Deep in the Heart

Dancing Solo in Houston
Dancing Solo in Houston

I love Texas. Who would have thought.

Let’s see, Austin was my first experience and for us liberal East Coast types, I recommend that as the first stop. My sister, Gabriela, was living there.  I did my  Brown Belt there with Gabz in 2004. Nia first spoke to me during that Belt and showed me what the sensation in the Emotional Realm felt like. Fire in my heart. (Love the Whole Foods there, big as a football field…and Barton Springs.)

I took Sam out there for the hottest Halloween ever in 2007 when he was 7! He was Anakin Skywalker and Talia, then about 1 1/2, poked her finger into his  chocolate eyeball. “Ball”. Sam had to eat that one.

Next Texas city was San Antonio which I heard was really more like Mexico than America. I drove down from Austin with Shannon (alias Sharon from Dallas) in her Mini Coupe that her husband gave her as her Black Belt gift. What a man! I stayed in Jan Jarboe Russell’s little house with pictures of Lady Bird, whom she had written a book about everywhere. A train went by various times during the night and the little house shook! Ear plugs helped, but not that much. I was there for the Green Belt where I discovered that if I did not ask any questions or make any comments,  I could receive Carlos’ telepathic transmission of Nia without my usual mental distractions. WoW. Loved the Whole Foods in San Antonio too.

Lastly, and hopefully not last (I have yet to explore Dallas and El Paso) was Houston. There I stayed with Helen and and a bevy of Black Belts in her Castle. We skinny dipped every night after dancing which was great since it was in the 90’s plus every day there. I did my solo there,this picture was taken during that, my first solo ever, really. And it was delicious and a little scary which made it very exciting. Helen, beautiful Helen and her whole community were so lovely and multidimensional and welcoming. Joe made amazing Body Ecology meals for use every day so I am not even sure if there is a Whole Foods in Houston.

But Texas, who would have thought! I’m definitely going back!

Sweet Dreams

I have these recurring dreams where I am with a man I really love. In these dreams there are no words and I can rarely see his eyes, but I can sense him with my body and my heart so deeply that when I wake up from these dreams I sometimes start to cry. It is not always the same man, though some do recur. Sometimes the man looks like one or a version of one I’ve known and loved, sometimes it’s a totally new looking person. But what is clear is that they are  the same man energetically. And I am so in love with him in the dream!

When I wake up, I walk around feeling very sad to have woken up, and also very grateful to have that experience of deep connected love, even if only in my dreams. Have I ever felt that kind of love energy in my awake life? Not with any man or even any woman. I have felt it dancing and listening to music and something close to it with my son, but that was sweet mother love.

In these dreams there is something sexual, but that is never the point. The point is the place where I merge with these men in a sweet space where my whole self vibrates with them. I wake up with the sensation in my body so strong that I can almost smell it. What I long for when I wake up is not the men per se, but the way I feel and what I sense when I am with them.

I am not sure if this is an experience I will ever have or could have being awake. I wonder, it is my inner male that I sense or some soul mate I have yet to meet or a stand-in for God and my longing for “Him”? (Catholicism dies hard, I may have left it behind, but in these dreams, I feel like St.Theresa of Avila.) Or is it my Neptune Square Mars Trine Jupiter Dreamer Warrior Shaman that calls the masculine to me?

I once had a psychic reader tell me that in this life time I was not going to be with my soul mate because I came here to focus on my creative work and being with my soul mate would be too distracting.  While I entertain the idea of nothing getting in the way of my creative life, I also feel like I am with a man whom I deeply love and does feel very Dreamer Warrior Shaman to me. But that sweet dream energy is just not with us very much. In our everyday lives we are busy, we are earthy and we have other things on our minds.

I wonder if what happens in my dreams belongs in the world of deep heart longing of unrequited love. The Troubadors made a career of living like this. Using the women they were courting to court the muse and the pure deep love that cannot be tainted. Tainted by what? Sex? Time? Paying the bills?

I have let go of feeling like I am lacking something when I wake up from these dreams. I have also learned that I can harness that sweet sensation of connection and bring it to my awake life in the same way that I can be inspired by life to create art. Life as art, dreams as inspiration. I am off to sleep. Sweet dreams!

Seeking approval or seeking the muse

When I was about 10 years old, I would put music on in our living room and create dance performances that I imagined I was doing for the Crosas,  unos muy buenos amigos de Uruguay. The last time we played with the Crosas, I was about 7 years old. My sister, Sylvia, who was 5, yelled, “you run after your novio (boyfriend) and I’ll run after mine!” I remember this like it was last week. I turned beet red and ran into the house and hid behind a door for about an hour.

The Crosas, who were amongst my parents’ best friends,  had 4 kids. Jorgito was a year or so older than me. Dante was a few months older than me. Monica was slightly younger than me.  Gabriela, my younger sister came next in the age hierarchy  at about 3 and then came Robertito about 2… too young for Gaby. So, my novio was Jorgito and Sylvia’s novio was Dante. But this was a secret, the boys did not know about our arrangement. We had all grown up together since the first baby was born and we loved each other and Sylvia and I did aspire to marry them one day.

We left Uruguay later that year, a few months after the military coup. In the mass exudous of intellectuals and people who did not want to be tortured, my family came to the United States. The Crosas moved to Venezuela. My heart was broken to leave those kids and also my first prospect for ever-lasting love.

Maybe this is what drew me to imagine them as my audience as I spun record after record. On the couch were Jorge, Dante and Monica (Robertito would always be a baby in my mind.) I would create intricate dance routines to the same music, sometimes for hours each day, and imagine them commenting on which one was more fabulous. I would actually get high from this and finish my dance sessions feeling elated and inspired. They were my muses in a sense.

Now,  I was not looking for approval from my muses, I merely called them in for inspiration.  I enjoyed dancing alone more than I ever enjoyed dancing in front of actual people. This is definitely one of the reasons I did not take formal dance classes. The need to feel approved of and to “do it right” took all the joy from me. I was too aware of the subtle disapproval or possible disinterest of my audience to let go and be as free as I felt when I was dancing for the rapt audience of the Crosas in my mind.  And yet, all this moving and exploring with my body made me a really beautiful dancer to watch. I knew this from the feedback I got from friends who would say, “When I watch you dance I feel like I feel the music.”  I knew this was a good thing. I knew it was “approval” of sorts, and also I knew that I needed to dance for something other than that.

I wonder sometimes what would have become of me if I had pursued my love of dance via traditional venues. Ballet? I did take ballet for 6 months when I was 15. I quit when I met my first boyfriend, Marc Peper, who could only hang out with me in the early evening which is when the ballet classes were held.  Clearly, ballet was not captivating enough,  not in small part from the sadness I felt every time my teacher told me I did not quite have a ballet body though I moved very nicely.

Marc was lead guitar in a band and I followed those guys around to all the summer gigs and danced all night long to whatever revival tunes they were playing. That was my first time really dancing in public, yet, I was also dancing for myself and for all the members of the band. My new muses who were also my friends.

Dancing for me went in two directions at this point. I would still dance alone a lot, though my muses changed with the current boyfriend or crush. This alone time was my time for me and my body and also my time to rehearse for when I went out dancing and clubbing where I did my moves for whoever I imagined was watching. At around this time, I also began dancing with others! Wow, that was big. To this day, my husband, Chad, tells me I don’t know how to follow, just how to lead. I know this is true. After so many years of dancing by myself, having a partner and especially one that had his own ideas felt really restrictive.

I developed this theory about how if I could dance with someone, if the dance between us flowed, then I could go out with them. If I could not dance with them, if they were too goofy or controlling, then no way. Just for the record, I met Chad doing contact improv and he was my favorite dance partner for a year before I even thought of him romantically. By moving my body with his, I could feel so much about his essence – but that is a story for another time.

Another aspect of partner dancing that was a little scary for me is that it felt really intimate. I felt my eyes wanting to move away from my partner’s. Moving energy together like that felt too revealing for me. I felt raw, as if they could see things in me that were my secrets. So, although I did it when I was in crowd and that was what was going on, I always kept a little emotional distance and stayed more connected to the music than to the person across from me.

Eventually I found samba and afro-brazilian dance,  and barefoot boogies (places to dance where you can really do your own thing – dance with someone, dance alone but around someone, dance with everyone in the room at once, dance with just yourself….etc). And then I found Nia.

When I first came to Nia, I would imagine Carlos and Debbie, the creators or Nia, whom I have not even met yet,  when I needed an audience. And then in class, there were my students. Unlike performance, where there is a sitting audience, in Nia classes, there is participation and sharing and mutual inspiration. The experience that I was creating for my students was something they were also partaking of and it felt like we were all playing together. By this time, I had fully embraced that dancing was my spiritual practice and most of the time I was dancing for my divine self and for the Goddess/God/life force. But sometimes, I still wanted someone to watch and see me.

When I actually met Debbie and Carlos, during my Blue Belt,  I was ready to show them how hot I was. I was sorely disappointed when Carlos said, during our introduction, “Do not endeavor to impress us. We might be impressed, but do not make that your focus.” And I was at a loss. There was the dancing I did for me, but with my living muses in my sight, I wanted to show them how “good” I was for them. I was a young Niaphite then. Now I know that Nia is more about all that time spent alone, that when I am in front of my students or even Debbie and Carlos, what I need to do it relax into the same place I go into when I am dancing alone. I can do that now. But back then, I was so hungry for approval and proof of what I could do, that I went over the top. I went into my head and into imagining what they wanted me to do.

What a humbling moment when I was “teaching” at the Blue Belt training.  The song was Fantasia by US-3. This was during the last day of the training and it was a time to show what we had learned in the past few days. Carlos stopped a few bars into the song and said, “Maria, you are not on the 1.”  I though to myself – the 1, which 1? And then I got it, the 1 at the top of the bar. I was so busy wanting to make something amazing happen, I had even been listening to the music! He put the music on again and I heard the 1 and went with it. And although I was at my Blue Belt, I feel that my Nia career really began at that moment. At that moment I realized that my muse had really been the music all along. When I grabbed on to the sound that day, all my past reaching for someone outside to inspire me or see me began to disappear. It’s still fading away and I feel more free than ever.


I looked up “passion” this morning before teaching my Nia class. I wanted the etymology of “passion”. Like “love” and “truth”, passion is one of those words that is filled with cultural baggage and connotations about how it supposed to feel. And yet there is something so personal about what we are individually passionate about and how that passion manifests. Definitely there is the sexual passion piece and then there are crimes of passion; something a little out of control.

So when I read that the root of passion is suffering which comes from the Latin word for patience, well…it threw a little wrench into what I had cast out for my class. How was I going to put passion together with suffering and patience? Okay, mental realm analyzing: When I am passionate about things, I am definitely willing to suffer for them and I am able to be patient. Off to class.

What I taught was the first 2/3rds of the routine called Passion. On my way in, I ruminated on how many of the songs definitely have this sense of intense longing about them, the suffering that comes with passion, the desire of wanting and yet not wanting to be consumed by passion. It’s actually a pretty spiritually juicy energy to play in. One of the first meanings of passion had to do with the passion of Christ and his suffering on the cross. Good image. How about the Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini? Lots of passion there, but then ecastasy is one of passion’s sisters. There is something abotu passion that connect my body heart and love with desire not just for the flesh but for the spirit as well. Passion is ecastasy embodied in purpose.

Inviting passion to play for an entire hour is something I encourage you all to do. I felt so alive for the entire class. Inspired by the music and by the movement, I lived each moment with my full body and heart. We were all sweatier and hotter than usual. Passion does that on a physical level by amplifying the 5 Sensations: Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Stability and Strength. Passion is something I am all there for.

After class the conversations swirled around what we are passionate about in our lives, what we are willing to fight for, what we do when the passion is not there. It occured to me then that, like joy, perhaps passion is something that I can choose, sustain and increase. The illusion is that if it is not there, then it is missing.  The reality is that we are in relationship with our emotional field, it is not random and it is not controlling us. I wonder what it would be like to live with passion always present?  What if  I chose to bring passion into everything that I do, into all my relationships, into every breath? And what about the connection with suffering? And Patience? Am I willing to bring passion to all that I do and risk suffering? Am I willing to be patient enough to let the fruits of my passion to ripen?

That is what I am left with after this morning’s class. Througthis fabulous body~mind practice, I have explored the sensation of passion and come to a new place that is ripe with passion.  Not bad for a movement as medicine loosly disguised as fusion fitness. And that is what I love about teaching and sharing the Nia Technique.