Plant medicine…trending way to politely reference pychotropic drugs.  We are so creative with our euphemisms.  Back in the day…well, I digress.  But I’ve been steeped in plant medicine this week. Not the kind of plant medicine one might call in, but medicine all the same.  You’re lucky if you’ve never been gifted an excruciating brush with poison oak.

By the time of the scheduled appointment made after a worried night, I figured out what it was.  Slow painful onset, fifth bout in 30 years, must have been that American River hike to see the salmon running.  How it landed on my upper chest, neck and lower face I’ll never know.  And other assorted random locations.  Doc prescribed a 21 day course of prednisone and this initiated days of listening deeply. Every bone in my body screamed a resounding NO to this intervention.  Felt like my body needed to expel, not repress, this toxin.

Days and nights of listening.  Attentively.  To what my body needed.  At first, hot compresses eased the itch, seemed to draw the toxins out.  As the rash began weeping, it became all about cold.  Listening attentively, trusting what emerged. When the skin turned all red and scaly and dry it was all about hydration.  With what?  Listening attentively.  Trusting.  Back and forth between avocado oil laced with tea tree and Aquaphor.

There has been no lack of advice from well-wishers.  And the internet is chock full.  But this plant medicine had something it wanted me to learn for myself and so I have surrendered.  It wanted me to spiral back again to the holy trinity.  It wanted me to remember that what is true for the body is almost always true for the holy trinity.  When we listen attentively to what our bodies need and trust what emerges we’re often spot on.  Same for when we deeply heart attune and trust what is revealed.  When we meditate, attend to what our mind is up to, even the looping obsessive stuff, we can trust twin jewels of insight and intuition that sometimes emerge.

When we listen attentively and trust what emerges from the holy trinity—body, heart, mind—we’re delivered to a destiny that is truly ours.  We’ve laid the groundwork that might open us to divine guidance so we can trust spirit to lead the way. It all starts with these precious vessels we’ve been dealt, with all their unique challenges and quirks and special needs.  Let’s take a listen together this week and trust what emerges.  I don’t know any other way for healing to happen.

Love, Bella

In a year when much has been lost, we turn to gratitude Thursday.  We give thanks for all we still have.  Which is what I really want to write about this morning.  But first this invitation.   I bet you have food on your table.  Probably in abundance.

“It’s such a critical time in food access.
Food security is a top priority for every community.”
Nicole McNeely, executive director of a food bank

Everything about food moves me and the suffering due to lack calls me to action.  Please join me Thursday morning at 10:00 for Basic Essentials…to feed the hungry.  While we practice, while we remember all that we still have, 100% of proceeds will go directly to Run to Feed the Hungry. So where food is critically needed, there will be food on the table.  Thank you for joining me.  And now a word about what we still have….

The Holidays.  A phrase layered with a weird combination of joy and foreboding in this special year. Traditions steeped in childhood and layered through ensuing decades usually shepherd us through these coming weeks.  A time of year when each day dawns darker and colder than the last.  Checking in…how you doing with all this out there in weird-ville?

This is where I turn all Zen on you, since it appears we’re all enrolled in the same unique school.  A school repeatedly testing us on our connection with form.  A task-master demanding we watch the forms we have counted on dissolve.  Again and again and again.  I’ve had more practice letting go and being with disappointment than I ever dreamed possible.  Take something as straight up as The Holidays.

Don’t gather with your family indoors.  Don’t gather to worship.  Don’t get on an airplane.  Don’t go to parties.  Don’t go shopping.  Re-think how to cook and share your favorites with loved ones.  Wonder about gift giving.  Don’t even think about intimate gatherings to sing or dance or just hang out by the fire.  In other words: give up tried and true forms.

I’m not addressing those folks who think all these new fangled rules are political in origin, meant to infringe on precious personal freedom.  That would be a different essay.  I’m talking to you intelligent but exhausted people.  Am I the only one who feels this undercurrent of desperate spinning wheels?  This anguished struggle to hold on to old forms, even if it means risking the health and life of people we love the most?

In the absence of tried and true old forms, what do we have left?  Maybe my vision is clouded but from where I sit, I see only two possibilities: create new forms or get comfortable with the formless.  We can count the amazing array of ways we’ve invented new forms.  You only have to look as far as Zoom space to see something we never would have envisioned a year ago.  Multiply that by a hundred.  The creative juices have been astounding in so many areas of our lives.

But in our rush to keep going, in our American can-do-it-ness, we could miss a big lesson offered in the curriculum of this mass cultural Zen training.  Perhaps this is our time to viscerally learn what formlessness means. Not the hypothetical notion of emptiness, but emptiness itself.  Not the intellectual understanding about being with things exactly as they are, but the nitty-gritty experience of equanimity.

So my question today is this:  what has value that is also formless?  When we strip away exterior constructs, some really juicy stuff patiently awaits.  Ineffable, ephemeral, indescribable….maybe this is the surprise blessing of living in weird-ville.  When we peel away the hoopla and tinsel and razzle-dazzle from The Holidays we find the formless treasures that were always there. The foundational sensibility supporting the spirit of this season.

Breath is formless.  Presence is formless.  Love is formless.  When we release our slavery to form, these jewels can really shine.  Can’t you feel this?  Isn’t this what we want to share with each other?  In whatever way is safely possible?  And so I ask…what is hidden underneath all the complex structures and forms historically laid down over our lifetimes?  What remains?  What is formlessly asking to be recognized?

When we get quiet enough, when we bring our focus to the internal weather, when we bravely stay with…the formless is revealed.  Come practice with me on Thursday and Sunday this week.  It’s so close right now you can touch it.

Love, Bella

On my way to an inquiry about fully inhabiting the power of being, I was kidnapped by the word fluency. I’ve taught classes aplenty on the rhythm of flow.  I wanted another way in, a quality more all encompassing than feminine, circles, receptive, earth, interior, dark, inhale, continuous, weighted.  I kept obsessing on the word fluency, felt like a somatic expression of the power of being.  A being deeply in touch with their internal weather—breath, sensation, shifty feelings, looping thoughts—and fluently able to enter the external, the slipstream of human and earth events. You’ve seen beings in full possession of this quality.  They confidently glide through any space they occupy, 360 degree aware of the full surround. Fluent.

This delivered me to fluency in language.  Which is the ability to both express AND understand. And this notion transported me to influence.  I had us partner on the dance floor.  From the power of our own being, one person influential, the other being influenced.  A conversation.  Fluency is essential for true give and take dialogue. In this process our bodies grasped something sorely needed in this crazy polarized culture.  The ability to be influenced or be influential depends with whom you are talking these days.

This personal love affair with words was mined a couple days ago by Holly Holt , friend and fellow teacher.  She’s passionate about writing and is all about fostering the writer in us all.  To help meet that vision, she’s talking to women who write.  Women who cannot help but write.   I agreed to the interview because I adore that mission and 100% support her in it.  But I also knew there might be some pearls from this guided conversation.  I was not disappointed.

My first poem was penned at age seven, a plea to the tooth fairy. A poem that initiated a lifelong stream of verse.   And there was that diary I kept from eight to eighteen, relinquished to the trash bin in a raging fit of embarrassment.  Sigh.  And forty years of journals dating from 1970. A woman who cannot help but write. In 2005 I started this newsletter as an informational communication of my offerings as I transitioned from clinical practice to brave worlds unknown.

But toward the end of 2011 those private journal entries ceased. I must have sensed that lodged in all that off-the-record vulnerability there were musings to reach an audience I cared about.  This crossover to more personal disclosure was never a conscious decision, just a slow roll over. Didn’t start saving posts until 2013.  I just finished categorizing some of them for the new web site in Recent Revelations.

But the interview set me to wondering. Has my writing changed, lost its candor through its link to my public work in the world?  Has utilizing my writing to beat the drum about my work altered it?  In some weird way this question relates to my soup restaurant dream. Will monetizing my love of cooking change how I feel about being in the kitchen? The interview floated me all around this question and also showed me how tightly woven word love and embodied practice are confluent in me. Confluent.  Love of word, love of body…inseparable.

This age old word love of mine.  Its inextricable tie to embodiment.  This compulsion to pour sensation, feeling and thought into the written form. The revelations that come down the pike as word meets movement, as movement meets word.  Language interwoven with bones and breath and blood.  I’m dropping the worry about my writing being adversely affected.  Of course it’s impacted.  And that’s a good thing.

My private journaling was always about documenting experience and exploring what I was feeling.  I needed to write to know.  This here?  Same.  Except that because you are out there reading, the writing adventure is amplified, deepened, enriched.  Thank you for that.

I absolutely adored being with you last Saturday to trial run Dance Essentials: roll, dance stretch.  So much so that it’s re-scheduled for December 12.  If you have yet to enter the world of Essentials, this coming Saturday is perfect: a slow two hour cruise through release, tone, stretch.  Opportunity to feel so much…including fluent.

Love, Bella

P.S.  An inquiry about foot pain motivated the short video below.  Physical therapy via Zoom works amazingly well to address this oh so common challenge.  Don’t suffer with that one! Let’s do it.

All last week I waited.  Paralyzed.  Obsessed by a future hanging in the balance.  Where were you Saturday when the election news came down?  I bet we’ll always remember.  I was buying poblano peppers at the Ferry Building Market in San Francisco.  A sun drenched crowd erupted in spontaneous acclaim.  I love California.

The three day time warp that has since passed highlights a recurring personal reality.   Though I wish I could be a more transcendent being, the dread of waiting never spontaneously shifts to the joy of get-up-and-go.  I watched the impromptu celebrations across the globe, an observer of elation.  I could not feel it.

I danced in the garden Sunday morning, utterly present to moments of community jubilation.  I could not authentically get on board.  I wept into the grass. Four years of tonnage, magnified by the massive load of these last eight months, has talons firmly hooked into my back body. So much weight pulling me under.  It was blister cold out there, wind plucking leaves off ever-willing trees.  I did my best to surrender like that, released a big hunk of burden under a witnessing sky.  As much as I could through the power of practice.  It felt infinitesimal compared to the millstone remaining.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing the effects of unrelenting trauma.  Trauma that is not going to resolve itself just because the current political drama has potential to improve.  When a tidal wave of world and human events is this formidable, what’s a body to do?  How do we honor the truth of our internal experience and not resist or hide or freeze?  How do we stay in the moving current and continue to ride with the flow?

I wish there was some magic bullet to offer here.  Time.  It will pass.  And as it does we do what we must.  Breathe.  Stay present.  Feel.  Tell the truth.  Move.  Connect.  Repeat.  I have a fair degree of discipline, yet I cannot do this alone all the time.  I also need to do all this with you.  I need both.  This week we have five times to do this together.  You know about virtual Essentials Thursday and Friday morning.  You know we have a committed group moving together live on Wednesday night.  You know about Sundays, virtual and live.

What you don’t know about is this Saturday morning’s Dance Essentials (info at page bottom).  I’ve never done this on Zoom before.  This is a total trial run, a free offering, a let’s give it a whirl and see if we like it kind of thing.  This is 90 minutes of what is often my personal studio practice.  Awesome music playing, foam rolling and tennis ball-ing, breathing and feeling together.  Then we get up and dance awhile, enjoy fluid, expressive, shaking it all out bodies, hearts, minds.  Then we stretch it all loose and long together and finally drop into full surrender rest.  Details on equipment for class. Yum.  I hope you can join me.

So, O.K., no magic bullets.  But check this out: take thirty seconds to open your mouth and make some random sound as you wiggle your jaw around. Add in vigorously shaking your hands and stamping your feet.  Pause.  What is that remarkable sensation?  That is life force.  And it’s moving through you.  Imagine a 90 minute practice.  Let’s do it.

Love, Bella

Friday morning.  Sitting fireside.  Feeling more hopeful than I have in a week.  Sensing how long the road is in front of us.  Mega healing and repair.  Uncertainty.  Despair.  Exhaustion.

So many presidential elections under my belt…never have I felt like this.  Closest memory is when my youthful exuberance suffered a head on collision with the landslide defeat of McGovern in 1972.  Echoed by the shocking blindside four years ago.

But this.  We arrived at 2020 already weakened by a multitude of increasingly numbing onslaughts peppering the previous three years.  I don’t need to hash over all that’s come down since March.  We are all wading through it on a daily basis.  Dare we hope?

Waiting.  Waiting with my loved ones.  Waiting with you.  Anchoring myself in the only ways I know.  Deeply leaning into and fostering daily human connection.  Practice on the mat, on the dance floor…especially with community.  Cooking more than I ever have, from scratch every day.  Obsessively tending my garden and yard.  Walking the neighborhood, tracking the seasonal changes.  Immersing in nature with regularity.

Since July I kept some of my energetic creative fires burning by designing a new website that includes this on line world.  It finally rolled out last week.  In twenty years, its probably my fifth site.  Feels like the culmination of a lifetime of work that for maybe the first time fully represents who I am and the work I do in the world.

Maybe because for the first time that feels entirely clear to me.  Inspired medicine through movement.  Online and in person physical therapy, yoga and dance sessions for deep healing.  In a nutshell.  Please cruise around this easy to navigate landscape.  Let me know what moves you.  I sense that these next few months are going to continue to be challenging to bear.  Somehow the burden is light when we are together.

Love, Bella

Jeanne Lohmann’s poem What The Day Gives inspired me, gave voice to what has been astonishing me all week. I hope this serve as inspiration for you this morning. Her poem is interspersed in this musing:

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder
in the middle of gray November
what I hoped to do comes back, asking.

Hope snuck in the back door, boldly laid claim to a place on my lap a couple weeks ago. At first, and more than once, I booted her off from this valuable real estate, territory that despair has occupied for months. Every Buddhist bone in my body warned about the sneaky seductive power of hope. The wily way she steals the present moment from the indulgently unaware. The way she woos her worshippers into wasting time in the milky way of the future.

Across the street the fiery trees hold onto their leaves,
red and gold in the final months of this unfinished year,
they offer blazing riddles.

Hope persistently crept back in. So I resorted to denial. I know what it feels like to have hope dashed. And I did not want to go there. Ever again. But each time she reinstated herself in the crook of my hips, a flush of delight warmed through me. And that sweet rush of optimism? That was not happening in the future. That was a feeling totally present in the current moment.

In the frozen fields of my life there are no shortcuts to spring,
but stories of great birds in migration
carrying small ones on their backs,
predators flying next to warblers they would, in a different season, eat.

And so in classes every day from Wednesday until Sunday I explored this possibility with you. And you. And you. And it seems I am not alone in this wishful sensibility. What arose from the collective in the Sunday closing circle is that everything is changing and it is reasonable to believe that things could get better. Why not? Rebecca Solnit, exploring this theme in her book Hope In The Dark, feels that “hope is a function of uncertainty, of not-knowing …a longing for change, experienced in necessary ignorance of when that change will come or what form it will take.”

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world
that plunges in a single day from despair to hope and back again,
I commend my life to Ruskin’s difficult duty of delight,
and to that most beautiful form of courage, to be happy.

When I returned home Sunday, sweet hubby was creating the lawn sign pictured above. I let hope rest in my lap for the balance of the day. She’s still hanging around this morning creating a glow of warmth on this cold and windy autumn morning. She took this poetry out of her wonder pocket and reminded me of words from Emily Dickinson that I offer in closing.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Let’s take a deep breath in together right here. Inspiration as vehicle of hope. Inhale once more, invite possibility. Maybe hope can sit right next to despair. But I bet that only hope is the one singing a tune without words. I hope we can practice together somewhere this week. Space for a couple more to be live with us at Clara this Wednesday night. Essentials Thursday and Friday morning. Live or Zoom for the Sunday Sweat.

Love, bella

On Saturday nights, Social Distance Theater has been holding parking lot converted to courtyard space in a funky 25th & R warehouse complex. Pre-pandemic it housed two theaters, the Poetry Center and various workshop rooms.  Now it is an outdoor haven for live musicians to offer their craft to a few scattered patrons in the balm of a Sacramento summer night.  What will happen when winter hems us in?
 
Last week I listened to both artists passionately speak about how meaningful being with a live audience has been.  How their artistry depends on the dynamic interplay between audience and performer.  How fused artistic creation is to feeling response, seeing expression, hearing applause, sharing laughter.  How our co-joined living breathing humanity literally sets the stage for music to unfold.  These testimonials pierced me, helped me name another piece of what has gone missing for me. 
 
Listening to live music, sharing the experience with an audience…yes, of course.  But on a personal level, I miss live teaching in a similar way.  Yes, we’ve been live intermittent Sunday mornings—as temperature and air quality allow—since July.  So grateful for the space and opportunity.  This experience, this interesting juncture of practice and the great outdoors, has served to deepen my recognition of the value of enclosed space.  There is nothing like a dedicated four walls to focus attention and limit distraction.  It is beautiful to be with the sky and the grass and the trees.  And there is a reason that most meditation practice is seated on a cushion, often with closed eyes.
 
I want to facilitate group practice within four walls again.  And I feel just like those passionate musicians as I anticipate 5Rhythms return to Clara on Wednesday nights.  For now, restrictions have lifted in such a way that allows us to show up live with limited numbers and several precautions. 

It takes discipline to be a free spirit.”  Gabrielle Roth

I feel the responsibility to insure public health on my shoulders.  And it feels like a responsibility I have carried a long time…willingly. We are all approaching how to be with this unique challenge each in our own way.  There is no right and no wrong.  To insure safety, this will be a committed group of dancers willing to take these precautions. Maybe you are feeling the call to venture out and see what’s possible and maybe this feels right for you.  These are the details to consider:

When:  Oct. 28-Dec 16              6:30-8:30pm 
Cost: $140 for 8 weeks. Payment in full due to hold your spot. 
The Rules: Temperature taken at the door.  Dancers must wear mask in lobby and auditorium and maintain 6ft physical distance while dancing. 
The Conditions:  Doors to lobby and parking lot remain open during our time together.  Wear layers.  A fan will be blowing air toward the doors.  We will not be simulcasting on ZOOM. 
The Numbers: We need a minimum of 8 committed dancers to move forward with this plan.  We can accommodate a maximum of 12.   We will assess returning to Clara January 2021 if we do not reach the minimum.  To create a safe container, drop-in is NOT available.  If you decide to join us in this commitment and our 8 minimum is not reached, you’ll be issued a refund.  If county returns to shelter-in-place status during our committed series, we’ll complete the series on Zoom. 
 
We left Clara abruptly in March, not even knowing it was the last time.  On Saturday Majica and I opened the doors and felt all that we have been missing as we danced a spontaneous wave.  I guess it’s pretty obvious that this opportunity to once again dance in community at Clara completely lights me up.  Just the dream feels so incredible to hold.  And my partner in all things dance feels exactly the same.  We are beyond excited to extend this invitation to you.  Click here and scroll down to reserve your spot with us.

Love, Bella

Six months ago on Mother’s Day my daughter gave me a special gift: StoryWorth.  Every week a question comes to my in my inbox and I write a story, often a family memory.  At the end of the year 52 stories will be compiled in a book.  I’m half way through creating this family heirloom.  It has been delightful.  This week’s question was “What are some of your special talents?”  I know you readers have them.  How would you answer this?  My writing here has seemed so heavy of late.  These are hard times.  Since my response was pertinent to my current work, and it felt light and easy, I decided to share it here.  I hope you enjoy.
 
I was gifted with a few special talents.  A natural ability to find my way with ease around any kitchen and produce something yummy to eat.  An instinctual understanding of the inner workings of my own body and therefore other bodies.  An organic dance response to just about anything with a beat.   A natural sense of direction and a trust in my earth connection that yields total comfort with the great outdoors.  These are skills I’ve taken for granted nearly my whole life.  But the talent that surprised me late in life, the skill that is only twenty years new, is my ability to DJ.  Who knew? 
 
Within a few months of dancing 5Rhythms I became super-curious about what music at home would support my practice.  I started to notice what tracks worked in each rhythm.  When I asked my local teacher about how he chose music, his answer was so simple. Anything he loved to move to was game AND counting beats helped him categorize songs.  With those two sage pieces of advice I was transported to a world I never knew existed. 
 
It was all about CDs back then.  There was a man in my community with an incredible world music collection.  Every Tuesday night I came to dance he’d gift me another handful he’d meticulously copied.  Each CD was encased in a sleeve handwritten with all the tracks and artists. He methodically journeyed me all the way through Africa, Europe and Asia and then ended with a Native American dive.  I am eternally grateful for his patient, freely given education. I ended up with four giant black notebooks chock full of hundreds of discs.  
 
It was a new kind of heaven when I entered our front bedroom with the emptiest floor.  While I listened, moved, felt, beat-counted and catalogued, time stood still.  Three or four hours would pass and I would emerge bewildered about where the time had gone. It was as close to obsessed as I have ever been.  My lifelong avid reader habit completely halted for five solid years.   In my spare time, all I wanted to do was music immerse.  I would spend hours at our used CD store, The Beat.  It was such a satisfying thrill to discover new artists, new genres, new tracks.  
 
It wasn’t long before I realized I was not alone in this passion.  As I dove into a steady Bay area workshop diet I met other budding DJs.  Pretty soon all those CDs were history when it all switched to mp3 files.  We would gather with our laptop computers and pass memory sticks around.  For me, there is great joy and satisfaction in dancing to something brand new, something I have never moved to before.  This semi-addiction keeps it’s energy alive by generating a sense of never enough-ness.  Can be a bit crazy-making.  
 
It still keeps me super-engaged but it has definitely lost the compulsive hold.  My ears, my heart, my hips are finely tuned by twenty years of collecting.  Once I started using the music to support facilitation it got more organized.  My library is arranged into folders: each rhythm, transitions between rhythms, body parts, tribal, repetition, voice-over, lyrics, instrumental, drumming.  I used to count beats but now I have a beat counter.   There are FaceBook pages for teachers to virtually gather and share their new favorites or ask for music to support particular themes.  
 
Even though all these years of development make pulling together a playlist second nature, I adore this work.  It requires me to be still, feel what is alive inside me, start moving with whatever it is to formulate a theme, a thread that holds the wave together.  As I begin to piece it, I feel it develop a life influenced by music I select.  Like a detective,  I seek just the right next track.  So satisfying to land it and routinely surprising when live with it, you realize it doesn’t work.  The folders allow me to create 100% on the fly and more importantly, this organization allows me to change “plans” (hah!) in the moment. I never know about the group animal beforehand.  The adrenaline rush is phenomenal sometimes. 
 
I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to cultivate an embryonic talent.  I truly believe we have many gifts that lie dormant.  I would love to know what you personally know about this topic.  What are some of your special talents?  Is there something you sense emerging?  Something that begs encouragement?  Maybe this unique hiatus, everything thrown up in the air, rearranging in a free fall—maybe this is the perfect time to consider this question.  Destruction and creation are so powerfully intertwined.  Let me know what you find.
 
Love, Bella
 

 

Seated with friends around a big table, sharing food, laughter, conversation.  From the outside, a scenario that appears entirely normal.  But now there are visible signs of change: this physical distance thing and safe dining etiquette and masks on-off and pandemic talk.  But still it pretty much looks like it used to.
 
On the inside, for me at least, things have radically shifted.  And from what I sense, social awkwardness is sharply rising for us all.  If you’ve been in the company of others and felt a queasy anxiety, maybe an alarming lack of tolerance, an unusual degree of hyper-vigilance, an adolescent oversensitivity…well, you’re not alone.  Social interplay is a complicated human skill.  In the course of even a short conversation we make multiple under-the-radar decisions based on language interpretation—both body and verbal language.  And we are getting rusty.
 
Maybe you’re lucky and not completely isolated.  You have a partner or a bubble or you’re an essential worker.  But we benefit more than we know from casual interactions: banter at the coffee shop, exchanges at the market, greeting the postman.  In our understandable quest to stay healthy, we’re developing social skill atrophy.  Not to mention the ways we’re routinely imprinting generalized fear around contact with other humans.
 
We are neurologically wired to crave company and human touch.  It’s a biological survival thing.  We were never meant to do this alone.  So we’re trying.  We reach out with our tech devices—Zoom or FaceTime—but we miss the whole body view and its barrel of meaningful social clues.  And these masks…I have new appreciation for the expressive genius of the bottom half of the face.  And texting.  Grateful for this convenient communication magic. But even pre-pandemic, it felt like wishful thinking, so far removed from real time, real heart-body presence.    
 
Loneliness is confusing and threatening to our nervous systems.  The isolation we are all experiencing manifests in ways we don’t even nail as loneliness.  Our response to this prolonged solitary confinement can come out sideways—irritability, melancholy, inertia, fury.  If we were hungry or thirsty we would do something about it.  But most of us are simply not getting the full range of human interaction we need for optimal health.  What to do?
 
I’m grateful to live with a good and understanding partner. I thought after fifty years our relationship had weathered every possible storm.  But this has challenged us in ways we’ve never experienced.  Leaning in to only one person does not work for me.  I try to insure some form of nourishing communication with someone other than this partner daily.   I take a squirt of WD-40 whenever wherever I can get it.  Masked eye connect and muffled hellos with strangers.  Luxurious phone chats with girlfriends. Funny or poignant text threads with my children. Zoom contact with dance and yoga students.  Unfortunately I find social media minimally satisfying.   And then there are those vibrant physical health boosts from face-to-face human connection.  The contrast with the tech-connect is stunningly obvious.

If you have found Zoom classes unsatisfying in comparison to the real deal, I’m with you. But it’s all we have right now and personally, I can feel the health benefit that is not just a product of the physical practice.  I feel so connected to those of you showing up.  With you I am learning how to harvest whatever is possible out of this beast.  And I am buoyed by every single session, even the ones with moments awkward or impossible or fraught.  Because I can feel how we are in it together and my nervous system thanks me each time.   I’ll be Zooming four times this week and I’m reaching out to you here for the sheer health of it.
 
Nobody knows what the future holds.  But there is a ton of research about prisoners in solitary confinement, soldiers on long deployments, scientists isolated on remote expeditions, astronauts circling for months in space.  All the findings indicate that re-entry, whatever that might mean here, will be unpredictable at best.  Return and adjustment following social isolation is universally problematic.  Isolation is one way our lives are in the process of being upended.  There are so many.  We are all changing in fundamental ways.  
 
In this holding zone period, in this nether world, we might prepare for the day we finally begin to gather.  With ourselves, with those we have the fortune to interact with on a regular basis: patient steadfastness, expansive curiosity, maybe the deepest well of kindness you have ever cultivated.  We need it now.  We’ll need it tomorrow.  We’ll need it for a long time coming.

Practicing right here: my fingers on this keyboard reaching across the ethers to yours.  Can you feel it?  Love, Bella

 

The physical practice of yoga captured my attention in 1971 at U.C.S.F. during my final physical therapy year.  A progressive instructor introduced it as an exercise modality and I fell in love with sun salutations at the same time I fell in love with anatomy.  When I moved to Sacramento after graduation there were no yoga studios, so I started my regular living room practice with Lilias Folan on PBS. 
 
In the ensuing years—marriage, work, travel, children—I dove in and out time and again.  Something kept pulling me back.  Finally enough spare time and a bounty of intrigue coincided in 2005 to pull me toward the Eastern principles foundational to this ancient practice.  I am aware of the conversation around cultural appropriation and, though nobody “owns” yoga, I am acknowledging yoga’s debt to the Hindu faith’s ancient traditions.  Yoga—the union of body and mind—is not about a mat or triangle pose or how to breathe.  Interestingly enough, those are relatively recent add-ons.  I’ve circled back around countless times, exploring the tenets of the complex eight-limbed philosophy. 
 
The first limb, the yamas, are the front door to the practice.  Not tree pose.  In this charged climate of personal uncertainty and cultural turmoil I find the yamas comforting guidance.   A concise map for human responsibility as I move in relationship with others and the global community.   And, of course, as I spend time with myself.  Wouldn’t you know that the very first of the five principles is kindness?   Do no harm. 
 
Life begins somewhere for all of us and I don’t know how yours began.  But there was a paucity of kindness in my early years.  Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word for this first belief, which translates as non-violence.  Unfortunately it’s opposite is much easier to spot these days.  We don’t have to look very far for alarming examples of cruelty, brutality, creation of mayhem.  It’s a bit more challenging to turn that lens inward and catch our own speech and actions. Moments of hostility, cynicism, impatience, vehemence—directed outward as well as inward. 
 
Practice reveals for us over and again that non-violence begins with numero uno.  We show up on the dance floor and the mat with all our tendencies.  What does it mean to act kindly to our own bodies?  To not push?  To do no harm?  What light does that behavior shed on how I conduct myself with my partner, the clerk at the Co-op, the earth under my feet?  It’s super-useful that the second tenet is satya—truth telling.  Here we are again with obvious opposites so apparent: little white lies, half truths, exaggeration, misinformation.
 
As I practice presence with whatever arises, if I pay attention and am willing to be honest, I know my foot hurts, my heart is aching, my mind is utterly confused or distracted or looping.  This self-knowledge, this honest assessment supports kindness—to myself, to you, to the world at large.  Despite our best intentions we’re pulled every day into behaviors less than optimal.  Ancient leashes tether and surprise us with their tenacity.  Showing up kind and honest 100% of the time is a beautiful and unrealistic expectation. 
 
I’m on to it right now and actively cultivating the pause.  There is a potent moment right before the words emerge or the action manifests.  Asking myself to slow down.  Take a breath.  Maybe silence or stillness is the best response.  Maybe there is a way to soften in the beat, in the heat.  Maybe it’s time to turn the other cheek.  Lucky me—my honor to embody and teach this marriage of ahimsa and satya four days in a row this last week.  Next yama? Asteya, which literally translates as not stealing.  We’ll see how it shows up Thurday and Friday morning on our mats. Envy, jealousy and greed are the oh-so-human signals that flash red when that yucky pit yawns before us.  Wednesday night we’ll dance in honor of the incredible minds that deliver us in and out of these pits.  Sunday Sweat?  Who knows?  Time will tell.
 
Closing with this Dalai Lama quote:
“Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.”
 
I hope we meet on mat or dance floor soon.  Until then, let’s be kind and give ourselves the break we deserve.  It’s hard out there, loves.  Let’s take a breath together right here…..❤️Bella