Posts Tagged ‘learning’

My thoughts on my biology class.

I loved my sixth grade biology class. Most specifically, I loved my teacher, whose passion for the subject was contagious. On a personal level, he was one of my allies throughout middle school, and I would often visit him at the beginning or the end of the day as he stood outside his classroom. 

And then I didn’t take a biology class for years and years. My high school had “integrated science,” which was really more like ecology – it included biology but only hit the basics here and there. Maybe it was mainly the teachers I had and not just the material, but I was disappointed and didn’t feel engaged with it. I did take chemistry my junior year. I liked my teacher, but I often struggled with the material. I remember that it often took me a while to balance equations.

In college, I remember being interested in taking biology of plants, but I never took it. I took astronomy as my lab class, and psychology fulfilled the rest of my natural science requirements (yes, it fell under that category at my small liberal arts college).

So I was anxious about stepping into a biology classroom again this semester. My class would involve both a lecture and a lab with different professors for each. What if I didn’t have enough of a foundation?

My lecture professor began my life sciences biology class with a cautionary warning: to pass the class, we would need to study extensively. If we were taking several other classes, she would recommend dropping at least one. See, the class, even at the community college level, has a 60% pass rate.

Later in the semester, she would explain that she was telling us because it was the truth, not specifically to scare us. I admit that it was intimidating to hear and I wondered if I was out of my league.

Luckily, I wasn’t. I’m not. Yes, the class is challenging. Yes, the exams are hard: a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and a short essay question (requires a five-sentence answer). My professor is very thorough. She wants us to learn to apply the material and not just memorize it.

She is also, in my opinion, a great professor. She gives great analogies, she uses good visuals, and she’s expressive and personable. 

I’ve been recognizing that I may have pigeonholed myself somewhat in what “type” of person I am in an academic setting. I have always been a good student. I excel at the humanities, languages, and social sciences. I’m creative and love doing art. I was often less interested in and struggled more in math. And science…I think it was mostly that I lost interest. Maybe it was that I didn’t have great teachers for the most part. Maybe it was that other subjects interested me more, or the structure of classes at my college, or a combination of all of the above. But at some point in time, I decided I was not a science person. 

I’m doing well in the class. I’m loving learning the material and feel like I’m filling in gaps where I was missing information. Yes, I study a lot.  The sheer amount of material is challenging. And I’m also getting a lot out of it. So maybe I can be a science person, or maybe I’m a little bit of everything. It doesn’t have to be either/or. I don’t have to redefine myself entirely, just expand my view of myself and my interests to include another subject that I enjoy.  

As the semester approaches its end, I find myself feeling relieved that it’s almost over. I’m certainly looking forward to having more free time and less stress. I’ve also found myself thinking, “I’m going to miss the class so much!”


From 35 to 36

My 36th birthday is tomorrow. So here is my letter to my current age/year.

Dear 35,

I had a harder time writing you down as an age than most years. I say that I really don’t have many issues with aging, but I kept wanting to write “34” for about four months after my birthday. Maybe it’s because you are directly in the middle of the 30s. Maybe it’s because “I’m 35” somehow sounds more adult. I don’t really know why. But, eventually, I adjusted.

This year, I continued to grow and maintain my proofreading business. I’ve been taking more college classes. This is the year I took the Nia Blue Belt training, which was incredibly rewarding and my Nia practice has deepened as a result. This is the year that we bought our first home and have been gradually settling in, truly turning our condo into a home and a comfortable place to live.

I’ve spent so much time in my life in struggle and strive mode (on an internal level mostly) that it’s almost disconcerting not to be there most of the time. Yes, I have challenges in my life, and some I choose to face and others I have not yet faced. I am still healing in many ways from past experiences, but that pain is less at the forefront of my life. And yes, the outside world can be crazy at times. Yet I am content sometimes to just cuddle with my love and let my life be as it is.

I want to enter 36 clear-eyed and willing. Willing to take steps forward and challenging myself without pushing myself too hard. Willing to get to know new people, reach out.

I have to laugh; I sometimes think I prefer the even ages to the odd-numbered ones. Still, 35, you were good to me. Thank you for all you have brought me and taught me.

What I learned in Math 116

In December, I finished 100-level math survey course called Introduction to Technical Mathematics. It went through basic algebra, geometry, functions, trigonometry, and logarithms. It’s one of the prerequisites to a science course I want to take as I consider applying for a graduate program, so I reluctantly took it.

Here’s some of the things I learned:

• It was much easier for me at age 35 to learn and refresh myself on mathematical concepts than it was in high school. The last time I fully learned these concepts was when I was 15-17, where I was also dealing with other classes, social intricacies as well as everything else that comes with being a teenager. So perhaps I was more distracted then, and perhaps my life experience has helped me be in a better space for learning math now.

• That said, I was really grateful for my main high school math teacher, who I took Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II with. She had a way of making math fun, and she helped me catch up where I was behind my freshman year. While I might have been somewhat distracted at times by being a teenager, she gave me a good foundation in math that served me well in the more recent class.

• I used to think that I wasn’t a “natural” at math. It might be closer to the truth to say instead that I am more natural in other subjects (English, languages, art) than I am at math. I am certainly more right-brained than left-brained, and it takes a different kind of thinking and sometimes more time for me to get into math mode. But after watching other students struggle, where explanations that made sense to me didn’t make sense to them, I realized I’m more natural at it than I previously thought. It’s also that math isn’t my favorite subject; perhaps I’d feel like more of a natural if it was something I felt more naturally drawn to.

• I might actually enjoy doing math more if I didn’t get so anxious taking the quizzes and exams. I enjoy figuring out how to make sense of problems. I do not necessarily trust that I know enough to be able to master them during a timed quiz. The truth is, in the end, I often *do* know the material well enough.

• In high school and college, I was very quiet in my classes. It was hard for me to speak up in class, even when I wanted to (I now think that it was primarily sensory-related and I kept shutting down). In this math class, I was actually one of the more vocal ones when the teacher asked for answers to problems. Now that I know more about myself and don’t put so much pressure on myself to speak, I actually say more.

It was good to review the mathematical concepts and be reminded of the practical applications. While I don’t use all of the concepts in my daily life, I do use some and I can also see where else they would be useful. That’s one of the things about having more life experience – practical applications often make more sense.

I’m planning on taking the first biology course that I’ve taken since sixth grade this semester. I’m curious to see what I learn there!

2018 highlights

I don’t write here as much anymore, and not as much as I’d like to. Life has been busy.

Perhaps more on that later.

But now, I am reflecting on this past year. 2018 has generally been a good year for me.

Here are some highlights:

  • In March, I visited my mom in Bellingham, Washington, and we also spent time in Langley on Whidbey Island. We spent our time walking around on the beach and through the town. We spent a fair bit of time browsing local shops. We also sorted through her photo albums for the photos we’d like to keep in the long-term, so we revisited a lot of memories together.
  • In June, we bought our first home, a beautiful condo in a quiet neighborhood. I sometimes forget it’s in the middle of the city. We are continuing to make it more homey. I’ve been feeling much more settled here since we moved into our new place.
  • In August, I took the Nia Blue Belt training in Portland, Oregon. There’s something about Nia trainings and events that resonates with me deeply and makes me feel more at home in community with others and within myself. Blue Belt is all about relationships, communication, and intimacy. I’ve noticed the most difference in my relationship to myself: I’ve been more kind towards myself since taking the training. I also feel more connected to my learning process and practice of Nia.
  • In October, my husband and I celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary. Our relationship continues to grow and deepen and we enjoy being our quirky and silly selves around each other. 🙂
  • In December, we took our fourth annual holiday trip to the Sedona area in Arizona. It’s become a sweet tradition of us meeting my father in the relative midpoint between Las Vegas and Albuquerque and spending time hiking, dining, and enjoying each other’s company. Also, it’s a breathtakingly gorgeous place.
  • Several trips to my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Having quality time with my father, Nia friends, and family friends. Enjoying being in the high desert. Feeling the sense of home that lingers with me even as I feel more at home where I currently live.
  • I completed two college courses (Spring and Fall Semester 2018): one English and one math. They are prerequisites for a program I’m considering applying to in the future. Taking classes reminds me of how much I love learning.
  • It was my first full year of proofreading legal transcripts! It’s become a good source of supplemental income, and I have a few regular clients. I also enjoy it.
  • First full year of consistently teaching a Nia class! I also started teaching private Moving to Heal sessions. In December, I taught a one-time class at a studio in Boulder City in December and got to experience teaching a group of people who were completely new to Nia.
  • Various explorations of local places: the mountains, Red Rock Canyon, Fashion Show Mall, Caesar’s Palace (I prefer exploring out in nature on a hike, but the sights and sounds of the Strip are interesting in their own way too).

Thank you, 2018, for the blessings you have brought me and the lessons you have taught me.

Now, on to the next…

Nia Blue Belt Insights: My relationship with FloorPlay.

I started writing a post that summarizes my experience at my Blue Belt training. And in truth, it didn’t really touch it. I can use adjectives like amazing, life-changing, but that doesn’t really give you a picture of how it touched me.

Over three weeks later, I am continuing to integrate the material. I imagine I will be integrating for quite some time. The Blue Belt training, the second belt level of Nia training, focuses on communication, relationships, and intimacy. I just opened the PDF version of the Blue Belt Learn book on my iPad and turned to the first principle: the Joy of Being in Relationship With — with another, life-force energy, etc. So in honor of that, I’m going to create separate posts about how my relationship with my Nia practice, myself, life, other people, is shifting in response to my experience at my Blue Belt training.

I’m beginning with FloorPlay, which is both a Nia practice and a Blue Belt principle.

My relationship with: FloorPlay

I am predisposed to like being on the floor. I don’t remember a time when plopping down on the floor didn’t feel like the most natural thing in the world. In the living room, I am generally more likely to sit down on the floor against a couch than sit on the couch. It is fairly easy for me to get up and down from the floor. So, generally, I like being on floors and I appreciated that moving and playing on the floor was part of Nia.

And yet..sometimes FloorPlay in Nia felt muted to me, like an obligatory extension of cooling down and yet not quite a cycle unto itself. FloorPlay is the sixth of seven cycles in a Nia class. So coming down to the floor is often an expected part of any routine. I understood that it was supposed to have a conditioning element, but how often did it really feel like it? I liked being on the floor and moving there, but I sometimes felt like something was missing.

NiaStudio floor

The studio at Nia Headquarters

After spending most of a morning on the floor during the training, I gained more of a felt sense of FloorPlay conceptually and as an embodied experience. We spent time on the floor concentrating on areas of our bodies we wanted to self-heal. We played with conditioning and experimented with how it felt to exercise versus move. Moving is easier, smoother, less forceful, more flowing, more energy-centered. I realized that I could do the same action, like crunches, from an exercise approach and a movement approach and I would feel and experience it differently.

I gained a deeper embodied experience of what it meant to play on the floor. I had moments where I felt giddy in the revelation and expression of play. I can gain a similar feeling I had as a child rolling down hills at a park as I play and move on the floor.

Now, after the training, I crave more quality FloorPlay time. I want to intentionally spend time on the floor, not just as a part of a routine, but a practice of conditioning, self-healing, and play.  I look forward to what this practice will teach me, how it will add to my experience of my body, myself, and Nia.

I am now the proud owner of Nia kneepads to help support my body with this practice.



After that morning’s FloorPlay session, I was texting my husband about it. He said, “I’m glad you’re such good friends with the floor.” I said, “I could be even better friends with the floor.”

From imagining others’ lives to finding my own.

I tend to write more than I post, so I’m working on finishing what’s in my drafts folder from the past few months.

Around five years ago, I used to work at a place on the San Diego harbor. There was a period of time where I didn’t drive, so I would take the bus to work. The bus would wind its way from where I caught it in Golden Hill, through the streets of downtown San Diego, and drop me off about two blocks away from the harbor. I would walk the rest.

This thought pattern may have lasted days, weeks, or months. But I would often look at someone during that walk and imagine what their life was like, and if I would be happier having a life like theirs. I would wonder if that woman was happy as she went to her 9-to-5 job; maybe it was one she had worked hard to get, a dream job. Maybe that man in a suit was smiling because he was looking at pictures of his children on his phone. At the time, I was working at job that wasn’t a good fit for me. My passion simply wasn’t there, and some of my values clashed with their mission. I kept telling myself that it was a temporary job, but temporary ended up lasting two years. I had a life that I invested a lot of my passion into after work, but that gradually lost its luster as well.

I think I was longing for something else, something more to fill my days, and I sometimes translated that into thinking that I wanted to be someone else. Maybe I would like someone else’s life better, maybe they were living their passion, maybe they felt more comfortable in their own skin.

…Or maybe they were miserable at that moment as well. I have no way of knowing.

It definitely is food for thought though, of how I would imagine these lives that were not mine and focus away from my own. How some of my personal growth work around that time ended up being on-point, but some of it ended up being me try to mold myself to be a certain type of person. I sometimes unconsciously went away from myself while doing work to try to find myself.

And maybe this is all part of the stumbling blocks of self-discovery. Perhaps I needed to learn who I was not in order to learn who I am. After all, I can’t be true to myself if I don’t know who that is — or isn’t. However, I also recognize that there may have been an element of disconnection/dissociation from my own experience as I looked outside of myself and imagined the contents and emotions of other people’s lives.

There’s definitely a difference between striving to be the best version of myself versus the person I think I ought to be. I’m currently doing much better on former, although I still struggle with “shoulds” sometimes or wish that I didn’t have sensory processing challenges, etc. In my current personal growth journey, I strive to focus on my own strengths and challenges.

These days, while I may sometimes be curious about those around me, I’m not longing for someone else’s life. I’m grateful for the the life I am currently living, with its ups and downs, struggles and wins — my own life.


Moving to Heal reflections



It’s been three months since I took the Moving to Heal training in Santa Fe. Moving to Heal is a Nia training geared towards adapting movement to enhance the healing process. This can include healing from a physical injury, moving through depression, working with aging populations, and more.

It was my first time meeting Debbie Rosas, co-founder of Nia and a force of nature in her own right. Initially, I was a little intimidated by the idea of meeting her and taking a training from her. From the weekend I spent with her, I can say that she’s an incredible source of Nia wisdom. She’s curious, loves to learn, and has great passion for what she does. I heard from others that she was softer at this training than they’d observed and experienced at other trainings. Since it is largely about self-healing, Moving to Heal requires a softer touch, and she held that type of space for the weekend beautifully.

Dancing, Studio Nia Santa Fe

Painting on one of the walls of the Nia studio

Reflections on what struck me, moved me, made me think:

The first day concentrated mainly on self-healing, on following the body. While I’ve gotten better at this, I still sometimes am more focused on the moves and having the movement help me feel a certain way. I realized during a recent bodywork session that I often want an “easy fix” when I’m experiencing physical pain or discomfort, and it doesn’t always work that way; it often takes more time. Tuning in and asking my body what it needs and following that can lead to more awareness and even a shift in sensation.

The second day, which was a little more externally focused, we did exercises where we limited at least one of our senses so we could have more of a sense of what it might be like for people who can’t hear, see, or move as well. I chose hearing and put earplugs in. It brought my attention more into my body and into each sensation; my intereoception (sense of the internal) was more activated as a result.  However, it also meant that I was straining to hear the music and Debbie’s voice. She said, “Close your eyes,” at one point. I did, and it was even harder to hear. It was as though I had been cut off from the room and the experience. Those who limited their vision (by putting Vaseline on eyeglasses) said that they felt like their hearing became more acute, but it was disorienting and even dizzying to not be able to fully see what was going on. It’s very easy to take being able-bodied and having full (or close to full) ability in the senses for granted; it was eye-opening to gain insight on what it might be like for someone with these limitations to do a chair Nia class.

Speaking of chair Nia: It’s definitely different. We first tried it at the end of the first day without much instruction, just rotated among several Nia teachers in the room, following their movements. It was playful, silly, sometimes intense, sometimes more gentle. The next morning, Debbie gave us more tips about doing Nia in a chair: first, use your core and your upper and lower extremities as much as possible. Without doing that, she said, we — and our students — would be more likely to be sore afterwards. While movement is more limited in a chair, it’s also active in a different way. It requires creativity in doing adjustments or modifications. I can, for example, do choreography/moves originally intended for the feet with my hands. Or I can modify on the ground with small foot and leg movements. Or I can stop altogether and just follow the movements with my eyes. There are so many options that I normally don’t think of when I’m dancing or teaching. With all the options, doing Nia in a chair seems less limited and more like a different experience.

The second day, we played with some of the 52 moves, and it was great to see how I could repeat one move in a variety of ways. Repetition doesn’t have to be boring or limiting, and there can be variations within it.

There were also moments that were sweet, such as connecting with a partner during an exercise and creating a deep sense of safety and security. At the beginning, each of us danced in the center of the circle when Debbie called our names, one by one, creating the space.

There was connecting with other Nia people, sharing our love of this holistic form of dance fitness, creating a strong sense of community. Spending time with dear friends and meeting new ones.

I remember the conversation during the first day’s lunch, when I shared with my assigned group about how Nia had helped me with depression and my sensory processing issues. Nia has been so healing for me, and I want to continue that process. I want to be able to share that with others.

I’m still sitting with how to take my Moving to Heal practice to the next level — I’d like to be able to teach a regular Moving to Heal class at some point soon. That requires having a space and regular students, and I’m still figuring out how to establish that. In Nia, we refer to “natural time,” doing things in the time needed, at my own pace, as they unfold. I remind myself of that when I feel time pressure, when I want to start doing things right this instant. I’m taking steps. And in the meantime, I’m learning new routines and occasionally reading the materials/guidebooks.  I can also continue my own self-healing movement practice at home.

Sometimes, it can be fun to “turn up” the Nia moves to the highest level, full expression, more of a cardio workout. There is also a lot of value and beauty in slowing and scaling the movements way down. When I slow down, I can sense better into where I’m at, how I’m feeling, and what my body needs. While I can certainly turn to the external and explore how I can give that experience to others, I move first for myself, for my own self-healing. And that is what I learned and received from the Moving to Heal training.