Rock Star & Owner of Amerrickan, an Earth Day clothing line.

A quiet guy – whom you’d never suspect to be famous if you just met him in a health food store – Zach wants to MAKE change in the world rather than talk about it.

Most people know Zack from afar as a rock star bass player and singer in the band All Time Low. I know him as a great family friend who finds his deepest joy in giving back. For Zack, cleaning our collective home – the earth and sea – makes him feel incredible. He does his own personal beach ‘sweeps’ almost daily after his fitness workout on the sand, then takes people on big, multiple-beach cleanups on weekends. He has a great time and now meets amazing people he wasn’t meeting otherwise, people eager to help keep Hawaii the way they love it.

Zack dedicates most of his personal – yet huge – social media platform to this earth/sea cleaning cause. His clothing line Amerrickan devotes itself to an Earth Day focus of cleanups around the world, with proceeds going to 808cleanups and Surfrider Foundation. It offers men’s and women’s clothing,  all casual apparel, currently featuring hats, shirts, hoodies and tank tops, with fashion in mind, all related to cleaning the world. For people who don’t live on the beach, he’s supporting cleanups of parks and forests.

Walking the beach, Zack brings a bag to pick up the trash left behind by both tourists and even locals: snorkels, slippers, beer bottles and cans, broken buoys, fishing weights, hooks, as well as miscellaneous stuff like a fluorescent light bulb and a hull of a boat. He knows that kids are the ones who will eventually feel the most impact from our trash, so he asks them as he walks along to give him any trash that they see. Great awareness raiser!

His group beach cleanups particularly look for ghost nets that appear on the shore overnight. These big tangles of fishnets, hooks, gear and assorted junk get wrapped around the reef and eventually choke it to death – or the sea mammals and turtles get caught and injured in them. Removing ghost nets as soon as they appear is a big priority for Zach.

On the beaches, they do lots of sand-sifting with handmade tools. Zack lets people know that bigger plastics breaking down into microplastic constitutes a huge environmental problem. Birds and fish eat them and die. The tiniest microplastic is  absorbed into microorganisms at the lowest levels of the food chain and even make it into our drinking water, so they are getting into OUR body systems as well.

Sifting all the microplastic out of a 10 foot square spot would take hours. Zack and his friend Al Smith are teaming up to efficiently sift the beaches. Al, the Director of Parks and Recreation for Kailua and founder of the nonprofit Hawaii Ocean Ambassadors, originally turned Zack onto beach cleaning. Al is cutting through the bureaucratic red tape to get Zack permission to drive on the beaches pulling a mechanical sifter behind his vehicle. Once that permission is granted, Zack plans to buy the machine himself and personally do the driving – whenever he’s not on tour with his band!

Joining Zack this last Saturday for a cleanup were about 15 people, consisting of about 50/50 local folks and people who have moved here from afar. They started up at the North Shore and worked their way down the east side of the island where ocean currents bring most of the trash: Pounders bodyboarding spot, Kahana Bay, Kahuku Beach, Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach.

Knowing that most people simply don’t realize how they are contributing to this trash problem, Zack educates people in a friendly way. “Go have a great time at the beach,” he tells everyone. “Always take your stuff away, and if you can, take some other people’s junk away, too.” He lets people know, “The solution starts at your house with single-use plastics. Ask yourself whether you really need it or if can you live without it?” And he shows people how much he and his friends pick up off the beach.

Living in Baltimore where his band formed itself in 2003, Zack put together charitable events for a homeless shelter. Once he moved here to Oahu, and started working out at the beach, he saw the magnitude of the ocean debris started grabbing all the trash he came across. That eventually turned into group pickups with lots of friends – for fun and for a good deed. Zack is too active to just lie there in the sun, so beach cleaning is much more worthwhile and satisfying to the soul!

Twitter @zackalltimelow

Instagram  @zacharymerrick

Contributed by Zack Merrick

Living in Hawaii, we experience the beauty of our ocean daily. We know our planet is suffering – a state of urgency with ocean pollution getting out of hand. Sometimes we don’t know what to do and how to help. Let’s start by minimizing our use of plastics, making a positive difference daily! We can feel good about stewarding the Earth and leave a thriving ocean for future generations. Take a look at suggestions you may never have thought of…

In the Kitchen:
Keep a stocked pantry to avoid getting takeout on busy nights.
Learn how to freeze your food without plastic so it doesn’t go to waste.
Store refrigerated leftovers in glass containers or in waxed paper bags instead of store-bought baggies.
Use waxed paper, an overturned plate or a reusable shower-cap type cover for bowls.
Wash and reuse your aluminum foil as long as possible before recycling it with the cans.
Use metal, wood and bamboo utensils.

Going Out:
Always leave your house with a full reusable water bottle, avoiding plastic water bottles.
Ask for no straw in your drink order.
Ask for a real mug at the coffee shop when staying in, and bring your own to-go cup when getting coffee on the run.
Bring your own container for to-go food and leftovers, avoiding styrofoam and plastic to-go’s.

In the Bathroom:
Ditch plastic shower loofahs for a real loofah or a bamboo bath brush.
Switch from a plastic disposable razor to a metal safety razor.
Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush.
Use bar soap instead of liquid soap in a plastic bottle.
Try making tooth powder to avoid unrecyclable toothpaste tubes.
Swap little plastic chapstick tubes for DIY lip balm.
Ditch plastic q-tips for plastic-free ones.
Use compostable scrubs or brushes in lieu of plastic sponges.
Put old contact lens into the trash, not the sink or toilet – they cause problems at the water treatment plant.

At the Store:
Commit to bringing your reusable bags all the way into the store.
Choose glass over plastic bottles.
Bring reusable produce bags for fruits and veggies.
Buy food without packaging or minimal packaging, bringing your own container.
Avoid purchasing liquid containers that combine plastic, aluminum and cardboard that we can’t recycle.
Ask for no plastic and for reused packaging materials for online orders.

With Stuff:
Seek out items made of metal, wood, rubber, cloth, paper, cardboard, natural fiber – rather than plastic.
Avoid plastic furniture, tubs, boxes, sheds.
Buy the non-plastic version of a thing, so that you can repair it when it breaks.
Surround yourself with tools and items that are meant to last a lifetime. Try to buy objects only once.
Always say ‘no thank you’ to free promotional items, which tend to be cheap, plastic and easily breakable.

When Disposing:
Try to shrink the amount you need to recycle. Zero waste is about recycling less not more.
Learn where to properly dispose of items such as old cell phones, batteries and unusable cords that can be turned in at Best Buy, etc.
Pick up litter when you’re out and dispose of it properly.

If you like these suggestions, you can check out the 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste at

Aloha  *|FNAME|*!

Sister Joan Chatfield profoundly influenced many lives for the better during her time here on earth with us. On the few, precious occasions that I had the chance to speak with her, she struck me as an absolutely authentic human being. Nothing about her was fake or put on. She was genuinely interested in meeting me – whoever I might be – as a fellow soul on life’s path. And I saw her – a Catholic nun – reach out to many others in that same inclusive way, whether at Gandhi Day celebration events, at The Interfaith Alliance meetings, at Peace Day, at a Mouna Farm and Cultural Arts Village event, or at the Voyage of Aloha convention. Wherever  like-hearted, big-hearted souls gathered on Oahu, Sister Joan seemed to be there.

Sister Joan left her body this last Friday, March 1st, and while many grieve her passing, she remains a strong presence in our lives. Raj Kumar, president of the Gandhi International Institute for Peace, tells me, “Sister Joan was like a real angel in my life. Her noble deeds were like Mother Teresa’s. She united people from all faiths to promote love, peace and harmony in our community. We will continue her legacy.”  He adds, “Sister Joan was a great soul.”

Dean of Humanities at Chaminade University, a professor at the University of Hawaii, and a teacher in Hawaii’s Catholic schools for decades, Sister Joan lovingly helped many young people to shape their lives in uplifting ways they may never otherwise have considered. Sonia Fabrigas shares how, as a student attending her religion classes at UH Manoa, Sister Joan profoundly guided her early life in ways that far surpassed Sonia’s comfort zones.

“Once I graduated with degrees in comparative religion and comparative philosophy, Sister Joan offered, or should I say, threw me into a peace education program working with prostitutes leaving their profession. I suspect she wanted to me to find peace with any judgements and fears I had within, as I would otherwise fail to educe peace in these women.”

Says Sonia, “There was a time I contemplated choosing a cloistered path. Sister Joan gave me an assignment to find female saints who were married. I understood then that spiritual commitment is not lived by taking vows to live a cloistered life. Spiritual commitment is just lived no matter what one’s path.”

Sister Joan inspired Sonia’s decades of peace education, interfaith dialogues and multi-cultural arts, leading her to produce the wonderful Peace of the Rainbow television program that aired for years.

Sonia instructively adds, “Sister Joan opened my eyes and heart to the world of human trafficking, domestic violence and issues that women in spirituality face. Out of this came a lesson that I created and still use to this day called ‘The Line and the Circle’. She gave me opportunities to see where I drew lines and challenged me to turn them into circles.”

The Hawaii Forgiveness Project officially recognized Sister Joan as a Heroine of Forgiveness. “May every step I take be one of forgiveness,” a quote by Jerry Janpolsky, seemed to be a credo for her. According to Roger Epstein, Founder of the Hawaii Forgiveness Project, Sister Joan was in a good deal of pain over her later years, yet she gladly and uncomplainingly took care of her senior Maryknoll sisters through their difficult and dying years.

Sister Joan dedicated herself to helping others and doing the right thing over and above the institution, according to Roger. Diplomatic, she could still make her point in the hierarchy she had to report to; she was the chief ecumenical officer for the Catholic Church in Honolulu for many years. Intriguingly, Sister Joan directed the Maitreya Institute, founded by a Tibetan buddhist rinpoche, to promote art, healing and spirituality, looking into many religions and traditions for insight.

Sister Joan earned the Living Treasure of Hawaii award in 2009, given by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, for her lifelong compassion and altruism. Leaders of all faiths looked to Sister Joan’s example of reaching across religious boundaries. She also served as the Chairperson for the All Believers Network and the Executive Director of the Institute for Religion and Social Change.

Even as a representative of the Church, Sister Joan never stood on ceremony, just being helpful and truthful at all times. “It helped my life just to know her. And her spirit is still present with us,” summarized Roger Epstein.

David Castellano of Unity Church mentions that Sister Joan inspired us to bridge the gap between Spirit and Humanity. “Sister Joan had this condition, it’s where her heart didn’t know when or where to stop loving. It’s something the world needs more of.”

Masai Asago, President of Hawai‘i Conference of Religions for Peace (HCRP), recalls about Sister Joan:  “I never forget her saying, ‘No one should be discriminated for any reason in this world.’ Her passion toward humanity and a sense of equality touched my heart. She has been many people’s role-model, mentor, and sage to look up to in our interfaith community.”

Her kind smile reaches out
To make you a friend forever
On first meeting
Her musical voice sings
A thousand stories –
Wise and gentle humor
Precious history
Sister Joan is no longer in one body
So now she lives in all of us
In every sky, ocean, flower, sunset
In every hand and heart
Memory of aloha

– Michael North

Services will be held March 21, 2019 at Sacred Heart Church, 1701 Wilder Ave, Honolulu. Viewing is 9-10 am, Mass at 10:30 am. A reception will follow 11:30 am -1:30 pm at Maryknoll Grade School campus, 1722 Dole St.
Burial is 2 pm at Diamond Head Memorial Park.

Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,

And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.

Contributed by Carmen Curtis, founder of AIReal Yoga

I get all my yoga teacher trainees to settle their minds by giving them colored pencils and mandala coloring books. They choose certain colors and start on the outside rim of the design, working their way inward. They feel so calm and focussed by the time they get to the center, they don’t want to stop coloring!

What might seem to be a mere child’s play has a lot more to it than you might think. The repetitive or creative process of coloring geometric shapes, or a beautiful design, paying close attention to each stroke, staying inside the lines – this simple and non-threatening task requires no expertise. It’s very easy to engage in. Next thing we know, we are finding some quality quiet time, soothing our thoughts, allowing our brain to enter a different wavelength.

Focusing our attention in the present moment – the pencil and paper in our hands now – benefits our mindfulness in daily dealings. For that time, it automatically unplugs us from technology, such as the phone or computer. It turns us inward when all the distractions of the world try to pull us outward, scattering our consciousness.

A wide variety of art therapies for adults implement coloring. The trials show that coloring as mindfulness meditation can help improve sleep, decrease anxiety, and promote positive life changes.

Try coloring before bedtime – you might sleep more soundly or dream more magical dreams!

Diamond Head Chocolate Company specializes in in high-end confectionaries. With over 30 years of experience, local Hawaiian Chocolatier, Michael Cummins opened his first solo store in 2018 – and it’s only a couple blocks away from Still & Moving in Ward Center!

“Indulging in a quality chocolate is one of life’s simple pleasures, and one we hope to share with you,” says Michael. Regarding the new name. “I have a view of Diamond Head that I look at every day and that just makes it more personal to me.”

His premium chocolates are hand-dipped daily at Ward Center facility, using some of the finest ingredients available. No surprise – what you get there is freshness and aloha in every bite.

Michael Cummins takes pride in his loyal following of customers – some of them have been enjoying his creations for many years through the former Honolulu Chocolate Company:

“I’ve had a lot of people come in and say that they used to come in with their mom and get a piece of chocolate and now they come in with their own kids. It’s three generations now.”

Malia Helela, our kumu hula, feels blessed to be a part of the community Michael says has grown around these chocolates. “My personal favorite is the dark chocolate dipped orange slices because they are rich, hearty and the perfect balance of sweet and tart without any trace of bitterness.”

This cute little boutique chocolate store sports a lineup of ornaments and gifts from around the world from countries such as Germany, France, Belgium and Italy. Diamond Head Chocolates can also be found at the Sheraton, Waikiki.

Renee Tillotson raves, “My christmas tree is a living example of the beautiful ornaments they sell, and I LOVE their dark chocolate dipped ginger slices.”

What others say:

Formerly the Honolulu Chocolate Company, this has always been my favorite chocolate shop in Hawaii. Their chocolate turtles are the best ever, and the chocolate covered fortune cookies and s’mores are delicious too.

This is the BEST chocolate store on the island!! I appreciate good quality chocolate and this place has it. Every time I’m back, this is a store where I must stop at to stock up on my chocolates. The dark chocolate macadamia nut turtles are my absolute favorite and they are handmade locally right there. Do yourself a favor and try their yummy chocolates!

They’re back and I’m so happy! The Honolulu Chocolate Co. is back at Ward Center and renamed Diamond Head Chocolate Co.! They brought back all my favorite chocolate covered everything…Oreos, fortune cookies, ginger, graham crackers…Omg. Love love love. The displays are beautiful, store looks brand new and employees are really nice.

Kara is hands down a people person who loves connecting and talking story, even if she technically qualifies as an on-the-cusp “millennial”! She invests her full heart and presence into her students and clients, supporting people towards happier, healthier lives. You can find her at Still & Moving Center teaching Mandala Yoga on Monday mornings at 9:15am. You can also book her as a Yoga and Meditation coach, and now as Thai Yoga Therapist! Our Taking Back Your Health participants also enjoy Kara’s therapy and coaching.

Early this year, deep in the jungles of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, Kara woke at dawn to the sounds of howler monkeys and cicadas. Step one, post matcha, she headed over to the wooden platform stretching out on the side of the mountain for a morning yoga session. Above the jungle, toucans and red macaws flew overhead. Immersed in this natural setting, Kara completed her Navina Thai Yoga Therapy Principle Certification.

This Thai Yoga Therapy is a unique and effective modality of touch and movement therapy based on four foundational principles: metta bhavana, or, the cultivation of loving kindness intentional stances, which provide the physical framework for the massage, which happens fully clothed, on a comfy floor mat rocking, which encourages the mantra of ‘slowing it down’ quality touch, informed by the understanding of structure and anatomy.

Thai Yoga Therapy provides a personal, nurturing experience for the client’s nervous system while helping to realign the mind and body so it can better heal itself. Drew Hume, the founder of Navina Thai Yoga Therapy, led Kara’s training in Costa Rica, and has given multiple trainings and workshops at Still & Moving Center when he’s visited Oahu!

Thai massage therapy couples perfectly with yoga. A 30 – 60 minute movement practice through yoga asana and breathwork followed by 30 – 60 minutes of super relaxing body work? Sign me up! Kara has a magically healing touch.

As a yoga teacher and trainer with a professional background working with marginalized communities, Kara emphasizes the karma yoga path which is all about community service and impact. She encourages her yoga students to align with a deeper purpose for the world or humanity; how can we tap into our gifts and use them to make the world a better place?

Kara grew up traveling and living around the tropical Pacific as her parents did nonprofit medical work in the Pacific Islands region. The areas they worked were particularly rich in marine resources and biodiversity, so she learned to deeply understand, respect, explore, utilize, love and embody the ocean and the life it supports from a young age. She learned to swim and snorkel in the ocean practically before she could walk.

This upbringing greatly influenced her career path and throughout her life she has spent time living and working in Fiji, Indonesia, St. John USVI, American Samoa, Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall islands. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Marine Biology and a Masters of Science in Marine resource and environmental management, as well as Certificates in Pacific Island Studies and Ocean Policy from the University of Hawaii.

Kara worked in international fisheries management and policy, marine education and training, and capacity building on small Pacific Islands in various Government capacities for almost 10 years. Finally after realizing she could create greater and more meaningful impact outside of the government she quit the 9-5 grind and started her own consulting company.

Now she has expanded her reach to more areas around wellbeing, working with indigenous at risk youth in the marshall islands as well as women throughout Micronesia on wellness, empowerment, and leadership. When not traveling, Kara resides full time in the lovely country town of Waialua.

Teaching yoga for almost a decade, Kara completed her 500 hours as a Yoga Instructor and has taught yoga throughout Hawaii and internationally, including Indonesia and Pohnpei and Kosrae Islands in Micronesia. She started a yoga in the workplace program at the NOAA Fisheries office in Honolulu that is still running today. She also offers private classes, workshops, 200 hour Teacher Training programs, and she teaches regular Yoga classes and events on the island of Oahu.

Kara has scuba dived since the age of 12, is a PADI certified Dive Master and Naturalist diver, and has logged over 1000 dives from all over the world. She’s an ocean girl at heart and also loves to surf and freedive. When there is no surf you can find her skateboarding with her husband Caleb and dog Shiva.


60 min – $150.00

90 min – $180.00

5 pack – $700.00

10 pack – $1,300.00


Participating in 2nd Degree Nia Black Belt training January 19-24th shines as one of the higher honors in my life. Our co-founder Debbie Rosas announced at the training – for the first time ever – the true purpose of Nia: to raise the vibration of humanity. My heart thrilled to hear those words! She designed the training around alchemy, metaphorically the art of self-transformation, like changing a base metal (low vibration) into gold (high vibration).

Debbie has taught me to open my imagination to all sorts of possibilities in my life, including the creation of Still & Moving Center, which I do hope in its own small way contributes to human good. Let me dedicate this letter to Debbie. Follow me, if you will, into a surprisingly liberating experience….

Living stone. Almost a contradiction in terms, isn’t it? Yet that’s what I dove into while teaching Nia class one day. What?!? Renee, you are so crazy! What are you talking about, diving into a stone?!?

The focus for class of ‘living stone’ from our Still & Moving Center Almanac seemed so alluringly mysterious, it compelled me to enter it with the entirety of my imagination body. The potent quotes in the almanac somehow wove themselves into the fabric of our class.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. – Michelangelo Buonarroti

As we begin, I envision all of us in the room as hard – yet living – lumps of potential, waiting to be released from the thrall of our marble prisons, like beautiful classic statues of gods and goddesses. With a breath we begin subtly moving and stretching. I sense each bone as a chunk of stone, very slowly articulating one footfall into the next. My hands and arms methodically slice through the air with their blade edges, from the little finger along the bone up to the elbow point. I realize that I am self-carving my own statue. My slicing eventually whirls so fast it is like using a precision-saw. Away fly the unneeded chips. I become the sculptor of myself.

The more the marble sheds, the more the statue grows. – Michelangelo Buonarroti

By the time the song changes, we have transformed from blocks to bodies – bodies of stone.  Now our movement is terribly restrained. Our joints are mostly locked, our only locomotion feeling stiff, heavy, robotic. Eventually as we move our limbs, the stone softens and loosens.

Withdraw within yourself and look.  And if you do not find yourself beautiful as yet, do as does the creator of a statue….Cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, and bring to light all that is shadowed. – Plotinus

These animated statues – which we normally think of as our bodies – dance through the room, moving space. Not moving IN space, mind you, but MOVING space: the atoms of our bodies/statues displace the air molecules as we push and cut through them. Not only our bodies but the space around us gains a new dimension.

Now we conduct our “inner organs” dance, recruiting every core muscle we can find to knead and massage our organs – a very qigong-like practice for our internal health. We’re seeking to break up the stiff, inert connective tissues and fat surrounding our abdominal organs, bringing in more life force and mobility to what might be calcified structures within.

As our martial arts song comes on, we compose ourselves into a standing ‘ready’ position. Extending our hands outward and then back into fists at the waist, we find ways to move energy rather than muscle. It’s very subtle – my outstretched fingers extend themselves into the space beyond their physical boundaries, while my hand and arm muscles stay relaxed. Maybe the flow of qi somehow moves electrons… I sense it but I can’t explain it.

You, too, as living stones, are building yourselves up into a spiritual house. – Jesus

I remind myself and my students as we begin our next song that, scientifically speaking, we are composed of stardust. Anyone else watching the class would see our external frames moving around the dance floor, but we are imagining/seeing ourselves as living stones or animated statues; we sense all the twinkling sparks of light/life swirling within our bodies. The inner dance becomes more real than the outer one.

Within the human body there is a universe intimately bound up with a vast universe. – Hermes

Our last song brings us to the floor. Our living light bodies are so vibrant they are capable of shapeshifting. I invite us to shape ourselves into whatever form we see ourselves releasing into. As I stretch, roll, play and dance with gravity on the floor, something happens. I begin to sense wings forming from between my shoulder blades. They gradually, magically, unfold. I simply send energy rays out through my invisible wings and voilà! My block of stone has become capable of flight! O the joy of dancing in free, mobile forms of our own creation!

Every gesture of the sculptor is tending towards his conception of beauty and perfection. He adapts the human form to the divine purpose. – Pico Iyer

OK, here I am back down on earth. Amazing the places imagination can take us to! Mahalo to Debbie Rosas. Thank YOU for joining me on my moving meditation!

Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,

And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.

Our “sparkle and shine” staffer, Doris Morisaki, officially carries the Still & Moving Center title: Ambassador of Aloha. As of January 31, 2019, she also became only the 3rd person in memory gain the title of 31 Day Challenger by attending or teaching at least one class per day during the entire month of January. In fact, she took or taught 49 classes last month. Quite a feat! Sending off a 31 gun salute to Doris!  We also want to proudly recognize all of our other Challengers – students, teachers and staff – who reached either the 11 day or 21 day mark of taking classes in January (see the list below). More people joined this year’s challenge than ever before, partly thanks Doris heartily encouraging everyone. We even had to add supplemental lines to the bottom of our chart to include everyone’s name! For every day that every challenger took or taught class in January – whether they met their aim or not – Still & Moving Center is contributing $1 to the wonderful non-profit for young girls, Ho’ōla Nā Pua for a total of $504 for 504 total days of Challengers taking classes.  Many Challengers are also contributing matching funds, so that amount will rise. We feel so gratified with everyone’s steps in January to improve their own health and also contribute to the wellbeing of others!  


Here is a full list of our Aiming High Challengers:

31 Days:
Doris Morisaki (49)

21 Days:
Jacinta Davis (25)
Abhilasha Kumar (21)
Eva Geueke (21)

11 Days:

Julie Peterson (19)
Kat Uyemura (18)
Esther Genter (18)
Malia Helela (17)
Veda Garg (17)
Elaina Malm (16)
Melanie Sue (15)
Laurie Wong-Nowinski (15)
Kendra Gillis (14)
Christine Keller (14)
Lynn Morgan (14)
Sheila Wrede (13)
Shirley McCullough (12)
Surapee Sartrapai (12)
John Engstrom (12)
Iya Garg (11)
Mark Morisaki (11)
Laurel Pikcunas (11)

Other participants:  Dixie Kaetsu, Moki Hino, Keiko Best, Martha Welch, Renee Tillotson, Neela Vadivel, Rena Dumas, Pulelehua, Lani Kwon, Shelley Galang, Gigi Longyear, Jenny Jamrog, Yukako Tachibana, Susan Foard, Donna Ando, Cindy Nawilis, Teresa Purugganan, Miku Lenentine, Phyllis Engstrom, Celia Cheng, Michele Rupert

By Krista Hiser, Nia Black Belt, first degree

My first encounter with Debbie Rosas left me sweating and crying afterwards: “I just feel so happy!” Although I had already discovered Nia and taken a Nia White Belt training, I had never danced with ‘the source’ of Nia, the co-founders Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas. My experience with the two of them at a fitness conference in La Jolla, California moved me powerfully.

Now I know that my felt sensation went beyond happiness to what Nia calls Joy. Now I know that I relate to Debbie as I relate to Joy, with a deep, always present connection. That first day, Debbie was a “star” to me, but now she is the light of that star, someone I can always access in my mind. In other words, she is a wisdom teacher.

Debbie terrified me the second time I met her, in my Blue Belt Training at Nia headquarters in Portland. She wasn’t even leading the training, but she click-clacked into the room in black thigh high stiletto boots, a tiny Starbucks cup perched in her palm. She no doubt taught something, but I only recall being scared of her.

Now I know that my response was attraction, not terror. Being around someone with a very powerful vibration can cause me confusion. I’ve since learned that Debbie’s vibration comes from years of consistent dedication and work, from practice. Debbie lives Nia; she literally embodies her work. Her practice results in tremendous personal power that emanates from her continually.

I have since experienced many different emotions in Debbie’s presence: in large intensive trainings (my Black Belt and First Degree Black Belt), at round dinner tables and online webinars, in phone calls, on Nia TV, and taking many, many Nia classes from her.

At some point, as a professor of writing, I took courage into my hands and summoned the nerve to offer to edit one of the Nia manuals Debbie had written. Her warm response has since given me the unique privilege of assisting Debbie with some of her stunning work, including Nia training manuals, a memoir, and The Awakening Project.

I once spent an incredible week working with Debbie in her hotel room. She sat on one sofa, I sat on another. She talked and told stories, and I typed. I listened to her stories and did my best to shape them into narrative. I visualized each story that she told as being in its own bowl. Crystal bowls, brass bowls, wooden bowls, finger bowls, salad bowls. So many stories spill out of this woman!

Her early childhood stories of intuition and compassion especially stand out to me. Debbie suffered terrible illnesses in early childhood that pushed her to develop intense sensory awarenesses. As a young child, she once tugged her mother’s hand at a crosswalk and said “wait” because she sensed that an accident was about to happen to a woman crossing the street; and it did. Her mother gently, supportively informed her on the spot that she was “fey”, intuitive. Later, volunteering as a teenage candy striper in a hospital, she held a baby with no arms and no legs. The wave of love and empathy that she felt for that baby deeply stirred her compassion and influenced the teacher that she would become.

In school she struggled with extensive learning disabilities and met those challenges by opening new forms of intelligence, learning, awareness and wisdom. In other words, everything that Debbie brings to her art of teaching, and to the content of Nia, comes from her lived experience. She is the most creative person I have ever met.

Debbie studied art at a community college and took a job early in her career as a medical illustrator. She continues to perform medical dissection of cadavers at least one week a year. Debbie’s fascination with the human body – whether in the stillness of death or while moving and dancing through life – is a signature part of her life path.

Married young and having two children, she at first lived a rather traditional life. After the overwhelm of becoming a mother, Debbie had her first fitness experience. This is my very favorite Nia story of her: the “ladies gym” she attended sported weight machines and pulleys lined with pink fleece – yes, pink fleece! She was so exhilarated by this first experience of “exercise” that she changed her life forever.

Debbie created a fitness company called the “Bod Squad”, became incredibly successful with a traditional high-impact aerobic studio, then gave it all up in 24 hours, defying the entire fitness industry to start a more holistic, barefoot, truly healthful movement practice… and the rest is Nia history.

Debbie stands at the center of a community of thousands of Nia teachers around the world who have made deep study, lifelong practice, and livelihoods from what they have learned from Debbie. If you can ever take a training with her, or join her Awakening Project – which starts this March, or dance with her on Nia TV, you should jump at that chance! But even if you never meet Debbie Rosas, you are learning from her through any Nia teacher you may take class with. Debbie is the teacher of the teachers, the leader of the leaders, the cherished friend and mentor and inspiration to many many people, including, I’m grateful to say, me.

Author, Krista Hiser dancing with her daughter at Still & Moving Center


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 “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” – Stephen Stills

For the first time since our elder son was born in 1984, Cliff and I faced Christmas alone this year. Not one of our three children was with us in Kaneohe, instead scattered from Colorado to California to New Zealand for the holiday. It happens, right? But it had never happened to us.

Fortunately for our very empty nest, a number of other folks – as if guided by some magical force – landed at our home in the middle of the Pacific to cheer in the Christmas week with us. We were quite a hodge-podge of folks, all landing to interconnect like a jigsaw puzzle of pieces from all over the globe, ultimately creating a lovely, if brief, whole.

Our dear family friends the Howards (Veena from India, Don from Kansas) arrived with their two irresistibly dear, whimsical daughters, Mira and Gita. Between their friends and ours, we found ourselves with FIVE vivacious young people going on adventures together and gathering around the dinner table – a very well-filled nest after all, even if not with our own beloved children.

Perhaps you’ll enjoy a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective, listening in our one of our conversations when I asked them all the question: What gives you hope for the future? What inspires you as we move into the new year?

Gita: age 22, half Indian / half American, currently in law school in Miami. A journalist, feminist and natural philosopher who intends to use her law degree for social justice causes.

“What makes me most happy these days is seeing people who have been marginalized, especially native Americans and LGBTQ people, turning things around. They take the very thing they’ve been marginalized for, and hold it up as a positive, a rallying point of pride, and use it for forward momentum.”

Francesco:  age 30, warm, thoroughly charming, and wise beyond his years, far from his family village in Northern Italy, currently on sabbatical from teaching school in Auroville, India where he instructs children in a somatic practice called ATB, or Awareness Through the Body.

“While traveling in different countries recently, I sometimes meet people discouraged about institutions that never seem to change. I see things differently.
I imagine an outdated system as an old, dying tree, and what I see is the many little seedlings, full of life, shooting up around it. Wherever I’ve traveled, I’ve seen such a profusion of small groups doing good things for the world, my heart feels good.”

Mira: Age 26, Gita’s sister. A life-coach and art gallery manager in Venice, California. An avid outdoors woman who loves mountain climbing and swimming with sharks – a great fellow adventurer who enjoyed night hikes and rambunctious canoe paddles with Cliff over the holidays.

“And when the big tree falls, it creates a super rich eco-structure for all the other saplings and life forms growing up around it. It’s that way in all the ecosystems, on the land or in the sea.”

“Our generation gets criticized a lot for being on our phones all the time, but it’s part of our social ecosystem. I see communication as something very important to interconnectedness. Yates and I met each other 8 or 9 years ago and then lived too far apart to spend much time together, and we always stayed in touch through our phones. Getting to see him again and do stuff this Christmas is like we’ve never been separated, we’re still such good friends.”

“I do a lot of my coaching by phone. My clients don’t have to be so worried about what they look like, what impression they are making, when we’re on the phone. Just communicating by voice feels safer for some of them.”

“We can all share a lot of different perspectives and experiences online. I love seeing Eastern ideas and philosophies becoming more widely known and accepted. Even though technology can be a problem when overdone, it can also help us communicate, and relationships are super important for moving into the future.

“The best thing, though, is spending time together in person – like we are doing now with Yates and all of you.”

Katie: Age 17, a wide-eyed high school senior in Albuquerque, New Mexico, preparing for college next year. A Christian who enjoys visiting the nuns at a nearby monastery.

“This is an exciting time for me because it’s the closest I’ve come yet to seeing my dreams come true. My friends and I are all about to go out into the world, and that gives me a feeling of hope and promise.”

Yates: Age 28, a Cambridge/Harvard graduate of Swedish/English descent with a decidedly feminine look and demeanor. Quite amused on the plane to Honolulu by the flight attendants addressing him as “ma’am… I mean sir… or ma’am…”  Currently working in Lithuania curating a museum. With the price of cabbage being about $.25 per kilo and wages being abominably low in Lithuania, he cooks many one-pot cabbage meals in his rice cooker, whom he fondly refers to – with his wry British humor – as ‘Condoleezza’.

“I’m touched by radical hospitality, by openness. I see hope in intergenerational dialogue, not just in our generation interacting with each other. I was feeling pretty hopeless when I landed here in Hawaii – it’s been a rough year – and now I’m inspired by the people around me that I see giving to the world.”

After that go around the table, Cliff and I felt great about the future and not so lonely after all. There are so many marvelous, kind, funny, daring, philosophical, caring people in this world. Our sons and daughter were all fine, experiencing wonderful times and adventures elsewhere with their spouses. And here we were with so many great kids coming through our door this Christmas. Francesco seemed like a long-lost cousin we were just coming back in contact with. Katie and her newly single mom felt grateful to spend the holiday in a happy home filled with laughter. Gita and Mira exclaimed to us, “You’re like the aunt and uncle we always wanted to have around!”  As Yates departed, he performed his Swedish family tradition of literally kissing the walls of our house!

Steven Stills’ rock classic refrain from 1970 no doubt road upon the coattails of the hippies’ free love movement in the 1960’s, yet a Platonic, plural version of his message helped me through the holidays this year. The whole week, a revised mantra kept rising up, telling me that wherever I am and whoever is near me:

“If you can’t be with the ones you love, honey, love the ones you’re with!”

Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,

And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.

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