One of the things we practice in Nia is something we call RAW. We are Relaxed, Alert, and Waiting. It is listening to music by listening to the silence and the sound. The body is relaxed. The mind is alert. The conscious is waiting. We sit and listen. Our spines are upright, tall, and lengthened, even though the body is relaxed. Our muscles are not tense, but they are ready. Within our spines there is space around each vertebrae. The mind is alert. There is no inner dialog with ourselves going on in our head. We are waiting. What we are waiting for is the next sound or the next silence. We are listening to both the instruments and the silence. We are curious. We are listening to the music as a whole. Listening for specific sounds and silences that can allow us to sense many things. The specific sounds and silences can also be used as cues when teaching a Nia class. We might hear a flute every so often. So we might train ourselves to listen for that soft sound. Then we might notice that always after the flute there is a ting of a triangle. Eventually we might notice that right after the triangle there is a moment of silence. We are relaxed. We are alert. We are waiting, either for a sound coming out of silence or a sound of a familiar pattern, as in the triangle after the flute.
With this tool we are to listen and observe what transpires in the music. We aren’t to form an opinion of whether it is “good” or “bad” or whether we like it or not. We are just listening and learning. Part of RAW is not moving. This to me is one of the most challenging parts of RAW. We are to listen and not dance. We are to listen and not move to really be able to LISTEN and in order to be in the sensation of RAW and not allow the sensations of the body interfere. Sometimes it is really hard to do. Nia routines are set to music that inspires the body to move so to have to sit still and just listen is not always easy.
Additionally, I slip out of the tall, upright, and lengthened spine. Once I start barring the music I tend to lean on my arm. Ya know, elbow on the desk, forearm upright, chin resting in the palm of your hand? Without fail this makes me sleepy. The combination of being relaxed, and alert – so I have no conversation going on in my head, and I am waiting. I start to fall asleep. Then I realize I missed the instrument I was waiting for. So I sit up and start again. Sitting up tall and with a lengthened spine really is the key.
It’s a practice; Nia and RAW. It works too. Listening to the music in this state of concentration really helps me learn my music. It is fascinating to think of the silence as music just as much as the instruments are. RAW is a great tool that Nia has taught us to help with our Nia practice both as teachers and as students.