July 23, 2016

One Good Letting Go Leads to Another - in Life, and in Dance.

Hello my friends,

Have you ever noticed how one change cascades into another?

It’s like walking into a dark room and turning on the light. The light goes everywhere…
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Life changes are like lighting a flame. I only moved five miles down the road, but it is light years away.

Downsizing is not simply departing from a large place to small.

It is changing a way of life,
Letting go of the past so I can be more fully present in the Now.

Feeling fearless as one good letting go leads to another.

Changing the basic way I move in dance is also about letting go. I'm focusing on releasing some tightening that happens in my neck and back that I hadn’t noticed before.

I have to practice this, because that old habit of tensing up, dies hard. You can read more about how it works here.

As I release the tension I notice a sense of lightness and flow, like water…

It feels like “nothing” yet I'm used to feeling "something." What kind of something am I used to sensing? It’s probably tension, because when I release tightness in my legs and feet, the “nothing” feeling comes. I only became able to tell the difference by noticing its absence. I had to let it go, on faith, to find it.

Changing how I move in Dance
Changes how I feel inside of myself
Like water changes shape…

Doing a Marie Kondo on my life
And my dancing.

Letting go of unnecessary tension, working less and moving more…feels like I’m someone else and yet, in a deep way, more me.

Join me in this exploration....I'd love to hear from you!

Peace,
Dana

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July 19, 2016

When Less is More...

Hello my friends,

Thanks for stopping by. Pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee with me :).

I sat out on my patio this morning for the first time in quite a while. I took my coffee and a pad of paper and told Rafi*, “Mom’s going to have a think.”
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I sat on the old green chair from Starlite, moved the spider plant over on the table, and tried to sort out all the thoughts in my head.

It felt like too much work.

I told myself, “Just sit.”

Or, as I say to my students, “First, we Stop.”

So, I sat!

I sit now, just enjoying my coffee and the feel of the air.

Watching the maintenance people working, driving their little carts filled with the tools of their trade and self-importance. They buzz all around the pathways in the complex, stopping at different units to fix things.

I suddenly see a very pretty spiderweb catching sunlight up in the corner of my patio. There are two webs, partly completed or partly broken; I’m not sure. Are they from two spiders ganging up on bugs? Or is this one very ambitious spider?

Quieting down and breathing more freely…

I notice that the tree in front of the entrance on the left side, has pink flowers on one branch. I look at the tree on the right; one branch has masses of pink flowers waving in the air. I knew they were there on some level but I'd never really noticed them.

Sitting here…smelling the green scent of cut lawns and newly pruned bushes. A breeze waves through the leafy spider plants and they are in motion like ripples on the shore.

The more I look, the more I see. Details of life are everywhere; does noticing them make us more alive?

I enjoy the last sips of now cool, French press coffee. The air is pleasantly cool on my bare arms.

Stopping what I call “thoughts" is allowing something else to bubble up.

More noticing
Deeper breaths
Less thinking.

The day calls.

Peace,
Dana


*Rafi, my Japanese Chin; 5 1/2 pounds of sweetness.

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July 10, 2016

How does a free neck lead to happiness and harmony for dancers?

Hello, my friends,

How does a free neck lead to happiness and harmony for dancers?

First the neck, releasing into length without effort
Ah, it is easier to breathe…
And the head, so lightly poised on top, and free.

This combination of a free neck and lightly poised head, creates conditions for the back to release wide.

Continuing that widening out from the back through the arms into frame is a natural extension.

Noticing that your arms are connected through from your back rather than disparate objects hanging from your shoulders.

They are part of the Whole, part of finding balance and harmony with the spine.

As the neck is free and the head can swivel freely on the end of the neck, the whole system quiets.

As the nerves are quieter and less jumpy, the whole Self comes to a state of quiet

And in the quiet you are more sensitive and able to respond to your partner because
You feel it more

You can feel it more because your own body is quieter and not distracting you.

Happiness feeling the freedom in your own neck,
Leading to harmonious expansion into frame.
Connecting with your partner and being quiet inside yourself,
So there is a blending yet maintaining your own form.

The body moves under the head and for this to happen, the neck must be free.

When your neck is very free, coordination, balance and control improve.

I love teaching dancers how to find this freedom.

Freedom of the head and neck are at the core of the Alexander Technique.

Moving in accord with the design of the body, finding freedom.

Happiness and harmony for dancers.

Peace,
Dana

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July 9, 2016

A Song to Princess Leia

“Change is doing something against the habit of life. “
-- F.M. Alexander


Leaving my home of nearly 28 years brings joy and also some sadness. I think if I had stayed there, I'd never make any of the changes that I so want.

As I organized spoons in a drawer in the new apartment, it felt awkward. The drawer was on the wrong side of the sink. I laughed at myself and said, "Change is doing something against the habit of life."

Change happens. I'm a bit nostalgic. It will be okay.

Rafi is eating less even though Leia isn’t there to steal his food. He misses her.

He runs through the house looking – then goes to sleep on the little pad that was Leia’s from puppyhood – against his habit that is to curl up on the big doggie pad or in the round bed that is no longer there.

Change is stretching to maintain my poise by actively thinking moment by moment rather than trying to find the feeling from the time before.

It keeps the energy continually renewed and alive rather than abandoning the present moment to try and retrieve a feeling from the past.

It is the intention to move my energy actively through my body Now & Now & Now & Now again. Dancing in the Now.

I try this. Today, I can only sustain it for a minute at most but I know that will change as this way of being more alive in movement, becomes my new habit.

Facebook doesn’t understand that she’s gone; it suggests a picture from one year ago today. My sweet Princess Leia with a smile on her face. Here is a puppy picture for you:

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She lives in my heart in memory but I am also looking for her today as Rafi does; she’s just in the other room, always in the other room...

She died a few weeks ago after bravely surviving heart failure for a year and a half. She died as she lived, graciously offering a gift by passing in her own time, here at home, with Rafi and me.

Sadness is sharp, it makes me cry out loud.

And it is soft, remembering the feel of sweet little Leia’s fur, soft as a bunny, sweetness in her puppy face all her life.

Sadness isn’t so bad when it flows like water; it is a river of tears, and it is fitting to grieve. It is being stuck holding it as I’ve done in the past that is not healthy. Holding sadness is like holding the river. Try. Try again. The river always wins…

I notice how it is hard to keep my head up when I’m holding on to sadness. Holding emotion must be connected with tightness in my neck and shoulders.

I let my head float up and my spine flow upward and I let go; not of the love for my little dog but of the holding on to the river, holding on as if it will bring her back…as if I let go into sadness, she will be gone from memory. I let go and the sadness flows through me. Now & Now & Now again, I flow in and out of my grief, feeling her as if still alive. I remember she loved blueberries from my breakfast and I think of her as I share them with my Rafi-dog.

Sitting outside next to a croton plant with bright, tiger orange and jungle green leaves. Sipping coffee and watching the color flow like an orange river in sunlight, like a river of sadness and love.

Being unstuck in grief is going against the habit of life. It hurts, but it is very alive.

Twice in the last three days, I’ve nearly gotten off the freeway at the exit to my old house. I walk in the front door, say, “hello babies,” and have to correct myself: “hello, Rafi.”

Rafi runs through the house searching for her. He looks at his bed but instead, goes to Leia’s little pad, and sleeps.

In Memory

Princess Leia
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July 1, 2016

Happiness Is a Free Neck

Hello my friends,

How are you today? Are you making plans for the holiday?

Coming up on the Fourth of July weekend, I am thinking about freedom a lot.

I am going through changes in a good way; selling my home of 27+ years is huge, but downsizing is turning out to be wonderful. When one friend heard the news, he only said one word: "Freedom!"

Freedom is a theme in the body, too. I think of that in dance; of the balance between freedom and control.

Sometimes I can’t help seeing the things that block people’s movement.

When people dance and their heads are out of alignment, sometimes I want to say right out loud, “Let the cork out of the bottle!”

How can you pour a glass of wine if the cork’s still stuck in the bottle?

How do you put ketchup on the plate for your French fries this Fourth, if the top is still on?

It’s a lot more work if you only release the cork slightly, then upend the bottle and pound it on the bottom while ketchup comes out drip by drip.

Work too hard and it pops out too suddenly and – I think we’ve all had this experience – a great, huge gob of ketchup flies out and goes everywhere.

Too much or too little, neither is good.

The same principle holds true with neck tension and the position of your head. There's a delicate balance and the approach you take to finding that freedom has a definite effect on the results.

This is what F.M. Alexander discovered; that the relationship between the head and the neck, and your head and neck in relation to your torso, is the primary influence on your entire system of movement. He called it the Primary Control.

As an Alexander Teacher, I look at this balance.

What is needed is freedom.

Freedom, and also, a special kind of control, for real balance. If you explore this with me, you will come to a point of inner knowing of that moment when it happens; when your head and neck are poised delicately and freely with each other, in harmony with the body. Often, as you tune in, there’s a subtle feeling, of nothingness.

Letting the muscles of the neck release so the head can float up.

The head floating upward takes pressure off the spine. Your neck is relieved of the weight of the head, and neck tension melts.

Take the pressure off a spring and it bounces back.

The spine has springiness to it, and when pressure from above is released, it opens into length. Upward….as well as down.

There can be a sense of the bones hanging and your back releasing into length. As pressure eases, your shoulders release as well, and as they rest and spread out sideways, your arms and legs can release out from your body, swinging freely.

All this to prepare the body for dancing: it starts with releasing the neck and letting the head come into balance. This is what I teach my students; Applied Alexander®, applying the principles of the Alexander Technique to dance.

Happiness is a free neck.

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This Fourth of July, may you be free and happy!

Dana

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June 22, 2016

Little Moments, a Walking Meditation

Hello my friends,

I took a walk instead of going to the gym today. It was early evening, warm and light.

Walking out of doors caught my senses unawares. I spend a lot time at the computer these days, thinking and reading, writing and working.

The scent of the trees and flowers brought me back into my body. Instead of walking while thinking about how to solve problems, I suddenly noticed roses, roses everywhere next to picket fences of older houses in the neighborhood.

I noticed loquats. Have you ever eaten loquats? There is tiny, delicious fruit inside the skin and smooth, big seeds within.

I was so aware of my ears and nose, hearing birds trilling and chirping, catching sweet scents drifting on the air.

I stopped in the vain hope of finding scent in a hedge of white roses. My luck was better with big, red roses, round like baseballs and intensely fragrant.

One huge rosebush was pruned into a huge conical shape, a giant solid mass covered in yellow-orange roses. We nodded hello, or at least I liked thinking that the breeze was part of some larger design.

One step at a time and feeling more alive, I kept on.

Trees! I kept seeing more and more fruit trees right on my block. Fig trees growing over the fences, loquats, laden with fruit. Prickly pear; sweet if you know how to gather them. A bounteous world was outside my front door yet I took it for granted and hadn’t even seen it.

I found the same attention helped me in dance class tonight.

It was a walk from rose bush to rose bush, from fruit tree to fruit tree. So many things I hadn’t noticed that pop into awareness.

I went slowly, enjoying the moment. Noticing my head weight on my foot, space in the hip joint, pressing the foot down. And then there is the Whole and in that blessed moment I cannot sense the parts… Noticing the fruits of attention is happiness on my feet.

Peace,

Dana
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June 14, 2016

While I Dance, I Have No Problems

While I dance, I have no problems.

I feel like myself.

When I’m not happy, the thing that helps the most is to get up and dance.

I don’t know why it’s hard to do – actually when I’m down, what’s hard is starting – but that habit has saved me many a time from the machinations of my own mind.

In fact, I created a little game to play that helped and I’ll share it here with you.

I used to play an imaginary joke on the world when I danced.

On days when I felt overwhelmed, I’d get dressed up, go to the dance studio as usual on a Saturday night, pay the entry fee, put on my shoes, and dance the night away.

What I didn’t tell anyone is that I played a secret game. I’d imagine taking a great, big white box tied up with a pretty red ribbon and bow in the middle. I’d breathe all my troubles and worries into the box – worrying about getting the next contract, tracking down the customer on that old account who flew the coop, feeling pressed for time to bake for my son’s big soccer tournament the next day – I put the whole list of things to do into that box in my imagination.

I’d leave that box outside the dance studio door in hope someone would steal it away.

Then I’d dance, and while I danced someone else was holding my woes.

At midnight, I’d go outside and it never failed; there was that box, waiting for me to pick it up. 984786_gift_1.jpg


Dancing worked its magic, though and the box was somehow always lighter, easier to carry, somehow I felt bigger and the troubles felt smaller.

Dancing still works for me that way, even though I’m training in ballroom dance rather than social dancing. It takes my entire attention to dance with the whole of me and still pay attention to the parts. It’s a happy world of endless exploration. I’ll never be good enough yet somehow…just being there… I am.

Dance is a journey I take with my whole self and so is the Alexander Technique. AT helps me feel at home in my body and more alive. And THAT is a gift I love to share.

Here’s to aliveness! Yours and mine.

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Dana

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June 9, 2016

Morning Coffee; Applied Alexander®

Hello friends,

Thanks so much for stopping by. Join me...

On my patio in the morning with my coffee

Birds singing

Light on a single strand of spider web

A little breeze

A bird’s nest in the crevice under the patio, above.

What do I want? This is a good question that I have been asking myself for the past couple of years.

I just moved out of my home of 27-28 years.

A year from now I’ll be a lot smarter.

That’s what I tell myself and defer judgment till then.

Right now, I notice my shoulders relaxing, dropping down.

The back of my neck is softening.

I notice nothing – more – I notice nothingness.

Birds sing.

My little Rafi-dog is sleeping.
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Stopping.

Finally stepping back; pausing after years of non-stop activity.

A moment to just sit and a place that allows it.

I notice that I do not miss my old house.

I do not need to wait a year to be smarter.

Happiness happens now.

Peace.

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*Applied Alexander® is my exploration of applying the principles of the Alexander Technique to life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, in the comments section!

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May 13, 2016

Applied Alexander®: Dance!

Hello my friends,

What it is about the Alexander Technique that matters? Underneath it all, why do I do it? Why should anyone?

I was practicing dance with a partner and his take on it is that Alexander Technique helps with body mechanics and alignment.

I said, “Of course, everything works better; you’re better aligned and can move with less effort.”

Alignment matters! However, that’s still not why I do it.

It’s not only your position being in alignment, it’s quality of movement. It’s smoothness and ease vs. pushing and force. Power to move by a controlled release…ahhh….what a feeling…. slide018th.jpg

And that’s it.

It’s the way it feels….really, really good. The inner sense of my body is open and electric and it flows. It feels like all the channels are open from my head down my body through to my toes.

You know how you sense your body if you close your eyes and think inwardly, like an inner vision of your own structure?

This work changes my inner vision and also how it feels.

It’s much lighter and freer than muscling through movement from the outside in! Release outwardly along the lines of your body and then stretch; you will have longer reach. Sense your own head weight more clearly and fine-tune that precisely over your toes; you will have better balance.

My exploration is to use this in movement and to share that with other dancers. Applying Alexander’s discovery to movement for ballroom dance.

If Dance is a feeling, what feeling is that dance for you?

I want to feel my body electric and alive. Seamless and open inside; I don’t want to feel anything really, but flow….

How would you like it to be? Please me know in the comments, below!

Namaste,
Dana

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May 5, 2016

Skydiving and the Alexander Technique

Hello my friends, thanks so much for stopping by :).

Tonight I’ve been questioning the nearest person around; myself.

I wonder; why is it so hard to talk about what I do?

Maybe that’s not the right question; I talk about it all the time. Drilling down…

Why is it so hard to transfer the sense of what it is? What IS the Alexander Technique, and why does it matter?

This is the frustration of the Alexander Teacher; no one knows what it is and it can feel like the best thing on earth...a glass of cool water on the hottest day…a wonderful sense of aliveness…

Yes, you say, and skydiving also gives an amazing sense of aliveness and I love it, it is like that?

Well…maybe it is, in the sense of jumping into the unknown, but here you have the bonus of a safety line; your Alexander teacher. Except Alexander Technique can be strangely familiar when you feel it, like something different but very, very right.

I know this because I have gone skydiving and I also dove into the Alexander Technique. For me at least, it was not at all familiar. It did wake up my awareness! Cessna.jpg


What if we take a smaller step today, and say the Alexander Technique is like water?

I can speak of the results, but that’s like trying to explain water by saying, it’s useful for washing dishes and your hands will feel wet. Sure, it works that way but that isn’t what it IS. Soap also cleans dishes and feels wet…now we have to say it isn’t like soap…

Water has the lovely quality of wetness and also the power to wear away rocks and create the Grand Canyon. Does that say what it IS?

The Alexander Technique likewise has the quality of peace and renewal as well as the power to eat away at a lifetime of unconscious tension so you can feel at home in your own body. It chips away at the knowledge within ourselves that we are “right” because it feels right when we are standing or moving “this way,” the “normal” way.

It brings us to new possibilities in movement; something unknown, but wonderful and good. Or... maybe it was once known in a lifetime long ago when we were children and life flowed like water.

It’s about consciousness, which is ultimate and endless. It's not something you can buy in a box at Costco, super-sized. It’s not red like ketchup and not blue like the gorgeous orchids just inside the door at Costco, today.

It really is more like water; it’s what is IN the river that feels so cool in its wetness and invites us to swim.

It's awareness both within the body – the swimmer –
And without – of the water that is around us.

How do you describe water?

Maybe the best feeling there is.

In life.

In movement.

With JOY.


Namaste,

Dana

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April 25, 2016

Celebrate the moment!

Hello my friends,

Thanks so much for stopping by! Diving right in today. Here's something nice from a lesson that I'd like to share.

Working with a student today, her leg released at the hip. It moved freely and she smiled; it was a shift into freedom.

She was ready to ask about using her leg in movement.

I suggested that she just enjoy a breath and noticing this nice feeling of ease for a moment. I said, celebrate the nice feeling of release right now. Just for this one breath in time.

Celebrating the small moment now, then moving on.

We worked this way all through the session, finding small things to notice and pausing just for a breath of time.

Especially when thing are tough, your mind can be caught up in anxious thoughts. If you’ve got an injury, it’s natural to think about it and feel where it hurts, and to check in and notice it again.

I think we’re wired up in an animal sense, for our bodies to be alert to danger and to react to protect us.

It’s so important to take these moments right when they happen. Not tomorrow, not next week, but just a mini-celebration.

Like now! 853035_harvest_freedom_2.jpg

How many times when you dance, do you achieve some improvement, and then immediately push to add the next level?

We do that, and that’s okay, but it’s also good to take tiny moments to celebrate the day. Celebrate staying up on toes and being stable. Enjoy the progress and also keep working.

It’s like an endless treadmill of never getting there. It’s like climbing to one pinnacle and not stopping to look at the view. Sure, you go on, but life has many small moments and not so many big ones.

It’s like decisions. One of my professors in college, who was my advisor, taught this to me. He said that in life, there are many small decisions and very few large ones. He said that when I have a large decision to make, often I’ll find that it’s more like a discovery of something I decided, long ago. It’s just coming to a peak moment, now.

If you celebrate enough small moments, life goes better. It automatically creates a positive habit of noticing good things and letting out a breath. I believe that it’s healthier for the body, too. Breathing while enjoying something is a happy habit to have!

We are all wired up to be protective of ourselves and to react quickly to danger. That’s all good, but in a world that stimulates us constantly with traffic lights and email beeping, with constant thoughts about work on the current project and planning for the next one, it is ever more important to cultivate habits of happiness.

Did you tie your shoe? If you’re five years old, that’s a celebration.

Even if you’re not, it’s a marvel to look at fingers flying with such precision. Enjoy the movement. Enjoy the small things of life. There are more of them, and if you enjoy many small moments throughout your day, you will have a happier life.

Creating habits of happiness is a worthwhile endeavor.

Big decisions happen but they may also be made up of many small actions, getting there.

Celebrate them.

Celebrate every little moment of your life.

Namaste,

1002547_daisy.jpg Dana


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April 12, 2016

The Way Back to Dancing

Hello my friends,

Thanks for stopping by again. Here's news!

Saturday, I took my oldest practice shoes and went to the dance studio.

It’s been four months of recovery and oddly enough, it was hard to get myself back on the dance floor. I didn’t know what I’d discover. The doctor released me on a Monday and it was Saturday before I got on the floor.

I found my ancient practice shoes, the rejects that are so worn out and loose, they live in the back of the closet for emergency use only.

Old faithful shoes, I fished them from the back of the closet. They were happy on my feet, like old friends that are still glad to see you even if years have passed.

Shoes in the dance bag, notebook, water, a soft towel and a tennis ball, I took off for the studio.

I was afraid that one wrong move would hurt my foot again. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I noticed the fear.

Fear is good! It keeps us safe from danger.

Fear is bad! It holds us prisoner in the past, projecting trauma from the past onto the canvas of this moment, right here, right now.

I put on my shoes and make a command decision to monitor my feet but not to live in fear. What is fear of pain? That is a ghost; it is worrying about something that doesn’t exist and may not come into being. What is so, in the now?

I rise up on my toes and lower down.

No pain.

Slowly, lining myself up before the mirror. My warm up exercises were out of mind until I was standing on the floor. “My body will remember if I start to dance,” whispers in my ear. “Try this,” comes to me from my feet, feeling the floor. Maybe the memory is in the shoes. After so many hours and years of practice, maybe the shoes and my feet will talk to me. They do...

I like to play with the weight of my head on top of my feet. It’s a little game I made up and it’s fun. Standing tall, I release my ankles and move my body as a whole on top of my feet. It’s like stirring myself on top of my feet, sensing my head weight on different parts of my feet as finely as possible.

My feet feel frozen and odd but they don’t hurt.

I begin some basics, but my balance is off. My head isn’t fully over my foot and my body sways, fighting for stability. There is pressure on my foot. I stop and check in; does it hurt?

It does not.

I practice for some time, but I’m impatient, going so slowly.

Music is playing; Viennese Waltz, and something snaps. I dance one wall without thinking and it feels good to move. I’m not precise, my frame is off, but the music fills me with joy. There is no pain.

One more wall of dancing and it’s time to stop. 20 minutes is normally barely a warm-up; today it is the whole game.

As Charles Selzberg, my old fencing master used to say, “Retreat! Retreat! He who runs away lives to fight another day.”

I take my shoes and go home.

This time, they are resting outside the closet, waiting to dance.

Thank you to my shoes for letting me dance. They will bring me back.

Soon.
Shoes.jpg

Peace,

Dana

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