I gotta say, I love dancing Nia. I think you all knew that already. And! And it gives me so much joy to find other movement and dance practices too and try them on. On Friday night I went to a Dancing Mindfulness class at a new-to-me yoga studio called YogaQuest. Two other Nia friends came along and as we entered the space I felt that bit of nervousness of being the newbie in a situation. My review of the evening in a nutshell--Dancing mindfulness is awesome! So good for your mind, body and spirit, and when you meet new people, learn about a new practice and move your body to great music, joy increases! The photo above was taken at the end of class. We all grabbed a fun prop or toys from popular culture that YogaQuest has on hand to make movement/yoga fun. In the center, arms outstretched, is Jamie Marich the leader of our class and founder of Dancing Mindfulness. Jamie was a wonderful facilitator, laying out the practice at the beginning, sharing her geeky love of TV and Broadway musicals and excitedly prepping us for the great playlist she created for the class. She assured those who were new to dancing mindfully to have fun, to not judge ourselves or others and to enjoy the process. I was totally game, 'cause Nia is all about these same ideas.
One concept that she talked about in preparation to move was nonstriving. The word strive got my mental realm churning. To nonstrive I thought, would mean not to work hard or strive to do your best. A bit of confusion set in, why would I want to not strive? So interesting how hearing a word you know, but in a new context changes the way you understand it. The class started, the music was both new and familiar, the space had a great fun, open vibe and the group warmed up to each other and soon were singing, dancing, and moving with a whole lot of joy. I felt at home, it was like Nia free dance, Stages 1-3 for me. Jamie guided us to use our breath, to return to breath at some of the musical changes, to interact with others, go on a quest or hero's journey with our movement and to create a supportive circle of dance. It was wonderful!
As the class ended I shared how I had been at a Dancing Mindfulness class in Champaign recently, had a great time and when I saw that Jamie, the founder would be in town I had to come and try a class with her. I purchased her book and in reading the introduction learned what I needed about the word nonstriving and how it related to my movement practice.
"...nonstriving: thinking, feeling or acting with focus on the process, not the outcome. The name of this skill confuses many people because in Western culture we tend to associate nonstriving with giving up. Nonstriving does non imply laziness or sloth. Nonstriving is an attitude that encourages you, even in your work, to refrain from trying so hard. In nonstriving, we let whatever happens, happen."
Beautiful words! How about you? Do you feel like your life or work is all about striving? Do your thoughts focus on reaching a certain end goal or destination? Or can you enjoy the process, the journey? This week I invite you to focus on nonstriving in class. We'll use our awareness of the base of our body, our foundation, to help us stay present and then let what happens, happen.
See you in class!
Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you are perfectly free. - Rumi
A friend of mine from grad school was talking about Dancing Mindfulness one day. When she was describing the concept I can remember thinking “Wow, that sounds like something I would really enjoy!” As soon as I got home that evening I went to the Mindful Ohio website to look up more information. The first thing I came across was the video showing others engaged in the practice. It was that very moment I knew I wanted to try a class. Funny enough, even though I desperately wanted to attend a class I was terrified. For a couple months I kept thinking “Ok, this is the week”, but sadly it was not.
In January 2014 I attended the Self-Care for Helping Professional workshop. It just so happened that Dancing Mindfulness was included in the day. I can vividly remember enjoying myself until “Wake Me Up” from Avicii was played. At that very moment I became incredibly overwhelmed by emotion. I did not fully understand what was happening to me. Before leaving that day I talked to Jamie about what I experienced. She was able to normalize the situation for me which gave me a great sense of comfort. Even though I was nervous about the same thing occurring again I started to regularly attended classes. There were many times when I did become quite emotional but I was able to accept that part of myself. In fact, I ended up downloading the Avicii song after the workshop and was able to work through feelings I had been holding on to for a long time.
During a few of the classes Jamie talked about facilitator training. I knew the training was something I really wanted to do but again I began to put myself down. I talked to a variety of friends, family, and mentors and all of them encouraged me to sign-up. I decided to take their advice and it ended up being the best decision I had ever made. I truly believe that weekend changed my life and still impacts me in a positive way. The connection I had that weekend and continue to have with the other facilitators is something I cannot describe. The best explanation I can give is that connection you have with your best friend that you have known for years. There was another important piece of the weekend that let me know I was meant to be there at that moment. During our first “dance” as a group Jamie played a beautiful version of “Wake Me Up” by the cast of Glee. I remember smiling and thinking that song would be included in my first community class I facilitated.
I knew that Dancing Mindfulness changed my life and I wanted others to have the same experience. I currently work as a Clinical Counselor and proposed the idea of adding a “Creative Movement” group (Creative Movement is Dancing Mindfulness just under a different name) for clients. The response I have gotten from other counselors at the agency has been amazing! My group jumped from one person to 8 people in a matter of two weeks! The clients have responded positively and tell me every week “Please do not take this group away.” Additionally, I had the opportunity to facilitate my first community class two weeks ago and of course “Wake Me Up” was on the playlist. I keep continuing to grow as participant and as a facilitator each week. If someone asked me what Dancing Mindfulness means to me I would have to use a line from “Wake Me Up”, which is “All this time I was trying to find myself and I didn’t know I was lost.” I truly was not aware just how much I needed Dancing Mindfulness in my life to reconnect with myself!
When one year comes to an end and another begins, I am called to take an inventory of my blessings. The time of transition is perfect for this task. As 2014 becomes 2015, one major blessing warms my heart more beautifully than any other: Dancing Mindfulness. Although I am credited as the founder of the formal class-based practice, my gratitude is not that I developed it… quite the opposite. My heart brims with gratitude for those in my life who have taught me how to dance mindfully this year. When I developed the class-based practice in 2012, my original vision was for little separation between facilitators and dancers. I wanted to cultivate a true community where we are inspired to learn from each other. This vision truly came to fruition in 2014, and for that, I thank you!
In 2014, even though my team and I worked hard to offer seven live facilitator trainings across the U.S. and launch a distance-based program to those interested internationally in the practice, my most precious gratitude came when people shared with me how they are cultivating personal dance practices in their lives. To me, having a personal dancing mindfulness practice, just like we might have a personal yoga or sitting meditation practice, is a critical component of facilitator success. Of course, personal practices are open to everyone! My heart radiated as I heard people share with me stories of going to beaches and public places with their iPod docks, blasting music, and letting the dance of now cultivate mindfulness and its attitudes. My heart sang as I heard tales of people carving out personal spaces in their house to take a mindful journey, and sharing the attitudes and elements of dancing mindfulness with their children during play. My heart wept with tears of such pure joy when we were in Puerto Rico a month ago. My team’s mission for this trip was to train a group of 10 local women in Puerto Rico as facilitators. Yet during the practice class, as these trainees moved so effortlessly and mindfully to the music of artists from their homeland and helped me to do the same, something became very clear to me. These women didn’t need me to teach them Dancing Mindfulness, these women are dancing mindfulness… in their hearts, in their souls, and in the beauty of their heritage that they so generously shared. In one beautiful moment at Centro Buen Pastor in Guaynabo (the location of our training/retreat), as we moved in the group practice and I listened to the women singing along around me, it struck me: Dancing Mindfulness belongs to all of us. It is a practice we can all access, even if we haven’t realized it yet. Dancing Mindfulness is not only a practice, but a way of life that makes sense to so many of us. For many of us Dancing Mindfulness offers a template for exploring, for moving past our zones of comfort. For others, to dance mindfully offers a path of liberation from the inside-the-box ways of practicing spirituality and meditation that so many of us feel pressured to accept. Whatever Dancing Mindfulness may mean to you, know that it belongs to you.
I had the privilege of visiting with my dear friend and collaborator Mandy Hinkle a few days ago. Mandy went through the facilitator training program, although the birth of her beautiful daughter Sofia earlier this year became the major focus of her life. There is no doubt in my mind that Mandy is going to continue to do amazing things as both a yoga teacher and a Dancing Mindfulness facilitator in the coming years. Mandy shared with me that she sometimes gets down on herself because she doesn’t craft time to formally go into her yoga space at her house to practice Dancing Mindfulness, and getting to classes has been nearly impossible. Yet when we discussed this idea of dancing mindfulness as a way of life, something resonated. She shared that she does dance around the house, in her kitchen, moving from place-to-place; she dances with the radiant Sofia. The dancing offers her an anchor in joy, and that is perhaps the most vital part of what in means to practice dancing mindfulness…no matter how specifically you are practicing it.
Some of the greatest moments I’ve experienced this year have also come in what people have shared with me online. People, either in my professional or circles of acquaintances or people who have stumbled onto our pages online, are becoming inspired to move. I had another one of those tear-filled, spiritual goose bump moments the other night when Andy, a professional psychologist friend of mine shared that even though he is an introvert who doesn’t dance, he is inspired to follow our leads and give organic movement a try, to simply respond to music that resonates with him. Andy wrote, “Dancing is always a good idea.”
Dancing is always a good idea… for those of you who can embrace that and use it as a path to present-centered living, wonderful! Keep it up into 2015. For those of you who are scared of organic movement, like Andy identified… know that you can always start with your breath. That is the foundation of dancing mindfulness practice. Consider that your breath is part of a larger dance, and by connecting with that breath, you are connecting with the dance. Cultivate curiosity and see where it takes you in the new year. Maybe you’ll catch yourself moving along to a certain sound or piece of music that comes on…that’s your start. Just be in the moment with it and release judgment. The exhale is always available to you to release judgment. If you’ve had a horrible experience in the past with dance or if it’s a trigger to you in any way, feel free to reach out to us on the main Dancing Mindfulness facebook page…the community is here to offer you ideas for support.
As 2015 unfolds, I look forward to connecting with all of you who dance mindfully. Whether you are formally part of one of our groups, or if , like Andy, you are inspired to experiment with your own personal explorations and wish to connect with us online…I honor your journey with dancing mindfully. Let’s make “dancing is always a good idea” our mantra for the new year!
Originally published on StartAgain Media
“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”
Dancing is one of the many outlets that we, as helpers, healers, and people on the road of recovery have at our disposal for emotional cleansing. For me, it’s been the ultimate channel for self-care and burnout prevention. Let share a very personal story of how I experienced the benefits of mindfulness practice, specifically dancing mindfulness practice, to cope with a loss in my own life. Loss is a wound, a trauma, which needs healing attention like any other wound, especially losses that shake us to the cores of our being. When I had almost a decade sober, many years of practice as a trauma counselor, and a great deal of experience practicing yoga, I experienced a loss that, at the time, I thought could not be healed... all while I was expected to keep up a busy schedule working and teaching. Shortly after my first marriage ended, I reconnected with an old high school boyfriend, a dear figure from my past who I long regarded as the one who got away. We had a passionate, fiery love affair for the better part of a year, and everything in me really believed that some cosmic force was bringing each other back into our lives. The way I was able to open my heart up to him again surprised even me, so when he made it very clear to me that he could not commit to giving me what I wanted because he never saw himself getting married or having children, I was crushed. It was the ultimate case of two people who loved each other very deeply, but could not be together because of who we, respectively, were as people. The grief I experienced when this relationship crumbled was unlike any I had ever experienced; worse than any death, even worse than my divorce. At one point I feel into a very deep depressive episode that seriously got in the way of my ability to function in my work life. I remember using my support network a great deal during this period, being honest about my perceived professional impairment, and the support was imperative for getting me through—plus some much needed down time to just do the bare minimum of work and let myself grieve.
Looking back at it now, I can clearly identify that my work with mindfulness practices, especially moving mindfulness meditations like yoga and dance, and even the simple practices like breath work helped me to ride out this loss and adapt to it without letting it destroy me. When the feelings came, I surfed the waves of emotion, breathing through my tears, making a commitment not to judge myself at any juncture for feeling what I was feeling. The dancing mindfulness I practiced, even prior to formally developing the Dancing Mindfulness practice helped me transform my grief into beauty, and from this I was able to move forward. In the spare room at my house, which once served as my ex-husband’s office, I committed to dancing each night in a mindful way, choosing music that helped me dig into the emotion and be with it. At times, I moved with silence or sat in silent contemplation, allowing a healing fusion to take place. Indeed, the easiest way out of the emotional storm was through it. I practiced letting go of that great love of my life, and as a result, the path was cleared and the heart was open for my current husband to come into my life. We share a passionate love and a complementary vision of life, a manifestation of the trust I developed in practicing mindfulness. As much as I believe in formal psychotherapy, I don’t think that anything could have helped me grieve the loss of that relationship as effectively as mindfulness practice did.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity