Exuberance & Gratitude

March 30, 2014

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Writing is so much like dance, in that I never know what will happen when I jump in. If I am lucky, I dive into a current and get sucked blissfully along. I arrived ten minutes late to Tammy’s class on Friday night, which often makes it harder to get a groove with the energy of the room. In this case, Tammy’s husband, Jason, was leading the music for the first time, DJing on Tammy’s computer, and it swept me away. Instead of finding a spot to stretch and rocking myself into Flowing as I often begin, it was like I stepped on an electrified surface as soon as I stepped into the room.

For the last several weeks, I have been writing about working my way back from an injury with restrained acceptance. Nonetheless, all along I tried to conceal my pining wish for the gift of exuberance. On Friday, nothing hurt! Not the tangle of recent muscles pulls, not my lower back, not the knot in my neck that plagues me, not the ligaments of my feet, not my left Achilles, not my knees. I got to step into the gigantic dance that feels like home.

During the short interlude between the first and the last wave, Tammy said something like, “I’m not sure how people do it in other places, but in New York, it tends to be full-on! We go deep and all out. We keep looking for the edge and even going over it.” I expected her to say something like, “but it’s not always like that. It can be quieter, it can be subtle,” but she didn’t. Instead she said, “And that’s just how it is.” Music to my wild ears! She also said that it is about showing up authentically in the dance, whatever that means in the moment. When you give me the space to be the full expression of myself as Tammy did in this instance, then I never have to insist on it. It comes and it goes, like weather, like emotions, like love.

At one point, early on, I overdid it, bending forward tautly and backing up vigorously like a giant male peacock. Then, I accidentally stepped on the foot of a friend. I apologized and knitted my eyebrows, and returned to the humility of Flowing and of feet. Shortly after, I found myself back up on an exuberant tide, with a little more dissolved awareness and a little less freneticism.

There were other beautiful images that I offer now as vignettes: Tammy’s discussion of the sometimes fragile, sometimes very strong threads of light that connect us. Tammy’s loving acknowledgement of her husband, Jason, in his musical debut. Experimenting with Flowing as feet arcing in half-circles, and of course, as always, looking for the empty space—the doors to movement that open for us in every moment, inviting us to explode or to whisper, as our feet and our hearts demand.

Thank you, dear body. Thank you, Tammy. Thank you, Gabrielle. Thank you, Jason. Thank you, dancers with years of practice. Thank you, new dancers. Thank you, spirits and bunnies and moon-swept tides and ancient songs and Madonna ballads. Thank you, thank you, thank you. From the bottom of my feet!

Lessons Arising from Injury and Even More Notes on Flowing

March 9, 2014

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms dancing path, and are not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms organization or teacher.

Dancing on Friday night, I moved with about 60% intensity, as I am still tentative after a recent groin/quad muscle pull. The lesson of the injury has arrived slowly; and has evolved over the past few weeks. As I wrote in my last post, it has made me grateful for the many times I have been able to move with full intensity; and eager to fully express myself the next time that I can.

It has also given me new physical insight. I did a motion I realized I had to back off of—a spinning leap that begins with a fling and a push from my big toe, engages the muscles of my upper leg and rushes me into an athletic spin that rises and twists. I am surprised to learn how much time I spend in my hips, how much movement and articulation I have been able to find there. It is remarkable, exhilarating even. I can’t wait to investigate further.

I have also been thinking about aging. At some point, if I am lucky enough to get old and lucky enough to be old and dancing—I will not have the same athletic capacity. This injury was a sudden and temporary drop in ability, but as I age this drop will unfold over time. It has been like a little preview. It frightens me, frankly, and I wonder how it will go.

About halfway through the class, when the whole room was engaged in dances of partnership, someone took a big back step and landed squarely on my left baby toe—undoubtedly breaking the poor little digit. I will say that the same toe has been broken several times and was unusually fragile, even so, it hurt. Bad. He briefly acknowledged the accident at the moment.

I continued to dance, and partnered next (by chance) with the toe breaker. I began by jokingly covering my toe, hiding it from him. We had an interesting dance, but I felt like he was looking over my shoulder, and not fully engaged in our meeting.

My first thought after class was: it is interesting that when I am feeling injured I seem to draw injury. Then, I started to feel anger toward the toe breaker. A few minutes after the injury I went to the med kit and taped up the toe—as much to have a splint as to alert people to be careful of it. At the end of the dance, I passed him sitting on the floor. He did not seem to notice the toe tape, and did not acknowledge the injury in any way. I said nothing. I wished I had said, “Hey! You broke my toe, you know!”

On the way home, I began to think about how bumping into people, stepping on toes or other accidental physical contact has played out for me since the beginning of my 5Rhythms career.

Of all the rhythms, I have always felt most at home in Chaos, but, notably, I was never actually in Chaos for the first several months of dancing. Instead, I was in a kind of agitated Staccato. When I accidentally found my way to Chaos for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the tenderness of it and wept copiously. I realized that I was afraid to release control of myself because I might then hurt someone. On a base level, it had to do with being afraid to crash into a body, but, as you might imagine, it had psychological levels that directly correlated to the physical experience. I have always perceived myself as powerful, and thought I had to keep myself in check. In the end, it was a kind of cruelty to myself.

I find myself back at Flowing again, my own fountain of insight, for the next chain of thoughts. When I have found Flowing—when I have encountered Flowing—with integrity, I have learned that I can follow my dance through all the rhythms and be every bit of everything that I am—uncontrolled, sometimes explosive, messy, unpredictable, sobbing—whatever it is in a given moment, and I can trust myself to not cause harm. This is an extraordinary insight. If I learned nothing else than this, dancing for all these years would have been worth it.

When it feels right for me, Flowing is not only released, unending, circular motion, but it also has a kind of humility. Just these feet, just touching this earth. It may have its artfulness, but it is these gentle feet, carefully finding their way on one tiny spot of the giant earth that gives me the foundation of awareness that I need to travel confidently to every other place that the dance takes me.

I note with curiosity that nearly every post I have done so far has dealt with the theme of Flowing, even when I thought it was about something else.

The first time I traveled in Costa Rica, long before I knew anything about 5Rhythms, I danced many nights in a row at a local bar. I was amazed that people frequently bumped into each other and kept moving, and that it did not seem to give them pause. It seemed, rather, to be part of the dance. For me, I would tighten everything up if I accidentally touched someone.

If I find that I am chronically bumping into people, I usually take a deep breath and press a reset button. Sometimes, I return to the physical feeling of my feet on the floor and can find my way into awareness. Sometimes, if I am chronically bumping into people it is because I am out of sync with the room, panicked or disconnected. At these times, I might dispatch myself to a quiet edge of the dance floor—in extreme cases I lay down and move on my back—to observe the painful feeling of disconnection I am experiencing. Once a feeling like this has set in, I find that the only possible thing to do is ride it out and know that things will surely shift again. Trying to force it results in bumping and imbalance and it is painfully apparent.

With the foundation of Flowing, ideally, there is a porous engagement with the room that allows me to soften instantly when I make contact with someone else, greatly diminishing the possible harm. There are times too, when there seems to be an agreement that some amount of bumping is ok, we might even swing into partnership, or grab each other affectionately in these moments, or quietly whisper sorry and acknowledge each other with grace.

As I have expressed, I have absolutely done my share of bumping and crashing, but I really didn’t appreciate getting stepped on this time. We were definitely in the rhythm of Staccato, and I couldn’t help but think, “if you are going to totally commit yourself to a particular direction, for God’s sake, consider who you are stepping on!”