How to Have the Love you Missed

When my ex was going to Alcoholics Anonymous, I was struck by the way they counted days of sobriety. If you fell off the wagon, you started over. Back to Day 1. That seemed rather harsh to me, that ten years of sobriety was out the window after a single beer. It took a while, but I got it:

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Not like it votes for Bernie Sanders, either. In this case, it means that even when one does not drink, the disease progresses. If you stop drinking for ten years and then start again, you’re as bad off as if you never stopped. And one beer increases the likelihood that next there will be two beers, and then… So they want people to stay sober, since backsliding can be disastrous.

Dance practice is different. 

Habit does have a lot to do with it, and not practicing today may make us less likely to practice tomorrow, but it’s not a life or death thing. Still, folks manage to make it a chore, and to beat themselves up if they miss a day. Many of us are so hard on ourselves, we take any opportunity to tear ourselves down. This is not cool.

All of us are at a different stage in our development. We are in a progression of healing and becoming (unlike alcoholism’s decline) Part of health for us is the development of self-compassion, of self love. We’re not all ready to to do this every day. And that’s okay.

Part of our practice is the development of self-compassion.

This brings me to this book presentation I attended a while back.

The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing by John C. Wathey.

I loved the author—tall, skinny, gray pony tail, plaid shirt and blue jeans. Diffident, sweet, and brilliant. The presentation was during my nap time, and I was falling asleep at the beginning, but once he got going, I snapped to attention and listened in awe. I’m glad I went with friends, as all of us were equally blown away.

It was a long talk, extremely well-designed and beautiful organized. Even though I took (terribly tilted) pictures of many of his slides, I can’t begin to recreate its complexity.

The book’s premise is that our sense of God stems from an “innate neonatal model” of—Mommy. 

Yes, this is genetic. This is the God is Love side. Mommy is always there. She loves us. She protects us. If we call her, she is there for us. As God is believed to be. The devotion to Mommy (or whatever caregiver), is innate, so it doesn’t make a difference if we had neglectful or absent caregivers; we still have this yearning for Her unconditional love and acceptance.

The OTHER side of God, the punishing, judgmental side, is the Social manifestation of God. God in the image of man, demanding obedience, sacrifice, atonement, etc. This one is a social construct—it is learned. The Love side is innate—we are born with it. Nature (Love) vs “Nurture” (Social), so to speak.

I’m having a hard time writing about this because it is so huge.

Here’s a (badly tilted) slide that looks at the social vs neonatal faces of God

Why is God Two-Faced? Love vs Judgement

Please note that when I say religion or religious I do not mean Christianity, but religion/spirit in a general way. Spirituality is important to me (or whatever I can call it without pushing new Age buttons). And apparently to women in general. This is one of the puzzles of religion.

Worldwide, women are more religious than men. 

Wathey suggests that if the true root of our spiritual longing (our wish for the Beloved, in Sufi terms), is a wish for Mother, that it may help explain women’s religious leanings. Women give birth, so they have innate protective impulses.

I do not suggest that women are innately better suited to clean a house, wear a dress, or bat their eyelashes. Gendered behavior is a social construct—something we learn (like the angry God of righteousness). Men and women both can be excellent (or terrible) caregivers. But in animals that care for their young, particularly those in which mothers feed their young from their own bodies, there is instinctive behavior that feeds, that protects, etc (or woe betide the babies). It complements the neonatal impulse towards the mother.

Gerda Lerner suggests that, in part, the rise in patriarchy came as folks figured out the babies didn’t just magically appear—that it takes two to tango, as it were. And then all that righteousness took center stage, and women were reduced to breeding, housekeeping, and childcare (don’t get me started on this…).

Anyway, here’s my point.

We’ve all internalized a lot of angry righteousness. 

We apply it to ourselves indiscriminately. This is the tearing ourselves down for every perceived error. Yet Buddhists, who believe in reincarnation, say that we have all been each others’ mother or child in one life or another—that we must look at each person with the love that we have for our own mother.

My mother’s relationship with her mother was not so warm. She preferred to view each person as her own child (she liked us ; ). Another friend reimagined her entire childhood, giving herself loving parents who were there for her and cared for her. We Westerners, with our complex, difficult family relationships, may find these approaches helpful. But I’ll go a step further.

Last week we talked about feeling safe. What, I ask you, is the deepest root of feeling safe, if not the love of a parent? Even if we had sh*t parents, we still yearn for that love. 

I suggest that we give ourselves that mother love. 

That we give to ourselves the caring, love, and compassion for which our biology has prepared us. That we provide the loving protection, the comfort that we needed in the past and did not get. Our own mothers may have been wonderful—or not. That’s not the point. The point is that we have been encouraged by society to judge ourselves and find ourselves wanting—we can balance that with self-compassion and care.

How do we do that? Hold ourselves close and send ourselves love. Cuddle that difficult inner child. Tell her you love her. Remember when she didn’t get the love and protection she needed. Be there for her now. Just love her. Tell her you are there for her forever more. Mean it.

So that’s why I say props to you no matter what. Because you, me, all of us, as human beings, are worthy of love and care.

Here’s some music!

Enta Omri, “You are my world.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndUg3n9C1vc/

Love,

Alia

Calendar

This weekend, April 27: Aisha Ali in Vermont! This is a RARE event! Asha Ali did field work back in the 1970s with the Ghawazee in Egypt and the Ouled Nail in Algeria (at great personal risk). She is an excellent teacher and the real deal. There are a few spots left–if you can make it, this is HIGHLY recommended:

May 18-June 2: Dunya’s Summer Movement Monastery. Go deep while camping on a mesa in the New Mexico desert.

Saturday, May 18th: Boston area folks–Soumaya MaRose’s 7th “Thé à l’Oriental” with Tamalyn Dallal and Amar Gamal Garcia, and features a traditional Moroccan Iftar fest. Soumaya is a brilliant Moroccan Oriental dancer, and she does things right. This is a do-not-miss if you are in the area.

June 1: Amity’s Annual Student Recital. Always a great event.

Saturday-Sunday, June 8-9: Cassandra Shore in midcoast Maine. Cassandra is exceptional. I can only remember one time she was in New England–and that was decades ago. Do not miss! Hosted by Kay Hardy Campbell, so you know it will be good. 


Sunday, July 14: I’ll be teaching improv and group composition in Northampton MA (and performing that night at Cairo Cab). Limited space!, Registration is now open.

You are Safe Here

A while back some people at Yale did a small study: they asked folks to imagine they had been granted the super power of being completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

I invite you to try it.

Imagine yourself completely safe, invulnerable to any harm.

Give it time. Let it sink in.

Ahhhh….

Nice, right?

The study participants found it nice as well.

Guess what the study found?

The respondents’ views became decidedly more compassionate.

They had been chosen for their conservative political views. But feeling safe and secure made their responses more liberal.

Interesting, isn’t it?

How would your life change if you felt safe?

I suppose the world will always hold danger–but we don’t have to feel threatened all the time–most of us are not being threatened all the time. If you have time to read this email, you have time to feel safe…

I got into trauma resolution because I was tired of old fears.

It has been a rewarding journey. My relationship to myself and the world around me has been dramatically improved. I feel more confident; I am less likely to feel at fault; I hold my ground; and I’m calm. I like my dancing. I like myself.

It’s pretty cool.

Many of you know I have been embarked on a three-year training program to become a certified Somatic Experiencing® (SE) Practitioner. SE is a naturalistic and neurobiological approach to treating trauma, resolving anxiety, and generally feeling safe and comfortable in one’s own body. More about SE is here.

A lot of the changes I’ve seen have come from being part of this excellent program. I have enjoyed every step of the way. And the icing on the cake?

I will soon be certified!

I’m halfway through my third year of training. I’ve already included SE work in my dance coaching. Folks like it–they feel the benefits. One gal’s pain went away. Another reduced her fear of being seen. Another became close to her family again. It makes my heart glad to see the healing.

Last week, we talked about some of the issues facing the belly dance scene and how to help heal them. Healing happens on an individual basis, too. In between the SE methods and the Dancemeditation, we’ve got some great tools to help dancers feel better and dance beautifully.

If you’ve had a challenging episode in your life, if you feel that it hasn’t really been resolved, SE may help you. There’s a great provider directory at traumahealing.org, searchable by zip code. Or email me. We’ll chat.

Love,
Alia

Calendar

May 18-June 2: Dunya’s Summer Movement Monastery. Go deep while camping on a mesa in the New Mexico desert.

Saturday, May 18th: Boston area folks–Soumaya MaRose’s 7th “Thé à l’Oriental” with Tamalyn Dallal and Amar Gamal Garcia, and features a traditional Moroccan Iftar fest. Soumaya is a brilliant Moroccan Oriental dancer, and she does things right. This is a do-not-miss if you are in the area.

Saturday-Sunday, June 8-9: Cassandra Shore in midcoast Maine. Cassandra is exceptional. I can only remember one time she was in New England–and that was decades ago. Do not miss! Hosted by Kay Hardy Campbell, so you know it will be good.

Sunday, July 14: I’ll be teaching improv and group composition in Northampton MA (and performing that night at Cairo Cab). Space is limited, and registration is now open.

How We Change The World

Smash Patriarchy

Greetings!


It is so nearly spring here in Vermont that the weather changes every day. We are tired of winter–so very tired.

#inktober 25. Tired. Drawn with Note 3 + Sketchbook for Galaxy
When will it ever be spring again?

Apparently, dancers are tired, too–tired of the toxic environments, bullying, and negativity many belly dancers must navigate.

In a recent Facebook post, Yasmina Ramzy, yasminaramzy.comwrote on Facebook of her dismay over these challenges. The post struck a chord, with almost 200 replies from folks who had such experiences, as well as many suggestions for change. The following quote is just a taste of the original.

RAQS SHARQI IS SO BEAUTIFUL, EMPOWERING, HEALING, INSPIRING, SOUL-ENRICHING AND FULL OF JOY.
And yet ….

often when I arrive in a new city to teach a workshop, the host picks me up at the airport and at some point we share a meal and then the host breaks down crying while she asks what to do about feeling bullied by the BD community Or….

the out-of-town students in Pro Course who book a private and within 10 minutes they are in tears asking me how to cope with being bullied by other Bellydancers . Or….

the 2am phonecalls, I receive from across North America from past students in tears who can not cope with troupe members or students being nasty to her or to each other
Or….or….or….

-Yasmina Ramzy

She listed many more such experiences and and asked what folks thought would help. I have a lot of thoughts about this, so I posted a response–which garnered a hundred likes, loves, etc, and 25 comments of its own. Wow! I saw that people are interested in this topic, so I decided to share it with you. Here it is. (I have edited it a little bit ; )

I have also heard the stories and been thinking about this.

I notice several elements in play.

1. We in the west have made this dance over in our own likeness 
-as a primarily performance art rather than a social dance 
-as a venue for stylization, choreography, and competitive perfectionism, rather than a playful dance of joy
-as a taking rather than a giving

2. We have all been damaged by internalized sexism and patriarchy. In some folks this results in victimizing, shaming, and blaming (do unto others), and in others, in ongoing vulnerability to victimization.

-this is part of our dual addiction to perfectionism and self loathing, both of which, I think, are connected to the unresolved chronic stress of being women in this society. It is even worse for minorities of any kind, who get double doses of daily meanness.

3. Everyone is angry. Turf wars in a saturated market place, scarcity mentality, Internet anonymity’s decimation of decent manners, and the legitimate rage felt by those who have gotten the short end of the minority stick all conspire into a time of unprecedented bullying from every angle.

How do we heal our troubled dance world?

The fact is, we can only change ourselves. But we are leaders. Leaders go first. They show the way. So where we go, others will follow. That being said… one person can have a BIG impact.

A. Bring the dance back to its roots.

Value improvisation, with all its impermanence and messiness. Value live improvised music of the culture. Value social dance, playfulness, and joy. Dance is supposed to be fun!

B. Prioritize dancer agency.

This is a core strength of our dance. Empower student confidence. Engage students in the creative process. We do not need little dance automatons who are only concerned with following orders and how they look. We want our dancers to have something to say. Dance is communication, self-expression. Teach dancers to find their own true dance.

C. Focus on how the dance *feels.*

Patriarchy wants us to focus on our looks, our sexual attractiveness. It wants us to always be seeking approval. It undermines our felt reality. It’s time to take back our pleasure in movement. 

Oriental dance is about expressing our feeling from the music, emotional, yes, but also the deliciousness of the physical action of dance. This dance feels good to the body. 

When we improvise, we let the body respond to the music as it wishes. As such, the dance becomes a healing, stress releasing, and deeply spiritual practice. We have enough problems in life. Dance is for joy. 

D. PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.

We get what we pay attention to. Its time to let the haters go.

-Someone is a jerk? Unfollow them. Don’t go to their classes or events. 

-Don’t bitch in class about anything–dance class is joy time. I don’t care how hard it is to to get respect, make a living, etc. Don’t put that on your students (or your classmates). You don’t want their pity. You want their enthusiasm.

-Find compassionate, generous dance folks and back them–especially teachers of the culture. 

-Check your privilege. Most belly dancers are white women. For folk of other colors, sexual orientation, abilities, low socioeconomic status, etc, life is so much harder than we can ever imagine. Remember this.

-Take steps to be fair and kind, to provide safe spaces for your students. It’s okay to fire bitchy, troublesome students. Make your classroom a bubble of joy. 

We may only be able to change ourselves, but we can build a nurturing creative oasis, and welcome others inside. The ripples spread, ever outward…

We heal the world, one undulation at a time.

###

We bring joy. That’s our job Let’s do it.

Love,
Alia

PS If this resonates with you, you might enjoy the book Midnight at the Crossroads: has belly dance sold its soul? http://aliathabit.com/bellydancesoul.com

PS Want something to do?

(if any links don’t work properly, please copy and paste)

Everyone!

Ziltastic: Fast, fun, finger cymbal Improvisation and
Embodiment: musicality for Oriental Dance
are now open at https://alia.teachable.com
Build skills and have fun with well-designed e-courses!

Tonight, April 11: Ranya Renee has been curating a wonderful series of free livestream interviews on colorism in the dance world. Her guest tonight is Aaliyah Jenny, a marvelous performer and stellar human being. Join Ranya’s FB group to get access: https://facebook.com/groups/gingercity
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10161733456885327&set=a.10151026251745327&type=3&theater/

New England Live!

Sunday, April 14: Lebanese male dancer Victor “Sharif” Ziter performs at the Cairo Cabaret in Chicopee MA. If you want to see a man dance, this is it. https://www.facebook.com/events/1259294750904527/

Saturday, May 18th: Boston area folks–Soumaya MaRose’s 7th “Thé à l’Oriental” with Tamalyn Dallal and Amar Gamal Garcia, and features a traditional Moroccan Iftar fest. Soumaya is a brilliant Moroccan Oriental dancer, and she does things right. This is a do-not-miss if you are in the area.

Saturday-Sunday, June 8-9: Cassandra Shore in midcoast Maine. Cassandra is exceptional. I can only remember one time she was in New England–and that was decades ago. Not to be missed! It’s hosted by Kay Hardy Campbell, so you know it will be good. https://www.facebook.com/events/1060567260783532/

Sunday, July 14: I’ll be teaching improv and group composition in Northampton MA (and performing that night at Cairo Cab). Space is limited and registration is now open:
https://www.facebook.com/events/2178111372274149/?active_tab=about

Elsewhere Live!

June 5-12: Tamalyn Dallal Weeklong in New Orleans is ALWAYS a treat. https://www.facebook.com/events/208356106754704/

Why Distractions are a Good Thing (and why dance makes a great distraction). 

We think we know what’s real and what’s not. But do we? 
 

The brain can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. 

That’s why we can be frightened, even traumatized, by scary movies or video violence, why we weep at a heartwarming film (I cried my eyes out at Field of Dreams, big heaving sobs). This is all why we are so easily drawn into what the SE folks call the Trauma Vortex, all the roiling chaos connected to the various events that left us helpless and frozen, angry, or worse. 

But there is another vortex associated with trauma, and it is completely different, in its content and affect. It’s called the Counter Vortex. Like it’s name, it contains everything that counters the trauma—all our Resources, the strengths, skills, and other positives that got us through the traumatic event. And we did get through—because we’re alive to read this. 

We survived because of our our resources. 

But often those resources go uncounted, unacknowledged, unspoken, unseen. Part of wallowing in the good is about recognizing those resources and putting them to work. The Counter-Vortex includes all the dissociation and fluffy pink clouds—or the running like hell and murderous rage—or whatever else it took to survive the moment. Resources connect us to  organization—not of our closet space, but internally, the organization of a healthy nervous system. 

Trauma disrupts the nervous system, disorganizing it. Focusing on resources, on the here and now, on the good, helps us return to regulation (and if you want to think of old trauma like poop that has to come out for us to be regulated, you just rock on with your bad self ; ). 

The great part of regulating the nervous system and discharging trauma is that our capacity for regulation and recovery increases, every time we do so. It is like the way developing a Growth Mindset and struggling to learn challenging skills increases intelligence. Sign me up, right?  

So, what’s a good way to focus on resource? Making ART!

“Studies show that the arts help children regulate their emotions, a critical skill for well-adjusted children and adults. 

Infants who participated in a six-month active music group with singing and dancing had better emotional regulation behaviors than did infants in a passive music group, where music was played in the background while infants did other activities.”

Oh, who’s doing that? We are!

“In another study, children were asked to think of a past negative event. Some of those children then were instructed to draw a house to distract themselves; the other children were instructed either to draw the negative event or to copy another drawing. The children who drew to distract were better able to improve their mood compared to the other children.” https://www.arts.gov/news/2015/arts-and-early-childhood-development-focus-new-nea-research

A distraction is something that takes your mind off that damn red dot. And an equally important concept is that it’s OKAY to take your mind off the dot. We are often so caught up in suffering that we feel it is our duty to do so. Eff that. Our loved ones want us to be well. And our enemies? Living well is the best revenge. 

So?

Next time you feel down, I invite you go draw a house (or do some dance, or play some music, or, hell, just imagine you are ; )

Love,

Alia

PS today is the last day for the Create Dance Art bonuses (and the How to Make a Dance without Steps webinar). You still have a few hours to check them out. Here’s the link: https://bellydancesoul.webinarninja.com/live-webinars/78875/register/

Music! Here’s a playlist from Mahmoud Chouky, a wonderful young Moroccan musician currently living in New Orleans.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxKThGaF4nE&list=RDEMwf1hCQmZ-Sfjv-7d3UXRBg

How to go forward, even in the face of fear

 How to go forward in the face of fear

For many of us, this past election cycle triggered a lot of pain, outrage, and fear. Our friends, family, and selves are divided, by turns angry, frightened, sobbing, or all three, amplified by the rage we saw around us and in sensation-grabbing headlines. In the USA, half the population now wonders if they will live through the next four years. Of course, many perfectly nice people voted for Trump despite his more unsavory fans. But those unsavory fans have been validated. The stories already have begun.

  • A dancer went into an appliance store. She had always shopped there and been well-treated. On this day, however, she wore hijab, the headscarf Muslim women often wear. She was shocked to find herself followed around, condescended to, and generally treated like dirt. This was before the election.
  • A gal in LA going to the market yesterday reported getting her crotch grabbed by a guy with a MAGA hat. He whispered, “Are you scared now, you liberal cunt?” Yes, she was. She took the Bernie sticker off her car.
  • Many friends report rioting, threats, and unrest in nearby towns. Children are afraid to go to school.
  • Muslims, people of color, LGBT folks, and women all wonder what is next.
  • These are nothing. Shaun King is chronicling myriad such stories on his twitter: twitter.com/ShaunKing

Yes, this election is an American problem. But racism, sexism, intolerance, and bias are worldwide problems.

So what do we do? How do we go forward in the face of fear?

Stay in the present moment, focus on the good, and dance–but not just any dance.

Stay in the present moment

I went to a rough, scary school back in Junior High. It was in a neighborhood far from mine. I was a shy, quiet kid who got threatened regularly and hit or beat up more than once. I skipped school constantly to get a break. A few years later, I got a job in that same neighborhood. I had to take the same bus and walk on the same streets. I realized I was shaking with fear at the thought of going back there. So I developed a strategy.

I told myself that 99% of people are normal people who just want to get through their day (this is true). They have no interest in me. They don’t want to hurt me or harass me. I’m also different now. I’m older, smarter, more confident.

I made all that my mantra. I got on the bus, and I went to work. It took a lot of effort, but it helped that my mantra was demonstrably true. When I looked around (staying in the present moment), most everyone was just people, on their way to or from wherever they were going. And honestly, even at school, though I looked, acted, and dressed differently, the vast majority of kids never bothered with me.

Over a fairly short period of time, I was able to relax and stop being afraid all the time. When I got picked up in Cairo by a Muslim Brotherhood cabbie last year, I used the same strategy. It worked. I add long exhales now, and that helps, a lot. But the truth is, most people have their own problems. You are the last thing on their mind.

I know, that 1% of crazies are still out there.

They are angry. And they feel empowered. We may find ourselves in dangerous situations. But the more we learn to release fear, to keep our heads, the better a chance we have of getting away from them. And most of the time, we are worrying about them more than we are in front of them. This is key.

It’s waaayyy too easy to get into a downward fear spiral. It’s familiar ground, an addictive headspace, and it’s very hard to get back out again–and to stay out. But that’s what we have to do.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, no one is attacking us. We are actually fine. But we feel like we are under attack. And worry feels useful when in fact it is destructive. Save your adrenaline for real emergencies. The rest of the time, breathe, open your eyes, and ground in the present. How do you do that?

Look around. Feel the safety of your space. Exhale for twice as along as your inhale. Keep doing this. You will feel calmer. Use your eyes. Look from side to side, up and down, focused and unfocused. Keep exhaling. You may feel shaky and weird, but then you will feel better.

People are mostly good. They are mostly trustworthy. What if we remember this, and repeat it to ourselves when we feel anxious? Studies show that we will be happier and have better health. When we focus on the good, we get the good.

Focus on the good

Dr. Kelly McGonigal wrote a thoughtful piece on finding good in this election cycle. She suggests that we do something, look for the good, and be the good.

  • Do something: Read about what’s going on and be informed. You can start with Matt Taibbi’s engrossing (and meticulously researched) book, The Divide. You can find this in your library or as an ebook via OverDrive.
  • Look for the good: There are good things happening all over, but they are hard to see when bleeding leads on every network channel. For example, Minnesota elected Ilhan Omar, a Somali Muslim woman, to their legislature. That’s pretty cool. Catherine Cortez Masto became the nation’s first Latina Senator. We also have a first Native senator (plus a Native federal judge, and the first disabled woman Senator to be elected (she’s also a veteran). http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/historic-firsts-achievements-election-day-2016/
  • Be the good: A friend subscribed to several quality newspapers to support objective journalism. I donated recently to Standing Rock’s legal defense fund. Whatever is important to you, do something to help that thing along. Teach a class, make a video, or donate to a cause. Take some time or some money and put it to work for good. Or just be nicer to people impacted by hate and intolerance. Smile and be genuinely welcoming to people of color, LGBT,  women, and refugees. Make someone’s day a little brighter. Little acts of kindness have a huge power to ripple outwards.

Dance (but not just any dance…)

Improvisational belly dance is one of the best things we can do to feel calmer, brighter, and more grounded. Especially when we couple dance with breath, when we let go of our cares and let the body just move and relax with the music.

Play easy music, relax, and enjoy yourself. Even a few minutes will help. And if you take 20 minutes to just play and relax, the effects last for hours. Click the purple button for a free booklet on how to release fear through belly dance. [sdm_download id=”3134″ fancy=”0″ new_window=”1″ color=”purple” button_text=”Release Fear through Belly Dance”][sdm-download-counter id=”3134″]

Take time to consciously relax.

That’s a hugely revolutionary act all by itself. Being kind to others, being kind to ourselves, dancing and having fun, all of these are far more subversive than they seem. Reject fear. It doesn’t feel safe to do so, but that is a self-perpetuating function of fear.

Love Drawn with Note 3 + Sketchbook for Galaxy

I send you my love and all my strength. I am here, holding you close in my heart, every minute of every day. Remember this.

Love,

Alia

 

 

PS last call for the Compassionate Critique Salon!

Do you crave honest, objective dance feedback?

(Wish it didn’t hurt so much?)
Here ya go!

 

 

 

Ever think you’re Not Good Enough? Read this.

Our Crisis of ConfidenceThe Road to Joy

Thanks to everyone who wrote back to me last week.

We have quite a cross section of walls. People cited finding community, performance freeze, practice habits, illness, student readiness, and where to sell vintage vinyl (ebay or FB groups). We will get to all of these.

But the number one wall?

“I’m not good enough.”

Many of us believe we are not good enough, will never be good enough, or worry what others might think of us. This fear is so common, so pervasive, we don’t even realize the Bad Voices are lying. This destructive perception colors everything–it hijacks our happiness, short-circuits our success, and corrodes our souls. And it’s a perfect opening, since we planned to talk about Confidence as one of the 3 prongs of Old and Hot. But it also raises an important question: Not good enough for what? Belly dance?

Belly dance isn’t about being “good enough.” It’s about sharing a physical and emotional enjoyment of the musical moment. Traditionally, it’s a casual, loving, dance of the people, not a tour de force for highly-trained professionals. Sure, there have always been professional dancers, but relaxation is a virtue–plus millions more folks do this dance at home for their own enjoyment, with friends and family. It’s not rocket science. It’s a fun, playful dance. You are already good enough—seriously. But you still feel bad. Wtf?

That feeling won’t go away—until you see through it. For most of my life, I was the poster child for Not Good Enough (and it’s twin sister, Perfectionism). I believed every disheartening word the Bad Voices said to me. I just thought they were the truth. Subsequently, I have spent a lot of time and energy exploring this. I believe that dismay at our perceived lack of quality is largely an artifact of trauma. The way I see it, perfectionism, self-censure, and other control issues are all about staying safe.

In the past, others hurt us, found fault with us, or shamed us. So now we are going to beat them at their own game. If we judge ourselves first, if we point out every flaw, we will pre-empt those who might burn us with their critical flamethrowers. We will hurt ourselves first. We place our own flies in the ointment. We disappoint ourselves so we will not be disappointed. How sad is that? Pretty darn sad.

What can we do about it? Many things help. Dance and breath are among them. But there is one shift that helps all the others to come through: Mindset.

What is Mindset? Mindset is the set of beliefs that people have about themselves or the world. The researcher Carol Dweck coined the term to characterize the beliefs students held that caused “smart” kids to fail and less “smart” kids to succeed  http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/.

What does mindset have to do with dance? Our belief that we are not good enough is just that: a belief. It is a mindset and nothing more, a sad, Eeyore-like conviction that “We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.” Well, that’s not all there is. And the secret is NOT working harder, practicing harder, or otherwise punishing the body for its supposed infractions. The secret is changing our mindset and developing self-compassion.

How do we change our mindset? By observing, challenging, and releasing our previous beliefs. Full directions are here. We CAN change from self-blame to self-compassion. Remember last week’s self-compassion quiz? Go back to that aliathabit.com/old-hot/. Then come back to this. Mindset shift is the first step. Self-compassion is our new mindset.

Next, we need strategies. One of the first strategies is breath.

Breath grounds us. It calms, energizes, and heals. It cures performance brain freeze, helps us develop confidence and resilience. It is a miracle drug! And it is available to all of us. Numerous breath strategies help with our assorted needs.

Try this, right now: Inhale a count of 4; Exhale for a count of 8. Do this a few times. Slow down your count after the first few breaths. Keep going until you feel calm and grounded. It won’t take long.

Remember this for next time you feel stressed, anxious, or negative—in life or performance, alone or with others. It works because we are biologically wired to connect safety with long exhales. This was the first exercise I learned in my trauma resolution journey. Now it is yours.

Love,

Alia

PS Interested in more?

Remember that Small Product Challenge from last week? What we most need is Confidence—but let’s go a step further: Joy would be nice, wouldn’t it? The Road to Joy. Now, this is a huge, huge topic that includes pretty much everything that interests me. So we have to start small. One of the primary strategies is Breath. This is where we start.

Announcing

The Road to Joy, Step 1. BreathBreathe!

The Road to Joy: Step 1. Breath will be ready to roll on May 16. But if you want to get in on Trust the Chef early pricing (and you know you always get the best deal), feel free to jump right now.

https://aliathabit.com/road-to-joy/

Thank you for being part of this journey!

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Holidays, Beautiful!

Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Eid, Solstice, and more!
Whatever you celebrate, even if it is a can of soup, I send you all my love and kisses.

And of course, we have a present, too!
This year’s present will keep giving all year…

[sdm_download id=”3134″ fancy=”1″]

Christmas-15tiny

 

Hugs and kisses,

Alia

 

 

 

 

 

 

How thankfulness in dance brings joy and peace into our lives

Amity+Alia
Alia and Amity at the birth of Amity’s new studio

In the USA, we have this powerful myth of the first Thanksgiving. The first pilgrims came to the shores of this country, escaping religious differences in England. The ingenious peoples kindly took pity on them and invited them to a feast. The pilgrims were so grateful for this kindness that they commemorated the feast as a national holiday.

Today, laden tables will be set in every home that can afford it (even the virtual genocide of native folk hasn’t dimmed the glory of Thanksgiving). Each person at the table may even be pushed to to name something for which they are thankful. Which they will do, however sulkily. On other days, though, most folks focus on what’s wrong (of which there is always plenty).

What if we highlight what’s right? There has recently been a lot of research that highlights the power of good–of thankfulness and gratitude in daily life. Folks who prioritize the positive feel happier and more at peace with their world. The impact of terrible events recedes, and love finds a foothold in their hearts.

We can bring this practice into our dance with marvelous effect.  Kenny Werner, the author of Effortless Mastery, said, you can be the most miraculous player in the universe, never hit a wrong note–but still not be free. He said, the only way you can be free is to love your playing *even when you play badly.* When you hit wrong notes, make mistakes, and generally suck.

Freedom means loving yourself–and your art–no matter what. How radical is that? We are so conditioned to punish ourselves, dismiss compliments, and obsess over our flaws. Where is our thanksgiving?Where is our gratitude for the joy of creating art with movement, this marvelous dance that offers us joy, solace, and a pleasurable, self-loving relationship with our bodies?

What if we let this year be different? What if we choose to reflect upon ourselves with kindness and love? Our dance will not suffer. It will not grow less. It will grow more, as our dance, too, becomes more loving and filled with joy. As we fill ourselves, we fill those around us. The whole world wins.

What if you write a love letter to the dance? To your teachers. And to yourself, as a dancer. Tell yourself all you have accomplished, how beautiful you are, and how much joy you have brought into the world through dance. Write one today–and every week for a month. No negatives–just the good. Replace negative thoughts with love and affirmative warmth.

Next time you dance, what if you just enjoy yourself? Enjoy the pleasure of your moving body. Only do what feels good, what feels easy, what your beautiful body enjoys. Allow yourself this pleasure, this happiness.

It’s a dance of joy.

Let’s enjoy it.

Love,
Alia