Freedom, flow, bliss!

This year, I’m on a quest to feel free in every aspect of my life – in how I communicate with others, in my body, with how I show up in the world.

I find ways daily to feel free, and every day I celebrate all the ways in which I feel free. Often what comes up is that I feel the most freedom in my hoop. When that freedom arises, I know I’m in flow, an oft sought after state by hoopers. It’s that sweet place where your mind isn’t even thinking about what you’re doing, yet you’re spinning around the room, looking all badass like a hoop ninja. Those freedom and flow moments inevitibly lead to bliss and that is the theme I’ll be working with in the next series of classes I’ll be teaching through Infinity Hoopdance, starting March 3. I’m super excited to share my nearly 8 years of hoop dance practice to help my students find their own freedom, flow and bliss in the hoop. If you want to deepen your practice, find out more about the classes here.

p.s. I found this cool chart about flow, not to be confused with a flow chart, when I was in some professional development training recently. To be in flow, we want to hang out in the centre zone. To get there we just need to match the level of complexity of the task to our skill level and that is what hoop class is meant to do!
flow chart

Csikszentmihalyi’s diagram of Flow (Source: Conflict Mediation Coach)

Coming Home Embodying Flow/Love

Hoop Path Flow/Love

Baxter hoops it up during the Hoop Path Flow/Love tour stop in Edmonton.

A week later and I’m still smiling after another amazing Hoop Path weekend with Jonathan Livingston Baxter, or Baxter (or Bax) as we know him in the hooping world.

These weekends are always magical for me. I love taking a whole weekend to delve into the subtleties of hoop dance. Baxter is able to share so much of himself  and the message he shares in these workshops are much deeper than just hooping alone. Every time I’ve taken a Hoop Path weekend, I feel like Bax is telling me exactly what I need to hear. This year’s theme was Flow/Love, something I can get behind for sure considering my word for 2015 is Flow and my last Halloween costume was a Love Bot.  Plus, there’s all the hooping too!

While many past Hoop Path weekends have spoken to me more on a deeper, spiritual level, I found what impacted me the most this year was the actual act of hoop dance. Who would have guessed? We played with techniques that I finally felt like I got after working with them here and there over the past few years. These techniques felt so foreign the first time Bax shared them with us. Off body stuff with no hands? Whaaaaa? This year I really felt like I found my flow with it though.

Baxter talked about embodiment over the weekend and while I know what that means, I feel like I didn’t really “know” it until now. I started off the weekend incredibly tired, still trying to recover from jet lag after returning from Thailand (or 14 hours into the future if you want to look at it that way) only a week earlier. My body was back in Canada, but my mind was somewhere else. My rhythms were all messed up. I don’t recall having such a difficult time adjusting last time I returned from the future, but I think age may have something to do with that.

What I found over the weekend though, was that the more I hooped, the more I arrive back in my body. My brain fog cleared up, the extreme tiredness I was feeling began to cease and piece by piece, I slowly arrived back home – in my body.

As I arrived in my body, I began to open and expand, which was my intention for the weekend. My body began to move more freely than ever before (in my life ever!), I experienced a state of flow where my hoop and I were so connected, there were no mistakes, even though I dropped my hoop. Instead of letting the hoop fall to the ground, another limb magically caught it, or bumped it and I moved in new ways that I never have before and may never move again. I felt as though I became flow and that I became love. I felt that I didn’t need to intellectualize what Baxter talked about, because I was experiencing it in my body.

What I love about hooping is that it has this way of bringing me completely into the moment. What I love about Hoop Path, is that throughout the process of the weekend, Baxter creates a space for us to be present in our bodies and from that state, flow emerges. That dance of mistakelessness only arises during true moments of embodiment, of pure presence.

Somehow, I have fallen in love with hoop dance even more. It is such a gift to use movement as an embodiment practice. So in addition to hooping meeting 7 needs I didn’t know I had, I now see it even more as a tool to bring me home, into my body and into my heart.

Thanks Bax, for delivering on your theme of Flow/Love. I can’t wait for my next Hoop Path weekend. To my readers, if you get the chance to take a Hoop Path workshop, do it! You won’t be disappointed.

The Hoop’s Got What You Need: 7 Ways Hooping Meets Needs You Didn’t Know You Had

"Maslow's hierarchy of needs" by J. Finkelstein - I created this work using Inkscape.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs.svg#mediaviewer/File:Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs.svg

“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” by J. Finkelstein

I remember first learning about the difference between needs and wants in elementary school. We learned that we need things like food, air, shelter, water and love to survive and we learned that wants are things like toys, brand name clothing, fancy cars etc.  I later learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which expanded my context further but I still didn’t put a lot of thought into the specific needs that filled up each category. I just tried to figure out where I was on the chart and knew I wasn’t at the self-actualization stage yet but I was above the physiological section.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I was given a needs inventory  handout from the Center for Nonviolent Communication in a Creator’s Code Creation Circle meeting. We were learning how we could meet our needs in clean and clear ways which first meant we had to understand our needs. The list of needs blew me away! I found it very comprehensive and in many cases I hadn’t previously considered the things listed as needs at all. In my mind they were wants. They are nice to have if I have extra time to focus on them, but not necessary for my overall well being. As I read through the list, I was delighted to see that much of the self care I do is actually helping to meet various needs and this list is just further proof that I NEED to practice self care regularly to operate at my peak performance! My husband calls this high maintenance, and maybe it can be seen as that, but all I know is I’m much happier when my needs are met.

As I scanned the list, it struck me quite quickly that hooping meets so many needs, particularly needs that I didn’t recognize as needs in the first place. Yipee! Now I have at least seven more reasons to keep hooping! Here they are:

1. Community – Hooping has connected me to a local and international group of beautiful souls. Any city I visit, I try to hit up a hoop jam so I can make new friends. It’s amazing being able to connect with a group of strangers wherever you go, where you feel like you belong almost immediately. I didn’t feel this sense of community on a large scale growing up as I wasn’t part of religious organizations and wasn’t involved in many extra curricular activities. As a hooper, I definitely feel the love and connection that comes from being part of an amazing community.

2. Authenticity – The hoop invites me to be my authentic self. To move my body in such a way that expresses exactly how I’m feeling in that moment. It can be challenging to be authentic in a world that encourages you to conform, but the hoop continues to teach me how to be myself. I knew it was important to practice being me, but I didn’t realize that I NEED to be me!

3. Play – When I saw this one on the list, my first thought was, well play is good for people who aren’t that busy, but most people aren’t going to make time for it, so it can’t be that important. Good thing I’m not what I think most people are like! Hooping is all about play and I make it a priority all the time. Play brings fun and laughter and silliniess. I guess we need all that too. Who knew that playing with a plastic circle was so important? When we play, we’re actually meeting a need!

4. Inspiration – It can be easy to get caught up in the day to day actvities of life, but what is the point of living if you’re not inspired? Watching other hoopers bust out is always inspiring and gives me motivation to grow and expand. I can now see this is a need because when I feel I’m in a rut, I head over to YouTube and watch videos of my favourite hoopers to kick my creativity into high gear. I need that to keep going some days.

5. Creativity – And speaking of creativity, that need made the list too. I often think of people as either creative or analytical. Before recognizing creativity as a need, I thought about it as a treat if I completed all the things on my to-do list first. Now that I know creativity is a need, I will give myself even more time to play and explore in my hoop. I love taking time to ask what if, like the time I asked what if I try to combine sustained spinning with breaks & reversals? The results were great and I even based a workshop on it! I would have never discovered that combination had I not taken time to nurture my creativity.

6. Learning – I appreciate being able to learn but didn’t think this was something I needed. The hoop teaches me so much. I’m not just learning tricks and developing my flow, I’m also learning about life. Some of my favourite hoop life lessons are captured here. And what’s more, when I teach, I learn. Both kids and adults teach me so much as I teach them. The learning never stops, I knew this but again, never thought I needed to learn to be satisfied in life.

7. Movement – This one might be more obvious but I just wanted to add that I’ve recently gained some weight as the result of meeting a need to experience joy this summer. I ate and drank everything I wanted! I would like to feel healthier now and have been playing with what I call Hoop Aerobics. Doing lunges, squats, toe lifts etc while hooping. It’s the only way I can really enjoy myself while “exercising” and exercise has to be fun for me or I won’t do it. It’s been great so far and I’m excited to keep going with it. One rule I’ve given myself that will be sure to get me fit in no time is that everytime I drop my hoop, I have to do a burpee! Or perhaps, I’ll just develop more core control with the hoop to avoid doing burpees, we’ll see.

NoMo hooping

A shot of a group I was teaching at a small music festival a few weeks back. I see a lot of needs being met – play, learning, exercise, connection and more!

In addition to learning about the types of needs we have, I also learned that we can always tell when our needs aren’t being met because we are unhappy in some way. I think back to before I started hooping over six years ago and can honestly say I’m a much happier person now. I consider hooping to be one of my essential self care practices and understand why it fills me up, it’s because it meets so many of my needs. Hooping truly  fulfills me! It allows me to feel my core desired feelings (abundance, support, connection, flow and joyful radiance) each and every day. I even spotted some of my core desired feelings on the needs list, proving to me that daily connection and joy are even more important than I previously thought. What a beautiful gift I’ve received from this little plastic circle.

❤ Nicole