Unexpected Radiance

One reason I love living on this marsh so much is that on a late afternoon like this one, I’ll be sitting sipping my hot tea, watching the steely clouds roll in relentlessly, engulfing us like some deep, cold grief, like depression, when suddenly, inexplicably, light pours in at the end of the peninsula. I can’t see an opening in the clouds, only the radiance. (The iPhone doesn’t do it justice). Taking my breath away.

Reminding me of that unforgettable Howard Thurman quote: “Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace.” Joy and peace to all 

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Falling down: life lessons from the dance studio

Take a risk. Stumble, stagger, trip, fall. Get up. Repeat. And repeat. ❤

Sirena Tales

How to fall.  What an amazing lesson contemporary dance teaches.

Yessirree, as a contemporary dancer, I’ve spent decades learning and rehearsing how to fall well, i.e as safely and organically as possible.  How cool that the dance metaphor translates readily into helping to handle life’s stumbles outside the dance studio.

Photo credit: Jane Shauck Photo credit: Jane Shauck

Here’s what I mean:

1) Breathe.  Of course, and always.  Holding your breath will make you stiff.  And dizzy– that’s a no no.

2) Be strong in your center.  Having a powerful anchor in our center allows us to release the other parts of our bodies for a more fluid landing.  Buffeting?  We can handle it!

3) Let go.  The more we release in our joints, and don’t cling to the illusion of control, the more relaxed and comfortable the fall will be.

4)  Watch and learn from other people who fall–and recover– well.

5) Don’t…

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The Sorceress of Reinvention

Reinvention required again…still. The uncertainty: exciting, thrilling even. And so scary. How are you reinventing?

Sirena Tales


Fearlessness is the mother of reinvention.”~Arianna Huffington

Constantly decomposing and recomposing, the marsh is a boundless re-inventor. Like some wild and magical artist, she splashes vivid colors and pungent scents on the canvas, drenching it in drama.  Cue the howling winds and rolling thunder.  Enter the prehistoric-looking creatures and rising tide.

Only to sweep the canvas clean and start afresh.  With soft hues and delicate birdsong and ducks gently paddling and waddling in a quietude whose hush sounds eternal.

Then, that scene too, is dashed.  With new gorgeousness.  And again, and again.



This sorceress, the marsh, with her bottomless imagination and creativity, has gotten me thinking a lot about reinvention.  About how the only limits we have are those of our imagination and our courage, should we choose to reinvent.

Reinvent how we see; what we do, and yes, who we are.


Like the marsh, we may need…

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When Time Falls Away: Ah, Transcendence!


I had not planned to go to the studio today. Then the morning fell apart in a cascade of cancelled plans after a long drive and a return through multiple construction delays.  Very minor irritations, I know.  Still leaving me with the overwhelming sense of being obstructed-and unproductive-for hours that had been so promising.

I was in my dance clothes, so headed to the studio.  The first part of the session was not pretty, as I tried to shed the frustration over the morning’s numerous roadblocks. I noticed that I kept checking the clock, rarely a good sign, and moving through the warmup distractedly, half-heartedly.

Floor work: check. Pliés: check. Feet and legs: check….

And then inspiration sparked.  I had a sudden idea for starting a new piece, something out of my comfort zone, and intriguing.  I decided to give it a whirl. Presto!  What followed is the main reason I am still so passionate about dancing, and devoted to the practice.

For when I hopped on the ride fueled by inspiration, time did indeed fall away.  Ideas kept firing.  Challenges and joy kept mounting.  My listlessness was transformed into a stream of creative energy.  I was transported. Ah, transcendence!

My experience reminded me why it is so important to show up: to be available for these moments of epiphany.  It’s that state of optimal experience  or “flow” that genius/guru Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has researched exhaustively, and written about in his groundbreaking book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”

As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts, like here and here, his definition of “flow” describes perfectly my experience today.  It’s that ineffable state when we are fully engaged in something deeply challenging and meaningful to us such that time falls away.  Indeed, the next time I checked the clock, forty minutes had flown by in a wave of sweat, exertion and transcendence.

And the magic keeps rippling boundlessly from these experiences, because from them  “…we learn to become more than what we were…once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again.  This is the way the self grows…that allows us to…. make significant contributions to humankind.”~Mihaly Csikszentmhalyi

We need to find what fires us up and then show up for it.  Again and again and again. For ourselves and for the Universe!

Photos courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016, 2017; Sculpture: Gil Boro







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Mind Games: Life Lessons From Dancing

At the end of dance class yesterday with my mentor and dance idol, I asked for some help with a difficult inversion (handstand) we had worked on in class.  This particular movement requires buckets of control, balance, flexibility, and upper body strength.  Oh, and a big dollop of conviction.

Yes, to execute this well, you have to be confident that you can slowly and gradually bend very low on one leg, the other in an arabesque, and push off, almost jumping with one foot, to balance upside down on your hands.  Very challenging!

I showed her how I was performing the movement. While spotting me, she gave me some pointers and then showed me how to practice on my own, working on releasing unneeded tension in my hip while being strong in my core, arms, legs.

I jokingly gestured to my head, noting that that’s where the work really needs to happen–in the mind.  Believing, committing, being courageous.  She didn’t let my offhand comment go, instead replying: “Well, that’s always the case, isn’t it?  That we have to overcome the mental obstacles to do what we seek to achieve?”

Of course!

A truism I know so well and that I even teach my students…and that, at times, I still forget.  What we think we can do is what we are more likely to perform. Or, more fittingly, what we think we cannot do we almost surely will be unable to.  The mental shackles of self-limitation will hobble us.

If we’re aiming to expand, venture onto new frontiers for ourselves, we need to believe we can do so…or do our best to fake it till we make it :).  Believing doesn’t guarantee our success, but doubting ourselves pretty much guarantees failure.

I see it all the time in dance class: the hesitation, the giving up before we’ve even begun to move.  It always result in some sort of coming up short, whether it’s in dancing that is behind the count, or stiff, or poorly executed.  It’s the same for achieving our dreams.

And now, I’ve got some inversions I need to practice. What about you?

If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”~Walt Disney

Photos courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016, 2017

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Got Flexibility?

Flexibility in the sense of “being ready and able to change to adapt to different circumstances.”  Of course, the flexibility of mind and spirit that eases our adaptability appears in tangible form in the body: as suppleness, pliability, pliancy.  The embodied and the intangible versions feed each other.  Here, I want to talk about the latter.

One of the most important life lessons I have learned did indeed come from the dance master I have been studying with.  Yet, it’s a lesson about the flexibility of mind and spirit that has fundamentally shifted my perspective.

Yesterday, I realized yet again how critical to our vitality a pliable approach is.  I am beginning a new performance project and am in the throes of arranging logistics.  There are not a lot of dancers involved, nor numerous dates for rehearsing and performing.

Even with only several dancers and a few dates under consideration, there are already a number of conflicts in people’s busy lives.  I started to throw my hands in the air, feeling the project slipping away in the tide of competing schedules.

But, wait!  Was the course I had set for us the only way to proceed? Of course not.

When I re-focused on how much I want to bring this project to life, I started exploring how else we might work together and came up with an alternate plan that will allow everyone to participate at different times and with different people if we can’t coordinate as originally planned.

Truth be told, I actually prefer the backup arrangement at this point.  It will give us more opportunities to work with the ideas and movement…and with varying dancers.  Exciting!

As I write this, the words I’ve memorized come back to me: “when one way doesn’t work, another will.”  The wisdom of heron spirit animal that is patient, resourceful, tenacious.

My dance mentor/teacher is indeed a master of flexibility.  Her main goal is to facilitate inclusion and the maximum amount of fierce dancing.  She bobs and weaves as needed to  achieve those two laudable aspirations.  Her sublime physical fluidity feeds and reflects her mental/soulful flexibility and vice versa.  A perpetual flow I am aspiring to.

In the meantime, when I encounter rigidity, I just keep asking myself: How can I be flexible here?

Photo credit: Middle-Courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016

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On Soaring


It probably started a week ago when this tiny, handmade bowl caught my eye on an unexpected detour to a shop on an errand.  The minute I saw the dish, I could feel a swelling of  my spirit, inspired by that serendipitous reminder to soar. Yes!

Then I read the wise, helpful column by gifted life coach, Martha Beck, in October’s “O, The Oprah Magazine” (p.48). Beck urges us to make a to-do list using what she calls “eagle view,” i.e. we are to imagine that we are at the peaceful end of our days looking back over our lifetimes and identifying what we want things to look like from that lofty retrospection.

What do we want both our legacy and our experiences to be?  We’re then encouraged to make daily choices based on how they align with our “eagle view.”

The next morning at breakfast, no sooner had my husband mentioned “eagle view” than a majestic bald eagle swooped by our backyard, soared around the marsh and perched high in a tree opposite our house, visible for all to see.  When we looked at the bird through our powerful scope, s/he turned and looked directly at us for a long time.

Ah, synchronicity!

I realize as I write this that my last post about expansiveness started stirring up and resurrecting my focus on soaring.  When we release ourselves from shackles that weigh us down, that inhibit us, we can move more freely, with ease.   We can let our souls “fly,”  transcending unneeded earthly limitations.

If I’ve learned nothing else from dancing, I now know how exhausting and usually impossible it is to do something we don’t believe we can do.  We don’t think we can jump/turn/fall/feel the music/make it bigger?  Then we won’t be able to.

Either our bodies won’t budge or our minds will present insurmountable obstacles to achieving the dancing in the way and the timing intended.  And with a whole lot of extra effort.

Yes, to “fly, glide, rise,” to embody all we envision and hope for our lives, we need to shed every unnecessary weight and chain–including the unnecessary ones fettering our beliefs and souls.

And then we can soar.





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