Sky Above Clouds

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Beautiful seeing Maria with Wendy Miller at the #2015CreativeAge Conference in Washington D.C.

Wendy is the Artist/Writer/Teacher/Expressive Arts Therapist longtime colleague & marriage partner of our beloved mentor, Dr. Gene Cohen.

Wendy’s new book, “Sky Above Clouds”, which she began with Dr. Cohen before he passed, will come out in late 2015 from Oxford University Press.

We eagerly await “Sky Above Clouds” The title alludes to a Georgia O”Keeffe painting which shares the feeling the mature mind can develop with the neurological tendancy to see the sunny side of the street.

We’re delighted to learn that Wendy is including Minnesota in her upcoming book tour.

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Happy Spring! We’re Back!

Today on this first day of Spring I hope that you find a moment to take a deep breath, exhale and imagine something that you love. We at Kairos Alive! love to dance! Research tells us that moving is good for you and dancing is even better.

Try a a spring jig!

take care,

Maria

Summer Performance Series

Summer Performance Series

Minnehaha Park Bandshell, June 20, 2013

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There’s Nothing Like People Coming Together – Art Makes People

We’ve been working on gathering fantastic art for the very first KAIROS ALIVE! Art Sale and Silent Auction. Please join us, Thursday June 13, 5-7 pm at the Loring Park Community Arts Center.

St. Mark’s Cathedral is graciously allowing us to use their parking lot. We’re in conversation with Twin Town Pedicabs to help shuttle people to Loring Park.

Here is a partial list of artists’ work you will find:

Susan Armington, Heidi Arneson, Lisa Arnold, Darin Back, Linda Bergh, Karl Bethke, Savita Bettaglio, Judith Brin Ingber, Sandy Brown Wyeth, Laura Crosby, Barbara DaCosta, Sally Dixon, Laura Drabant, Louise Erdrich, John Falls, David Goldes, Nancy Goldstein, Walter Griffin, Cynthia Harms – Marcel Mouly signed lithograph, Kate Heegaard Hartfiel, Hopi Foundation Artists, Jack Jaglo, Catherine L. Johnson, Madeleine Lowry, Sandra Menefee Taylor, Faith Oremland, Tammy Ortegon, Doug Padilla, Traudi Pawlowski, Lindalee Soderstrom, Steven Guy Solberg, Richard Stryker, Sarah Thorton, Sara Tucker, Patrice Tullai, Eva Two Crow, Diane Wilson, Rochelle Woldorsky

RSVP at info@kairosalive.org

We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

Mask by Eva Two Crow
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Mosaic by Lisa Arnold

Depending on Each Other, Remembering Those Who Helped Us Get Here

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This week the Dancing Heart sessions at the V.A. Day Program sites focused on our interdependance and those we depended on to get where we are today. We worked with the imagery of trees and how they shelter us and gift us in so many ways. Their fruit, their sap, their branches, and even eventually a stump to sit on. How they give us oxygen which is like the gift of freedom some people gave us. We stood together as a forest, keeping in mind the great gifting trees that fell before us. We said some of their names aloud. We thank each veteran.

The Rain Falls On Everybody’s Shoulders

When I walked through the door and got a hug-at-first-glance I knew this could be an especially open-hearted dancing heart™ session. I took a quick glance at site staff to make sure it was ok boundary-wise. Some people are so immediate in their feelings that a hug-at-first-sight is not complex. She had probably heard that we were coming to share dance & music & story and was simply happy about it!

We started the session with a high-kinetic dance song, ‘Shake, Rattle, & Roll’. The group of 20 or so was all in. Not much coaxing needed for this unique and emotionally responsive group. Sensing that the energy high was almost too much, we simmered down with an A Capella lullaby-like song which took its time and included the name of each person in the circle.

Now a sense of group unity had been achieved. We moved on to a story about a tree, a 500-year old tree. Our kinesthetic genius, Jesse, danced the tree’s branches, roots and quivering leaves. Everybody in the circle joined the movements in a wonderful chorus of gestural support. The people loved the tree. The tree loved the people.

The narrative took its course along the circle of life, bringing us back to where we were here and now. The session wound up with a real live ‘Soul Train’. The near-chaotic enthusiasm of the beginning had transformed to a harmonized whole. A sweet bald-headed woman said she had something to say. We handed her the mike and quieted the room.

“The rain falls on everybody’s shoulders. Sometimes they will help you.”

& is that not exactly how things are?

– Peter

Dancing Makes You Smarter

Below is an article on the profound benefits of dancing written by Richard Powers, full-time dance instructor at the Stanford University:

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Then most recently we’ve heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter. A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming – 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%

Playing golf – 0%

Dancing frequently – 76%. – That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
“The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.

Aging and Memory

When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there’s only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information. If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it. So as we age, we learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks. (Or maybe we don’t learn to do this, and just become a dimmer bulb.)

The key here is Dr. Katzman’s emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses.  More is better.  Do whatever you can to create new neural paths.  The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives.

When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:

The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
the easier it is to cross in your own style.

The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution. But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical. Now it’s no longer a matter of style, it’s a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all. Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one. Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed. But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine study shows that we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.

 

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