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Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Curiosity, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, grounding, Healing, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Personal Growth, Play, Whole Body

Wellness series: Let’s get physical!

Today we continue our ongoing series on the five components of well-being. We’ve covered the creative self (your thoughts, your emotions, what you do for work/study, and your sense of humor), and coping self (what you do in your leisure, your stress management, and your self-worth).  In future posts, we will focus on the social self (family, friendship, and romantic love), the essential self (your spirituality, cultural identity, and self care), and for this issue I would like to highlight the importance of tending to the physical self (exercise and eating well).

Nutrition and exercise are the two main aspects of the physical self. From a holistic view, we are less concerned with living up to our culture’s ideals of physical strength or beauty, and more interested in honoring our bodies, increasing vitality, and achieving optimal health for better quality of life. Rather than dieting to look thin or bulking up to look muscular, exercise and nutrition for well-being means eating foods that are nourishing, and engaging in activities that feel good, give you energy, and build a sense of appreciation for the body’s innate creativity, strength, and flexibility.

As humans, we are designed to move, yet many of us work in jobs where we sit or stand for long hours and we come home feeling exhausted. It is understandable that many days, we just want to sit down to rest and recover. Getting enough rest and relaxing is key to our overall health, but we also need to counter our modern lifestyle with pleasurable activities and exercise.

High intensity exercise is a popular trend these days, but you don’t have to push yourself to extremes in order be fit and energetic. In fact, research like this article in Psychology Today shows that practices like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, Aikido, and NIA—all slow movement combined with awareness of bodily sensation—can have greater benefits compared to traditional exercise in reducing pain, increasing mobility, and decreasing depression and stress. Dancing improves brain function and reduces the risk of memory loss, and has many physical benefits. Following a diet of whole and healthy meals rather than sugary, processed foods can improve mood and decrease depression, in addition to improving physical health.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started in your journey to wellness in the realm of the physical self. If you’d like to explore this or any of the parts of well-being a little more in depth, we can do coaching around creating a wellness plan.

  • Experiment with different movement. Take the time to explore group fitness or dance classes, online workout videos, or individual exercise like swimming or running, until you find a fitness routine that you enjoy and will feel motivated to keep up with. Find fitness classes on the cheap through your local Parks and Recreation, try out fun dance-inspired options like NIA or Zumba, shoot some hoops at the playground, or hula hoop to some funky music, pull out your rollerskates, skateboard, or bike. Connect with your inner child and play!  Or, try out a free yoga class online in the comfort of your home or choose from one of these many free dance, stretching, or cardio videos.


  • Start your day with stretching. Take 5 minutes right when you get out of bed to slow down, notice your breathing and do some simple stretching. Instead of rushing into the day, pause and check in with your physical self. Make up your own movements or refer to this website for inspiration. Stretching can improve circulation and reduce stress.


  • Try healthy snacking. Find a healthier alternative for one of your favorite “bad” foods. When you crave the junk food option, experiment with substituting with the healthier version. Some ideas for sweet and savory snacks include frozen grapes, celery and peanut butter, Greek yogurt with honey, cinnamon sprinkled on apple, trail mix or nuts, carrots and hummus, baked sweet potato with cinnamon, balsamic vinegar drizzled on mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.


  • Practice Mindful Eating. Sometimes we eat out of boredom, sadness, or habit. This raisin, chip, and chocolate exercise can help us to pay attention to when and why we eat and to notice what our food really tastes like and whether we enjoy what we are eating.






Balance, Dreams, Emotions, Experimentation, Freedom, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love is Space, Movement, Open, Personal Growth, Support, Transformation, Wisdom

When the light leaves our path

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to catch up with a close friend who moved away last year.  I was excited to fill her in on all of the newness in my life, especially graduate school and all that I am learning on my way to becoming a counselor.

And I was also eager to hear where she was at, after completing an intensive training on her path as a healer. She shared some of the struggle that is common after going through a life-changing experience. In this case, when a craft or vocation that deeply resonates is shown to you, you can see yourself living this out, yet you are not entirely sure how to get from where you are to where you want to be. I went through this uncomfortable and disorienting phase after finishing a life coaching program that held me and guided me for nine months. When the 9 month gestation period came to a close, me and this tight-knit group of women who’d been meeting weekly, were set free. Suddenly in the absence of structure and with coaching certificate in hand I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. With the withdraw of community energy all supporting our learning and dreams, I felt some post-process blues, as I returned to my everyday life, wholly changed yet not able to see the change bear out. alone-971122_1280

It took almost as long to move through the phase of integration as it took to complete the training program itself, so I wanted to assure my friend that the period of seeming inaction and confusion after feeling inspired and motivated is normal, and may be necessary. In these periods of lull and let-down, we are still upgrading our psycho-spiritual processing system, and that can take time.
Giving ourselves a
healthy dose of spacious patience to move through change and integrate helps us to be more effective in our pursuits, and also allows us to model to others how to live during these difficult times of limbo.

Before I’d gotten to the point of clarity around wanting to coach and eventually counsel, when I was feeling completely lost as a librarian searching for my calling, that phase, also, was precious and valuable. I guide others through muck and distress. Having been deeply in it, myself, at times trusting that movement was happening when things felt stagnant, at times feeling excruciating pain of feeling lost and unsure of how to serve, and at times surrendering and calling out for help, all of it was part of the path.

I’d just had the realization the night before talking with this friend about those many years of feeling impatient and frustrated, when my soul and heart wanted to burst out of my skin because I knew my true calling was in there somewhere, wanting to be born, but I did not know how to birth it: I was exactly where I needed to be at the time. The pain I had felt led me to deep listening and tuning into inner awareness, tweaking my lifestyle in small and big ways, finding mentors and guides, and getting into dance to move through all of it and heal in community.surrender

Because of all of this I am able to bring a full, dynamic self to the craft of counseling, carrying many healing practices and approaches with me because I relied on them to get me here. I know that I can give my energy and effort towards excellence in my counseling program without compromising the rest of my life. I can live in harmony, so that grad school and my career path are just another expression of who I am, embodied and in my heart. If I had discovered counseling as my path 10 years ago, I would be bringing a lot less life experience, fewer tools and resources, and less perspective on suffering and the wisdom of all emotions. I would be studying and writing papers without feeling the fluidity in my body, without dance and meditation breaks, without a sense of my own wholeness.

What bell hooks says of “engaged pedagogy” applies as much to counselors, coaches, healers, or creatives as it does to teachers in the classroom. If I may adapt her proclamation from Teaching to Transgress to the practice of transgressive therapy: “Counselors must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to counsel in a manner that empowers clients.” That process is not always easy, it happens in the dark, and at times, on a road no one else has traveled before. We walk, we crawl, we curl up and take a nap, and with courage, we keep moving.

I envision with and for my clients a pervasive sense of well-being. Who they are when living a heartful and soulful life comes through in all that they do. But I also know that along the way to purposeful and centered we can feel stuck, at a loss, and alone.  Coaching can provide the support and teach tools of self-compassion, to move into the radical trust that you are on the heart-soul path even when it feels scary or stagnant. With courage, lionhearts!


Balance, Celebration, Embodiment, Experimentation, Freedom, Intention, Joy, Life Coaching, Movement, Open, Play, Whole Body

Taking a page from a 12 year old’s playbook

I’ve been spending lots of time with a young girl.


She is bursting with fun, creative energy. She shrieks and laughs and announces her visions out loud. She has an endless stream of ideas for things to make and do, and a curiosity and bubbly excitement over an array of interests. Her favorites: imagining her dolls’ lives and relationships and designing new props for them, watching and bopping along to music videos, discussing characters from movies she loves, taking interest in her family history, playing board games, drawing and coloring, and jumping rope.

On top of all of the wonderment and play, girl’s got homework, too, though–reading, writing, and arithmetic. While she may not be as in love with these, she always gets ’em done…and without complaint. I’ve noticed a couple ways that she approaches things she has to do and balances them with what she wants to do. While our adult schedules may not allow for as much leisure time, I think we can still adopt some of her strategies for success!



  •  Treat the “work” a bit more like play. How? Can you turn a chore into something a little more fun, light, and engaging? This could be something simple like making housework and cleaning into a game with uplifting music and dancing around with a vacuum, rag, or broom. Or, paying bills could be something you can do with a timer on to see how quickly you can get ‘er done. Dress up in a zany outfit while writing a report or paper and use colorful markers for taking notes at work. Get creative and silly when there’s not too much at stake.
  • Break your activities up into small manageable chunks, rewarding the to-dos with little prizes of want-to-dos. You could set a timer and make an agreement with yourself to work on a less fun task for, say,  20 minutes, after which you can celebrate by eating a square of chocolate, dancing to your favorite song of the moment, looking at Pinterest for 5 minutes, etc. Mix the day up into work and play and reward yourself when you meet your goals!
  • Let’s get physical! I love that this girl throws in even 2 minutes of jump rope between some of her other activities, because this feels like a do-able way to sneak in movement and exercise without having to make a big deal of it. When getting up to grab something from the printer or another room, when transitioning between different work tasks, when returning from a restroom break, take a minute or two to walk fast, jog, stretch, shake out your arms, hands, legs, feet, and do some neck rolls. It’s easy to get trapped up in the small space that your brain occupies, forgetting about the wild animal body that wants your attention, from the neck down. Remember to check in with the senses and skin and muscle and lungs that moves and breathes you all day.

Brainstorm with me! What are some fun and accessible activities you can reward yourself with during a long day of commitments and errands? What is something that will make you smile, stimulate you, bring you pleasure or relief, that can be done in the moment? Comment below with a list of some of your ideas!



Autumn, Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Experimentation, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Self-love

Rainy days and Tuesdays

I’ve lost track of how many days it has been since I’ve seen the sun. Overcast and rainy here in Carrboro, North Carolina last week, then more damp grey in Charlottesville, Virginia where I spent a weekend reuniting with friends and the conscious dance community, and  back at home this week and in the 10 day forecast: showers, drizzle, thunder, clouds.


Even before the rain came, I felt the onset of fall. The change in the air and the light…and my mood. Many people welcome weather that allows for soups, hot cocoa, long sleeves, pants, and boots. I bask in summer light and heat…I play and jump and dance in the luminous and tropical dog days.  Summer is the season that makes my spirit soar. And when autumn arrives, I always crash a bit.

The lack of sun and shorter days bring on a melancholy and a drop in my energy. I come home from work a little bummed. The sky is darkening and I haven’t gotten my daily dose of being outdoors. I feel it in my body as a slowness, a tiredness, a drop, and then my brain, whys and what fors and other existential questions pop and clutter the radio waves of my mind. I can see through their illusory nature…just thoughts, not true, and yet the pull towards going to sleep–literally and figuratively is strong on some somber September and early October days.

I co-lead a fitness group and so I have some pressure in my mind that I should be the exemplary model of staying on top of my workout (6 days a week is my ideal) and should be able to come right home from work and start exercising. I know exercise is good for the brain, so this will help, right? Well, humans are multidimensional and are bodies and brains need different kinds of attention to heal and rediscover our wholeness depending on the moment.

Here are 3 ways I approach my Autumn Inertia and Blues. May these serve you on days you’re feeling low and unmotivated.

  1. Surrender to your resistance. Instead of fighting the feelings and repressing or denying the very real and biological changes that happen when we are exposed to less light and the season’s change, allow yourself to feel what is happening and to honor the natural cycles and rhythms of your body and life. In that surrender, feel into your body and ask: what do i most need right now? What does that tenderness or tiredness want? Stop with the shoulds and instead tap into the needs of the moment–Do I need a bath? a walk? a cry? a nap? tea with a friend? journaling? knitting while watching a funny movie? Be soft and friendly with yourself. Allow yourself to be guided by what you need to do to care for yourself as you allow the feelings to be there…and normalize the feelings. It is normal to feel a change our energy and mood when fall replaces summer. It is normal to need some down time in the transition. Remind yourself of this and allow yourself the rest and comfort you need–without feeling bad about it.
  2. Opposite to emotion action. This is a skill from Marsha Linehan’s brilliant brainchild, a mindfulness and cognitive treatment program known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The dialectic is the embracing of the paradox: I accept myself completely, I embrace how I feel AND I can change my behavior and choose something different. So while we acknowledge that we are not feeling like working out, or going out, or socializing, we choose to do it anyway, as we can see we do not need to be controlled by the whims of ever-changing emotions. We make a choice out to act out of the wisdom that we will feel better through moving around and getting the blood flowing, or by connecting with people, or getting done what we need to do. Feel the resistance and do the thing anyway. You can break it down into smaller steps. You can visualize yourself doing the thing you know you need to do. But then just do it! This may seem contradictory to my previous tip, but it is not. It all starts with allowing what is there to Be, then connecting to your own wisdom to know what it is that feels right for you, case by case.
  3. Embody your resistance. This is an invitation to release whatever stuckness you feel through the body. I have danced and taught Nia for many years, a fitness program I love whose motto is “Through Movement We Find Health.” And if I cannot force myself to get up, lace up my sneakers, and turn on my workout dvd to do mountain climbers and burpees, there is a different way to move, organically, that will both address the need to move for physical health, yes, but also for spiritual and emotional health. Notice the pain and difficult feelings that are present and then move as if you were expressing them through your body. Right where you are, in your room (you can even start seated or lying down) get curious. This mood–sadness, frustration, exhaustion, depletion, resistance: what would it do, how does it move, what does it look like? This could be as small and subtle as slight tap of your fingers, turn of your wrist, lifting of a limb, maybe your feet or hips or head will start to get into it…get into your mood with your body and then express it outward. Move into a shape that feels like your sadness or struggle. Pause to feel it…then move with the changing emotions as you give them space to live and breathe and release through your body. Make it a dance…a creative, curious exploration of what movements your mood wants to make. Express the emotions, witness how they show up in your body, and move through them. What do you notice?

Bonus: read this poem by Rilke (translated by Robert Bly) aloud to yourself.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.


Be the one to hold yourself up in your falling.

And for more support in the shifting season, sign up for my 7 Days of Self-Connection offering. It’s free. 

Balance, Curiosity, Dancing is Healing, Dreams, Embodiment, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Personal Growth, Play, Power Within, Transformation, Whole Body

Balanced Living Part 1: Myth Busting

Who here practices yoga?

You know tree pose? Or vrkasana in sanskrit? Non-yogis: imagine rooting one foot into the ground and balancing on that side while your other leg folds up so that the foot can lay flat on the inner thigh of your standing leg. You are grounded to the earth and lifting up– long spine, chest open, arms out wide like tree branches, or palms together in prayer at your heart. Eyes fixed on a still point to help focus the mind.

5798315823_19a54c728a_zEven in the most expert and balanced version of this, there is movement. Some of us feel trembling in the leg, some shakiness in our arms. We may fall out of the pose and re-center to move back into balance. Then there is the rising and falling of breath, the micro-movements and tiny imperceptible adjustments to continually tweak and maintain strength and stability in the posture.

And yet in life, we often do not see balance like this–as a dynamic and ever-shifting process. Many clients come to coaching seeking balance as if it were a place they will finally land, a state at which they will arrive or a magic formula they will figure out…never to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or thrown off course again.

It can feel super challenging to do all the things we need and want to do in our days while also getting the sleep, nutrition, exercise, and time to relax that we need.

I want to offer some strategy and perspective to help. The very first is dropping the expectation that there will be a time when we will just get it and forever be balanced. Life is fluid and full of change…we can approach balance as something that we, everyday, recommit to moving toward and dancing with. We set our intentions and move consciously throughout our day, deciding what is truly needed in each moment. Breathing into our legs and lungs and making adjustments to stay clear, centered, and sane.

We can create more ease, be more clear on what our priorities are, and practice more presence. Yet moving towards balance does not mean we can eliminate uncomfortable feelings or stress or reach some final perfected equilibrium. More so, dancing with balance means we won’t get so rattled or discouraged by our challenges or by waves of chaotic energy. We will pay attention to our limits, know the signs of when to stop, and take steps to best nurture and care for ourselves. We honor our wholeness in all our decisions, and consciously choose how we spend our time and energy.

Next post: I will share more on how to stop chasing balance and how to live in the dynamic dance of balancing.

For now…

Homework PLAY:

Create a dance move that expresses your relationship with balance in your life right now…the dance may change, but now, what does it look like? What does it feel like in your body? Choose a theme song and do your balance dance movement to it! What did you come up with?

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

facing our fear of change

lately things in my life have felt uncertain, unpredictable, and downright chaotic. truth is, this is always the case. my homegirl, Pema Chodron, says it best:

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground-something predictable and safe to stand on-seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

so while everything is changing all the time, there are moments when we are acutely aware, excruciatingly uncomfortably aware. we are thrust into the middle of the manic movement. it tosses us around. it feels dizzying and unstoppable. we often flail and thrash around to try to force something to solidify or clarify or to try to grab a hold of something fixed to keep us flying off the earth’s surface. chaoschange

how can we handle these storms without losing complete contact with ourselves, with our stillness, centeredness, and intuition that are always pulsing within? how can we move with the chaos, into the change, instead of against it?chaosflipone thing in the moment

this is deceptively simple and uber-powerful. be where you are. be totally in your experience of what you are doing. right. now.

that’s it.

say to yourself: “right now, i am driving to the store.” then “in this moment, i am waiting at the stoplight.” and “right now, i am noticing the traffic.” or “right now i am looking for parking.” and so on…

it seems basic–and that is why it works!

bringing the brain back to the basics, focusing our attention only on the task at hand, can deliver us into the safe space of the now. unless there is an immediate threat or danger around, most stress we experience during times of transition, originate in our heads.

with this practice, instead of getting pulled into rumination or worry, we only use our brain to experience what is here & now. there’s no room for that thought-spasm that is trying to control a situation over which we have no control.

only present are the thoughts about the actions and observations of this moment.

get grounded heartree

there may never be any solid ground in our experience of life, as Pema is suggesting in the excerpt above. even in periods of apparent stability, things are always shifting, moving, ebbing, flowing. just when we think we’ve “made it”–in career or relationship, etc. things can change drastically in an instant. which is why, when our feeling of this groundlessness is heightened, it can help to connect with the literal ground and feel its support.

like to garden? great! if not, just find a place to sit or lie down on a rock or in a field or even on your bedroom floor…let yourself be supported by the ground and take in the sensations of where it is touching you. notice it is there, holding you, giving you a place to Be. without conditions.

other ways to ground: walk barefoot on the earth, hold heavy a rock in your hands, meditate with a grounding stone like Tigers Eye, listen to drumming, eat root vegetables, drink holy basil tea. any other suggestions to bring the energy levels down?

move with change

those of us who are regular visitors to the ocean are probably familiar with riptide safety 101.

  • don’t panic
  • don’t try to swim against the current

swimmers who succumb to rip currents do so because they exhaust themselves with the fight and drown.

let this be motivation to connect to the calm within. take a moment now to find it.

for me, when i bring attention to my physical center…just above the naval and above the lower back and move my awareness inward to meet in the middle from front of the body and back of the body,  i can sense a steadiness there. i can also tune into my heart center and find calm there. birds-633103_1280

find your center. from that steadiness, relax. then move. don’t freeze, flail, or fight. roll and shift and sway and lightly dance into it, allow the change to guide you, and with radical trust, let go.

peptalk to yourself

this can feel like hard, scary stuff. go gentle with yourself. remind yourself when things feel particularly tough, that you are strong, brave, and fabulous for showing up to life.

this is how it is–the reality of life is all about change. moving into, with lovingkindness towards yourself is what it’s all about. suffer less…surrender more. remember that you have survived hard times before and we often emerge from strange churning and chaotic rumblings stronger, wiser, and more connected to our fellow human beings, who are on similar change-filled journeys. send yourself some love right now. you are doing awesome!

Awareness of Sensation, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Movement, Whole Body

movement practice 2

let’s dive right into this practice! if you did the first, the instructions are pretty much the same. this time, think of a song that doesn’t bring the same kind of natural ease and desire to dance. this doesn’t have to be a song you actually hate…a strong reaction might be distracting, so better to pick a track that you feel neutral about or even like but can’t imagine dancing to.

this is all about exploring and allowing awkwardness and confusion…so even less reason to be a “dancer” in this exercise. embrace your clumsy movements and unsure footing! stay with it, stay with yourself. surely there are times in life when we don’t know what we are doing, when we’re in new territory, when we have to do it anyway and persevere through our discomfort. bringing some curiosity and loving attention to these moments can lighten the load and create space for learning and growth.

so, here goes (download worksheet here for a complete set of instructions)

Think of a song that you find challenging in some way…either you just don’t connect to it or when you’ve tried to dance to  it,  your body feels tremendously awkward and your mind confused, a song where you just don’t know what to do or how to groove. Cue up your song and have it ready to go.

For reflection afterwards, respond to the following questions as best as you can. Again, stay curious and non-judgmental. (here are my answers!)

Song artist and title:


  1. Describe in 5-7 emotion words how you felt as you heard the song. Pause to breathe into those feelings. What are you feeling now?


  1. Where did you feel the music most in your body? How did your body feel?



  1. Did you move mostly in one place or did you travel around the room? Why or why not?



  1. Where in your body did you feel the most stuck or unsure? What parts of your body were you able to move?




  1. Did you notice any shift happen for you as you kept up the practice? Did anything get unstuck? Did you find any movements you liked?


  1. Did your feelings about the song change or stay the same?



  1. What do you think are the qualities or sounds in this song that make it challenging?


  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much of you was fully in the experience of moving? Where else were you if your attention was divided?


Awareness of Sensation, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Movement, Whole Body

movement practice 1

a couple posts ago i shared the luxurious joy i felt dancing to music that resonates with me…and what it is like to have the opposite experience. we can find the wisdom in both–cultivating self-awareness while moving through ease and delight is a practice i am going to invite you into today. next post, i’ll ask you to move through something stickier to find what messages live in your resistance.

download the worksheet to follow this simple exercise. the worksheet has a little bonus practice, as well.

this practice is for everybody

no need to be a dancer. it’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing…your body does. take it at your own pace, feel your feet and find your breath and go as slow or as shakily as you need…the wisdom is in what you feel, not what you look like. sometimes i have videotaped myself dancing and am surprised to see that it doesn’t even look like i am doing that much. while i am in my experience, i feel so much movement and information happening inside my body, and it feels like so much is happening even if it isn’t visible from the outside. this is not about performance or dancing well. i have not taken dance classes since i dropped out of ballet at age 6. i promise. i did complete the training to teach NIA, a fitness program that incorporates dance moves, but is similarly, for every BODY. music and movement create a potent pathway to tap into our intuition, our wisdom, and to move out of our thoughts into a greater sense of self through somatic awareness.




before you begin to move, clear a space and time where you can be free of interruptions, distractions, and where you can feel totally comfortable to move. wear anything that feels easy and unrestricted to move in. i recommend being barefoot for heightened sensation.

if you have an injury or limited mobility, you can still do this practice by adjusting to your body’s needs. be creative. movement can happen in really small but powerful ways when we bring curiosity to our experience. i have attended workshops where participants have needed to dance while seated or laying on the floor. shoulders, feet, elbows, ankles, eyebrows, cheeks, head, toes and fingers moved while they took care of their individual needs. i invite you to join me in doing the same, whatever your physical reality.

think of a song that brings you total joy when you hear it, a song that makes you feel excited when it comes on the radio or a track you keep coming back to for a mood booster. cue up your song and have it ready to go.

comment below or send a photo of your completed worksheet to i am so curious what happens when you explore sensation and emotions in motion. feel your body from feet to head, from belly to breath, heart to the healing hands of self-touch. notice the places that feel open, closed, and how your body likes to move.


First, check in with yourself and see how you are feeling. You can set an intention for this practice, such as to experience joy or aliveness, to let go of thoughts and get into your body, or simply to stay curious.
Start the song and dance to it. You don’t need to travel around your space a lot or do any special moves. You are just responding to a song that you love with your body, however that looks. What we are most interested in is how it feels.
Sense your feet connected to the earth, even if you don’t move them much. Sense the support of the floor underneath your soles; feel your feet touching the ground and the ground touching your feet. Squish your heels down a few times and then plant your whole feet and sink down into the support to establish that connection and return to that awareness of your feet throughout the song.
As you move to the music, pay attention to how you feel in your body. Try to keep returning your attention to your experience as you are moving. Keep moving until after the song has finished. Slow down your movements in the silence after its end and then make a gesture of completion to step out of this practice. You can bow with prayer hands or physically take a step away from where you are to close out the moving meditation.


For reflection afterwards, respond to the following questions as best as you can. Again, stay curious and non-judgmental. (here are my answers!)

                                                                                  Song artist and title:


  1. Describe in 5-7 emotion words how you felt as you heard the song. Pause to breathe into those feelings. What are you feeling now?one


  1. Where did you feel the music most in your body? How did your body feel? qone
  1. Did you move mostly in one place or did you travel around the room? Why or why not? two1
  1. Where in your body did you feel the most pleasure? What parts of your body did you move the most? Are there any movements that you especially love?


  1. Did you notice any areas of tension or any body parts you didn’t move at all or very much? Head, fingers, hips, feet? Take a moment to say hello to each place you may not have moved as much with breath, touch, and a little wiggle.



and that’s it! why is worth taking the time to move with awareness? check out this article from Psychology Today on the impact of moving with body sense awareness. it’s amazing and important stuff…start small and do it daily for big impact.





Dancing is Healing, Ecstatic, Embodiment, Movement, Soul, Whole Body

the courage that comes before ecstasy


tonight i came across this quotation in a book by Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:

“Become silent and go by the way of silence towards non-existence. And when you become non-existent you will be all praise and all laud.” Rumi

these words so capture my experience of ecstatic dance.

5 years ago i started searching for a space in my community to create an ecstatic dance practice. except i never really used that language. moving meditation, creative dance, authentic movement, rhythms of renewal, and words i can’t remember now. i never wanted to use the word “ecstatic” in my practice because of what the mind does when it hears that word.  when we hear “ecstatic,” many of us expect (and sometimes force) an ecstatic (fun, enthusiastic, joyful) experience. so much of the ecstatic dance practice, however, is about dancing in the darkness, moving through pain and tension, feeling awkwardness, fear, discomfort, and finding ways to hold that in our bodies, to allow it all to be felt fully, and to be expressed through movement in a safe space. sometimes we get through to lightness and release in one dance. often we don’t. we don’t always experience catharsis in an hour and a half. and we can get addicted to the flow and the bliss of where our dance feels easy and where we feel free to do whatever want (shout, clap, scream, shake, boogie, grind, chicken dance). we can keep things on the surface and play and dance and impulsively follow our wild whims. that’s totally great. it is healing, community-building, and enjoyable. it is not, however, ecstatic dance.

ecstatic dance, as i have known it to be, is completely unrehearsed and unpredictable. we don’t dance with any familiar footwork or formal technique. and yet it is not impulsive either. any sound, expression, movement comes from the deepest truth of that moment being channeled through the body. we might pair off with people with whom we have a relationship off of the dance floor, but only after we’ve reached the point when they are a complete stranger again. now, we see them anew as if for the first time. we have no idea how we will move together because we’ve never moved together before in this moment. we make no conversation–not verbal, and also not non-verbal. not that there is not acknowledgment or recognition. rather, it is that the recognition is happening after the dance drops beneath conversation, beneath the personality, beneath any known relationship, beneath anything we think we understand. we connect at a soul level, through the wisdom of the body, seeing from eyes through eyes, sensing our breaths, our hearts, our feet in motion. having no idea what comes next, we move on an ever-shifting ground. while i feel this happening in ecstatic dance spaces, i often see a whole lots of other stuff happening. without an explicit practice of movement as meditation, varied intentions and levels of attention come to the dance. this is why i am eager to create a space that is for those called to, as Gabrielle Roth describes, “fall into the moment feet first.”

5 Rhythms, the moving meditation practice founded by Gabrielle Roth and the one with which i am most familiar, has workshops that go on for days, even weeks sometimes! it takes a lot of staying with ourselves, going beneath the known, the noise, and the expectations to get to ecstatic. and that isn’t even the goal. the only goal is to keep moving. i admit, it is hard for me. i often want to hide, i want to leave when i am not feeling “good,” or when i feel tired or afraid of a big feeling or of some intense energy on the dance floor, when my introversion says to me “i need to be alone” or when i feel like i just can’t move anymore. this is when we dance that hiding, that wanting to leave, the feeling tired, that fear, that introversion. and that “i just can’t move?” yes, we move it. we drop everything we know about what dance is supposed to look like or feel like in order to show up completely for ourselves and allow what is real to be shared through the body. to witness this expression through someone else is humbling and connecting. without any physical contact, i have felt incredibly close to those i have watched moving in their authentic non-selfness, simply moving their energy and emotions, responding to what their body is asking for moment to moment.

and if, after emerging from private introspective dancing, i find a body–and can stay with my own utterly unique rhythms and pace and experience while moving with someone else in their own utterly unique rhythms and pace and experience, i feel unbelievable beauty, tenderness, and release in our shared exploration. feeling the places where we meet, where we don’t meet, where we flow, where we are stuck, where we look beautiful, where we look totally ridiculous, where we connect, where we cannot connect…staying with it…staying with it. this is the dance of intimacy…wanting what we don’t want because it deepens our intimacy with reality, it deepens our awareness of who we really are and allows us to see and accept all of it. we get bigger–no, we feel how big we really are. so big we are nothing, unbound freedom, ecstasy.


Awareness of Sensation, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Movement, Whole Body

the songs we love and the songs we need to love ourselves into


housemusic  (120 BPM with a feminine touch)

a poem (linked above/caveat: i’m not a poet!) inspired by a Valentine’s night of dancing…and of trying to dance and feeling realllly awkward. many modalities would tell us that the movements that feel the hardest are those we need the most, so this tells me i need to practice the clarity, confidence, and percussive pronouncements of those punctuated driving techno beats.

on the 14th, my day for celebrating pink, chocolates, and Love of self and other, i craved something softer + more flowy + expansive…something that spoke to ME and my body. techno represents aspects that i need to develop and own for moving into making shit happen, and actualizing my vision: declaring my statement of purpose, clearly defined, announcing who i am and how i want to live, uncompromised. i notice a strongly entrenched fear of rejection/desire for being liked/winning approval and all that makes that feel so scary. moving through these fears, i see myself being bold in action, powerfully voiced, expressing my wisdom and passions.

saturday night, though, i let myself relax and receive the music. i’ll get back to work tomorrow.

where do you love to move and linger? is there a song that just invites you in all your pleasure to show up? how does it feel to hear that song with your whole body?

…and what is the music that is calling you out of your patterns? what are the moves your body needs? the neglected aspects of yourself that they represent? is it the feminine spirals and softness, the articulate precision and force, the letting go and abandoning any hope of control, the integration and effortlessness, the calm still place of deepest centered home and intimacy with ourselves? (hat tip: 5 Rhythms) find what’s easy. move in and with that and feel the delight of doing what’s familiar and sweet and savory because it’s what your body enjoys.

then commit to edging out towards what feels hard but you know would open you to new worlds and get you to nurture a neglected aspect of yourself. after indulging in and celebrating the song you love, try loving yourself into a song that is harder to move with! what kinds of music bring you to life? how does it feel to experiment with the more challenging tracks? comment below!