Archive

You are currently browsing the archives for the Body/Mind category.

Aug

22

Reflections on Motivation, Inspiration and Balance in Education and Life

By Francoise Netter

From time to time, I like to include others insights on my blogs. In my opinion, educators are the foundation of our society. Not only do they educate the kiddos that become the future of our society and world, they also often provide the only continuity in many children’s lives.

Our twenty-first century offers us many advanced technological perks, but it also challenges our ability to balance, slow-down and enjoy our lives moment to moment. I hope you will be able to both relate and apply practical value in your own lives as you take in this educator’s reflections and insights.

“Back to Basics” was a useful graduate-level course for me as a teacher, both personally and professionally. After discussing the three keys to learning and the four elements that are essential to our lives and society, we shifted our focus to an essential question: ‘Why should motivation and inspiration be a part of education?’ The class members discussed this topic at length and concluded that motivation and inspiration helps in learning in a number of ways: it enhances learning, helps students to find out more about what they’re interested in, and makes the material meaningful so that students want to learn.

Francoise then posed a thought-provoking question to all of us: What is the catalyst that motivates you currently in your life today, not in the past? The answer cannot be based upon family or heritage, but needs to be internally derived. I really had to dig deep within myself, sit quietly, and focus on my motivator(s). My initial response was that balance was my primary motivator. But, what is balance…really? Balance isn’t a tangible ‘thing’, but more a feeling of harmony and peace within one’s current state of being. Awhile back, I would have focused on more external motivators: money, perfectionism, or praise from others (family, friends, and colleagues). Now, I look at health as a top priority, which in turn motivates me to find balance because it reduces stress. The epiphany that I arrived at from this question is that my number one focus is on health and well-being (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). Not only my health, but also my family’s as well. It’s the domino effect; when I feel that my life is in balance, so too are my health and well-being.

In addition to health being a top motivator, I’m also inspired by people who are passionate about what they do/know/say/love/etc. When an artist reveals a painting, when my kids can’t stop smiling about a project they completed, when a friend is describing a book that they connected with, or when someone is giving a speech about something they have a high-degree of knowledge or love for (i.e. TED Talks), I’m inspired and motivated to know or learn more. For example, I’m highly motivated to learn more about the Holocaust because of Francoise’s connection with it and would like to see the film, The Lady in #6, because she speaks of how inspirational it is.

We also discussed the idea of ‘deficits’ in our lives as being motivators.  I have been motivated by deficits – all of the parts of my life that I felt were lacking or needed more of – and still am when I feel that my well is running on empty. I tend to yearn for balance and less stress and think that having more money or more friends or more glasses of wine will be the cure! To my chagrin, I am not fulfilled by external factors such as these. I am better at realizing this when I take the time for self-reflection and meditation. It is then that I remind myself of my life’s priorities (health, family, relationships, security…in that order). These priorities motivate and inspire me to be a better mother, teacher, wife, daughter, and friend.Within the classroom, motivation and inspiration are the conduits to learning. They are the ‘spark’ that ignites learning and are essential to education. Because I teach science, I have to find creative ways to reach all of my students. “–E. Munoz

Today see how balance can be added to your life personally and professionally. Look at what motivates and inspires you and use this transition between Summer and Fall to begin new creative strategies for well-being in every area of your life. You may check out any of our products to enhance this process at www.bodyminddynamics.org/products.

–Enjoy,

Françoise

Mar

5

Cat Tales, Resiliency and Meditation

By Francoise Netter

So many of you following my blogs know that I write articles about yoga, movement, learning and resiliency. So what do cat tales have to do with any of this?

Let me explain. Yesterday, I woke up to my cat, Bhakti’s meows—“wake up time”—(with a cat who needs an alarm?) and walked into my kitchen only to find that Bhakti had opened a cupboard door and spilled Windex all over the kitchen floor. After cleaning up that ammonia blue mess, I walked into the living room to find throw up (hers of course) in three places. At that point, I realized there was a not so subtle clue to the day that had to do with cleaning—duly noted, but I hadn’t even gotten to the normal morning routines, let alone my coffee. Next stop was going downstairs to the complex’s laundry room to do a load of laundry. Bhakti meanwhile was letting me know in no uncertain, very obnoxious, loud meows that our normal routine was off.

A “normal” day begins with hugs, cleaning her litter box and some other bathroom chores. Then we head off to the kitchen for snacks, cleaning her bowls, giving her clean water, feeding her and taking care of some of my own dietary morning needs. After another short stint in the bathroom, it is usually time for meditation. Now pretty much anyone who has met me either personally or professionally knows that I’ve had a meditation practice for many decades, but most people don’t know that Bhakti has a serious meditation practice and that the day pretty much starts with her sitting on my lap while I light the incense and candle. She purrs her mantras while I recite mine in Sanskrit.  If we don’t meditate by a certain time, things get pretty chaotic in Bhakti’s world and the loud meows and disruptive behavior are irritating and annoying at best.

Now, am I bad? Yes. When I adopted her at seven years old (she is now fifteen), she had a perfectly good American name, “Bailey Marie”. But I had to go and change it to “Bhakti” which is a Yogic path and in Sanskrit means devotional love. So now I have her hooked on meditation and a timely routine. You might ask, “What is wrong with that? I wish I could teach my children to meditate, let alone my cat or dog!”

I’ll get to that point in a minute. Meanwhile my day was gloriously deteriorating. After putting a load in the laundry room downstairs instead of meditating, I thought I’d jump in the shower and wash my hair. Bhakti was loudly meowing her disapproval when I turned on the water in the shower to nothing. Well, a tiny dribble of water. I tinkered with the showerhead for about 5 minutes and finally gave up and started filling up the tub. The only problem is that I have long hair and I couldn’t negotiate my hair and shampooing it with the tub faucet. Now Bhakti was meowing and banging on the door to join me. That was the last thing I needed—a wet cat trying to meditate in a full tub of water!!! Somehow I got my hair washed and rinsed and a half hour later, we did indeed get to meditate and the rest of my day actually worked out quite well.

As I reflected on this day, I noted that so many of the classes I teach about yoga, movement, creativity and resilience are about the business of finding both internal and external ways of expressing these components in daily life for grounding and staying centered, especially in the midst of chaos. I realized that Bhakti and her devotion serve as great reminders of how a daily practice can help us stay centered when everything else may fall apart around us and that we all need practices that can take us to that quiet, peaceful place.

Honing resilience is not just about surviving, but invites us to become triumphant in areas where we might give up or become complacent and for that we need tools (practices) that keep us moving forward no matter what the setbacks are, big or small. I think cats are a great reminder of this. They are ornery, mischievous, never do what they’re told, are known for having nine lives and their greatest weapon of all is purring. Mine just happens to purr in Sanskrit.

In feline smiles,
Françoise

Mar

4

Movement For The Mind®—Dance That Awakens Healing, Inspiration & Wisdom

By Francoise Netter

In anticipation of the publishing and release of my paperback book, Movement For The Mind, I want to invite you, your friends and family to my book signing release party on April 5, 2013 at 4:30PM. Contact me at fenetter@yahoo.com for the location in Boulder, CO. This book is a unique resource for integrating the body, mind and spirit and discovering who you are creatively. It is also an invitation to embrace your inner wisdom, discover the innate joy within you and express it in a manner that can practically be applied to positively change any area of your life!!!!

I want to share the forward from the book written by a friend, mentor and brilliant author, professor and business luminary. Enjoy and I look forward to personally signing a copy of the book for you which is available on my website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and through other major bookstores. Always appreciate your comments and referrals.

Delightfully in the Dance,
Françoise

Foreword

For twenty-five years others and I taught the Personal Creativity in Business course at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. And then and ever since it has been offered by a growing group of teachers not only at Stanford but at other schools, in corporations and for nonprofit groups and individuals who need this kind of awakening and support of their inherent creativity to deal with the challenges and opportunities of their lives. For much of that time, Françoise Netter and her dance and movement work have been an integral part of this effort. Why? Because you cannot be consistently creative and lead life to the fullest without engaging not just the mind, but also the heart, the spirit and the body. The last aspect, body, is tricky, yet essential to unlocking the rest for all of us on various times on our journey if it is to be a creative one.

Françoise is a master at what she does. Gifted and a professional. Unique. Like only a few of the visitors and contributors to our class, she sat in it as a participant in order to make sure that what she was doing was of maximum impact to our students. She engaged their bodies in dance and movement in a way that led to breakthroughs and tools that stayed with people. And now she has translated that brilliance and care to this book for you to use and grow in ways you can’t imagine.

When Françoise came for a class it was always a little exciting, maybe even scary for some of the students. We were going to dance in a graduate business class? To keep them guessing and make it light, I would sometimes play a recording of the song, “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” as they entered the room. But Françoise changed the mood step by step. First we (I always participated) were guided to an awareness of our body. Then we explored movement and what it meant in terms of who we are at our core and what our life purpose is. We were transformed during one session. Students spoke with a sort of wonder about what just happened. They followed up by integrating that experience with the other more traditional work they were getting in the class.

This book gives you a chance to have that same kind of experience but to have it in a sustained way in various parts of your life and to meet almost any challenge. In our Stanford class we were focusing on awakening the body-mind-heart-spirit connection for leading a creative life, making your life itself a work of art. This book goes beyond and deeper, however, in the sense that Françoise guides you through her work with stress, psychotherapy and physical healing as well as creativity. You may have worked with each one of these life challenges in many different ways and successfully. But try engaging your body-mind connection with the exercises and approaches in this book and you might be surprised at the new levels you will achieve—breakthroughs instead of stress, support for healing, awakened creative energy, and new understanding and control of your personality based on your highest self.

You can read this book straight through and get something from the stories Françoise tells and the new perspective she offers. But you’ll get an order of magnitude more from it if you engage with the exercises, if you bring this kind of movement into your life. It takes effort at first. But once you get the basic exercise down, you have a tool that you can use in other parts of the book and whenever you need it.

So I suggest that you get the basic exercise first and then go to the chapter that represents a major challenge for you, be it stress, creativity, mental issues, or healing. Do the movement work in every chapter. See what happens. Pay attention. Keep at it with what works for you. Use this book as a guide to a full, rich life from every aspect of your being.

 —Michael Ray, John G. McCoy-Banc One Professor of Creativity and Innovation (Emeritus) Stanford Business School and Author, Creativity in Business and The Highest Goal

 

Oct

15

Fostering Resilience – Part Three

By Francoise Netter

The subject of Resilience, I believe is one of the most relevant qualities that we can develop, nurture and sustain. It is a quality that we too often ignore in this fast paced, technological whiz of a life. In the next few blogs and articles, I will be addressing various ways that you can think about resilience and apply it to your life both personally and professionally.

Part Three

Those of you who’ve read my last two articles on Fostering Resilience, know that it is something I feel passionately about both personally and professionally. If we dive deep into the human spirit, we converge and meet in a similar place. All of us ultimately seek joy, ease, love, safety and peace. We may seek it in diverse ways and call it by different names but those desires are universal and at the foundation of most philosophies and religions. So if we seek all that is fun, joyous and easy why do we need to foster resilience?

Resilience is the key to not only achieving these goals, but also one of the key ingredients to sustaining them. Let’s take a closer look. If life is supposed to be easy, fun, joyous and all the things we want, then why does it so often feel challenging, chaotic and downright difficult? The answer is simple and yet complex.

Growing up in the West, many of us are taught to fill our baskets of desires by going after the things we want externally. We are taught by example that if we are able to accumulate, achieve and control certain outer conditions than our lives will look the way we want and we can achieve the joy that we are seeking. However, for most of us striving, grabbing and controlling outer conditions keep us jumping at best and stressed out and frustrated the rest of the time.

What is so true and yet understated in the story, Carrots, Egg and Coffee, is that the ability to turn adverse conditions into coffee beans invites us to shift our attitude. We don’t coerce the beans to make it happen. The beans simply blend with the water and are transformed. So often we find ourselves struggling against outer conditions that we can’t seem to change, when the change we seek is actually right under our noses. We are so accustomed to looking externally for solutions that we seldom look at our own internal state, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs.

I remember many years ago taking a three day personal growth seminar and when we came back as a group one week later, one of the participants excitedly shared, ” When I got home from this seminar the most amazing happened. Everyone in my family changed for the better!” We all smiled quietly and nodded to each other. We knew because of the work he had done and the deep inner personal changes and insights he had undergone, his perception of others (including his family) had also changed.

In our western society, we often put emphasis on how things look externally. Through that approach, we have forgotten our own inner wellspring of knowledge. Yoga and many other philosophies remind us that we may have it a bit backwards. The control we are seeking is within us, not external to us. Fostering resilience summons us to that place internally where we can reflect and shift our perception and beliefs. Then, ease, joy, true change and what we desire can occur. Through the act of shifting our thoughts and beliefs we can act from a conscious place and resolve the challenges that show up whether we are prepared for them or when they blindside us.

In my own personal experience, the more I identify with what’s wrong with my life, the more life seems to corroborate that belief and visa versa. For the next few weeks, take a few minutes daily to reflect on both your desires and your attitudes. Look within to see if you can shift a negative thought or belief and see where cultivating your resilience can assist you. Then watch as your life begins to transform like the coffee beans slowly but surely.  I always welcome your comments and observations.

On this delightful path,
Françoise

Aug

15

Fostering Resilience – Part Two

By Francoise Netter

The subject of Resilience, I believe is one of the most relevant qualities that we can develop, nurture and sustain. It is a quality that we too often ignore in this fast paced, technological whiz of a life. In the next few blogs and articles, I will be addressing various ways that you can think about resilience and apply it to your life both personally and professionally.

Part Two

My brother, Patrick, recently sent me an article titled: “Carrots, Eggs & Coffee”. I’ll reprint excerpts of the article here and then expound on the lessons and messages it conveys:

“A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, mother?’ Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. ‘Which are you?’ she asked her daughter. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?’–Author Unknown

The interesting dynamic in adversity is that some people are like carrots and appear strong externally, but when they experience loss or difficulty, they wilt and lose their strength and resiliency. Others, who appear fragile like an egg, become hardened and defensive and armor their vulnerability. Some rare individuals are able to create something lucid, new and extraordinary from pain and hardship. Alice Summers, the oldest living holocaust survivor at 108, is such an individual. She was a well-known musician in Poland when World War II broke out.  The Nazis arrested her and her five-year-old son and sent them to a concentration camp but allowed her to play piano for the SS because they were afraid of the propaganda that her death might create for them. She and her son survived on the “food” of her music and not only did they live through the horrific conditions, but both Alice and her son became world-class musicians after the war. Her interview on YouTube is nothing short of inspirational.

This ability to turn adversity into “coffee beans” is what the ancients have always labeled as alchemy. It is the stuff that creates resiliency and greatness on every level. Unfortunately with the apparent ease of technology, we are under the illusion that everything can be handled with the flick of a finger. Children growing up today are given a false sense of security and so many New Age philosophies propagate the illusion that life “should” be easy. It is not our desires for joy, ease, beauty and fun that we must curtail, but rather how and where we look for them.

Fostering resiliency allows us to strengthen our core so that when circumstances appear out of our control or blind side us we are not only able to survive, but in the process we transform ourselves and life itself. We learn in very personal ways that our state of joy, ease, strength and love is not dependent on things external to us. We may still seek certain external forms, but our resiliency is not grounded in them.

Contemplate this analogy of “carrots, egg and coffee” and just notice without judging yourself what your level of resiliency is when things are going “wrong” in your life. For some of us it’s the little annoyances that we’re less resilient to and for some it’s the “big” ones. I teach in all of my seminars that awareness and understanding are the first two steps in taking action and making changes. For the next couple of weeks, observe your reactions to life and notice what fosters your resilience. In the next article, we’ll explore techniques to increase resiliency and the ability to thrive in all circumstances. Please feel free to comment on this article and email me your questions and experiences.

Dancing on the spiraling path of resiliency,
Françoise

Jun

11

Fostering Resilience – Part One

By Francoise Netter

The subject of Resilience, I believe is one of the most relevant qualities that we can develop, nurture and sustain. It is a quality that we too often ignore in this fast paced, technological whiz of a life. In the next few blogs and articles, I will be addressing various ways that you can think about resilience and apply it to your life both personally and professionally.

Part One

Isn’t it amazing that on the day you think you have it down, meaning you are centered and acting from a place of being grounded and calm, a myriad of circumstances can enter your world to shake you from your stance? It is especially humbling when you feel you have graduated from a certain level of reactivity and think that you are no longer vulnerable to spouts of reactive anger, stress, sadness, fear or grief. So what do you do when circumstances arise that dismantle you?

I, like most of us, have an over developed inner critic, so I’m going to suggest the following steps that you can apply personally or professionally and individualize:

  1. Refrain from judging your “fall” and instead embrace a stance of loving compassion for “losing it.”
  2. Pause as soon as you become conscious to do so, breathe and become reflective. Is this new or a trigger from the past? What do I have control over? What can I do? What can I change? What do I need to let go of?
  3. This may take 5 minutes or it might go on for weeks or longer. Journal, pray, meditate or speak with a trusted friend or counselor.
  4. From this place of inner reflection, create an action step. It may be to simply breathe and move on or there may be various outer actions that need to happen.
  5. Know that life is very much like flying a plane. Pilots are rarely on course in their flight plan. They arrive at their destination by constantly correcting their course.
  6. Keep your vision clear and always make room for adjustments.

In the process of compassionately fostering resilience,
Françoise

Apr

23

Laughing Your Way To Learning

By Francoise Netter

Last week, I met with Educators to teach a class on Creative Lesson Planning. The class was a blast from beginning to end. The environment may have added to the evening’s light and humorous quality as we met in a restaurant/bar instead of a standard classroom. Yet, it was not the first time that I had taught and given credits during a Happy Hour setting, but this evening had a special quality to it. Perhaps it was the synergy of the individuals present that allowed everyone to let their guard down and have a good time while learning. Whatever it was, after the class, I found myself asking why this quality was not more present in learning and academic environments. Don’t we learn more easily when we’re having fun? Doesn’t laughter and play take the edge off of our fears and feelings of inadequacy? Then why is school and academia so often devoid of joy, laughter and playfulness?

I am all for serious moments of concentration and focus, but the lightness of this evening brought smiles to everyone present and we ended up staying past the prescribed time of the class. Just think how our classrooms might benefit with the addition of this more informal, playful inclusion. Through medical research, we know that stress is the # 1 cause of immune deficiency, disease and even premature death. Last night was a stress-busting event for everyone present and they fulfilled their professional obligations of procuring credits and applying them academically.

Students of all ages can benefit from an approach to learning that integrates laughter and playfulness. How can creativity be explored and subjects we have labeled as challenging or serious be taught so that the students embrace them with glee and attentiveness? As an experiment, see what you can do to add joy, laughter and ease to your professional and personal life especially to the parts of your life that you label as difficult or drudgery. Have fun with it and then let me know your results.

In lightness and laughter,
Françoise

Feb

25

Actualizing Your Yoga – The Evolution of Humanity

By Francoise Netter

I recently volunteered at the Boulder International Film Festival and one of the documentaries I saw, Modern Progress, while not as professionally crafted as I might have liked, did bring up some interesting points. They cited that although in the past 200 years we have progressed technologically more rapidly than at any time in history, we have not evolved biologically or in any other way humanly in 5,000 years. It implied that our evolution as humans has no congruity with our materialistic greed and technological advancement and it alluded that this same issue had been the cause of the fall of many civilizations prior to the advancement of our current one.

For decades we have been seduced and deluded by our beliefs that outer progress, fame and riches would somehow render us free and triumphant over the forces we fear and the conditions over which we have no control. What an interesting web of lies we’ve spun. Can all our technological advancement heal the common cold, a broken heart, the loss of a loved one, the conflict between neighbors or any personal fear? We have spent thousands of years practicing looking to outer events for our sustenance and reality. But how has that evolved us or really brought us what we, as a species, have always yearned for?

Yoga, which evolved 5,000 plus years ago and many other ancient philosophies poignantly speak to the evolution of humanity. For thousands of years, Yogis and other Mystics guarded the secrets of human evolution. But today “these secrets” are being revealed to the masses. The Yogis were not that different than modern man. They also sought what we all ultimately seek: joy, contentment, connectedness, knowledge and peace. They knew that the control and mastery that was needed began from within. The Mount Everest summits and rocket ship explorations started with mastering their own minds and bodies. They sought human evolution not outer technological progress and they revealed states of awareness that we are being summoned to explore and embrace today.

One of the classes I teach, Yoga for the Academic Environment, touches upon the relevancy of the use of ancient wisdom in today’s educational environment. True Yoga bridges the gap between the mind and body, the breath and life and offers us a practical wisdom for this time where we must also bridge the schism between our inner evolution and our outer progress. Our minds and bodies are busier and more preoccupied than ever. We are plugged in to some form of technology 24/7—some people even sleep plugged in. We must begin the process of not only slowing down, but also turning our attention to what we can control: our responses, thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions. We have placed such importance to reacting to what happens to us and around us while keeping up with the pace of life, that we have forgotten the simplest of practices of being self-responsible and looking within for our answers.

Children are incredibly open to these teachings of Yoga. Can you imagine the progress of this planet if we were taught at a young age how to control our thoughts, breath, heart rate, and digestion? What if we learned how to understand our negative emotional states and transform them? What if we understood that we all are intricately connected and part of a living, breathing universe that is made up of the same essential energy? What if we learned how to focus, concentrate and control the ceaseless chatter of the mind? What would our world look like if we learned how to be kind, gentle, generous, and loving with ourselves and others? If we combined these practices with the ABCs, just imagine how we might begin to evolve humanly.

Progress would no longer be measured by political power or financial success or by the speed of technical toys. Simple isn’t it? Begin today. Do something different. Spend ten minutes a day looking behind your eyes. Breathe, watch your thoughts, sit in gratitude, pet your cat, hug your dog, take a walk and just watch—no iPod, no words, and no distractions. Everyday add a new practice to simplify, observe and get acquainted with the reservoir of quiet, wisdom and joy that lies within you.

In loving practice,
Françoise

Oct

30

Movement For The Mind®

By Francoise Netter

For those of you who have been following my blogs, articles and column, you know that I refer back to allegories and stories of my Yoga Master whom I went to study with in India in 1978. He knew me as a dancer and dance therapist and would murmur “dancer” whenever he would see me even though he did not speak English.

Dance and art were my first experiences of “Actualizing my Yoga”. It was in these moments of creative involvement that I experienced my first encounters with true meditation and Yoga—that experience of oneness, focus and bliss. Although my practice of Yoga evolved on its own, it was always inextricably linked to my life and to my work with dance, which came to be known as Movement For The Mind and the name of my book.

In these blogs, I will be sharing excerpts from the book. It is my hope that they will inspire you and open you to new levels of thinking, feeling, moving and actualizing. Please feel free to contact me for a copy of the book, which will be available in a downloadable form on my website: www.bodyminddynamics.org shortly.

The Power Of Dance

Physically, dance is the creative translation of what we do in this body: move. Dance speaks to every aspect of our being.  It challenges us physically and at the same time satisfies the human need for self-expression, communication, and meaning. It demands that the mind be clear, focused, and attentive. Each movement must be birthed from emotional integrity, so that when people dance, they may experience the oneness that mystics speak of reaching in the highest spiritual state. Yogis refer to the creation of the universe as the Dance of Shiva. French author, Anais Nin, coined the phrase “life is a dance,” and countless poets and philosophers have made similar analogies between dancing and living.

However, in Western culture dance has been less accessible to the general public than perhaps any other art form (not withstanding the current craze of the TV Reality show, “Dancing with the Stars”). When I was a child, everyone was encouraged to draw and learn to play a musical instrument whether they showed specific artistic talent or not. Although I was offered ballet classes as a child, my brother never took dance lessons. After I stopped taking ballet, I don’t remember taking any other class in school that encouraged creative self-expression through the medium of the body.

The purpose of all art is to communicate. Dance communicates through the language of movement. The dancer needs only the body as a vehicle for creative expression. All content comes from the inside and is brought into form through the body. Dancing, singing, and acting are the only art forms that can stand alone without any other embellishments or supportive props. But even the singer and actor need words. Silently, the dancer uses what connects us all to this earth, the body.

In ancient and primitive cultures, symbols and rituals were significant components of everyday life. These cultures, which revered and lived closely with the earth and nature’s cycles, utilized movement intentionally as a metaphor for living. They did not rely solely on words to communicate, but understood the power of the symbolic and the power of living in the body. Dance, through its use of gestures, incorporates the symbolic in the acting out of movement. It also allows man to embrace the sacred within his own body.

In the early twentieth century the pioneers of modern dance—including Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and Doris Humphreys—used dance to express once again the passions, pains, and spiritual elements of life.  Their dances told stories that contained the emotional and soulful aspects of human experience.

Modern dance pioneers’ vision of dance as a universal expression of life is not limited to the relationship between audience and dancer. Without an audience, the process of expressive communication can be an internal experience.

The Movement For The Mind® technique I created integrates the symbolic value of dance with the healing legacy of dance therapy, and includes Modern Dance’s vision of authentic expression. It brings back the power of dance to the individual and provides a vehicle for creative self-expression, integration, healing, and for better understanding ourselves and connecting to others.

If you feel that you don’t have rhythm or if you would like to experience your body’s innate rhythm and energy, take a moment to do this exercise. (Read the instructions a couple of times and then just repeat them to yourself mentally.)

Stand up. Close your eyes and take four complete breaths and then continue breathing normally. Remember to keep breathing through your nostrils. Now begin to listen to the rhythm of your breath and see how your body responds energetically. You may begin swaying or rocking. Let movements occur spontaneously. Go with any impulse. If your body does not move, continue listening to the breath for a few more moments. Do not strain or try to make anything happen. The point is to let go and become more sensitive to the subtle rhythms inwardly.

If you felt your body moving at all, you may have also become aware of your heartbeat and the rhythm of that pulsation. Listening to these simple rhythms helps us to connect to ourselves and to the moment. It also allows us to move and respond more spontaneously and with less restriction and judgment. The rhythm of the breath in this way is used to quiet and focus the mind and to awaken us to the subtle energies within us. In Movement For The Mind®, we can use this awakening for various purposes. The process alone of pausing to breathe deeply and then observing the breath will relieve the imminent effects of stress, but we can take this alleviation further.

 

Namaste,
Françoise

© 2010, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.

Oct

10

Beauty in Stillness

By Francoise Netter

As many of you know I have taught and trained others in Yoga and Movement For The Mind for over thirty years. I currently teach various graduate seminars for educators integrating body/mind wellness, creativity and inspiration in the classroom. I recently received a paper from one of my educator students and thought I would share the following excerpt with you.

Enjoy,
Françoise

Beauty in Stillness

By Vanessa

Sleep comes at a struggle for me.  It is not so much falling asleep but awakening in the middle of the night and relaxing enough to fall asleep again.  I try many techniques to reduce this nuisance, such as yoga, meditation even Benadryl.  They have all helped me a lot and I am better able to cope with these midnight wakings.  With the years of struggle I have had with sleep, it should not be a surprise to me that my daughter has trouble falling asleep at night.

My daughter is five years old.  She leads an active happy life full of play, learning and love.  At bedtime, I know that she is tired, even exhausted from her day.  We bathe in the evening, and read story.  It still takes her at least thirty minutes and, on most days, one hour to fall asleep!  I cannot believe it!

After taking the “Yoga for Educators” class with Françoise and working on my own meditation and relaxation techniques learned in class, I decided to start sharing some of these techniques with my daughter.  Over the summer, I worked with her on breathing deeply, relaxing her muscles one at a time and visualizing beautiful scenes.  Every night we tried something, rotating these relaxing activities before kissing her goodnight.  I was hoping that slowly one of these would catch on and she would be able to fall asleep more easily.  For a month, we worked on this.  She still would come out of her room 2 or 3 times asking for something else and still not able to fall asleep.  On some nights she even would stay awake, in bed, singing, or talking to herself for two hours!  WHY?!

I approached the question with her.  Really there is no explainable answer at this time.  I cannot put my finger on it.  So, I tried lying with her to relax her.  What a wiggle worm!  I would fall asleep before her but except that she moves so much that she disturbs me.  Ah ha! Maybe she needs to practice stillness.

So, again we worked on the relaxation techniques, as we had before, but this time we added stillness to it.  Each night I help her visualize just before kissing her good night and make sure that she is comfortable. I remind her to practice stillness and to find a beauty in her mind.  This conscious stillness is difficult and has taken some time.  A month later, it works!  Now, she still gets up on most nights but her wake time in bed is now from 15 to 30 minutes instead of from 30 to 60 minutes. Wow! What a relief.

Stillness is hard to come by in our busy lives.  In the waking hours of my daughter’s day, I probably don’t model any time to stay still myself.  Why would she know what it is like. Plus, this little one is definitely precocious.  It must be harder for someone that is constantly exploring and on the move.  If she can find stillness at five years old, it will be a skill that will help her throughout her life.  I hope our practice will influence her to take time to herself and absorb the day.  I have found beauty in the stillness of my life, when I present myself the gift.  I hope I can give her a sense that she too deserves it daily.