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Dancing the Breath

Dance Trains the breath to be just as malleable as movement of the body, of the thoughts, and of the emotions.

I have a very tight neck and jaw. Dance teachers and some who are Pilates instructors, say to breathe regularly and with more ease. Easier said than done. I enrolled in breathing classes that practiced specific exercises to get me to breathe into all areas of my lungs. I took Yoga to coordinated my breath with specific movement patterns. I learned to follow a counting sequence that slowed down my breathing.

Because my learning curve takes longer I was patient. Or probably I was learning to force myself to do things that were contrary to the source of my tightness.

I changed direction and tried several forms of both sitting and moving meditation. I was looking for a way to get beyond my tightness and to somehow deal with my focus upon commanding myself to breathe. Of course the worst suggestion was to “just stop thinking so much.”

Actually what did help was moving my thinking in many different ways. I found Modern Dance technique as a way to simplify movement into parts and then to practice the movement through improvisation. Then I did years of study of using imagery as a basis for both the technique and the improvisation.

There was a sensation associated with my breathing. The breathing sensation would capture my attention as I followed a Deborah Hay image like seeing only what is above my head or seeing with every cell of my body. My body and my breathing were totally engaged in the image that revealed changes of sensation and surprises beyond my imagination.

Every thing about me was malleable, shifting and changing at every moment. My breathing and my movement were exploring the contours of my conscious and released relationship to the image. Everything was aware or everything was flowing on its own. Movement surprises would take my attention and then disappear into the variation of another improvisation.

I was able to put words to this effect on my breathing after adding improvisational singing to my dancing. Musically I was opening areas of myself with phrases.

Dancing puts together phrases that flow melodically and rhythmically. My breath could be used to begin phrases and continue them as long or short. Musically my breath could emphasize a movement or make the movement a kind of quiet secret. The shifting image could take me to a conscious focus on these kinds of musicality or my focus could shift to my involvement in the phrase with my whole body.

My breathing was able to change with the interaction of my sensations and thoughts. An image guided the discovery of a variety of phrasing that captured the attention of my breathing.

As I learn more about the ease of breathing for singing, I the union of my breath with dancing. Both dancing and singing rely on the rising of a phrase followed by the continuous release of the phrase into a state of receptiveness.
Tim Hurst 01/23/18

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Dancing the Self

One of the opportunities of dance is to let all of myself come through my movement. Letting all of myself show seems a bit out of control and the surprise of an unknown part of myself showing up can be a problem.

Because of difficulty learning patterns and having to relearn them every day, I developed several approaches that put me right at the center of my fears and my surprise. Every pattern had to be improvised and shifted from different directions, moods, and intensities. Nothing seemed to store in a concrete way so my memory had to be more like a poem of images than a set of lines with precise positions and angles.

This was especially interesting when performing memorized music or ballroom dance with a partner. I would basically enter a feeling state that included a series of experiences. Inevitably I would enter a blank space and have to improvise my way back into the series. Remembering lines in plays was the same issue.

My approach was to study movement exercises for theater and Modern Dance to get an idea of pattern while finding different dimensions of emotion and intensity. I gradually studied more and more improvisational dance forms with open possibilities for creating surprising patterns. I created performances that were so internal that I would begin with only an image and allow my movement to flow.

The results were that I would indeed find surprise that might be a blockage in myself that froze my thoughts and movements or I would create such a vulnerable place in myself that I was dancing my fear rather than allowing my self to come through.

Watching dancers has been my life and standing outside of the world of patterns has been interesting. I watch for how the person comes through the pattern and how alive that makes the pattern. From this perspective I naturally gravitate to dance that has a range of emotions and intensities. If the patterns of a dance do not shift from delight to seriousness, then I look for the individual dancer who allows themselves to experience a variety of intensities.

So my recurring question is how the dancer who experiences a full range of emotion and intensities relates to the patterns of the dance. Since dance is an interactive form, an even more involving question is how their individual experience connects with their fellow dancers and to the audience participants in their dance.

In my search I have discovered how movement patterns and the dance class methodically take a dancer into the realms of making these shifts of experience. Because dance engages every part of the person, each dancer recognizes the unending number of connections in different ways and at different stages of their learning.

So my process of watching dance is to experience each dancer as a unique composite of experience. This is a special delight since I can experience the baby, the child dancer, the professional or the beginner adult of all ages.

Then I have taken those questions to ask how I, a relative outsider in the realm of pattern, can enter the dancer’s experience of shifting perspectives and qualities of movement, emotion, thought, and even interaction with others.

With my round about ways of learning dance, I began to ask how I could really enter the experience of dance as a way of varying not just the emotion and intensity but also the pattern.

Having studied in depth several approaches to dance improvisation, movement meditation, singing, and theater, I came to the science of dance as we know it, Ballet. Taking ballet for the first time at mid-life was a rush of energy I had not felt. Maybe all those years of watching added up to give me a rudimentary structure to build on.

All this clarity of energy made my blocks even clearer. No area of my body would respond to a command and there were so many commands at once. Pull this, lower this, send energy here then there. I had to take one command to one body area at a time. That meant private class which limited my experience of learning with other dancers.

I enrolled in Pilates, in Balance Class, in combinations of Modern Dance and yoga, and finally in Floor-Barre directly related to Ballet movement. I was still caught in the command issue of trying to move this, hold that, and somehow hold it there. Obviously I still had no storage for the pattern necessary to put all this together.

So I started improvising Ballet movement and trying to find a way to simplify the commands in a way I could learn the movement. My desire is more than that. I want to experience what the dancer experiences when that one dancer enters the whole person that can shift from delight to seriousness, from laughter to reflection, from pattern to emotion in all its intensities.

To remember and to clarify all my rambling experiments, I have written this blog. Those who can wander with me are welcome.
Tim Hurst 01/22/18

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Benefit or Harm

One simple image consumes me today. Benefit. Benefit every movement. Benefit every signal I receive through my eyes, my ears,my touch, my health. Benefit every connection internally and externally.

My sensation is a flowering, a flurry, a bursting of signals that give me access to every direction in space, in thought, in emotion, in anticipation, and hope.

The sensation may be like yawning and spreading myself to the extremities of my breath. Every part of me wants to engage, to connect, to both be aware and to surrender to the flowering sensation.

Benefit as an image may begin here in the shower of signals. This is a specific network of signals I experience with a focus on a broad whole view of myself and my world.

My focus then shifts to examine what this benefit means to me, how I can expand this benefit, how I can apply it to every area of my life. In this process, the body brain monitors the effect of the benefit and sends out signals to find receptor points.

When the flowering signals are received by established networks of receptors, monitors, and supportive responders, the benefits are easily accepted and applied.

When the signals enter unresponsive networks, the benefits may appear to be demands that appear stressful. I am very aware of the times I react and reject benefit that is freely offered. The immediate response of the entire system is to run for cover or to seek any distraction to minimize the fear and to calm the stirred up trauma introduced by the unfamiliar signals.

Responsive networks are established in the early childhood years. Beyond that it is up to me to develop networks of signals. I have explored the network building processes of music, dance, and religion. Each one is a guide to switch focus from the sense of the whole person to the specific goals of building responsive connections internally and externally.

I am aware that each person forms their own mosaic of connections that make sense of stresses and responses. My personal search has been to find the realms of study that encourage these shifts of focus from the broader whole view to the specific goal focus.

Within the specific goal focus is a benefit monitor that operates a continuum from self benefit to empathetic benefit outside the self. There is also the continuum of more or less effort. Another is the monitor for risk of harm and prevention of harm.

Another elusive monitor has something to do with a continuum of satisfied benefit and tortured benefit. This monitor is related to the human skill of making snap judgements and instantly determining a response. In the case of benefit, this monitor can become a driver of self deception and justification of any harm to receive a benefit.

Snap judgements based on a minimum of information often mean the choice of a tortured benefit meaning a calculated loss for self or other. Someone has to lose. The harm has to accompany the benefit. Examples are the athletes insistence that the goal is worth any injury or even death. The examples are everywhere that some people or forms of life have to be harmed in some way to gain a benefit. Addictions are an example.

Self deception and justification of any harm easily lead to distractions that further confuse the need for human responsive networks to receive benefit.

I keep asking what drives us toward self deception and harm? I can use an example from dancing. I learn a movement combination and my body brain instantly wants to establish a pattern. There is a difference between a perceived pattern and a networked pattern.

My instant conclusion is what the movement should look like. I jump from understanding the movement to an imitation of what I think it looks like. I make a map not of the movement but of how I should look.

Ballet has a solution which is group class that takes simple movements that connect signals into networks. A movement begins as networked connections. Each movement is supported by the whole body. The students learn moment by moment how to shift from the focus on the entire networked body to the specific skill of specific movements.

The self deception monitor keeps tugging towards imitation. Actually imitation is a specific skill focus that gives information for the shift of focus to the individual dancer’s whole network. It is in the whole network view that the dancer creates their own images that guide their movements and their monitoring choices.

My study then is to experience the two shifts of focus to build supportive connective networks through every part of myself. Rather than looking for the pattern to imitate I look for the signals that may have to wobble to find the connections that need support in my body.
Tim Hurst 01/02/18

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Dancing Brightness

I am obsessed with the question of how the dancer enters a brightness of movement and attitude. The brightness permeates every move they make even when the emotions and intensity vary.

The brightness perpetuates itself in the movement, even in the preparation and completion of every movement. Stillness holds the same brightness as long as the dancer is engaged.

One simple movement captures my imagination, the basic principle of rising and lowering taught in most beginning dance classes. Using different words, the dancer connects two distinct experiences, lifting and spreading.

This can be understood by tracing the dancer’s approach to each area of the body. As with other activities, breathing is a process of lifting and spreading the rib cage as the air rushes in and eases out. The feet lift from beneath the arch in a rise and spread to lower for another action. The legs and arms rise and spread in alternate movement of lifting and lowering. The pelvic diaphragm initiates a lift in the spine then spreads to support a lowering of the spine. The three dimensional area connected to the solar plexus lifts the upper spine and the spreads the upper torso. The top vertebra, the atlas, lifts the top of the spine and spreads the supporting muscles with gentle movement of the second vertebra, the axis. The face, the nasal cavities, and the brain rise with energy from the spine spreading to exit from the top of the head.

The dancer connects all of these different lifting and spreading motions and creates networks that can be accessed with simple commands.

So how does brightness relate to these networks of lifting and spreading? The sensation of continuous movement may be uplifting in itself. Bill Reidler of the Global Relationship Network would say if you are depressed look up and show your teeth. The action itself does not work but there is a moment of being uplifted. The dancer studies this moment in depth.

Something about continuous movement relates to anticipation of the next rise and fall. Then there is the connectivity of one rise and fall leading to and coordinating with another rise and fall. The body brain is engaged in the forming and reforming of these connections.

When the brain is fully engaged we identify total experiences like “falling in love” and spiritual ecstasy. The brightness could be the moment by moment hope of this kind of falling and rising.

Another question is, how do the movements of rising and falling relate to action and rest, formation and reflection, building and pruning.

Each of these is a form of continuous rising energy that the spreads beyond itself. We might find help in a broader view.

Dance training may be a process of rejuvenation. The basic principle is like the rising and falling of our breathing. Like the sound wave and the light wave, our movement may also rejuvenate and perpetuate itself. The characteristic of rising and falling is that they are continuous even at the transition points, at the peaks of the waves. There are many other characteristics like the variation of quality, intensity, and speed. These variations continually engage the body brain in exploring new territory that requires action and reflection, specific focus of energy and release of energy.

Could dance be a process of gaining access to every area of the body brain and psyche for a unified experience of movement and reflection?
Tim Hurst 12/31/17

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Two Sides of Me 2017

Even my sweetheart Ginger straightens me up as my lean to the right revisits me in moments of fatigue. Or perhaps the lean is always there throughout my hours of dancing. With all my awareness and my dancing there are clearly two sides to my movement and distinct sensations. Perhaps my feeling of having to direct every new learned movement is correct times two.

Today I will honor two different worlds. On my left is the world of steadiness, a whole sensation throughout. There is vague sense of having to hold on, a clue from Rachel Meador that my left foot was always gripping the floor as if I were going to fall to the left. On my right is the world of collapse, yielding somehow to a deep sensation of trauma.

There is a reluctance to both sides that do not want to be stirred. One Feldenkreis session with Matt Williams ended with his observation that he had to bypass lots of resistance, find alternate routes to move my legs.

I did not pursue the sessions out of a fear to face the ache I would find there from previous trauma. The reluctance is still there, aches not wanting to be touched but the rewards of movement call too strongly to resist.

So today I enter the delight of the dance with a bit of caution. I know that the echoes from past traumas will ache to not be stirred. Or perhaps they will gladly yield to movement as they want to do.

The image that will replace my caution is two versions of the wave down and the wave up, the rising and falling at the core of a dancer’s awareness. On my left I will introduce a spongy loosening of the firmness. The emphasis will be on the downward wave. For my right side I will introduce a springy playful emphasis on the upward wave.

As I move, the sensations are both very distinct. My left side seems to be in new territory, having to release in new ways to feel the downward wave. My right is likewise a little unsure like it has always relied on having a buddy leading on the left.

I explore the double helix image differently for each side. On the left, I shape the image as collapsing vertically to allow a spongy quality to the movement. For my right, the shape is the rising buoyant nature of the rotating double helix. The quality of springy is a continuous upward feeling.

The images come and go from my awareness giving me the clue that either I do not want to go there or I need to allow the image to work outside my awareness to go past the fear. I gently bring the images back and observe. I will have to repeat this experience many times to get a read on what is actually happening.

My movement on the other hand is very demonstrative. My ankles give way and respond to my arches in very fluid ways. My movement is more sweeping and my looping floor patterns are surprising. I welcome all the movement and notice the ending of phrases going into twists that engage the rotation from hip, through the mid back to the opposite shoulder.

I follow this rotation as I build awareness in turns that move forward into the cross body twist and then into a backward version of the twist for the opposite side of the turn. The 360 degree quality in my body is very satisfying.

Moving side to side I engage the rotation in the Dancer’s Diaphragm under the arms while sensing the rotation in the opposite hip,leg, and feet. My hope is that these movements will give me more awareness and access to the leaning into my right side.

More sessions will tell. I can integrate the experience at the end of the rotations and even feel the echoes of trauma in my hip. Standing still afterwards causes me to avoid the sensations. Perhaps in another session a portabrae will help.
Tim Hurst 12/30/17

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Health Review 2017

Health concerns are at the top of my list today. Bladder infected areas are benign but I feel fatigued. Next area to examine is the prostate. Also troublesome are wide swings in blood pressure and sugar response.

Dance experiments have been a daily part of keeping my attitude bright and my focus on the overall healing my system is attempting to keep up with. By keeping my focus clear and shifting throughout my body, I have kept pain areas from tensing and kept other areas from spasms that sympathetically respond to the stressed areas.

So every time I begin a dance phrase, my entire body brain enters a bright attitude toward movement connections. It is the connections that engage the networks of the body brain.

This attitude of responsive inquiry helps my blood pressure. I continue to ask how I can consistently respond to these times of intensity.

Concerning the bladder and prostate, I find help in freeing the area to receive more oxygen. My experiments with movement of the pelvic diaphragm are helpful. Adding the hands to assist the movement makes new connections for the pelvic floor muscle to expand and contract.

I just began consulting with a Physical Therapist to explore their approach to the pelvic diaphragm. With my experiments and study of these muscles in Pilates, I am eager to see the exercises PT’s give to a broad range of people. I am aware that the source of the exercises are from dancers who pioneered the attention to the pelvic floor.

The value of PT is the way they have chosen one aspect of a movement and through repetition explored its effects. I will benefit from the specific exercises and I will ask questions that will lead me further.

Today I had many realizations of the importance of the dance image but I will have to write those another day.
Tim Hurst 12/29/17

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Health Experiements

Health concerns are at the top of my list today. Bladder infected areas are benign but I feel fatigued. Next area to examine is the prostate. Also troublesome are wide swings in blood pressure and sugar response.

Dance experiments have been a daily part of keeping my attitude bright and my focus on the overall healing my system is attempting to keep up with. By keeping my focus clear and shifting throughout my body, I have kept pain areas from tensing and kept other areas from spasms that sympathetically respond to the stressed areas.

So every time I begin a dance phrase, my entire body brain enters a bright attitude toward movement connections. It is the connections that engage the networks of the body brain.

This attitude of responsive inquiry helps my blood pressure. I continue to ask how I can consistently respond to these times of intensity.

Concerning the bladder and prostate, I find help in freeing the area to receive more oxygen. My experiments with movement of the pelvic diaphragm are helpful. Adding the hands to assist the movement makes new connections for the pelvic floor muscle to expand and contract.

I just began consulting with a Physical Therapist to explore their approach to the pelvic diaphragm. With my experiments and study of these muscles in Pilates, I am eager to see the exercises PT’s give to a broad range of people. I am aware that the source of the exercises are from dancers who pioneered the attention to the pelvic floor.

The value of PT is the way they have chosen one aspect of a movement and through repetition explored its effects. I will benefit from the specific exercises and I will ask questions that will lead me further.

Today I had many realizations of the importance of the dance image but I will have to write those another day.
Tim Hurst 12/29/17

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Dance Binary Basics

Dance and music are unique realms of study. They train the body to experience three simple processes.

The first process is a way to distinguish one experience from another. The simplest element of both dance and music is the distinguishing of short from long. Both begin with long extended movements or sounds. Both learn to mix short movements or sounds with the long. This is the basic binary learning that becomes an experience of the entire person creating and responding to movement and sound.

Another is to connect one experience to another. As in music each sound and each rhythm is a part of a phrase. The connecting of one sound to the other is built on a detailed study of the curve. A curve in dance and music bends down and bends up. The experience is of a series of loops that blend separate elements into a whole. Notes that appear all alone create a different experience than notes that connect in a phrase. The same is true with dance. A single movement by itself becomes a different experience than a movement phrase. The dancer and the musician learn to think in phrases of connected elements. This again is binary learning that is easily integrated in body brain networks.

The other is to play with simple variations that define a new experience. This is the process of discovery by experimenting with a combination of elements. This is the essence of curiosity and creation. In dance a beginning movement is to lower and rise called in Ballet the plié. This movement combined with articulation of the feet and coordination of the entire body becomes a jump or a skip or a leap. Each movement is a different experience that came from combining simple variations to the plié.
Tim Hurst. 12/28/17

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My Platforms My Spheres

At the base of me, my platform, my pelvic floor, a diaphragm, a sphere surrounding me edge to edge.

One pathway of interest calls me to soften and spread my diaphragm so wide. Yes all this falling through space toward a gravity unknown as my most distant platform!The Feet supreme! Also soften and spread. Also fall deep into the earth beyond the gravity I wish I knew.

My jointed knees only yield to the fall, Pelvis to Feet, as they soften all and spread the wideness of my edge to edge body.

My knees reaching the bottom springing point respond to the lifting of my pelvic diaphragm. My feet too lift as my bottom most spine raises following the springing at the center of my pelvis. My narrowing hips catch the flight and gather QL muscles connecting fronts and backs of me.

The lift and the rise floats my arms out of a Dancer’s Diaphragm balancing solar plexis to the front, mid spine between shoulder blades behind. Signals float spine to Lats spiraling around arms to meet at the energy sphere of palms and fourth fingers. The Dancer’s Diaphragm joins in the spreading of my wings this time rising to meet the gravity aloft in flight.

The breath welcomes the rise with a bellows of air to sustain the spreading and the rising awaiting a peak passing through the neck and cranial base to lift the spine right through the roof of my head’s back fourth.
Tim Hurst 12/21/17

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Give My Heart

The prescription for every lifestyle is always to go beyond oneself. The Beatles say to find someone to love. For a parent the gift is giving to the child. For the entrepreneur the gift is creating something useful and desirable. For the financial life, gathering assets is to benefit a family or to participate in a group. For the universal mind, the gift is gratitude to a creator or awe in the face of the vastness of the universe.

For the performer, the gift is sharing a vision with one person in an audience or with a complete spectrum of groups. In the study of dance and music, building energy fields is a matter of changing focus and imagery to include a fellow dancer or musician and to invite a wider group to experience unique combinations of movement, emotion, and intention.

Each artist devises their own configurations that reveal surprises and more demands to give of themselves beyond their wildest imagination.
Tim Hurst 12/22/17

In a search to lower my stress and get my blood pressure under control, I have begun giving my heart to a source outside myself. From my perspective of shifting focus from a broad view to a narrow one, my broadest view is a creator of the universe. This is a poem I wrote exploring this experience:

Giving my heart to my creator releases my desire for proof that I am the author of my energy.

If my energy is beyond my desire to torque and to force, what freedom I have to allow rejuvenation to live within me.

All is beyond my imagination anyway. Why must I struggle so for an opinionated desire?

Where does the dance, the music come from then? What need to ask if my creator is the author of my energy?

How much more unique my energy must be than I can imagine?

Yes it is true I must now ask and continue to ask to give my heart to my creator?

How can I possibly ask for that?
Tim Hurst 12/21/17

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Cranium for Healing

Today I simply want to be present with my weakest and now infected area, the bladder. The sensation points in the area are the pelvic diaphragm and the lower vertebra of the spine. I gently move these areas to establish a general area of the irritation.

I image the entire area floating in three dimensional space and in continual motion. My attention can move through the image to identify areas that can use specific movement.

I want to send supportive signals from other areas of my body. This involves the body as a network that naturally sympathizes with a hurt area and can limit its movement and its ability to support the harmed area. I want instead to minimize the spasm of other areas contracting because of hurt in my bladder area.

The area I choose is the Thorasic Inlet surrounded by the collar bone and the spine of the scapula. These are the guard rails of the highways of blood vessels, nerves, and muscles that connect the head with the lower spine and body.

By relaxing this area and lifting my head, inhale and exhale come easily and signals can gentle be sent to my pelvic region. A natural reaction takes place identifying specific areas of the Cranium and how I can use them for healing.

First is the Cranial base releasing the hyoid bone opening the lower jaw and bobbing the head around the top two vertebra.

Second the back of the throat opens expanding the breath begun by relaxing the Thorasic Inlet. The soft palate at the top of the mouth softens and raises in the mouth almost as a surprise response.

These growing responses from below the throat to the balancing top vertebra to the throat opening and the palate rising, bring a quality of lightness to the lifting of my head. Almost as a celebration of these connections, I send signals from these area to my pelvic area.

The two way signaling to the hurt area builds awareness and multidimensional signals for clearer support.

One other area revealed itself with a specific image. The Meditative Diaphragm begins at the Third Eye and sits in front of the pineal gland before the meditative spot at the back of the head housing the Fourth Ventrical. This entire area is named the Centrum by John Upledger founder of Craniosacral Therapy.

I have activated this area before but was surprised by the intensity of its energy. Today I experienced a new image that relates to the calming nature of this area. The image is a germinating seed about the size of a fig. The image of a seed is unique because it is growing and preparing to sprout but all this is happening slowly.

This is a perfect image for meditation because there is nothing to do but be present with the potential of the seed. So while dancing I can bring up calmness by focusing on the growing of strength and clarity. The Ballet develope becomes a different experience from,this place.

For my current concerns my hope is that this meditative space along with the joy of dancing will lower my blood pressure.
Tim Hurst 12/11/17

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Healing Proceeds

Spinning with slower double helix for sensation to the outer edges of the pelvic diaphragm.
Connection of double helix to Dancers Diaphragm and to Cranial Platform and top vertebra.

Healing is proceeding slowly. Pain goes away with movement but infection still nags me.

I realize that healing is not dependent on my step by step process. Healing has to do with my clarity of asking, recognizing, and accepting the signs and responses necessary for healing. I have to ask myself to wake up to that process and not wish my actions were the cure.

Secondly, I think my image of the double helix is very powerful and my vision of interlocking bands may be too forceful. Changing the double helix to rays of light open my perspective to a broader view and an enlivening one.
Tim Hurst 12/10/17