Yesterday I realized that Monday is our 6 month anniversary at The Spiral Goddess Collective, a Center for Mind/Body Movement! In celebration, everyone who attends a class this week gets a free SGC sticker (1 per person) and gets their name entered into a raffle for a grand prize for each class. This includes all of our classes from today, Sunday, April 2 through Saturday, April 8, including First Friday’s Get Embodied! event: Dance Yourself Free!
As we look back over the past 6 months, I offer a quick look at what we have been doing, some feedback we have gotten, and some frequently asked questions. We’re always happy to get questions, comments, and ideas as we continue to expand and hone our offerings. And I am so grateful for all of the support and excitement that we have shared and will continue to build upon!
Here’s some of what we have offered in these last six months:
249 classes and workshops
8 Spiral Punch Cards via The Spiral Goddess Collective Card Fund Scholarship
3 additional scholarships for Spiral Series workshops
40 comps for first-time visits
Here is some of the repeated feedback I have received in the 6 months since The Spiral Goddess Collective opened its doors.
What a beautiful space!
I agree! It was beautiful before we decorated and filled the space with feminist art, a Girls on Fire lending library and Mind/Body resource center, plants (and more plants), oracle and tarot decks, a comfy hang out area, a family heirloom tea set, chaga tea and snacks, lights, color, and positive energy!
Your website is a little bit overwhelming.
Yeah. I don’t really do anything half-way. I plan to simplify a little bit and make some of the more pertinent information easier to find, but I have a lot to say and the website reflects that! If you’re confused, just ask! (Many of you have asked! Thank you!)
One of the songs and mantras that we dance to in JourneyDance is “You Are Enough,” but I struggle more with the feeling of “you are too much,” compounded with the feeling of not enough. I am an over-thinker, an over-explainer, and I’ve been told that I am “scary” and intimidating. Sorry, not sorry. But also, I’m working on it!
Thank you for being you!
Wow, what a compliment! I mean, I’m not trying to be anyone else, so it’s good to be seen and appreciated!
Thank you for creating this space in our community.
My pleasure! Creating this space is a dream come true and being able to share it with other curators and with the community is the best part!
Here are some Frequently asked Questions:
Can men attend classes at The Spiral Goddess?
Of course! Men do attend classes at The SGC! In the world of group fitness, yoga, and fitness dance, every space that I have been in has been dominated by women (the opposite is true of weight rooms). Our culture is segregated and full of stereotypes that keep people boxed in. People gravitate to where they are most comfortable and we want everyone to be comfortable at The SGC. Your gender identity is not what defines you in our space. But one of the things that is different about The SGC is that we aim to create an environment where feminine qualities and feminine energy are valued and celebrated: connection, empathy, compassion, community, letting go of competition, nurturing, flowing, caring, feeling, understanding, and supporting each other. We all have feminine qualities regardless of our gender and if these qualities were the most valued in our world, it would be a much better place.
How much does it cost to take classes at The SGC?
Yeah, so here’s that tendency toward “too much” and what might seem like an overwhelming amount of options. We aim to meet each person where they are. So, the short answer is $10 a class. But, we have sliding scale prices and people who can afford to pay more do so. And we have punch cards that reduce the per-class price. And we have memberships that help to support our mission and vision and to fund The Spiral Goddess Collective Care Fund, a scholarship that provides the opportunity to attend classes at no cost to community members who cannot afford to pay for self-care and healing modalities. So, if you are unsure what to pay, please just ask!
Why can’t I get the App to work?
I don’t know! There are many great aspects of the Mindbody App, but there are a lot of little issues that I don’t have the time or skill to fix. We’ll keep working with it for at least another 6 months! You don’t have to use the App—just email, message, call, or drop in and we will work it out!
In my yoga training, one of the mantras we rely on for guidance is “letting go of competition.” We often follow this up by saying: “letting go of competition with ourselves and others.” Sometimes we can be really hard on ourselves when we compete with our own expectations and judgements. (We also let go of judgement and expectations!) And we can make our friends and community members into enemies when we see them as competition. We will never be as beautiful, as thin, as strong, as successful, as whatever as the person standing next to us. But we also never know what they are struggling with in their life. Yoga teaches us that it is best to tend our own garden and to let our neighbors tend theirs, but this mindset is in direct competition with American culture!
When I first started to ask myself if I could open a yoga and dance studio, I almost shut myself down before I started because I was afraid of the competition. I knew I would have to compete with the Bangor YMCA where I have taught a variety of fitness, dance, and yoga classes since 2010 (and left because I was told that I am not allowed to talk about The SGC at the Y). I knew I would have to compete with the long-established OmLand, only a few doors down from my new space at 16 State Street. I knew about a few other dance fitness opportunities, like Sunshine's Zumba and Jill's Beyond Bold Dance Fitness. (I love dance fitness and I love that we have a growing number of options in Bangor, including my new neighbor offering classes on the 3rd floor starting in January--Dirigo Dance Fitness.)
When I came across Eye Candy Dance and Fitness, I almost ran away from my dream. "A place where you can feel empowered to be yourself," Eye Candy's tagline, articulates what I have offered in my academic and fitness classes for as long as I have been doing this work. And belly dance fitness and empowering women—these are two things that have been staples of my work in the world of dance fitness. How could I complete with sexy, trendy classes and savvy social media?
Each time my internet research revealed another “boutique fitness” enterprise that I did not know about, my doubt grew and I told myself that I was crazy to think that I could do this—that I could be a business woman, that I could have my own space for the kinds of fitness/dance/yoga classes that feed my soul and inspire me to make the world, and my community, a better place.
But then a few things occurred to me that set me on the path to pursue this dream of The Spiral Goddess Collective, a Center for Mind/Body Movement:
1) While there may be competition concerning people’s time and money and the coveted post-work time slots, what I am offering does not exist in Bangor. It doesn’t really even exist in Portland. Maybe this unique space and concept I am offering does not really exist anywhere, at least not in this particular form. In this case, there is no competition at all.
2) The space that I have created (with the help of many of my friends) is downright magical. From the moment I walked up the stairs to the fourth floor, my mind started to imagine what that space could become and what I have created matches that vision with room to grow. I am confident that when people drag themselves up those four flights of stairs, they feel the lightness and positivity, the possibility of what we can discover when we move our minds and bodies and our collective mind/body. (And the stairs get easier every time!)
3) Because I believe in community, I believe that there is space for all of us. I believe that what I am offering is something that people in Bangor have been looking for. It has existed in different iterations in the past, but now is the time for it to flourish. I tried to offer mind/body movement and radical approaches to fitness/dance/yoga at the Y and was able to reach some people who might not know to look for such offerings, but it became clear that I needed my own space to push back against limiting definitions and mainstream ethics. I am honored and humbled to be able to create a space for mind/body movement, a place for community-building and radical acceptance, for self-exploration and interpersonal connections, for growth and healing—for so much more than I can imagine, and I have a vivid imagination!
4) And, finally, it has been a long road of self-discovery, self-compassion, and self-acceptance, of growth and healing and confidence-building to get to where I am today. I have never fit into the box of “fitness” despite spending 25 years teaching almost every iteration of group fitness—many that I created and choreographed. And I have struggled to believe in my gifts and talents. I have struggled with body image. I have struggled with being radical and queer in a vanilla world that wants repetition and predictability and to know how many calories they are going to burn and whether they have discovered the magical pill of weight loss (spoiler alert: there is no such thing). Today I am trying to be the best and most authentic version of myself without fear or shame, and I am inviting my community to do the same. It's not easy to push back against the messages that we receive every day—messages that tell us that we will never be good enough and fuck with our self-esteem and self-worth, to say the least.
JourneyDance was what set me on a path to believe in myself and my “personal medicine” as they call it in our training. Ironically, the CEO of the Bangor YMCA set me on this path when she told me about the online teacher training. I am grateful to her and to my time in the fitness industry. I have learned many skills and lessons and I have made them my own. I still love dance fitness, but what I have to offer is more than just fitness and I am excited to bring JourneyDance—and my eclectic, creative, intuitive approach to yoga and mind/body movement—to this space and to the larger Bangor community. I am excited to be able to bring in other talented, unique people who also have gifts to offer our community.
What we offer might scare some people away, but I hope it will attract people who are looking for something different than a workout. We offer yoga that meets each person where they are, dance that is about how you feel not about how you look, healing that goes at your pace, space and activities that nourish and open new possibilities. Deciding to approach fitness, health, and wellness from a different ideology is not easy, but it is worth it. If we practice consistently, we will start to see changes we might have thought were not possible.
Getting here is the hard part, but I am confident that once people take that leap they will return again and again because they will feel the difference that mind/body movement makes. As the saying goes, we have to feel it to heal it—to move and be moved.
And a message from our business hat: we have gift certificates in any amount and a 10-punch card for your gift-giving needs! Give the gift of yoga, movement, self-healing, and self-care to yourself or someone else who needs it. And your first class is always free!
11/17/2022 0 Comments
For almost my entire career I have walked a line between what is work and what is “work.” By some definitions, I am working all the time. For instance, my hobbies and passions of teaching fitness and yoga classes were often paid work in addition to being a work out. This is work that I have always done in addition to the work of being a student, and later a professor. For a long time these spheres were completely separate, in part because being a fitness instructor was looked down upon in the world of academia. I have worked over the last decade to bring these two spheres closer together.
Almost anything and everything I do that is not work can be connected to work somehow. My fitness teaching has been work, a work out, and then work in the form of research. As a cultural critic and theorist even my recreation of watching tv shows is also work! I have worked (there’s that word again!) hard over the past few years to create better boundaries between work and not work, and to pursue activities that are not at all work, but it is an ongoing challenge for a recovering overachiever and someone who is passionate about all the work that I do.
Being a professor is to be in a vacuum that absorbs everything as a part of the expectation of our teaching, advising, research, university service, and public service. I can always do more, if only because it can be another line on my vita. There is an unspoken expectation that we should give more of ourselves, more of our time and energy (and even our money) in service to the university and our community. I teach my students that service is part and parcel with our privilege, but where do we draw the line?
In my attempt to be ethical and serve my community, for more than a decade I have offered fitness/wellness events for free as well as low-cost events, sliding scale events, and events where the funds raised support scholarships. Part of my free offerings was my reluctance to profit from what I consider to be community service. I love being able to offer free events, especially to those who cannot afford to pay for the “luxuries” of self-care. With a flexible full-time job with decent pay and benefits, I can afford to be generous. I give freely of my time, energy, skills, and talents even when my giving is not always in my best interests.
In addition to offering a ton of free and fund-raising events, on and off campus, I have also taught for non-profits where my annual pay is a nice bonus but doesn’t even begin to cover my expenses for trainings, let alone for the things I need to do the work of this side job. I’ve always operated from the idea that this work is more service than it is work. Even when I receive a paycheck I am also spending thousands of dollars a year on maintaining certifications and continuing my training. I could skate by on my knowledge and experience, but I want to learn more, do better, heal myself, and better serve my community.
I have continued to operate with this loose ethical structure of service for over a decade—working a demanding full-time job while also teaching up to five or six fitness and yoga classes a week (plus unpaid prep time for these classes) and offering free events and classes, on and off campus. In this work, I consider myself to be an ethical person. At least I try to be.
But in the world of yoga and healing modalities, like JourneyDance, we are encouraged to not offer free classes and events for a variety of reasons. Many consider it unethical to regularly offer free classes. We spend a lot of money on trainings and professional development and we are encouraged to ask to be paid what we are worth. (This argument of my own worth has always been an additional challenge for me!) But not everyone who needs these healing modalities can pay what they are worth in our capitalist system, which is an ethical dilemma that I struggle with.
Further, when we offer free yoga classes, for instance, we are devaluing the work that other instructors are doing to make a living (not to mention the debates around cultural appropriation, but that’s a whole other blog!). Just because I have the privilege to afford to offer free yoga doesn’t mean that I should, especially if I am hurting the work that other teachers are doing in an attempt to make a living. And, really, by offering my highly skilled work for free, I am ultimately devaluing myself, even if this is not the way that I see it.
My navigation of the lines between my professional career and my work in my community have become further complicated by my opening of a “business.” I really hope that someday I can say that I run a successful and profitable business, but that dream seems like a far-off future, especially since I have spent a sizable chunk of my personal savings to open the doors of The Spiral Goddess Collective, a Center for Mind/Body Movement. As a new venture, I really have no idea if I can expect to pay the rent each month, let alone make back the money I have invested in this dream.
Further, because of the model of my enterprise—as a low-profit LLC that aims to provide not just affordable and accessible yoga and JourneyDance classes, but also free and low-cost community events and scholarships for community members who cannot afford the luxury of healing modalities—my potential profit is mitigated by my personal ethics and generous spirit of community service. I am okay with this. Even if I never make a penny of profit, it will be worth the time, effort, energy, and money to be able to offer my gifts and talents on my terms and to create space for others to do the same. The Spiral Goddess Collective is ultimately not about making money; it is about creating and curating space and inviting the community to engage in healing modalities. My community includes my colleagues—faculty, staff, and students at UMA—as well as people living in and around Bangor.
But here’s the crux of the issue . . . part of what I am offering is workshops that colleagues and friends encouraged me to offer as professional development workshop opportunities, especially since UMaine system money is available for just such offerings. In an attempt to do so, I hit a barrier that I did not anticipate—UMaine’s policy on conflicts of interest. I have been told that while it is okay for me to own and operate a business as “outside employment,” UMA faculty and staff cannot use professional development funds to pay for my workshops because this is considered a conflict of interest. In fact, when I inquired further I was told that no faculty or staff in the entire UMaine system are allowed to spend professional development funds at my “personal business.”
This breaks my heart. Not only because of the money that I will not be making, but because I have been offering workshops like this for free or by donation for a long time and I have witnessed the positive impacts that they have made on people’s mind/body health and wellness. Of course my colleagues can still attend. They can still choose to pay me their own hard-earned money. But because I now pay to maintain a beautiful, sacred space for such offerings, I can no longer afford to offer these services for free. I will continue to offer sliding scale prices, and I have already awarded scholarships to a couple of UMA students. So I find myself wondering what is ethical about this decision to bar faculty and staff from the entire UMaine system from using professional development funds to pay for the innovative, revolutionary services I am offering?
Is it ethical to tell faculty and staff in the entire UMaine system that they cannot choose which trainings they want to spend their professional development funds on? Is it ethical to create a circumstance where I feel like I cannot charge what I am worth? Is it ethical to restrict funds to a business that is trying to place the best interests of its community above its profit margins?
Apparently it is not a conflict of interest for me to offer free weekly yoga classes to UMA students and staff, and to give scholarships to those same students and other community members. It is not a conflict of interest for me to offer my professional services for free, as I have been doing for years. But it is a conflict of interest for people to pay me with money that comes from the UMaine system because I am also employed by this same system?
To make this fuzzy boundary more complicated (because that’s what I do), The Spiral Goddess Collective is not simply “outside employment”; it is a manifestation, culmination, and synergy of everything that I have been working on, and for, over the last couple of decades, maybe longer. I had dreamed of having my own space and teaching mind/body movement on my own terms, but I never really thought this dream could be a reality. It only very suddenly came into being when the universe plopped down the opportunity of a lifetime right smack in the middle of my path. The SGC is a blending of my education, my activism, my academic teaching, my personal and professional research, my fitness and yoga teaching and training, my service, my ideology, my life’s work—the best of both worlds in one amazing, magical space that has already made a difference in my community.
Evil capitalists bask in the glow of conflicts of interest and bend the rules of ethics all the time. It’s why we need conflict of interest policies in the first place. The language of the UMaine conflict of interest policy is vague—perhaps as vague as the rules that surround ethics more generally. I feel stuck and constrained by a system that is trying to preserve the ethics of its employees. I feel devalued by a system with no wiggle room and hard boundaries. I feel cheated out of an opportunity to reach more people in my community and to actually have a chance to make enough money to pay my rent and grow my business to serve even more people.
My dream finally has a sacred space—a place where I can offer comfort, relative safety, and an atmosphere that fosters healing, rather than the austere and chaotic borrowed spaces where I have previously offered my healing modalities. But even with a physical space, the dream of The Spiral Goddess Collective still does not fit in a square world. I am just another “personal business.” There is no category on Google that describes The SGC. The categories on the Mindbody scheduling App don’t fit the classes I am offering. I still have to convince people that yoga and conscious dance are worth their time and money. I should have expected the lack of conventional fit, especially since its uniqueness is at the core of its creation and impetus.
So, perhaps this is just one of the many lessons I have to learn about what it means to be a “business woman,” an identity that I avoided as long as I could and still struggle to embrace. Perhaps this is one of those “life lessons” that I have chaffed against as I have attempted to carve my own path through the wilderness of what it means to be an ethical person and to work in service of the people in my community. I will appeal. I will push back. I will continue to live and work within my personal code of ethics and hope that I at least break even on the money front. My approach has worked pretty well so far though I grow tired of always having to argue and defend innovation, transdisciplinarity, and radical service. And that is another reason why I took the leap and opened The Spiral Goddess Collective—every time I arrive there I am renewed, rejuvenated, and reminded that I am right where I need to be.