Tag Archives: joy

Shakin’ it off…

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Forgive my lack of posts in the past several, and I do mean several, months.    Life has shifted in a lot of positive ways and some difficult ways too – and as you know, change is always a challenge.

Throughout the past four years I’ve been a bit of a hermit – going to school and working full time doesn’t really allow for much time for ‘fun’.   Since graduating this past October I have been working to up the fun factor in my life.   When I hear that Prince was coming to Winnipeg I thought, oh wow!  His music is so the soundtrack to my high school years.   I remember buying the cassette tape of Purple Rain, and obsessively watching his videos on MTV.  So I purchased the least expensive tickets to the concert just to be there and hear his music.   I wouldn’t say that I was uber-ecstatic about going, but was excited to see him perform live.

The day finally arrived.  We got the concert and [unfortunately] Winnipeg had not sold out the entire arena, but the bonus was that our tickets got bumped up and we sat a level lower in the arena than originally planned (gotta like that!).  Winnipeggers seek the  quality things in life (as long as they are on sale), and are a discerning lot when it comes to our music.

From the moment Prince took the stage we knew it would be a different concert.  Almost the entire audience stood up.   Now, you have to understand, when we went to the Aerosmith concert last year – the majority of the audience remained seated.  What it came down to (for me) was his clear passion for music, and for being true to his art, his craft.  There was no selling out here – no excessive light shows and costume changes, no excessive performance factors.   It was pure music (with only 3 costume changes).

[The best part was an older couple seated to our right (probably in late 60’s) who immediately stood up and danced through the majority of the concert.  Such a huge demographic represented!]

Much of Prince’s music is not available on YouTube (he didn’t even allow the local press to photograph the concert), but a friend posted on the same concert and found a video from the concert on Facebook.    Here it is –  take a moment and shake off your day – and listen to the instruction ‘2 and 4!’.

Stand with Prince. (if this link doesn’t work you’ll have to look it up on facebook — Andy Alo/videos/Stand)

What Prince (and Art) has reminded me of is that sometimes you just gotta put on some music and shake it off!   Cause you know what?

Sometimes life is hard.

We all share that experience.

[Perhaps this is my naiveté speaking, but…]   At that concert it felt like ‘everyone’ that was there, in the moment, feelin’ the music right alongside Prince and the New Power Generation.  And for a few hours, life was a little more joyful, and little easier.

Thank you Live Nation for bringing Prince to Winnipeg.  And thank you Prince for being the true artist that you are.

Here are a couple of other posts on the concert…

Natalie Duhamel

Winnipeg Free Press

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No barriers, no limits.

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The world of dance encompasses a vast range of ages, abilities, dance forms/disciplines, classes, repertoire, and commitment.  I believe that this is the beauty of dance – that it does and can encompass vast spectrum of forms.     Most recently my teaching experience has come to incorporate more variations on ability than I had ever dreamed possible.   Once a week there is a group of adults that gathers in a large studio and together we explore dance and movement through various sequences of movement. Each piece of music used is a crescendo from the previous, each movement becomes slightly more complex with each change of exercise.  Posture, breath, strength, flexibility, sequences of movement, qualities of movement, and tandem movement, are developed alongside an ever-increasing giggle amongst the students.   This group of adult students provides proof that with a positive outlook, laughter, perseverance, and sheer resilience anything can be achieved.

Cerebral Palsy (which generally classifies a broad range of limitations related to neurological function – unfortunately a bit of a catch-all term)

Stroke

Muscular Dystrophy

Down Syndrome

Parkinson’s

Visual Impairment

Wheelchair bound

High muscle tone

Low muscle tone

Developmental delay

Each one of  the students in the class lives with one or more of these conditions ranging from low to high function.  Some are wheelchair bound permanently, some only for specific activities, some use walkers and those who are able to walk often have limitations which affect their ability to command their stride.  Some are non verbal yet have excellent comprehension, and some are behind developmentally ( young at heart!).   At first glance each one has every reason to complain about their situation, to soak it in, and let it consume them, and yet they do not.   There is an acceptance and an acknowledgement of what is and an understanding of possibility  [and everything is possible].    There is no negativity, no egos,  the occasional frustration sneaks in but is quickly eased with the supportive laughter of the group and their ability to lighten the mood.  Nothing but a willingness to try their best and an increasing openness to push themselves a little further than they did the last week.  When they are having a bad day [physically] they simply work through it as best they can.

When we began the program my goal was to provide an atmosphere where the students could explore dance without barriers, without limits.  Having limited knowledge of individual circumstances I had no idea what to expect, and so I worked to approach my teaching without the usual barriers and expectations as well, working to ‘go with the flow’ and explore the abilities of each person.  At first when I attempted to guide them through an exercise which required them to explore drawing lines in the space I was met with a look that said ‘she wants us to do what?’.     Two years later we are exploring ways to challenge our balance, how to control our limbs in focused, controlled motion, connecting to other dancers in the room, and creating shape and lines with our bodies in new ways.  Accompanying their movements is Debussy, Yo-Yo Ma, the Beatles, Jamiroquai, Edgar Meyer,  Bobby McFerrin, and so many more.

Regardless of the stress of the day the hour spent with these students is full of laughter and the exploration of what CAN be accomplished within the different abilities of each individual.   They are inspiring!

We assume that prerequisites of dance are artistry, technique, and a specific ‘ideal’ physique.   This group of individuals has shown me that ultimately dance [and art] requires only one thing of us – to be present.   To simply be present in the moment, in our bodies, in the class, and in the music.   HOW we move our bodies does not matter – what matters is having the courage to be present, to take a risk,  and to trust ourselves and our bodies to push beyond perceived barriers or limits [societal, traditional, or imagined].

To be continued…

ichoose…

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[Am taking a deep breath and posting this one…it feels tremendously personal.  I have chosen to take a leap and go with it.]

My mothers’ recent health crises has, as said in previous posts, sent me spinning.

Whirling.

Tumbling.

Into an unknown that has hit us all. Hard.

My mother’s strength, perseverance, positivity, and creativity, are an inspiration.  Listening to Sarah Kay in a recent TED lecture I was moved to consider my perspective through this new life challenge.  Her words are illuminating and encouraging.

Reading Ken Robinson’s The Element inspiration is found not only in his philosophy, but in the stories he tells of  achievements against all odds or expectations.  His words have reminded me of the notion that life is a series of choices that are presented to us, with each choice there must be an acceptance of consequence and a certain commitment to fulfilling that choice.  When we follow our passion [when we are in our element], we fulfill that choice  with authenticity, in turn the process is joyful and time is fleeting.   We are then true to ourselves.   In a society focused on immediate success void of failure, it is sometimes very difficult to make those authentic choices.  I propose a new app for that.

ichoose…

‘ichoose’ is an app that takes into consideration our values, beliefs, and priorities for us.  It considers our personal histories and happenings which are woven within this crazy life.   Simply tap the ichoose app!  [wouldn’t it be great if all decision-making was so simple?]

And so, Today ichoose…

  • gratitude.
  • to seek [and remember] laughter being shared with my mother and family, for it is truly the best medicine.
  • to be thankful for family that, despite physical or emotional distance, comes together in their own way to support one another and our parents.
  • to appreciate and respect the amazing gift that is the human body with all of its systems keeping things in homeostatic check, so that we can move through life and pursue our dreams.
  • to find ways to combine all that I know, and all that I do not know, to craft ways to encourage others [and remind myself] to learn to love and appreciate moving their bodies in an attempt to prevent any possible chance of their experiencing diabetes.
  • to craft ways to encourage youth to give their health the attention it deserves.
  •  to write my way through all of this.
  • authenticity.
[if this was an app it would need accompaniment…such as Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello, Adele singing anything at all [she is brilliant], or this amazing contrast of classical music and breaking].
What would you choose?   What music might be your accompaniment?

Dear Mr/Ms Webster and Oxford…

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As children/teens we have all experienced those moments when a friend, parent or sibling was dramatically concerned about their weight or cursed themselves for having that delicious piece of chocolate cake, pecan pie, ice cream, cookie..etc.    And how many of us in our adult lives have been been completely annoyed by the thin and perfectly fit men and women in commercials, videos, films?

And today I rant.

I rant because I am tired, T – I – R – E – D of feeling that I am committing some mortal sin because I eat, and I enjoy it.

And the subsequent feeling that in my lowest moments I am not ‘allowed’ by some societal judge/s to indulge or gain a bit of weight because I perhaps am self medicating with too much chocolate/candy/steak (not at the same time though, that would just be uncouth!).

[Calling all authors of Webster’s and Oxford’s dictionaries! Now hear this!]  I say we throw the word D I E T out of the dictionary…  It is an evil word.

DIET is no longer a word, nor a slang!   Let’s replace that nasty word with eating for health, healthy eating, and consumption of fuel that sustains my brain function, heart, and allows my body to create the chemical reactions it needs to maintain my best health.  And yes, sometimes that includes cookies!!!!

[Keyword – sometimes.]

And another word to be thrown out – D E P R I V A T I O N – why are we so convinced that deprivation is the key to our weight loss/happiness/confidence?   Again, let us be honest with ourselves.   How many of us have ever been successful at completely eliminating something we enjoy from our menus?

At the end of the day it all comes down to feeling at home in our own skin, this shell we inhabit for the span of our lives.  If we allow ourselves (women and men) to give in to the subjugation of the overly processed, airbrushed, commercialization of the male and female form we will never truly BE happy WITHIN ourselves.   Each of us in inherently unique physically, mentally, and emotionally – BE with YOUR individuality.  CELEBRATE what makes YOU unique.  Our children, nieces/nephews, grandchildren, students, look to the adults in their lives to see that it is possible to be happy with ones individuality – and when we give in to what we believe others want to see in us we are no longer staying true to our individuality.   And we wonder why our children have difficulty BE-ing happy with themselves.

To BE happy with ourselves means having the courage to indulge in self-reflection, being honest about what we see physically and emotionally.

It is my belief that we are able to look inwards when we get our bodies moving in ways that bring us JOY.  Walking, running, playing, cycling, gardening, dancing, skating, skiing…whatever the form of movement, it brings us physiological  and emotional joy.  When we feel this joy we make healthier choices and decisions.    We are able to indulge ourselves and enjoy the moment in its fullness — and then move on rather than dwell in the guilt of it.

Disclaimer:  This author has struggled with this for at least the past 30 years of life.  None of us is going to get it right each and every single day, but every morning we can get up and try our hardest to do our best to BE happy with our SELVES.  Allow yourself the indulgence of imperfection.

In the Quiet Stillness..

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It.  Is.  Almost.  Here.

CHRISTMAS!!!!

This is my most favourite time of the year, EVER!  The snow, the lights, the music, the smells, friends and family gathering, the cooking (it’s the only time of the year I really enjoy doing this part), the decorations…

In our  family Christmas Eve meant attending a midnight church service, it was magical.  Families dressed up in their  Christmas best, and came together to the church.  The children attending were very excited about being able to stay up late and greetings of ‘Merry Christmas!’ resounded in the hallways of the church.  Traditional carols were sung from the words that were projected on the wall at the front of our church (yes, before we had Powerpoint), and the pastor spoke  from a spotlight in the pulpit about the birth of  christ.

And then, at the very end of the service and the church was engulfed in darkness, the choir processed from the balcony, each holding a candle and singing ‘Silent Night’.  Each congregant also had a candle and  the light was passed along from one to the next.  In the glow of the candlelight and the choir encircling the congregation and we sang together, in english and in german (it is Minnesota after all).  The last verse was always hummed (still is today).

In the moment following the final note there was a silence, a stillness, among the congregation.  As I reminisce I realize that in that silence, if we paid close attention, we found the greater meaning of Christmas… it truly is not about us or about finding that perfect gift, is it?

All in a moment of…

Quiet Stillness.

There is still a Christmas Eve service like this at the church, though its much earlier in the evening now and the congregation is about a quarter of the size it was then. It still brings me to tears, leaving me in awe of the gifts given to us.

In the midst of the rush to complete our Christmas shopping, the throngs stampeding the malls to find the gifts that are just right (and the most popular) for our loved ones, let’s take a moment to remember why we celebrate Christmas.  Find that moment of quiet stillness.

We hear this often around the holidays, remember those who do not have family to be with, or do not have homes in which to celebrate the holiday season within.  Let’s consider this not only  at the holidays, but year round.

(you knew a video was coming, didn’t you?)

Though this is not a recording of ‘Silent Night’, it is absolutely beautiful and elicits stillness.  I suggest lighting the tree and the holiday candles, turning off the iPod, computer games and cell phone, and having a mug of hot chocolate (or mulled wine) while watching this one.

Merry Christmas!

Gettin’ sweaty and breathin’ heavy… [part three]

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Continuing on from parts one and two……(click on the highlighted text to check out previous posts).

It has been awhile since the last entry – much has happened.   My yoga practice continues,  the first term of school year is coming to an end, and, yes, it is officially winter.

Lately I have been noticing an important lesson that yoga has taught me.   To my surprise not only do I still find that yoga is an excellent workout, it is changing the way I move through life (off the mat). Moving through my volunteer time at the yoga studio and my yoga practice I have become aware of my pace.  My tendency is to rush through things in a heightened state — sort of an unending panic mode.  Somehow I am moving away from that state and moving into a more grounded, steady, state of being, in life.

Hello, can you say liberating?  [say it with me now… l i b e r a t i n g]

Life is busy.  Many of us seem to revel in the busy-ness of our everyday lives.

You know the conversation, “How have you been?”, ” Oh!? Ohmigosh I’ve been so busy!  Doing this, that, this, that, thisthatthisthatthisthatthisthat…”.  We become lulled into a state of acceptance along with some form of acknowledgement.  Accepting that life is, well, just busy.  And if my life isn’t busy, than what does that say about me? What will others think?  It is as if we feel being busy means that what we are doing is important and that it makes us more important (or maybe more accepted) in this world.   Granted, we all have those times in life when we seem to have a never ending list of little, tedious tasks that we need to get done in order to be able to do the things we want to do.  What I am referring to is beyond the occasional busy day, its the busy – every – day situations.

One of my favorite moments in yoga class is Tadasana (see photo).  When we move through the various poses and into tadasana I feel an energy moving through the pose that comes from within, it feels as if  energy radiates from my centre throughout my body and out my extremities.  The active breath reflects this as I feel as if oxygen is drawn in through my fingers, toes, and head, through my limbs and into my chest.  Exhaling through each pore of my skin.  The tension in my neck melts away and my shoulders ease from the weight of the day.  It is truly a beautiful thing.

In the end, Tadasana does not allow one to be busy with anything else but standing aligned, breathing.  So simple, yet so important to take that moment of time to just stand, in stillness.

Winter has officially arrived, blanketing our city with a layer of sparkling, fluffy, white snow – the beauty of snow is that it dampens the sounds of the city and creates a calm, a silence.  Today, instead of giving in to the negativity that arrives with the limitations that winter can often bring, I suggest that we take our cue from nature.   Stop, listen beyond the dulled sounds of the city, and hear the blanket of snow. Breathe deeply, feel the coolness of the air washing through your body, calming and soothing the racing business of your day.