Meditation for Healing

Someone following my professional Facebook page reached out to me recently asking for any spiritual exercises to help relieve the pain, fear and discomfort associated with having cancer.  Meditation, creative visualization and dance movement are the core modalities of my INsideOUT program.  While I am not struggling with disease, I have experienced the benefit of these mind-body tools to help relieve stress, let go of judgment, and bring healing in profound ways.  I put together this list of exercises and resources to hopefully bring a little more comfort to those dealing with cancer, and for those that want to enliven their self-healing abilities.

Mind-body tools like guided imagery, guided meditation and hypnosis for cancer have been used for decades by oncology patients seeking help for pain, fatigue, anxiety and treatment-related nausea, but it’s only recently that research has demonstrated the full range of what these techniques can do.

Not only do these methods help enormously with the side effects, fears and discomforts surrounding cancer treatment that involves chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplantation, biopsies, medical procedures and surgery, but we’ve learned it can actually boost the body’s natural cancer-fighting abilities, heightening the activity of NK cells, T-cells and other immune mechanisms.

Similarly, yoga, affirmations and mindfulness meditation have also been found effective in helping cancer patients manage stress and support their bodies’ built-in, self-healing abilities.  Relaxation techniques and other mind/body practices can help calm your mind and sharpen your ability to focus. These techniques offer creative ways to reduce stress caused by cancer and to maintain inner peace. For example, some people use these techniques to help them relax as they wait for treatments or test results.

Here are some techniques that can help you cope with the challenges of cancer:

Breathing Exercises

At the core of life is breath. Laughing and sighing are the body’s natural ways of getting us to breathe deeply.

That is why we often feel calmer or rejuvenated after these experiences. Anxiety and stress can make us take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing, which does not allow enough oxygen to enter our bodies, can make us even more anxious. Try this four-step breathing exercise. It can be done anywhere, anytime:

1. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm (this is the muscle between your lungs and abdomen).

2. Hold the breath for several seconds—however long is comfortable for you—and then exhale slowly.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two more times.

4. Afterward, relax for a moment and let yourself feel the experience of being calm.

Meditation

Repetitive prayers are a form of meditation. Two other traditional forms of meditation include one-pointed and two-pointed meditation.

One-pointed meditation focuses on a word or sound called a mantra. Many people create their own mantra from an affirming word, such as “peace,” “love” or “hope.” Once you choose a mantra, find a safe, quiet place and repeat it to yourself during 15- to 20-minute sittings. The goal is to relax the mind, which has a natural tendency to jump from one idea to the next—and from one worry to the next. Do not try to force your mind back to your mantra when you notice it has wandered. Simply guide it back gently, accepting that it may stray again.

Two-pointed meditation is also called mindful or insight meditation. With this technique, you relax your mind by focusing on your breath. As your mind jumps around, practice non-judgmental awareness—simply observe the pattern of your thoughts and gently guide them back to focus on your breath. Non-judgmental awareness allows you to separate yourself from emotions and sensations rather than getting pulled into them. One benefit of this type of meditation is that you can practice it while seated quietly or when doing daily activities.

Guided Imagery

This stress-reducing technique combines deep breathing and meditation. As you practice deep breathing, imagine a peaceful scene or setting, perhaps from a memory. Once you are relaxed, you can create a “wakeful dream” in which, for example, you envision pain being washed away or your body becoming stronger.

Many people practice guided imagery exercises while listening to recordings of ambient sounds. These are usually music or sounds from nature, such as waterfalls or ocean waves. Sometimes just listening to ambient sounds is enough to relax your mind and briefly transport you emotionally to a place in which you feel safer and more secure. Other mind/body practices are yoga, dance movement and tai chi.

For my free guided meditation, go here.

For free guided imagery audio downloads, including an introduction to guided imagery from the Comprehensive Cancer Center, click here

Other resources:

*Free recorded guided visualizations that you can download, go to the Sound Mind, Sound Body link. Enter User Name:  SandraJ    Password: Healing

Recording titles that are relevant: “Break Time”, “Cancer Be Gone”, “Oasis of Comfort”

*Return to Wholeness,  a Mind Body approach to healing cancer, DVD by Deepak Chopra.

*Cancer, Discovering your Healing Powers audio download by Louise Hay

*Deep Meditation for Healing audio download by Anita Moorjani

I hope these exercises bring a little more peace and comfort to you.

Love,

Tara xo

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

Join My 30 Days of Meditation

Hi everyone! I am so excited to bring you a special project I have been working on over the last month; #30daysofmeditation. Join me on this journey for the next 30 days as I hope to inspire a personal practice that helps to bring more calm, clarity and peace to your life. Meditation has been life changing for me and I am very happy to share it with you. We’ll be meditating every day for 30 days straight, starting Wednesday, November 1st. I’d love to hear who will be joining in and any comments, questions and insight you are gaining along the way. I’ll be sharing intentions, video meditations and direction every day on my Instagram account, so make sure you follow me there. 

Scheduling 20 minutes or more for your sacred time each day is best, and here are some tips to establishing a daily practice. 

I'm excited to meditate with you!

 

 

Museums, Runways, Dive Bars and Dance Studios. My interview with creative force Ryan Heffington.

Choreographer, Artist, and Director Ryan Heffington seamlessly weaves between commercial, art, music and concert worlds with his unique style of choreography. From heartfelt emotional content to campy humor, Ryan's work sews a story that is human and accessible. His unique style can be seen on projects for Aloe Blacc, Sigur Ros, Sia, Muse, Ke$ha, Joe Boxer, American Airlines, Evian, Target and many more.

Though trained in jazz and modern dance, Heffington works with a declared blindness to any formal boundaries, merging music, fashion design and popular culture in his stated mission to expose contemporary dance to as many people as he can.  Ryan, in my opinion, is a true creative dance force in our community.  Undeniably original, unique, fresh, out of the box, humanistic, real, raw and viscerally exciting, I am always inspired by him as an artist.  I’ve worked with Ryan numerous times and I’m so glad that he agreed to sit down with me to talk about his art and the business.  Enjoy!

 

TNH:  When did your love of dance begin?

RH:  Straight out of the womb.  My parents tell me I danced every moment, for relatives, strangers.  It was at age 6 they enrolled me in tap class and that's where my training began.  I would watch Solid Gold and put paper clips on my fingers to emulate Darcel or run around the house as if I were in the opening credits of Fame.  Dance was inside me from the beginning. 

TNH:  Have you always been a creative person and what fuels your creativity?

RH:  Yes, I’ve always created work in one art form or another.  I love to create digital collages - make flyers for my events/dance studio, paint, draw, make costumes, put together interesting looks before heading out of the house.  Creating is part of my human desire that comes naturally and I never question this in it's process.  Not everything I create I love but it formulates a bridge to the final product.  Life in general is my fuel for creativity.  I’m like a funnel where all I see, hear, and experience mixes to create a new form that is often in physical / dance form.  I pull from my personal relationships with lovers, friends, family as well as steal moves from pedestrians I see chatting on their phones on street corners. 

TNH:  What do you find are the hardest challenges as a dancer and choreographer in this business?

RH:  It's interesting being a dancer / choreographer.  I find getting credit can be challenging as a choreographer.  Our 'role' in the realm of the production process, people still find secondary.  I’m still put under or near 'catering' 'misc' 'medic' on call sheets, even when the whole commercial IS dance. So I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure these little gestures are given attention in hopes of becoming recognized as equal to others on projects. 

When I was working as a dancer more, years back, I struggled with simply making a living.  I had a unique look and movement quality and not every audition called for this.  But to keep my focus, I created work (dance pieces / shows) every chance I had.  This fulfilled my artist's soul and kept me focused on the joy I gained from creating.  

TNH:  What are the most rewarding aspects of being in this business?

RH:  I've been fortunate enough to travel the world within this profession. Teaching in Nicaragua, performing at clubs in Paris, choreographing a Bollywood sequence in the Sri Lankan countryside. . . this has been incredible. I've also had many interesting and challenging jobs that have expanded my interpretation of how dance / choreography is defined.  This is what fuels my desire to choreograph and keeps me reinventing my art. 

TNH:  What advice would you give to a young dancer wanting to make it professionally?

RH:  I recently taught an auditioning workshop at LMU where I held a mock audition.  After each group performed I had them stand in a line and tell me what they thought I would say in regards to their audition performance. 100% of them knew exactly what my response would be.  To this I say, be your own teacher.  Look and listen to yourself as an artist, layout what you want and the path you think would be best (and realistic).  There are many mentors / teachers out there willing to have a conversation with you about this.  Reach out, ask questions, inform yourself.  But most of all, love yourself.  Don't let auditioning bruise your psyche. 

Being on the other side of the camera now, I've realized the choreographer has such little control over what decisions are made for casting.  We have the agency, the client, the director, the managers and the artists themselves with very strong opinions to contend with.  If you give everything you have, which may not be enough unfortunately, you should walk away from every audition proud and with a sense knowing you did your best for that particular moment.  We're all human, we fall out of turns, wear the wrong outfit, forget choreography - and this is just being human. We must love ourselves for this too, not being perfect in every situation.

...and at the end of that mock audition class, the last thing I had the dancers standing before me do was to go to the side of the room and tell themselves 2 things they love about themselves.  This is the most important advice I could ever give to any artist, friend, stranger.  Love yourself. 

TNH:  There can be ups and downs, rejection and disregard in the entertainment industry.  What tools have you developed to keep your confidence and belief in yourself?

RH:  I try to keep a good perspective on what it is I do as a living.  I’m a freelance artist, which means I never know what will be next... a gig, 6 months of no work... it's so fickle this line of work.  I don't let the business determine my happiness or worth. 

I acknowledge that being a choreographer is just a fraction of who I am and concentrate on other aspects like being a community builder, a teacher, a friend. Giving back, whether it's contributing to articles like this one or lecturing at colleges, keeps my head in the right place.  Anyone can donate their time and energy that in turn culminates in a better society overall.

TNH:  Thank you, Ryan, for sharing with me.  And thank you to those who have visited this page.  This is part of a series of interviews so please check in again.  Debbie Allen and Rob Marshall will be next.  I am very excited that these fellow artists are sharing their knowledge and insight.  I’ll be posting monthly so please subscribe to the Newsletter below for more!!


And, to get a taste of Ryan’s beautiful work check out his choreography in the new music video “Chandelier” by artist Sia danced by Maddie Ziegler.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

My Golden Mentor

I lost my dance teacher and mentor to ovarian cancer 8 years ago.  I was very aware, as a young girl, of what a positive impact Cathy had on my life.  And now as an adult, experiencing my own inner strength, growth and lens through which I look, I continue to see how Cathy’s ways influenced the deepest parts of me.  

Rooted in a deep spiritual practice of her own, she thoughtfully stepped towards inspiration, worked hard to protect her own happiness, and was able to hold a space of loving and understanding with me in a way that only one who walks that path can.  She was passionate, alive, dignified, graceful, earnest, honest, and a real friend.   

Her goal of building self esteem, while teaching dance to her students, was her core gift, and I received that message in every gesture, every class, every talk, both in the quiet moments just between us, and also during her inspirational talks to the group.  Dance was never about competition, attention or outside gain. It was only about sharing the best of ourselves, bringing joy to others, and enhancing the camaraderie of our community of dancers.  She was a dancer through and through, and the consummate performer who lit up the stage.  It didn’t matter how high her leg, or how many pirouettes, her heart burst with the joy and the love of dance.  

I remember her standing at the front of the classroom during my first jazz class at a mere seven years old, dancing to Michael Jackson’s PYT.  Her bright hair framing her face, the gold ballerina necklace that danced with her, and a knowing smirk that seemed to say “there’s nothing as good as dance.”  She invited me to the dance floor that day and I never looked back.  From a young girl with a rhythm for dance to a grown woman expressing my life through the professional arts, Cathy was with me every step of the way.  My teenage years, my college dance performances, my first Broadway show, my first tour, my first everything! 

I have a million stories, thousands of moments, hundred of cards with inspiring words, dozens and dozens of pictures of my life with Cathy.  I haven’t wept for her in a long time, but tonight I do.  Tears of gratitude for the gift of this amazing woman.  May we all be so lucky to have that beacon of light that reflects all the brightness within each of us.  I know how lucky I am.  Until we meet again . . . 

 

Cathy Gillaspie

Is

Golden

In my memory you stand ready to lead the troops.

You speak of the altruistic vision; and the heart of every dancer beats, sky above and earth below.

Our work, heart to stone, meets the vision.

Like the opening at the end of a labyrinth we feel reborn and alive.

Do you, a person of integrity and grace, feel the love that pours?

Like a song that penetrates and transcends, your impact stays and grows.

As you explore, as you strive, as you pray, as you receive, you share.

I ask for no more.  

Strongly you strive for a supreme life based on connection to source.

A bird . . . you are soaring, settling sometimes at the top of the mountain, but ready for the next adventure.

What a life.

I wish for you all that you give to me.  A flowing river, changing the rocks that it glides over day after day, year after year.  

Golden is always Golden.

                                  Cathy J. Gillaspie 

                                  Cathy J. Gillaspie 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

3 Steps to Manifesting your Dreams

When we throw our dreams into space, we don't know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country...Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams we never even knew we had. In our dreams, possibilities begin and our inner callings are given voice. In the quiet whispers, in the stirrings of the heart, the unconscious flows into connection and action as we weave our most precious life.

My dreams have been coming true lately. Before my journey to London, I felt very stuck and frustrated that I couldn't "manifest" in the way I had in the past. I wondered why it was so darn hard to bring my ideas and dreams to reality. I created a vision board, wrote about what I wanted to experience in my life, meditated. I realize now that those prayers and desires were actually taking root, I just didn't see them. At the time, I didn't trust my own creative power and process. Sometimes it takes patience and letting go of the timeline and the picture of how it's all going to look to truly surrender to the higher plan and highest good. 

I am thankful for the struggle and thankful for the distraction of other "work" to allow me to soften my intense mindset and focus. I was pushing with the energy of frustration and fear, but have learned to cultivate the feeling of surrender just a bit more. From my experience, here are a few steps to help us get out of our own way!

  • FOLLOW YOUR INSPIRATION

Sometimes our dreams become clear to us as we start to listen to that inner voice inside. What are you drawn to? What wild hair keeps standing up? Without judgment, allow yourself to follow your desires and yearnings, like glittering clues along a path leading home. Let your inner wisdom lead the way as it whispers and comes to you in your sleep.

It doesn’t need to make sense. Creativity, intuition and guidance comes in surprising ways and what seems like a silly proposition, can actually lead to greater insight and revelation.  

When we follow our bliss, we are honoring a deeper destiny at work. 

  • CLARITY OF VISION

The clearer we are about what we want, the easier it is to manifest with the co-creative partnership of the universe. Your dream is more likely to come true if you first see it clearly in your mind. 

Write out what it is you’d like to experience and how you’d like to feel. Ask yourself, “how will this intention serve me and how will it serve everyone I come in contact with?” Infuse your writing with positive language and allow the joy and happiness of experiencing what you want permeate your being. Manifesting happens from the feeling!

  • LET GO AND TRUST

What does it mean to truly surrender?  For me, it’s letting go of how things will unfold. I’ve learned that there is a greater path for my highest good that my smaller, ego-directed, fearful self can’t always see. I hold light-filled space for what I want (through meditation/writing/vision boarding), but I surrender to spirit on how it is going to come to me.

The outcome that we try so hard to force may not be as good for us as the one that comes naturally. Remind yourself that you are protected, guided and that your intentions will bloom when the season is right 🌟

How We Connect

I haven’t written in a personal way in a very long time. My time in London on Mary Poppins Returns has been focused, mind/body/soul, on doing an incredible job on this film and savouring every moment of the creative process. It has been truly exhilarating, fulfilling and expansive, and a beautiful journey with the cast and crew. And lucky for us, we still have 3 months to go! I know I will feel proud of this film and I am very grateful for the adventure making it. 

Today I have a day off and while reading on-line, I came upon upon Lisa Niemi’s blog. Lisa is a dancer, writer and the widow of dancer/actor Patrick Swayze. I began reading and was very moved and captivated by her stories. She shares mostly about her struggles and grief since losing her husband, and she does it in such a real, heartbreaking and brutally honest way. Reading about her pain and hope, challenges and victories, reminded me how affirming and inspiring it can be to tell your truthful stories, the good and the bad. It made me think about why I started my own blog 3 years ago; my intention to share my own stories of transformation and to connect to others in a heartfelt and meaningful way. 

I’ve been away from it for awhile but I have decided to go back to my writing. It’s amazing how one story, one moment, one person can inspire and ignite another. Thank you to Lisa Niemi for being that for me. I wanted to share her blog here, and I intend to read her book, Worth Fighting For.            

May we all live authentically and be brave enough to show our vulnerability and share our stories, for it becomes a beacon, a comfort and a light to others who are finding their way in the darkness.

Love to you all, and I welcome any dialogue along the way so feel free to comment and share. 

In gratitude,

Tara xo

Autumn's Gifts

Each of the seasons offers a great deal of wisdom for the spiritual journey. Autumn is a season of transition, reminding us that our lives are constantly in flux. Of course change is always with us, but Fall brings us into greater awareness that we are living in a cycle of dying and rising. As the leaves change color and the trees begin to pull energy inward to prepare for the hibernation of winter, we are called to reflect on where we can surrender our masks and live more authentically.  We are called to consider the things, habits, beliefs and attitudes that we may be ready to let go of for our greater good and higher learning, bringing us into deeper alignment with who we are and what we want.  

Sometimes change and growth is hard! Growing pains are real, but there are things that we can do to help embrace transition and use these opportunities for greater healing and expansion. 

  • Reframing: This is an opportunity

Many times we want to run away from the challenges in our lives. The discomfort can be so great that we say "I hate this. Why is this happening to me?!" In moments of despair, struggle and upset, we can invite a new way of seeing things. A simple question: "What does this experience have to teach me? What deeper learning and healing is in store for me now?" can shift an experience immediately. In opening our perspective, we move from contraction and fear to possibility and expansion. Tell yourself, "There is something here for me, some blessing to receive."  These are new beliefs that if sincerely held, will call in Spirit to aid you.   

  • Letting Go

Letting go is a process of surrendering. We all hold on tightest when our fear, anger, pride and distrust take over. In this space of resistance, it is hard to remember and know that good things can happen at any time. When you find yourself in a situation where you are certain of loss, hurt or a negative outcome, remind yourself that you are loved, and therefore safe. We can have a tendency to believe that the past predicts the future. But the truth is, at any moment you have the capacity to choose differently. Letting go of fixed notions about how things go in your life and trusting the fluidity and power of the now, short circuits and dismantles limiting mental constructs that hold us in unhealthy patterns.   

  • Write a Letter to Yourself

What if you had a little pep talk with yourself? Pretend like you are talking to a good friend and giving all your love, support and acknowledgment. We can easily do this for another, but sometimes we forget to be kind to ourselves. Write a letter to yourself praising all that you are doing well and remind yourself that you will be ok, that these are normal growing pains and you have all the capacity and wisdom within to learn and manifest what you want and deserve. Be a good and loving friend to yourself. 

  • Name and Celebrate the dreams

What do you want? What does it look like? Sometimes we begin to realize we are unhappy but we don't know how to change it. Starting with what we do want is an incredibly inspiring and empowering step. Some of us don't even know what we want. Spend some time writing down what you want in life, from the small detailed things like a good night's sleep or a heartfelt conversation with a friend to the biggest, most expansive dreams like writing a book, learning a new language or living by the ocean. Clarifying what we want helps to bring in the support we need to manifest it. Hold the vision and let the Universe take care of the rest. 

  • Stay open to the guidance 

Listen for the wisdom that the seasons have to offer in your life. Collect a leaf or branch or stone to bring home and put in a sacred space. Let them become a guide for the days to come. What book is suggested to you? What answers come to you when you silence yourself through a mindful walk, or morning meditation? What messages and landmarks ignite your soul and lead you along the path? The Universe is conspiring in your favor and we are constantly given information, feedback and help to point us in the right direction. Begin to listen and see, feel and know. 

May this season offer you a new beginning of your own. May you be open to the surprises this life has waiting for you, and the courage to release the habits and limiting beliefs that hinder you. You are beautiful, divine and capable.

Tara xo

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Unplugging

Does anyone struggle with getting sucked into spending too much time on your computer or the habit of checking social media multiple times a day? I admit, I do. I'll begin with a search for something I am working on, and before I know it I'm a million miles away looking at something unrelated and two hours later, finding myself feeling a bit empty. The time spent on my computer and phone has taken me away from the trees, from the poetry, from the slow and rich rhythm of nature. The wind, the leaves in the wind, my own quiet thoughts.  

Lately, I have been feeling the repercussions of the time spent on technology. Much of my business is run from my laptop, and yes, work is necessary, important and fulfilling, but finding a balance is the key. Patience and presence are two things that I've noticed get thin when I am overstimulated from screen time. As an anecdote, I decided to take a 10 day vacation to Florida to visit family. In the past I've only taken a weekend here or there, for fear of losing work, but something has shifted in me. It’s now more important to me to find a better balance with work and down time, and to foster and nurture my relationships. I've been in the entertainment business long enough to know that the work wheel will keep turning and will most definitely be there when I return. 

The 10 days of unplugging this last month was so nurturing and rewarding for me.  It allowed me time to slow down, connect, listen, empty out, recharge. Walk the beach, talk with my parents, watch my children play, read a book, listen to the waves, sit with my thoughts, sleep deeply. It was wonderful.     

And now that I am back home and into the routine of daily life, I have decided to commit myself to solid chunks of offline time every day. I mean, who can take a 10 day vacation every month?  Not me! It takes effort to carve out that time daily, but I always feel nourished in a deeper way. I actually find that I am more productive and by letting go, more work gets done, creativity flows and I'm much happier! 

Here are three simple things you can do when you feel a need to unplug. You don't have to take a plane to a far off beach to feel more grounded and connected.  

  •   GET IN NATURE

Nature is a grounding force that transforms our energy.  I immediately shift when I am outside.  I like to take my shoes off and let the earth ground me. Gardening is a meditative act (for me), so I begin pruning, watering, digging, potting, feeling my hands in the soil. Find some activity that gets your feet and hands directly on the earth. Sit in the grass, sleep in the fields. Let the high vibration of the land align your own energy field. A daily reprieve from the to-do list adds to quality of life and productivity. 

  • DANCE  

Put on some music you love, close your eyes and dance.  Self-judgment and criticism aside, this is about releasing worry and stress, letting go, feeling good.  Let the beauty and passion of the music lead you as your heart rate increases and your body warms from the inside. You only need 15 minutes and I promise you, you will feel 100 times better than when you started! Dance is medicine for the soul. The best!

  • WRITE 

Whether it's free form writing/stream of consciousness or making a list of all that you are grateful for, the act of writing shifts emotional and physical energy. Research shows that writing about future goals and dreams and reflecting on the good things in your life can make you happier and healthier. It always calms, soothes and slows me down, and brings clarity too.    

May we all unplug at times and trust that all will be well. We have to give our intentions, dreams and creations time to root and blossom in the warm glow of the sun.

Wishing you all love,

Tara

Tips for Creating a Daily Meditation Practice

What happens when we are so busy pushing and doing in life? I’ll speak from experience. I wake with worry and lots of thoughts in my head, usually a conversation with myself continued from the day before. I get distracted and irritated easily. I muscle my way through things, exerting a lot of energy. I race around attempting to complete every item on my to-do list, to no avail. I get caught in thought patterns that go round and round and don’t resolve. 

With all the busyness of life, work, family and domestic responsibilities, it is easy to feel depleted and overwhelmed. My daily meditation practice has become even more important in my life, and helps to anchor me and creates an energy reserve that I don’t get in other ways. 

When I begin my day with meditation I have a completely different experience than the stressful one described above. I feel more calm and in tune with the flow of my life. I have trust that everything is as it’s supposed to be, and I am guided and supported. I sleep better. I am more patient with my children. Time seems to slow down and actually warp in my favor. I get more done. Solutions and creativity flow effortlessly. I feel at peace and excited for my future. I am clear and knowing and trust my instincts.  The list goes on and on from this place of connection and calm, and I have to say it's so much better this way.

The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily.  It’s easy to say you don’t have time, but spending 20 minutes daily opens up a world of possibilities and it’s really about quality of life at this point, isn’t it? Twenty minutes of nourishing time that is worth a million dollars. 

Here are a few tips to help you set up a daily practice.  

  • Set your meditation at the same time every day. If it’s not scheduled, it probably won’t happen. Carving out a specific time each day helps establish a routine. For me, I meditate after I drop my kids off at school. Maybe it happens after your kids are in bed (if you have kids), or when you first wake. It doesn’t take long to center and connect with your breath.  Set aside 20 minutes, or more if you can, in a quiet, uninterrupted space.  

  • Create an inspiring space that feels good to you and is inviting. It could be as simple as pillows propped up on your bed, or an altar in a nook in your house somewhere, or outside in nature under a tree. I use a meditation cushion and an altar with images, crystals and objects that remind me of the light and beauty I have around me. 

  • Begin with a ritual. Doing the same thing every time when you begin your meditation creates a habit and sets an intention for your practice. I always light a candle, burn a few pieces of sage and set an intention.  Sometimes my intention is just to empty out. Sometimes I want clarity and direction on something in my life.  Other times I ask for assistance with something specific. Trust your instincts on this. 

  • Read a passage from an inspiring book to help you connect to the larger lessons and truths of your life. There are universal spiritual truths that have been shared and expressed in many beautiful ways, and sometimes the perfect message can be just for you at the perfect time. Many of my poetry and self-transformative books are read before my meditation practice. The words of wisdom create an opening and help me to see things in new ways.  I bring that with me into my practice. 

  • Do it, even when you don’t feel like it.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Sit in your space and let the heaviness of where you are turn into fresh sacred ground. Let the earth catch any worry or upset, let the heavens flood you with beautiful light. You don’t have to do a thing except deepen your breath and soften your heart.

  • When you meditate, gently close your eyes and focus on your breath. I like to use the Ujjayi breath, an ancient yogic breathing technique that releases feelings of irritation, and helps calm the mind and body. With your eyes closed, gently close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 5 seconds and then gently release through your nose for 5 seconds. If your mind is very active, you can use a mantra, a single word like "love" or "peace" to help you to relax. Focus on your inner third eye or gently gaze at the ground and let the breath take you deeper into yourself. 

Wishing you all luck and fun as you greet yourself through meditation. I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below to let me know how it is going. I will be leading a 30 day meditation challenge beginning August 1st for those who want to join. Follow me on Instagram for intention setting, guided video meditations, inspiration and support!

Love Letters, A Film

I had something I wanted to express, so I made a film.  Very excited to share it here. Immense gratitude to director Ron Hamad for your artistry, friendship and collaboration, to Kyle Hollar for cinematography, editor Curt Sova and my dance partner Scott Hislop.

Why We Dance

Why do we dance?  We dance because we love it, it makes us feel happy, it brings community together and spreads love and tolerance. There are a million and one reasons to dance.  Anyone can benefit from it; you certainly don’t have to be a professional. When I find my way to the dance floor at a gathering, I can feel the desire that others have to join the party. They may feel shy or unsure, but the craving to let go and feel the joy is there. And it’s always worth, letting your guard down, and just letting the music move you.  Here are 10 perfectly good reasons to dance more!

1.  Releases stored emotion and stress

As the body heats up, endorphins kick in and we are able to let go of the tightness and holding.  Many of us work hard to hold it all together.  Parenting, work, finances, daily responsibilities.    Dance is a release.  A letting go.  A way of expressing our feelings that are sometimes hidden, even to us. It is a perfect activity for sickness prevention! Get it out, don’t let it harbor and stay inside.  

2.  Quiets the mind chatter

Dance is a form of meditation, a tool to get us out of the stressed, active mind that jumps from one thought to the next.  The movement brings us to the present moment and the life force energy that is generated brings a sense of calm, bliss and joy. Dance is a wonderful bridge from the overworked mind to the quiet space within.  

3.  Opens up the pathways to increased insight and clarity

As the mind quiets, we get in touch with the incredible wisdom and inner guidance that we all have access to. We may come up with solutions to problems we never thought of before. We may receive bursts of creativity and ideas that flow easily and gracefully. I always keep a journal nearby so that I may write any inspirations that come forward during my dancing.  

4.  Improves strength, flexibility and balance

Muscles are engaged, worked, and strengthened. Footwork challenges balance and helps us stabilize and gain better control of our bodies. Dancing reduces stiffness and eases joint pain, and allows for more mobility and grace on the dance floor, and in life.  

5.  Improves cardiovascular health 

Our heart rate increases and we improve our heart health, breathing and quality of life. Dancing allows us to work at our own fitness level, increasing speed and footwork as strength and stamina improve.  

6.  Promotes better sleep

It’s no a surprise that regular aerobic exercise can promote good sleep. The body has worked, exerted itself, and can fully rest and restore during the night. 

7.  Increases a sense of well-being 

Dance is a form of alchemy that serves to illuminate, transform and bring more levity. It naturally increases serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that helps control mood, and brings a positive mindset. Dance helps us to build up our emotional reserve so that we have more energy to handle the struggles that may arise in life.  

8.  Makes you smarter

Dancing increases cognitive acuity at all ages. It integrates several brain functions at once - kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional - further increasing our neural connectivity. Dance takes us out of our comfort zones and allows us to build new pathways to learning.     

9.  Opens your heart

Dance is heart expanding. Where we feel tightness and holding, dance brings space, joy, happiness and light to those areas, and your whole being. You may feel “blissed out” and expansive after a dance workout.   

10.  Helps you feel courageous, free and empowered

As we tap into our own life energy, we feel our purpose, our own power, our voice. There is much to be expressed and shared through dance.  It is free, without judgment, and pure.  

Dance is a gateway to freedom, a gateway to what we want in life. It dissolves fears, transcends boundaries, and brings us closer to ourselves and each other. Whether in a dance class or in your living room, let dance be a gift. I am very thankful to have dance in my life and to share it with others as a powerful source of healing and comfort. So, get to dancing!

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Magical Doriana Sanchez

   Left:  Doriana and Cher    Right: Doriana on the film Dirty Dancing                                                                                                                                               

   Left:  Doriana and Cher    Right: Doriana on the film Dirty Dancing                                                                                                                                               

Doriana Sanchez is an Emmy and two-time American Choreography Award nominated Choreographer and Director, and a World Choreography Award recipient for Concert Choreography for the "Cher D2K" TourHer love of Dance and Movement has allowed her to create in all areas of stage and media, and her productions have been seen in nearly every large scale arena in the US and abroad.  Ryan Seacrest on E News! has called her “The Dancing Queen”, as Doriana is the force behind the high-energy disco routines on So You Think You Can Dance.

As a long time collaborator with Pop Icon Cher, Doriana has Created, Directed and Choreographed the superstars extravaganza performances, including the "Living Proof" and "Dressed To Kill" World Tours and "Cher at the Colosseum", the three year, 200-plus sold out performances run at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I've had the privilege and honor to work with Doriana on Cher's Believe World Tour and have not only been inspired by her beautiful creations, but also by her magical spirit that infuses love, positivity and joy to the creative process.   

She has made dances for music legends including Shakira, Peter Gabriel and Jane’s Addiction, and is one of the principal dancers in the iconic film Dirty Dancing. Some of her TV credits include The Grammy Awards, The American Music Awards, Dancing With the Stars and The Voice. A true master in our dance community, Doriana brings passion and light to all she touches.  

So happy she agreed to my interview.  Enjoy!

TNH: What do you love about dance?

DS: I Love everything about dance:) It is the most alive you can feel, when you are dancing. It is your true essence and expression of spirit flowing through you, your highest and most pure self. I become happy thinking about it, watching it, and doing it :)

TNH: What first drew you to dance and then to choreography?

DS: I grew up in a dancing family. My Father was a ballroom dancer and OG mambo king:) He had an act with his sister, and they performed all over. So dance was something that was always present in and around our family. My Fathers motto was "Don't let the music go by and not dance to it."

I started very young in musical theatre, and serious training when I was 12. We are from a very small town, and so to see shows and concerts, we had to travel to the bigger cities. My parents were always super supportive, and took us to see Ballet, Jose Greco ( Flamenco), Ringling Brothers Circus, and Ice Capades. Those shows were mind expanding to us. Really bigger than life, so beautiful, and  to see all the beautiful artists, definitely imprinted me with a passion to want to do that... little did I know I would:)

I was around choreography when my Father would do his shows, but it was when I was in LA and working as a dancer, I knew choreography was a natural next step for me. I worked as an associate choreographer to Kenny Ortega for many years, and loved the process, so I started to create my own style, and how movement felt for me. From there it has evolved to Directing and Producing as well.

TNH: What is the biggest challenge you’ve confronted in life and what did it teach you about yourself?

DS: Ahhhh... life always brings you these amazing challenges for your growth, but I did have a very interesting one. 5 years ago , when we were doing Cher's show at Caesars Colosseum in Vegas, I fell on a set piece during the show. It was very weird since I am not someone who falls. I hurt my hip, and was having physical therapy and chiropractic treatments daily. It got so bad that I became paralyzed on my left side. I then had some major seizures. It was discovered that I had a massive brain tumor. I had 19 hours of surgery at UCLA, and many months of rehab.

What it taught me about myself is that I am a very strong person and I am surrounded by love. So many people did so much for me during that time, I am eternally grateful. I truly feel that my healing miracle happened because of my dance, and my desire to walk and dance again was so strong, and everyday I kept doing things to support my healing. Like 1 sided yoga, because I could only move one side. Dancers are very determined, and we understand what our bodies want to do, so even when I couldn't do it, I tried my best.

TNH: What qualities do you most admire in dancers?

DS: That they allow themselves to be free and fully feel and express themselves. They are so fun, and feel emotions so deeply. Many dancers are very disciplined in their art. I find that very admirable that they are always going to class to stay great, and become better all the time. I remember always going from one class to the next, because I wanted to soak up alI the movement I could, and learn as much as I could from all the great teachers at that time.

I love how they can express so many emotions and colors through their movement,  each one different, and perfectly beautiful.

TNH: There can be ups and downs and rejection in the entertainment business.  What tools have you developed to keep your confidence and belief in yourself?

DS: Yes our business can be very interesting:) It certainly can be the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, if you allow it to be. For me, I must keep very centered when working. I have my meditation and prayer practice that I do daily, sometimes many times a day if necessary. It keeps me centered and able to be calm in the swirl of things. I also know who I am, and my years in this business have shown me so many different things and so many different types of creation. I do feel it is most important to be respectful to everyone you work with, and that means every single person involved in the project you are working on. In the sometimes chaos of a situation, your energy is what you can carry into the room.

I do really want to say this to the young dancers coming up.... When choreographers are looking to cast a certain type, and you aren't it, and you are the best person in the room on that day, and you really deserve to get that job, and you totally kicked ass, and you get cut... Don't take it personally... Please...  Because sometimes Choreographers and Directors minds can be changed, so be the one to change their minds. Be your best every audition you go to, and keep going, because eventually you will get seen and hired... and  you never know what other project they have coming up, or can recommend you for. 

TNH: What do you look for when casting dancers?

DS: I love looking at a room full of excited dancers. It makes me so happy! What I do first is a room scan, I look for energy that pops out. You can kind of tell who has the sparkly energy. Who connects with me, those who smile and look me in the eyes. Those are the people I am going to resonate with first. I want to look for people that will fit in and help create a wonderful team. Dance ability is important, but it is almost more important to be a great person:)

TNH: What advice would you give a young performer with big dreams?

DS: If you have big dreams, create them for yourself, go for it. Do what it is you want to create. If you want to be an amazing dancer on TV and tours, find out who is doing those shows, take classes with them if they teach. Learn new styles of dance. For me being a next level dancer is important, learn aerial work, learn how to tumble, keep adding new skills. It makes you very valuable to have those skill sets.

Most important of all, is be yourself. Be who YOU are and don't try to compare or compete with anyone else. You are very important and special, and who you are now, and who you will be in your future life is so incredible! Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Grateful that this is the job and career that you have chosen to do, because it is a blessing to be able to move freely in your body.

TNH: Who/what have been the biggest creative influences in your life?

DS: I do have a few that I super love:) Cirque du Soleil I have seen since they first started, always brilliant. The Masters: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, to see the work now is incredible. Watch West Side Story to see the perfect masterpiece of dance on film. Oprah, Cher, because girl power and reinvention rules:) Tony Duquette and Antonio Gaudi visionary artists and creative genius.

TNH: Thank you, my beautiful friend, for your sparkly heart and soul, and for sharing your gifts. I love you. xo

DS: I love you too!!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

How to Let More Light In

I have come to realize that every day is a new beginning and an opportunity to reassess, realign and move forward in a way that honors our intentions, our hopes and goals for our lives, and also brings love and light to ourselves, and those around us.  

Sometimes the anger, the divide, the disappointment, the struggle, the fear - leads the show.  Impulsively defending my position and working hard to keep it all together.

WORK. PARENTING. FAMILY. FINANCES. CHORES. THE DAY TO DAY. THE FUTURE.

In a moment of struggle today, I stopped and went to my writing. What feelings are beneath the holding and defending?  How can I soften to myself and others, moving the doubt and fear, and making space to let more light in.  

In this place I AM CHOOSING . . . 

  • to add to the goodness that is surrounding me, by expressing my gratitude.
  • to be gentle and kind with myself as I learn and grow and see things in new ways.
  • to slow down and sit in the stillness, allowing the empty space to show me the way of a compassionate and tender heart.
  • to turn to words of poetry and wise scripture to inspire me and remind me of what I already know deep inside from moments past.
  • to forgive myself for being unkind and expressing my hurt.
  • to listen more, yielding a quality of connection and communication that feels so good and creates solutions and magic.
  • to see the opportunity and the gifts of this present moment.

This is the healing. It can be simple. Focus on the good.  Create space for more light and love.  In the quiet, I come back to myself.

How do you move from upset to calm?  From anger to understanding? How are you gentle with yourself through the process?

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

A Conversation with Choreographer/Director John DeLuca

I owe so much of my career to director/choreographer Rob Marshall and his creative partner John DeLuca.  It’s hard to put into words my deep respect and admiration of these two artists and men.  I find it rare to experience talent, instinct and brilliance with the kind hearted, soulful personality that exudes ease, grace and diplomacy in a work setting.

They always say the tone of a set is established from the top, and trickles down to every department and every person working to bring something special to stage or screen.  Rob Marshall and John DeLuca are such class acts, moving forward with every beat in the most respectful, loving, admiring way, and bringing each individual along for the ride.   

It makes working for and with them an absolute pleasure and creates a safe space for actors, singers, dancers, everyone involved, to bring the best of themselves.  How they operate and run a project has been my reference and I have to admit, I don’t really tolerate much less anymore.  It’s not worth it to me to be miserable making art.  I know it’s possible to work hard, be absolutely committed, and make something beautiful and worthwhile, while experiencing true collaboration, joy and fun.  

From the Academy Award winning Chicago, Nine, Memoirs of a Geisha, Pirates of the Caribbean, to the Emmy winning Tony Bennett: An American Classic, John's choreography has graced many mediums.  I’ve been lucky enough to work on many of these projects, and have learned from him and Rob in the most incredible way.  

John took time out of their very busy schedules to talk with me for my interview series.  So thankful he did.  I’ll always cherish my time with Rob and John, and our conversation was a reminder of all that I love about these two.

Enjoy!           

TNH:  How does being a dancer and choreographer inform you as a director?

JD:  Being a dancer and choreographer makes you so aware of the music and the tempo and the mood of scenes.  I had a great drama teacher in college who told me we had to do the scenes without the words and he said, “if you’re really connecting with the feelings and letting it become a part of you, you don’t need the words.”  That was a great exercise and it is true.  I always enjoyed the physical side of acting and singing, or whatever I was training in, and it allowed me into that.  There is a rhythm and a physical dimension; and the architecture and the staging of a scene is the same as a dance.  

TNH:  It’s like the scene has movement and choreography, and flow as well.  

JD:  Absolutely, and then there is also a certain detail and specificity that comes from that developed eye that you get from being a dancer, then a choreographer.  There is something in that detail that can’t be matched.

TNH:  It’s almost like being able to read nuance and seeing all the fine pieces.  I remember during Chicago, shooting All That Jazz, and Rob yelling “cut” and then coming over to fix my hair.  You and Rob see ALL the details that make the whole.

JD:  It’s like painting a picture.  All those dots that do come together.  A good choreographer knows, as a good director knows, that it’s not only about the words or the steps, it’s about telling a story and communicating feelings within your concept.     

TNH:  How is choreographing for stage different than choreographing for film? 

JD:  Choreographing for stage is different than film.  For film or tv, you have to know where the camera is, and choreograph within that framework.  It opens it up to that 360 dimension.  Both are really fun.  The art of creation is similar, but the craft is different.  It’s like acting.  People always ask me how acting for film and stage is different.  And the basics are the same.  Sometimes you have to bring it down a little, classically, for film.  As long as you are feeling those feelings as an actor or dancer, it translates.  

TNH:  I remember Marion Cotillard during our Nine shoot.  Her gestures were so simple and small, but emotionally she was so expansive.  

JD:  She just freaked me out.  She was brilliant.  There is no way she doesn’t tell the truth.  A beauty inside and out.  

TNH:  All those actors on that film, I just fell in love with.

JD:  I know, I know!  And the nicest people too.  Having a good disciplined rehearsal period can’t be beat for getting to know and trust each other.     

TNH:  Do you read reviews of your work and if so, how do you separate the courage to create from the fear of how it’s received?

JD:  I don’t ever, ever read reviews.  I keep myself so far away from that because it can be torture, and it’s really just one person writing down their thoughts and everybody reading it, and it’s so subjective.  I got a review in college.  It was very positive for me, but it did say my singing voice wasn’t as powerful as my operettic leading lady.  You see, I still haven’t forgotten.  I said no, I don’t need that in my head.  I am very sensitive, so I decided to keep out of it.  

TNH: We can be our own worst critic anyways, and if we have people around us that we trust to give productive feedback, then maybe that’s enough for one’s creative process.  I imagine it could be paralyzing.

JD:  And really, no one really understands what you went through getting there.  There are so many different aspects, it’s so complex.  I am so skeptical and hard on myself that I already have enough of that in my own brain, I don’t need that outside feedback from someone I don’t know.  

TNH:  I guess that’s part of it, knowing yourself well enough to know if it will be productive for you and if you can handle it.   

JD:   And then there are people who just dive into the next project, without getting stuck in the success or failure of something.  And I think that’s great, move on.  Since film takes so long and the process takes at least 2 or 3 years, I need to stop and fill up. 

TNH:  And maybe it’s also a shedding experience.  I remember Daniel Day Lewis talking about how much time it takes him to shed the role, shed the experience.  Because you give so much, you need that time to replenish.

TNH:  When you cast dancers, what do you look for?

JD:  It always depends on the piece.  I really look for a personality, a point of view.  I love someone who throws themselves into it 110 percent, and just looses themselves in the movement and the expression of what they are doing.  You know from working with me, I almost strive for the imperfections of everyone’s personality to come out, which is different than a lot of choreographers who want that perfection of every little thing.  That doesn’t excite me.  I would much rather prefer them staying open and having a point of view about something so their unique story comes forward.  As a choreographer and director, you want to be inspired too.  I don’t love sitting in my little office creating a scene or a dance.  I like having a shape and then throwing it on people and seeing what they bring.  That’s going to be better than anything.  That is the collaboration that is gold for me.

TNH:  And when you might meet a young performer with big dreams, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work as a professional dancer, singer, actor?  

JD:  I remember as I was doing my little climb, and people would say to me “You made it!” and I would respond “It’s just a different door.” It could be a non-equity door or The Broadhurst Theatre.  It’s just your attitude toward it.  Even when I was working for no money in Boston, I felt the same way walking on that stage as I did walking out on the Broadway stage.  

TNH:  That’s a huge gift.  Because you can have this bigger vision of dreams, but it’s really accepting where you are, surrendering to the process and just showing up and doing the work.  It’s really true.  You can be on the smallest stage and make the biggest impact.

JD:  You can have these dreams, but it starts right now.  You have to find that love in anything you do.  I know working with you, you are going to give 110 percent, to whatever it is. We can be working on the movie The Terminal with Catherine Zeta Jones and Tom Hanks or at a little barn here by my house.  I know you.  I know dancers and choreographers I respect.  It’s the same thing.  It doesn’t matter where you are, you show up and give.

TNH:  Thank you, John, for your wisdom.  I love how passionate you are and I am so thankful for your sharing.  xoxo

                                               John working with Penelope Cruz during the film Nine

                                               John working with Penelope Cruz during the film Nine

                              John and Renee Zellweger on the film Chicago

                              John and Renee Zellweger on the film Chicago

                                                   Emmy winning Tony Bennett:  An American Classic

                                                   Emmy winning Tony Bennett:  An American Classic

                                                                 John teaching Zhang Ziyi during Memoirs of a Geisha 

                                                                 John teaching Zhang Ziyi during Memoirs of a Geisha 

                                                              Gorgeous dance from Memoirs of a Geisha

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

Why You Should Get Your Dance On!

I’ve been dancing all my life.  Without realizing it, dance during my childhood years was an emotional salve for a lot of painful and uncomfortable experiences.  Shyness in groups, hiding for fear of being seen, self-induced perfectionism.

When I showed up at the dance studio every day after school, all my fear, vulnerability and pain came out through the movement, the music, the passion and drive of my heart. I didn’t have to talk about my struggles, or fix things or figure it out.  I barely understood what I was going through.  But I did have raw emotions and luckily, dance gave me a way to process the natural and real feelings that coursed through my being.  Instead of getting stuck in a place of fear or worry, the movement brought in the light, the joy, the comfort.

My heart beats, the music takes me, the wood floor under my feet.  I sweat, I focus, I move.  I dance, I get lost inside in the most satisfying way.  I am ok.  I am here.  I will be ok.    

We hold emotion, stress, trauma, hurt, anger, fear, worry in our bodies.  Our shoulders and back tense up, our hips ache, we have chronic ailments and pain.  We get sick.     

If you don’t let emotions live, they will never die.

This is why dance is an integral part of my INsideOUT workshops; dance helps us to release emotion, let go of judgment and dissolve doubt.  As we connect to any pain, discomfort or disturbance that is present for us, we use dance to give voice to those feelings, and as we express, we release.  Just as an animal in nature "shakes" off the energy of a fight or flight moment, we humans need a way to let go, to release these strong moments from our bodies.  And as we do, we make room for new information, new ways of seeing things.  When we dance, our mind quiets and we get in touch with that inner voice inside, that inner guidance that has messages, wisdom, clarity and is the map to real peace and happiness.  

Dance is a powerful impulse and you need no training or technique to receive it’s benefits.  

Dance . . .

  • Gets you grounded in your body
  • Releases stored emotion and stress
  • Opens up the pathways to increased insight and clarity
  • Quiets the mind chatter
  • Improves strength and flexibility
  • Warms the body and ups your heart rate
  • Helps you feel courageous, free and empowered
  • Opens your heart

Dance is a gateway to freedom, a gateway to what we want in life.  It dissolves fears, transcends boundaries, and brings us closer to our ourselves and each other.  I am very thankful to have dance in my life and to share it with others as a powerful source of healing and comfort.  

For a simple, guided exercise, and to get a taste of my INsideOUT class, you can sign up below. It's FREE!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

I felt inspired to share this article. While many are enjoying the connection, joy and celebration of the holidays, some are grieving the loss of loved ones or are struggling with sickness and sadness. Hoping this brings a little perspective and help to those who need a little extra comfort.  Written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Founder and Director of Center for Loss and Life Transition.

Holidays are often difficult for anyone who has experienced the death of someone loved.  Rather than being times of family togetherness, sharing and thanksgiving, holidays can bring feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness.

Love Does Not End With Death

Since love does not end with death, holidays may result in a renewed sense of personal grief—a feeling of loss unlike that experienced in the routine of daily living.  Society encourages you to join in the holiday spirit, but all around you the sounds, sights and smells trigger memories of the one you love who has died.

No simple guidelines exist that will take away the hurt you are feeling. We hope, however, the following suggestions will help you better cope with your grief during this joyful, yet painful, time of the year.  As you read through this article, remember that by being tolerant and compassionate with yourself, you will continue to heal.

Talk About Your Grief

During the holiday season, don’t be afraid to express your feelings of grief.  Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better.  Find caring friends and relatives who will listen—without judging you.  They will help make you feel understood.

Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Psychological Limits

Feelings of loss will probably leave you fatigued.  Your low energy level may naturally slow you down.  Respect what your body and mind are telling you.  And lower your own expectations about being at your peak during the holiday season.

Eliminate Unnecessary Stress

You may already feel stressed, so don’t overextend yourself.  Avoid isolating yourself, but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself.  Realize also that merely “keeping busy” won’t distract you from your grief, but may actually increase stress and postpone the need to talk out thoughts and feelings related to your grief.

Be With Supportive, Comforting People

Identify those friends and relatives who understand that the holiday season can increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings.  Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings—both happy and sad.

Talk About the Person Who Has Died

Include the person’s name in your holiday conversation.  If you are able to talk candidly, other people are more likely to recognize your need to remember that special person who was an important part of your life.

Do What Is Right for You During the Holidays

Well-meaning friends and family often try to prescribe what is good for you during the holidays.  Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do.  Discuss your wishes with a caring, trusted friend. Talking about these wishes will help you clarify what it is you want to do during the holidays.  As you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family.

Plan Ahead for Family Gatherings

Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would like to begin. Structure your holiday time.  This will help you anticipate activities, rather than just reacting to whatever happens.  Getting caught off guard can create feelings of panic, fear and anxiety during the time of the year when your feelings of grief are already heightened.  As you make your plans, however, leave room to change them if you feel it is appropriate.

Embrace Your Treasure of Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.  And holidays always make you think about times past.  Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends.  Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness.  If your memories bring laughter, smile.  If your memories bring sadness, then it’s alright to cry.  Memories that were made in love—no one can ever take them away from you.

Renew Your Resources for Living

Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life.  The death of someone loved created opportunities for taking inventory of your life— past, present and future.  The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward and assessing your individual situation.  Make the best use of this time to define the positive things in life that surround you.

Express Your Faith

During the holidays, you may find a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of beliefs.  Associate with people who understand and respect your need to talk about these beliefs.  If your faith is important, you may want to attend a holiday service or special religious ceremony.

As you approach the holidays, remember: grief is both a necessity and a privilege. It comes as a result of giving and receiving love.  Don’t let anyone take your grief away.  Love yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  And allow yourself to be surrounded by loving, caring people.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

Can’t Sit Still to Meditate, Try This!

From Tara's article on Mind Body Green 

Do you have a hard time unplugging from your fast paced life of work, to-do lists, life responsibilities?  Do you have a desire to meditate because you know it will quiet the mind and bring inner peace, but it’s challenging to sit still?

I absolutely relate!  I can easily get caught in trying to do more, be more, accomplish more, and most certainly get distracted with the habitual checking of my phone, emails and texts.  Now, more than ever, we are bombarded with the constant stream of stimulation and the pressure to keep up; all the more reason to find a way to gift ourselves the quiet, however we find it.  That space where we can actually hear the inner callings of our soul.  Where we can receive the guidance that reveals the path to greater fulfillment and happiness.  I believe happiness is cultivated from within.  This thought is the cornerstone of my INsideOUT workshops, using meditation, journaling, visualization and dance to connect to the peace inside.  

Meditation is one of the ways I unplug, but going straight to the meditation pillow from an agitated, stressed-out place can be a challenge.  As a professional dancer and choreographer, I know how getting grounded in the body through movement can be a bridge between the chattering, overworked, stressed mind, to the quiet and still space within that brings calm, peace and a sense of well-being.

If it’s a struggle to slow down to meditate, try using movement to help you. 

1.  Put on something comfortable and create some quiet, uninterrupted time for yourself, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

Sit on a yoga mat or blanket with your legs crossed, closing your eyes or gazing gently at the floor.  With your hands on your knees, slowly rotate your torso in a circle (clockwise), breathing in as you move forward and to the right and exhaling as you move back towards the left.  Continue for one to two minutes and then rotate counter-clockwise for one to two minutes. 

2.  Begin to connect with your breath. 

With a long inhale and exhale through the nose, allow your breath to deepen.  The breath will oxygenate the cells and the movement will release tightness or holding in your hips and back.  You may even hear and feel your spine adjust.  Continue with this slow, gentle circular movement as your eyes are closed and your breath deepens.

3. Extend your chest forward. 

As you get more comfortable in the body and in tune with the rhythm and pace of your circles, you may want to extend your chest forward to your knees even more and rotate to the back more fully, allowing a deeper stretch in your hips.  If thoughts or worries come up, just observe them, let them go, and come back to the breath.

4.  Focus on the movements of your body. 

When you feel ready, bring your torso center above your hips.  With your eyes closed and hands on your knees, Inhale as you push your chest forward, at the same time drawing your shoulders back. On the exhale, contract the spine in the opposite direction keeping your head parallel to the ground.  Repeat this 26 times.

5.  Stop the movement and let the energy vibrate inside.

And now, stop the movement and sit still with this energy vibrating inside.  Allow your body to relax with a straight back and soft front.  All tension melting away with a gentle focus at your inner third eye or gazing at the floor. 

From this place, stillness can be experienced.  Allow yourself time to bask in this blissful energy.  Stay in this space as long as you can.  When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes, gently move your body and come back to the energy of the room.  You may want to write down any impressions and insight that came up for you.   

Doing this movement before meditation always helps to center and ground my energy.  I hope this helps you in your practice and sending good vibes for a peaceful inner experience, subsequently bringing more ease to your outside world.

Photo Credit:  Lesli Matta

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

Dancer, Choreographer, Artist Tracy Phillips

What do you get when you combine style, technique, sensuality and authenticity?  You get dancer, choreographer, artist Tracy Phillips.  I’ve enjoyed dancing with this beauty over the years and always appreciate the ease, freedom and strength that she brings to her unique movement and voice.  A true feminine softness with the power of a million suns, she seduces with truth. 

And that special movement quality and story telling translates to her work as a choreographer.  Fresh, fun, highly stylized, chic, wild yet meticulous, the dance is sexy and strong.  She and her choreographing partner, Dominic Carbone, have created some of those most provocative dances around.  Called “fearless” by the LA Times, their work is respected and honored in the entertainment industry and our community.

In addition to world tours, music videos, choreographing on So You Think You Can Dance and for feature films, Tracy’s passion project is Harlow Gold, a high-energy, rock and roll girlie show in Long Beach and Downtown Los Angeles.  In-your-face and intimate, it features six dancers who take over every inch of the venue to inspire and excite.

So delighted that Tracy joined me for my Choreographer Interview Series.  Enjoy!!

TNH:  What drew you to being a dancer, and eventually a choreographer?

TP:  I started dancing when I was three and I immediately knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Contrarily, choreography was not planned at all. I choreographed a number for a“choreographers carnival” because a Tom Waits song called “Pasties & a G-string” inspired me.  It just so happened, there was a successful choreographer in attendance who wanted to meet me after the show.  She said, “I want to work with you”.  I started assisting her on jobs and that was, essentially, the catalyst for my choreography career.  

TNH:  What does the craft of dance and making dances mean to you?

TP:  Dance and creating dance is my language… it’s my way to express myself.  It’s a feeling, an expression, a passion, a friend, a love and an identity! It’s also a truth… if you asked me to dance the answers to these questions you would get much more raw and honest responses! 

TNH:  Who are some of your creative influences?

TP:  I idolize Bob Fosse… for me, he is a master of directing and choreographing.  Many classic women in films also influence me. I love Cyd Charisse, Marilyn Monroe, Chita Rivera, Ann-Margret, Audrey Hepburn, Ann Reinking… there are so many!

TNH:  Can you talk a bit about your creative process?

TP:  Music is the first inspiration for me.  The music motivates the concept.  Then, I like to explore the concept and its aesthetic.  I find editorials and fashion very inspiring and I use tears to create a type of mood board for a piece.  I like to have visual references for hair, make-up, costumes, lighting, etc., prior to choreographing a dance.  Then comes the hard part… actually choreographing!  

TNH:  What do you look for when casting dancers and performers?

TP:  I always look for uniqueness in a dancer.  Dancers that know how to exploit what is special or different about them are my favorite kind of performers.  I also always say that good dancing is in the transitions, so I pay close attention to how a dancer gets from step to step. 

TNH:  What advice would you give a young dancer/performer with big dreams? 

TP:  You have to love it!  It’s not an easy road physically, emotionally or financially… so if you have another choice, you may want to do that!     

TNH:  How have you found confidence and held your strength through a business that can be filled with rejection, scrutiny and judgment?

TP:  I suppose I had an innate confidence or one that I found back when I was three that felt natural.  I always believed in myself as a dancer and as a performer.  That certainly didn’t make the journey easy, however.  It’s difficult for sensitive and creative people, but the clichés are true… you really have to have a thick skin and you absolutely can’t take anything personally.  

TNH:  What are some of your career highlights? 

TP:  This year I got to dance (and be the love interest) of Bob Dylan in his music video for “The Night They Called It A Day.”  For me, you can’t get much cooler than that!  My claim to fame is probably my role in the film “Charlie Wilson’s War” as the belly dancer.  Outside of the big jobs, directing and choreographing “Harlow Gold”, which is a joint creation with my partner, Dominic Carbone, is my greatest passion. I love to work with women and our modern cabaret-style revues are dedicated to female beauty and expression, with the intention of empowering women on the stage and off! 

TNH: What have been your biggest lessons about yourself in this entertainment field? 

TP:  The things I was most insecure about turned out to be some of my biggest assets.  What made me unique, made me special.  I learned to embrace those things as a performer and as a woman.    

TNH:  Do you have any other thoughts to share?

TP: Thank you, Tara, for honoring me by asking me to be a part of this!  You are truly an exceptionaldancer and an inspiring woman!

TNH:  Thank you, Tracy!  I've always loved you and your work, and happy to share your insight with others!  And thank you to those who have visited this page. If you find this inspiring, please forward to others and sign-up for my Newsletter below for more dance love! 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

"Believe in yourself and others will follow." The Wisdom of Dancer/Teacher Scott Fowler

Scott Fowler is easy to love and is loved by many!! I’ve had the privilege and honor to have worked alongside him as a dancer on many projects and as a choreographer and creative being.  

His work as a dancer spans from the stage to the screen in six BROADWAY shows, national tours, a three year run with CHER in Las Vegas, to numerous Feature Films including the Oscar winning film CHICAGO and countless Television appearances.  The list is endless, and so is his passion and love for dance!  

Scott danced early in his career with the NEW YORK CITY BALLET and the BOSTON BALLET and shares his knowledge, passion and expertise with our younger generation of performers around the country.  What lucky dancers to receive his gifts!!   

I am so grateful to be inspired by my friend, and very happy he joined me for my Choreographer Interview Series.  Please enjoy the insight and gifts of Scott Fowler.

TNH:  How did dance influence your life as a young person?

SF:  Dance and the dance studio was my refuge, a place I could go where I was accepted and felt safe. It was my playground and learning space where I could explore, be creative, express myself and be with like-minded people. It was my reality, my fantasy, my DREAM and eventually my career and lifelong PASSION.

TNH:  What do you love about dance?

SF:  I love the dedication it takes, the friendships you make, the children you can INSPIRE.  The freedom it gives my body and the life it has provided for me. It hugely defines who I am.  It has been my life since the age of 4 and I was taught by my Uncle Bill Fowler, so it's a family affair. I, in turn, am passing it on to my 12 year old niece Julia. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT DANCE.  The art form, the discipline, the people, the fun, the creativity......the LIFE!!!!

TNH:  You’ve had such a prolific, amazing and diverse career.  What advice would you give to a young dancer/performer who’s just starting out with big dreams?

SF:  Dream BIG and continuously. Be kind and have courage. Be open and versatile. Say yes to everything, yet honor your body and soul and be WILLING to stand up for yourself and say no when your intuition tells you so. The dance community is small.  Your REPUTATION is everything. Live your life with INTEGRITY.  Fasten your seatbelt and ENJOY the ride!!!

TNH:  The entertainment business can have lots of ups and downs and rejection.  How have you stayed confident and self-accepting throughout your career?

SF:  These are a few things I say to myself in regards to show business and the audition process...

  • Suit up, show up and stay out of the results. 
  • What people think of me is none of my business.
  • I'm powerless over people, place and things. 
  • Do your BEST.  Say "THANK YOU" and leave with a smile and your head held high.
  • One person can't be right for everything but completely right for some things.
  • Believe in yourself and others will follow.
  • Acceptance is the answer.
  • Everything that happens in my life, happens for my benefit! 

TNH:  What principles do you bring to your teaching and mentoring?

SF:  To inspire…

  • To pay It forward.
  • To have integrity.
  • To be kind.
  • To respect the art of dance and the dancers who came before you.
  • To work hard, have dedication, self respect and be disciplined. 
  • To be of service and share the art.
  • To tell the truth and go out of your way to nurture the potential.
  • To have FUN and feel safe to explore and take chances.
  • That we are the lucky ones and to be GRATEFUL.
  • To cherish the dance studio and the MAGIC that happens inside its walls.
  • That your EGO is not your AMIGO.

TNH:  Who and what inspires you to be creative and do the work that you do?

SF:  My Uncle Bill Fowler who is my mentor, teacher and inspiration to this day. He owned a school in Medford, Massachusetts for over 40 years and has touched the lives of countless dancers throughout the country and world, and at 75 years old, continues to do so. The children and the passion and desire I see in their eyes when I teach them inspires me. My fellow dancers and the commitment and drive I share with them to just keep it moving and working. My 12 year old niece Julia who has "it" and LOVES to dance... the joy I feel working and dancing with her is limitless. My 93 year old neighbor Barbara Perry who is a dancer and has lived a life and had a career that is BEAUTIFUL. The countless "gypsies" I'm friends with who completely give themselves to this life because it's in our blood and we HAVE TO DANCE!

TNH:  Can you share a career highlight?

SF:  There have been SO many highlights.  What a journey it has been and continues to be!

I'd have to say the opening of my first Broadway show JEROME  ROBBINS BROADWAY was an amazing and magical experience. Curtain up, cast walks downstage to a 5 minute standing ovation before the show even starts... first time on Broadway..........AMAZING.

The film version of CHICAGO.  Hands down one of the best experiences of my life and a film that will stand the test of time. What an absolute JOY to be a part of. Director/Choreographer Rob Marshall and John Deluca created a masterpiece and it won the OSCAR for best picture.

My last Broadway show MOVIN OUT.  It was life imitating art or art imitating life but like the show, I found redemption and not only survived but prospered in SO many ways. It was the best of times and the worst of times, but I'm a better man because of it so for that it's a highlight.

TNH:  Do you have any other thoughts and insight to share?

SF:  We are a SPECIAL kind of people.  Sensitive, determined, driven, passionate, insecure, confident, colorful, generous, independent, neurotic, free and loving....we are DANCERS!!!! Embrace ALL of what we are and be OPEN, WILLING and most importantly KIND to each other. I'm SO GRATEFUL that I've been given this DANCERS LIFE to LIVE.  Thanks to my Uncle Bill and my mom who drove me everywhere and was and is my biggest supporter!!!!!

TNH:  I love you, Scott!  Your words bring tears to my eyes and remind me of the soul and fabric of a dancer and a dancer’s life.  Yes, a gift for sure.

Thank you to those who have visited this page.  For more inspiring Dance and Choreographer Interviews, subscribe to my Newsletter below!  And share with those who might be inspired by this.  Let's Dance! 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

Capturing Grace, Dancing with Parkinson's

Who knew that a simple hour in a dance studio with strangers could move me so deeply and be so transformational, to the point where I slowly and discreetly slide tears from my cheeks, as my heart swells and my body dances.   

This beautiful hour happened yesterday when I decided to join and witness dance as a healing source for people with Parkinson’s disease.  I first heard about Dance for PD through a posting that the Michael J. Fox Foundation shared.  I was perusing the internet, looking at research and information as my father has been struggling with this debilitating and progressive disease for over 12 years.  I see him bravely face the changes in his body, the grueling tightness, the fatigue, the tremors, difficulty walking, and other nonmotor symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression.  

When I saw that the Mark Morris Dance Group had collaborated with the Brooklyn Parkinson Group to create Dance for PD, I was immediately inspired and wanted to experience it.  Luckily these classes are offered throughout the states and in 11 countries around the world, and a beautiful documentary called Capturing Grace literally captures the essence of this healing work and the lives who are benefited from it.      

I know and understand the power of dance to heal, through my work as a professional dancer and choreographer and from the program I created INsideOUT, using dance to relieve pain in the body, bring joy to the soul and peace to the mind.   

As the participants filed into the studio yesterday I saw the familiar symptoms, the swinging gait, the shuffling feet, the far away glance, the scared look of uncertainty.  As the class began, those limitations sort of fell away.  It’s not that all of a sudden they were sky bound and leaping, but the heart and soul, the childlike freedom and joy is what rang so loudly in that room.  The music swept all of us up, and each of us brought our concerns, and placed them on the dance floor.  No longer patients, but dancers.  We each spoke a word to describe one of our current struggles, flexibility, feeling alone, can’t communicate clearly, exhaustion, and then we put those feelings into movement.  In a circle, facing each other, we strung our gestures into a linked dance, a story of our human experience, our highs and lows.  And again, the tears streamed from the corners of my eyes.

To finish, hand in hand, passing love and acknowledgment from one person to the next, was so incredibly moving.  To slow down, to be present to another’s experience, to give love, was truly a divine moment for me and kind of life changing.

May my father and others enjoy the benefits of this fitting and healing program.  Thank you to Lineage Performing Arts Center for having me and for all the other studios bringing this beautiful work to their communities: Find a class 

Love and blessings, 

xo Tara

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS