Why Belly Dance is like–the Matrix?! (and how to get your red pill)

In the iconic film, The Matrix, Neo is offered a choice: The blue pill or the red pill?

The blue pill lets you stay in the cave, living an illusion of life. The red pill–ah, that’s another story. The red pill means opening your eyes to hidden things. It changes your life. Awakens you. Frees you from illusion.

Belly dance is like this.

In belly dance, we have the well-known Westernized version of the dance–stylized, flashy choreographies with an emphasis on appearance and athleticism. There is drilling, a push to perform, and a perfectionist agenda. That’s the blue pill. The illusion. So what is the red pill?

The belly dance red pill is the lesser-known Eastern version of the dance. It values feeling, playfulness, improvisation, and joy. It makes everyone beautiful. It heals pain, brings pleasure, and lights up  the world. No, we don’t get to stride through the lobby blasting high-tech weapons into jackbooted guards. But we don’t have Agent Smith out to get us, either.

And there is one other difference. The Matrix red pill led to a harsher, more dangerous reality. The belly dance red pill leads to a more loving, compassionate life.  We get to enjoy our dance more–and bring joy to others.

Um, no brainer, right?

 

Take the Red Pill, Neo

Take the red pill.

Here are a few red pills for your consideration…

Midnight at the Crossroads: Has belly dance sold its soul? is one giant red pill. It shows the differences between Eastern and Western mindsets, the surprising benefits to Eastern style, and practical strategies for embracing soul of the dance. Find out more at bellydancesoul.com.

The 90-Day Dance Party Challenge is three full months of red pill. It’s a daily dose of inspiration, improvisation, and illumination. It’s available right here: aliathabit.com/90Days/

And to kick it off, how about Alia and Amity’s Awesome Winter Weekend? Another red pill, it’s a two-day all-inclusive retreat, February 10-11, filled with dance, friends, food, and fun. Check it out at   aliathabit.com/awesome-winter-retreat

And the Whole Red Pill Enchilada?

Get the Retreat and the 90 Days and get a SUPER EARLY FREE BONUS: a signed print copy of midnight ($45 value) PLUS a month of Alia’s Kickass Creativity Coaching ($185 value). Red Pill your Life!

Kickass coaching includes

  • 1 hour introductory phone/skype VIP Intensive
  • Goal setting, support, and accountability
  • Weekly email exchange
  • 30-minute wrap-up phone/skype call
  • Any month in 2018

WOW!

The Whole Enchilada:

  • Amity and Alia’s Awesome Winter Retreat ($275)
  • Alia’s 90 Day Dance Challenge ($100)
  • A signed print copy of Midnight at the Crossroads: Has belly dance sold its soul? ($45)
  • A month of VIP Kickass Coaching ($185)

That’s $605 worth of awesomeness for only $375.

Click here:

But only for 10 people (or until the Retreat sells out, whichever comes first).

Just call me Morpheus ; )

Love,

Alia

Welcome to Books I Love

I have always been a book person–I like books in my hands, the ink, the pages, the pleasure of the thing itself. However, I hate reading on a computer. Hate. It. I do it for work, but it’s a drag and a half. I therefore disdained e-reading, virtual books, the whole thing. No battery=no reading=forget it.

Not that I’ve had any time to read in forever (even if college hadn’t made me read so much crap I had to let go of reading novels. It took years before I read a book for pleasure again). And buying books costs an arm and leg, even used. Long story short, it’s been a literary wasteland up in here. But!

Last summer I discovered reading on my phone

(It’s a Note 3 Smartphone on which I draw all the cartoons you see in these posts). The first book was Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, which I <choke> bought via kindle while waiting for a plane, because I couldn’t bear to pay the price of the airport bookstall.

Oh. My. Gosh.

There was even a plug by my seat. I have since read a virtual tsunami of books on my phone. The only problem is that it is almost impossible to read non-fiction on a phone. Which leaves the world of fiction… Oh, snap!

I have officially reverted to my childhood. I read like a junkie, constantly. Even better is the ebook selection of our Public Libraries. I had to stop using the library because I could never get the books back on time, but on my phone? They go back automatically! I now have cards at TWO libraries. I read several books a week (in between games of solitaire, also on my phone). It’s how I’ve coped with life this past year, and it is a thrill to read again. I even listen to audiobooks when I drive.

Because I am constantly trolling for new books, it occurred to me that others might be in the same boat. So I am officially inaugurating this new Books I Love category on the blog and in these posts.

I like fantasy.

Magic, sword and sorcery, other worlds, this world, and so forth, so this is most of what you will see here. I read the entire Narnia cycle in 4th grade. I love mythology, the supernatural (but zombies, werewolves, or vampires only as side characters), Conan comic books, adventure stories. Left to my own devices, I will read a book over watching a video any day (though I am currently engrossed in Breaking Bad, which I watch with my son a couple times a week). I skipped most of my junior high school years to read fantasy books in the library. My tastes have not changed.

So, where to begin? What books will I mention today? One thing I hate like poison is book reports. So you will rarely see much of any descriptions along with any titles, and a lot of the time I will just post authors, because when you have a good author, you have a lot of fun.

I’ll start with the first two authors I began reading on my phone, plus one less known but absolutely stunning.

Neil Gaiman, neilgaiman.com
Richard Kadrey, richardkadrey.com
N.K. Jemisin, nkjemisin.com

All three of these writers have multiple works. They have apparently never published a bad book.

Go forth and enjoy!

Love,

Alia

 

 

Why Good Enough really is good enough–and so are you

Inktober 3. Collect

I’ve been reading a lot of novels in the last few weeks, since I discovered OverDrive, which lets me take ebooks out from the library and read them on my phone. I am ridiculously happy reading on my phone, which, as a book person, I never thought would happen. I’ve been binge-reading Ursula Le Guin, Richard Kadry, and Neil Gaiman. It’s been such a pleasure to read beautifully written books!

The other day I read a passage in Gaiman’s book, American Gods that just floored me. Sighing, I thought, “I will never be this good, no matter how long I write.” Oddly, this didn’t depress me–I get such a lift from great work. More oddly, the rejoinder that came right to mind was, “No, but if I put the effort in, I can certainly be good enough.”

It’s funny to think that, isn’t it? “Good enough” is kind of second best. It was was a catch-phrase a friend and I enjoyed over the summer. “I’ll never be as amazing as you,” one of us would sigh. And the other would kindly respond, “Well, if you work reallly hard, someday you might just be good enough.” And then we would laugh our heads off.

Good Enough has a lot going for it. 

When I had to make a lot of repairs to my house so my insurance wouldn’t get cancelled, we worked like dogs–but as the hour of the inspection approached, I realized we would never be finished in time. I almost just gave up. Then I thought, well, it won’t be done–but maybe it will be good enough to succeed anyway. And it was. So many times this has happened. It’s not perfect. But it does what it needs to do. It’s enough. And that’s good. And next time it will be better.

It’s like this with the book too–which is so close to done, it’s scary. What if it’s not good enough? But it will be. It won’t be perfect. Nothing is. It won’t please everyone. Nothing does. I’m sure it could be better. Everything can. But it will be good enough.

We are so hobbled by the notion that if we can’t be the BEST we might as well stay home.

That anything less than perfection is failure. Every artist struggles to reconcile the image of what they wanted to create with the reality in front of them. Even Neil Gaiman finds a typo in every book he publishes, yet American Gods still won every award in sight and is being made into a TV show. I don’t have to win every award, nice as that would be. I just want to make work that satisfies me and that readers buy and enjoy.

It’s the same with dance.

You put in the effort, and you get better. But there will be mistakes, errors, disasters. That’s how you know you are learning. After a while, you have fewer, but each time you put yourself in the position of being a novice again, you go back to that awkward place of beginner-dom. but there is nothing better for us than to be thrown periodically back into that place. Real learning is a difficult, messy, uncomfy process. But that;s how we increase our intelligence and gain new skills. By putting ourselves outside of our own comfort zones, taking risks, and–failing.

It’s not the failing that’s important–well, it is.

Failing means that we tried to do something new and difficult. We put ourselves out there. We went for it. But there is more to it than simply falling on our faces. There is the getting back up again. There is the continuing. The keeping going. Persistence. Perseverance. That is what makes a difference. So many of us have had dreadful setbacks–but we continue on. Not everyone gets to do that. Some of us are unable to go on. Those of us who can have something for which to be deeply grateful.

I will never be Neil Gaiman.

Or Bill Watterston, who created Calvin and Hobbes. Or Elena Lentini, queen of our dance (and that one does sting). Here she is, thanks to Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece): https://youtu.be/regqBiXdLrc

But I can be me.

And I can be a pretty darn good version of me. Maybe not the Me I see shining in my mind’s eye–the Platonic Ideal of me. I’m just too damn tired for now. But I can keep going. I can keep learning. I can keep challenging myself. I’ll fail. But I’ll also succeed.

We spend so much energy bemoaning our failures and not nearly enough appreciating our strength, good fortune, success, and persistence. Let’s cut ourselves a little slack. Let’s be grateful that we are all here, together, and that we can dance.

Let’s try liking ourselves. 

I like you. You like me. Why not like ourselves?

Love,

Alia

 

PS I’ll be teaming up with Rosa Noreen and Nadira Jamal for another Compassionate Critique Salon. We will celebrate each dancer’s strengths as well as some suggestions for growth. Get some feedback for yourself or watch and learn. It all happens on November 15th.  http://www.bellydancegeek.com/compassionate-critique-salon/

Thank you all so much for the Compassionate Critique event! I appreciate your discerning eyes on my dance, especially I have had no outside critique in over 12 years. I have just been bumbling along on my own, doing my best to apply what I learn as I can. I also took copious notes on everyone else’s critiques too because, as it was pointed out, there is so much to learned from other people’s critiques.
All 3 of you were great at articulating what I see in dancers but can’t always explain. So it was also very useful to me as far as being able to give better critiques as a teacher. I also really appreciated the different perspectives that each of you brought to this salon.
Thanks again for offering it. I hope you will do it again.

 

PPS more upcoming events: 

November 1-31,
National Novel Writing Month
Write a 50K word novel in 30 days.
http://nanowrimo.org

 

Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 PM
Gina’s 12th Annual Belly Dance Showcase
“They Called us Gypsies” in Lebanon, NH
http://ginadances.com/events-page

 

Wednesday, November 23-30:
Sausan’s Raqs Al-Masriya,  Internet Choreography and Belly Dance Challenge
www.raqsalmasriya.com
Everyone makes a dance to the same piece of music (available on the site) and posts it online. Register with the Challenge to display your video with the others and let the open web view and Like favorite videos.

 

Friday and Sunday, December 2 + 4
Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece and protege), teaching in Danbury CT. 
http://riskallah.com/tarifasalem.html

 

August 4th, 5th, & 6th 2017:
Raq-On Strong: VT Festival featuring Leila Farid, Sahra Saeeda, and Tamalyn Dallal
(registration and payment plans now open).  https://www.facebook.com/events/1701852790031831/

 

And just in case you missed them…
Great Books, recently or nearly published. 

Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia
Spicy Stories from The Book of Songs by al-Isfahani
Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani. Translated and Edited by George Dimitri Sawa (georgedimitrisawa.com). Spicy!  http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6365-4

Trance Dancing with the Jinn 
The Ancient Art of Contacting Spirits Through Ecstatic Dance By Yasmin Henkesh (sandsoftime.com). She is brilliant. This will be amazing.  http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738737942

 

 

 

 

How Hidden Dreams find you

It’s October, and that means Inktober has arrived! Inktober means an ink drawing every day for 30 days. I’m doing this (in digital ink so far). You can follow my progress in the album #Inktober #Inktober2016.

There are daily prompts to help you when you feel out of ideas. Today’s prompt is the word “hidden,” hence the title of this piece.

You can hide your dreams–from yourself and the world–but you can’t hide from them. This is my feeling about it. They will find you. They will poke you. They will demand to be seen, recognized, honored. And if you do not, they will clamor until you do. Making art is scary and painful. NOT making art is worse. So consider joining me in the Inktober challenge. You can certainly start now.

Right now. Draw a picture and send me a photo of it!

Here’s my picture for today.

Hidden (Dreams)

PS if you are an artist who belly dances, we have a FB group.  Ask me.

I find that my creative work tends to get short shrift. Somehow everything else gets a higher priority. But the creative stuff is the most rewarding, and it takes way less time than every other dang thing in my life including things I have put off successfully for years. It took a long time for me to realize this and I realize it over and over again as I let things drift.

The best way for me to manage this, I have found, is to simply Put Art First. That means that no matter how much other crap is overloading my plate (and there is plenty), the first part of my day is for creative work. And I get up extra early to do it, like 6am, sometimes earlier. I don’t dance. I need quiet that early in the morning.

I mostly write at this time. I don’t check email or FB or anything else. Just maybe make some coffee and toast and go to work. Once I get going, I tend to keep going. It’s getting going that is the challenge. Lots of times I go to work before the coffee and toast, and use that as a break. When I finish, I put on dance music.

This pattern feeds me. I wish I did it every day. I did for most of the last year, but it slid over the summer. Now I am getting back into it. Inktober is helping. National Novel Writing Month is coming soon, too!

What helps you? Post here or email me. 

Love,

Alia

 

Cool things you might like! 

Now: Inktober
http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober

 

Saturday, Oct 15th, 7-10pm EDT
Raq-On Community Dance Day Hafla @ the Hotel Coolidge. $15 in advance, $20 at the door
Phaedra of Boston is the featured dancer.
https://www.facebook.com/events/283738358649476/

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 8pm Eastern Time
The Compassionate Critique Salon
Join Alia Thabit, Rosa Noreen and Nadira Jamal for an evening of kind, actionable dance critique.
http://www.bellydancegeek.com/compassionate-critique-salon/

 

November 1-31,
National Novel Writing Month
Write a 50K word novel in 30 days.
http://nanowrimo.org

 

Wednesday, November 23-30:
Sausan’s Raqs Al-Masriya,  Internet Choreography and Belly Dance Challenge
www.raqsalmasriya.com
Everyone makes a dance to the same piece of music (available on the site) and posts it online. Register with the Challenge to display your video with the others and let the open web view and Like favorite videos.

 

Friday and Sunday, December 2 + 4
Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece and protege), teaching in Danbury CT. 
http://riskallah.com/tarifasalem.html

 

August 4th, 5th, & 6th 2017:
Raq-On Strong: VT Festival featuring Leila Farid, Sahra Saeeda, and Tamalyn Dallal
(registration and payment plans now open).  https://www.facebook.com/events/1701852790031831/

And just in case you missed them…
Great Books, recently or nearly published. 

I’m currently enjoying
Create or Hate
by Dan Norris (and at this moment, it is free)  http://buff.ly/2dqPIaC

Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia
Spicy Stories from The Book of Songs by al-Isfahani
Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani. Translated and Edited by George Dimitri Sawa (georgedimitrisawa.com). Spicy!  http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6365-4

Trance Dancing with the Jinn 
The Ancient Art of Contacting Spirits Through Ecstatic Dance By Yasmin Henkesh (sandsoftime.com). She is brilliant. This will be amazing.  http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738737942

THE FIVE ELEMENTS based on the world’s oldest personality system by Dondi Dahlin, a belly dance super star! (http://www.dondidahlin.com)
http://www.powells.com/book/the-five-elements-9780399176296/62-0  After you pre-order, you can head over to www.LearnTheFiveElements.comand pick up three bonuses. All bonuses disappear October 1.

Thanks for looking!

 

 

How to critique for confidence (or, “What the hell is this B?”)

Outdated Beliefs
Outdated Beliefs

 

 

A gal I knew was raised to believe that she mustn’t handle flowers when she had her period, because the flowers would die. I’m not kidding. People used to believe this. I was shocked to meet someone for whom this had once been a truth. We met in the first belly dance class I ever took, so she had finally figured out there was something wrong with that picture (and it is an easy test, after all).

Sadly, many of us are raised with equally outdated beliefs and models

And we never even think to question them.

One of the more dysfunctional models with which I was raised was the dismissal of anything done well, and a focus on what was wrong. For example, growing up, I never heard, “Oh, honey, four As. Nice work!” Nope. All I got was, “What the hell is this B?” So this is how I talked to myself, too.

My self-critique was vicious. I couldn’t watch a video of my own dance without wanting to die. I never saw the good of what I did. I felt anxious and insecure.

I see that same focus on what’s wrong in many of my dance friends and students. We have been brainwashed into thinking that we have to be perfect or stay home. Women especially are tyrannized by the expectation of perfection. That’s just a myth designed to keep us powerless. When we focus our critique on what’s wrong, we rob ourselves of confidence and accomplishment. When we focus on what’s right, we win.

Switching to what’s right builds confidence

In child-rearing, the productive model is to tell the kids what to do. Instead of saying NO all the time, you can say YES. Instead of “Don’t touch that!” you redirect the kid to what is okay for them to play with. This was a big shift. When I started teaching writing at the college level, I educated myself about how to teach, how to do critique. Wow. I learned a LOT. It changed me as a teacher and as a human being.

Focus on student success

I have been a teacher at some level since the early 80s, working first for Headstart and later as a Speech Language Assistant in the public school system. I now teach English Composition at the college level (and have for over 20 years), so I have to do a lot of critique.

It was a hard job to change this in myself, but it mattered a lot. I was a LOT nicer to my students than to myself,  but I still told them what was wrong with their work instead of what was right. It didn’t work very well–for me or them.

The main thing I learned is to emphasize everything students did right. I even developed rubrics with all the tasks so I could find more things to compliment. And I went one step further. When we discussed what needed improvement, I framed it as an action step—what to do, instead of what they had done.

For a dance example, to a student with good presence but sloppy, floppy hands, I’d say, “I love your shining presence. I’d love to see you bring that energy into your hands. What if you try this?” And I’d demonstrate. This worked. It worked with the writers and the dancers. It worked for me, too.

Yes, there is a lot of crappy dance out there

Is shaming dancers for their mistakes going to make it any better? What if we try another way? When dancers enjoy the pleasure of the movement and the moment, when they give themselves to the the dance, they have confidence–and their technique often improves organically.

Nothing is perfect. Everything has room to develop. This life is is about becoming, not being. We learn, we grow, we change. Otherwise, we are dead. We copy to learn, we take classes, study others, and practice. But there comes a time when we must hop out on the branch, flap our wings, launch ourselves, and fly. Taking such risks benefits us in so many ways, some understood and others yet to come.

Will our first efforts suck? Of course they will! Growth and learning include failure and revision. That’s how we learn—through trial and error, persistence, feedback, and trying again. Embracing process, identifying and correcting errors, this is key to improvement. Shame is not.

Let’s all learn how to reinforce the good, critique wisely, and model Eastern dance principles.

For more on how to do this, please check out aliathabit.com/dancers/focus-on-the-feeling. Registration is open now. There are only 25 seats. The price rises on August 17th. Please take a look right away.

How to Shut off the Alarms (with belly dance)

Stress is a killer. 

AlarmBellsPicture this. You wake up in the morning. Ahh!

Suddenly panic sets in. GAH! What about this? That? No! Quick! Do it! Fix it! Now!Now!Now!

Many of us get so jacked up on anxiety there is no rest. We wake up in the morning to crisis mode–and it never slows down.

Those alarms blare all day long. Our tempers fray, our self-care goes down the tubes–even our ability to think balks and stutters like a rusty car on a cold morning. It’s pretty scary. For many of us, it’s a struggle to keep from screaming–never mind being focused, pleasant, or positive.

Stress damages the body and corrodes the soul. It wears us out, it works fast, and it often doesn’t go away by itself.

What can we do?

The good news is that stress and anxiety are not the boss of you, even though they may seem to be. But stepping back can be very, very difficult. And, yes, some of us live in terrifying or crazy stressful situations where stepping back seems dangerous. However, even when our lives are in danger, a clear head is still an asset.

Staying in panic mode is more dangerous. To the body, Stress = Fear. This is how our reptile brain interprets stress. And Fear really is the Mind Killer. Those clamoring alarms can keep us from managing our situation creatively–or at all. Plus the constant stress eats away at our equilibrium, so we are short-tempered, too. A winning combination, right? Fear and Rage. Woo!

For many of us, those bells aren’t even current. They are leftover alarms that never got properly reset after whatever disaster started them up. We go through our lives freaking out because we never got to resolve our earlier freakouts. We are still upset inside from things that happened forever ago. It’s not as simple as telling ourselves to suck it up and get over it.

Here are four strategies to settle down, breathe, and develop resilience.

Believe that you can step back. It is possible–and safe–to breathe and relax. That alone is half the battle. Take some long exhales, twice as long as your inhale. Exhale the stress.

Let go of worry. Worry feels valuable, but it just wears you out. Send positive energy to the object of worry instead. Visualize it safe, resolving, protected, whatever would be the best outcome. It is a far more useful effort.

Focus on the present moment. We get lost in our cascade of anxiety. Grounding ourselves in the present helps us stay focused and clear. We do this by focusing on the exhale and noticing our toes. Avoid things that heighten stress. Look at things that help you feel calm.

elbi-dance

Belly dance can help. When we use Rhythmic Breath we help the brain turn off the scrabbling anxious mind. Dancing free improv for 20 minutes with Rhythmic Breath and Slow Movement can help reset the alarms and give us a clean slate for the day.

We don’t have to live in fear. These strategies can be used any time. Keep them handy. Remember them. Use them.

My goal this year is to Reset the Alarms.

What’s yours?

Love,

Alia

 

 

 

 

How to Find your Hidden Treasure

Treasure

There is a story in the Thousand and One Nights called The Ruined Man who Became Rich Again Through a Dream.

A rich man from Baghdad became so poor he had to do manual labor all day long to make ends meet. One night he had a dream–a voice told him to go to Cairo, where he would find his fortune.

So the man set off to Cairo. It was far away, mind you, and not an easy trip back then. It took a long time, and when he finally arrived, it was nighttime. He crept into a mosque, and curled up to sleep.

Unfortunately, a band of thieves robbed the mosque that night. While Our man slept, the thieves stole everything they could grab. When the police arrived, they found the sleeping man, beat him furiously, and threw him in jail.

A few days later, the police chief called the man from his cell and asked where he was from. Baghdad, the man replied. The police chief then demanded, “What were you doing in the Mosque?”

The man said, “A dream told me I would find my fortune in Cairo. But all I have found so far was a beating from you!”

The Chief burst out laughing. “You fool!” he chortled. “I have had a dream three times, telling me to go to a certain house in Baghdad,” (here he described it in detail), “with a fountain in the garden–and underneath the fountain is buried a fabulous treasure. But I am not so stupid as to go there!” He gestured towards the cells and warned, “You follow the voice of a dream, and this is what you get!”

The Chief then took pity on the poor man and gave hime some money. “Go back to your home,” he said. “Listen no more to the voices of dreams.”

The man went straight back to Baghdad, for the house the Chief had described was none other than his very own! When he got home, he dug under the fountain in his garden–and there he found the fabulous buried treasure!


This man’s treasure was right in his own backyard. That wealth was within his grasp the whole time, but he needed to gain greater perspective before he could find it.

As artists, our creative treasure is also in our own backyard–but sometimes we, too, need greater perspective. Artistry and creativity exist within us all–but sometimes we can’t see them.

We are all intuitive, creative, and beautiful. But life is hard sometimes, and we lose sight of our treasure. What with the struggle of daily life, the superficial models around us, and the discouragement showered upon us, we may never realize our dreams.

It’s so sad.
We’re so tired, so hemmed in by our obligations and responsibilities.

How do we nurture our creative soul? 
With Self-Compassion.

Self compassion is NOT self esteem, self pity, or self indulgence.

Self compassion IS self kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?” –Kristen Neff, self-compassion.org

What if we try changing our perspective? What if we try being kind to ourselves for a while?

Maybe when we stop raining on our own parade, we might be able to rediscover our treasure more easily.

Love,
Alia

How to see the path in front of you (d’oh!)

Well, I found my anchor. 

The Right Anchor

It’s funny how things can be right in front of you–yet invisible. Back a couple months ago when I first got my new phone, I made an alarm for 9am. I set that alarm to ring every day. And it does. I have no idea why I made it. And every day, as I grab my alarming phone, I think, why the eff don’t I cancel this thing? I’m already awake, it doesn’t signal anything.

But I never do. Occasionally I even think, maybe I could anchor my dance practice with that alarm. It’s a good time for me. I am generally winding down the writing portion of my morning, ready to move to on to other things. Then I’d tell myself no, 9am is a time, not an action. Amazing what we tell ourselves, isn’t it?

Then one day, it dawned on me. Well yeah. 9am is a time. But picking up my phone to turn off the alarm is an action. And after I turn off the alarm, I can start my playlist.

BOOM.
So that’s what I have been doing all week. And it’s working! I dance a crazy 20 minutes, laughing and crying, all alone–in silence, because I put in my earphones. I even added a habit to the chain–after I dance my 20 minutes, I clean something. I just keep the music playing and keep going. Now there are empty corners blossoming! I’m probably jinxing this by writing about it ; ). And there will be days (like today), when I have to be out of the house early and it might not happen. But I can live with that. It’s a process.

Process is an important word. We so much want things NOW (or anyway, I sure do). I rarely (hardly ever), feel all energized and gung ho. The grind of process appears as a weight that drags me down, the days/months/years it takes to accomplish anything of merit. But in my secret heart, I know that’s what it takes. Daily effort, daily focus, daily baby steps moving forward.

Daily focus makes huge leaps possible. Daily grind has brought my book to be ready for its second draft. It’s the groundwork, the infrastructure. That’s where I want to focus this year.

I feel ridiculously accomplished each day that I dance. It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing. I have been growing my habits for a while now, and looking for that dance anchor. I’ve found it. Even if I don’t have my phone, scheduling is a pretty good strategy all by itself–another thing that made me laugh about resisting that 9am slot for so long.

 Schedule Art. Schedule self care. Schedule fun. Scheduling all the important things we know we need, but never get to, because we are so busy putting out fires day after day after day. Everything is urgent. It’s draining. Let’s get out of the Emergency Room.

What self-loving habit could you create? What pleasure do you already schedule? Where could you tuck in some personal pleasure? Developing a loving habit is like having a secret nosegay. You give it a happy sniff all day long, and feel good.

Let me know your plans; email or post them here on the blog. The more of us who do this, the more love and happiness we bring to the world.

Love,

Alia

 

 

PS Free webinar on Sunday! Make a dance in an hour. If you are not signed up yet, click here:  http://eepurl.com/bJETD9

PPS GREAT article by Judith Lynn HannaWhat Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance

How to Survive the Winter of our Discontent

I’m tired. How about you? 
discontent

It’s winter.
It’s cold. It’s dark. I’m bored, restless, and unhappy–with myself, the world, my art, everything. At this point, I always wonder why I bother. I feel like quitting. I used to get super bummed out in these phases. But now I know them better. And I know why they happen.

I’m not making any art. I’m just crawling from day to day, putting out fires–but not building anything new. This is the real problem. I don’t have anything going on that excites me or gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I mean, yeah, there’s always coffee, but that’s not going to carry me through the entire day.

The most important thing is art. I come back to this over and over. It is my bottom line. So why is it so hard to do any? Well, I have learned an annoying truth about art.

It’s not hard; it’s habit. Habit. When you have an art habit, you just do it because that’s what you do. When you don’t have a habit, Resistance takes every opportunity to get in the way. I’m too tired, I don’t feel like it, blah blah blah. That’s where I’m at. I let my art habits slide–over the holidays, the dark, the fatigue, etc, etc. And some of them slid much longer ago than that…

It’s time to get my habits on track. Every time I think about this, I want to invite you to join me, and I devise all kinds of accountability strategies–Facebook groups, daily video, yadda yadda. But all of them require a lot of work on my part. I don’t need to make more work for myself. I just need to make art.

I favor TinyHabits.com. They have a great program, and it really works. Here’s how: The habit must only take 30 seconds to do. It must have a anchor (something you normally do after which you do your new habit. So you attach the new habit onto the existing habit. For example, one that is sticking and working is, After I start the toaster, I open my vitamins. I only commit to opening them. But once I’m there, I’m going to take them.

The vitamin habit has stuck. So has my reading habit–which swaps with my writing habit: After I sit down with my coffee and toast, I open my book. The ones that didn’t stick need better anchors. Like dancing my 20 minutes. That needs a better anchor.

Hmmm….

What’s your dance anchor? Email me or post on the blog.

 

PS Want to make some art–and get some accountability? Create Dance Art starts Feb 8. You’ll make art every day for three months–and get personal feedback every day. Pretty cool, huh? Good for improv or choreo, any style. Check it out: CreateDanceArt.com

Thanks!

Lots and lots of love,
Alia

Goodbye, 2015

 ChaosWhat a rollercoaster.

 

There were great highs–the 90 Day Dance Challenge. A Mardi Gras road trip with Tamalyn Dallal. Teaching in Egypt for Leila Farid. The Small Product Lab. Sufi Camp with Dunya McPherson. Ziltastic. Open Heart. Effortless. Performing at Amity’s birthday party. I took some classes, too, and met some wonderful people.

There were also some lows. Life chaos ratcheted up, week after week. It was pretty scary. I ate carbs, freaked out, and felt helpless.

What lesson am I to learn from all this? Maybe it has to do with the irony of being completely undone by stress while writing about belly dance as a venue for stress relief. It would have been easy to dance for the lousy 20 minutes a day that would help me stay together. But I didn’t do it.

How does stress do this?  How can we know exactly what would help, have it free, easy to do, and yet not do it? This response does not serve me.

So now what? How do I keep myself together and do what I need to do?

 

Something is brewing in my head. It has to be simple. It has to be consistent. It has to work. It’s probably going to involve video, so it has to be dead easy.

I’ll be back with a plan. Simple, consistent, effective. A daily dose of serenity. You might like to join me.

Are you in? 

Love,

Alia