What’s the Most Important Thing?

The most important thing is art

A feng shui practitioner was advising me on my house (like, 20 years ago). Trying to get me to prioritize, he asked, “If you had a fire and lost everything, what is the first thing you would need to replace?”

I thought hard about this. “I guess I’d need to get new costumes. And a stereo. And music.”

He stared at me. “A BED!” he gasped. “You’d need to get a bed!”

“Oh!” I said. “I just assumed I’d be sleeping on a friend’s sofa.”

The Most Important Thing is Art.

Sure, there are LOTS of enormously important things–our children, families, lovers, livelihoods. Our beds and blankets. Our four walls, roof, food and water. These are vital. They are precious.

And so is art. For artists such as ourselves, our creative work is our most important work. Yet…

We do allll the other crap on the list. From our paid work on down to staring off into space, anything is a great candidate for putting off art. Somehow those other things expand to fill up all the available space. We drop into bed exhausted, sure that tomorrow will be different. But it isn’t. It’s like the White Queen’s jam, always yesterday or tomorrow. Never jam today.

Why do we tend to put art last?

Lots of reasons. We want to make a big space of time, so we have to get everything else out of the way first. We don’t feel like it right now, but later maybe we will. We have to do things to make money, care for our fam, etc. Things are too crazy right now, I don’t have time, focus, energy. Art is frivolous, who am I, I’m not a professional artist, I don’t even count…

I get all the things. I have spent a LOT of time NOT doing my creative work. I have spent years feeling numb and uninspired. Taken up with other obligations. You are not alone, however it is that you are coping. I am with you, and on your side. I started teaching dance because I couldn’t make myself practice.

But time and again, I have come back to this fundamental truth: The most important thing is art. And found ways to goad or inspire myself to do some.

This is how the 90 Day Dance Party was born

I was frustrated and fractious, and then I remembered–the most important thing is art. So I committed publicly to a 90-day free-improv practice of 20 minutes a day, and invited people to do it with me. 400 people signed up. That was in the fall of 2012. This year is the 10th anniversary of that momentous decision. More about that in the next few months ; )

What’s ironic is that doing our creative work often takes a lot less time than any of the other pieces, especially if we make a habit of it and give it a time block, like the 20 minutes of the 90 days. When we do our creative work first, we have plenty of time to curse and struggle with the other stuff. Plus we get to feel good all day long! So…

Here is your permission to make art first

Feel free to add your name with the graphics program of your choice. Or write to me and I’ll send you a personalized copy.

Whatever the creative work you choose to do, just pick a block of time, and make a habit to do it.

I usually pick ONE Thing to focus on the night before, so when I get started, I already know what I want to do. For today, it was this newsletter.

Currently my creative time blocks are 90 minutes long. Even without a clock, I can tell when 90 minutes is up, because my mind starts wandering and I have an urge to check my email or look at my phone. (I do not look at my phone in the morning. I have it on Do Not Disturb all night and morning. My kids and my sweetie can ring through Everyone else can wait.)

After 90 minutes, I dance for three songs on my playlist, and maybe have a snack, for my willpower. And I celebrate! By then my brain comes back online. I give this combo most of the morning, as I am making a (very modest) living from art, which is both terrifying and astonishing. This is not something I ever planned to do–previously, dance paid for dance. I made money from dance so I could take classes and travel to events. But over the parent care years, my previous income stream drifted, and now here I am. It’s been a very long, circuitous road for me.

My creative work now tends to be writing, like this newsletter

Making courses, like the upcoming Create Your Glorious Self. I count doing Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) as creative work. Dance, drawing pictures. One of these days, I’ll get to marketing being creative work and then I’ll be all set ; ).

It’s taken a lot of experience for me to do this, and a lot of paring back. I would have had a very hard time of it when I was younger, when my kids were small. Last week, we talked about willpower, being a parent, doing what needs to be done whether we feel like it or not. I love my kids, and my mom. I am grateful I was able to be there for them. I did what I felt was was right as much as I could. It was hard, and I wish I could have done it better, but we are all who we are in the moment and we do the best we can. So…

Feel free to start very small…

Make a 10-minute time block. Do a little drawing, or a freewrite, or dance to a few songs on your playlist. Make it into a habit. Over time, it will become easier. Over time, it can expand. But for the rest of they day, you have that secret spark of knowing you did some art today. And celebrate it!

Love,
Alia

PS Create Your Glorious Self is the most exciting thing I’ve done in a while. The page is getting close to done!

What draws you? What turns you off? What questions do you have?

Your thoughts are welcome. Just reply to this email. Thank you!

Finishing School–Finishing’s Cool ; )

Elbi's watch says she's LATE!

Before we get going, here is something really great for belly dance: Middle Eastern bellydance. Variations, styles, nomenclature. Wednesday 18 May 2022 at 17:00 Cyprus time (10amEDT). CID is the dance arm of UNESCO. A MAJOR world heritage organization highlighting our dance! This is HUGE. I encourage all dance professionals to attend! Click here to learn more.

Now back to our regularly scheduled article ; )


The spring semester at the college where I work closes this week. Semesters have ends, and you are done whether you’re ready or not. Seasons, too. It’s spring here now (finally), and the plum trees are just leafing out. Summer will come and go, fall, winter–there are these natural rhythms in the world. As there are in human lives, and in our creative processes, starting things, and finishing them.

Or do we?

It depends…

Some writers, for example, crank out a novel a year, or even more. It took me four years to write Midnight. It took Michael Crichton 20 years to write Sphere (and 8 for Jurassic Park). Ralph Ellison took 40 years to write Juneteenth, and passed away before he finished. All of these are wins–I read recently that 97% of writers never finish their novel. Yikes!

Okay, so what does this have to do with dance?

Creative folks often struggle to finish their work. We start things, and they get hard, and we lose steam, and…. um…

Yeah. Nada. Zip, zero, zilch.

I was at a talkback with screenwriters a few years ago. Two things folks said really stuck with me. Michael Arndt, screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine (which is hilarious), said. “Finish what you start.”

Easier said than done.

What does it take to finish work?

Deadlines help. Oh yeah. We can adrenaline up and crank something out when the chips are down and a grade, paycheck, show is on the line. For me, and maybe for you, it has to real–self-imposed deadlines, meh–I need some external accountability to kick me into high gear. For example, the 30-day time-frame of National Novel Writing Month helped me complete two novels!

As dancers, we often have deadlines for shows. We have to send in our song by X date (which means we have to pick a song, which is hard enough–never mind finishing a dance!).

Some of us just show up and dance–improvisation is a wonderful thing ; ). But others of us have an exacting and often fraught relationship with dancemaking, agonizing over every second of the music–this move or that one? And even improvisers may want some structure for their dance–a context, a story, a series of stage patterns–we’ll wing it, but we also like some structure.

And we don’t always have deadlines.

Sometimes we make things for ourselves–A book. A new class, a dance, dress, picture, desk, chair, stained-glass lampshade–whatever. And even when we do have a deadline (hello tax return day), who needs all that anxiety?

How do we reliably make things without the external pressure/adrenaline addiction of deadlines?

At that same panel discussion, a woman writer, whose name escapes me (sigh), said, “Writing equals ass plus chair.” She didn’t coin this (Stephan King did), but it was the first time I heard it. And this is how completion happens. Let’s broaden this a bit.

Creativity=ass+chair.

It takes Time and Focus to make creative work.

Time has to be set aside, made special, because Focus takes Time.

Recently I have been enjoying an “AM Bookend.” When I get up in the morning, I don’t open my phone. I don’t check my email. I don’t even read a book (!). In fact, I stash my phone the night before, so I will be less tempted. I get up, wash up, do my morning things, and eat breakfast looking out the window (instead of at my phone). I visualize my Glorious Self for the day’s tasks, and then I get to work.

No inputs until the day’s most important creative work is done.

The less sleep I’ve had (I have a PM bookend, too), the sooner I flag/crash/burn, so those early day moments are key.

My brother’s early morning is around 3pm. Like many folks, he works 9 to 5–that’s 9pm to 5am. When you get up isn’t the issue–the designated Focus Time is (and okay, yes, the body does seem to want to sleep at night and that’s better for it, but we make do with what we have).

So how does it work?

I make my to-do list the night before–and I don’t add things the next day (well, sometimes–but I avoid it). So each morning I don’t have to decide what to do–I have a plan. I just get straight to Number One. Today it was this article. Last night I chose what to write about. This morning, I knew what I wanted to do, so I drew the above picture. Then I started writing. And here we are.

This is how I finished Midnight, too. I got up at 5am every day, before anyone else was up. I protected that time. I sat down and I worked.

I invite you to try it. It is popular among creative folks because it‘s effective.

The other most useful thing I’ve found is daily accountability. We’ll talk about that (and creative fallow periods) next week.

With all my love,
Alia

PS If you’ve got a dance to make, or just feel like making one for fun, I invite you to join How to Make a Dance in FIVE Days! Registration is now open! The class will be available from May 22 through June 4. I’ll be around through that time to support, advise, and cheerlead!

PPS if you’ve had issues completing work, and you’d like to resolve this, please email me. I have a project that might interest you.

Your Glorious Dance Self

Your glorious dance self

Back in the day when everyone had to have a dance name, I thought about making one for myself. I already have a perfectly good Arabic name (being SWANA), but part of the dance name thing was separating one’s dance identity from one’s every life. Safety being one of the concerns, also sounding more glamorous (and sounding more “ethnic,” now regarded as brownface, kinda racist, and best avoided*). However,

Safety and glamour are entirely legit–scads of performers have stage names, authors have pen names, and they can make a big difference in our sense of confidence as artists.

So I was wondering about a stage name for myself. I love my name, Alia–it means sublime, exalted–“the high clear place at the top,” my mom told me. But you know, the safety and everything. So I thought about borrowing my cousins’ name–AbuSamra. Talk about Glamour!

Alia AbuSamra!

But then I thought about keeping track of two names (I can barely keep track of the one I have). And I thought about divorcing my dance self from the rest of my life-accomplishments. And I though about how much more glam Alia AbuSamra would be than I am. I did not want to be jealous of myself, and I wanted to own all my facets, so I let it go.

Recently, I have been thinking about her again….

During Secret Stories, and now Mix n Match, we’ve been playing a lot with different qualities–of movement, but also of attitude–ways of being.

Confidence is a big issue for dancers.

Part of it is the way we’re often taught. We squint into the mirror and criticize ourselves–constantly. We tend to look at what’s wrong, and how we can fix it, generally by developing an ever-more rigid focus on technique. On top of this, we endure an unending deluge of media messaging telling us just how we do not make the cut–too fat, too skinny, not pretty, young, shapely, smart enough–need this cream, that blush, deodorant, shapewear, and so on, day after day after month after year.

It’s no wonder we doubt ourselves.

So how can we increase our confidence?

Part of the problem is that we bring our squinting, criticizing, fault-finding, terrified self to the party. Because that’s the only dance self we’ve ever had, that’s who shows up.

What if it were Alia AbuSamra who showed to dance? Or Aphrodite? Or Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love, sex, war, and hunting? Or Elena Lentini, the goddess of Oriental dance? Or Taheyya Karioka?

It starts to get interesting, doesn’t it?

Richard Wiseman, author of The As If Principle, reviewed study after study, all of which show that behavior creates emotion. For example, when folks act as if they are cheerful, they start to feel cheerful. So if I started to act as if I were my mythical Alia AbuSamra, I would start to feel like her–to become her. I wouldn’t have to be jealous of her–she would be my secret! And I could BECOME her, as I practiced embodying her qualities.

When we act as if we are Taheyya–embodying our sense of her–we start to feel like her too. We start to embody that mindspace. We start to become it.

I’ve been diving into the research in this and other areas as we explore these qualities of being in the FUN classes. They’re like Secret Identities. We’re having a lot of fun with them–and not just for dance.

Superman has Clark Kent.

Selina Kyle has Catwoman.

Who might you have? Imagine who could show up in other areas of your life!

I’m thinking about a 3-4 month coaching/course to develop and field some Secret Identities.

I wonder if that might be interesting for you. A deep dive with monthly accountability, email updates, and lots of opportunity for exploration and test-driving, reporting back, tweaking–and reveling!

What would you like to see in a course like that? What would make it work for you?

As you ponder that, I invite you to try it out. Act as if you are your heart’s idol!

Please let me know how it goes.

Reply to this email, or comment on the Blog!

Love,
Alia

PS it’s Recital Season again!

Wouldn’t you love to show up to your recital with a mesmerizing dance you made yourself? Without all the frustration and tears?

You can!

Announcing

How to Make a Dance in FIVE Days!

From entrance to applause without setting a single step
Learn a time-tested, systematic approach to dance composition that you can use over and over again.

MD5 opens Sunday, May 22 through Saturday, June 4th. I’ll be monitoring the forum during that time to answer your questions and help troubleshoot any roadblocks that arise.

I invite you to have a look, and see if MD5 is a good fit for you:
alia.teachable.com/p/make-a-dance-in-five-days


*Of of course, if you have a vintage Eastern dance name, please go right ahead with it. Currently we can do better, but anyone who already has an established name, kinda gets grandmothered in ; )

Show and Tell

Joe Williams at the Gates

with Joe Williams
Delsarte Technique for Oriental Dance

Joe Williams, guest artist for Wonderland!

Please join Joe Williams, internationally acclaimed Delsarte expert, in this 2-hour live online workshop geared especially to Oriental dance.

Oriental dance is an expressive impressionist genre. As dancers, we show our guests what we feel from the music. Delsarte technique gives us subtle yet powerful tools to enhance expression. Highlighting specific body parts suggests meaning in subliminal ways. When we understand this physical language, there is a delicious feedback loop of knowing what we suggest, validating our expression through movement, and giving ourselves and our bodies permission to feel, to speak, and to exist with agency and joy.

  • In the first hour, we learn how to Show what we feel and highlight character through physical expression.
  • In the second hour, we Tell our stories as we compose short dance sequences based upon emotional expression using the Delsarte system.
  • Joe live coaches participants as we find our way in this unique mode of expression.

Please note, this workshop was recorded for the Wonderland class and for Joe’s archive. It is ONLY available to stream through April 1. Joe seldom allows recording of his classes. This is a rare, unique opportunity to learn from one of the only teachers of Delsarte as a physical system of expression.

Two-hour recording of LIVE Zoom workshop. Special price: $30.

Please note, this workshop is ONLY available for purchase through April 1.

YES! Purchase via

Note Gumroad policy: Upon purchase, you will have a 30-day window in which to watch the video. Please note that once you click “play,” you have 72 hours to watch before access expires.

Share via Facebook…

Your Holiday Gift!

She raises her hands and brings the return of the light

2021 was a big year for me in many ways. My Mom became very ill on Jan 28. I stopped everything to be everything to be with her. She passed away April 17, and was buried, which was her choice, April 28. Fortunately, a dear friend moved to Vermont just in time to help me though. But it was much harder than I ever imagined it would be, and I only did what could not be put off.

The rest of the year feels like one long lost weekend. I did what I had to do and nothing more.

But I did get some things done. And, to my amazement, they came out rather well.

The Promise

The FUN Class

We ran SEVEN Fun Class Deep Dives, each with it’s own special topic!

  • Open Heart: Improvisational belly dance infused with Dancemeditation and Somatic Experiencing®.
  • BEDROCK I : Re-patterning our foundation movement vocabulary
  • BEDROCK II: Improvisation with Transitions and Combinations
  • BEDROCK III: Improvisational Musicality
  • Entrancing: How to Improvise to Entrance Music
  • Visionary Veil–Beyond Tricks: How to improvise with the veil
  • Bobby Style!: Exploring Bobby’s class format from the 70s, small combinations, different every time.
    (Our next FUN Class will be Bobby Style II: With Zils on!)

SIX new classes!

  • SPARK*
  • Feeling Resistant to Creating?
  • How to Dance or Speak for the Camera
  • How to Write a Great Blog Post
  • How to Map Your Music from Fact to Fantasy
  • How to Make a Dance in FIVE Days

I’m amazed to have put out all this content. Plus the newsletter!

FORTY-TWO newsletters!

Most of them written this year. Which is pretty darn good.

I also had the good fortune to undertake

Scads of Professional Development

  • Dandash’s fabulous class series for Zara’s Zouk
  • Joe Williams’ monthly Delsarte workshops
  • Kathy Kain’s yearlong Touch Skill Training for Trauma Therapists
  • Ariel Giarreto’s brilliant Healing Sexual Trauma
  • The Transformative Power of Eros w/ Dr. Peter Levine & Kimberly Johnson
  • Eric Maisel’s yearlong Creativity Coach Support Group
  • Lisa Zahiya’s Make More Online (which I am just beginning)
  • Peter Levine’s Covid, Post ICU, and Ventilator Trauma
  • Plus half a dozen excellent trauma skill webinars produced by Somatic Experiencing International
  • A year of Dunya’s Dancemeditation classes on Zoom (heaven!)
  • Mary Bond’s superb body reading classes
  • And a bunch of other things I can’t remember right now ; )

On the personal fulfillment side, I bought a deck of Tarot cards.
I drew ninety-five pictures on my phone (including the one above)
I read over a hundred twenty-five books.

That’s a lotta stuff.

Especially for a year that felt like I wandered through in a fog. While navigating the bizarre cocktail of stressful grief-stricken scary weird shit with which we are all coping. And avoiding Covid.

So here’s to 2022!

Let’s make it the best year we possibly can.

I want to get better at self-care. Regain my health. Nurture my spirit mystic side. Come into my power. Integrate my interests into a full-featured rich resource to help us THRIVE.

What about you?

Where have you been? Where are you going? How will you get there?
Let me know…
Below↓


AND

I have a gift for you.

Well, two.

The first gift is SPARK* FREE

I’m giving this because it is about relaxing, rebooting, and nervous system regulation through movement. It’s about feeling better and trusting our bodies. You will find that here, and it will be available all year: https://aliathabit.com/2021-gift/

The second is an invite to a party!

Omicron crashed our local First Night.
We usually draw thousands of folks to our little corner of the middle of nowhere.

So the event hosts are making it free, live, and online.
Dec 21: LIVE streaming performances all evening.
Artists and schedule here: www.firstnightnorth.org

We gotta have fun and enjoy what we can!
Hugs and Love for 2022,
Alia

On Being a Fluffy Bunny

predator or prey?

A thought came to me the other day.

I’m tired of being the bunny.

I’ve been noticing ways in which I stay small. Keep my income down. Keep my voice down. Swallow my irritation. Deflect compliments. Endure.

I’m tired of being the bunny. Of hiding. Deferring to everyone else. Coming last in my own life.

In the Spark* class a while back, we played with expressing our inner predator. It made us uncomfortable. Because red in tooth and claw and all  that. Eat or be eaten. Nasty, brutish, and short.

Which raises the question…

Predator or Prey? Eat or be Eaten?

Are we not beyond that? Are we not better than that?

Or is it a matter of definition?

We tend to conflate predator with malicious intent. Viciousness.

Power corrupts, right? Absolutely.

And we all know women are relentlessly socialized to be the bunny. To stay small and not draw attention, because… I don’t have to spell this out. While males are socialized to be the wolf. Go get it.

Eating others does not appeal to me. I’m not a confrontational person. If I had to kill my own meat, I’d probably be a vegetarian.

But neither does being eaten.

Does power always mean power over? Can we come into our own power, hold our own space, become our own ally?

What if we just reject this false binary?

Why is it an either/or? Would you rather be smart or beautiful? BOTH, thank you. We’re humans. We have both kinds of teeth. We’re not bound one way or the other. There is a spectrum. We can choose.

Instead of eat or be eaten, what about…

Cooperation?

Instead of fear or savagery, what about

Confidence?

Competence?

Poise?

I prefer cooperative, confident, competent poise.

I believe that our dance does, too.

With its focus on agency, expression and improvisation? You bet it does.

And if it’s been stereotyped into sexy, cutesy, winsome bunnies?

Enough of that.

The other day, someone said,
Warriors protect the sacred.

I can get behind that.

In Spark*, we shifted to inner warrior. It sat much more gracefully.

I’m looking forward to stepping into my personal power, my inner warrior in the coming year.

Our dance, our creative expression, our power and beauty, our true selves, our collective joy–these are sacred to me.

I want to be ME: clear-eyed, real, true.

I don’t know what this will look like or how it will evolve.

I do know Somatic Experiencing® (SE) will be my friend in this, as that’s what’s gotten me to this point.

I’ve been waiting my whole life.
For my turn.

It’s my turn.

Maybe it’s yours, too?

Let’s do this.

Love,
Alia

Oh AND!!!

This Saturday, 12/11/21, 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7PM GMT
I’ll be chatting with Roxxanne Shelaby, creator of the marvelous Fez Documentary!
Will you please join us?
It’s streaming via Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/MENAHTDancersCollective.
Please do share!

PS

Wonderland is here! 
Special bonus and Trust the Chef pricing ; ) 
https://aliathabit.com/wonderland


35% off all our Teachable classes through Dec 31:
ALIA-LOVES-ME-BF21
Check out our Teachable Ultimate Improv Bundle!
https://alia.teachable.com/

How to Fill Your Dance with Freedom

Fill Your Dance With Freedom

One of the things I love is structure–which is hilarious, since I am the Queen of Chaos (this mostly shows up in my everyday surroundings. Yes, I am a triple Virgo. Go figure). But I am pretty organized on the inside–and as an artist, composition, aka structure, brings freedom.

This is why I am always pointing out musical structure in my classes.

As dancers, we have more freedom when we can see what is all around around us. Like a busy restaurant, when we know the entrances, exits, and pathways of the waitstaff, it’s a lot easier to navigate.

And while we have all survived (and many of us enjoy), dancing to unknown songs, having a sense of structure will make that song much more predictable. We’ll have a better sense of timing, accents, and transitions, so we can enjoy ourselves a lot more.

Because I am making this Map Your Music course for the Bundle, I’ve been thinking a lot about dance composition. In my experience, belly dance choreographies tend to be made as step-sequences. Four of this, turn, kick, hip 2, 3, 4, etc. This pains me, as belly dance is meant to be improvised, in the same way its music is improvised–the song may be the same, but the musicians’ decorations, solos, and embellishments are always changing. “Same but different” is a point of pride for musicians and dancers alike.

So why as dancers do we try to do things the same every time?
Let’s be more whimsical!

Well, that’s how we get taught. Lots of dance in the West is tightly choreographed. Because we have recorded music, it is tempting to do recorded dances. And a beautiful choreography, beautifully danced, is a beautiful thing.

It’s just not the only thing. I’d love to see us have more fun with our compositions.

Belly dance is all about dancer agency and being in the present moment.

We are supposed to be able to respond to the music in the moment, as we feel it. So let’s make dances that celebrate this!

For example, instead of deciding on every step, what if we just plan the floor patterns? Then we know where to be and when to be there, but we can do any step we feel like to get there.

Or we can just set movement families. So this verse will be all hip drops, and this one will be all arms.

Or tell a story.

Or whatever. We can bake in variety in ways other than specific steps. We don’t even need specific steps.

In this way, we also bake in our agency and freedom. And it’s fun!

We’ll be doing some composition things this fall. I’m guessing folks are doing some recitals even if they are on Zoom. Stay tuned! I haz ideas ; ). I’ll also be talking more about this on the Bundle Podcast, which is coming soon–but there are already lots of great interviews there: Bundle Podcast

Lots and lots of love and hugs!
Alia

The BellyDance Bundle Zill Giveaway is happening now. Five prizes–maybe one of them is for you? Check it out! Zill Giveaway

The Great Creativity Toolkit

I was going to share with you today the video I made for Eric Maisel’s

Great Creativity Toolkit!

This pretty amazing offering is made up of more than 50 video lessons from creativity coaches worldwide.

Then I realized that my video was selected as one of the preview videos–so you can see the whole thing right at the link!


Creativity coaches work with creative and performing artists every day of the week. They provide guidance and support and help creatives set goals, stay organized, and stay motivated. They are “in it” with their creative clients.

The Great Creativity Toolkit
caption for image


Now you can meet more than 40 creativity coaches from around the world and learn from them. See them, hear them, and get to know them. The Great Creativity Toolkit is a brand-new program that will really help you live your best creative life possible–plus get free and low-cost coaching!

I am so pleased to be part of the Toolkit. I’ve been meeting with Eric and these coaches for the last several months. I am very impressed with our group!


Come take a look at my video–and at the Great Creativity Toolkit.
With love,
Alia

How to Dance on this Ball of Confusion?

dance, arise, resilience,

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get out of bed in the morning.

Worldwide conflagrations. Insane people doing insane things. Jaw-dropping lies being paraded around as truth. Pandemics. Violence. Hell. The suffering of the world has never been more raw and visceral.

It’s a lot.

Human beings are not built for long-term high alert

I am fortunate. I am not in the middle of a war zone at this precise moment. But I also know lots of people struggling with deeply challenging situations–and many others stuck in war zones inside their heads, all the time. Few of us are in actual firefights right now. But past and present struggles may be ever-present in our bodies. The alarm bells just keep on ringing.

Those alarm bells can get stuck in the ON position. Even when we are in a safe place, we may still be activated. Sometimes we shut down, dissociate. Sometimes we get angry, lashing out at others, or in, at ourselves. Sometimes we can barely function (raises hand). Everything from wired to wiped, and none of it is happy.

Lots of things can trigger this. The disastrous news cycle. Personal life challenges. Oppression. Family stuff. Lots of things can push us into 24/7 crisis mode. And that’s a problem. It’s immensely destructive to health and well being. Look at the ACES Study. Chronic stress is deadly.

Yet we feel guilty for looking away–from our own problems, or the world’s. We feel we must at least witness the horror. But witnessing horror is traumatic in and of itself. It’s a bitter, destructive feedback loop. I’ve been there. And I’ve seen what it does to people.

So what can we do?

This is what I have devoted myself to over the last decade. Turning off the alarm bells. These are the most effective things I have found.

dance, arise, resilience,
caption for image

Belly dance, a great venue for decompression. Improvised, embodied dance is especially so. Being in the present moment, in a flow state, letting go of everyday thoughts, fears, and irritations, is profoundly healing for the nervous system. In general, 20 minutes is a great time period. Breathing with the music, letting the body move as it wishes, invites a playful state of joy. This is why the bulk of my offerings involve improvisation, usually grounded in Dancemeditation. It’s such great medicine. Plus we get to dress up. And it’s FUN.

Creative expression, a doorway to another world. Improvised belly dance is a creative expression. So are many other things, from writing to drawing, to woodworking, to sculpture. All kinds of art-making have the potential to draw us out of our everyday grind. I’ve been enjoying drawing the colorful abstract designs (which grace this blog), since the outset of covid. I didn’t have the energy for meaning, so I just let whatever come out of my hand, and then colored it in. Any creative enterprise can help us into a zone where we can let go of stress and feel fulfilled.

Anyone can do any of these things on their own and get a lot of benefit. But it can be hard to dance or make art when we are really stressed out. I’ve certainly found that. Soooo hard to do the things that I knew would help me feel better. Sooo frustrating. I needed help. And then I found…

Somatic Experiencing® (SE), direct soul-healing. SE has been the most dramatic help in surviving the last 10 years, and recovering from the decades before. Having an SE coach helped me navigate enormous challenges. Helped me come back to feeling creative. Helped me in my quest to become my true self. Am I perfect? No. Am I a helluva lot better? YES. And it is from this perspective that I integrate all of the above to create programs that help other folks feel better, too.

Please secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Feeling better does NOT mean turning a blind eye to the injustice and horror of the world.

This DOES mean developing a healthy nervous system that recognizes when we are in genuine danger and when we are not. So we can survive. So we can live our lives. So we can have the bandwidth to actually do something helpful. So we can THRIVE.

Thrive

Belly Dance, Creativity Coaching, and Somatic Experiencing. Three things that can make a difference as we navigate this ball of confusion.

With love,
Alia

PS Don’t want to go it alone?
SPARK* integrates all three elements to bring relief, re-engagement, and resilience. SPARK* starts Friday the 13th. More info is here: https://aliathabit.com/shop/#trust

How to Gather Nectar

bees gather nectar pollen biological mandate

Bees pollinate flowers, right? So so some moths, and a few other insects. The flowers get to reproduce, and the bees get food. 

Symbiosis! 

Symbiosis is a process in which all parties to the arrangement benefit. Unlike its opposite, parasitism, in which one party benefits at the expense of another, symbiosis is the original win-win. 

Bees have it easy. They don’t wonder about the ethical ramifications of their floral relationships. They don’t agonize at night about whether it is fair to drink the flowers’ nectar, to fly off with there pollen. They don’t have existential doubts. They have a biological mandate. 

We, on the other hand, have a bit more of a puzzle to solve. 

Where is our Biological Mandate?

We wonder about a lot of things–we can’t sleep for the constant questions. Is it okay for me to do X fun thing? Do my words or actions detract from or harm others? Who am I to think my needs are so important? These are important questions. So…

All any soul-nurturing stuff, which, our culture tells us, is selfish frivolity, may demand some soul-searching. And sometimes our discoveries aren’t pretty. For example, when our interests collide with someone else’s.

One such conflict of interest is when we give priority to doing things for other people and don’t make any time for ourselves. I don’t know if you have noticed this, but I find that all I have to do is plan something for myself (or even have a deadline), and the phone starts ringing, or someone needs help.

Women tend to be socialized to help everyone else first.

But you know what they say on every airplane? Please secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. It’s great that we care about our friends and family, and it can be hard to carve out a little space for ourselves without feeling guilty. But the fact is, everyone else gets better service when our own creativity is fed and cared for.

Another conflict is when a loved one has issues with our dance interests. Some of us step back at that point, often for very good reasons. Some of us go forward, for equally good reasons. For myself, I went forward. Those issues were the last straw in a difficult relationship, and I had already compromised myself nearly out of existence. Another friend stepped back. She found other creative outlets that worked for her. Both of these responses were valid, and both took courage.

And sometimes the conflict of interests is with ourselves. Our own doubts and fears can keep us from nurturing ourselves and our creative side. We wonder so hard if we are doing the right thing that we can talk ourselves out of the self-care that dance gives us. We put so much pressure on ourselves. Who are we to dance? We’re not very good. We’re not even “doing anything” with our dance. Well, so what?

Just dancing for fun is plenty. Fun is important! Feeling good is important to our physical and emotional well-being. If we don’t fill our own well, no one else is going to come along and do it for us, nice as that would be.

It’s on us to gather our own nectar.

Yes, sometimes it’s very, very hard to give ourselves that love and care, to give ourselves time to rest, to enjoy things, to dance, whatever it is we need to thrive. Nature abhors a vacuum, they say, and our time tends to fill up fast.

Many of us have been subject to all three of the above scenarios—most of us probably have done at least two out of three. So what helps?

Put yourself first.

I have to learn this lesson over and over. Other things take a LOT more time than doing a little art. And they are never done. So finishing everything else first is a very bad idea. Take 20 minutes to do some fun art stuff first and you are set for the day—you get that little cookie of satisfaction that lasts all day long.

Accountability.

Put yourself fin a position where you have to do it. Courses and intentions are a good choice for that. Marking off the days you dance on a calendar helps to establish a streak. It’s fun to keep the streak going. Having a friend do it with you, so you can check in with each other. I created SPARK* mostly to help myself take care of myself.

Embrace your biological mandate.

Just say YES. Humans have made art since they figured out that charcoal makes marks on rocks. You have the right to make art. To do something enjoyable. Step forward with your unique vision. Give it the nurturing it needs to blossom and grow. No one else in all the world can do what you can. Trust yourself. Let it out. It’s time.

Love,

Alia

PS Want some help?

SPARK* is here for you.

For all of us feeling burned out, angry, anxious, alone, lost, sad, or searching, SPARK* can help rekindle our heart, our life, our joy.

I’m collecting alllll my skills and tools for this one. Oriental dance, Dancemeditation, Creativity, and Somatic Experiencing. I like things that are magic, and these are all magical in their practice and their effects. Soothing, enlivening, grounding, energizing! SPARK works on so many levels to bring us back into our bodies, to ourselves, to our balance and comfort in the world. Just tune in and enjoy. I’ll be your flower ; ) Symbiosis!

When is the last time we had actual fun? Enjoyment is a biological mandate, too. We are made for pleasure. Nectar!

Spark FREE is a one-shot reprieve from the daily wtf. August 6 at 5pm edt. YES, there will be a recording. It’s FREE and everyone is welcome. More info is here.
https://alia-thabit.ck.page/sparkfree


SPARK* A 6-week soul vacation is a deeper immersion into soul healing, release, and joy. SPARK* runs Fridays, 5:30-6:30pm edt, August 13 through Friday, Sept 24 (no class Friday, August 27). YES, there is a recording! 

Registration is now open. Seating is limited. There’s a special treat for early signups (but it’s a secret. Hint: It will come in the mail). https://aliathabit.com/shop/#trust

Here’s some lovely music…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjPhXjmrTPE&list=PLqgbyDNJ3NvWoIyjZf0BnSzLP1yzMvf43