A Note for May

May at Madeline Bea

Dear Friend,

It has been a wild and wonderful couple of months! My life is a little overwhelming at the moment and that is why you may have noticed that there were no New Moon journaling prompts that arrived in your inbox last month…and, try as I might, it’s just not happening this month either. My sincere apologies. But I wanted to send you a note to say hello, let you know I haven’t forgotten about you, and tell you what’s been going on around here.

The BIG NEWS is that a dear friend and fellow dreamer and I have signed the lease on a physical brick and mortar space in downtown Berwick, PA and we’ll be opening A Soulful Space, LLC., a collaborative healing arts studio, this summer!!!! It is, by far, the most exciting and outrageous business venture I have ever undertook. Despite having owned my own business (in one form or another) for the past ten years, the physical space attached to this venture is opening up all kinds of new doors and possibilities. It is, as you could imagine, also presenting a whole new gamut of challenges and learning opportunities. It’s consuming nearly all of my extra moments and mental energy and what’s left over is being poured onto my patient and oh-so-supportive family.

So while there’s not much going on here at little old Madeline Bea at the moment…there will be again once things have gotten more settled with the new business venture. And in the meantime, we invite you follow our journey of creating a new business and manifesting this dream of ours on our Facebook page.

Also, if you’re local, I’ll be at the DANVILLE SPRING FLING this Saturday selling all kinds of Madeline Bea goodness! Stop by, say hello, and pick up something lovely for all the mothers in your life!

I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful season, I hope you’re still taking the opportunity each New Moon brings to be introspective, and I hope to be back to regular Madeline Bea activities and correspondence very soon. Until then, be well!

All the best,
Maegan

The Swollen Belly of Spring

spring, Madeline Bea

‘Tis spring…and with it comes the wet, heavy, swollen, super nutritive time just before nature gives birth to a plethora of new life. As I type today, it is pouring rain outside, the barely green grass squishes as I walk through the yard, and the heater hasn’t had a day off in weeks. It’s most certainly an interim and it’s not all pretty buds and colorful tulips. But nature could not thrive without this time. It’s needs this time period of expansion, readying, and growth.

Spring always reminds me of a pregnant mother in the two months prior to delivery. She is beautiful, glowing, and ripe with all that is coming…but slow, heavy, and monumentally uncomfortable. And so much of this time period in nature (and also the ones that look just like it in our lives) feels just the same. Just as Mother Nature is about to give birth to an explosion of new life, sometimes we too find ourselves ready to birth creative manifestations in our lives but we’re not. quite. there. yet. Both spring in nature and the pre-term springs of our creative birthings can feel slow, heavy, and monumentally uncomfortable; our creative centers swollen and full with all that is to come but isn’t quite yet. In a word, everything just feels STUCK.

Any mother will tell you there is no rushing an about to be born child. Nature shows us this, enduring her own months long, muddy interim. We too must allow our creative expressions the time they need to grow and develop. There always seems to be swollen-belly time inherent within this process; the vision is there, the work is being done, but it’s not. quite. there. yet. Energetically, our creativity rests within the areas of our bellies and our hips in our 2nd and 3rd chakras. Not surprisingly, what sits energetically right below our creativity and life force (ie: what could hold up the birthing process) is fear.

Fear certainly has it’s negative qualities. But it also serves a lot of good purposes. We need our fear, our doubts, and our insecurities because they point our attention to multiple dimensions. Although nice in theory, we can’t just find a way to get rid our these qualities so that we can get on with manifesting our work in the world in the same way that a pregnant mother can’t just take out her organs so that her growing baby has more room and ease of delivery. It’s all needed and all a part of the process. But she (and we) can make more room internally for all of it to help us maneuver more comfortably during our spring seasons.

There’s a lot of internal work that goes along with accepting our fears and insecurities. But there are things we can do externally, physically with our bodies, to help facilitate space making. Moving our hips is a great way to get the energy moving around. Once the life force begins to flow more freely in this region, space is more readily made. Get a good old fashioned dance party going in your kitchen or take a ballet class…put on some saucy Latin numbers to really encourage swaying and rocking of the hips. Then treat yourself to a nice, hip opening yoga sequence to open up more space. I recommend some yin yoga (a more passive form of the practice where poses are held a bit longer) and/or restorative yoga to allow a lot of softening and space making to occur.

Whether it’s just the season of spring itself or something larger being birthed within your own life, the key is in making space for all the wet heaviness of ‘new’ to reside more comfortably within your self so that you can move (however slowly) through this time period with the grace and strength of Mother Nature.

A Soulful Space logo, Madeline BeaI’m certainly feeling like I’m in a little bit of a spring of my life these days. A dear friend and I have embarked on a new business venture; one that involves an actual brick and mortar studio and all the other “realness” that comes with owning a physical business. And we, too, are in a kind of middle place, an interim, while we allow all the pieces to fall into their places externally and also internally as we prepare to give birth to this dream of ours. We’re sharing our journey on our Facebook page and are working on a website as well. We’d love to have you along for the ride and we can’t wait to be able to invite you all over to our new physical space in downtown Berwick, PA! 

Featured in Somerset Life!!

Somerset Life Feature, Madeline Bea

I am so incredibly excited and honored to share that I’ve been featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Somerset Life Magazine! Somerset Life is a gorgeous publication full of inspiration, craft ideas, lovely articles, and craft projects. I wrote a piece for them about finding our artistic voices… through the analogy of knitting hats 😉 and spoke about how my blog-life-art has changed and grown since being featured in Artful Blogging six years ago.  I think you’ll enjoy the article and this gorgeous magazine cover to cover! You can pick up a copy here …I’ve also seen them for sale at some Barnes & Nobles, Michael’s, and some other independent stores.

Notes from the Barre: Fullest Presence

Fullest Presence, Madeline Bea

I’ve been teaching a dance in the Candlelight Ballet series in which one of the moves involves a slow, heavily articulated back leg lift that arcs around behind the dancer. To perform the move without tumbling, you need to be really connected to your core and engage your sources of inner strength. It’s very easy to see when you’ve performed the move without this connection to center…there’s a lot of wobbling, the arms don’t quite make it up into their intended position, and often the dancer kind of just falls into the subsequent movement. Conversely, when the dancer is fully connected to her core, completely present within the movement, and engaged with her own deep strength; she performs the movement beautifully with grace and impact.

There are countless moves in the art of ballet which require this type of presence and connection to perform well. And it’s so easy to forget our center and our strength, not be as fully present in the movement as we could be, and consequently not perform the movement as well as we’re able. But the dance floor is not the only space where this concept plays out. How often in our lives do we fall away from our deepest truth, best intentions, and highest self and act, speak, or contribute with something less than our fullest  presence?

I have left plenty of conversations and experiences knowing well that the person who had just engaged with life was not my best self. We seem to constantly teeter at the fine line that our fullest presence rests upon. Yet, if engaged in the process of noticing, we can easily see and feel when we have gotten away from that sweet spot where our highest self is maneuvering through the world versus the version of us that may be acting out of fear, anger, or insecurity. We wobble and flail and fall through our movements rather than articulate them with grace, purpose, and quiet power.

This practice of recognizing that we’ve fallen away from our best self and then doing the necessary work to bring ourselves home requires copious amounts of both humility and strength. Our humility allows us to own our imperfection which enabling us to see more quickly when we are not acting with our fullest presence. Our strength offers us the ability to pull ourselves back to center and then inevitably continue to put ourselves in the same situations over and over again hoping for better results. It’s a practice of skills that improve with time. Just as it becomes more natural to engage in slow, difficult, articulating dance moves with full presence and deep connection to our core strength, so to does it become easier and more natural to engage with life in the same way.

The best dancers will tell you that these are skills that constantly need to be practiced and perfected. Not one thing that happens within a dance can be learned once and then tucked away in some sort of magic arsenal. We will constantly be confronted with experiences that pull us out of our center and away from our best selves. Our practice, however, can help us reconnect and come back into our fullest presence quicker and with less hardship.

May we have both the strength and humility necessary to recognize when we have fallen away from our fullest presence and do the work necessary to reconnect with our highest self and best intentions.

THE BODY IN FULL PRESENCE by David Whyte

The body in full presence
holds its first creative essence
in the pen that touches paper.
Lifting the glass that holds the wine,
this beckoning uncertainty is mine.

I’ll follow my line to an early death,
feeling out rhythm in the spoken breath
and startled by flame
this arrogance shall be my moth,
flying with his burning cloth.

Then humility will rise
out of poetry’s deep surmise,
and I will have confidence in my powers;
wanting this presence, burnt by the past,
I’ll die in the first line – and become the last.

 

Notes from the Barre: The Limitations of Tension

 

Tension, Madeline Bea

I do a lot of knitting. And through these years of knitting, I’ve gotten to know a lot about yarn. I intimately know the magic that turns string into something beautiful and/or usable. But I also know that yarn has a certain way about it and it needs to be handled carefully. Once it’s tangled, it seems to start evolving on its own around that one tangle until its just an absolute mass of knots and tangles and pretty much good for nothing except being a big ‘ole matted mass of string. Conversely, I know that if that same yarn is kept tangle free and if small knots are tended to as they occur, that the potential of that yarn to be something amazing, comforting, warming, and beautiful is exponential.

Our bodies are a lot like yarn in this way…as are our emotional lives. If we have knots and tension in our bodies, our physical range of motion is limited and our performance at any physical task is hindered. If our emotional lives are tangled, our potential for what we’re able to do and accomplish in this world is limited. But with every knot, tangle, and source of tension we work out; we liberate the energy and momentum that had been held within it.

The other thing I know (deeply) about yarn is that, if and when there is a tangle, you absolutely, under no circumstances, can just simply pull at it to get it to release. Before you know it, you can have a mass of thickly (and, let’s face it, probably permanently) knotted string that you might as well throw out. To release the tangles in a ball of yarn, you need to sit with it patiently and examine and work out each source of tension and each knot along the way. It’s time consuming and not for the faint of heart…but it’s the only way to save the yarn. By being as careful and thoughtful with our physical and emotional stress, think of how much more fluidly we could make our way through the world.

There is no road map to tell us where these knots and tangles are in our physical and emotional bodies, we have to feel our way both to them and out of them. Most often, the feeling that let’s us know we’ve hit a snag is pain. Rumi tells us “What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” Pain guides our awareness to specific places so that we can sit with all our individual knots and smooth out our life thread so the Universe can keep knitting our lives into something really beautiful and usable. It’s hard work, and believing in the importance of your work here, of what you have the capacity to create with your life, is what will give you the strength to keep sitting with all that tangled yarn.

May we have the strength to sit with our knots, tangles, and tension and work through them gently and diligently so that we can be expressive both with our bodies and our lives!

 

 

Notes from the Barre: The Strength of Femininity

femininity, Madeline Bea

I’m a little late with this week’s Notes from the Barre. I usually post on Thursday mornings, following my Wednesday night adult ballet class. This schedule helps me stick with it because I value the sharing of our stories, I enjoy writing on my blog, and I need a little system of accountability. But this particular Thursday, I awoke feeling most certain that I was beginning to share the awful chest cold my youngest daughter had been harboring. This piled atop the two broken toes I acquired two weeks prior, our daily schedule, last minute meetings, and some big potential life shifts coming down the pike proved to be absolutely too much for me to carve out enough time and clarity to sit down and type thoughtfully. I’ll admit, though, despite the mounting evidence that I needed to just put this post aside for another day…maybe aside altogether…there was was a voice within me saying that I should “muscle through”, stick to the schedule, and get this done. I found myself needing to flex a different sort of muscle, however, to carry me through that day and those voices…the exact muscle I was wanting to write about.

Within us, we each hold both masculine and feminine traits. In our culture’s history, we have been conditioned to value one over the other. Our feminine qualities have been depicted as our weaker, softer sides…suited to childcare (maybe?), but not much else. Our masculine traits are traditionally valued as being our better, stronger, more courageous ones. They are the ones thought to have built nations and companies and gotten that big dresser up three flights of steps. However, while our masculine nature may be totally useful in many situations, I do not believe that it is any greater in strength or any more useful overall than its feminine counterpart.

Ballet epitomizes the notion that femininity is not weak. Anyone who has tried to move athletically with softness and grace knows the intensity of strength this requires. There are countless exercises we could perform depicting how much easier it would be to use our dominant muscles and masculine energy versus using our inner, more finite muscles with precision and heaps of femininity. A simple Grand Battement at the barre can show you this comparison in an instant.

In ballet, and many other areas of life, it takes profound amounts of strength to act with softness, femininity, openness, and grace. Think back to the last time you ran into something that was confrontational. Most likely your initial response was to either fight back, take care of it yourself, push through, get angry, and find a way to remove the obstacle in front of us or at the very least get around it as quickly as possible. This was definitely my first response after coming home with a brand new boot (aka: walking cast) that would be a part of me for the next six to eight weeks. I avidly set out to figure out how I could do all of the things I could do with two perfect feet…on my own…without help. It took a totally different type of strength to sit quietly with my new reality and develop some flexibility around what my new normal would be and could be for these next two months. It took flexing extremely foreign and finite muscles to ask for the help I desperately needed to carry me through this time. And I can’t even tell you how much muscle it is taking to have had to pull back entirely and not do things that simply aren’t in the single footed cards. My first response is not what would have served me (and ultimately those around me) the best. But as I sit here with my foot up for the third week in a row, I can tell you with certainty that it doesn’t feel soft, weak, or easy.

Our masculine and feminine natures are required in some semblance of balance to really thrive in life. But sometimes when we feel like “manning up”, what would serve us and those around us more would be to flex our feminine muscles; to soften into what’s before us, to move through it with strength and grace, and to utilize our abilities to be flexible to shape around all kinds of new realities.

Where my inner masculinity would have most likely thrown herself under a bus to get this post up last Thursday, I’m happy to have had my inner femininity reminding me that it could wait and I needed to tend to other things that were more important. This is not strength versus weakness; these are two very different types of strength that each serve their own purposes. May we have to strength to flex both these superpowers in balance and when appropriate and to value them equally!

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Notes from the Barre: Bird in Flight

bird wings, Madeline Bea

When I was in high school, every year in gym class we’d get to the unit where we had to run a mile. I dreaded this unit each and every year because, although I was in good physical shape and could dance for hours on end, I could. not. run. It was humiliating to be one of the only kids who was walking before the first of four laps around the track was completed. So obviously I hated running and for years that stretched well beyond high school fed myself the story that I was incapable of running.

Later in my adult life, I found liberation and reprieve from the demands of my life by walking for miles at a time. My walking turned to power walking and morphed into something that was approaching running. Through this gradual process, I came to understand that what had been holding me back from my ability to run was my inability to breathe fully and properly while doing so. I had never developed the skills of conscious breathing and therefore wasn’t tapping into the power potential held within that most important skill. Once I unlocked that awareness and developed the ability to breathe fully and effectively, my running story changed forever.

We forget how powerful our breath is. Each inhalation and exhalation is pivotal to our body’s functioning. The equal contraction and expansion of our diaphragm is a powerful tool for life and movement.  When we can learn to move together with our breath (whether we’re running, performing asana, or dancing), we can facilitate more strength, power, grace, and capacity within our movements. Each inhalation enables greater expansion. Each exhalation contracts, and thereby stabilizes, our core. Our breath becomes a tool and a technique for better performance.

This idea of expansion and contraction is fun to play and experiment with when we’re talking movement…but it gets a little tricky when we apply it to life itself. When things go wrong, when we are sad, or when something in our day to day life becomes confrontational; we contract. Often this emotional response of drawing inward and closing off is coupled with a physical response of rounding our shoulders and contracting our core muscles inward. It can be an unpleasant experience and period of time as we inwardly work through whatever triggered our contracting. But it’s important to see how equally necessary, beautiful, and beneficial this time can be. While these times of contraction don’t hold the outward grandeur of our times of expansion, they are the power behind them…the yin to the yang.

The Sufi master Rumi speaks of matters of the heart so profoundly and articulates the physics of our contractions and expansions so beautifully in this excerpt from one of his poems….

“Seeker, when you feel your soul contracting
know it is for your own good
allow not your heart to burn with grief.
In times of expansion you spend
and this expenditure requires
an income of painful soul searching.
If it was always summer, the roots would burn
and the gardens would never become green.
Winter seems bitter but it is also kind.
When contraction comes, my friend,
behold the expansion within
be cheerful, do not complain.
The eyes of a child are fixed on the wants of now
while the eyes of the wise see to the end.
When you close your mouth
another one will open, seeking nourishment
in the mysteries of Spirit.
The sugar of sensual joy
is the fruit of the garden of sorrow
this joy is the wound, the sorrow is the plaster.
Learn to embrace sorrow
look straight at its face and joy will reappear.
All action sways between contraction and expansion
both as important as the opening and closing
of the wings of a bird in flight.”

May we embrace all of our contractions and expansions and learn to honor the power contained within them both.

Notes from the Barre: Choose Compassion

Choose Compassion, Madeline Bea

Most often, people tell me they’d like to start taking ballet so that they can develop physical grace. In the same respect, when people first come to yoga its often because they want peace. It’s sometimes frustrating for people who were looking for the super store solution to their need for grace and peace to learn that stepping through the door does not instantly guarantee them what they’re seeking. Just as there is a gradual path to that peace through the practice of consistently meeting our edges and learning to breathe through them in yoga, outer grace often only comes through the development of thick skin and callused feet.

In our discussions about Compassion this month, we’ve reached a point where we need to get real about what it ultimately comes down to: we have a choice, in each moment, to either act with compassion for ourselves and others…or not. It’s that simple…and it’s not really simple at all. We can’t do much of anything in this world without a little commitment in our hearts. Because things get hard, they get tricky, they get confrontational. And, honestly, they get really easy to drop and walk far away from. So when we’re talking about something as important as Compassion, it’s pretty important that we go ahead and commit to loving ourselves and others…even when it’s hard…especially when it’s hard.

Just like in yoga and ballet…if we really want to cultivate healthy, robust amounts of peace and grace, we need commit to the pursuit first and foremost and trust that someday it will all feel a little easier. Fortunately, whether we’re talking peace, grace, or compassion; there are steps to follow and practice to help us find our way until those movements, decisions, and mindsets flow more naturally.

In yoga, we come to our mats and meet our deep demons head on in asana. By cultivating inner and outer strength, we learn to breathe into discomfort and become quiet, watchful observers of our own minds. The work we do unites our bodies, minds, and souls and this unity is what offers us peace. It takes practice, and we need to choose it continuously, but ultimately it teaches us about peace…real peace. In ballet, we come to the barre and repeat exercises again and again, developing strength and form. Having to work at something so hard without giving up requires us to pour grace all over ourselves. And all that grace we’ve poured over ourselves while working on our technique eventually begins to emanate physically. It takes practice, and we need to choose it continuously, but ultimately it teaches us about grace…real grace.

When we’re talking compassion, we show up for life fully aware of our own hurts and baggage, we remain light and openhearted, we recognize our shared humanity, and we give ourselves and others compassion. It takes practice, and we need to choose it continuously, but ultimately it teaches us about compassion…real compassion.

There’s a common thread here that is crucial to point out. These values flow out of us more organically once have begun to master the cultivation of them within our own selves. Peace, grace, compassion…we need to offer them to ourselves continually and in abundance in order for us to truly be able to see their presence in our outer lives. The more peace we can cultivate within, the more we find in our outer worlds. The more grace we allow ourselves, the more graceful we become and the more grace we are able to offer others. And the more compassion we bestow upon ourselves, the easier it is to give compassion to others. Our outer lives are but a mirror of what is at play within us.

There is no easy acquisition of any aspirational value. It takes continual commitment and continual practice. But there are some things in life that are too important to drop and walk away from and therefore we need to commit wholeheartedly to the practice of growing them.

May we be conscious choosers of all that is required to become our best, most compassionate selves.

 

Dreamers of Dreams

Dreamers & Dancers, Madeline Bea

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.”
― Arthur O’Shaughnessy, Poems of Arthur O’Shaughnessy

I would love for you to join us at the Dance to Dream Workshop this Friday evening from 6:30-8pm at Karen Gronsky School of Dance!

Notes from the Barre: Our Shared Humanity

Shared Humanity, Madeline Bea

“We’re all just walking each other home.”  – Ram Dass

When we speak of living as compassionate beings in the world, I can nothing more pivotal than understanding the notion of our shared humanity. No matter our external differences, we are, as they say, all in this together. Our individual circumstances may not look identical to one another; but inside we all want to be loved and accepted, we all want to be safe and comfortable, and we are all doing the best we can. Our shared human experiences bind us to one another and lay the framework for a common ground among which we can always reach out to one another. “We’re all just walking each other home.”

When I think of times that I have wanted more compassion from others, this is exactly where I land: I want to say to whomever is involved “I’m doing the best I can.” And when I have failed to be compassionate in a given situation, I know that it’s because I have neglected to see that someone else is doing the best they can. But when I bring myself back to this awareness, it can shift an entire situation from one in which I may be feeling like a victim or an opponent to one in which I feel like a fellow teammate with a responsibility to root for another’s success, shoulder their loss, offer them water or a towel, or help them off the field and wrap them in a warm blanket. “We’re all just walking each other home.”

When one loses, we all lose. When one gains, we all gain. When one is suffering, we all suffer. Our humanity isn’t merely shared, it’s inextricably intertwined. The true opponent in this game of life is division and hate. If we can habitually see each other as teammates, the kind of compassion we could cultivate in the world could be explosive. “We’re all just walking each other home.”

May we be forces of love and compassion in this world; offering warm hands, steady shoulders, and sturdy backs to those walking along with us. And may we have a warm hand to hold, a shoulder to lean upon, or a sturdy back to help carry our burdens every time we reach out across the expanse of the common ground of our kindred humanity. “We’re all just walking each other home.”