Thursday, December 30, 2010

Open Sky

The sky is different here.  It is open and vast.  Walking in the mild Kansas air, I too feel vast and expansive.  Life seems full of possibilities. 

A New Year.  Letting go of the old.  Welcoming in the new.

This is the perfect time to feel the possible.  A perfect time to gaze out at the open sky and dream a bit.

Granted, I am on vacation, but I always feel a great sense of possibility when I come here.

It is an interesting question then- what influence does the environment have on the way we live in our bodies?  The weather, the season, the sky, the landscape, the sounds around us- does our environment inspire or inhibit?  Does it push us down or lift us up?  Do we want to breath it in deeply? Do we want to brace ourselves against it?  Does it bombard?  Does it nourish?  Does it make us feel alive?

Just a little inquiry that I am thinking about.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wishing you a happy New Year full of vast possibility and of course, balance.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Month of Gratitude

The first month of my year long gratitude buddies project has drawn to a close, providing a perfect opportunity to reflect on what I have learned thus far.

It has been a great project- It invited a daily connection with my friend who participated with me.  I so looked forward to the happy messages I got from her.  The daily practice coaxed me into taking the time to count my blessings despite the emotional weather of the day and truly encouraged a positive outlook.  I have been much happier since starting the project.  Sounds sweet, doesn't it?  Pollyanna springs to mind.   But I have learned an important thing this month- the practice isn't about sugar coating your life, or accepting unacceptable situations.

When my gratitude buddy and I were discussing this very thing, I came up with the following analogy.  (Warning- this is an indelicate departure for this blog.)  If I were holding a pile of shit in my hand, the gratitude practice isn't about spinning the situation as desirable.  "I am so grateful for the warmth this pile of shit is providing for me."  The practice is about acknowledging my gratitude of the fact that I have enough sense to put the shit down and to wash my hands.

Acceptance is important.  Fighting with reality causes us much suffering.  But this doesn't mean we should just passively and happily accept situations that are unhealthy for us.  In other words, the gratitude practice isn't about justifying remaining stuck in a toxic situation.  Unhealthy situations require action, not sugar coating.  Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself.  Sometimes you have to put the shit down and wash your hands.

I am grateful for the opportunity this project has presented for me to take a deep look at my life and to appreciate all the wonderful, miraculous moments and terrific people that I sometimes take for granted, but also to recognize when I need to step up the courage in order to take action to make a healthy change.

Wishing you balance,


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Getting a Massage!

Yesterday I got a massage. That massage is what got me through the day. The session was late in the day, but every time I thought I was going to succumb to the stress that this particular day was dishing out, I would remind myself, "I'm getting a massage!"

I'm getting a massage!
What wonderful words these are. It is hard not to sing them.

You see, I have had this pain in my right popliteus. It has been pretty persistent. I have been having trouble sitting on the floor, which is something that I do pretty often so I was really looking forward to getting that problem addressed.

The massage helped the pain tremendously, but more importantly, I have felt calm, relaxed and centered since. Yesterday was one of those days that felt to me like the world was crashing down around me- stress coming from all directions- everything felt hard. And today- all is calm and I am enjoying a real sense of ease. What an incredible difference.

We all know that massages are relaxing. But I think that sometimes we trivialize how important relaxation is. Prolonged or severe stress takes a toll on health. It weakens the immune system, strains the heart, contributes to heart disease, depression and autoimmune disorders. Constant stress makes us sick. And being stressed out feels really terrible.

I'm getting a massage! I'm getting a massage!

The relaxation starts before you even get on the table. It begins when you make the appointment!

Wishing you balance,


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

I asked a group of kindergarten students what they were thankful for and one child said, "skunks."

This is why I love working with children so much. They are full of wonder and appreciation for things that we older folks just take for granted.

But skunks?

"They are so fascinating, " he explained.

I have adopted a daily practice of exchanging lists of things for which I am grateful with my gratitude buddy. Initially, it was difficult to think of things that really rang true. It is easy to say the right thing- I am grateful for my family, my health, etc... We know what we should be grateful for, right?


Roses, for which I need to take the time to smell right? Can you smell my sarcasm here?

But, it didn't take long for me to shed my skepticism and my gratitude list soon began flowing on its own accord. I now wake up to a blast of gratitude and can't wait to write my list. It is difficult to stop at just three.

Who knew that I was so blessed? So lucky? And like a gift from the Wizard of Oz I realize- I have been blessed all along. If ever there was a recipe for contentment, this is it. So get yourself a buddy, or a journal and start letting your gratitude flow.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." -Melody Beattie

Wishing you balance,


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Gratitude

This year, I had a nontraditional Thanksgiving dinner. My sister and I enjoyed a lovely meal at a Latin-Indian fusion restaurant. When people asked me about my Thanksgiving plans, I would joke, "Non-traditional. We are eating in a restaurant. I'm not even giving thanks."

That couldn't be farther from the truth, however. This year, I have decided to make gratitude a practice, one that expands well beyond the Thanksgiving table, traditional or not. Inspired by a dharma talk that Tara Brach recently gave on gratitude, I immediately asked a friend if she would be my gratitude buddy. In her talk, Tara had suggested this idea, saying that if you make an agreement to send a daily note to someone listing three things for which you are grateful, you will not only put into place a daily ritual of giving thanks, but you can look forward to getting one positive e-mail a day. In our case, we have opted to send text messages: just simple lists of what we are feeling the most thankful for in a given day, every day, for a month.

My plan is to keep this up for a year with the hope of inviting someone new to join me each month. What motivates me is my curiosity; I wish to see what giving conscience attention to engendering gratitude will foster.

My friend and I have been sending messages for a week now and I already have a lot to report. Many posts worth I am sure. And for that, I am grateful. This has not been a trivial project.

Wishing you balance,


P.S. Speaking of gratitude, take time to visit the Express Your Gratitude site and nominate a loved one for a massage giveaway this holiday season. (Rochester, NY massage therapists, including Body In Balance have donated free bodywork sessions for the lucky recipients. You can even request a specific LMT. If you are a reader from afar, visit anyway, the sentiments expressed are very moving.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Slow Travel

I wrote the following while I was on my way to my sister's for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I write this from a train car headed to my Thanksgiving destination. I am headed there slowly. And I am ok with that.

Don't get me wrong. I am very excited about the prospect of high speed rail. But right now I am on a low speed rail, made slower by a freight train derailment that delayed the arrival of this train by over 6 hours, but for me those hours were found time spent at home, not endless hours trapped in a train car, as was the fate of the passengers around me who boarded the train earlier from points west.

Now, I sit by the window, the jostling of the train moving along these old tracks lulls me to sleep. When I wake, I read some, write some, grade some papers, listen to music and at times just sit and think.

I like this pace.

I get nervous on airplanes. I still fly, but when I took my first train trip I realized that when the train began to roll it did simply that; it gently rolled. Absent was the fear in the pit of my stomach that begins as soon as the airplane engines roar to life, a fear the accelerates at the same pace as the speed of the plane as it prepares to lift off.

Someone just inquired and it seems that we have three hours left until we arrive. "Just three hours!" she said. Piece of cake.

Sometimes you are forced to slow down and if you don't fight it, it can be quite delicious. It can be just what you need.

Wishing you balance,


Monday, November 22, 2010

What If?

This weekend I happily attended another Trance Dance Yoga session, led by Teresa Principe at Physikos in Village Gate. For more information visit the Physikos website. To save you from the reams of writing I could do on the healing power of dance, I condensed my thoughts into the following poem. Enjoy.

What If?

What if you held yourself and whispered:

It will get better

And what if you chose to believe your whisperings?

What if you let go of that hot coal you grasp so tightly,

and you spoke the words:

Forgiven, Forgiven,

and what if you really meant them?

And what if you danced?

What if you danced wildly until
all that mattered was the dripping sweat,
the beating heart, the ripples of life
moving your bones, enlivening your flesh?

Wouldn't that be something sweet indeed?

Wishing You Balance,


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cast All Your Votes For Dancing

I wanted to share this poem that showed up on my Facebook feed. It is by Hafiz, whose given name was Shams-ud-din Muhammad (c. 1320-1389), said to be the most beloved poet of the Persians. This poem was translated by into English by Daniel Kandinsky.

Cast All Your Votes For Dancing

I know the voice of depression

Still calls to you.

I know those habits that can ruin your life

Still send their invitations.

But you are with the Friend now

And look so much stronger.

You can stay that way

And even bloom!

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun

From your prayers and work and music

And from your companions' beautiful laughter.

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun

From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved

And, my dear,

From the most insignificant movements

Of your own holy body.

Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins

That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,

But then drag you for days

Like a broken man

Behind a farting camel.

You are with the Friend now.

Learn what actions of yours delight Him,

What actions of yours bring freedom

And Love.

Whenever you say God's name, dear pilgrim,

My ears wish my head was missing

So they could finally kiss each other

And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!

O keep squeezing drops of the Sun

From your prayers and work and music

And from your companions' beautiful laughter

And from the most insignificant movements

Of your own holy body.

Now, sweet one,

Be wise.

Cast all your votes for Dancing!

Republished from: Hafiz Unofficial FB Fan Page

Wishing You Balance,


Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Teaching Dance

Twelve children balancing peacock feathers on their hands, moving in concert with their graceful partners. They excitedly call my name, inviting me to share in their amazement, their discovery of a great accomplishment, of what, until that moment, they didn't even know to be possible.

It is magic.

I am the dance specialist in an elementary school.

Do I teach children how to dance?


It isn't about the moves, the balance, the point of the toe, the positioning of the body, the beat or any of those things we tend to think of when we think of dance, even though those are all things I teach.

What is it then?

I have spent my life trying to answer the question, "What is dance?" And maybe the problem is the way in which that question is expected to be answered.


I can't answer it with words.

The answer to that question is in the body's domain.

And when the children that I teach feel the answer in their own bodies, the magic in the room is palpable.

One student says, "I am dancing with the feather. We are partners! I look at it and it shows me how to move." This expressed both with excitement and with a seriousness that conveys the profundity of her discovery. This dance is a big deal.

I was recently at a conference and when I told a fellow conferee that I worked with young children teaching dance, she cheered. She told me, without the benefit of ever seeing me teach, or meeting the children, that what I did was important. That it made a difference in their lives.

I can see that it does, sometimes more clearly than other times.

What is dance?

Let your body answer that question.


Wishing you balance,


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Letters of Love

This week I have been reading a wonderful batch of letters that my college students wrote. The letters weren’t addressed to me, but I have had the honor of reading them. The letters were written for their feet.

You read that right. Their feet.

I would classify the letters as those of the love variety. Feet, after all, are marvelous. The students expressed such gratitude for the steps they have taken throughout their lives, steps in the most literal sense of the word. My students admitted neglecting their feet, shoving them in ill-fitting shoes, failing to rest them when they were in pain, etc. One student said that perhaps it was because her feet were so far away and hard to reach that she rarely paid attention to them. Feet are marvelous, but easy to take for granted.

In class, we spent some time learning about the anatomy of the foot and the students were given the assignment to massage their feet three times during the week and then of course there was the written assignment. After reading their delightful letters, I decided to write my own.

Dear Feet,

You have never been pretty. In fact, you have always been wrinkly, even when I was a child. Like my hands, you look like you belong to someone who is 20 years older. Plus, you develop these tremendous cracks, especially in the wintertime. Now might be a good time to mention that they hurt. Sometimes a lot.

When I was younger I would have dreams. Similar in flavor to those nightmares that many people have when they appear naked in a public place; in these dreams I would suddenly realize that you, my feet, are bare when they shouldn’t be. Like, I am in a court of law or in a bank or some place where it would be inappropriate for you to be bare. Ironically, in my professional life, I rarely enclose you in shoes. When I teach my dance classes you are free to touch the floor, to articulate, to let your toes wiggle. When I give a massage, you also get to feel the connection to the floor without those middlemen, the shoes, getting in the way.

Admittedly, you are aesthetically challenged. But I have never let that get in my way. I am used to people saying “ouch” in sympathy when they look at the cracks on your heels. Despite the pain that you cause me, I appreciate you because you get me where I want to go. We have gone many places together and there are many more places in our future. But my favorite part of our relationship is the dancing. I can’t thank you enough for that.

I know that you are made up of scores of bones: tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges, but I experience you often as just one big unit. After standing on a tennis ball or getting you massaged, I am always amazed to discover how supple you can be. It is truly a marvelous feeling. I promise to do that more.

There is so much for which to thank you. You let me feel the ground beneath me, which is no small thing. It is through you and your constant connection with the earth that I find balance.



Sunday, June 20, 2010

One Bite at a Time

When I was in school, a teacher said something that stuck with me. She said that when we sit down with a plate of food, we don't feel overwhelmed with thoughts like, "How am I going to fit all this food in my mouth?" After all, we don't put all that food in our mouth at once. We take it one bite at a time.

My month of attempting to uni-task is well underway, with mixed results. I have learned that I like flitting from one thing to the next. I play a game, for instance, where I straighten up three things from one room and then go to the next and the next and so on...making housework more of a sporting event than a chore. It makes it fun for me. Is that multi-tasking? It seems more like rapid succession bite sized uni-tasking. But one could make a good argument either way.

This month, I have spent quite a bit of time sorting, sifting and getting rid of stuff I don't need. But I am doing it in the same manner that I eat spaghetti. I separate a little bit from the mound so that I can twirl it neatly on my fork. Overwhelming when you look at it as a whole, more manageable when you do only one little bit at a time.

Wishing you balance,


Friday, June 4, 2010

The Uni-task Challenge

Week One.

It hasn't been a full week. I am as bad at counting days as I am at uni-tasking. If I was following how-to instructions for these last few weeks, this is what they would say.

1. Read cool article on multitasking
2. Decide that you need to copy the author and uni-task for a whole month.
3. Declare this intention to the world via Facebook and blog.
4. Wait a week to access and indulge your multi-tasking habits.
5. Start uni-tasking.
6. Fail miserably.

It wasn't all that bad really. This week, I stopped eating breakfast while working on the computer and I stopped drinking coffee while on the computer as well. I also stopped drinking coffee altogether because without the computer, drinking coffee felt unbearably slow and boring. I found myself more engaged in conversation; my mind wondered less. I also found myself picking up on when other people were multi-tasking when I spoke with them on the phone, or when I got e-mails that seemed rushed and full of errors.  And that made me feel a bit annoyed.  I wanted to chide them for multi-tasking and tell them that there was a better way.  "Uni-tasking is the new multi-tasking," I thought, as I told them off in my mind, "Just look at me.  I will show you how it's done."

Yes.  Just look at me.  Look at me talking on the phone and driving.   My big fail of the week was when I was super late bringing my son to work because the usual road was closed and I got way lost and picked up my cell phone to call for directions while I was driving!!!  Talking on the phone and driving has never even been one of my habits.  I recognize that I am not good at it, so I rarely do it.  This, however, felt like an emergency.  Looking back I realize that it really wasn't.  It would have taken a minute to pull over and have the conversation.

Multi-tasking is culturally acceptable though- it makes it all the easier to choose do it.  I remember feeling extremely guilty the first few times I answered the cell phone when I was driving.  I also recall feeling like I was doing something wrong the first few times I kept working at the computer when my child was talking to me.  If other people felt guilty too, they feel guilty no more because you see people doing that kind of thing all the time.  What I have observed most prevalently as I go about my day to day is texting.  You see people texting when they are shopping, texting at work, texting while walking down the sidewalk with their children.  I wonder about the message being sent to these kids.  "Typing out things with my thumbs is more important than my being present with you."  Imagine being a child and getting a steady stream of that.  I was watching a movie with my son the other night.  The movie was playing on my laptop.  I could hear the happy sound of e-mails coming in.  It was torture for me to not pick up the laptop, pause the movie and check my e-mail.  I had an unsettled feeling.  An itch I couldn't scratch.  I waited it out and the urge diminished but it didn't fully go away.  When the movie was over, I immediately checked my e-mail.  None of the messages were urgent.  None even needed a response.

This week has been more of a challenge than I expected.   And although I have had some success, I can't say that it has been enjoyable.  After all, this is an addiction.   Multi-tasking has become my modus operandus.  This experiment in changing this has required a certain vigilance.  My mind has had to intervene to circumvent a mindless impulse to do the usual things, requiring a parental voice to go off in my head and say no.  One thing at a time.  

I won't give up though.  I think this is important stuff.  So I will take it...

One day at a time.

Wishing you balance,


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trailing Off

Last week's post promised a month of uni-tasking, so you might expect this post to be about my first week of doing one thing at a time. And it would be except for the fact that I decided to start that challenge on June first, in order to give myself time to access and indulge my multi-tasking habits. There are many, I found out. June first is going to be a bit of a shock.

I will write instead about my mini-challenge of the week.

Every time I go hiking, I say to myself, "I should do this every day." So this week, I did.

The weather has been beautiful here in Western New York. Taking advantage of this and the abundance of trails that we have nearby, I was able to take a hike through the woods every day over the last week. Each time I went somewhere new. Most often I walked by myself which was nice because it encouraged me to focus on the experience. I find solo walking to be meditative and being in nature, surrounded by lush green trees and foliage, listening to the sounds of birds and moving water is both calming and energizing.

If I do have anything on my mind, and I often do, when I begin to walk, thoughts bubble up. It is the usual monkey mind, brain spinning thoughts, worries, problems. As the trail unfolds, my thoughts trail off. I am transported. Taking in the sights, smells and sounds, breathing in the fresh air, I feel a sense of wonder and gratitude for being alive. Being on the trail orients me in a way, even when I am lost because I forgot what blazes I was following. Lost or not, I know where I am. The earth is beneath my feet. I am surrounded by life. I am a part of this beautiful living earth. My world is not those thoughts that spin in my head. Just because I often live there does not make them my home. Here, surrounded by the splendor of the earth, is where I belong.

Getting a regular dose of connection with the earth has been therapeutic for me. I am emerging from my week of walks feeling stronger, happier, calmer and more energetic. And I didn't have to go far from my house to find my home.

"Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath." -Natalie Goldberg.

Wishing you balance,


Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Thing at a Time

How many times have we heard that phrase?

One thing at a time.

The moments in which I engage fully in the matter at hand are times of balance and contentment. Yet, my normal mode is to give in to the allure of multitasking. (Just a second. Let me check my e-mail.) Mostly, for me, that means dividing my attention between what is happening in the moment and what is happening in my head. Yesterday, when I received a massage, instead of giving myself over to the experience, I stayed very firmly in my head where the thinking, scheming and planning did very little to encourage relaxation. Last week, I showed up at a dark and empty house for the birthday party of a dear friend because my mind was somewhere else when she was informing me that the party was not going to be at her home.

So today, when I ran across this terrific article about multitasking, I read it with great interest. (Read it. I will wait here. I won't check my e-mail or anything. I will just wait.) AJ Jacobs, the same man who spent a year living according to the literal interpretation of the bible, is at it again. This time, he challenges himself to do only one thing at a time for 30 days. You may know that I love setting up experiments for myself- the latest one was a month of dancing every day. The first thing I thought when I read the article was how much I would like to try it too. The second thing I thought was that I am certain that it would be impossible. So, I have decided to try it, but with some modifications. For instance, if I am sharing a meal with someone, I will converse with my dining companion rather than focuses solely on eating. I will allow the radio to be on when I am cleaning or cooking. Is this cheating? Perhaps, but when I consider the purest approach to this challenge it stops me in my tracks. It seems impossible.

OK. Thirty days. I will let you know how it goes.

Wishing you balance (and that is all I am doing right now, nothing else),


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Force

I have recently become interested in a form of moving bodywork and self-healing called Breema. This interest led to me to purchase the book Self-Breema: Exercises for Harmonious Life by Jon Schreiber and Denise Berezonsky which I have spent the last week ravenously reading. Not only a movement system and a form of body work, Breema also offers a philosophy for balanced living based on nine principles of harmony. What has most resonated with me and which I admit I have much to learn from of late is the principle, "no force."

As the book states, "Force is a relationship between separate entities, an energy that moves something outside of itself."

This simple idea has inspired a radical change in my approach to my work as a therapist. As I give a massage using my hands, I could think of my hands as separate from me and separate from the muscles they touch. I could think of myself, also, as separate from the earth beneath my feet. All separate entities. My hands, my body, the client, the earth. Approaching the work in this way, my hands, lacking connection to my body, exert force, subjecting them to stress rather than working from the energy, movement and weight of my whole body. Without feeling a connection to the tissue with which I am making contact, I use force to move or effect a change in those tissues. Instead, if I think of my hand and my client's body as existing in unity with one another, change is brought about willingly. Without feeling a connection to the earth, I must summon up all my strength and weight to affect that change rather than feeling the solid support of the earth and allowing that support to flow through me.

Letting go of force requires a quiet listening, a peaceful presence, an unhurried inquiry into what is happening. It is about connection and support, a unity through which movement and change are welcomed.

No force.

Wishing you balance,


Photo by Gregory Colbert. Click on photo for link to his Ashes and Snow exhibit website.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Worry

There is a saying that comes to mind these days-

Worry is like paying interest on a debt that never comes due.

Worry seems to be in the air. My friends have worries. My family has worries. I have worries.

There are so many worries to have. Health worries. Health insurance worries. Job worries. Money worries. Relationship worries. Worries about the future.

Worries. Worries. Worries. Big Worries.

Mark Twain said, "There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened."

Worry causes such suffering. It can be easy to get swept up in it. After all, we have good reason. Bad things happen. Our worries so often, however, take on a life of their own. We make up stories which feed stories. A comment someone makes at work starts a trail of thoughts which end with us living alone and hungry on the street. A phone call that isn't returned starts a cascade of paranoia that has you obsessing about what terribly offensive thing you might have done. And how unlovable you are. There is always that.

When I look back at all the things on which I have spent emotional energy, I realize that so much of it was needless. Issues that seemed so pressing at one time, often blow over; the problems I anticipated, never coming to fruition or at least not being as traumatic as I expected. Other problems weren't even a slip of a thought and yet they blindsided me with full force. Bad things happen. Worry wouldn't have prevented them.

Not that worry is all bad. On the contrary, worry is an appropriate response to many situations. They say that anxiety actually makes you perform better. When I am worried about a lesson I am about to teach, I plan it a little more carefully, and the result is a stronger lesson and a more confident delivery. Worry informs us. It makes us take action. We fight. We flee. We see a problem and we seek a solution or at least a way to make things easier or a way to deal better what is happening.

The trick is to acknowledge the worry, allow it to have it's role, but to not let it run the whole show. Once again, it is all about balance.

And balance is what I wish for you, as always.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Rule Number One

When I was in massage school someone had posted a list called The Rules of the Game" on a bulletin board. A fellow LMT reminded me of it when she posted the rules on her facebook page.

Here is rule #1-

You will receive a body

(You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.)

In one of my classes, the students are required to write their own "Body Story," which is the story of how they have come to develop their attitude about their body. The students write about all sorts of things including early movement and sensory memories, stories of injuries, athletic training and triumph, posture, the joy of moving freely and the challenges of adolescence. Often the women will write about the pressure that they feel to look a certain way and to be a certain weight. Almost all of them mention how difficult it is to eat healthy and exercise as a college student.

For the most part the stories tell a tale of love and hate. We love our bodies because they allow us to run fast, dunk basketballs, juggle, dance freely; they feel great when we eat well and exercise; we hate our bodies because we are not the weight we want to be, because someone was critical of the way we looked, because we experience pain, and because our legs are thick, bowed, knock-kneed, pudgy or skinny.

Sondra Fraleigh, with whom I studied somatics, said that the potential outcome of a somatic relationship with the body was that it allowed you to chose your body. This does not mean choosing how you would like to change your body, and it is even more than a genuine acceptance of the body you have. What it means to me it is that the body that you have is the very one that you want.

And why shouldn't it be? It is the one you have. That doesn't mean that your body is perfect. It doesn't mean that it won't change. It will.

You received a body. This is the one you have. Might as well appreciate it for its gifts. Treat it well. Nourish it. Pay attention to it. Nurture it. Challenge it.

Enjoy it.

Wishing you balance,


Friday, March 26, 2010

Dancing Through March- Week Four

This past week, I did as I promised. My dances were an exploration of an area in my back- a small specific place that is creating what I might describe as an intense localized sensation.


This little area- so small, but so effective in calling for my attention. I once heard it said that pain is "attractive." What an odd word to use, I thought. But yes, it does a great job in attracting the attention. The attention that I give to the area runs the continuum of annoyance to frustration to despair. This week, I decided to give the area attention in the context of inquiry.

How does my back wish to move?

This was the question I asked each time I danced this week.

Often the dances started out very slowly. Sometimes the movements were microscopic; at other times they were big and undulating. The one thing that was consistent about how I moved, throughout this week, was that it was always a surprise. That makes sense though. I wasn't imposing the movement, but allowing it to arise so I didn't know what would happen.

And here is what I learned. I learned to sense my back in a way I had not sensed it before. I have thoroughly studied the muscles and bones of the back of course. I teach classes about the spine. I am always surprised when students say that until they took my class, they thought of the spine as one large bone. I know differently of course. I know all about the back. But this week, I learned about my back.

It was Isadora Duncan who said, "What one has not experienced, one will never understand in print." I experienced my back this week, understanding it at a level that I wasn't able to before, despite all my knowledge. I learned to isolate my latissimus dorsi. I learned that my scapula are mobile and can slide in every direction with ease. I learned how to direct my breath right into that spot that keeps demanding my attention. I learned just how fluid my back can truly be as I was no longer experiencing it as one big piece capable only of the gross motor movements of spinal rotation, side-bending, flexing and extending. To experience movement in the back as rivulets of enlivened motion is thrilling indeed.

Here is something else that I learned. My first reaction to pain and stiffness is often frustration. Frustration followed by worry. I don't want the pain. I resent it. I want it to go away. This week, rather than meeting my pain with resentment and trying to get rid of it, I tried instead to accept the state that my body was in and to explore it instead.

The pain is not gone, but it has diminished significantly. In fact, most of the time I am unaware of it. The difference has been amazing.

Consider making an appointment for a Somatic Rebalancing session in order begin to bring movement to those spots that are calling for attention.

Wishing you balance,


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dancing Through March- Week Three

The highlight of my dancing week was attending a Saturday Night Yoga Trance Dance. Since I have been on the lookout for a place to dance my heart out with other people- a place other than a club, other than my own living room, a situation other than a dance class that I lead; I was excited to try out it out.

I am glad that I did. The space was beautifully set up and welcoming. There were enough people there that you felt the experience as shared, but not so many people that you felt like you needed more space in which to move. The music was great; driving, pulsating drumbeats that begged for movement. Our facilitator lead us through some prana initiated yoga poses at times during the evening, but I never felt as if I had to follow any directions exactly and I mainly used the suggestions as starting places from which to explore my own movement.

What I found remarkable about the evening was how free I felt to respond to my impulses to move. We all have our habituated movement patterns and when I dance, I usually find myself repeating certain phrases again and again. Not that this is necessarily bad. I dance in a way that feels good to me, and those phrases feel good. But this time was different. I found new phrases. It was as if my back came to life. No longer flexing, extending and rotating as one big unit, I was able to explore incredibly detailed articulations in my spine and scapula- flowing movements, undulations, waves and circles...and the coolest thing was that at times, I felt like my body was moving me, rather than the other way round.

And this thought kept going through my head-

We don't do this! We don't move like this. Our culture doesn't have anything built into it that would articulate the spine like this. If we all moved with this kind of abandon, with this much flow, with this much detail, on a regular basis, from a young age, just think of how different our relationships with our backs would be!

My back has been bothering me for over a month, a recurrence of a chronic problem. As with all pain, it is trying to tell me something. It is calling out for movement and for touch. So, for the remainder of March, as I continue to dance, I am going to extend an invitation to my back to express itself.

Click here for more info about the Yoga Trace Dance and ongoing yoga classes at Physikos.

Enjoy the dance and as always....

Wishing you balance,


Friday, March 12, 2010

Dancing Through March- Week Two

My week in dance has been wonderful. The best part of the week has been the incredible feeling of community. I started the week by dancing in my living room with a dear friend. This Sunday I have a dancing date with two friends I used to choreograph with- a reunion dance. I was even fortunate enough to be able to dance to live music a few times this week. Friends have been sending me links to music that they have been dancing to which I in turn dance to as well. The feeling of connection is astonishing.

To dance is to be human. To dance with another is to share the authentic experience of being alive.

We were born knowing how to dance...but sometimes we forget. Not only do we forget to dance, but we forget how.

Responding to our complaints about having to do the same phrase again and again, a dance professor once said to our class "You don't get closer to God by learning more steps." It isn't about the steps. The steps are not the dance.

We don't dance with our feet. We dance with our hearts.

Commit to the movement. Let yourself be absorbed in it. Don't judge. Don't question. Be awkward. Be beautiful. Be clumsy. Be silly. Be fabulous. Be a fool. Let the dancing be whatever it is meant to be in the moment.

Check out this video. Keep your eyes on Donny Osmond dancing in the background Not one cool movement in the course of a 3 minute dance. Now that is sheer genius.

Keep dancing! And this week, why not ask a friend to dance?

Wishing you balance,


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dancing Through March- Week One

What a joyful week of dancing it's been. I have been surprised and delighted at how many people have joined me. Of those I know, we span coast to coast and include at least one country outside of the United States. It was not my intention to start a viral phenomenon, but it has become one, albeit a tiny one. This delights me. The fact that other people are excited by the idea of dropping everything and dancing, gives me a warm feeling inside- it gives me faith in our collective humanity.

There is a woman dancing in France while she makes cookies, at least one person who dances while brushing her teeth every day. There is a whole college class who dances together each time they meet- a different student provides the music each time. (I wonder who their professor is?) There have been reports of slow dances, River Dances, thrash dances, elementary classrooms dancing to the Beatles. And lots of people are dancing with their children. (Lucky children to have such great parents.)

My dancing has mainly been music-blaring, upbeat, fun dance all over the house dancing, although there have been a few raw, writhing, music-less, butoh-esque dances in there. Most days I have done more than one five minute dance. There was only one day when I was feeling really sad and I just couldn't bring myself to dance without it feeling like a chore.

Butoh Dancer

So far, the dancing has felt like a real treat. And the best part was sharing it with others. In fact, the highlight of my week, not just my dance highlight, but THE highlight, was dancing with my son.

Keep dancing! And remember, it isn't about how you look. It is about how you feel. Dance how you are moved to dance. Here is some inspiration.

Keep Dancing! And tell me all about it!


Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Dance-A-Day

Last week we had a contact improvisation jam at the university where I teach. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this event, it is like recess for grown ups. The dance form explores what happens when two or more people share a point of leads to spinning, rolling, lifting... Jams are time for open exploration of the form, just as a group of jazz musicians might get together to play.

I had been having a bad day. To be more accurate I had been having a hard week. If you must know, it had been a hard month. After spending an hour dancing, I walked out of the studio into the cold winter air smiling, and thought, "Wow. I forgot that I was unhappy."

Later that week I noticed a pattern as I read my students' journals. Responding to a simple journal prompt, "When I dance..." The students equated dance with joy.

"When I dance...I am happy," was something I read over and over.

How often do we remember to dance? Children dance through their days. But adults forget what joy it brings. I once wrote that adults are too grown up for their own good.

Nina Wise, in her book, A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life, writes:

Upon occasion, I remember to dance. Upon occasion, I remember to get up from the computer, or hang up the phone, or pause before washing the dishes and I play music and dance around my room, alone and unobserved. Upon occasion, I remember that no matter what state of mind I am in when I begin, I always feel better when I dance.

"I always feel better when I dance." This guy knows that:

I have decided that every day in March, I will dance. For 5 minutes each day, I will let myself be moved. Sometimes with music, sometimes not. Sometimes fast and furious. Sometimes slow and mournful. Sometimes I will dance with my whole body. Sometimes just my hands. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with others. Depends on the day.

I invite you to join me in spirit. Five minutes a day. That's all it will take.

Wishing you balance,


Monday, February 15, 2010

Dipping Into the Well

I picked up a book when I was thrift store shopping this weekend. The book is called Energy Now: Simple Ways to Gain Vitality, Overcome Tension, and Achieve Harmony and Balance by Emma Mitchell. They were asking $1.99 for it; I love a bargain and any book with the word balance in the title is going pique my interest, so I had to buy it. Glad I did. Here is a quote I ran across:

"Preventative medicine aims to keep the body healthy, strong and well. In the West you go to an orthodox doctor when you have physical symptoms of ill health. In China, by contrast, you visit your doctor or teacher to remain well. The Chinese say that treating a person when they have become ill is like starting to dig a well when you are thirsty-- by that time it may be too late."

We all do this. We wait until our back goes out to see the chiropractor. We wait until that muscle between our shoulder blades is in spasm before we get a massage. When I say we, I am including myself. Life is busy for all of us. Our day to day is demanding. Meditating takes time. Exercise takes time. Eating healthy fresh food takes time. And time is something that most of us feel as if we just don't have enough of. We fall into our beds at the end of a day, exhausted, having squeezed out every last minute from our day and every ounce of energy from our bodies.

If, however, we could make a commitment to taking the time to take care of our health- if we practiced preventative medicine, we would find an increase of energy that would allow us to better use and enjoy the time we do have.

Here is my wish for you: sleep that refreshes, foods that nourish, relaxation that rejuvenates, movement that enlivens, exercise that strengthens. Whatever it is- bodywork, acupuncture, chi gong, dance, taking walks, meditation, bubble baths- dig a "wellness well" and dip into it often. May your body be healthy, strong and well.

Wishing you balance,


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Practicing What I Preach

Just yesterday I got to take advantage of one of the best job benefits of a massage therapist- the trade. A trade is when two bodywork practitioners exchange sessions. I love trades for two reasons.

Reason number one- I get a bodywork session! As you are well aware, I am constantly singing the praises of bodywork. When I receive bodywork myself I get to practice what I preach. Each time I am that person on the table, my belief in the healing power of touch and the wisdom of the body becomes stronger. I know that this work is powerful, otherwise I wouldn't do it, but it is really something to experience it firsthand. The changes that even one session can bring are remarkable. This morning I woke up feeling rested and energetic. Today I have been productive and happy- my body feels relaxed and pain free. In short, I feel balanced.

As a massage therapist, receiving a session from another therapist can be wonderfully instructive. We all develop our own style, so when I receive work from someone else, I find it incredibly inspiring. Whether I make a conscious effort to adopt a particular technique I have experienced or not, the sessions I receive from others expand my own repertory. And since I am a firm believer that one size does not fit all when it comes to massage, I am always striving to offer the very massage that is exactly right for each client that I see. The more experience I have as a receiver, the more I can offer as a therapist.

Reason number two- Trades offer an opportunity to experiment and play. You might think that giving a massage to a massage therapist would be intimidating. My experience is that it is anything but. We call it bodywork, but when it is at its best, it doesn't feel workmanlike. The best sessions have an element of play in them- where the therapist is able to experiment and innovate. It is more like serious play than work.

Yay for the trade! With each one, my connection to the work deepens and my palette of techniques expands and for that I am grateful.

Wishing you balance,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Kindness

When I was decorating my bodywork room I made this strange deal with myself to buy everything I could off of Craigslist. It was great fun scanning through the items, locating the perfect thing and then making arrangements to check it out and if all went well, purchasing it. I met all sorts of people. The experience was great fun and very interesting. What struck me about the different people I met was that almost without exception, the older people took more time with the transaction, chatted on a personal level and seemed more interested in me as a person than the younger folks did. One young person, who was on her way to Europe and thus, had no need for the good looking toaster I was about to purchase, went on talking to her friends, completely ignoring me while I stood there waiting to see the appliance. (I didn't limit my Craigslist purchases to bodywork room items.) Contrast that with with a woman who was probably in her late 30's who sold me some flannel massage sheets and then invited me and a friend to sit on her porch in order to enjoy watching a bird's nest full of baby birds.

My experience during the Craiglist buying spree was that the older people acted in a more kindly manner than the younger ones I met. That is quite a generalization, I know, but it was what I experienced. When wondering about the why of this I came up with a theory. I think that there can be a certain kindness that we aquire with age due to an accumulation of experiences, especially heartbreaking ones. The older we are, the more loss we experience and the more we understand the vulnerability of the human experience. This allows us to connect more fully with other people around us.

Of course, suffering causes some people to close themselves off, to behave bitterly toward others, but that is a topic for another post.

During the meditation retreat that I attended recently, a poem was read that resonated with me. I ran across the poem today and am reprinting it here for you. As always, wishing you balance.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Friday, January 15, 2010

Somatics: Living in Our Bodies

Have you ever gotten a glance of yourself in a mirror or photograph and were surprised at what you saw? Or perhaps you were not surprised to see your shoulders slouched forward or your chin jutting out or whatever your idiosyncratic postural habits might be.

We remind ourselves then to sit up straight, pull the shoulders back and resolve to be more mindful about posture. We will it to happen. Only it doesn't. Or at least, it doesn't happen for long. For as soon as we stop thinking about correcting our posture, we slide back into our familiar posture.

We cannot improve our alignment by putting on a "posture suit."

After all, these patterns we have established are our familiar experience- they make us feel at home in our body, even if they are uncomfortable, locked down or painful. For whatever reason, and for a multitude of reasons, we experience our bodies in the way that we do. Perhaps we are holding onto old patterns that once served a good purpose, but are no longer needed. For example, maybe we protected ourselves during adolescence from the hurtful remarks of others by sinking the chest and lowering the gaze. Or perhaps the stress of our present life is causing a chronic stress reaction. Our nervous system is stuck in a "flight" reaction and we are quite literally shrinking into ourselves. Or maybe we are stuck in a "fight" reaction, always ready to assert ourselves. Wouldn't it be better if our nervous system was free to react to given situations rather than be locked in our habits of posture and movement?

If we were able to say goodbye to these habits, living our our own skin would feel very different indeed.

The term somatics comes from the Greek word soma, meaning body, and refers to our experience of our body from the inside.

Simply put, somatics is how we live in our body.

Imagine that you wished to remodel your bathroom. You could move the bathtub and the toilet to new spots, but if you didn't re-do the plumbing your bathroom wouldn't be functional and you would have to put everything back in its old spot to use it. Forcing a change in posture is like moving the fixtures around in your bathroom. It doesn't change the inner structure of the bathroom, so the new arrangement cannot last. In order to make real changes, you have to re-wire and re-plumb.

And that is what somatic therapies and education do. Using movement, breath, imagery and touch, the soma experiences new possibilities- the nervous system is retrained. The body learns healthier and easier ways of being.

Change happens at a deep level and our way of experiencing ourselves, the way that we live in our bodies, cannot help but change.

Wishing you balance,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mindful Computing

Lately I have considered committing social networking suicide. With two blogs, a website, 6 e-mail accounts, 2 Facebook pages and a Twitter account, I have lots of opportunities to tune into and contribute to a near constant stream of information and chatter. The internet is such a gift- with its information at the ready and opportunities to connect with people who otherwise might have been long lost or undiscovered. The internet gives us a chance to share ideas with and to be inspired by people all over the globe. It is fertile soil for creativity, collaboration and conversation.

It is also a great big time suck. The internet can be so seductive; it is so easy to get swept up in the quest for instant gratification, compulsively checking our inbox for proof positive that we are loved. I say we, but I mean me. My relationship with the computer could be described as an addiction, with far more time than I would like to admit spent tweeting, blogging, commenting, reading, browsing, checking stats and updating.

So, as you can imagine, one of the things that appealed to me about attending a week long meditation retreat was the fact that I would have no access to a computer. I knew that going cold turkey would help me break some unhealthy habits and replace them with healthier ones. Here is what I have done since I got home-

1. I cleaned up my desktop and began the work of organizing and discarding files.

2. I re-did my computer home page- I simplified it and changed the theme to one that was more peaceful.

3. I installed a mindfulness bell that is set to go off every 15 minutes with a lovely chime that serves to help me track the time and reminds me to pause to relax and take a breath or two as I work.

4. I am writing my first drafts on paper- the old fashioned way.

5. I taking more time with communiques, rather than giving in to a false sense of urgency, giving myself time to think and chose my words.

So far, so good. I am spending far less time on the computer these days which is opening up much needed time for other endeavors and I haven't had to kill off my virtual identity to achieve a more balanced approach to computing. I thought it might be useful to pass along these ideas and to see if anyone else has any more thoughts on mindful computing to share.

Wishing you balance,


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Breathing for Stress Reduction

hat follows is a reprint of an article provided by the Massage Garden that I think is useful. As I sit here, snow falling outside, threats of a blizzard and hazardous driving conditions, my son out there somewhere with no cell phone and my not knowing how to reach him; I need a reminder to breathe. Incorporating an awareness of the breath into our everyday can be an important part of reducing stress and engaging with the present moment. As always, I wish you balance.

Proper Breathing For Stress Reduction

Oxygen is the first and most basic necessity of life.

Stress is the first and most basic causative factor of muscle tension and pain.

Optimal breathing brings oxygen into your muscles and helps release stress and tension from your body. The result is heightened energy and awareness while reducing the discomforts brought on by improper breathing.

Stress is mirrored in your breath. When you are enduring stress, you tend to breath more shallo wly. The carbon dioxide level in the blood rises and the oxygen level decreases. You start breathing harder so you can rid yourself of carbon dioxide build up. This causes the diaphragm to tense and the abdominal muscles to constrict, preventing you from inhaling deeply and properly. This is called shallow breathing and starts the cycle all over. You are locked in a state of tension until you can begin breathing from your abdomen once more.

The first step in regaining optimal breath, and its benefits, is to become aware of your breathing patterns and to recognize when you are not breathing correctly. Every time you feel yourself become tense, proper breathing can be employed and your sense of well being will begin to improve. Use this breathing technique:

Lie on your back and place your hands on your stomach. Inhale slowly and deeply, letting your abdomen expand fully with air. You will feel the air rise under your hands. Allow the abdomen to fall as you exhale slowly, at the same time letting go of stress and tension. Repeat inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply for a minimum of 2 minutes. Work up to 5 minutes at a time.

Practice this exercise every day, preferably in a quiet place when you can be alone. You should begin to feel calmer and more relaxed when you are done.