozen on the sidelines, clutching my phone. Everyone else present carried on being sociable, sharing the richness and camaraderie so prevalent during workshop days. I’ve been a big time witness to his role in my daily life ever since.

This soldier is all about taking the fall so others may live. Whoah, did I just say that? I watch this dude come out in small ways and big, chronically in service, needed or not. And let it be said right here that I totally appreciate this steadfast, no-quitter is a huge player in my great ability to create and manifest. Our wounds are the source of our most special gifts. For that I am grateful.

One of the things I love about conscious dance practice is the light it potentially sheds on characters like this. It doesn’t come automatically. There can be a daunting chasm between being in rhythmic response to music and opening up to juicy insight. When we work with repetition – movements that recur over and over, unveiling shapes the body spontaneously makes, dance floor moves can be very revealing, amazingly gap-bridging.

Last week, just minding my own business on the dance floor, I was totally stunned to find myself doing a repetition that has been an integral part of my dance for a dozen years. If you’ve moved with me, no doubt you’ve seen it. Never really knew what it was about…just this pacing motion with an abrupt 180 turn after a few steps, always in staccato. But there it was, no denying it: “the good little soldier” manifest in my dance, finding expression all these years, waiting for me to finally discover him.

There it was: suffering into art into awareness. So then what?

“I know that if a wave of energy is allowed to complete itself it yields a whole new wave.” – Gabrielle Roth

Not too sure about this, but it feels like the only bridge from awareness to action is to just keep moving and let whatever it is complete itself. Cultivate being a conscious witness. Be in choice when we are able…change it up, do something entirely different, let it go, be patient, practice loving compassion. On the dance floor and off. I’ll get back to you on how the good little soldier is faring.

Thursday: two nights to practice before we break for two weeks. Loved those two full and complete waves, staying with. For the month of January only, if you have never shown up on a Thursday (what?), come dance one time for free.

Sunday: the tradition continues…honor the blessed dark, wear all black this Sunday. Welcome Alessandro Moruzzi from San Francisco up front for the first time. The following Sunday, welcome the Solstice, wear all white. I’ll be playing the music and, thank you, Doug Crawford will be playing the drums.

Let’s keep it moving…love, bella

Ever feel washed, wrung out, hung to dry? I spent yesterday afternoon couch-curled, sunk in recovery, a bit breathless from two over-the-top weeks. Many extraordinary things came to pass in a brief chunk of time and on this rainy morning stretching empty before me, quiet drapes my shoulders and I recall a Mary Oliver line: “what was that beautiful thing that just happened?”

Right in the middle of this roller coaster was the peak of Attunement, a great holiday gift workshop for all present. Astounding how much I received as I straddled the fence of producing, working and participating, since I had never multi-tasked quite like that. Ever. I harvested three inter-woven pieces that keep circulating and surfacing and here, in this quiet space, I flesh them out more fully, allow writing to capture what feels so ephemeral. If that’s even possible.

I’ve spiraled around this first piece again and again. Years ago when my son was recovering from grave illness, I needed to tend my own recovery along with his. My heart was so shut down, closed for business under the duress of a year’s intensity. My sense of wonder, ability to laugh, access to lightness or joy or bliss…gone. Fortunately, my intuition was intact. I joined a singing group that provided an immediate heart jump-start. That was 23 years ago. If you know me at all you have heard this ad nauseum: I was born into, always been comfortable in my body and my mind is a (too) well-developed instrument. The final frontier? Uncover, unshackle, continue to open this heart. I have re-remembered the singing path to heart access time and again. Using my voice in song for three days, and everyday since, is doing wonders…and it is not necessarily about bliss. Feeling some hard stuff…but the key word here is “feeling”. And creating sound, especially while I am moving, is a truly heart-healing modality. Maybe this time I won’t forget that.

We sang four Sufi phrases over and over and over. They circulate in my blood, shed in my tears, I wake in the night to their continual re-play. They counsel me to remember my strength, power and endurance to be with things as they are and to heal. To heal from wounds inherited and those I have played forward. To bow to those wounds as the source of my greatest gifts. To drop all grudges, to let go, to turn toward the light. This is, of course, a life long process and I feel a bit caught in some crosshairs. Paraphrasing Gabrielle here…I have been turning suffering into art for many years. This is essentially what we are up to in the dance. That art turns into awareness and I am grateful for this reliable deliverance to insight. But the final piece – letting that awareness turn into action – well there’s the rub. This piece I’m working with, this piece that feels centuries old…seems the only action has been to develop as a steadfast witness. Watching myself repeat an ancient pattern that no longer serves, simultaneously looking this gift horse in it’s awful mouth. A difficult crossroads. Staying with.

The third piece? I had the magnificent unfolding task of playing music two sessions a day at this workshop. This was the medium to enter into every square inch of our bodies, feel the life force pulsing through us, connect with our breath and each other. This was no warm up. And the whole concept of “warm up” came under close scrutiny for me once again. There are only three Thursday Fall Wave classes left in this series and I’m not sure where we’re travelling but I know business as usual needs to be tossed until next year. Come for two waves: the first will set the tone (see above), the second will be the next dive in.

I guess at this point I am just enrolled in The School of Life and it’s always best for me to hold space for us when I am moving in this stream. The four phrases – ya aziz, ya gaffar, ya gafur, ya tawwab; the Gabrielle quote – suffering into art into awareness into action…somehow this will be fodder for this week in class.

Come move with me…Thursday, Friday, Sunday…

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Thursday night 2003, Clunie Clubhouse, 8:30pm…again. After a full year dancing, I know the drill. Time to circle up after practice. Listen to the extraordinary shifts and communal realizations happening inside us on the dance floor. Time to articulate the ineffable. I sit there deeply identifying with each speaker, grateful they are communicating some (but not all) of what has passed for me. I hover trembling, so stirred and shaken, so much transformation and information revealed on multiple levels…and I say nary a word, never contribute, not dare allow fear or doubt to become visible, illumination or joy to spill over, become audible. Never.

Let me introduce my personal guard troll who has lived in permanent residence in the region of my diaphragm-gate for as long as I can remember. He moved in during those early years when shutting up was a matter of survival. Bless his heart, he served me well. Maybe some of you know his relatives? He perched in there 24/7, insuring nothing emerge from my lips that might make me vulnerable or appear stupid or (oh no!) seem unenlightened. Obviously much safer to appear all together, nod my head in assent, whither inside. He did a really good consistent job.

I filled journal after journal of all that was revealed in those early years. So much became clear…including the fact that speaking newly emerging truth, naming what was bona fide in the moment, was nigh on impossible for me. Yet despite this challenge, I was opening and learning rapidly and I saw the local community around me deepening into soulful healthy practice. Slowly it dawned on me that not only was I a student of this practice, I was also on the teaching path…for so many reasons. Don’t get me started on all the reasons. But this one was right up there near the top: my whole life I have been drawn to move toward what terrifies me. And this truth-speaking quest qualified. What better way to force the issue than a weekly assignment to get up and hold space?

One event early on crystallized this quest: a 5Rhythms weekend workshop with Maniko in Menlo Park. Who was this wizard woman? Who was this power spirit holding us as we danced and wrote and sang, who expertly brought us right to the edge of our own fear, witnessed by the group? One by one I watched us stand up and inch toward authenticity. Watching the peel-away happen in others was utterly fascinating. I was seeing the transparent beauty inside each of us. I was feeling it in myself. Even if it shined for only a few seconds, everyone saw it. And nobody died from being this visible, this vulnerable. It was astounding…and terrifying…and oh so desirable.

Since then I’ve worked with Maniko many times. It is still frightening. Because she knows where my edge is and she always takes me to it…never over it, but always right up to it. With her help, with the guidance and support of all my teachers on this path, and with this sheer showing up for us week after week after week…well, there has been movement and change. In those early days, as I began to speak, as I discarded rehearsal and replaced it with reality, as I felt my feet and breath and trusted what might emerge…I never knew if the troll would loom large and create this breathless disembodied shadow of myself. It was risky. And still, writing this newsletter is much easier for me than standing before you. But I just keep showing up and there are more and more moments of ease, of spontaneous clarity that arise like magic and channel through me, almost in spite of me. The troll? Mostly he lives off to the side in rocking chair retirement. He knows he’s important, it’s just that he’s not needed so much anymore. Sometimes he even chuckles.

So this is an official invitation for you (and your troll, if you have one) to join us for Attunement, the weekend before Thanksgiving. To ignite the dance of your voice and free the voice of your dance in a dynamic, experiential workshop in the warm lap of Coloma Center. Early bird is October 23 for the $320 price; contact bella@bodyjoy.net for scholarship availability.

There is so much happening in October, starting this weekend with luxuriating in the outdoors with yoga, music, art and dance at the Transcendence Festival. I’ll be offering Let it Roll on Saturday morning and 5Rhythms on Sunday afternoon. See the full schedule. Hope to see you there and…no worries…we will still be at Coloma Center Thursday night and Sunday morning and will Let it Roll at It’s All Yoga on Friday night.

I love Woody Allen, the comedic embodiment of terrified vulnerability. Here’s what he says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Works for me…

love, bella

Late 80’s, a chapter of intense orthopedic manual therapy training. One moment remains crystal clear: case presentation, standing before my peers, explaining each turning point in treatment, how multiple options narrow into singular choices. The instructor stops me mid-stream, asks why I chose that particular alternative. My reply…“It was intuitive.” He promptly seized that opportunity to call me on the carpet, to derail intuition as a guiding force, to make his own point about what guides a truly worthy clinician. Practical, functional, hands-on, logic. Total reliance on observation and palpation.

I watched a piece of me travel underground that night. And I regret this only some, because this apprenticeship to technique allowed me to develop in powerful ways. From this vantage point, a quarter century out, I see how that stellar moment played out in the long run and I’m grateful for the training discipline it afforded me. It continues to serve me. And, thank the lord, my intuition, that whined in the back seat for a while, did not die. It re-emerged with renewed vigor and perspective as I began to dance again.

I see our style, our approach, our modus operandi to many things – teaching, treating, writing, who knows what else – as lying at some point on this very fluid continuum. And the facility to draw from a well of grounded, practical, technical and also access what is intuitive, unpredictable, (dare I say?) shamanic…well, who wouldn’t want use of all of that? And why am I relaying this story here, now? Because the experience of Open Floor, dancing seven days with my shifted teachers, is sifting and settling in me. And I’m finding my way through a bit of my own messy confusion by looking at the experience through this lens.

A bit of back story for context: the 5Rhythms Nor Cal teachers have decided, for understandable reasons, to split away from 5R and do their own thing. In their own words…“Our task is to distill the wisdom embedded in all healing movement modalities, and highlight the universal principles they share. This is our contribution to the field of movement as healing art, as a conscious growth process, as a fun and fundamental tool for our well being.” Their university style organization is called Open Floor.

Also in their own words…everything’s a re-mix. They’ll offer weekly classes, opportunities to stretch into intensive workshops and they will train new teachers. I made the journey down there with an open heart and (to be honest) a bit of a closed mind. I so wanted to hear about their new world but really, why would I want to do another training? But the truth is I am a continuing education junkie and they’ll offer quality education in the soft lap of the dance/teaching community to which I belong. And they’re quite clear it is not about choosing one or the other. I’ll continue to hold space for 5Rhythms as I integrate whatever new comes my way. Same as always really. Gabrielle always wanted us to bring the fullness of who we are to the scaffolding of the rhythms. I have always been a weaver.

Just a first impression, mind you…but based on those seven days, feels like these new offerings will lean toward the practical, technical end of that aforementioned continuum. Sitting here in deep reflection, I would venture to say that my 5Rhythms training leaned more toward the intuitive. The wildness, the unpredictability, the shamanic…that’s what called me in, quite frankly. I was starving for it. After all, each rhythm is an energetic state, more akin to the chakras than to any psychological model. And, of course, this is not black and white territory. I learned a great deal technically in 5Rhythms training and no matter what the content of Open Floor eventually becomes, there is always the mystery that arises when we dance. And I am basing these ruminations on a very small, very early sample of a developing practice. For what it’s worth.

But this is what is utterly true for me right now. I walk a tightrope between the practical and the intuitive and I feel this strongly in every fiber of my being. I know how to orient to the natural, observable, palpable world – our anatomy, the four elements, directions, and seasons. When I hold this palpable piece and then call in the energetic states inherent in the rhythms – body grounded & fluid, heart passionate & expressive, mind released & surrendered, soul aligned & expansive, spirit an empty channel for unity…I am delivered. This is an embodied practice of orienting. This is a call to presence, to being fully here, right now. And that’s where the mystery unfolds.

Wow, to come back to Coloma on Sunday morning was beyond phenomenal. We have such a good thing going…thank you for creating that. Come on some other days and walk this tightrope with me…it is always present on Thursday night, when I teach Friday night and we’ll be back on Sunday morning again. Check the new & improved calendar for the Tues/Thurs mornings in September I’ll be offering access to aligned spirit in Gentle Yoga as well. Look at the full sidebar.

Let’s just keep walking that tightrope together…love, bella

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This morning I took my 90 year-old stooped papa to the airport so he could fly home. I didn’t want him to go. And I felt the profound shift this simple statement indicates. I grew up watching shows like Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed and Father Knows Best. I ached to have a normal family like that. Where you can count on Dad to be politely reasonable and Mom wears an apron and pearls and everyone gets along and, most importantly, no one yells. We all have our family of origin stories and quite clearly, mine had been way messier than my T.V. viewing.

I spent years putting distance between that rumpled reality and the new improved adult version I was creating. Until I woke up one day and realized that could only get you so far. And then I spent more years finding my way back home…going through instead of around. Which was actually much more difficult. Coming to grip with how fate and circumstance, rotten luck and random choice, history and destiny had shaped me for better or worse. But even with this hard won perspective and intellectual forgiveness, I could not be with my papa with any kind of ease. Memories would persistently well up and darken my heart.

Maybe time really does heal all wounds. Maybe all this awareness finally added up. Maybe we had both mellowed. We played with the grandbaby and visited with the kids. He told the same old stories again and again but also some new specifics about the horror he experienced in WW2, as if he needed to purge something festering. We took him to the USS Hornet in Alameda, the aircraft carrier he actually flew from, and he saw the Avenger plane with the turret that held him as he gunned down the enemy. We played gin and drank Scotch and cooked his favorite food and got a pedicure. We took him to the high country in Yosemite, looked down into the deep granite valley, slept on the sunlit shore of Tenaya Lake…the same Sierras we travelled together when I was just little. He talked a lot. I listened.

My heart just stayed open all on it’s own. There were a few sticky breathing moments but nothing that reduced me to being ten years old. When I dropped him off this morning I knew I might never see him again. I am remembering all the years that prospect would have felt like relief instead of sorrow. I am so grateful the two of us have lived long enough to arrive in this place. And I guess I am offering up this personal saga to inspire us all to stay on the healing path, it is never to late. Miracles happen.

Right before he arrived, I completed one week of dancing in the new/old territory of Open Floor in Sausalito. Spent time with my old teachers in some new ways. Everything is a re-mix really and Open Floor seems beautifully conceived and well thought out. And I am a weaver, been weaving for years…physical therapy, yoga, 5Rhythms. I’m intrigued with what I learned and the potential of incorporating this new shiny yarn. More about this in the weeks to come.

Looking forward to all that will arise after Labor Day:

Fall Waves begins September 11, a 14 class series, running through December 18. Done with the complexity of managing early bird, so sign up on line or on the first night of class. Scholarship available; bella@bodyjoy.net by September 1 to apply. Why not just drop in? When you sign up for the series you save $ and pave the way to commitment. My all time favorite Gabrielle quote? “It takes discipline to be a free spirit.” Showing up delivers us…

Sweat Your Prayers begins again Sunday September 7.

Attunement November 21-23. A big yes began to pulse last spring when I investigated bringing Maniko to Sacramento. This longing was tied to the emergence of my own authentic voice, words that arise from the ground, circulate in my belly, get bathed through my heart and glide out my throat. Feeling this, allowing this, sharing this…well this has been a long and winding road, still ongoing. Maniko and the skill she brings to this arena was part of that emergence. I want this kind of medicine for our community and I would love for you to dose up with us. I’ll be supporting her with the music so we can ignite the dance of our voice and free the voice of our dance in this dynamic, experiential workshop. Scholarship available; bella@bodyjoy.net by November 1 to apply.

Introduction to 5Rhythms Saturday Oct 18. Calling all practitioners to come home to the basics. If you haven’t experienced the beauty of The Yoga Workshop space, you are in for a big treat!

Tending Your Moving Body Saturday Oct 25. Three hours to roll and dance, the easy glide from self-care to each rhythm and back. Pure joy.

Transcendence Oct 3-5. O.K. New venue, new festival. But guess what? Right here in town on the old Boy Scout Camp Pollock grounds by the American River. Music, yoga, dance. What’s not to like? Check it out. I’ll be there.

Movement as Medicine Save the date: Sunday March 15, 2015. No, this annual fundraiser did not go away. We just moved it to the spring. So stay tuned.

Until we meet again…love, bella

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At least once a week someone corners me for a variation on the same urgent confession: how much or for how long they have wanted to come to a 5Rhythms class. This revelation is followed by some version of a fear story and, if they talk long enough, the word self-conscious usually emerges. They shrug their shoulders and wonder if they will ever get over it. I don’t say much in reply, just that it is a common story with no magic solution except to show up, be with it, watch it change…or not. Here’s what we know from experience: it almost always shifts after a class or three.

I see you there, shrinking near the wall, struggling with the whole life-sucking polarity of not wanting to be seen/desperately wanting to be seen. Incredulous that all these other folks are moving, some of them in the craziest ways, apparently unconcerned that somebody might be watching, judging, even condemning their ridiculous behavior. Being excessively aware or embarrassed about being observed by others is a curse, drilled into us when we were sweet and oh-so-defense-less children.

And when you think about it, this negative connotation is a pretty narrow definition of self-consciousness. If we take a broader view, a richer meaning reveals itself: self-consciousness is actually a desired outcome of many a spiritual practice. When we are self-conscious in a healthy way, we are a skilled and kind witness to our thoughts and feelings, actions and behavior. And a good witness has a better shot at integrity and alignment than an unself-conscious being.

There is a raw power in negative self-consciousness that begs to be harnessed. Recall that old image of the malevolent devil on one shoulder and the benevolent angel on the other. Really, it comes down to where we choose to bring our attention. The devil on one shoulder is shouting stuff like “stop being foolish” or “you look ridiculous” or “what would (fill in the blank) think?” He is generally quite loud, very entrenched, and clearly knows what he is talking about.

When we slow down, breathe and feel our feet on the ground, we encourage the quiet, tentative, fresh spirit on the other shoulder. This one offers a different wisdom: “just check it out” and “wow, this feels so good” and “what the heck, you made it this far, might as well move!”

If the devil is always in charge, if we are forever second guessing and judging and comparing ourselves, chances are we bring that same energy, subtle or not so subtle, into other corners of our lives. It’s a friggin’ energy eater, definitely something worth tackling. Take a moment. Look in the mirror. What does the devil have to say? And pray tell, what does the angel say? Who would you rather pay attention to?

I never had a chance to experience the self-conscious thing on a dance floor, just felt like I had come home the moment I arrived on my first one. But I have certainly felt the self-conscious thing in public speaking (translate: teaching). Can’t say I’ve always been a skilled witness, know I catch myself sooner and more often than I used to and maybe that’s as good as it gets. Come to class this Thursday and bring every bit of your self-consciousness with you. Come practice fortifying your benevolent skilled witness.

Thanks to Jennifer Burner and the powerful community tree who showed up this last Sunday. So good to be out there dancing and feeling such great ju-ju. I felt immersed in an enormous gratitude spill-over. For having a body, for teachings to guide us, for safe space to practice in, for the luxury of time, for precious community. This Sunday is the last Sweat Your Prayers until after Labor Day, September 7. Come ready to embody gratitude, dance our way together into a big old thank you. There will be a special visual backdrop and the invitation is to bring something from home to place on the altar…your personal expression of gratitude.

Wherever you are, it’s good to remember that our time here on earth has an expiration date. Why not dance like nobody’s watching?

love, bella

Periodically someone with dubious authority publishes an article about why it is dangerous to engage in yoga. The latest article, published in the New York Times last month, warns flexible women about serious hip injury if they keep doing this perilous practice.

You know what? Any activity in which we engage with a willingness to ignore pain – our body’s only way of letting us know we are on the wrong track – is dangerous. Sutter Health asked me some questions about the issues this article raises and if you want the whole interview it is here: Yoga and Hip Injuries. And if you just want the bottom line, here it is:

Yoga is simply a practice for mind-body union. As long as you can breathe, you can do yoga. Attachment to a particular form of yoga (for that matter, attachment to anything!) gets us in trouble. Many yoga forms (there are so many) or particular teachers (who vary in level of expertise) encourage us to move quickly or deeply or repetitively into shapes that may not be in our best interest. I have hurt myself in a yoga class more than once and I teach yoga!

We risk injury as soon as we lose our attention and focus. What are we attending to?

Sensation: where do I feel this and what is the quality of the sensation?

Breath: am I breathing freely, easily or is my breath ragged, gasping, held?

Ease: am I finding ease in practice or is there a continual effort, striving, struggling?

Repetitively sacrifice any one of these three factors during practice and you will eventually deal with injury. Anyone who can simultaneously attend to sensation, breath and quality of ease can do yoga safely. Stretch out on your floor at home, gently let your breath guide you; move in ways that feel good. Continue to attend to and return to your breath – this is yoga.

We get ourselves in trouble (“the yoga hurt me”) when we take a class and pay more attention to the teacher’s instructions or what the person on the next mat is doing rather than our own internal experience. That being said, classes are wonderful for expanding our movement vocabulary and self-knowledge. The quality of attention and self-care we bring to class is more important than what particular style we choose or what pose we do.

But it is important to choose a class wisely: if you feel at risk for injury or are a brand new beginner, some styles will be more challenging because they deeply tax your ability to self monitor. This makes them potentially more risky, probably better suited for someone with no injuries or someone who already has a solid base of meditative experience and practice. These more challenging styles include (and certainly are not limited to) fast-moving power vinyasa, kundalini and any practice done in a super-heated room and/or loud music environment.

If you are a beginner or know that you need to modify because of a body challenge, look for introductory hatha yoga series, classes labeled gentle or Level 1. Consider doing a few private sessions. I love offering this! Talk to studio owners, shop around. Look for a place to take classes that fit you and a teacher with whom you resonate. This is your body and your life, take it personally! And if you want some ides for rolling around safely on the floor at home, download this 10 Pose Routine: Yoga for Relaxation, a relaxing beginner series I pulled together for Sutter Health. Just the prescription for holiday craziness.

Lot’s coming up, check the sidebar. Dress with extra layers for Coloma Center. This is a very old, poorly insulated building and we have had problems getting it as warm as we would like. Technicians are working on the heater as I write! Sign up for Thursday Winter Waves for the big price break and if you are in need of a scholarship for the upcoming series, please contact me. This Sunday wear black to Sweat Your Prayers and next Sunday wear white… and gift yourself with some practice this month. It puts it all in perspective!

Love, bella