kiss your life! – divinely timed graffiti

Last weekend I got to see a dear friend Monica for a lazy sunday afternoon – evening.

The whole evening was delicious, including the food she prepared, soul satisfying conversation and even some family videos.  I got a treat at the end of the night when Monica showed me a new flamenco choreography she is working on… and i got to see her original

my friend Monica Cortes dancing...in a beautiful portrait by Julieta Noé

my friend Monica Cortes dancing…in a beautiful portrait by Julieta Noé

movements, set to original music and fancy feet work.  I am quite a flamenco novice, but I am certainly enjoying learning more from Monica.  There is lots of passion, changes in energy, lots of emotive rythmic moments and you just kind of feel this history behind it… it holds its own tradition in the movement.  I got to be a good spectator and comment after the performance… and the one thing I observed that I shared at the end was… I wanted more pauses!  More stillness.  More moments to just let us be present with her in her experience.  That not every moment has to be full,  or filled up.  That in the pauses is when I remembered.  And I felt closer to her in the stillnesses, as I watched her dance unfold.

My comment sparked something inside me that I realized I also needed to hear.  This concept of pausing… and how it really has even deeper meanings for our lives.

I headed home pretty late after our lovely evening… caught up in thought and reflextion.  Sitting on the Metro Bus,  I glanced to my right out the window of the metro bus, with the light just right …I got a little Mexico City divine graffiti confirmation

just as I turned I caught a flash of Graffiti scrawled on a cement bodega.  It read:

LA PAUSA DIVINA DE UN BESO

(the divine pause of a kiss)

What a great confirmation!  I was so excited when I saw it!  And it is so true.  When we KISS, we don’t think about anything else.  There is something just so verbal and momentaneous about it.  You don’t KISS someone and think about how you need to do the laundry.  You KISS!  and you are there in that moment.  THE PRESENT.

SO, I WAS JUST SO EXCITED about the graffiti, of course I sent Monica a text right away… and then I not only drew the memory of it… but I just had to share it with you all in cyberspace.  🙂

a photo of my journal sketch... with awesome filters of course

a photo of my journal sketch… with awesome filters of course

To kiss your life.  Kiss moments that you want to remember.  Kiss them into pauses.  and let the pauses be luxurious and languishing.  We connect here with the sweetness of life.   We register it and remember it.  When a pause naturally comes in life, whether its 10 mintues waiting somewhere, a weekend off, or even a bigger pause like a job change or life moment or indescicion… let us embrace those pauses and kiss them too. This is where we also connect with the Divine.  In the silences… this is where we can listen.

In those pauses we awaken our desires and our heart.  Not in the busy-ness and the hustle – bustle.  In the stillness, in the patient waiting. Those who dare to be naked in the silence, in the stillness, in the pauses are those who can dance for no one, and still feel satisfied.  

Kissing this divine moment here with you.  

love,

Ashley

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needed time

So much talk of violence and gun control, and I think, what about the love?

Ive taken in a lot of world and US news in the recent months, weeks, and days.  On wednesday I  felt such a heaviness and sadness, almost a paralysis of it all.

Cooking last night I put on a blues album and found the answer in Eric Bibb’s beautiful interpretation of “Needed Time.” So I challenge myself. And I challenge you. Not out of any cause, but the cause of love. If you believe in Light more than Darkness. Love more than hate. Resolution more than conflict. Can you find it in your heart not to “be right” but to BE LOVE.

Now is the needed time.

now is the needed time for love. for compassion. for outreach. for service. for forgiveness. for understanding. for love, for love, for love.

the challenge is to today, this afternoon, this evening.  Make a list of three people who are in need. I could be financially but most likely behind that is a  spiritual or emotional need. Be the “needed time” for them.

not later. not tomorrow. now.

our world aches each day. and with senseless acts of violence, abuse, and greed. These conditions exist out of fear and can only be cured through the light of love.

one less day for sadness, for loneliness, for violence, for someone.

lets move as one body of compassion. one voice of love.

what ever your job, whatever your position, whatever your creed –

now is the needed time.

You in your unique role, with your unique perspective, talents, experience and wisdom, are in the PERFECT role to help someone.  If you don’t know who to reach out to, just ask that they be sent your way.  Pray or meditate, or just start making a list.  This person will be revealed to you, if you are willing.  IF YOU ARE WILLING, they will come in some form or another.  And you might not even notice it at first.  A new student in your class, a facebook message youve been meaning to get back to.  Open yourself up to the possibility that you could make a difference for someone.  A forgotten neighbor, a friend, a stranger, a cousin on the fringe of society, a service man or woman you see every day.

Sometimes I think we think a challenge like this is just too much to ask.  We don’t have the time, or the money.  But love is free, and easy to give. This doesn’t mean putting on more burden.  Commiting to something you don’t want to do.  NO.  Its realizing you, in your natural state, in your job, in your community, have easily the power to help someone.  It will be of VALUE, LOVE, KINDNESS, SUPPORT, and JOY naturally.

YOU

Lastly, if you dear friend are that person who really needs some love.  If you are the one that is in need.  I want you to do three things right now.

1.  reach out in any way and ASK FOR HELP.  I, and many of your friends are just a phone call away.

2. start to forgive yourself for how you are feeling.

3. find 5 ways to give yourself some love.  it could be the silliest things, but something that really lights you up.  Find a frisbee partner in the park, take a hot bath, eat something that is so healthy you can feel it deep in your cells, write a list of all the ways you are inspiring, take a walk just because you love your feet, take yourself out on the town, write yourself a love note and post it on your mirror!

CLICK TO PLAY "NEEDED TIME"

CLICK TO PLAY “NEEDED TIME”

http://youtu.be/oWRDM_qMbjk

Right now is the needed time, is the needed time, now is the neeeeedeed time
Wooo Riiight now is the needed time, right now in the needed time
I’m down on my bended knees, I’m on my knees, praaayin’ want you come back, come back here?
Yes I’m down on my bended knees, prayiiin want you come back, come back here
Singing Right now is the needed time, right now
Wooo Right now is the neeeded time, now is the neeeeded time
Even if you don’t stay long, oh my Jesus, If you don’t stay long, I’m prayiiin, Come back here
Ohhhhhh Jesus, If you don’t stay long, I’m prayiiin want you come back, come back here
Singing Right now is the needed time, I know you feel the needed time right now
Oooooh Riiight now is the needed time, Right now is the neeeeeded time,
Ooooooh, Oooooh, Bless us!
 
 

LOVING YOU ALWAYS,

ASHLEY

Heart Songs – on “being a boomer”

my voice

my voice

sing

sing

sing my soul.

I want to share. I want to express.

choke. swallow. stop. how? with who? where? in what language!? gulp! gosh darn!

So. I have been loving a new special time in my life: Thursday afternoons I take a voice lesson.

Its been amazing to feel my voice move inside me, feel it soar or crack, push it up or down, coo softly, or wail with delight. To feel the many sides of singing, the many tones and colors of my voice.

My dad, well he is a boomer.

And I am not talking about a baby boomer. I always say I can pick him out of a crowd just by his voice. If we ever arrived late to church with mom, all we would have to do is wait for the hymn sing, and I could find dad in seconds. His voice is definitive, operatic, confident, strong, goosebump worthy, and… well, LOUD.

One thing my voice teacher has been working with me on is singing softer. I always tend to go to the loud parts, to go to the fullest feeling of the singing. I think it is because I want to FEEL myself singing – feel like Im really doing it! Maybe singing loudly comes from a need to feel the limits, to know its there… my voice. To feel that I exist, that I can shout, that I can shake a room or vibrate in my body.

my first voice lesson

my first voice lesson

So in my Thursday afternoon lessons, among many other things that I am learning, I am being taught to sing softly. And isn’t it nice. Yes it is.

Its a new feeling. ….I do have to be reminded again and again. “Softer Ashley.”

So here on this blog, my heart whispers. I listen, I speak, I write …not too loudly.

Sometimes i feel it isn’t enough. I feel limited. “I should be writing in spanish,” I think. But up until now, it is flowing in english. So I might as well not force too much, and just let it out how it comes.

Flow. Sing. Coo. Oh, I am so happy for my dad and his booming ways. He is the best boomer I know! And how my heart longs to boom onto my tongue and be able to fill a room with eager listeners, to make a difference, to shout from the rooftops.

but then I realize something.

something big…

maybe I can’t be a boomer to do what my heart is calling for.

maybe its more the gentle whispers that will touch hearts,

that will land in the ears of the sleeping dreamer

that will pull out the desires of radiant ladies

that will bring the mind back to the body

that will guide

that will open

that will support

that will enfuse

that will wait

that will nourish

Softly Ashley.  Softly.

So friends…What is something this weekend, that you can do softly? Do share, I would love to hear your songs.

Much love,

Ashley

p.s. Thank you Jen for all your loving teachings!

Meditation & Movement – Shaking the Etch-a-Sketch

I recently was asked to contribute an article for a Magazine here in Guadalajara, Mexico called “Dancers Voice”

I’m really happy about this opportunity and although the magazine is in spanish,

I thought I would share the translated version of the article with you here.

spread 1

Quieting the Mind, DANCING FROM THE HEART

–       exploring the power of moving meditation for dancers  by guest writer Ashley Meeder for DANCERS VOICE, GUADALAJARA

photo 3

What is MEDIATATION?

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years.  Many religions and cultures throughout time have cultivated meditation techniques, the Buddhist Traditions of Meditation date back to over 2,500 years ago.

Meditation is a practice that cultivates consciousness. The idea behind meditation is to observe the mind, to allow your thoughts to settle. The benefits of meditation are many – working with the mind and our thoughts can be very powerful.  They often affect our emotional health, relationships, productivity, focus, wellbeing etc.

I often say that for me, meditating is like getting rid of the monkeys in my brain. Sometimes the mind feels like a fast moving train, everything is a blur. One benefit of meditation is not exactly that our thoughts go away, but that we are able to see the SPACES between the train cars, the SPACES between our thoughts.  Meditation helps us to CHOOSE our thoughts, or even allow NEW ideas to enter the mind. When we create space and stillness in the mind, we can cultivate enhanced creativity, spiritual growth, true presence, emotional healing, understanding, focus, deep relaxation, peace and clarity.

Begin by…

 

The easiest way to begin, is to sit in a quiet place and close your eyes.  Try doing this right when you get up in the morning before the world starts zooming around you. Just focus on your breath for 5 minutes, perhaps pausing between each inhale and each exhale.  Observe your mind, your breath and your body.  Allow yourself to be present.  As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us how to become truly present, he says breath, and “allow your mind to come home to your body.”

If you are a dancer, you probably practice some kind of meditation without even realizing it.  When you focus inward, concentrate on your breathing, or become present in your body before entering onstage, these are ways to enter into a meditative state.

So what is a moving meditation and WHAT does it have to do with DANCE?

I have developed moving meditations in my work for a number of reasons.  Many choreographers and teachers use them as a tool to bring the body and the mind into a connected state.

Research has found that the ideal state for learning is when the brain is in a relaxed, but aware state.  When we meditate, we transition our brain into an Alpha- wave state, where our brain is relaxed, calm, focused, receptive and aware. This is the most ideal state a student can have in their learning process.  Dancers cultivate how to remain in this relaxed, connected, deeply conscious state, while still moving and maintaining an active body.  Allowing for some of the most beautiful, creative and productive learning comes forth from the body.

Images, colors, ideas, music and guided processes can be used in movement meditations.  They often start in a lying down or standing position with the eyes closed.  A guided meditation in stillness can begin the process, and then slowly change to incorporate movement and dance explorations into the process.

One of the most interesting techniques of where I see this process being used is in the Isreali Dance Technique GAGA, where dancers are guided through sometimes hours of images to get the body and mind into a present and creative state.  What is unique about GAGA is that the students are asked to keep their eyes open, and try to still deeply connect from within.  This technique is useful because it is what we as dancers are asked of onstage: to become deeply connected, feel our bodies, to translate internal ideas into an outward performance.

Through cultivating work with Movement Meditations we can simultaneously process information in a relaxed state, actively respond, and make subtle shifts and changes while maintaining a deep connection to oneself.

CHALLENGES

This work doesn’t always come easily. I know when I am teaching beginners when I start to lead a meditation and, as I change the theme or ask the dancers to move, open their eyes or change their movement, some students will stop completely what they are doing and look up and stare at me, disconnecting from their experience.  I sometimes laugh and say “Keep going!” “Don’t stop!”  “Try to process the information I am giving you while you continue to move.”  Many students haven’t yet explored this unique Alpha-state in motion.  As the dancer develops this ability she, develops an invaluable tool, becoming more agile, present, responsive, receptive, quickly able to shift and react, more connected.

Letting go of Judgement: the BODYMIND.

Another benefit of Moving Mediations is that they can help us to let go of judgement.  Many times movement activities and exercises in classes are built around the students “wanting to please the teacher” or “doing what is correct” or “looking for an example, shape or movement to copy or follow.”   Through movement meditations we encounter the bodymind, where we transcend the fear of judgement or the need of approval from a teacher, and begin to dance from within.

The idea of the bodymind comes from techniques based in Somatic principles, recognizing the body of the student as the primary source of knowledge and growth.  Somatic education and movement techniques focus on creating greater consciousness and awareness in the body.  It puts the power in the body AND the mind of the student to make their own discoveries. It is what Dr. Sondra Fraleigh, founder of the Eastwest Somatics Institute calls, SHIN.  SHIN is a ZEN word meaning: center, core, heart, body, mind, sprit, and tree trunk, bringing attention to that which is already one. Dr Fraleigh teaches that the body and the mind can truly work in harmony. Its our own culture that puts a separation between the two.  The miracle of dance as an art form is that it reminds us the bodymind endlessly united.  This is what I call grace.

When we give attention and connect to the bodymind, to the shin, we no longer need to worry about what is correct or what our teacher wants.  We move from within.  We are creativity in motion.  We invent.  We discover.  We play.  We dance from the heart.

 

THE HEART OF THE MATTER: 

“But if I just ‘dance from within’, won’t I lose my technique? I wont do well in auditions!”

As dancers we have many ideas and training styles in our bodies. From a performance perspective you can think of it like having a canvas that is already full of paint.  As a choreographer when I see dancers that already have their canvas “full of paint”, well, it is hard to create something new on top of it.

Meditation and Movement Meditations, help to clear the canvas, clear the mind and also the body to be in a present, neutral state.  From there we often have more options and more possibilities in our body.  Neutral doesn´t mean that you forget everything you know and have ever learned.  Dr. George Russell, movement coach and chiropractor for dancers and actors in New York City explains it as a ¨cultivated neutrality¨ in which the we bring ourselves into the present moment and let go of any postural patterns or tensions.  Dr. Russell describes it as “shaking the etch-a-sketch…” Our potential for all expression is there, but we return to neutrality to remember.  Then move from there.

In any audition, class or performance, I think most of us can agree that it’s the people that are truly connected, who dance from within, that we don’t want to take our eyes off of.  Movement mediations allow us to reorganize ourselves, our bodies, let go of old patterns, discover new ones, let go of judgement, trust the bodymind, deeply connect, playfully discover, be in the moment and dance from the heart.