Dancing with the Shadow (part 3… no…no… yes, just deal with it)



What embarrasses you? What are the things that you do, feel and think that you hide from others and maybe even from yourself? What are the things you definitely do not want others to know about you?  I have no interesting in having you out yourself. Unless, of course you want to, and in that case, I am 100% with you.  I am primarily asking these  questions to help identify the shadowy self.

I have become curious about these parts of me that are ashamed, shy and obscured behind all kinds of false faces. I have become curious because I realize that around these parts of me, I do not feel my power. I feel vulnerable and weak and like a phony for wanting to keep them hidden. I am not going to share details with you, and yet I know you can tune into these places in yourself too. I do not feel the exposure to the collective light is sometimes the best way to deal with these parts. I feel we need to get to know these aspects of ourselves before we subject them to the scrutiny of those not devoted to seeing themselves in all that is.  Initially,  the most important thing is to admit the truth of it to ourselves. Self-declaration.  And from there a step closer to freedom. What if it is okay to tell yourself? And what if, it you felt like sharing, it is okay to tell another? And what if it is okay to have the other not receive it?

All the layers of acceptance and belonging, all the ways in which we abuse and control ourselves and others, all the parts of us that are immature and impulsive… they can have a strong grip on us, especially if we deny them or project them and disown them.  And that strong grip is the antithesis of freedom to me.  I can feel my need to belong, a natural survival instinct and what I am willing to suppress myself to have it.  I can feel my need for acceptance and what I am willing to say to be accepted. I can see how I abuse my body and my heart in order to stay safe. How I have abused others to keep the upper hand. How I behave like a baby sometimes and can’t control my urge to lash out.  I do not like admitting this to myself and that is okay,  I do not have to like it and I find that feeling uncomfortable can be exciting.  My personal truth and reconciliation  process is I hear it, I feel the way it lives in my body and then I dance it. Instead of pushing it back down and diminishing (oh, that is not so bad, everybody feels that way) or going to self-loathing and forfeiting my choice, I blow it up. I make it bigger. I feel the biggest version of the feeling and sensation I can access and I dance it. Yes, that is what I do. I move it and dance with it, literally partner with it, hold it in my awareness, feel it in my body, play with it in my mind.  I find that bringing it into relationship in this way makes the power of it “out there” less and less.  This is the great experiment I have undertaken.  Try it.  Any dance will do. It might help free up some of your shadow’s grip.  And the more free you can be, the more free everyone around you can be. Letting everything and everybody off the hook one dance at a time. Goddess knows we need that on this planet.



Dancing with the Shadow (part 2)



You know those times when you get really mad and judgmental  about something somebody else is doing?  So mad that it throws you off your game,  even and especially when it is someone you do not even know well… or at all… like a politician.  I hate to break to to you, chances are that the quality you are hating on is one you yourself need to embody… often in its whole form, not in the shadowy form we meet it out there.

Take a moment to recall one of these judgmental times and then we can do a fun Dance Spell to bring awareness and hopefully integrate that shadowy part. Like magic, the more we integrate, the less we meet it out there and the less it affects us when we do.

Yesterday, I was flying back from Orlando. I stood on my seat to get my blackberries out of the overhead compartment and I must have leaned on the seat in front of me because when I was climbing down the woman in front of me was giving my a really dirty look.  And I felt it in my gut, that she hated me. I was taken aback… hit with this feeling that I had done something wrong unawares and then questioning myself… I was careful not to lean on her seat, but had I? Maybe she was just in a bad mood or maybe she was just a bitch.  Yes, that word came into my head. And then I began feeling a mix of shame and anger and like I had been misunderstood without recourse because I felt I let that moment go, that moment when I could have apologized… but was there any reason to apologize?  And then I felt mad, like, this woman does not know me, I would never do something on purpose to  antagonize or disturb anyone. And why was I getting so upset about this? Why could I not hold on to my good vibe… aren’t I more enlightened than that?  All this happened in like, a minute.  Ultimately, in minute #2,  I was able to laugh at myself, to find the hilarity in it. Here are the shadowy parts what I teased out of the experience.

  1. Being a person who can make a mistake
  2. The Bitch
  3. The Reprimanded One
  4. The Unaware One

Here is  I how I work with these.

I  tune into each one of these shadowy selves and feel into them, acknowledging that because I felt them, they are part of me. What is the feeling that I feel when I am in each one, what is the part I projected onto this woman, what other times do/have I feel this way?

Let’s take The Bitch. When I felt she was being a bitch, I felt ashamed and afraid that I would get yelled at. What about me, what does it feel when I am being a bitch? What is the sensation there? I feel self-righteous and my jaw is set and uncompromising. And other times I have felt this way… me as a little girl and having my parents mad at me  when I had misbehaved without meaning to.  Trembling lip, breath held, eyes filing with tears.

Next, I put my ipod on shuffle and let it pick me a song and I literally dance those emotions. I feel them as I move, I exaggerate them with gesture and sound, sometimes, I even cry. I look for the full and real expression.  And then as I dance I feel my way to the other side. Often what is on the other side of everything is compassion. For myself, for The Bitch, for the woman in the seat in front of me, for my parents…

Each one of the shadowy selves above gets its own song. The nature of the Shadow is that there is always more, always something I do not see, always blind spots. However, doing this practice has helped me spend less time in the loops around the shadow.  It also often makes me laugh and nothing is better for the disowned parts than gentle humor. When the shadow arises, I have a reference point in my body, I sometimes can recall a time I danced that particular part. I am humbled when I find the me I am refusing to see.  And I get to feel more whole.


Dancing with the Shadow (your shadow). Part 1

Have you ever wondered what your shadow is? How to find your shadow? What it means to even be aware of it? This has been a recurring conversation within myself lately. As I look out into the world and experience what seems like extreme polarization, I have been wondering how to find the balance within myself. That which I definitely perceive as being NOT ME and that which I am willing to own as MINE. How do I reconcile this in my exploration of the ONE?

As always, I bring this to my body and find a way to dance it out. Here is what I have to come to. Feel free to play with your version of it, in fact, please do. The more each person owns their stuff, the less it gets warped out into the Uni-verse (the ONE song).  My shadow, as far as I can tell,  is comprised of parts of me I cannot see,  parts of me I am not willing to see, and parts of me I project onto others.  The first one, the parts I cannot see, I will leave for last.  Clearly, what is not shadow is who I think I am, who I aspire to be, and all those parts of me I feel cool with. My ego likes these.  The easiest of the shadow for me to see, and often the most infuriating and humbling, is the parts I project onto others.  The stronger I feel about these, the more I know it is my shadow appearing to me as the other. When I get triggered, when I really hate or really love, I know I am looking at another myself.  The ones I am not willing to see are not as easy to identify, this requires some self-inquiry and yet, I know I meet these when I vehemently assert that I am NOT those things.  The parts I cannot see are the ones I offer to God/dess and pray for willingness to embrace the mystery. The wholeness of the unknown.

Here is a simple story of a shadow interaction I have almost every day walking my dogs. We have two dogs, Duke and Flash. (As I talk about my dogs, imagine I am actually telling you about myself). Duke is super sweet and will roll over for a belly rub in a second. He is a world class hunting dog most days and is also a little bit of a scardy cat. He is scared of thunder and rain. He is also a coffee addict and sometimes forgoes a belly rub to run to the nearest half empty coffee cup on the table and get some licks in before we shout him down. Flash is a force of nature. He is a dog’s dog and is bonded to my husband only. Only has eyes for him.  He pulls on the leash as if the leash was an inconvenience, he’s got places to go and things to eat. He still gets so excited about a dish of dog food, even though it is the same thing we fed him last night and yesterday morning. These two dogs love each other as only dogs can.  I am often the one who gets to walk them in the morning. As I let them out of the kennel that they sleep in (in our kitchen), they  pour out of it like Niagara Falls. Duke runs to see if we dropped any food under the counters. Flash checks the food bowl. I am frantically trying to get leashes on them. Finally the leashes are on and the tug of war begins. Back door open and Flash begins the pull, Duke hangs back… he does not like me upset.  However he is also really controlling the urge to bolt. I can feel it. This happens every day, and yet every day, I have this idea that today I will control them. Every day, I am deeply disappointed. Somehow I get the back door closed and am propelled onto the back lawn where they get to have their first pee. This requires a lot of adjusting and readjusting that usually ends up with Duke peeing on Flash’s head to make sure he is marking right in the same place.  And somehow the leashes are wrapped around my legs in a way that leave me doing gymnastics in order to get free before they are done peeing and bolting down the driveway.  Okay, enough! Suffice to say that by the time I get back from the walk and am feeding them I am feeling not so much love for them and really frustrated at my inability to keep them under control, remorse for the mean thoughts I am having, and the way the walk has exposed my inner peace for the raging volcano that it actually is . And yet, all I am doing is walking the dogs.

That there is my shadow, full blown for me to explore. Are the dogs doing all that to me or am I doing it to myself?  Humbling. Illuminating.

Dog enjoying the day

I have been developing a practice around these morning walks where, instead of imagining that I will not feel what I feel, I imagine the dog walk as my time to be of service to the dogs and to my inner dogs as well. I allow all that emerges, all that I feel to bubble up and I meet is as if I were meeting disavowed parts of myself. All the things I feel on this morning dog walk are things I feel all the time. Sometimes I get to laughing out loud about this. The hubris that I can actually control my animal nature, the frustration when things pull me in ways I do not want to go, my impatience with the parts of me that want to stop and smell the moment, the way I feel other’s needs infringe on my time… I am showing you parts of me I am more than a little ashamed of.

The shadow is not all bad… or rather, stuff  I would rather hide away. What I also find on these walks is a deep admiration for the boundless energy each of the dogs expresses. The way they are so excited to smell things and eat things and meet the wind. I love the way Flash can make a poop and then turn towards the house wherever we are on the walk as if to say… okay, I am done, now lets go eat. He knows what he wants and he goes for it. I admire that. It falls to me to redirect him until we get a poop out of Duke too. That does not keep Flash from repeating his reorienting over and over. Imagine me walking down the road and doing a 360 as I bring the leash over my head pulling back in the direction I want to go. (Tell me you have never done this with a mental loop.)  I admire that in him.  Duke will lift his nose sometimes in the graceful way only and English Setter can and grab something out of the air that makes me wish I had his nose! What is it? Turkeys? Woodcock? Turtles? Deer? Bacon? I don’t know, I don’t smell it. And with that momentary gesture, he becomes part of my senses, an extension of me,  showing me things my humanl body cannot perceive.

Next week (Full Moon), I will share how I  explore my shadow through dancing.  But now, I need to go walk the dogs.

PSA: Take a break from the Election, make Soup

tree2You know that phrase that some of us are wrapping ourselves around these days, or wanting to wrap ourselves around? “I love my body” or the in command form: “Love your body.” I like it, it challenges me to do something that has not always been easy in a world where the body is objectified, mined and judged by many institutions (politics, fashion, medical, fitness). Been there myself; objectifying, mining and judging, but not anymore.  At some point I realized that it felt much better to love my body and live my life without listening to the chatter around me about anything, really.  It does not take anything away from anybody else if I love myself . I have always believed that only I can decide what I do with my personal body. My awareness has recently also expanded to include the earth body as my body too, a collective one. This was a small rememberance in me when I was young, but I have had a more felt sense about this in recent years and I get it. Gaia, Earth, alive. Sometimes she is the loving kind mother of sweet summer afternoon, sometimes she is the terrible mother of hurricanes, but nonetheless alive. And home, my body my home, my planet my home.  Far out maybe, in a world where we feel entitled to exploit the planet, but nonetheless undeniable.  I do not ascribe to the idea that the Earth is going to rebel and say NO MORE, but I do see us shitting in our own pool to the point where swimming may bet impossible.  Being in the love my body, love my planet place has at least made me feel more peace and make choices that are taking my part into account.  However, this election has brought a lot of food for thought as I see how culturally, we are still publically shaming, blaming, judging,  hurting each other and abusing the integrity of our body, along with the earth body. I wonder how we can bring ourselves to do the right thing.  The way we treat bodies, the female body in particular, in the global culture is the way we are treating the planet body, the earth.  Men’s bodies are suffering too, don’t get me wrong.  It crosses gender lines, racial lines, class and continental divides. With the onslaught of climate change and the destabilizing that has unleashed, I am left wondering how to really unplug and love my body no matter what when it sometimes feels so vulnerable to be in one.  I heard an environmentalist yesterday talking about how she works with young adults who are entering the career. She asks them if they love the earth and they say “Yes!” and then she asks if the earth loves them and some of them give her a funny look and some say “no”.  She goes on to say that is is very difficult to fight for something when we do not see it as a living entitiy that can also love us back.  So I gave myself the practice yesterday to take on receiving the earth’s love for me and my body’s love for me. “The earth loves me”… “my body loves me”. Try it. I took it on as an experiment and by the end of the day I felt full, humbled and hopeful. The communication was simple. What I received from the earth was an invitation to sit quietly in the sun, to walk with the wind, to enjoy the fruits of my garden. From my body, I received an invitation to turn off the radio and the news, the decision has been made. The distractions are wreaking havok in my mind and my body needs me to create space for rejuvenation and creation. I am listening to that and sharing it because maybe you too need a way to unplug. What did I do with my quiet time?

I made soup and I am going to share my recipe with you.

3 big overly ripe tomatoes and cut into chunks.
1 large garlic clove cut into small pieces
1/2 onion diced
Optional 1 cup broth
Paprika and black pepper to taste

Put all in a pot and bring to boil. Then bring to simmer. When tomatoes are soft, stir around and then let simmer until water evaporates to your desired consistency. Stir again. I like to throw in a handful of chopped parsley or a couple of tablespoons of parmagianno romano. Breathe, eat, enjoy and feel the earth’s love for you and your body’s love for you as you collaborate in that miraculous transubstantiation of earth becoming you becoming earth.

I am a work in progess who wants more than anything to be witness and part of a collective movement where we all do what is most evolved and support the body and the Earth to thrive.  I am open to collabortion and ready to get to work.



Raising the Bar on Listening to Your Body

In My Hungry Head, the highly successful binge eating program created by MaryBeth Sherrin, she gives two guidelines for eating that I feel are a great place to bring the mind to when we begin making lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss, weight maintenance and overall health.  The guidelines are: You can eat anything you want in moderation as long as 1: it does not make you feel out of control and 2: it does not make you sick.

Do you know the experience of being out of control and do you know what it is like to feel sick? We all have a starting point for each one. What I have found is that as I work with these guidelines, my experience of each is refined and honed. What I considered to be out of control is much different now than when I began my journey.  I used to have to eat the whole bag of Chips Ahoy when I was in my early 20s.  Now, for instance, if I eat rice and I start fantasizing about pancakes, I know that the rice kicked up my sugar cravings. It used to be anout not being able to control my eating, and now it is more about not being able to control my mind.

“Feeling sick” also was something very different when I began this journey. When someone has been used to feeling sick for a long time, they make see feeling sick as normal. Does eating certain things, or combination fo things make you bloated, gassy, crampy, tired, cranky? Do you see any correlations between overeating and your energy level? For instance, when I was eating a lot of sugar and refined flours, I had 2-3 sinus infections each year. I did not see that as being sick, but as something that just happened to me. I mean, people get colds in the winter, right? It occurred to me, after a bout of very strong antibiotics to kick an sinus infection, that maybe this was not something I needed to tolerate and I found that as I reduced my sugar intake, I got less and less sinus infections. As of today, I have not had one in 4 years. That is miraculous to me. The better I feel the higher the bar for what feeling healthy means. The last time I had a sinus infection was after a very sugary Christmas holiday. At that point, I got it, I understood, in my mind, that my body was getting sick from sugar. Now, I know that when I eat sugar, I get sick and I can be mindful of that. For me, sugar is also something I cannot even have in moderation because of the first guideline: it makes me feel out of control.

What “control” means to me has gone through several permutations also since I began working with it. What does it mean to feel out of control? I can’t stop when I start? I can’t stop thinking about it even when I am not doing it? I am triggered emotionally by it in a way that makes me feel out of control? There are many layers here. My current understanding for myself of this guideline is: if the food occupies my mind beyond the time I am preparing it and enjoying it in an obsessive way, then I am not in control because it is controlling my mind.

Not that I want to control everything, but being someone who used food to control many things in my life, it is so much freedom for me to not have that factor into my choices, my living and my relationships.

The relationship I want to have with food is this: I want enjoy preparing and eating my meals and then when I am done, I want to go live my life to the fullest. I want the food that I eat to give me the energy and nutrition to keep my body healthy and allow me to use my life force for the greatest good.  And, as a farmer, I want to be a steward of the land and grow food that benefits my body, the earth and my community. This is the wish I have for you too. It is great to be on the other side.

Marybeth Sherrin and I have launched the My Hungry Head website and we are LIVE! Please visit us, join our Facebook Community and begin to calm your hungry head!

Dance Lab: a Movement Odyssey

2015-07-11 11.08.30-1Have you ever read the Odyssey, Homer’s other famous work? I once heard a commentator talk about the life metaphor in his work, that as we try to get back “home”, we have all these adventures full of obstacles to overcome. Adventure is what happens when we try something new, take risks, possibly fail and have to start again… sometimes we get turned onto pigs and sometimes we meet the woman with the snake hair… and we have to find our way through! Living life like this, looking at the things that feel like obstables as part of the adventure is what I am going after.

I love using dance as a place to practice this, noticing what is flowing and not flowing in my movement, in my emotional body, in my self-expression. Using the body to journey is something I have been doing my whole life. You, actually, have been doing that too.

“Home” for me, is my body, this moment, this life. When I dance, the landscpae becomes the music, my imagination, my emotional ocean. Imagine being able to walk into a dance class where you could travel in amazing musical waves, explore yourself multidimensionally in playful ways, and also get a great workout.  I am all over that!  So I created it. We call it Dance Lab.

Alayne Freidel and I have been teaching Dance Lab at Yoga & Nia For Life since the September of 2015. Depending on the focus, we move in and out of chreography, sometimes dancing freestyle and sometimes all dancing together. Some of the concepts that we explore are inner and outer space, relationship to gravity and space, emotional body, the four elements, horizonatal and vertical spine, layers within the music, rhythm and melody… Mythological archetypes sometimes arise, we touch into the way in which the stories  are living within and without us. We dance with them… Sometimes we dance-off with them!

If you love to dance  and want adventure, this is a great class for you. If love to move to music but feel you cannot dance, this is also a great class for you,. How is if different than our Nia classes? Nia classes are a combination of 52 Moves, 9 Movement forms delivered via the Body’s Way. There is a structure that we follow in every class. In Dance Lab, we let that structure go & the hour feels like a long improvisational dance adventure, rife with moments all the highs and lows that make up the steps of any worthwhile journey.

Here is what I have gained so far in Dance Lab: a constant freedom I have not felt since dancing the nights away in San Francisco, a way to develop intimacy with music based on pure play, a way to free my mind from all the technique and find my own unique dance. Teaching these classes has made my Nia classes burst with creativity. Students who regularly come to Dance Lab report that they also feel an incredible sense of freedom that lasts long after they have left the class.

Come dance with me or Alayne. Alayne teaches Fridays 9:00-10:00am. Come play at freedom and breakthrough! More classes coming soon!



Maria card...

Are you listening? Chocolate. Not just what it tastes like, but what it feels like melting in my mouth, the texture moving from solid to creamy to liquid. The way the bitter blends with the sweet and the earthy aroma of it as it soothes its way down. The way it feels like I am absorbing it through my inner skin… and then the theobromine high. Ahhhh. For me, eating chocolate was always a very intimate experience, even when I did it with others. The finer the chocolate, the darker the more it took me to that just-me-and-my-shadow bliss that was, well, addictive really. I am no longer eating chocolate but the other day in the middle of Sheila’s Stretvh & Energy class I was blasted by the same sensations. Whoa! As I felt my body opening up, not just physically, but energetically, relaxing into the moment, I felt that chocolate high! And it lasted for much of the rest of the day. I can call on it now.

The combination of Energy Medicine practices and stretches that Sheila has devised and collected are all geared toward strenghtening and lengthening the spine, both energetically and physically. I can feel my body making the same journey from solid to creamy to liquid. We are also working on our auras, or energy fields, becoming aware of them, honing them, expanding our range of sensation. I think this is the most chocolaty part, the part where I feel like I am expandingmy body/mind. There are some stretches that we repeat a few times and there is a feeling of mantra to them. I often find myself in a trance-like state that comes from laser focusing on what is happening inside of me that I forget that there is a world outside of the studio. I am just IN THE HOUSE…

This past week, when the chocolate sensation hit, I realized that several things were coalescing for me during that class. One is the culmination of an exploration around the possibility of bliss without sugar. I have tried unsweetened chocolate, not the same. I literally had moments when I thought maybe there was no point in living if I could not have that bliss sensation I used to get eating chocolate. Not that I was feeling suicidal, but more that I was feeling nothing much. But now I know that is not the case at all. The way I felt during the Stretch/Energy class this felt more real and long lasting than any high I have ever had, yet really grounded. I still feel it now. Even when I am just imagining the stretches, I can feel my body opening up. The other part of this coalescence  is the energy piece, the neuropathways that have been opened up through the moving mantras of Energy Medicne are now intact. I can access them at any time with mind, reinforce them with my body and keep my field wide awake. I have done them long enough to feel the effects most of the time. Ah…practice, my best friend. And I need to stay vital and healthy.  I am a busy woman.

Come check out Sheila’s class on Wednesdays 11:15am – 12:45pm at Yoga & Nia For Life.  Dec 27th workshop too… great introduction to the work.  Go here…scroll down. More about Sheila here.