Staying in the Shade

Low tide is the best time to dance on the beach. I have found a spot I like, at the farthest reach of Playa Pelada in Costa Rica—where I can dance, move and rest in the morning shade of an impressive cliff. At high tide, I would be killed if I stood in the same spot. When I arrived this morning, the cliff was still wet where the powerful waves of high tide had been pummeling it just a short time before. This time, I knew the tide was going out, so I could relax without the fear that high tide would sweep in quickly.


Today, my practice was languid. I danced the 5Rhythms for only a short time—taking care to pass through each of the rhythms, if only briefly. I danced as though I were not inspired, despite the gorgeous setting, the wave rhythm, the soaring birds. Sometimes it is not very easy to go it alone. Music, community, even drumming are all important elements of practice that I lack here, but I will keep setting the intention to move independently within the frame of the practice and see what arises. I have also contacted a few dancer friends of dancer friends and plan to meet with them soon, hopefully to dance.

A couple of weeks ago, in Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class I was not dealing with languid energy, but with a different obstacle. Lying on the floor in the beginning to get a sense of my body, I felt mean, tight. As she walked by, Tammy leaned down and kissed me tenderly on the forehead. I almost sobbed. Despite her kind gesture, I heard a litany of voices, “I am bad,” “I hate myself,” “I don’t like what I am doing with my life.” The volume of the voices faded as I began to move, but they were dimly vocal in the background throughout the class.

After this rather anemic wave on the beach, I switched into formal yoga practice. Today, yoga seemed easier to sustain than 5Rhythms since there are prescribed poses I could fall back on. After an hour or so of a mindful, patient yoga practice, I switched to sitting meditation and sat at length. Later, I walked more on the beaches.

In Tammy’s class the bright orange of sunset blazed on the eastern wall of the dance studio. I noticed my shadow in the orange glow and began to dance with it. Dancers came by, and I let my shadow dance along with their shadows. The shadows weren’t simply silhouettes, but instead were these overlapping densities of hue, darkness and brilliance. In 5Rhythms practice, each of the rhythms has a shadow rhythm, for example the shadow of Flowing is inertia (what I experienced on the beach today!) The way the shadows came to life that night seemed like an obvious metaphor for what was happening with my own limiting, ego-centric self-talk.

In the town where we are staying, sunset is the most social hour of the day. People make most of their plans for this time, and often think in advance about where they will be for sunset. Fifteen years ago, when I was near Manual Antonio, on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, people would gather on the beach for sunset, then clap and cheer as the sun finally went down. It seems like a sacred ritual, but there is also a practical reason for it, as the strong sun earlier in the day keeps most people in the shade and off the beaches. Even the many surfers stay in the shade of little wood and palm leaf huts along the beach called ranchitos when they are not in the water.

Toward the end of the yoga practice, a couple showed up and settled next to one of the tranquil low tide pools in the rocks—the woman immersing herself in the water and langoring there while the man sat beside her on the rocks. And soon, another couple came along. I found myself strongly wishing to be alone, far from humans, for hours. This does not seem to be possible in this immediate vicinity because after a relatively short stretch walking along the beach, you arrive at an impassable cliff whichever direction you choose. I recalled nostalgically the last time I was in Costa Rica, when the village of Montezuma gave me the opportunity to spend hours and hours and hours walking along the beach—sun crazy and ecstatic—completely alone.

Tammy’s class was not cathartic for me this time (how do I wish!) but it did seem to re-set me. I went in feeling pessimistic and self-abusive, and left feeling perfectly fine. Not at the top of my game, but like I had what I needed to engage with my life.

In the second wave of the class, we partnered and danced from one end of the room to the other four times. This was the highlight of the night for me. My partner and I swooped together in a dynamic investigation of push and pull—it was like we were skaters in the Ice Capades—we would rush, swoop, pause and fall, touching or making contact and bursting apart again, using the farthest edges of the space available to us like we were on ice skates in a big arena, locked in partnership.

Today in Costa Rica, I planned to meet a local dancer and her son for sunset, but my son, Simon, had other ideas. We were at a different beach, and he absolutely dug his heels in, not wanting to leave. I decided not to insist and he fell in with a group of kids. We ventured toward the giant waves of high tide, me holding his hand firmly, along with two new friends—one his age and one mine. The sky glowed with pinks and oranges. I didn’t notice the exact moment that the sun slipped away, since I was playing in the huge waves with Simon—a game requiring my total attention.

July 6, 2015, Nosara, Costa Rica

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


Individual Practice and Multiple Threads


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

Today I danced the 5Rhythms by myself at the farthest reach of Playa Pelado in Nosara, Costa Rica. I am here in Costa Rica for a month, but just arrived yesterday, so everything is new and is an adventure. The place I am staying (we are staying—I am here along with my five-year-old son) is on a mountain, overlooking the ocean. It is remote from the town and beaches, so I needed to figure out a vehicle. The best I could do was an electric golf cart, so we are bumping around town, trying to hold our breathe when a faster vehicle comes along and kicks up dust.

I walked north from Playa Pelada today. Before long, I reached a cabo, and couldn’t walk any further. I decided it was a perfect place to dance, and found a spot in the shade of a high, wave-carved cliff. From there, I moved in and out of the sunlight, drawing huge loping circles in the sand with my feet. The only music was my own occasional humming of a song stuck in my head from my son’s favorite playlist, “Let it Go,” and the sound of crashing waves.

In Flowing, I loved the feeling of my feet dragging in the sand and that the sand touched all the parts of the bottom of my feet—in a way that they do not on a flat dance floor. I noticed that my feet were making an expressive drawing of Flowing in the sand, as I moved in open, linking circles, working with gravity and momentum.


I strongly considered staying exclusively in Flowing for the day, but realized another calling. The waves, at first, seemed to typify Flowing, but as I stayed and moved, I realized that the sheer cliffs and rough, jagged rock had been slammed into shape by millions of very powerful waves.   With this realization, I moved into a languid Staccato that picked up energy and expression as I exhaled sharply, telling myself it would be best to stay in the shade, but needing more space as I explored my body’s response to the landscape—to the ocean, the cliffs, the rocks, the jungle plants, the soaring raptors and the distant, hazy horizon. The drawing my feet made in Staccato was as beautiful as the Flowing drawing they made. I moved to a different spot before too long, or it would have been eradicated. It featured powerful, directed lines in the sand, often with deeper heel digs, and sharp angles, just the way I had been moving.

An interloper appeared, someone on a hike from Playa Pelada. I grew shy. I paused and took out my camera to take pictures of the Flowing and Staccato drawings on the sand. I got back into motion, bashfully, then moved into Chaos regardless of my wish to be invisible to humans at that moment. The drawing my feet made in the sand during Chaos looked like the sand was ripped up. Truthfully, the drawings my feet made in Flowing and Staccato probably would have looked the same if I hadn’t stopped at a certain point and moved to a different place on the sand, but I enjoyed creating some kind of visual representation of the rhythms, even if they were partly contrived.

After Chaos, I sort of trailed into yoga-influenced movements. I was happy to let myself move however felt good. I note that that is one of the biggest arguments for group practice, however, that helps us to retain the form and the discipline of practice. I think part of my investigation this month will be how to sustain my own practice individually, and for now that will mean attending to each of the 5Rhythms in sequence once I start a wave.

When I was at a Buddhist retreat center in Vermont, I danced the 5Rhythms every day alone in the woods—in concert with the sun, the wind, the trees, the spirits of the tradition lineage, and the spirits of the land. The woods revealed many secrets to me; and this period in my own practice offered me insights that probably would not have been uncovered in a group practice situation.

I was mildly concerned that I might become trapped by high tide, so I moved a little way down the beach to practice sitting meditation. I made a mental note to check the tide charts before my next excursion. Sitting, I found my mind active. Little crabs scampered around. Jungle plants behind me moved with the breeze, rustling. Yellow leaf-like butterflies wandered erratically through my field of vision.

In the evening, my son and I played in the waves. It was high tide and the waves were impressive, but many little kids played in the waves near the water’s edge. I stayed close to my son, but at one point a wave knocked him over and I couldn’t put my hands on him for several seconds. When I grabbed him, he was disoriented. I don’t think he would have been able to right himself without help. I realized how easy it would be to lose him, for a wave to sweep him away from me. My heart chilled, though I tried to appear calm. I explained that we don’t have to fear the ocean, but that we certainly must respect it, and insisted that he hold my hand after that as we let ourselves be pummeled by the last traces of the waves which had already broken many meters out.

I am living the threads of many stories: of traveling alone with my small son for a month, of returning to a country that gave me many stories to cherish when I first visited it fifteen years ago, of political realities, of my own emotional obstacles and talents. Within this forum, I promise to keep the story focused on practice, but I hope you will bear with me if other threads drift in.

July 3, 2015, Nosara, Costa Rica