The Winter Solstice, the Dis-comfort Zone & the “No Talking” Rule

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

I arrived a few minutes late to Tammy’s class on Friday, once again, although this time I was legitimately entangled—attending a holiday party at my son’s afterschool program with his many small friends and their parents. My son stayed until the end with his father, but when I told him I had to go, he pouted for a moment and begged me to stay, also. “This is what it means to have a practice,” I told myself as I got my things together to go, but I wish I had stayed with him just a little bit longer. It is always hard for me to find the line between commitment and rigid adherence.

Although I didn’t step into the room until the transition from Flowing into Staccato, I still felt that I was able to practice Flowing. Tammy made a suggestion about moving into the empty spaces—an exercise that I associate with Flowing—which allowed me to find myself in fluid motion before progressing on to Staccato.

As the class unfolded, Tammy talked about how good it is to experiment with being in your comfort zone; and, in addition, how good it is to experiment with things that make you uncomfortable—your discomfort zone, if you will. Over the years, I have, at times, made a choice to let myself move with what feels comfortable, good and intuitive. An example of this would be moving away from people I don’t want to dance with. At other times, I have made a choice to investigate my edges and to work with situations that are uncomfortable or downright aversive—for example staying in a dance with someone who triggers anger, irritation or defensiveness.

In one pair dance, Tammy asked us to take turns with one partner giving and one partner receiving. My partner and I paused, unsure of how to relate to the instructions. We settled on one being active (which I thought of as the giving) with the other more or less observing (which I thought of as the receiving). For all I know, my partner may have thought the opposite. I have danced exuberantly with this partner many times, but in this instance we had a hard time connecting. I was similarly confused as I moved on to dance with other partners, eventually letting the instructions go completely.

There was one woman sort of slowly parading around the room, totally out of sync with the rhythm everyone else was in. I had been open to dancing with her on several occasions, and we initiated some dances together. However, as soon as an attractive man came by she would blatantly turn her back to me and move to dance with him. Eventually, I stopped inviting her to dance, and even stopped making eye contact with her. On Friday, I noticed that I ignore her. I guess I feel a little angry toward her. I wonder if I don’t want to risk being rejected, don’t want to waste the energy, or even if some part of me wants to punish her. At any rate, she seemed isolated on Friday. I wonder if she acts toward others how she did toward me. I wonder if she feels left out and can’t figure out why.

In addition to noticing what feels comfortable and what feels uncomfortable, and deciding to work with or against it, there is the question of how we relate to each entire rhythm (a topic I considered at length in the last post and have touched on in many previous writings). Typically, each of us has a favorite rhythm, and at least one rhythm that is definitely not our favorite.

Perhaps considering the Winter Solstice, Tammy encouraged to close our eyes and be in the darkness that is inside us, and to look at all the light inside us. This was convenient timing, as I had been doing just that. I love to go into a trance and move light around inside my body during Stillness. Often, light comes from the ground up; or it starts in my hands and moves from there. In this case, the light originated in my heart and was blue-white as it moved throughout my body in rapidly squiggling lines.

During the interim teaching between the first and second waves of the class, Tammy reminded us of the “rules” in a 5Rhythms room. She glancingly mentioned the “no talking” rule, and went on to elaborate that “no talking” also implies “no texting.” She explained that when we come to practice, we give ourselves a rest from all of the spinning activity of speech, and commit to spending two hours just being embodied. “We come in here,” she explained as she pointed to her heart and drew the gesture down her thorax, with a halting, emphatic forward bow.

Before I did my first silent mediation retreat, silence frightened me. My partner at the time would frequently go into a phase of resentful silence before some kind of explosion, so I would fill the space between us with small talk in an attempt to force things to be ok. I would say that my lifestyle at the time was anything but silent, as well. On retreat, I took on the idea that embracing silence for a period of time is a gift for yourself—a chance to take a break from dispersing yourself and spinning your wheels in constant relation to others. I came to love the early morning vespers—when the filled meditation hall would slowly begin to glow with the pink light of dawn. Within two days, I settled into silent, textured bliss.

Tammy mentioned that not many of us relate easily with Stillness—no great surprise given our cultural tendencies. I connected this idea to working with discomfort, with silence, and with taking a break from communicating with words for the brief duration of class.

Building on the teaching of comfort/discomfort, Tammy asked us to share our favorite rhythm. My hand went up quickly, and I said, “Chaos” with enthusiasm. Immediately after, I equivocated inside my own head, thinking of a long period in the beginning of my 5Rhythms experiences when I felt very connected to Staccato, and of another long period when I engaged in a deep exploration of Stillness. I thought, too, of one class Jilsarah taught on a Spring Solstice when I briefly entertained the idea that I might secretly have a Lyrical nature.

Tammy had us create a dance with everyone simultaneously in the rhythm we indicated as our preferred rhythm. I found that it was difficult to for me to stay in Chaos. Not surprisingly, my experience of Chaos went a bit flat in the second wave, as well. Identifying strongly with anything can be dangerous, I think. The last thing I want to do is trick myself into performing to support how I see myself.

Toward the end of the second wave, I danced with one man who I rarely partner with. We created a lilting, playful ring with baby steps and tiny jumps, backing away from each other eventually with deep bows and beaming smiles.

On this Winter Solstice, I find myself thankful for silence, the ground of all sound; and thankful, too, for darkness, the ground of all light.

December 21, 2014, NYC



Making, Process, Progress, Challenge and Growth

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

Somehow on Friday I managed to arrive a little late to Tammy’s Night Waves class, although I arrived in front of the Joffrey building thirty minutes before the start of class.  I would not say that I am chronically late, but I do note a pattern.  Class nearly always begins with the rhythm of Flowing—the rhythm that is the most opposite to how I see myself.  I have written extensively about how important and challenging the teachings of Flowing have been to me; and wonder if this might not have something to do with my occasional late entrances.

Tammy had several beautiful teaching points.  One was to note that there is often a particular rhythm that people distance themselves from.  This could show up as just not being into it, stopping movement completely, telling yourself a story about how misguided everyone else is and how on point you are, literally leaving the room (or, perhaps in my case, showing up just a bit late, leaning the tiniest bit away from the teacher of Flowing.)

I reflected on a period lasting a year or more when I noticed that I would go wild with the joy of Chaos, then, the moment the music transitioned us into Lyrical, instead of carrying that joy into levity, I would panic.  For months, I could not resist going to check my phone, certain there had been some sort of emergency with my small son.  I knew it was just a function of my triggered mind, but I had to go through with checking nonetheless.  It was as though the kind of joy that arises for me during Lyrical was too much–harder to face, for example, than grief, guilt or aggression.

On Friday, the room seemed emptier than usual.  I wandered for some time before I found a spot to sink down temporary roots to unfurl and stretch.  Tammy began the wave subtlely, suggesting that we focus on different parts of the body, leading me to a contemplative, interior mood.

I’ve been reading a book called “Mindset” by a renowned educational psychologist.  The researcher’s position is that most people align with either a “fixed” or a “growth” mindset.  People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that you are born with certain abilities that inevitably express as talent.  People with a growth mindset tend to believe that you are born with a range of capacities and that hard work and the ability to incorporate feedback are the keys to success.  The interesting thing (and important for my own insight) is that even seeing yourself as smart, competent, creative and capable can be problematic.  In this case, research shows that people will defend their smartness, creativeness or capableness—even shying away from working hard because hard work might somehow disprove their inherent talent, especially if they were to work hard and fail.

People with a growth mindset tend to see failure as a challenge, or as information they can use to grow.  This brings me to Tammy’s remarks about people who check out—or even literally leave the room—during a particular rhythm.  The growth-minded amongst us are willing to hang with discomfort and challenge, and are willing to at least try to stay in the room even when all our sensors tell us to run screaming.  It seems like the rhythms that are least comfortable might offer the greatest possibilities for challenge and growth.

As has been true lately, I found all kinds of new ways to move.  In Chaos, there was a marching, driving, military song.  Tammy made a suggestion about moving with resistance.  I balled my fists, drew my elbows back taut, and marched away—then released again into boundless, unrestrained Chaos.

As the first wave ended I found myself in a shamanic-like trance.  Tammy said something about experiencing multi-dimensional breath.  I first took this to mean space in all directions, and expanded the ways I was moving to include all possible heights and orientations.  Then, I took it to mean all times and spaces that have existed, moving into different territory entirely.  During the period of Stillness, I experienced compelling visions.

The fixed mindset/growth mindset information, along with Tammy’s suggestion about staying with it even when you want to check out, led me to think about how I, myself, have been affected by fixed mindset.  As a child, I could sense two things about myself.  The first is that I had an iron-hard core of strength that ran right through the middle of me.  All I had to do was pause and turn inward to sense it.  The second is that I was smart.  I grew up believing I was smart (I can even remember the moment it first formed as a construct), and being told that I was smart all the time by well-meaning parents, teachers and relatives.

When I was 7 or 8 my Dad was slightly contemptuous when he believed I mispronounced a word.  Around the same time, my uncle told me my favorite author, Stephen King, was “a fountain of trash literature.”  I took both of these incidents as an affront to my smartness and began to set up architecture to support my vision of myself.

As I was considering the idea of fixed mindset, I also thought about all the energy I wasted wondering if I was a “good” artist.  It wasn’t until after I had my son (and no longer had time to waste on neurotic internal dialogues) that I realized the question is completely un-important.  Since I don’t believe there is any inherent meaning or any inherent self, there is no point whatsoever in considering this question.  What matters more is making, process, progress, challenge and growth.

I went through a period when I realized that I was actually quite arrogant, and that I had developed kind of false meekness in an attempt to hide the arrogance.  I had no choice but to express the arrogance for a time, in an effort to find some kind of authenticity.  After a recent conflict with my son’s father, my mother told me that I can be kind of “rigid, sometimes” when it comes to things that concern my small son.  She also told me it can come across as haughty.  Ouch. The same week, I asked my boss to mediate a dispute with a colleague (hoping she would take my side); and she told me if I wanted to make any real progress—right or wrong—I would have to find some humility (implying, therefore, that she thought I lacked humility, at least in this instance).  Ouch.

When I get similar feedback from more than one source, I have to at least entertain it as a serious possibility.  Do I lack humility?  Have I developed a kind of arrogance, perhaps to defend my self-perception as smart? OUCH. (Did I just write that?)

Thankfully, I am willing, even when I want to disconnect from the rhythm at hand, to at least stay in the room.  Through practice (both 5Rhythms and in a meditation tradition) I have attempted to root out what the educational psychologist calls “fixed mindset,” yet I keep finding hidden reserves that surprise me.

On Friday, I danced with a friend I love to dance with and was sad when our dance dissolved.  One of the last songs of the wave kept switching back and forth between a driving chaos track and a bounding Irish jig and I found myself in every different part of the room, moving quickly through both high and low spaces.

Often writing about my experience of 5Rhythms practice leads me to cathartic insight, poetic awareness or profound gratitude.  Sometimes it ties itself into a neat bow by the last paragraph.  On this occasion, it gives me more information to consider as I go about making my life, and, hopefully, to use to inform my practice both on and off the dance floor.

December 14, 2014, NYC


A Week Like This Should Not Go Un-danced

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

I didn’t think that I would be able to dance last night, but a babysitter came through at the last moment.  I was relieved.  A week like this should not go un-danced, and I doubted I would be able to make it to another class before next Friday’s.  I arrived 15 minutes late and stepped into a room already in the thick of Staccato.

There is a scene in the 2007 film The Great Debaters that I find very moving.  The film is a true story about a debate team from an all-black college.  Set in 1935, the team surmounts incredible obstacles, wins again and again, and goes on to challenge Harvard’s debate team.  In a debate with a white college about whether black students should be admitted to the state’s colleges, the character played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell responds to the opposing team’s position that American society is not yet ready for blacks to attend all-white colleges, and concludes her team’s argument with the impassioned assertion,

“Would you kindly tell me when is that day going to come?  Is going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never? No!  The time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is always, is always, right now!”

In the last year, I have written extensively about the rhythm of Flowing.  Flowing is the least intuitive of the five rhythms for me, and as such has offered me endless teachings.  The idea that everything around us in dynamic, constant flux is, in my mind, the first level of Flowing.  Next, I connect with the idea that, despite the reality of constant change and movement, there is a ground, and we can find a way to relate to ground that can steady us through the wildest of circumstances.  On another level, I have become empowered to watch for the empty spaces that open up even in a crowded room and move into them, rather than wait opaquely for space to open its formal doors and declare me worthy first.

I have, historically, held myself in Flowing as long as possible, even after I feel the pull to move into Staccato.  I do this mostly because I feel I have a responsibility to the people around me.  If I really find my ground—know my feet on the earth and know my place on it—it is unlikely that I will hurt anyone, physically, emotionally or energetically.

Sometimes, however, there is nothing to do but take a great, bold stride right into the heart of Staccato.  Sometimes you are called out on the spot to speak your truth with full conviction; and if you miss it, you may never get another chance.  Maybe (god I hope so) just maybe, if you have danced and danced until the bottoms of your feet know their place no matter what is happening, when the time comes for Staccato, you will know how to step into it with the full force of passion whether you feel like you are ready for it or not.

I am telling all of this to myself, of course, because no doubt it is old news to all of you.

Stepping right into Staccato last night (since I had no choice) I found a low, powerful stance, and began to move around the room, paying attention to my feet at first, then shifting awareness to my hips, knees and shoulders.

For the last two years I have been teaching 10th grade.  On Thursday, I facilitated a discussion about the decision not to indict the (white) cop who killed Eric Garner (a black man) with an illegal choke hold.  One often-reserved 16-year-old  shared, “When I’m walking, if I see a police officer, I take my hands out of my pockets and I put my hood down right away.”  The refrain about being stopped, questioned and suspected went on and on as the students shared their thoughts.  I learned that many of my students make sure they are home before dark because they are afraid the police might hassle them, find a reason to arrest, or even shoot to kill.

During Tammy’s class, I was distracted because I kept thinking about the discussion, and how I might further it in the coming week.  It occurred to me that instead of thinking about the writing assignment I sent him home with, and thinking about how to bring the full manifestation of his unique, spectacular brilliance to the world, my student was forced to waste his emotional energy wondering if he would be unfairly targeted by the police and thinking about strategies to avoid being killed or arrested.

I exploded into Chaos the moment the music suggested it.  If I had been born in another century, I would have been pronounced possessed.  Chaos, rather than arriving as a tender release, retained its edges and its uncontainable power. I realized that I, like many, carry rage that has been triggered once again by the facts of the Eric Garner case.

I shared notable dances with two close friends, but when Stillness arose at the end of each wave, I found myself still distracted, trying to plan or understand or process the events of recent days.

December 6, 2014, NYC

My Private Sadness

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

Tammy’s “Faint of Heart” Heartbeat workshop took place over three days at the Martha Graham Dance Studio in the West Village. I arrived preoccupied, as I’d been mentally tangling with a sticky interpersonal issue throughout the afternoon. After organizing my things in the female dancers’ locker area, I stepped into the big, open room, and instantly forgot my pressing dilemma. Once inside, I crossed another threshold by stepping up onto the welcoming sprung floor. People were more or less evenly distributed throughout the space, prone with closed or averted eyes, moving slowly. Instead of finding space on the floor to stretch and unfurl as is often my inclination, my spine moved quickly into Flowing—curling and undulating the rest of me. I took tiny steps, in deference to the many quiet bodies around me, noticing the movement in my released spine as it rose up from subtle connections of all the parts of my feet with the floor.

5Rhythms is articulated through a series of “maps” that Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, laid out. The first map is the Waves map, which is the foundational practice, and is concerned with the investigation of each of the 5Rhythms—Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. The Heartbeat map comes next; and is a way to investigate emotional experience. This was my third Heartbeat workshop, and my second Heartbeat workshop with Tammy.

I wasn’t able to attend the last day of the workshop because I attended, instead, a wake for my sister, Courtney’s, best friend, Lisa. She and Courtney were close friends since childhood; and Courtney stayed close to her as she moved painfully through the process of dying. Lisa was 38 years old, and left a seven-year-old son behind.

I was at Courtney’s house just moments after she got the news that Lisa had passed. She had called to ask my opinion about whether she should go to Lisa’s immediately after receiving an alarming text from Lisa’s fiancé. She also wanted to alert me that I might need to pick up Simon (my son) who was sleeping over at her house that night. I decided to go to her in either case, and was there within five minutes. During that time, she received the call. When I walked in, she was coiled sideways on a barrel shaped chair, rocking, sobbing quietly, keening at moments, and clutching the phone while she talked with another close friend who wailed audibly.

That first night, I moved with great freedom. It is absolutely amazing to me that I can spend countless hours dancing and still, again and again, find new ways to move. My spine was very released and I found a lot of my gestures ending with looking up, often arcing back and raising my hands above my head.

Tammy led us through an exercise called a “body parts meditation.” Next, she told us to take a partner and to take turns with one person doing the body parts meditation while the other witnessed them. After each took a turn witnessing, the mover then told the other what she felt during the exercise, and the witness described what she saw. I went first. My partner was a dancer who I have developed a relationship with over many years. I closed my eyes for most of the exercise and moved with inspired focus. At the end, I stood facing my friend. I said, “I was really into moving my spine—like twisting and curving and undulating. I was thinking about how unbelievable it is, all the infinite ways of articulating the spine.” I also said, “There is a spot in my neck that I can’t really get into. I noticed that it correlates with my sore right shoulder and inflexible right shoulder blade.”

She said, “First, I want to say that I love your dance.” It made me feel happy to hear that, celebrated, in a way. “I’m always happy when you are in the room. You really did seem to be moving from the spine, from the heart. It is like your entire rhythm is heartbeat, like it’s inside your bones. It gets a little heavy at times, and then light again, but it is always from the heart.” I loved her poetic words. It was magic to be seen so tenderly. After her dance, I said, “There is something frontal that your arms do, sort of straightforward. Maybe it is offering? Your elbows are very flexible and willing to go along with whatever your shoulders decide is happening. There is also a kind of integration to the way you move, and you are very planar and diagonal, somehow.”

We had another group talk at the end of the night, and it seemed people had endless comments. Although many were insightful, I was nervous that we went 20 minutes over. I gathered my things and went into the blustery night without even pausing to change out of my cold, sweaty clothes so I wouldn’t arrive home too late.

On Saturday, we started fresh. For me, it was another beautiful wave—characterized by a fluid spine, creative engagement and new discoveries. I began with dramatic balancing stretches and found my way quickly into unbridled movement. A plaintive, tonal opening song by FC/Kahuna included the lyric, “Don’t think about…all those things you…fear. Just be glad to be here.” I sobbed raggedly as I moved, grounded firmly, yet drawing everything up, toward heaven, my eyes half closed, finding inexplicable movements as the music moved into Stillness. Grief—both for Lisa and for other lost friends—found its shapes with my body.

After Saturday’s first wave, we gathered together to talk and Tammy opened the floor. After a couple of comments, she encouraged us to try to stay involved with what we were actually feeling physically—at least for now—and to avoid analyzing the feelings or considering the many metaphors that arise. She explained that the work we do in the territory described by the Heartbeat map is specifically about the infinite aspects of how we feel. This proved to be too much for us, collectively. Another hand went up and shared a story about childhood, and another, a personal insight.

Today, Lisa’s minister, Pastor Bessy, lead the service at the funeral home. She emphasized again and again, the many accomplishments of Lisa’s short life, and the many people she had loved well. My sister and another friend stood at the podium to share their own experiences. Courtney’s words were very moving. She was humble; and she grounded her words in lived experience. She quoted from letters she had received from Lisa; and she included many of the people in attendance in her generous reflections.

Next, Tammy assigned an exercise that involved firmly clasping a partner’s arm, then reflecting on what arose. My first partner had piercing blue eyes, and I moved slightly forward as she touched my arm. At once, I felt like laughing. With the second partner for the clasping exercise, when I stood in front of her and looked into her eyes, I felt such a surge of tenderness that I almost began to cry. When she clasped my arm, I felt solidly grounded and did not react aversively at all, nor did I dig in or resist the movement.

Later, again seated and discussing our felt experiences as a group, my second partner shared her thoughts. She first said that when she came to face me, she felt I was someone she could trust, partly because I am short (yes, short!). She went on to say that with her first partner, she had a key insight that when she was clasped, her neck went into a sharp sideways jolt. She felt like she was always supposed to be moving forward and accomplishing things, and this was her learned way of resisting. She shared that she’d had chronic neck pain for years and hadn’t realized that this action was the root of the neck pain. When she came to be partnered with me, I went first. She felt like my response to being clasped was to surrender forward, like an undulating wave. She decided to try on her perception of my approach, and again had a key insight.

These words, too, made my impressionable ears happy. I reflected on the fact that upon entering Friday, I was embroiled in my own thoughts about a difficult interpersonal situation, but that I let it go. And not just for the moment, and not that I am just going to walk away. Rather, that I will act as skillfully as can, and will employ all the passion and vision that I possess, but that, on some level, I have surrendered. I cannot control the situation, and whether I like it or not, it will unfold as it unfolds. No need to be preoccupied, since it won’t change the outcome. After my partner spoke, I experienced this little moment of gratitude. It seemed, at least for that moment, that after eight years of devoted practice, I was finally beginning to see a tiny bit of progress. I don’t think anyone in my life ten years ago would have observed an epic, graceful forward surrender, for example. Quite the contrary. Maybe there is hope for me after all!

The thing about Lisa dying—my private sadness—is that I wish I had loved her better. Things haven’t always been easy with my sister, and although I was occasionally invited to be part of their close circle, I chose instead to protect myself and to remain apart.

On Saturday at the workshop we worked extensively with fear. At the end of the day, I shared that I wouldn’t be able to attend Sunday’s session, and thanked Tammy and my fellow dancers in a breathy rush for their many beautiful offerings—my palms pressed together like a prayer as I spoke. I chose to offer my own insight (not limiting my comments to how I was feeling), that it is a very worthwhile project, working with fear. “Tomorrow I have to attend a funeral,” I said, “Not only does fear hold us back from fully living. But fear also holds us back from fully loving the people we love, and we really need to realize that they won’t be here forever. And neither will we.”

Tammy designed an exercise that involved encountering another dancer as “fear” with different variables. A dancer who was new to me touched me while my back was turned, caressing me at length. I was furious. I even thought about sharing publicly that if we don’t already have a relationship that includes touch, I would appreciate if people would make eye contact and see if I am really receptive to being touched before they touch me.

I danced with a very close friend at length—a dance of fear and reticence and the sharp edges that fear engenders, each of us with, at once, our hearts at stake. This dance continued in three major movements during the course of the day, finding us together in conclusion, linked in wordless honesty.

After so much strenuous dancing and so much sobbing, I needed to spend lunch reflecting and writing. The workshop producers had laid out tea and snacks for us, and I gratefully helped myself to an apple, some chips and a thick rectangle of dark chocolate before venturing outside.

Outside, I plodded along, dazed. After several blocks of aimless walking, hoping to find a comfortable place for tea, I settled on a deli and planned to sit in the cold on an outdoor bench across the street. Inside, I encountered the same dancer who made me angry by caressing my back. I found her manner off-putting; and I squirmed, wanting to be alone during lunch and hoping she would not ask to join me.

After lunch, we danced yet another beautiful wave. Tammy was extremely bouncy in Lyrical as she stepped away from the music-generating computer and moved around the room; and I cheered inside to see her so apparently happy.

Tammy asked us to take a partner, which, as always, means to turn to the person closest to you without thinking about it. My partner happened to be the very same person I saw in the deli, the very same person I was angry at for caressing my back when I didn’t want to be touched. Of course. How could it be otherwise? We were instructed to face each other. Then, she explained that one person would keep asking the other, “What do you fear?” I answered first, while my partner asked the question. I only remember a few of my responses, but without any warning, my answers veered into past life experiences. I took a sharp in-breath, alarmed by the sudden intensity, and let loose a shuddering sob. When it was her turn to answer the question, “What do you fear?” I realized that she and I had a lot in common, that she suffers, and that she is just trying to be happy, like everyone else in the world. By the end of the exercise, my irritation with her had dissolved completely.

Next, we used the same format for the question, “What makes you angry?” Remarkably, I had a hard time calling up sources of anger and kept finding myself silent and shrugging. When I do experience anger, it is so red-hot, so urgent, so dense, so intense…yet I couldn’t recall much at all. “When people try to team with me against other people,” I said. “When I get a parking ticket.” “When someone tries to round me off for their own understanding,” I continued. “When I burn the food.”

Shortly, I found myself in a dance exploring the gestures of Yes and the gestures of No with a friend, T. T. and I have totally different ways of relating to the beat in a given song, but in the Yes/No dance we were more in sync than we ever have been before.

I encountered T. again later but during the same wave. I had told her about Lisa during the lunch break; and when she looked into my eyes I felt totally seen, then felt a rush of sorrow. We fell into an emotional dance and gently held hands and spun each other as we moved through the wave of emotion. I passed through another episode of sobbing, finding myself cleaner and more empty after every round.

The thing is that if you are blessed to love a lot of people, and you manage to stay alive for a certain number of years, then there is no doubt that you will experience a lot of grief. When I experience grief again, it charges up all the burning embers of grief that lay scattered through my psyche. I was crying not only for Lisa, but for all of the friends I’ve lost.

I had no idea how much I loved my friend, Howard, for example, until I lost him. On a white day in early November, I was teaching then-infant Simon how to dance to the flights of soaring and arcing flocks of city pigeons when I got a call telling me that Howard had died. I was instantly ravaged with grief. Perhaps it was a dream, but two days after Howard died, he came to Tammy’s daytime Thursday class. Not knowing what else to do, I offered to loan him my body, so he could move and physically process this most difficult of experiences. He was grief-stricken, and accepted my offer. (That was the first time that I danced the grief of a spirit.)

This reverberation often angers the people for whom the grief is most immediate, in this case my sister, another close friend of Lisa’s, and Lisa’s closest family. For them, there is no once-removed, it is just the full intensity of final and irreversible loss.

Later in the afternoon, Tammy instructed us to make a big circle and we took turns dancing in the middle. I did not feel moved initially, but after the second Chaos song, I wanted to be in the middle. Several people beat me to it, however, and I hung back. I jumped as soon as a person left the middle and didn’t realize for several seconds that another friend had already entered the circle, too. I bowed and started to back away to give her the space, and in the process we began to interact. Tammy instructed us to go with it, and to turn it into a couple’s dance. My friend and I became emphatic, dancing Yes/No according to our instructions, dramatically recoiling to the floor and sailing around one another in circles. I literally lost my balance and found myself flat on my back. For a couple of seconds I surrendered, throwing my hands up and smiling in a snow angel pose before I bounded back up onto my feet and back into the dance. Many other couples took their turns; and I was awed by the creativity and specificity of the many displays.

By the end of the day I felt wrung-out and fully-open. I found myself in the third phase of a dance that went on all day with the first friend I mentioned, moving un-self-consciously and with patient reverence as the dance paused momentarily at day’s end.

I left this writing to attend to other urgencies, thinking I was in the middle of the story and that I would return to the writing as soon as possible. I realize now as I re-read it that I reached the end quite suddenly, without realizing it. Thank God I held nothing back in the telling, and that my heart danced me completely. I can only hope that I may say the same for my life.

November 10, 2014, NYC