The owner of the studio where I Nia is named Jes (Jessica Morningstar Wolf, actually) and she is...very hard to describe. Young. Lovely. Lithe. Strong. Shamanistic. Intense. Joyful. Penetrating. Intimidating. Inviting. Love.
Taking a class from her is an invitation to get opened up. You don't have to, if you don't want, but you'd be missing out if you didn't. It's pretty enthralling.
I went to her Nia last Wednesday, and the theme of the class was to focus on the heart. No biggie, right? Airy-fairy, new-age stuff, yeah?
Okay, except that about halfway in I experienced a major shift that has stuck with me all week and that I'll try to explain here.
Even though class had only been happening for thirty minutes, it felt like we had been dancing for hours. Jes must have seen me glance at the clock, or maybe others were looking at the time too, because she laughed and commented on the bending of time to the class. She said this: "The only tool we have to slow down time is moving from the heartspace."
Again: The only tool we have to slow down time is moving from the heartspace.
Engaging. Being in the present. Moving from the self. From love.
I think hearing this is transformative for me because I have struggled so much with feeling like my life is just blowing past. With everything I do, our family does, the pace of this dromocratic society...it often feels as if I am not at the center of my life. And this makes me feel angry and frustrated, and also anxious and antsy. Behaviors I don't really like (HUGE hot fudge sundaes; spending sprees at the thrift store) ensue.
But "moving from the heartspace." That's something else entirely. If you know me in person, you know I'm a sloucher. Like, a lifetime sloucher. It's something I don't like about myself, and I've tried to change it, but haven't been able to. It hurts to pull my shoulders back after so many years of slouching; my stomach muscles start to cramp; I feel awkward. I give up after, oh, about 3 minutes of trying to sit up straight. A lifetime of my father poking me between the shoulder blades, colleagues telling me that "I'm a pretty girl, why don't you stand up straight?," friends and family lovingly trying to move my recalcitrant shoulder blades into place. It's all too much.
Moving from the heartspace, though--which is profoundly different from force and manipulation--accomplishes the same thing, just without pain. For the past week, I've been practicing saying to myself "open your heartspace, Jen." And the shoulders go back, the stomach muscles contract, and I instantly feel more centered, more present in my body. It feels nothing short of miraculous.
Metaphorically, too, I think I was sheltering myself by slouching. Protecting myself from openness and vulnerability. But spiritually I'm moving past that some, yes? So it's time my body came along, I think.
I'm not doing this 24 hours a day yet. The moments before I've had my coffee and when I'm in social settings are particularly challenging for me, because my old patterns of protection and comfort are so ingrained now. Also, dealing with the children takes me out of myself a bit. But I feel movement in the areas of posture, openness, and vulnerability in ways I've never experienced before. And my time feels dramatically more my own.
We know that our minds and bodies are connected. That just gets clearer and clearer to me as I get older. But we don't always know how they're connected. I think I needed a spiritual and emotional reason to open up, and my body would follow. Or, I needed my heart to step up, and my emotions would follow.
Either way, it's a new practice for me.