Healing Oneself, Healing The World
By: Debbie Rosas | February 27, 2009
I often am reminded of how blessed I am to teach and dance Nia. Everyday I get to fulfill my dream of working as a Healer and sharing movement as “medicine” for the body, mind, spirit and soul of people. I like to think of myself as a “Movement Physician!” Of course, no one else calls me this, but I know, based on what I have done and do, and on what Carlos and all Nia teachers do, this is, in part, fact. I have always believed Nia Teachers have the potential to become Healers and at an advanced level, reach status of “Movement Physician.” I even believe that someday Harvard or Cornell will offer a degree for becoming a Nia “Movement Physician.” I’ll be first in line.
I’ve thought a lot about this thing called healing, as it’s what drives me to do what I do. I guess I’ve always attempted to stimulate the healing response as part of my work with the body and with Nia. Healing is, of course, what the body knows how to do. Nia has always encouraged Carlos and I to listen to the Voices of the Body, as they will guide us toward the most natural healing. If we listen to the body, we can follow our body’s lead and benefit greatly from what is so natural to the body - to heal.
The world needs healing now, and all of us, students and teachers alike, can spread the Joy of Nia and the message of movement, community, love and compassion to help heal people’s hearts and souls and quite possibly, the world. It’s a daunting task, one that the Dalai Lama takes seriously. Me too.
I finally got around to watching my first TV show on my computer. Sandy Feldenstein, a Black Belt Nia Teacher from Toronto, often sends me things to watch and read. I like this relationship. She knows I love medicine and science. She was fortunate to have been traditionally schooled, so she keeps me abreast of what’s new and exciting. She sent me the link to the TV show of Dan Rather interviewing the Dalai Lama. The show featured the latest scientists and research on neuroplasticity: the ability of our brain to change. It can, and it does!
I was thrilled that I could watch, listen and type - very fun. Most of all, I received validation and reason for why Nia makes me feel the way I do. They can now measure the power of “Choosing Joy” as energy to fill our dance and life, something the monks in Tibet spend hours meditating and focusing on.
I’ve always loved Dan Rather. He is smart, cool looking for his age, full of passion and tenacity for seeking and reporting the truth, no matter what. Truth became his eventual downfall from TV. He forgot to pursue it and was fired. He’s still around and as always, he’s doing amazing work reporting, sharing what’s up in the world. He didn’t let me down.
Change, grow, rewire and retrain yourself to live a happy life, to be compassionate, and to treat disease; this is what researchers are finding we can do with our brains by training our minds. They call it Brain Fitness, a kind of workout for the brain. The Dalai Lama is looking into how we can increase positive emotion, create well-being and off-set negative emotions by meditating and focusing on emotions like pleasure and compassion to trigger changes in our brains to improve life and the world! I can get behind this; this is healing.
The most profound statement I heard the Dalai Lama make focused on his curiosity about discovering how we can teach compassion and peace outside of a specific religion. As the Dalai Lama says, “All people want a happy life. How can we create joy and a happy life without religion?” His answer, without knowing Nia, “We can show people, based on scientific findings, that even without religion, through the action of training our minds, using meditation techniques, we change our brain and become compassionate and loving people. It is the real life experiences and practices of the Tibetan monks that are proving this to us real people. The big question is, “Can we increase brain activity in certain areas of the brain and create altruism and produce a better world?”
Carlos and I teach that power is only real when you understand what power you have and when you know how to use and direct the power you have. The mind is power and compassion is energy, and yes, I too believe, like the Dalai Lama, that together they can be used to help heal the world. We can arrive to this perfect union of mind and compassion by sitting and meditating. We can also dance to create this healing magic. This is the Nia way. As Nia dancers, we know the power of moving energy and of connecting to joy, compassion and pleasure, not as an idea or emotion, but a sensation. Feeling and sensing is our way, and every one of us, student and teacher alike, can use what we feel and sense to consciously become healers and messengers of light and hope. Now, back to Dan Rather and the Dalai Lama.
Together with scientists, the Tibetan monks are helping unravel the brain-body mystery. What they naturally do in their lives for hours, meditating, is now being looked at by science. Who knows what prompted them to explore this 2000 year-old practice, but their research is now revealing the healing power and magic of spending time directing mind energy. By working with the scientists and with MRI machines, the monks are helping to uncover a whole new brain science, unraveling what is viewed as a new connection between the brain and mind. New? Of course not, this has always been the truth of The Body’s Way, but when something unseen suddenly becomes visible, it is tagged as “new!”
For the past five years, the Tibetan monks have volunteered their brains for a major study: looking at how the monks’ mental practice alters the brain’s neural circuits, actually changing regions in the brain, such as the region that controls our emotions. Using MRI machines, the scientists are tracking and charting the increase in oscillations in the brain’s gamma activity that occurs as the monks direct their minds and focus on the emotion of compassion. Science is recognizing that mental power and concentration focusing on a positive emotion can actually create something we can now see. The neuroplasitc changes in the brain make it possible for our brains to become rewired and to remain in a state of compassion long after the meditation is over. It’s amazing what happens in science when scientists can see things we Nia dancers feel! The scientist sees the changes in the brain from harnessing mind and energy and directing it to change the brain and effect the body and the world. The scientists discover that the changes are permanent and voilà, it’s true and it’s important for us to do. Can’t you just see the schedule in your gym offering Brain Fitness Workouts? I can, and Nia should be the first to share our approaches to Awareness, Living Meditation, and Dancing Through Life.
Scientists know that the brain is plastic and is designed to change. Makes sense to me, as everything in the universe is in a constant state of change. Change is what we do. I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better knowing that just like I can move my legs to strengthen my thighs, I can move my mind to strengthen my brain and stay fit. I just like doing it, both when I dance and when I sit. This is something Nia and Dancing Through Life has taught me. Like Carlos says, it's a “piece of cake.”
Yes, meditation practices will transform people and make changes to the brain, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. Apply just a little bit of focus and intention everyday, and you change the habits of your brain. MRI machines create pictures for us to see how a focused mind can act positively on the brain to affect our bodies, lives and happiness. And thanks to the monks who spent hours in the MRI machine volunteering their brains so we can find out if mental training produces changes in the brain, we know more and will continue to learn more. So what’s this mean to us regular folks, Nia students and Teachers? A lot!
Think about it. Every class, you’re in a kind of MRI machine. Through your dance and through sensation, you’re shown what’s happening - not as a picture to look at, but as a sensation you can track. In Nia class, we mindfully direct our minds to seek Joy and choose Pleasure. This actually can rewire our brains and heal our bodies, not out of stillness, but from movement—pleasurable movement.
So now that we know the brain cells are plastic and that the circuits in our brains and bodies can be rewired and changed, we Nia dancers have even more motivation to remain aware and tweak what we do in search of more Pleasure and Joy. We can dance and feel what research is finding: that we can be as happy as we make up our minds to be. I think all Nia people take the challenge to be happy as a serious responsibility, and we do it well. We also know there is great power in taking responsibility for how we use our minds. We do this in class, and we do it as we Dance Through Life in order to change our bodies, our lives, the lives of others, and ultimately the world we live in.