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Mar

24

Actualizing Your Yoga and “Marching” Forward

By Francoise Netter

Isn’t it interesting to look at words and the meanings we ascribe to them? With the Spring Equinox officially behind us, what is “springing” or ”marching” forward in your life? What would you like to be forward moving in your life? It is interesting that our Western Christian New Year starts in the middle of winter. It’s like, we get all revved up for the new to manifest just in time to go back into hibernation.

Summer and fall were always my favorite seasons growing up and into adulthood. Then when I moved to Colorado, twelve years ago, winter and spring became my favorites. Winter for the quiet, stark beauty of snow covered peaks and spring for the exquisite transformation of growth, blossoms and color. Now as the temperatures have unseasonably soared, I sit perched like a Robin Red Breast for spring. Why?

Certainly the fragrances and delicate purple petals and beauty of Lilac Bushes are one big reason, but this year especially, I feel hungry for movement forward in my life. I am craving a new environment to work, live and play in. One that includes sea breezes, long stretches of white sandy beaches I can walk or bike along and the smell of the salty sea water. Most significantly I crave the freedom and endless quality of the sea. When I first moved to Colorado, I needed mountains and red rocks and a sturdy pristine beauty that the Rockies exemplified. But things have changed. A part of me wishes that I could just stay in one place all of my life and not have these soul callings. More than ever it seems we must trust the urgings of our souls and have faith that at the appropriate time we will be able to create and take the necessary steps for their realization.

The ability to take right action and at other times hone patience is such a delicate balance. When I was growing up, the model for success and productivity was the male model of forcing or making things happen. Today it feels like the recipe for change and success is a delicate balance between intention, action and the act of allowing. The approach of forcing or making things happen more and more seems contrived and like an uphill battle. So the question becomes how do we create what we desire and still keep our focus on the present in a positive life-affirming way while making room for the new. So often the only way I knew how to enact change was to be so miserable with my present that the only way up was out. Drama often accompanied big changes. Sound familiar?

As spring expands into fullness with flowers and budding trees, I invite you to join me on the journey of planting new seeds, nurturing their growth with patience, intention and forward moving thoughts and actions. Let me know what is marching forward in your life and what you have discovered in this process.

Blessings on the Path,
Françoise

Feb

25

Actualizing Your Yoga – The Evolution of Humanity

By Francoise Netter

I recently volunteered at the Boulder International Film Festival and one of the documentaries I saw, Modern Progress, while not as professionally crafted as I might have liked, did bring up some interesting points. They cited that although in the past 200 years we have progressed technologically more rapidly than at any time in history, we have not evolved biologically or in any other way humanly in 5,000 years. It implied that our evolution as humans has no congruity with our materialistic greed and technological advancement and it alluded that this same issue had been the cause of the fall of many civilizations prior to the advancement of our current one.

For decades we have been seduced and deluded by our beliefs that outer progress, fame and riches would somehow render us free and triumphant over the forces we fear and the conditions over which we have no control. What an interesting web of lies we’ve spun. Can all our technological advancement heal the common cold, a broken heart, the loss of a loved one, the conflict between neighbors or any personal fear? We have spent thousands of years practicing looking to outer events for our sustenance and reality. But how has that evolved us or really brought us what we, as a species, have always yearned for?

Yoga, which evolved 5,000 plus years ago and many other ancient philosophies poignantly speak to the evolution of humanity. For thousands of years, Yogis and other Mystics guarded the secrets of human evolution. But today “these secrets” are being revealed to the masses. The Yogis were not that different than modern man. They also sought what we all ultimately seek: joy, contentment, connectedness, knowledge and peace. They knew that the control and mastery that was needed began from within. The Mount Everest summits and rocket ship explorations started with mastering their own minds and bodies. They sought human evolution not outer technological progress and they revealed states of awareness that we are being summoned to explore and embrace today.

One of the classes I teach, Yoga for the Academic Environment, touches upon the relevancy of the use of ancient wisdom in today’s educational environment. True Yoga bridges the gap between the mind and body, the breath and life and offers us a practical wisdom for this time where we must also bridge the schism between our inner evolution and our outer progress. Our minds and bodies are busier and more preoccupied than ever. We are plugged in to some form of technology 24/7—some people even sleep plugged in. We must begin the process of not only slowing down, but also turning our attention to what we can control: our responses, thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions. We have placed such importance to reacting to what happens to us and around us while keeping up with the pace of life, that we have forgotten the simplest of practices of being self-responsible and looking within for our answers.

Children are incredibly open to these teachings of Yoga. Can you imagine the progress of this planet if we were taught at a young age how to control our thoughts, breath, heart rate, and digestion? What if we learned how to understand our negative emotional states and transform them? What if we understood that we all are intricately connected and part of a living, breathing universe that is made up of the same essential energy? What if we learned how to focus, concentrate and control the ceaseless chatter of the mind? What would our world look like if we learned how to be kind, gentle, generous, and loving with ourselves and others? If we combined these practices with the ABCs, just imagine how we might begin to evolve humanly.

Progress would no longer be measured by political power or financial success or by the speed of technical toys. Simple isn’t it? Begin today. Do something different. Spend ten minutes a day looking behind your eyes. Breathe, watch your thoughts, sit in gratitude, pet your cat, hug your dog, take a walk and just watch—no iPod, no words, and no distractions. Everyday add a new practice to simplify, observe and get acquainted with the reservoir of quiet, wisdom and joy that lies within you.

In loving practice,
Françoise

Oct

30

Movement For The Mind®

By Francoise Netter

For those of you who have been following my blogs, articles and column, you know that I refer back to allegories and stories of my Yoga Master whom I went to study with in India in 1978. He knew me as a dancer and dance therapist and would murmur “dancer” whenever he would see me even though he did not speak English.

Dance and art were my first experiences of “Actualizing my Yoga”. It was in these moments of creative involvement that I experienced my first encounters with true meditation and Yoga—that experience of oneness, focus and bliss. Although my practice of Yoga evolved on its own, it was always inextricably linked to my life and to my work with dance, which came to be known as Movement For The Mind and the name of my book.

In these blogs, I will be sharing excerpts from the book. It is my hope that they will inspire you and open you to new levels of thinking, feeling, moving and actualizing. Please feel free to contact me for a copy of the book, which will be available in a downloadable form on my website: www.bodyminddynamics.org shortly.

The Power Of Dance

Physically, dance is the creative translation of what we do in this body: move. Dance speaks to every aspect of our being.  It challenges us physically and at the same time satisfies the human need for self-expression, communication, and meaning. It demands that the mind be clear, focused, and attentive. Each movement must be birthed from emotional integrity, so that when people dance, they may experience the oneness that mystics speak of reaching in the highest spiritual state. Yogis refer to the creation of the universe as the Dance of Shiva. French author, Anais Nin, coined the phrase “life is a dance,” and countless poets and philosophers have made similar analogies between dancing and living.

However, in Western culture dance has been less accessible to the general public than perhaps any other art form (not withstanding the current craze of the TV Reality show, “Dancing with the Stars”). When I was a child, everyone was encouraged to draw and learn to play a musical instrument whether they showed specific artistic talent or not. Although I was offered ballet classes as a child, my brother never took dance lessons. After I stopped taking ballet, I don’t remember taking any other class in school that encouraged creative self-expression through the medium of the body.

The purpose of all art is to communicate. Dance communicates through the language of movement. The dancer needs only the body as a vehicle for creative expression. All content comes from the inside and is brought into form through the body. Dancing, singing, and acting are the only art forms that can stand alone without any other embellishments or supportive props. But even the singer and actor need words. Silently, the dancer uses what connects us all to this earth, the body.

In ancient and primitive cultures, symbols and rituals were significant components of everyday life. These cultures, which revered and lived closely with the earth and nature’s cycles, utilized movement intentionally as a metaphor for living. They did not rely solely on words to communicate, but understood the power of the symbolic and the power of living in the body. Dance, through its use of gestures, incorporates the symbolic in the acting out of movement. It also allows man to embrace the sacred within his own body.

In the early twentieth century the pioneers of modern dance—including Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and Doris Humphreys—used dance to express once again the passions, pains, and spiritual elements of life.  Their dances told stories that contained the emotional and soulful aspects of human experience.

Modern dance pioneers’ vision of dance as a universal expression of life is not limited to the relationship between audience and dancer. Without an audience, the process of expressive communication can be an internal experience.

The Movement For The Mind® technique I created integrates the symbolic value of dance with the healing legacy of dance therapy, and includes Modern Dance’s vision of authentic expression. It brings back the power of dance to the individual and provides a vehicle for creative self-expression, integration, healing, and for better understanding ourselves and connecting to others.

If you feel that you don’t have rhythm or if you would like to experience your body’s innate rhythm and energy, take a moment to do this exercise. (Read the instructions a couple of times and then just repeat them to yourself mentally.)

Stand up. Close your eyes and take four complete breaths and then continue breathing normally. Remember to keep breathing through your nostrils. Now begin to listen to the rhythm of your breath and see how your body responds energetically. You may begin swaying or rocking. Let movements occur spontaneously. Go with any impulse. If your body does not move, continue listening to the breath for a few more moments. Do not strain or try to make anything happen. The point is to let go and become more sensitive to the subtle rhythms inwardly.

If you felt your body moving at all, you may have also become aware of your heartbeat and the rhythm of that pulsation. Listening to these simple rhythms helps us to connect to ourselves and to the moment. It also allows us to move and respond more spontaneously and with less restriction and judgment. The rhythm of the breath in this way is used to quiet and focus the mind and to awaken us to the subtle energies within us. In Movement For The Mind®, we can use this awakening for various purposes. The process alone of pausing to breathe deeply and then observing the breath will relieve the imminent effects of stress, but we can take this alleviation further.

 

Namaste,
Françoise

© 2010, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.

Oct

10

Beauty in Stillness

By Francoise Netter

As many of you know I have taught and trained others in Yoga and Movement For The Mind for over thirty years. I currently teach various graduate seminars for educators integrating body/mind wellness, creativity and inspiration in the classroom. I recently received a paper from one of my educator students and thought I would share the following excerpt with you.

Enjoy,
Françoise

Beauty in Stillness

By Vanessa

Sleep comes at a struggle for me.  It is not so much falling asleep but awakening in the middle of the night and relaxing enough to fall asleep again.  I try many techniques to reduce this nuisance, such as yoga, meditation even Benadryl.  They have all helped me a lot and I am better able to cope with these midnight wakings.  With the years of struggle I have had with sleep, it should not be a surprise to me that my daughter has trouble falling asleep at night.

My daughter is five years old.  She leads an active happy life full of play, learning and love.  At bedtime, I know that she is tired, even exhausted from her day.  We bathe in the evening, and read story.  It still takes her at least thirty minutes and, on most days, one hour to fall asleep!  I cannot believe it!

After taking the “Yoga for Educators” class with Françoise and working on my own meditation and relaxation techniques learned in class, I decided to start sharing some of these techniques with my daughter.  Over the summer, I worked with her on breathing deeply, relaxing her muscles one at a time and visualizing beautiful scenes.  Every night we tried something, rotating these relaxing activities before kissing her goodnight.  I was hoping that slowly one of these would catch on and she would be able to fall asleep more easily.  For a month, we worked on this.  She still would come out of her room 2 or 3 times asking for something else and still not able to fall asleep.  On some nights she even would stay awake, in bed, singing, or talking to herself for two hours!  WHY?!

I approached the question with her.  Really there is no explainable answer at this time.  I cannot put my finger on it.  So, I tried lying with her to relax her.  What a wiggle worm!  I would fall asleep before her but except that she moves so much that she disturbs me.  Ah ha! Maybe she needs to practice stillness.

So, again we worked on the relaxation techniques, as we had before, but this time we added stillness to it.  Each night I help her visualize just before kissing her good night and make sure that she is comfortable. I remind her to practice stillness and to find a beauty in her mind.  This conscious stillness is difficult and has taken some time.  A month later, it works!  Now, she still gets up on most nights but her wake time in bed is now from 15 to 30 minutes instead of from 30 to 60 minutes. Wow! What a relief.

Stillness is hard to come by in our busy lives.  In the waking hours of my daughter’s day, I probably don’t model any time to stay still myself.  Why would she know what it is like. Plus, this little one is definitely precocious.  It must be harder for someone that is constantly exploring and on the move.  If she can find stillness at five years old, it will be a skill that will help her throughout her life.  I hope our practice will influence her to take time to herself and absorb the day.  I have found beauty in the stillness of my life, when I present myself the gift.  I hope I can give her a sense that she too deserves it daily.

Aug

30

Contemplations of Late Summer and Early Fall

By Francoise Netter

I recently got to spend a few days visiting a friend who had rented a condo for a month in Frisco, Colorado. Even though I live in Boulder, Colorado, I often forget the majesty of these Rocky Mountains. As I walked along the lake, biked along the rushing, effulgent waters of creek beds and hiked amidst forests of quaking aspens and pine trees, I was literally transported into a calm and flow that I had not felt in Ages and was reminded about why I moved here.

In Yoga, we often end our sessions with the Sanskrit chant, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti”. Shanti in English means Peace. For all too many reasons, I had become consumed with the worries and bustle of my daily life and lost sight of this essential element. Like the “mores” I spoke about in my last article which keep us in a constant state of grasping and striving without satisfaction, I had let the struggles of my life overshadow my knowledge of Shanti.

We in America, tend to spend so much money on vacations and if we’re lucky, create a few days or weeks of respite, but then we go back to our daily “grinds” and seem to lose touch with that vacation state of mind. Yoga teaches us to integrate Shanti into our daily consciousness. Peace, flow, ease and contentment, all of the feelings I experienced in Frisco are what the Yogis embody. For me, nature and beauty remind me of the goal of Yoga and to nurture that state as I become more adept at integrating that peaceful consciousness into my daily life amidst the challenges that arise as well as the vacation moments.

 

As summer comes to an end and we move into fall, with the changing of the leaves and the cooling temperatures, let us integrate Shanti and a “vacation mind” into our work and daily lives. Envision a moment that has brought you peace this summer and begin each day with that memory and then commit to integrate Shanti into every day. With practice and commitment, your life may begin to look and feel more like the vacation you’ve always dreamed about.

Om Shanti,
Françoise

 

May

30

Reflections on Sex And The City 2 as Actualizing Your Yoga

By Francoise Netter

After a much-anticipated wait, I finally saw Sex And The City 2 last night. I am a Sex And The City aficionado and follower. Although I did not start watching until after the show ended on HBO and was on my local channel as reruns, I saw every episode at least 5 times and loved the first movie. OK, for those of you following my blog and column, Actualizing Your Yoga, you may wonder what this article has to do with Yoga or spirituality. Let me explain.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story line of Sex And The City, it is about the lives of 4 thirty-fifty something women living in NYC and the very real and sometimes not so real dramas that these women go through. It started as a story line of 4 modern single women and then follows and documents how their lives transform over a 12-year period of time to the present.

In Sex And The City 2, we encounter these women at the peak of their lives. All of them, to a large part, are living their dream lives. Carrie is married to Mr. Big, the love of her life, is a successful author and is living in a dream apartment in NYC with all the amenities anyone could hope for. Charlotte has the husband and two children she has pined for all of her life. Miranda is a successful attorney and has a great home life and Samantha is as successful, beautiful, sexy and happily single as ever.

Although, Sex And The City 2, in my opinion, unlike its predecessors, was filled with unnecessary subterfuge and fillers, it nonetheless, addresses an ageless theme that we humans have been dealing with forever: the subject of “more”. The Yogis base much of this conundrum on their science and philosophy. Although all 4 ladies seemingly have everything they ever wanted, they are either unhappy, bored, frustrated or plainly defiant. Most of us still live under the assumption that if we are able to fulfill our deepest desires, we will be happy. Even New Age proselytizers coach us on how to manifest our desires and create our reality through focusing our thoughts and minds.

Yet, the Yogis remind us that our minds are constantly changing like monkeys jumping from limb to limb searching for the next best banana. Just like monkeys, no matter what we receive, achieve or accumulate we (our minds) always want “more”.  It does not seem to matter whether we are materialistic or spiritually focused; without attentiveness towards this tendency, we all can fall victim to the” more “ syndrome, thereby circumventing satisfaction and ultimate contentment.

The Yogis tell us chasing things external to ourselves will never fully satisfy us and that our human nature will always want “more”. So what are we to do besides to want nothing?

Interestingly, if not subtly, the girls in Sex And The City 2 personally begin to address this very issue. They speak truthfully, adjust their attitudes and embrace an attitude of gratitude. If we are aware of this tendency that we can never be fully satisfied with outer conditions, we can still create goals and take action while remembering to mind our tendency to want “more” and like anything unruly and repetitive in our lives, reign it in and readjust our attitudes.

So, as you embrace your next steps in life and goals to create your dreams and desires, remember to stay connected to the journey rather then the end result. There will always be “more” so as the Yogis say, enjoy the now.

In peaceful pursuit,
Françoise

Feb

15

New Intentions For 2010

By Francoise Netter

The following article was originally published in my column, “Actualizing Your Yoga” in 2010. I hope you enjoy it. – FEN

New Intentions For 2010

by Françoise Netter

Hello and Happy New Year! Have you incorporated the meanings of Dharma and Namaste in your life? Have you been practicing the Complete Breath? Have you been able to let go and stay contented even while faced with life’s challenges? For those of you new to this column, I invite you to email me for back-issues of the column or the magazine itself.

2010!! What a perfect time to set new intentions and dig deeper into your Yoga practice physically, mentally and spiritually. What I love most about Yoga is that it embraces every aspect of life. We, in West, often define Yoga simply as a physical activity, like Pilates, but I hope that as you read this column you are seeing the greater significance of Yoga and the many facets with which it can expand your understanding and improve the quality of your life.

In the last column, I explored the meaning of Dharma. For those of you who were unable to secure a copy of Circles of Seven Magazine, I’m going to incorporate portions of the last column and expand upon it.

Every so often I am able to watch the Oprah Show while working out. Yesterday, she dedicated her one-hour show to the story of a little girl diagnosed with Child Schizophrenia. At first, I didn’t understand why Oprah would spend an entire hour on this subject but then while she was interviewing this child’s parents on Skype, I “got” it.

It was clear from the story that the child’s parents made huge sacrifices in order to keep this child alive. Sacrifices that most of us would not only balk at but, but simply give up on. Ironically, this little girl’s father almost did just that, trying to end his life, but reversed his actions at the last minute while contemplating the thoughts that he could not abandon his family no matter how challenging his life and the situation was. On some level, these parents realized that no matter how difficult, this was their Dharma.

The term, Dharma, refers to our highest soul’s purpose and to making a difference in the world with right action. Many of us in the Western World think Dharma has to do with an exclusive purpose that may include fame and fortune. But I believe, those fulfilling their highest purpose are often doing the most simple and sometimes difficult tasks. Someone in a janitorial position could be fulfilling his or her Dharma more effectively then a wealthy celebrity who is world famous.

Close your eyes, take three complete breaths and reflect on the circumstances of your life right now. Without using the economy, your age or anything else in the external world as an excuse, imagine what you have always felt was your life’s mission or purpose. Then open your eyes and write both of these down– what your life looks like now and what you’ve always dreamed of doing. Remember that your Dharma may be like a seed hidden in the circumstances of your life right now or you may be oceans away from what is true for you. In either case it is important to not only be aligned with your Dharma, but to be contented with your life whether it appears easy or difficult, fun or tedious.

I remember when I was in India many years ago, my Yoga Master said; “The food you put in your body is very important, but even more important is the food you put in your mind.” Our attitude and thoughts about our circumstances are even more important then the circumstances themselves. Because, just like the father in Oprah’s show demonstrated, once we change our thoughts and perception, everything outwardly aligns itself. His child did not magically recover from Schizophrenia, but he embraced his responsibilities with a different attitude that helped him deal with his life in a renewed way.

As we begin a new year, many of the circumstances in our lives may not change overnight, but if we begin to question and change our attitudes, thoughts and “the food we put in our minds”, we can actualize the outer changes that more closely reflect our dreams and visions of our Dharma. The Yogis were masters largely because they understood that mastery begins with the inner journey.

2009, for me, was a year filled with many seemingly outer hassles and challenges. As I reflected on this year, I realized there were themes, stories and patterns from my past that needed overhauling and re-designing within myself in order to enact the changes I want to create outwardly in 2010.

I remember a talk my Yoga Master gave over 25 years ago in Oakland, California. Each word was artfully descriptive allowing the theme of the talk to remain etched in my mind to this day. Basically, he illuminated the idea that many of us wear unconscious masks that camouflage our true selves. These masks include the limitations we place on ourselves both consciously and unconsciously. As we begin 2010, I invite you to deeply reflect on your inner story—your beliefs, attitudes and thoughts. Journal about this without editing your language and choose one mask of limitation that you will commit to removing this year.

Even though the circumstances of your life may seem distant from what you imagined as your highest purpose, by changing your attitude and dealing with what is in front of you with joy and surrender, those very circumstances may transform into your wildest dreams and true Dharma.

As we invoke the commencement of a New Year, let us begin to incorporate the meanings of Dharma into our thoughts and actions. Wherever you may find yourself in life, let Yoga begin to permeate and soothe the rough edges you encounter and transform them into ease and greatness.

“I welcome you with all my heart.”

Namaste,
Françoise

© 2009, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.

Françoise E. Netter, M. A., President of Body/Mind Dynamics has been a teacher and conference presenter in the field of yoga, stress management, creativity development, dance, and dance therapy, for over thirty years throughout the world. She has taught at major universities, authored a book and a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program and has been featured on television, radio, CD and video and in magazine and newspaper articles including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Françoise is available for private consultations and coaching as well as Keynote presentations and events and has ongoing classes, training programs, workshops and special retreats and travel workshops. Contact her at: www.bodyminddynamics.org, fenetter@yahoo.com or 303.960.6000.