Being Happy

“Expansion of happiness is the purpose of creation.” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Science of Being and Art of Living

Hello, happy Tuesday people! I can feel the joy exuding from you as you realize I’m actually posting on the day I promised. Back to Tuesdays! 

Again, I was at a loss for what to write about and share this week. It was puzzling me, because I had at least 3-4 ideas swirling around my brain, but didn’t really want to write about any of them. Much of my inspiration, if not all, for writing and art comes from me and my experiences (which is probably where most humans get their inspiration from). These days, I don’t really have anything to figure out or process through writing, something I’m grappling with that I can’t understand unless I write through it. Sure, I’m disappointed and upset by lots of things happening in the world, but I’ve addressed this in previous posts and I’m focusing on the positive in daily life. So… if I’m feeling good… and I don’t have anything to process… what do I have to write about?

Interesting, this. Having no ideas because I’m feeling good. It reminds me of my last semester in high school. I only had two classes a day with great teachers and interesting material. I wasn’t too busy outside of school, but I still had enough extracurriculars that I was passionate about to keep me interested. But I couldn’t contribute to the conversations my peers were having about their annoying teachers and pointless homework assignments, because I didn’t have anything to complain about. It was a very strange feeling, and I think it’s happening again now.

Don’t get me wrong – I am excellent at complaining. Being an idealist in most aspects of my life, I can find lots of things to fix and analyze in the world and in my own life. 

But lately, I go to bed feeling pretty good and wake up feeling pretty good. I feel content moment-to-moment in my life. I’ve gone through a lot of stuff, some of which I’ve already shared on this blog, and I’ve learned so, so much about myself and how I want to live. Best of all, I’ve almost by accident found a moment-to-moment sense of living without worrying too much about the future, which has come as a necessity to managing all the uncertainties of life.

So, what does this mean for my writing? Sometimes, I feel that writing about being happy or content seems boring in this day and age. There isn’t a bit of conflict to spice up the storyline, or a problem to solve. 

Here, I will say, I have nothing to “spice up” this post, except the greater and greater desire for us to focus on the happy things and to not be afraid to do so. Being happy is not boring. Being happy does not make you arrogant, and you should not be afraid to be happy even if others around you are not. Sometimes life is bad, but sometimes life is really, really good. If the media focused as much on the good things in this world as the bad, our newspapers would be quadruple the size and our news programs would go on all day (without repeating themselves). 

While I do feel it’s possible to write about happy and uplifting things and that we’re seeing a trend towards the positive these days, I find it interesting that writing about feeling good seems to me less exciting than writing to figure out a problem.

In the spirit of writing about happy things, I wanted to share a few random things that have made me feel good lately. I hope you enjoy them, too.

An article

“How Trees Calm Us Down,” by Alex Hutchinson

A fantastic read about the connection between being around or just looking at trees and what it can do for our health and happiness. This article really inspired me, and emphasized what I’ve known all along – that trees are remarkable and vital beings! There is also some research in this article that I’ve seen before in an article about the benefits of walking. I wrote about this research on walking in a previous post

A cartoon

Because this is great.

Why female friendships are important

 

Straight-up magic

The rhythm, the harmonies, the choreography… in a patty-cake cover of Adele’s “Send my Love?” Yup – magic. The arts are amazing, and people even amazing-er.

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My lovelies, thank you for reading again this week! May you be blessed with happiness in your own time and the courage and patience to get through what you need to get there.

As a final note, I won’t be posting for the next little while, as I’m taking a break from blogging during August. But I will see you back in September, if not a little sooner, to keep the positivity and the dancing conversations going. 🙂 

Until then, enjoy your day and your week!

With love,

Mariel

 

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File > Insert > Joy

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

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Hello, you happy crazy ones. No, this blog has not switched its posting days to Wednesdays…although it may seem like it. I love Tuesdays, and I’m sticking with them, but why am I always oh-so-busy on those days? Planning, people. That’s the new goal!

Today, I am in a majorly irreverent, silly, annoyed, and reflective mood. If I’m completely honest, I was pretty sure today’s post was going to announce a little break from this blog. It hasn’t been bringing me a ton of joy lately. Lately, I’ve been struggling with what to write (not a new problem for writers) and whether I even want to write anything. Maybe it’s the summer holidays tempting me into their ice-creamy portal. It could also be that I feel like I keep yammering about the same things (dance, moving is awesome, let’s be happy, find the joy, be easy on yourself, insert uplifting quote here) and I’m wondering what the point is. And it could also easily be the general malaise in the world, a feeling of being tired after looking for positivity all the time. And when the world feels like it’s going through so much, that it’s being tested not once, not in one place, but again and again all over the world, sometimes writing about how awesome dance is feels lame and useless. It just does.

Ah, but that is where I am wrong! I’m sure there’s some famous quote or two to back me up on this, but those moments when we’re about to give up on something are when we need to grit our teeth and dig a little deeper to stay in it. Often, what we’re looking to give up is actually what will save us in our troubles. How many times have I tried to quit dance, have tried to analyze how I could keep dance in my life or not, only to turn to dance itself to bring joy into an otherwise joyless situation.

Long story short (or is it too late for that?), I am keeping with this blog because I recently reminded myself of its humble beginnings. I started this blog not only to talk about dance and movement, but also to bring little sparkles of joy, happiness, and inspiration to any and all who need it. And, as I do nearly every day, I thought about my dear friend who is going through some major tests and challenges of her own and has for some time. I thought of her and said, screw it. I want to talk about joyful things today. I’m going to keep my attention on the light. I’m going to honour the journey of struggle, but keep cheerleading until the beautiful, beautiful end of all this pain – for my friend, for the world, for you. I don’t need my blog to have one purpose. My blog can be whatever it wants to be, so long as I’m still enjoying writing and providing little bits of happiness to my readers. 

Today’s message is simple: Insert Joy. Insert wherever and whenever you can. Not abstract joy unattached to anything, but joy that comes from doing what you love, being with who you love, noticing what you love, emphasizing that which you love. Even if it’s a busy workday with nothing but stressful things, find something that brings you joy, from a cup of tea to a 10-minute good conversation to a funny comic in the paper. Look for the joy where you may not have noticed it before.

I turn to dance or writing or any kind of creation when I need support in some way. Sometimes, I’m not in a bad place myself, but I need to create something to figure out how I feel about a situation and how I can handle things. The arts have always helped me through things, and I know they have the power to help all of us.

In a world swirling with change, some of it happening in much more drastic ways than we could imagine, it may seem cliché or obvious to remind ourselves to focus on the positive. But… it’s a cliché for a reason. It works. And it works because it must work. Our attention on the good, on faith in ourselves and our communities, is what propels us forward into more goodness.

Over time, I’ve realized I no longer have a choice to be positive or not. To be a happy, sane person, I need to stay positive. And I have negative feelings, for sure. But when I’m down or frustrated, I try to focus more on gratitude and believing that good times will come again. From my own experience, I have found that staying in the depths does nothing but dig me deeper down. And sometimes we need to let ourselves get there. Hitting a low helped me finally understand what I love and what I needed to change to do more of what I love. But we can’t stay down forever. We have to look up. Waaaaay up. (Reference from The Friendly Giant, for all you Canadian kids from the 80’s.)

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The Friendly Giant (from Google Images)

To get you started, here are ten joys off the top of my head that you can enjoy/add to your life, too.

  1. Plants. Flowers blooming = happy me.
  2. I just passed an advanced driving test I was super nervous about. Honour any and all accomplishments, people, no matter how small!
  3. Really delicious Indian food. Mmmm, coconut naaaaaaan.
  4. Having a surprisingly amazing conversation with a good friend you haven’t seen in years and realizing you’re still super close and friend soulmates.
  5. Warm socks straight from the dryer. Or, in the summer, a cool shower after a long, hot day.
  6. A new piece of jewelry, clothing, shoes, or anything that makes you feel more confident than before.
  7. When your Facebook status gets a hella ton of likes. Yup, I’m going shallow on this one, but we all know we feel really good when this happens.
  8. Having alone time to do whatever it is you’ve been putting off that you’ve been itching to do.
  9. Reading a fabulous book you can’t put down.
  10. When a salesperson is so nice to you, you feel like you just made a new friend.
  11. *BONUS* That little thrill you get in your heart when you look at someone you love and respect so much and you can hardly believe you’re lucky enough to be alive at the same time as them.

Of course, there are so many other wonderful things in this beautiful world, too. I believe in us. Despite everything going on in our world today and recently, there is goodness is this world. There are many, many, many more happy and considerate people out there who want only good things in this world.

I’ve suggested this before, and I’ll suggest it again wholeheartedly in this post. I highly recommend Transcendental Meditation for anyone looking to reduce stress and increase happiness in all aspects of their lives. People of all faiths practise TM; it is a mental technique, NOT a religion. There are lots of kinds of meditation out there, but TM has the most scientific research on benefits for the individual and for the collective consciousness. By meditating, you can actually affect your surroundings for the good. If you’re interested, check out http://www.tm.org or  https://www.davidlynchfoundation.org.

That’s it for me, folks! Have yourselves a fabulous week. I will do my darnedest to get back to Tuesdays from now on! Thanks for your patience.

With love and light,

Mariel

Training to Pretend

“There is an old Sanskrit word, lîla, which means play. Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation, destruction, and re-creation, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos. Lîla, free and deep, is both the delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God. It also means love.

Lîla may be the simplest thing there is – spontaneous, childish, disarming. But as we grow and experience the complexities of life, it may also be the most difficult and hard-won achievement imaginable, and its coming to fruition is a kind of homecoming to our true selves.” – Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

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Hello, dear ones! I’m back this week. I apologize for the lack of post last week. I was running around with children and horses and paint in an art/horse summer camp, which was very fulfilling, but also exhausting.

The other week, I was thinking about the term “adulting,” which is thrown around a lot these days. I personally hate the word – I think maybe it’s too cutesy or annoying or something for me, but I also appreciate what the word is trying to get at. What does an adult look like? How do we know we’ve reached adulthood? When do our actions go from childish, to actions of adolescence, to actions of adults?

I usually have these thoughts when I’m freaked out about doing something new or challenging. How do I have the authority to do this new thing? The answer, of course, is that we give ourselves permission to do something. We don’t need to wait to receive permission or the go-ahead from anyone else to get the confidence to do something. Because, as we all know, we’re all making it up as we go along! Which leads me to the wonder that is pretending.

To be confident in doing something new, we sometimes have to pretend we’re confident. And we all think that everyone else knows what they’re doing and are actually qualified for what they’re doing, but people pretend way more than they let on. And I think that’s totally OK! When we pretend, we’re practising using the muscles we need to fulfill a job, to be confident, to lead or manage or motivate people. Soon, the lines blur between pretending and just doing, and by accident, we get to where we want to be.

I realized that this need to pretend starts way back in childhood, when we’re making up games and playing through scenarios from our imagination. We were born to pretend, or better yet, to create new realities for ourselves. When we’re little, the stakes are less high, so we don’t even realize the implications of making stuff up. But playing and imagining and problem-solving when we’re little help us play, imagine, and solve problems when we’re in the workforce and in charge of our own lives. Even through painful or difficult times in childhood, we often imagine ourselves out of these situations to find solace. (Think Anne Shirley using her reflection in the mirror as a friend in Anne of Green Gables.) I find it invigorating and wonderful that we’ve already prepped for what we need later on in life by pretending and playing when we were children.

Since I’m pretty dancerly here at Daylight Dance, I’ll give a dance analogy. During a dance performance, if you make a mistake in the choreography, about 9.9 times out of 10 no one will even notice. And people only notice something is off because they’re a super professional dance nut who’s been doing this for ages, or because you pull a face or somehow physically apologize for your mistake. There’s no need. It’s the nature of performance for things to go differently from how they did in the studio. That’s the magic of live dance, theatre, music, and performance. You’re living and breathing with the performers as they share their creation in real time. Sometimes, they’re performing with a bad cold or a sore knee or some heavy emotional baggage, but they manage all of that for the higher purpose of sharing their art with you.

I suppose pretending could be confused with ignoring something, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. Instead, I see pretending as creating a future reality you want to enjoy, something that hasn’t quite arrived in your life yet, but that you’re on the road to creating. It’s a magical thing to walk down the street pretending that you don’t feel self-conscious or awkward or less-than. Through your play, your pretending, you become what you want to be.

So, revel in your pretending! Enjoy the unknown, the curiosity of the abyss. Enjoy acting the part until you really feel the part. You’ll get there. And if you don’t get “there,” you’ll work a lot of good muscles that will help you later on in your adult life.

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Shorter and sweeter today! May you have a glorious week of fun and play.

Until next Tuesday, with love,

Mariel

The Animal Dance

“Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator.”       – Michael Jackson

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Hello, all! Alas, a Tuesday post did not make it out this week, but here is a post on a Thursday, instead. Keeping on the theme of a different kind of dance from last week’s post, today’s post is a taste of some adorable and beautiful animals who move to their natural rhythms. There are some weird and wonderful videos of animals out there on the Internet, but I tried to include ones that showcased the animals in a respectful way.

First up is the adorable pygmy goat whose leaps and bounces alongside his adoptive owner epitomize the joy of a little kid (see what I did there?).

You’ve probably seen this next video about the dog waiting for his owner at a doggy daycare. When I searched for the original video online, there were several versions, complete with different soundtracks. The salsa one is by far the best. This little guy clearly demonstrates how the body expresses emotion, and also how dancing affects everyone around you. (Watch the black dog near the end!)

We’re pretty familiar with the play and movement patterns of gorillas, but some gorillas have been caught twirling so gracefully that humans compare the movement to ballet. This gorilla embodies the grace of the dance in her hands and head as she spins.

With all this talk of animal dance, here and out on the Internet, it makes me wonder whether animals really do dance as we understand it, or if we’re projecting our notions of dance onto animal movement. Maybe animals are just moving in ways foreign to us that aren’t so much dancing as just moving from place to place. Yet, I do feel many animal and even insect species use movement more than just for practicality. Or, like many courtship dances of different species, perhaps animals also use dance for practical reasons. 

Regardless of how we define dance for ourselves and other living creatures, I think there’s enough evidence out there that living things use movement not only to get around, but also to express emotion and to play. I remember seeing elephants in India rock forward and back and flap their ears when they were happy. You don’t have to look too hard to find a happy animal, and to know for sure that it is indeed happy.

A thought swirling around my head now is how this dance is programmed into our bodies. Are we, are animals, born with the dance already playing in our DNA? The poetic-dance-philosopher-me would like to think yes, yes, yes. Perhaps I’m biased to see beauty in the movement of a tree or a ripple on a pond, but I think dance is woven through all creation, always itching to jump out and make an appearance. 

Short and sweet thoughts today to keep you going over this long weekend. A very happy birthday to Canada and a happy weekend to all!

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With love and more love,

Mariel

A Different Kind of Dance

“The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and it has the additional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.” – Charles Baudelaire 

[Can dance also be poetry with spine, head, torso, face, or hair? 😉 ]

Hello, wonderfuls! A shorter post today, but one chock full of dance that explodes the boundaries of what we know as dance today. Some dancers make political statements with their bodies and movement, while others test the actual physical boundaries of the dance space. Here are four videos to check out:

This first video is from Muslim hip-hop artist Amirah Sackett, founder of the all-female Muslim dance group, We’re Muslim Don’t Panic. The group counters stereotypes in America about Muslims through exploring the American hip-hop style, popping, while wearing Muslim head coverings. The result is powerful and beautiful dance.

Ty DeFoe, a member of the Indigenous community, uses the traditional hoop dance to celebrate the transgender, or two-spirit, body. He explains how the hoop dance represents the interconnectedness of all people, regardless of sexuality, race, culture, or geography.

Donovan Shirt, a Cree teen from Edmonton, dances the traditional grass dance basically anywhere in the city. Pushing the boundaries of the dance space, Shirt echoes the tradition of the grass dance that young Cree warriors and scouts would perform to bless an area before setting up camp.

Finally, Georgina Alpen and the Vancouver-based aerial dance group, Aeriosa, explore dance in places you would never expect, using gravity as a different kind of dance partner. 

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And that’s it! As always, be on the look-out for wonderful dances here, there, and everywhere, and don’t forget that you can do some yourself (even if they don’t make it on film).

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With love and peace,

Mariel

Your Heart is a Dancer

“Love shall forever shine on our way, and the light will guide our steps whether we go slow or fast. The light of love shall forever be with us on our way. Love shall forever be the anchor of our life. We shall be in love, and love shall be in us. We shall live in love, shall grow in love and shall find fulfillment in love eternal.”            

– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Love and God

Hello, sweet people. I sure hope this finds you well! Here we are already in the middle of June, with summer blooming all around us.

I am still thinking about little things, about little discoveries and dances that bring us joy. I’ve been thinking about dance in particular, how we can dance in the tiniest of ways and still feel big and full in ourselves. And then I’ve been thinking about the very nature of dance, what it does for us and why we even dance at all.

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Ninja Mountain Dancer

Dancing is so connected to our hearts, to how we identify as individuals, because it is a very open, vulnerable experience. There’s no way around it. It seems to be the nature of dance to connect to our emotions and our sense of self. I’m sure that’s why lots of us have trouble dancing sometimes, myself included, because we don’t want to be that vulnerable or look stupid or be embarrassed by what we accidentally express. 

As Martha Graham boldly suggests, “[t]he body never lies.” It is shocking, perhaps, to proclaim something about the body in such a definitive way. But the body mirrors back to us what we need to see, what we perhaps have ignored, or what we have suppressed. Ask anyone who has taken a dance intensive where they’re dancing 8 hours a day for two weeks or more what their experience with emotions is like. I remember taking an intensive that felt flat and boring the entire first week, and not being able to figure out why I wasn’t enjoying it. Then one day, I broke open, suddenly hit with the unresolved grief from my grandmother’s death months prior that I hadn’t had time to process. The second week of that intensive was lovely and inspiring. But I needed to break open first, and it took a lot of moving and exploring my body to get there.

That’s why dance is so awesome, in every sense of the word. Dance can teach us exactly how we feel about something. Dance can share exactly what we’re feeling with others. Dance is so, so big. So big that even in my tiny stretches and finger reaches and torso twists in my bed when I first wake up, I can feel life spiraling through me. I am connecting to myself and opening myself up to my world through my dance. 

But perhaps because dance is so big and can do so much, it is scary for us sometimes. Like love, or joy, perhaps dance seems like something we can’t achieve or attempt because it is too vast to fully comprehend. I completely understand this. Sometimes, we are feeling something so intensely in our lives that dancing feels like we are opening ourselves up too much, too soon.

But if dance is so big, I would hope that even in our most vulnerable state, we are able to benefit from it. If dance is so big, it must be bigger than our worries, our fears, our struggles. If dance seems like an overwhelming buffet of emotions and movement, just try a little bit. Sample the dance, if you will. Dance is so big that even a tiny taste of it soothes our soul. Use dance in the ways you need it: to celebrate, to mourn, to discover, to be silly, to destress, to find joy, to just move. 

I see life as a dance both metaphorically and literally. So, I’m not just talking about choreographing our lives, improvising our next steps, or keeping an open, curious perspective as we move through our lives. I’m also talking about the actual, literal, physical movements we take in our lives, and how these can become a dance. Walking can be a dance. Writing can be a dance. Acting, rock climbing, washing dishes, biking – these are all places for movement discovery. There is movement even in stillness, even in the tiniest spaces in our bodies. We are not marching through our days so much as dancing them, exploring them, delighting in their newness.

We have dance flowing through our hearts all the time, because we feel dance so deeply, whether we realize it or not. When I need a lift and dance to a groovy tune, I feel so good. Genuinely, simply good. I almost imagine the dance, the movement, flowing like water or air through my heart and making it feel happy. Maybe this is just for me, as a dancer, but I think we all get a lift from hearing great music and from moving our bodies.

In this week, when we are weary with upset and heartache and suffering, we are again searching for light. We are searching for love, in even the tiniest places. Dance brings us love, again and again, because it teaches us to love ourself. We love our body for what it gives us, for what it can do. We love our body for what we can create, for what we can share.

“Hard times require furious dancing.” – Alice Walker 

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This furious nature of the dance suggests something of its extreme power. Yet, I would suggest that any dance, be it gentle, soft, or smooth, can be just as ferocious in its power to spread love and beauty.

Your heart is a dancer, so let your heart dance. Let your body move in whatever way it feels to this week. And let your emotions dance through your heart as if you’re riding a wave. 

The dance goes on. It has gone on forever and always will. We keep dancing, we keep loving. It’s a beautiful thing.

A somewhat more reflective post for today. I wish you heaps and bundles of joy and happy things this week!

With love,

Mariel

Little Dances, Little Wonders

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour”

– William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

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Canmore, AB

Welcome back to Tuesday, everyone! Seems like it’s been forever and a day since I connected here. Last week I was on vacation, and forgot to mention that in my previous post. Instead of taking a whole post to say, “I’m on vacation, so see you next week,” I climbed up a mountain and then relaxed in a hot tub.

Today’s post is an amalgam of sorts, of all sorts of little and wonderful things. The more I am living life and figuring stuff out, I’m drawn more and more to the idea that life is made infinitely better by the little wonders we discover here, there, and everywhere. On any kind of day, be it good, bad, boring, or thrilling, I am uplifted by seeing the small, beautiful things in this world, by enjoying a small material item, or by doing something simple that I love. Enjoying the stitches of time, these little moments, adds colour and ornament to our lives. Some days, those little things are the only things that keep us going. Other days, they’re just the cherry on top of an already wonderful day. 

I absolutely love the above passage from Blake’s poem, “Auguries of Innocence,” as he so clearly depicts the smallest and most awesome (as in huge and awe-inspiring) aspects of life. In addition to its beautiful imagery, the words speak to the power of the little moment, the little object, the little piece of nature, and how the magnitude of the universe can be captured in even the smallest of places. Our lives are stitched together with all the experiences and moments and smells and sights and doubts and wonders and questions and discoveries we have, along with our bigger milestones.

I don’t focus on the little things as a way of living, but rather am enjoying how enriching these little pleasures are to my life. I’m talking little things, from my rosewater spritzer (a must-have for the summer and anyone who gets hot easily); to a spur-of-the-moment dance in my bedroom on a summer night (where have you been all my life, Elton John?!); to a deliciously elegant turn of phrase in a book I’m reading; to impromptu family chats in the evening; to lying on the grass in the summer and gazing up at the blue, blue sky. Many of my little wonders come from nature or being with lovely people, but even a material object has its special place, especially if it smells good.

Here are some little dances and little wonders for your week, covering a few categories.

A material wonder

O, why dost thou smell so delicious? 

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Rosewater of any kind is wonderful for cooling down, adding a fresh, light scent, or calming down a headache. I’m actually not that big on super sweet scents, and though rose can be sickly sweet, I find rosewater relaxing and revivifying. I like the Rose Petals rosewater from Heritage Store. It only contains water and Rosa Damascena flower oil. Yes, you might be thinking this is a ridiculous luxury, but for someone who heats up easily, this is a godsend to cool me down with a spritz on my face, back of the neck, legs, or even on the top of my head (I’ve heard that rosewater is good for headaches, though I find the effect pretty mild). It retails for about $16.50 CAD in health food stores or places like well.ca. I seem to remember it being way cheaper even a year ago… but that’s how things go. A bottle this size lasts for a while.

A nature wonder

There are too many amazing things in nature for me to list here, but one summer luxury I’ve been enjoying lately is watering the plants. I know, weird. For some, watering is more akin to a chore than a daily delight. But for me, I become quietly, beautifully calm and in awe of the growing happening around me. The smell of the water on the dirt, like rain, is a distinctly summer smell, and intoxicating. I love being around the bees as they work, brushing past the tamarack trees as I water the roses, being covered in the sticky sweet sap of the petunias I dead-head, and having the smoky earthy smell of marigolds linger on my fingers long after I wash my hands. There’s something satisfying and stilling about having to stay in one place until the plants get enough water; you can’t go anywhere but here. Make all the metaphors you like about it – I just love plants!

A baby wonder (and a dance wonder, too)

This is straight from the mouth of dance lover and live-er, Holly Johnston, of Ledges and Bones. I’ve been fortunate to take several workshops with Holly, who is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, teacher, and researcher. Holly’s approach to dance as a way of life (or life as a way of dance) is extremely refreshing, stimulating, and poetic. Often, after we’ve done an exercise once already, she will give us a little tidbit, some new piece of information to think about or embody on our next try with the work.

Holly suggests using baby patterning, or the power of the wondering (not just wandering) gaze. We explore how we can use the searching and seeking babies use with their eyes and bodies to further our investment in our dance. It’s amazing what this does to your emotional and physical body. Instead of going through the motions, trying to remember the patterns and do them better each time, you constantly discover what these movements even mean in your body, how you are experiencing the movement this time, and what you see in your space as you dance. I find that instead of a top-down approach, where my head is expecting or planning what my body is about to do, I get a rush of new sensations as I genuinely discover – and wonder – what is over in that corner I turn to, what it feels like to press my face near the floor, or what my bones experience as I move. It’s lovely! What a way to travel through dance, and through life. I encourage you to try this open, non-judgemental, and super curious gaze the next time you do an activity, even if it’s a simple walk. You naturally wake up to the wonders of the world around you. See it again for the first time!

A word wonder

I don’t have a particular quote to give you here, but I love giving you quotes in these posts, because there are so many great ways to describe the world out there. Sometimes, the best thing in your day is a quote that completely gets you, that so utterly speaks to something you haven’t ever heard anyone express before. Quotes can cheer you up or push you on, comfort you, and inspire you. 

This one isn’t exactly a quote, but it expresses my love for words and books. And eerily accurate comics. (This one is from Sarah Andersen.)

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Speaking of books…

A literary wonder (or two)

Because books are magical little worlds all on their own, here are two I’ve read in the last little while and recommend.

Magic Strings FPThe Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom

A chunky little book that is indeed magical. Music is the narrator of the story, as you follow a fictional rockstar through his humble beginnings with classical guitar in Spain, to his dramatic and music-filled life as he meets all sorts of famous (and real) musicians and producers. I know I’ve already recommended this in a past post, but I’m putting it here again because the storytelling about music and life is so beautiful. Plus, there’s a soundtrack available on iTunes to follow Frankie Presto’s music in the novel.

Love, Loss, What we AteLove, Loss, and What We Ate, by Padma Lakshmi

I don’t often read biographies or memoirs, and I didn’t even know much about Padma Lakshmi before I read this, but I really enjoyed this memoir. Perhaps best known as the host of Top Chef and a model of international acclaim, Lakshmi takes us through her often painful and touching life with brilliant storytelling. Throughout the story of her life in India, America, and beyond, she weaves in recipes and descriptions of meals as skillfully as a master chef. 

The wonder of yourself

I’m going to try my very best not to be cheesy or mood-making here, but it’s important, so I’m forging ahead, anyway. Sometimes, the best little discoveries I have in a day are in doing what I love to do. Obviously, I’m a dancer, so movement in the trees, in the way people walk, in my own dance, and all other sorts of movement thrills me to no end. So sometimes, I feel most excited by the little sensations I have while dancing for fun, even if it’s short or slow dancing before bed. The little discoveries of my own body keep me interested in my own living, in the curiosity of life and the wonder of this world. 

Look for the wonder in your own curiosities and passions. What hidden gem will you discover as you walk, paint, rock climb, fold laundry, read, cook, or look out your window?

This clip of “Good Intent” by Nadav Zelner is deliciously groovy and fun, with a catchy tune and lots of quirky and pedestrian movements that play along with the rhythm.

Et, voilà! Those are the wonders I have for you today. Many you discover more yourself.

Keep on! Discover! Wonder! The world awaits you.

With love,

Mariel

 

Walk, Hike, Grow

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” – Thoreau

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This photo needs no caption.

Happy Tuesday, all! Hope you’re enjoying your week after a lovely (super rainy) long weekend. Today’s post is lighter on the writing and heavier on the reading and viewing. It’s all about plants and walking among them. After a trip to the garden centre today, I’m reminded of the great restorative nature of plants. Being in greenery and sweet-smelling flowers brings me such joy. At the very least, my brain probably likes all the extra oxygen.

The world seems so alive when you’re surrounded by vegetation.

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I’ve come across some wonderful articles over the last few months about the benefits of movement on the brain and emotions, particularly about walking and growing. I really encourage you to read Ferris Jabr’s “Why Walking Helps Us Think,” from The New Yorker. In it, Jabr outlines numerous connections between walking, thinking, and creativity. There are some pretty wonderful insights here, such as the significance of the constant rhythmic communication we experience between our body and mental state.

“Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily when we’re jogging at the gym, steering a car, biking, or during any other kind of locomotion. When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.” (par. 5.)

As a lover of nature walks, I also found it interesting how walks in both natural and human-made environments can bring benefits to the walker, depending on the amount of stimulation or free space our minds need at the time.

The act of walking not only brings us benefits during the actual physical activity, but also prepares and enlivens our mind to create and write after our walk. Walking and writing mimic and support each other, as they both work as mapmakers to help us organize and landscape our physical and mental spaces. As Henry David Thoreau suggests,

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” 

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To finish, here is Alanna Ketler’s article about the benefits of hiking: “Doctors Explain How Hiking Actually Changes Our Brains.” I wasn’t totally shocked by the effects described here, because I love hiking and always feel better after I hike (as do most, if not all, of the people I know who hike). However, there are some studies cited here that confirm that hiking in green spaces have a host of benefits for people of all ages.

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And with that, today’s post is complete! This week, I wish you a happy walk in the woods, the city, or your own backyard. Enjoy your walk. Enjoy your world!

With love,

Mariel

Dancerly Thoughts

“If theater is ritual, then dance is too… It’s as if the threads connecting us to the rest of the world were washed clean of preconceptions and fears. When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.” – Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello

My dearest dancing humans! 

Today was a busy day, and as I am writing this from an already-frazzled-by-computer-work state, I’m leaving my longer post for tomorrow. (Gasp! A break from tradition!) In the meantime, please enjoy this really awesome and super important article on how we tend to define, and therefore limit, our notions of dance. It’s an interview with postmodern dance pioneer, Anna Halprin, and is wonderfully refreshing about dance and success in dance.

Wishing you love and peace.

See you tomorrow.

Mariel

Love as Life

“The world is my family.” – Maha Upanishad 6.71

 

Hello, all! And a dear, sweet Tuesday to you. This week’s post is coming to you from a scratchy throat and a snotty nose, thanks to the microbes vacationing in my body. I’m not terribly surprised I’m sick after last week’s busy schedule, but it’s a bummer, nonetheless.

Last week was a wonderful week of Garuda teacher training, leading dance creation workshops for kids, celebrating a birthday (not mine) and family time, and Mother’s Day. Through teaching kids dance improv and choreography, I felt like I finally found something I really love. Leading those workshops was one of the first times I’ve felt really on the right track, like I had maybe stumbled onto something I’m meant to do more of.

Last week was really fulfilling, and inspiring. I had teachers tell me they learned things about how their kids behave in a movement workshop vs. in the classroom, and that they had lots to think about, as far as using movement in the classroom. I had kids with a variety of rather difficult and energetic behaviours end up surpassing my plans for what I wanted to teach them. I was inspired to see my former fine arts elementary school still going strong, full of bright, creative minds and bodies. I loved doing more training in teaching Garuda, and being around women who are passionate about opening up people’s potential for movement. 

Life is funny, and opposites exist together, always. Last week was wonderful, but it was also terrible. I hope that even if you do not live in Alberta, or in Canada, you are aware of the situation in Fort McMurray, and the people who fled their beloved city after wildfires spread throughout the town. An entire city of 88,000 people was evacuated. It’s hard to comprehend. Harder still to fathom is how that many people fled raging fire without injury, and with minimal loss of life (N.B. For the first few days after the evacuation order, there were no reports on deaths in the fire. We later learned two teenagers were killed in a car accident while fleeing the city. You can read more about Emily Ryan and Aaron Hodgson here. At this point, I’m not sure if there have been others injured, but these are the facts I have at the moment.) 

I struggle with today’s topic, because I feel this event and its people must be honoured. At the same time, so many others have already written beautiful articles and have given the facts and updates about the situation. I want to honour, but I also don’t want to belabour. By no means am I trying to ignore the sadness and the severity of the situation. Rather, I hope to focus on the light today. And every day. It’s what I have to do for my own sanity, and what I think so many people do to survive and to thrive in their lives. 

It seems silly, but this cold has reminded me, again, of what needs attention in my life. And, undoubtedly, the devastation in Fort McMurray, whose effects have already rippled through Alberta and Canada, has made us pause and see what is truly important. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post:

When we’re at our scariest moments in life, during a crisis or emergency, everything else in our life falls away to reveal what matters most. And that’s usually our relationships we have with people with love. And that’s about it. 

My heart has been so full all week, from my own inspirations and sweet moments with kids, to seeing how wholeheartedly Albertans have opened their homes and given their time to make the evacuees’ situation as comfortable as possible. There is love, here. There is love all around us, thriving in the smoke of danger and fear.

 

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness.” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

The more I live, the more I realize and really experience that love is all there is. Replace anything – fear, anxiety, anger, sadness – with love, and you will be amazed at the instant positivity it creates. Now, it might take practice, this love thing. You might not yet be convinced that love can change the world. If you’re sad or fearful or anxious, love might seem too generic, and too much like a band-aid solution. But, I’m speaking from the heart on this one, and I know love fixes all. It may start with loving ourselves before we can fully understand the love of others. Or, it might be the love of others that teaches us our worth. Love for your community, for your earth, will extend into your work, and will influence your actions towards others and towards yourself.

What if living was not living, but loving? A thought for today.

I don’t have much more to say. This past week, I’ve been simultaneously operating in two worlds. I’ve been surrounded by news about wildfire and local heroes, while also being cocooned in the love of my family and community while doing the things I love. Both worlds function symbiotically, I think. Love passes from one into the other, until all that is left is love. 

This post likely hasn’t left you with an “a-ha” moment; we’ve all heard this before. Rather, I hope I’ve left you thinking, “yes. Yes.”

Today, and this week, love in your own way. Don’t worry: You won’t turn into an annoying Care Bear or Barney the Dinosaur if you truly and authentically love. Love is a natural feeling for us. Follow the natural desire to love, even in the tiniest way. Even if you love yourself a little more this week, you will have made tremendous strides. Remember your softness this week.

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With love, as always, and a few sniffles (remember, I have a cold…).

Mariel xo