What does slicing onions have to do with Nia Classes and Nia White Belt Training?

There’s always a new frontier, a new edge of learning for the sensation scientist.

My plan for this morning included time to harvest and water the garden, prepare some of dinner while the day is still cool, and then get to my desk projects. Slicing the luscious sweet onions on the mandoline, I sliced the tip of my pinkie finger as well and had a forced break to stop the bleeding and create a functional butterfly bandage. It got me to thinking about rest, an often-ignored necessity. I notice a pattern of injury when I forget to rest. Am I carrying extra tension and thus less graceful? Do I push on to get chores done and deliberately, even if unconsciously, override sensations of fatigue? Maybe being unconscious is a major element. I’m just not paying attention, not noticing where my body is in space in relation to other objects. I think of myself as pretty adept at noticing how I feel, both emotionally and physically, yet recently I’ve had experiences where my ability seems to have shut down. Awareness turned off.

Am I remembering to savor the current moment? Awareness is the key.

Several years ago I was attending a Nia Five Stages training for instructors. As I was pulling myself along the floor on my belly, Debbie Rosas, Nia Founder, suggested that I look up and around me. Ha! I noticed that pulling along on the floor and looking at nothing but the floor, felt like a metaphor for my life at the time. Just the shift to looking around set off a chain of awareness in my life that led to exciting career shifts.

A few days ago we’d had a full day of visiting with relatives and a dinner party. After the guests were gone, even though it was bedtime, I was eager to get dishes put away so the house would be tidy in the morning. Same window sill, same elbow, they’re always there, why did I scrape the skin off my elbow that night? Forgot to delight in the beautiful dishes I love, to treat my life like a walk through a flower garden, filled with “oohs” and “ahhs”, forgot to savor. And I forgot to slither through spaces with the sharp senses of a warrior.  Once I set out to not miss anything, then I will not miss the beautiful and will not miss the dangers.

It’s not that life is always dangerous and threatening. Or that the world is out to get me. It’s that I’m dangerous to myself when I ignore my center, when I tune out.


Rest is more than getting enough sleep or taking vacation or knowing when to stop “plugging along.” It’s essential in the rhythm of life. Music is not music without the breaks between the sounds. A continuous tone doesn’t have the pleasing effect added by the silences, no matter how brief, between sequences of tones. Even without melody, adding the rests makes it music.

Effective exercise is a series of exertions, punctuated by releasing the tension to begin again. Just holding my hand near my shoulder is not the same as a series of arm curls. Similarly, my dance through life needs the rests that make it art, and that transform my things-to-do into a strand of satisfying moments.


I coach people to tune in to sensations during my Nia classes. Right up front, it’s a doorway into finding pleasure in the experience, into making choices for how to move so that the pleasure keeps on coming throughout the Nia class. And it’s also a practice to take out of the classroom and into everyday life.

In a Nia White Belt Training, we dive deeper into applying many Nia practices and principles in a way that enhances life overall. Choose to study one day a week over 6 weeks, with plenty of chances to practice and apply what you learn during the week. Another format is to sign up for a retreat-style Nia White Belt Training for a full week at the coast.

Meanwhile, I continue to hone my skill at dancing through life, hoping to keep the blood out of the onion-radish-tarragon salad when I’m slicing the onions.

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