Peppermint steam wafts between us, this friend seated across from me at Pete’s. Her whole being emanates open ground as she poises the $64,000 question: “How do you feel right now?” My body tentatively poises on the edge of detection, I watch my mind try to busy it’s way into territory it knows nothing about. I actually feel belly butterfly queasy, shallow breath…this is dread, this is fear. I am grateful to feel and name it.

Maybe you are judging right now? How odd, this revelation from someone who does the work and is way past being young. But I have been treading this territory for years and I have arrived at a palpably vulnerable edge. I am not backing away from it. If you’re into the Enneagram you’ll understand the mechanics, but the mechanics are not important here. I learned a great deal this August, but what reassures me, is the comfort of knowing I am in plenty of good company. That many people have a challenging time knowing what they are feeling. Flanking me in the heart wound triad are those overwhelmed by their feelings (I can only imagine) and those busy tuning in to the feelings of others (this is my wing, so I get this one as an extra bonus).

This weekly newsletter has been going since 2005 so, if you are not a new reader, you recognize the personal heart excavation topic as old news. Years ago, at first glimpse, it was frightening recognition of the vast fortress surrounding my heart, the creation understanding from childhood story, the dismay at the extent of the project. Then, over the years, the dismantling narrative, highlights from the onion-peeling saga. The call to teach was, to a certain extent, motivated by the weekly vulnerability this stand-in-front-of-the-room job demanded, medicine I knew I needed an appointment with. Wounded healers teach what we need to learn. Truly, in the last couple years, I have felt the final shreds fall.

It’s very naked here. In some moments I find myself wishing for walls again because now I am looking down into a big old chasm. When I breathe in, it opens dark and wide and I often sense, just beyond reach, the tantalizing richness in there. And then I breathe out and it closes some, gets more murky and inaccessible with a tinge of hopelessness. I am staying right on this edge and just as I wrote this line a hummingbird flew in front of my window and this big spasm of joy welled up from in there and spilled over the top and I can still feel it even as I write, tears well. That’s why I am staying here.

I’m not sure where we will travel in 5Rhythms on Thursday but I do know where we are beginning. Thank you for your support and encouragement as I guide us through the traditional warm up in a whole new way. Talk about vulnerable. I really do not know what this chapter is. It is not the rehab-focus of Release the Beast (come Friday to explore the pelvic bowl!) and it is not the linear alignment-based hatha yoga I teach at the studio. I can only call it dance lubrication right now. The beat of the music moves us as we dance our way into shapes, fluidly explore the edges of form, bring juice and life force to all the places a dancing body needs to insure full and healthy surrender to practice. It is moving through me so it is moving through us and the degree of grounded gliding presence in every body by 7:00 was joy to witness and all the motivation I need to keep exploring. The only thing I can promise is that it will be different than last week!

Ending with these opening words from “To the Lies That Become Us” by Jewel Mathieson:

“…This body is for asking those questions that do not live in the mind
These questions have a life of their own or death
Burial grounds in the heart of my friend
A shovel and a map
Dig anywhere
The treasure is everywhere…”

Digging…love, bella

Last night I was lifted ever so slowly from a dream sound-tracked by rhythmic flutter. I rose to a large butterfly, burnt toast in color, beating her frustration against the window-pane by the bed. A few tries, then finally, cradled in the gentle glow of a white t-shirt I had danced in all day, I carried her outside. Released her to the night speckled sky, the almost full moon calling her back home. Paused in wonder on the deck and then fell back into dreamland once more.

In Maui the sun rises and there is only the sound of bird call. After three days of dancing in the presence of unadorned nature, I feel clear and soft and more like a butterfly moving moonward than one trapped against window glass. Everyday there is this persistent and gentle call to presence from Vinn Marti, a master teacher offering up invitations to melt, to weight shift, to breathe, to explore space, to look out and see something. The dance is doing me again: so simple, so familiar, so effective.

Vinn holds a Soul Motion dance space, somewhat different than a 5Rhythms space, and yet totally familiar. In the last few months I have been in the presence of several comparative discussions. These tire me, bore me quite frankly. Especially when the words are tinged with an aura of defense or projection or identification. Any tone that smacks of these painful triplets automatically pulls me into search of higher common ground. And it is usually just a breath or two away. It’s why I love the name of this gathering: One Tribe. A self justifying search for division, for boundary clarification, for separation at the expense of unity… well, this is where trouble roots, whether it be in a relationship or the political/religious realm.

And really, in dance? Let’s get real. We come together to practice waking up. The ingredients are always the same: a floor, some fellow travelers, some music, a guide to remind us about breath and body and being. I am so grateful to be here in space held by someone masterful in creation. It sheds incredible light on who I am and how I operate out there. It gives me all kinds of ideas on subtle ways to offer up my own yoga and dance forms. I wouldn’t care if Vinn was a three-headed alien from some other planet. I just cannot imagine a situation I cannot learn from. Pretentious complaints about the music not being right or the instructions being too much or not enough are just fingers pointing right back to us. When did we get so picky about things needing to be a certain way before being willing to open and express and let go, take in what is offered, appreciate and consider shifting off our precious little center?

I am still in bed, my breath, my heartbeat, the persistent echo of those wing beats still alive inside. It doesn’t take much to gently scoop ourselves up from the righteous window pane of our own small world. Set ourselves free from this all-consuming need for the world to fit to our personal specs. Build ourselves up by tearing something else down. We know this: take a breath. Let it go completely. No, there is still some left. Let it go completely. Feel this empty gap. This is the taste of relief, this is the welcome call back home, this is how we fly together… into the moonlight.

See the sidebar because all classes continue in my absence: Juliette on Thursday, Jeanne on Friday and Jennifer on Sunday. Thank you to these beautiful souls who skillfully hold the space at Coloma and It’s All Yoga with their own special form of magic. Go, experience, be gifted. And all these miles away I am still enrolling you for All My Relations… another masterful space-holder coming our way. We are truly blessed.

Time to rise and dance again… love, bella

Book Club last night, intrepid women fearlessly tackling sticky issues, personal travails, the obstacles on our common journey to our birthright home, our essential goodness. Last night we dove into Getting Our Bodies Back by Christine Caldwell, a somatic psychotherapist working with the seeds of addiction that lie in the body. Recovery that focuses on cognitive treatment alone will miss a big boat.

Connecting the loaded word “addiction” with over-the-top substance abuse allows us to think of it as something bad that happens to other people. Her broader definition fascinates me. What if we sat on the bench with a heroin addict, curious about what we might have in common? If we are willing to look, we might recognize our brotherhood lies in the oh-so-human ways we skillfully and not-so-skillfully avoid feeling emotions. The strategies we habitually employ to cover up the difficult and even the joyful messages from our hearts.

There are the obvious habits, the ways we use food and alcohol and drugs that we deem socially acceptable. But how about those other times, if we are awake and honest, that we consume in order to turn the volume down, to take the edge off, in short…to not feel the intensity of our sometimes fiery, challenging and painful emotional world? The heroin addict puts it on mute, but perhaps we turn the volume down.

“He who feels it, know it more.” – Bob Marley

What I love about this read is that Caldwell goes beyond the obvious addictive qualities associated with ingestible substances. She explores the fascinating world of unconscious movement “tags”, and this is where it gets really interesting to me. You know these moves: hair twisting, shoulder hunching, nail biting, nose pulling. If you don’t know your signature movement tags, just be curious in the next hour. As you track, you may notice these self-comforting moves triggered in the moments things get a little stressful, a bit uncomfortable: some conflict, some boredom, some uncertainty. Perhaps these habitual movement tags are body arrows pointing toward addiction, toward not being willing to feel. Our own little convenient safe, numbness harbors. If we are willing to witness, track what is up in that very moment, shine the light of awareness…well, that is always the first step on the journey home.

This week we build on the stepping stone of attention to breath and sensation. Caldwell says, “By staying curious to a sensation rather than squashing it, we access our ability to let it inform and change us…This is me feeling this, doing this.” IIn the internal world of breath and sensation we claim supported time to listen to heart talk and witness emotion flow. And travel upstairs to watch mental rambling, catch the pauses, be gifted with insight flashes maybe. “This is me feeling this, doing this.”

On the mat, on the dance floor, we continue our exploration of relational belly instincts. In the Enneagram world, this internal self-knowing instinct is called self-preservation because we need to know what is going on in there in order to survive. For some of us, the invitation to stay inside, to not take a partner, to station ourselves within, will be so welcome, so easy. For others, staying internal for five minutes is a huge challenge. For some of us, this instinct might dominate, making intimacy or a sense of belonging relatively challenging. For some of us, this instinct is a blind spot, making basic grounded physical survival more difficult than it needs to be. For all of us, practice shines the light of awareness on this relational instinct and brings it into balance with the other two.

Eleven days until Movement as Medicine. I am inviting you to the social media world to help us spread the word. You can use Facebook to invite your friends to this event. So easy: click here: then click on Invite Friends and do it. Please. Purchase your ticket on line now to save $5.00 off the door price. Entrance for a family of three or more is $40 at the door; students/low income $15 at the door. The raffle is becoming a big draw! In addition to great bodywork sessions, we have two weeks unlimited at It’s All Yoga & a 10 class Sunday Sweat Your Prayers Card, a Lululeman yoga mat and (are you ready?) an iPod Nano full of Bella Waves. Come enjoy an afternoon of spirited FUNdraising. Can’t come? Please DONATE here.

Rumi says “Why not wake up this morning?”

This is me feeling this, doing this, sending you love…bella

What are your thoughts on teaching, being a yoga teacher, or your desire to be a yoga teacher now compared to before you started this program?

This part of the journey was so unexpected for me. I came into the training at a moment of transition in teaching yoga . On purpose. I had been teaching a Monday morning yang yin class for six years. I loved my students and I loved teaching for the way it pushed me to explore the edges of my practice and challenged me to pull that together week after week in a coherent way. I learned so much from teaching. What I noticed in the last year of teaching was that my home practice kept pulling to meditation and yin and, though I was devoted to taking yang classes, I had to push my home practice toward yang in order to teach Monday morning. For this and many other reasons it was time to leave that particular studio and the start of the training seemed like the best way to make this break.

Over the course of these studious months, I uncovered an unconscious motivation to take this training. Somehow, on some level, I felt this would “clean up” my home practice, give me the kick in the butt I needed to do the real yoga, the yang that I loved to take would become more integral to my home practice. And, despite a resistant beginning of clinging to my old comfortable ways, this has actually occurred. There was just no getting around those four asana work sheets that had to be completed every two weeks. They pulled me on to my mat for an active exploration and I actually loved it. I have gone to places in arm balances and inversions that were never available to me before.

Concurrent with all this study, I continued to teach the Letting Go workshops I have taught for so long. I began to really recognize how much I loved this form of teaching, how easy it came to me, how naturally I was drawn to practice the elements of this body of work, how much it continues to spurn my creative fire. I can’t wait til there is time to work on the next edition of the book. I watched myself teach several workshops without any notes or planning, seeing who was in the room, what they needed and just offering it up in a totally integrated way.

I woke up one day wondering why I thought teaching had to be challenging, wondering what it would be like to teach a weekly class from a place of unconscious competence. And then I turned 63 a couple weeks ago. There was something about this birthday that opened up the door to ease and I am standing on the transom right now and I am interested. Somewhere deep inside I know it is time to shape my life toward ease. Learning and creating are one thing, challenge and struggle are something else. Feeling like I am enough is like putting on a new suit of clothes. It feels shiny and crinkly, not worn in, not quite fitting to the shape of me yet. But I am putting this new outfit on. The old one is laying on the floor and I still feel vaguely guilty when I look down at it. Time to let go.

The question is: What, most simply, can you surrender to this week? Maybe program related, maybe not.

This week I had to write a bio and did a list of writing prompts to get me started. “Where can we find you when you’re not working? What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend or a Sunday afternoon?” I was whizzing right along and waxing eloquent on all the previous questions about my work until I stopped cold at this one. I pondered, I tried to recollect what I liked to do before I got this busy. In my kinder moments around this question, I celebrated the fact that I love my work, how it is incredibly woven into the fabric of my life, that a big part of my community is students and other teachers. How beautiful to be so in love with my work!

But after this kinder moment came a slide into despair as I realized that my busy-ness has totally stolen my “free” time for a snuggle up with a good book, getting my hands and feet packed with dirt digging in the garden, cooking up something totally impromptu in my robin’s egg blue kitchen, wind whipping by me on a bike cruise, a quiet pause of me and nature and breath and nothing else to do. And how the moments I cherish the most and seem to have so little time for have everything to do with family: a walk in the park with hubbie, grandbaby’s hand nesting in mine, my son building me some sushi, my daughter and I sharing a rare moment alone on the couch, a phone call ending with “I love you” from my dad.

So what I wish to surrender to this week, this month, this summer, what the heck—forever, is an attentive practice of pausing, of taking each moment for the precious work of art that it is, of getting my priorities back in order. I knew that when I signed on for this teacher training it would demand a shift. I have absolutely adored the weekends and the homework, the deep dive into a home practice that blossomed into a life of its own. Invaluable, precious, just what the doctor ordered. And the pendulum is very ready to swing back toward the middle and I am ready to surrender to this swing.

Blog 2 – We had a very full weekend – what is still lingering, resonating, buzzing?

We spent three hours Friday night with an aruvedic practitioner, not my first exposure to this unique medical slant. Love to consider nutrition an integral step on the optimal health pathway and my personal approach has been moderation, balanced diet, as much local and organic as possible. I have done raw, done vegetarian, done vegan…for spurts of time….always come back to the middle ground. I am such a foodie, love my creative time in kitchen and garden, was totally born into it, both of my children are total cooks…it is just a huge part of my life.

So when someone suggests taking a look with a different perspective I watch myself be intrigued and be in total resistance at the same time. This little character who likes to hide behind the curtain and peek out, afraid to commit lest something will have to change in my precious ordered existence. I count on my native animal instinct for nourishment choices and the whole idea of questioning my intuition bugs me, that somehow what I am drawn to is the worst thing for me. The whole concept of “like increases like” begs a re-frame of intuition. Maybe I have to corral my intuition and point it in the direction of balance. Novel concept. Maybe our intuitive eating takes us out of balance, that yoga needs to counter our instincts, that knowing what is good for us and acting (eating) otherwise is the root of disease.

“Prajnaparadha” is the Sanskrit term for “crime against wisdom”, our very human propensity to choose against what we know is right. I didn’t know there was a term for this. It has been a topic of discussion with my patients and students for years. I watch my own tendencies to know what I need to do on the mat and then turn the other way and choose to not do it. There is nothing wrong here, it is the way we are built, and being in observation of it, being gentle with ourselves in that moment, not getting out the whips and chains…I know this is the only compassionate response that will eventually deliver us to what we need.

So many things to consider in diet that are “crimes against wisdom” and what I have taken on this week, what so obviously cools the fires of digestion (why would we want to do that?) and what I have always been drawn to for cooling my own fire….iced beverages. A big aruvedic no-no. That makes sense in a back door intuitive kind of way.

I was supposed to blog about what was outstanding from the anatomy lesson on Sunday but I had to miss this weekend of training. California Spirit Fest was simply amazing and I missed the camaraderie and stimulating learning that has become part of my life since early in January. So this blog reflects the three qustions I answered about svadhyaya—the niyama that encourages us to take on self-study as a lifelong habit.


a) This teacher training is a beautiful well-mapped road in self study. Svadhyaya is my nature and has been as far back as I can remember. I have self-reflective poems from when I was ten years old, philosophical book reports from way back and a memory of deep listening to and reading from Baba Ram Dass well when I was but 18 years old. I don’t feel the need to make a plan for continuing education for when we are done with this course work because I will always be sniffing around for the next attention puller. That being said, it would be really useful to pull each asana sheet out and keep honing it. I dig around and find what is ringing true in my personal unfolding and that investigation becomes in service to what will come forth in the classroom. Each week in this current chakra journey has been like that. Now that we have really rooted into that instinctual survival, that ancestral lineage, and discovered the 2 bellies–tender & powerful—I wasn’t sure where to go with anahata. But during the memorial service in Sedona, I felt how the free flow of emotions happens when the heart channel is clear. That all the stuff that brews in 2 and seeks expression in 3 needs to funnel through 4 unabated—no forcing, no holding back, the way it is with children (thank you Rilke). I never quite felt it like this before; I could circle the chakras 50 more times and keep learning. Same with the yamas/niyamas. For me the key is keeping my awareness perspective all inclusive and broad. That way when something grabs my attention, I can naturally zero in and investigate.

b) I suppose I really don’t have much patience for super-challenging writing so I looked for a sutra translation more spoon-feeding nature. I am more interested in getting the basics, just enough to send me on my way to feel what is in it for me. Too much information or information I cannot really access frustrates me. I appreciated Mary Paffard’s out of the box slant on the sutras that challenged me to take on a new perspective, a great source of inspiration.

c) My deepest teacher of the last dozen years has been Gabrielle and even in her death, she continues to inspire me. She was never someone I was close to, a very private person, holding herself distant to most students, though not all. There was a clique-like atmosphere around her, an edginess, a danger I was aware of, did not know what it was really about but it drew me in, along with the substance of the teaching. I had been a good girl a long time and this wicked sensibility really intrigued me. Now in her passing the information is tumbling out and it is all much more clear and every day she becomes more and more human. I went through some real anger (and still am moving through that) along with deep sadness and there is a healthy dose of fear about the future. All of this unraveling has paralleled this training…quite interesting. So I would have to say that she was so NOT a serve it up on a plate teacher. She kept you moving until you were so fucking empty that whatever emerged had to be your authentic truth because nothing else was possible. I am grateful for the hours and hours I spent under her careful tutelage but none of them were simple or easy or spoon fed—every moment was held in the spirit of investigation, she was part of the circle of trackers, no one was in the middle or at the top. She took the life long seeker that I was, stripped away a lot of the baggage, amped up my awareness, honed my attention, crafted a keen witness and set me free. Grateful.