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

I opened the leather console abutting my driver’s seat and spied a lime green pouch I’d forgotten.  I knew what was in there.  I zipped it open and somberly withdrew three keys, each haphazardly labeled with the door it opened.  One for Centered—closed, another for Epic—-closed, a third for Clara—?.  Sigh.  Evidence again.  Everyday there is change.  The new normal is that there is no normal.
 
Studios in Sacramento where I used to teach have forever closed their doors. Each key in my hand represented an incredible bucket of love and energy and soul. Centered and Epic closed in the same week, their owners so beloved by me, dismantling everything they had painstakingly built.  Goodbye also to Yoga Solution where I taught every single Monday morning for six years.   Goodbye to Yoga Seed where I helped usher in countless new teachers through their training program. The third key is to Clara, hoping against hope it can survive, yearning to grace that floor again. Really feeling grief today around all this pervasive and overwhelming local loss.
 
In that puddle of loss, hoping to be lifted by Wide Open Walls, the local annual mural project, I meandered through downtown Sacramento.  Instead of a boost, I walked weeping on J Street surrounded by boarded up windows, litter and ash, the burgeoning homeless population.  More grief about how much we have lost in our hometown, utter sense of what I have taken for granted for nearly fifty years.
 
In the midst of this very personal, myopic erosion, I feel us on the national scale, ailing with deep and pervasive wounds, gaping in the light of this pandemic. From here, it takes only a moment to go global—7.8 billion of us, each with our own painful response to the massive changes happening on our planet.  I sat up in my studio with these changes, these symbolic keys that no longer open doors resting in my warm palm.  I tweaked the “fear of change and courage” altar from last week by carefully laying those keys with the rocks—pictured above.  I pulled out that Osho card deck again and asked, “What does it mean that all the spaces we moved in have vanished?”
 
I was stunned but not surprised to pull the Completion card:
 
“…In the finishing, we can either be in despair because we don’t want the situation to come to an end, or we can be grateful and accepting of the fact that life is full of endings and new beginnings…Use this interval to celebrate both—the end of the old and the coming of the new.”
 
Deftly shuffled in to all this change is completion, ending, conclusion.  Along with much that will begin, be initiated, arise.  And then there is this interval, time for us to be aware of both, feel the undercurrent of celebration even as we grieve.  Me?  I need dedicated moments to let all this in.  Otherwise the seductive distraction that can fill my days creates a barrier of numbness to this truth. 

A fellow 5Rhythms teacher reminded me of a forgotten moment.  Gabrielle had us gathered thirteen years ago in training, the field quiet, enraptured as it became at times.  She took a long pause and looked out seemingly at each and every one of us in that uncanny way she had.  “You’ll each have your moment when you realize that teaching is your salvation.”  I have felt that in different times.  This is definitely one of them.
 
On the mat, I’m leaning us into the yamas and niyamas, yoga’s ethical guidelines: last week non-violence, this week truth-telling—courage boosters bringing us together in practice.  Let’s dedicate some mat moments this week Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Some of those moments available Wednesday night—flesh out the heart: closed, open, half, whole, clear, doubtful, weak, strong.  Sweat some prayers Sunday morning.  I don’t know.  Maybe some of these dedicated moments will feel like your salvation as well.
 
Love, Bella
 
 

This world’s rocking us.  For a breath or two, feel that right here.  Just shift your weight right.  Feel the momentary relief of settling into “new normal” on one side.  Then feel the rug pulled out as you move left.  Don’t settle there.  Now shift right.  Back and forth.   Back and forth.  Until the rug pull itself is the “new normal.”  Keep rocking.  Keep rocking until maybe you just become the change itself. 
 
Living is all about change and teaching is such a metaphor for living.  After six months of continuous change, I’m aware of some deep resistance to all the shifts, even in my little teaching world.  Paralyzed sometimes. So I was surprised how deeply I treasured holding us in that sense of being rocked in Sunday Sweat Zoom-land.  It felt like maybe, just maybe, I finally entered the flow of human/earth events, moved with things exactly how they were, offered up what I could with the means in my possession.
 
What I had in my possession was a strong imprint of the previous day.  An evening on the smoke-filled north coast debating about traveling or scampering on home.  Body check: accelerated heartbeat, shallow breath, jumpy tense low back, butterfly belly, utter brain fog.  Classic sensations of fear.  Our body’s brilliant way of saying beware, be aware, listen, prepare for action.  I went to bed.
 
Rose early, entirely gut clear.  Get up, get packed, get home.  A couple tense route decision moments, pervasive dense smoke…but seven hours later we were at our doorstep.  Disappointed and grateful all wrapped together.  So it turns out I had all day Saturday to sink into Sunday’s teaching, curious what I might harvest from this experience. 
 
I put on music, moved to let in those memorable fear sensations.  Danced from confusion to clarity and back again.  Danced the difference between panic and calm, everything in between.  Felt shapes of dread and excitement, noticed how similar they can be.  Let my weight shift right left right left right left until I became the change. Moving faster than I could think, right in the flow of human/earth events.  The opposite of paralyzed, in resistance.  In no time it wasn’t about me anymore.  Tapped into the global, humanity unified in the face of our biggest fear, which might just be change.  Change itself.  Delivered finally to a felt sense of being watched over, protected, secure, safe at least in this moment.
 
Then I assembled the installation pictured above, inspired by these lines from this poem:
…all of our bones someday fall softly down to meet earth.
When you stand, send your roots down between the stones….
 
Altar complete, I pulled out my cards: “What do you have to tell me about fear and change?”  My left hand hovered over the spread deck a long time, one card shined, I pulled it.  COURAGE, a synchronistic place for it already present on the altar, a bridge connecting the two rock structures.  A  flower struggling to sprout skyward from between rocks.
 
And so on Sunday morning I held space for the intrepid Zoom voyagers to embody this journey from fear toward courage.  Maybe it’s a universal journey right now.  What exactly are we afraid of?  7.8 billion answers.  But might you too sense the embrace beneath our individual fears? Perhaps our deepest fear, the fear that unifies us all, is change. 
 
Somehow I feel like I’m on board for that now in a way that I wasn’t before.  Don’t get me wrong.  The shift is not making my life easy.  But a lot of energy can be expended on waiting.  And denial.  And resistance.  And paralysis.  I just need every available ounce for other stuff.  And what I get after this weekend’s experience is that some of that other stuff is teaching.  For the way it serves you, for sure.  But the leap I just made now happened because of the way teaching is serving me.  Funny thing…teaching. 

Carve out 5:15 Wednesday if you want support for dropping deep inside your body in a fresh new way.  Thursday and Friday 10:00 to drop in there in the most essential way.  Sunday Sweat 9:45—who knows what might be revealed?  The earth is rockin’ us; let’s rock together. 

So much love for the universe of us….Bella

I heard the term “collective effervescence” in a recent podcast and goose bumps rose on my skin.  It resonated utterly familiar but ironically unnamed.   We all know this: when the atmosphere magically crystallizes at a concert, a ballpark, a festival.  Durkheim, a French sociologist, coined the term in reference to religious gatherings.  He observed that song and rhythm connect people to create moments of unified transcendence.  Any shared experience of collective emotion unifies a group.
 
The goose bumps were quickly followed by tears as it dawned on me that we have not had this, you have not had this, I have not had this healing prescription in any form in six months.  We receive a vital medicine in live music venues, live theater, motion picture houses, houses of worship, crowd-filled celebrations. It happens in a yoga studio surrounded by embodied mat practitioners. Anywhere, anytime we authentically share an event with a group of fellow human beings, there is potential to generate collective effervescence.  Consider life as it used to be: where did you receive this medicine?
 
For me, what really hit home, where the deficit feels deeply jarring in its absence, is the reliable dose I received twice a week for twenty years on the dance floor.  Often more than that.  Not only have I not received, my skill in creating the experience for others has lain dormant.  What might surprise you is that the act of creating collective effervescence offers up double the medicinal dose. It is deeply unpleasant to be with my attachment to this, drift in and out of the pain of loss, acknowledge how my systemic health was regulated through this essential community practice.
 
Oh yes, we are dancing on Zoom.  Maybe you’ve danced with a Zoom community; maybe not.  I’ve heard more than my share of opinions about this experience from seasoned practitioners, but I only speak for myself here. It. Is. Not. The. Same. Zoom-land is always interesting, even intriguing.  Often frustrating. It tickles me how the technology has offered opportunity for those too shy or intimidated or scared to show up in person to dance. First ever experience on Zoom.  Amazing. Sometimes we move in our boxes and land in a shared zone of collective empathy.  Which has value in these times.  I know we are fortunate to have this technology; truly it offers us so much.  But it is a whole different animal than body-to body, face-to-face live and, at least for me, does not provide the collective medicine on which I deeply depend.  
 
Every summer we take a break from teaching Wednesday Waves and it was really good to stand in that tradition this year.  Time to feel into what had come to pass and wonder how we might shape the fall, given this new experiential base.  It’s a crazy world out there and we truly want to support you in staying aware, remaining awake, feeling alive and connected. Going into the pandemic, we felt blessed to lean into an established foothold in this transformative practice.  Somehow we have to find a way to move alone together through this strange chapter.
 
But right here I want to name the humongous elephant in the Zoom room: the glory of together—partner and communal—is pretty much on hold right now. The current on-line practice supports our relationship with numero uno, our interior dance.  Here’s the deal: if you’re a dancer who derives the most juice from taking a partner or bathing in the collective, this current practice will challenge you.  And maybe that’s just what you need.  Just a thought, who knows?  For those who delight in dancing in the corner, cringe when the invitation is to take a partner, this will definitely reinforce that preference.  It is what it is.
 
This fall we work with what is and flesh the internal exploration more fully.  5Rhythms is an exceptional map for that AND there are many other maps into that interior landscape. Both Majica and I have complementary skills we have been using in other formats uniquely applicable to the on-line experience. The rich world of art therapy, counseling, yoga and physical therapy combined with dance will illuminate our inner space. Alone together we’ll create a dynamic way to explore the body, open to feelings, become aware of thoughts. This is the map.  As body, heart, mind align, a portal reveals a gateway to soul and spirit. Alone together.
 
This is an invitation to move in uncharted territory, practice for life in a world changing so rapidly. This dynamic practice of presence is not only revelatory, but revolutionary.  It feels like it might be a matter of survival. Come with us as if your life depended on it and we’ll do this alone together.

And for now, the warm memory of collective effervescence will just have to be enough.  Love, Bella
 

Moving on my mat, the Tahoe earth held me last week.  When I rested, stretched out looking at trees and sky, a thought dropped into the empty space.  How does that happen?  But there it was: I’m smack dab in the midst of one crazy initiation into the eighth decade of life.  What a friggin’ absurd transition: decade change + pandemic.  I’m a meaning-making animal.  Maybe you are, too. What in the world could this juxtaposition signify? 
 
I continued to breathe. Soften. Open.  Until a precise teeter-totter balance came all over me, echoed in this ending line from Birdwings by Rumi:
 
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.

 
We spotted four eagles in our time there.  The teeter-totter of bird wings.  On one wing the vibrancy of life force moves through me, an omni-present will to live, dependable, energetically unstoppable.  Poised on the other wing? Utter willingness to let go, deep trust in the perfection of endings, curious lack of attachment to continuing this life.  Beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.
 
This foundational sensibility was paved two years ago.  Six months of dancing with illness instigated a realistic partnership with mortality. An alliance that fundamentally shifted me.  The confluence of this decade change with the no-end-in-sight pandemic has delivered mortality front and center again.  But this sense of will to live perfectly balanced with willingness to let go…that feels new and peacefully accurate as summer moves to fall. 
 
The teeter-totter of the seasons is on the horizon, fall equinox’s perfect balance of day and night.  All this corona trouble began at the other end, the last equinox. We’ve teetered together through two full seasons of trial and challenge.  I asked my Osho Tarot deck to offer guidance for the totter into these next two seasons.  And I drew the trust card. 
 
“There is a tremendous sense of exhilaration if we can take the jump
 and move into the unknown, even if the idea scares us to death…
the leap is the thing, the thrill as we free-fall through empty sky.”

 
Perhaps balance emerges side by side with trust.  What does it mean to trust my gut, hear the impulses that arise low down, align with them?  Can I trust this beating heart, tune into the whispery voice, not just the noisy one?  When’s the last time intuition guided me, do I trust those surprising thoughts that drop in the empty space?
 
I’m taking a couple weeks off from teaching.  Going to the Lost Coast.  Somehow that feels appropriate.  Sunday Sweat Your Prayers goes on without a break.  Thank goodness.  Wednesday Waves starts again September 9.  I’m excited, filled with that energetically unstoppable life force about what Majica and I are brewing up around that…more later.  Loving how we have travelled together through two full seasons and ready for Essentials to begin again September 17.
 
May this next week unfold beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.  Trusting that we’ll fly together soon….love, bella
 
 

Been thinking about resiliency.  The way we desperately need it right now.  What it takes to build it.  This gratitude-filled surprise to feel the most resilient I’ve ever felt in my life.  I kid you not.  Curious musing here about why that might be, starting with the dictionary definition.
 
Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape
 
Maybe this ability to recover quickly builds (or not) through negotiating the challenges and trials of childhood and young adulthood.  In middle age some of us tap that resilience reservoir and buckle down, get with the program.  Me?  I took the traditional road.  Before I could snap my fingers, I was immersed in the traditional trappings of mid-life: discovering how to live in a marriage, stumbling and fumbling through parenthood, signing my life away to a thirty year mortgage, negotiating career moves that morphed to entrepreneur-ship.  In retrospect all that doing looks daunting.  In the midst, I just kept moving through, deeply tapping reserves I didn’t even know had accumulated.
 
Perhaps resiliency multiplies in response to being mined.  Anyway, making it all the way to now wasn’t just resiliency; I had a ton of luck and an equal amount of privilege delivering me past the bounds of middle age.  It surprises me every day to be here.  And in this current crisis, the huge demands of middle age are magnified while ease is expanded for some elders.  I put myself in that category.

Still, when someone asks how I’m doing, what it’s like for me these crazy days, my answer depends on the moment.  If they really want to know, if they have a bit of time, I speak a truth full of ups and downs, suffering and freedom, struggle and surrender, anguish and surprise. To live in this chaos, to be present with this level of unknown, can exhaust us.

If you’re more tired than usual, you’re totally normal.  Our nervous systems are pushed beyond their comfort zones.  I’ve had my share of weariness.  But these months have been illuminating my ability to lean into a deep well of personal resilience.  A reserve built over a lifetime, and not just through the sheer act of making it through.  There is something more: the way I’ve consistently cared for myself over time is serving up a wallop of endurance, a stamina that feels uber-essential for survival in this chaos.

This Saturday’s Essential Recharge offers a practice for building resilience.  All these “R” words keep tumbling out of what’s in store for us in two hours of Recharge:
Reflexes: instinctual response to the moment, heightened with practice
Resilience: built through finding balance between power and fluidity
Release: step one, key to unleashing all that power and fluidity
Resourced: by the dynamic duo of subtle strength and soft surrender
Reverence: connecting us to a greater power than our own
 
Two hours to gently receive an introduction/refresh of all the essentials.  You choose how to follow up at home with access to real-time recording.  Bits and pieces you can dive into in the privacy of your home, on your timeline.  Here’s a quick YouTube video-shot of the territory we’ll cover on Saturday. 

If all this intrigues you and you want additional support, on-line classes begin again every Thursday and Friday morning starting September 17.  And I’m listening.  You have been talking to me, telling me the positive effects you are feeling from this practice.  Wow…who knew resiliency could feel this good.
 
Come feel with me…..❤️Bella
 
P.S.  Link to pre-enroll/donate for Essential Recharge is at the bottom of this page: Yoga On-Line.
 
 

On Mother’s Day this year, my astute and thoughtful daughter gifted me with StoryWorth, an ingenious writing program  encouraging family elders to tell the stories that comprise a life.  Each week I get a new prompt.  After 52 weeks StoryWorth binds the responses into a book.  Last week it was “How and when did you decide to have children?”  A few weeks before it was “Are you more like your father or your mother? In what ways?”
 
This mother/father inquiry was deep and long.  Offering a bit of an excerpt here because what emerged from this inquiry helped nudge me toward a process I have been steeped in these last few weeks.
 
“From my papa I received a fiery drive and the ambition to be successful. He modeled it 100%. It took him a decade while working full time to graduate with his engineering degree from UCLA. I remember sitting on the curb in the dark waiting for him to come home. He was gone so much of the time. Then he went on to USC, earning a masters in ocean engineering. Measured in time-devoted, his profession was more important to him than anything else. I have that tendency and have to pro-actively seek balance….

From my papa I am blessed with insatiable curiosity. It knows no bounds. The littlest things can intrigue the hell out of me and create desire to know more deeply. I think his drive was nourished by curiosity. His many re-starts and do-overs taught me that it is possible to start over, be interested in something new and follow it, change directions, turn on a dime, be spontaneous, trust your gut, go for it….

From my papa I not only learned how to teach but he gave me the leg up to become masterful at it. So many memories of him lying on the couch with one of my math or chemistry textbooks, patiently guiding me toward understanding. He just knew how to logically sequence any subject so that learning just happened…..”
 
The way our relationship healed over time, to be present with him as he passed in March, to receive a modest financial inheritance…to remember his qualities of curiosity, professional ambition and natural teaching ability…all of this led me to seize this strange moment to (once again) re-do the website.  It is five years old.  It amazes me to look at it, realize how much has changed—in me and the world—and feel the way what I do is not clearly defined by it any longer. 
 
And what do I do? Reality is one thing.  Articulating it is another.  Slowly the fullness of this picture has been emerging.  For twenty years I’ve been offering service rooted in  this sacred triangle:  you can meet me on the dance floor, on the mat or one-on-one.  And now it can also be virtual.  It does not matter where we meet…the journey is always moving in the same direction.  Aware.  Awake.  Alive.  Presence happens with practice. 
 
I offer transformative movement sessions that guide you on this path to presence.  A journey that always begins with your body.  You learn to listen to its language: breath and sensation.  This attention delivers you to your authentic emotions and thoughts.  With the support of moving meditation sessions, alignment of body, heart and mind come naturally.   And as this alignment unfolds, a portal to soul and spirit opens for each of us.   Soul?  Our unique purpose for being on this planet in this lifetime.  Soul speaks to why we are here, what we are meant to do in this precious lifetime.  Spirit?  Our connection with something way more vast than soul.  The power, the life force that connects and unifies us all. 
 
Our world is changing so rapidly.  A practice of presence is not only revelatory, it can be revolutionary.  Feeling lately that it could be a matter of survival. So I am inviting you to come with me as if your life depended on it.  Because maybe it does.   

See the links below to join me on this path to presence for three more August Essentials: Tuesday 18th Essentials, Friday 21st Deeper Being and Saturday’s two hour intro/refresh: Essential Recharge August 29 10:00-noon.  Essentials re-starts after Labor Day, the week of September 13.  Sunday Sweat Your Prayers is ongoing, does not miss a beat.  It was so beautiful to be, move, dance with you yesterday.
 
Embodied, feeling what is arising, noticing the narrative, clear about purpose, connected with spirit.  On the path to presence…
 
Love, Bella
 

This morning I woke in residual panic, breathlessness that remains when a call,  desperate to place, at last goes through.  My eyes wince softly in the spare morning light.  Long seconds pass before I realize I’ve been dreaming.  Funny how even strange dreams seem so banal at first glance.  Not this one.  I rose to capture the disappearing  wisps.
 
I wrap a complicated garment around my torso, struggling my right arm into a tight sleeve that ends in a silver-haired wolf head covering my small hand.  I wind the stole around me three times and slip my left arm into the narrow sleeve that ends in a long silver tail.  The whole crazy get up barely fits, yet it’s great oozy comfort to be swaddled like this.  I nest into the couch, relish a sense of being expertly held far away from the demands of the world.
 
Not for long.  Soon I’m surrounded by a bevy of admiring older women who discover there is more underneath: a finely woven delicate shirt, fancy embroidered belt pack, precious stones crafted into fabric, long leather boots.  The beautiful women are swarming, examining, commenting on every unique detail. 
 
With a start I remember a 6:30 special dinner date.  It is 7:15.  I struggle breathlessly to divest myself of these trappings, special as they are.  Sweating as I stuff the stones into my eyeglass holder and they spill all over.  It’s nigh impossible to yank my arms out of the sleeves.  I need to call my dinner companion.  My phone is full of precious stone data and will not work.  A young woman comes to the rescue, fixing my phone and loaning me hers. I am flooded with relief as I connect. I awaken.
 
Still in the hold of the dream, I climb the stairs to my studio and reach for the animal medicine book, opened many a time since received as gift in 1990.  I read about wolf medicine: two pages devoted to what I already know. Forerunner of new ideas returning to the clan to teach and share medicine.  Takes one mate for life and also has strong individualistic urge.  Moon is Wolf’s power ally—holder of secret knowledge/wisdom.  Howling at the moon is Wolf’s desire to connect with new ideas below the surface of consciousness.  Wolf helps others understand their unique path in life.  Wolf seeks out lonely places to find the teacher within, to find truth, looks for teachings no matter where she is.
 
Surely an apt description, a sign from my trusty subconscious to stay with what is arising, no questions asked when I howl at the moon and am gifted with new sensation, novel ways of knowing, heart-ful prescriptions.  At this point I’m not really drawn to look much beyond the boundaries of my own fur.  And I keep being called out into the lonely places.  Places where teachings show up in the depth of a meadow, in the mist of ocean spray, beneath slippery river rocks.  Places where wolf sniffs out wisdom.  Surely these sacred spaces shout more loudly than textbooks and wise teachers and philosophical readings.
 
Maybe you too are in wolf medicine time.  Perhaps current circumstances stimulate you to consider new notions, hidden wisdom, unique pathways, lessons from lonely places.  Curiosity along these lines is what often draws me to the mat, to the dance floor and to the treatment table.  I am learning right along with you how these places serve in different but still useful ways on-line.  From Medicine cards by Sams & Carson:
 
“To live is to grow, and growing comes through accepting all life forms as your teachers. 
Become Wolf, and take up the sense of adventure. 
You may stop howling and learn to become the moon.”
 
Let’s howl together in the field somewhere this week.  Love, Bella
 
 

Before I relate these two “called out” stories, I want to call you in.  Wanna drop in to a communal ritual of embodied healing? Give your body the love and care and nourishment it needs in order to thrive?  Essentials is there for you three Tuesdays in August: 4, 11, 18. I am totally ready to meet you on the mat. Bonus: recorded session available after each class.  Check the link for info, Zoom enroll, payment.
 
Calling out describes what happens when you stumble and fumble as you incorporate new skills and, if you’re lucky, someone cares enough to take time and considerable energy to bring your attention to bear.  So now for call out story #1.  Right after the George Floyd murder I was finding my way through ravaged mid-town Sacramento.  I snapped a picture of the heart-breaking “I can’t breathe” poster.  It was Saturday, the day before I was to hold a Sunday Sweat.  I used that photo on my Face Book page, a community reach to move and feel what was arising for each of us in this pivotal moment.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve held community in moments like this. Too many.
 
Two weeks later, a thoughtful colleague engaged me in conversation about the use of this BLM poster for promotion.  Curious if I’d donated proceeds to the BLM cause.  Here’s how well I know myself.  When my initial internal response is “F—k you, I’m outta here” that’s when I know it’s time to wake up and stay.  She was kind, curious, clear.  My initial defensiveness dissipated quickly as the dialogue progressed.  It took no time to realize how much I had to learn.  Worthwhile learning never happens in a defensive field.
 
Call out story #2.  Last week fifty 5Rhythms teachers gathered from around the world on miracle platform Zoom.  The goal was to somehow begin to unpack this humongous topic.  How does racial injustice intersect with this embodied practice?  How might 5Rhythms be a map for healing this cultural wound?  This skilled panel presentation was a solid warm up to a full wave of upcoming exploration.  As a way to continue the work, a FaceBook page was established for further discussion. 

One of the initial posts came from a teacher in Tel Aviv expressing sincere gratitude for space to explore this hefty topic of oppression.  In case you are unaware, right now a vociferous faction of Israelis are protesting the systemic oppression of Palestinians.  Indeed, there are so many places on the globe where oppression is rearing its ugly head in such time worn ways.  Humans seem to have a built-in need to create a class of people who are “less than”.
 
Within moments her post was commented upon, by a black person, holding it up as an example of the habitual way white people change the conversation.  “This page is dedicated to exploring anti-blackness.”  This left me confused.  The title of the page did not describe it as such.  The 5Rhythms teacher group is international and the plight of African-Americans is so unique to a single geography.  I posted a query.  Aren’t we international?  If we are, isn’t this page about oppression in its various guises?  Instead of a quick response like this one, I hoped for a conversation with the full panel so more deliberate clarification could emerge.
 
And this is precisely what happened.  The page was renamed Envisioning 5R As A Map For Collective Liberation: Being with Anti-Blackness.  The decision of the panel was to utilize an anti-black focus as starting point.  A useful, timely entry point to what may or may not become a broader exploration.  This helped me understand the focus of the group and its mission to work with this unique African-American sub-set of oppression.  I may have made a different choice, but hey, I’m not in charge here.  Thank goodness.
 
Here’s how I got called out—again. A white person posted the more fleshed out explanation.  She stated the panel knew a black person was more likely to be dismissed. Oof.  I sat with what felt like an accusation.  It stung.  It was uncomfortable.  I felt defensive.  Oof.  There was that trusty response: “F—k you, I’m outta here”.  Time to wake up and stay and clean up.  And so I did.  I messaged my black teaching colleague and apologized.  It was not easy.  Nor did it go entirely smoothly.  This is the nature of the work before us.  Messy. And to look the other way, to ignore or gloss over this opportunity would not have been tenable.  It would have felt cowardly.
 
The fact that I felt shamed, that I can make up all kinds of stories of what was right and what was wrong and who’s to blame and why I proceeded as I did and how I was really wrongly accused.  No matter.  I simply apologized.  It is a lonely place to sit.  Only today did I receive some support from sister colleagues.  Licking my wounds.  Totally willing to hang in.
 
How are you doing?  We’re all being with our particular version of difficult right now.  Quiet time of supported feeling in is medicine for these moments.  I hope we can meet on the mat this week.
 
Love, Bella