Being tickled.

I love being tickled by the little things in life.  I feel so pleased when the tinniest things work out, work their magic, and fall in to place so perfectly.  The reality is, this is happening all-day, everyday, when I open my eyes towards it.  It all come back to an attitude of awareness, wonder, and pleasure. I am pleased when I choose to be pleased with what the good Lord is offering me,sharing with me, showing with me, revealing and unveiling to me.

A friend of mine was on vacation and came back bringing me a little gift.  Now it may seem simple, but the gift was a bottle of fingernail polish.  It was the color orange, which is perfectly my favorite color, and she knew that.  She had just been wanting to paint her toenails pink or orange.  I had just been wanting to paint my own toenails, so perfect timing.  Seems simple right?  But then to my surprise, I looked at the color name on the bottle only for it to display the name “Courtney Orange”. Divine.  I was so pleased.  It was so simple—-perfectly magical and ultimately grin-worthy.  

I envisioned my Papa, Father in heaven saying to me, “Hi daughter, I see you today.  I’m thinking of you, even the small things matter.  I show up to you in the simplest ways.  Open your eye daughter, perk up your cheekbones daughter and grin.  Be filled with the joy and wonder that I have to offer to you when you remain alert—-when you choose to not check out—-when you choose to be alive and live in the moment—-when you remember to cherish simplicity, generosity, and kindness from friends.  All of these things I give to you, and more.”

I like my nail polish.  My toenails make me smile. I enjoy my life.  I am grateful for Courtney Orange.  Smile friends.  Be tickled.

Late-june successes of my first-time, rooftop patio garden.  Complete with 3 regular-sized Earthboxes, 1 Earthbox Junior, 2 leaf-seed sized pots, a strawberry pot, and unique other planters.  Such a proud-mom feeling growing a garden from seeds and small plants.  Can’t wait to continue to yield the crop, and grow to be more self-sustaining. Garden gnome and all! What a joy!

"Are you still a dancer?"

Right now, dance may not be the most prominent, or dominate part of my work schedule, or life, which makes me understand why the question “Are you still a dancer?” or “Are you still dancing?” is something that I hear often.

The response is always, “Yes {insert some type of qualifying justification/project I’m working on/place I’m teaching/choreographing/performing next..}..” But I have figured out what the true reality to the answer of that question is for me.

"The simple act of doing, is the act of being, and being is another step towards becoming."
 —CaH.

The moment that I stop dancing and pursuing dance, is when I stop being a dancer.  I seize the process of becoming a dancer.  The simple action and intention of dancing—-allows me the privilege to BE a dancer.

Now, I’m not speaking of becoming in the sense of identity, I speak of it in a sense of being. Inhabiting. Exuding. Internal ownership. Encompassing what it entails. Feeling compelled and drawn in.  Moved to participate.  Delighted to partake.  Needing to share.  Willing to offer. 

Every time that I choose to dance, I have the privilege to be a dancer, to engage in the art form of sharing through movement, with the desire to move others through movement, move others towards movement.  Each day I try to move another step forward in becoming/embodying/delighting in dance and its possibilities.  But more so than even dance, I have found that I love movement.  I am a mover. (A post on this distinction coming soon..) 

So to answer the question, “Yes!  I still am a dancer and will continue to always be, unless I decide at some point in time that there is no longer joy in continuing to be.  But above being a dancer, I am a mover at heart.  I like to move.  And while I am being a dancer and mover for now, I am taking positive steps of action in becoming a more refined dancer/mover/performer/teacher/choreographer/artist/activist/educator.  Thank you for inquiring!”

High of zero degrees fahrenheit, current temperature, -4 degrees fahrenheit, with wind chill feels like -20 degrees fahrenheit.

Optimism in this cold weather:

1) My tea draw is getting some good use.  

2) My rent includes heat.

3) I can comfortably wear 2-3 comfy sweaters simultaneously.

4) Guiltless excuse to stay indoors all day, snuggled up on the couch, watching free movies from the library.

Life is good for Wisconsinites. 

An Invitation to Abundant Life: Solutions for Financial Planning

Abundant Life.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  If you asked me (and most people I would imagine) what I wanted most in life, my response would be to live a happy life, with a sense of purpose, and to leave an impact on those around me/the world.  Sounds super challenging, and perhaps a little ambitious, but it correlates with what I consider to be innate human desires/feelings.  

Money. Finances. Loans. Wages.  New discoveries and thoughts from many young adults and older adults alike have concerns about.  The idea of money tends to find it’s way into decision making very often in my life.  Should I or shouldn’t I go/buy/invest/give/work/travel to/receive xy and z, using money as a basis for my decision making.  The funny thing about money, is that it’s so much more than just currency, money speaks a lot of values—-and how I behave in relation to money has a direct correlation to what I consider valuable.  Realizing this correlation has causes me to re-think my money planning, how I use it, how I save it, how I spend it.  You see, values are what we believe in, they are what motivate and shape us, so our values when it comes to money, are extremely important.  

Chapter 55 of Isaiah in my Bible is titled “An Invitation to Abundant Life.”  This, of course, intrigued me.  Verse two states:

"Why do you spend money for what it not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance."

When the Bible speaks about bread it is both literal to describe our basic needs as human beings (food, water, shelter, health, etc), as well as figurative to mean life.  The phrase “bread of life” is used often to depict this.  So in speaking to me, “why do I not spend money for what gives me my necessities to live and gives me LIFE?,” or rather, a HIGHER QUALITY of life.  United States. In one of my nutrition courses in college I was not surprised to hear that the USA is one of the countries where people spend the LEAST amount of their disposable income on food.  Spending money on food, something that I literally put inside my body and directly effects the way I feel, my mood, my health, to me is a worthwhile investment of money.  Food that makes me feel really good to honor my body well, things that increase my health and make me feel better.

Part 2 continues on to say, “Why do you spend money on what does not satisfy?”.  Good question, things that will never provide me with the fullness of life that I desire, things that speak into my purest values and goals for my life here on earth.  Temporary.  Fleeting.  My spending speaks to my values.  And I should use my money in ways that ADD VALUE to my life.

When it comes to money I first like to ask myself if I am spending or investing.  Spending, I define for myself as using an amount of money to purchase something that after it is gone, the item, too, is gone.  Investing, I define for myself as using money to purchase or get something, that after the money is gone, the item still remains and is lasting.  Investing holds a longer-term impact on the future, whereas spending is more temporal.  I spend money on coffee, I spend money on taxes, I invest money in high-quality groceries (that hold a long-standing health benefit along with their immediate sense of feeling really good), I invest money in my dance and Pilates training.

Based on all of these thoughts and information I came up with a little hierarchy of spending/investing money.  My money plan.  Spending and Investing on What is Essential and What Satisfies.

1st) Meet my basic needs. (Spending money on bread: food, shelter, water, life..)

2nd) Serve my desire for longevity. (Savings, health, retirement, security {or the illusion of at that}..)

3rd) Invest in things that enrich and help me fulfill my life’s goals and missions. (Continuing education and training, serving others through generosity and volunteering..)

4th) Invest and purchase that which truly satisfies my mind, heart, and soul—and allow me to experience and see the BEAUTY in the world and others. (Supporting and visiting friends, travel and adventure, a bike that lets me see the world, the dress that makes me feel beautiful, leaving a big tip for a server at a restaurant, a massage, a pumpkin that makes me smile and feel festive, a date night..)

When I see money come and go from my pocket and bank account, there is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of “well, that was money well invested/spent.”  Then, it doesn’t become about the absence of that money, but instead, about the outcome of what was received.  Life, health, purpose, happiness, values fulfilled: an invitation to abundant life.

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Season of the Soul —-Winter 2014 Soul Collage

The old time saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words.”  Soul Collaging.  An activity used by creative therapists to help people discover what their innermost being in trying to say to them.

This is an activity that I do a few times a year, and what it provides for me is an honest inventory of where I am at today.  

Begin, by without thinking, selecting images from magazines that you are drawn to.  Do not attempt to decide why you chose what you did, just make choices.  After you have collected a variety of images,  Using a 5”x7” piece of blank paper, arrange, and glue the images on to the paper.  Then, the journaling begins.

While viewing the image you created, you then “place yourself” into the image, and speak to yourself as if “you are the picture”.  

Giving yourself 2-3 minutes for each writing prompt, write whatever comes to mind, whatever if spoken to you.  Keeping in mind, the soul collage you created, is what is speaking these sentences to you.  It can be as literal or as figurative as the images lead you.

Prompt #1 begins each sentence with: “I am one who…”

Prompt #2 begins with: “I am here to tell you…”

Prompt #3 begins with: “What I need from you is…”

_______________

Here is my Winter 2014 Collage.

Here is what it had to reveal to me:

I am one who…exists in comfort.  Has soft lighting.  Small spaces make me feel contained.  I am one who holds thoughts inside.  Likes to be around other light.  Has a dimmer switch that I can control.  Feels.  I am one who has hard-pressed thoughts and edges.  Gets caught in piles of comfort and needs to be pulled out.  I am one who enjoys warmth, multiple layers, and intimate quarters.

I am here to tell you that you have limited your reach.  You can fall for ease.  You are distant from other light, but can pursue it.  I am here to tell you that there is a rich depth to you.  That life should not be compartmentalized.  I am here to tell you that there may be a hard cover, but there are soft pages.  I am here to tell you that even on soft surfaces, you can climb.  Don’t get trapped in layers, trust depth, seek openness, invite yourself in, and encounter serenity.

What I need from you is surrender.  Keys.  Other light. Natural light. Readiness. Organization. Order.  Pursuit.  What I need from you is patience with self.  Miracles.  A softness about your existence and being. A lightness about self.  What I need from you is to hear your echo.  Brightness, eliminated diversions, and preparedness.

My honest inventory of self fortoday.

Awareness is the first step for moving towards change.  Towards goals, and towards self-revelations.  Not to serve as a means for criticism of self, but rather consciousness of self.  

The Secret is in the Lipstick—Why I love wearing my reds, pinks, and glossy nudes.

Today I spent a long morning and early afternoon in the studio.  Pilates, stretching, dance, and cooling down.  There tends to be one thing you will not find me in the studios without—lipstick. No shower, no make-up, but lipsticked.

Starting in my sophomore year of college, I noticed that my reluctancy to waking up for ballet class was kicking in, and I couldn’t tell why.  Apart from just being plain tired, I noticed that I was simply rolling out of my dorm room bed, throwing on a leotard, having yogurt and coffee, and dragging my feet to class—of course I did not feel motivated.  I felt tired, unkept, and not ready to be staring at myself in tights and skin-tight leotards in the mirror feeling like a grunge.  It was then I got an idea—-something that wouldn’t take too much time, but would make me feel much better.  Lipstick.

There is something about wearing lipstick that just makes me feel ready, put together, and beautiful.  It can distract from the puffiest eye bags, the most sore body, and the reluctancy that I carry around with me when I try to motivate myself to get moving in the morning.  Psychologist have even done studies that showed that during time of recession, and the great depression, the one thing that women did not shave out of their budget was purchasing lipstick.  It even has a name, they call it “the Lipstick Effect.”  They got the idea too, that if they could present themselves with a confidence and in a way that made them feel they looked great, they would feel great too!  A simple, inexpensive luxury.  So simple.

Feel silly wearing lipstick when most people aren’t?  Don’t.  If it makes you feel good, then why does it matter how other people may or may not feel if you show up to the gym, the grocery store, the city dump wearing bright red?  It’s minimal effort, for maximum impact. 

And for the record, sore body, tight muscles, out of practice and all, I felt great today in the studio. :)

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Softening.

Over the past year, I have been taking Feldenkrais class with Shannon Kennedy, a highly experienced, and well-trained practitioner. Feldenkrais, also called, Awareness Through Movement (ATM), involves training the body for maximum possibilities of movement choices, smarter movement choices, and efficient movement patterns in the body.  

Being a dancer, I tend to carry myself up, out of gravity, leading with my chest, lifting from my center, and present myself in a striking (and as some would say intimidating) way.  This has worked for a while, but has caused a lot of stiffness in my spine/bones/muscles, and tension throughout my body.  I fight my natural anatomy, and hold myself up out of the ground—-might be the type-A personality in me, the “go-getter” attitude, and my tightly-wound “let me hold myself together” ideas about my body.  This is how I stood, carried myself, and held myself together.image

(Even just looking at this photo I catch myself starting to hold my breath as a sensory reaction to how my body looks in this photo, tense, held, static, immobile)

Spending time in class (ATM), and spending time in one-on-one sessions (these are called “IM” or “Integrated Movement”), I have been able to SOFTEN and experience myself in a whole new way.  Carry myself with less tension, and more ease.  Without lifting my head like a meer-cat to see what’s up in the clouds, but to experience the ground.  To release and relax, and relinquish stress and tension that was wound-up throughout my body for years.  To soften my eyes, soften my gaze, soften my presence, and just present myself as a human being, rather than a human doing.  Handing over the control to just let my body, do the doing.  

My spine, and feet, are now supporting the weight of my upper torso, shoulders, and head.  Things are aligned. Supported.  I feel supported.  I can be supported.  I can feel—-feel something besides tightness disguised as strength.  I have inner strength, and balance.  

I feel softer.  I like being softer,  I like feeling present.  I like letting go.

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(Note: now my arms lie center, my chest and back are equal from front to back, my head rests on the top of my spine, my pelvis is balanced, my abdominals are not sucked up into spine while I rest, I appear at ease).  

It may seem simple, but to me it’s profound, and striking…moving towards a softer self.

Vesselhood.

Driving home from Chicago this past weekend, I spent most of the drive listening to my Hillsong CD “Unidos Permanecemos”, and the song “Me Viniste A Rescatar” came on—-Very similar to the English worship song “Came to my Rescue”.  The second part of the song, in that moment, that second, the presence of my drive was really striking to me.  The repetition of “Con mi fe, te exaltaré, con amor, te exaltaré, con mi ser, te exaltaré”  translating in English to:  ”With my faith, I will exalt you, with love, I will exalt you, with my being, I will exalt you.”

I became overcome with the strong sensation and profound realization of my vesselhood—my being a vessel of and for someone so much greater than myself.  

  • Someone who has a plan I could never contrive.  
  • Someone who merits all exaltation, and never gives up on reminding me to live a life giving it forth.  
  • Someone who counters my selfishness, greed, and pride with a gentle reminder of how small, yet capable, I truly am.  
  • Someone who sees my insufficient gratitude to Him, and still holds me close and dear.  
  • Someone way more deserving, humble, selfless, loving, helpful, skilled, and worthy that I’ll ever be, but gives me the privilege and honor to feel a portion of this on earth when I give-forth from these character traits. 
  • Someone who is the fullness of the emptiness I experience in this life.  
  • The One who fills the vessel, fills my vessel, and calls me out to fulfill my God-given purpose.  

My body, my earthly vessel, it simply a means to act out the will of My Father.  With my faith, my love, and my being, I shall exalt you.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST4zxBRVIPk