August 16, 2015: Yesterday I went to Riis Park beach with my five-year old son, Simon, my sister, and her soon-husband. Right after we parked our belongings on the sand, we played in the water for a long time. Simon was not a swimmer just a short time ago, but he has at last crossed the threshold of buoyancy. Last summer, he barely wanted to be in the water. This year, after a month in Costa Rica and a week playing in the water for many-hour stretches with family in Cape Cod, he has come to love the water as much as I do.
When we arrived, the sea seemed relatively calm, but as the tide came in, dangerous currents began to present. Right in front of us, a man nearly drowned when he panicked in a rip tide. A relative swimming next to him was a lifeguard, but he had no flotation equipment. He signaled the lifeguards frantically. They dashed into the sea with their red buoys and rescued them. Shortly after this, Simon said he was cold and I snuggled him on my lap, wrapped in a towel. I was very happy to hold him like I did when he was small, and marveled at his beautiful aliveness, crying softly because I was so grateful for the precious moment.
Just moments later, one of the same lifeguards who saved the drowning man went crashing by us, her heels nearly kicking her back as she ran. Someone was missing. My sister bolted toward the scene, wanting to help. I saw a line of people in the water and thought they were making a chain, holding someone in a rip current, connecting to the land. We ran, Simon in tow. We learned that the people in the sea searching were lifeguards only. Everyone else had been ordered out of the water; and we could not help. The lifeguards were all in a line perpendicular to the shore. They would all hold up a right arm, then all dive, searching for the missing person. It unfolded like a nightmare. A huge crowd had gathered, waiting. I decided to walk away with Simon—thankfully, thankfully—because just minutes after we walked away from the scene they pulled a lifeless five-year-old boy out of the water. My sister found us shortly, as her husband told her to run away, staying behind in case he was needed as a paramedic. My sister sobbed and clung to Simon, then to her husband when he, too, appeared. It was only after some time that my sister told me that the victim was a small boy. She said he was floppy when they pulled him out, white spittle at his lips. We learned later that night that they could not revive the little boy. We also learned that his name was Ezekiel Gray and that he lived in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. I can’t stop thinking about it today. I hugged Simon and rubbed his back and snuggled him for ages this morning—grateful, grief-stricken, afraid, tender.
That is what I stepped in with to this morning’s Sweat Your Prayers 5Rhythms class, which was taught today by Daniela Peltekova. I stepped mindfully across the threshold, bowed deeply, then found the floor. I was still only briefly, feeling my pelvis spread gently as I lay on my back, then moved into attenuated stretching, both circular and resisted. The first lyric I keyed into was something about “being pulled out to sea” and several jagged sobs escaped me. Before long, I was on my feet, moving in weighted and weightless circles, totally released. I began to move around the room with tears still presenting, looking into people’s eyes, neither hiding nor displaying the tears that continued for some time.
I also spoke with my mother this morning. I learned that a friend’s sixteen-year-old son died yesterday after many years of battling liver cancer. This was just too much. I couldn’t really take it in. My mom sensed it and changed the subject, talking instead about Simon’s outfit for my brother’s upcoming wedding.
Sometimes (and this only ever happens on Sundays) I flirt with the idea that my basic nature might actually be aligned with lyrical, instead of chaos as I have generally held it to be. Today, I found total freedom and tenderness, despite the unending pain of the world.
In Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class (my first 5Rhythms class in over six weeks, since I went away to Costa Rica) I was also unusually receptive. I arrived late as I was (then, too) at Riis Park beach until late in the day; and stepped instantly into a massive, back stepping, winged, weighted Staccato storm with a friend I love to dance with. I traveled around the room, the universe delivering the perfect amount of energy as I moved, carefully noticing everyone in attendance. Tammy instructed us to partner with the person closest to us saying, “Let them in.” Then, she added something to the effect of, “Let in. And let out,” as she continually told us to change partners. Although she did not say it this way, I heard, “Let them in. Then let yourself be let in.” This is when practice is sharp. Is precise. Is a light-glinting sword cutting the dross away from the tissues of the heart. It is nothing less than a warrior’s call to battle, carried over hills and mountains and into vast space.
I danced with a man I have often taken lightly. He can be intense with eye contact, which I find a bit intrusive. He always wants to connect, but seems to have a slight smirk as he approaches. He is probably just expressing playfulness, but sometimes I feel like he is making fun of me—of everyone, not just me. I often have a turn with him, but usually move away before sinking deeply inside. Even when I have engaged for longer, I haven’t ever let him in fully. On Friday, I told myself that I might as well be receptive to everyone. Why not be receptive to him? He is just as likely as anyone else to enter my heart. We danced together at length. I experimented with letting myself be lead, without going slack or losing my power. He spun and released me, perhaps to see what would happen. We clasped hands and passed each other in spinning, briefly entwining. Poised high on my toes, I bravely touched his back, encouraging a certain direction as I moved by him, then let myself follow again, going soft. He was tall enough for me to spin while keeping eye contact, bending my neck backward. I smiled as I danced upright again, shyly meeting his unwavering gaze.
This took me by surprise. I realized that although I have shared many very intimate dances, I had never really explored what it is like to be lead. In a subsequent class, Tammy spoke extensively about coming to the point in practice when we are lead by the rhythms, themselves.
The man I spent eight years with, Simon’s father, joined us on our family vacation in Cape Cod during the first week of August. It was touching to have him there, the site of many beautiful shared memories. On his first night, we went to the beach and flew a kite as sunset lit the sky. I sat comfortably on the sand, gazing at the kite, tears coming easily.
At the end of today’s class, I paused to speak with two friends. When I thanked one of them for a beautiful dance, she said, “Our dance was the most energized I felt during the whole class. At other times I was really just feeling tired.” The other friend, with whom I once shared one of the most beautiful gestures of my 5Rhythms career said, “How could you not be energized, dancing with Meghan?” I loved this compliment. I lingered in it. I could see and hear and feel that they both like me, and that made me happy. Even more, that I could somehow contribute to another person’s individual investigation, could offer something in partnership, that someone could feel better during or after dancing with me. Well, that is just beyond.
After so much individual practice on my own in Costa Rica, I wanted more of this dance experiment with the man I decided to be receptive to, but as I moved toward him other currents kept gathering me in. At the end of the second wave, in a long, swooning, downward-gazing step, my shoulder grazed the shoulder of a woman I barely know. Instantly full-on, it was almost like a continuation of my dance with the earlier man, but now I danced with her instead, letting myself be lead, swept away. Drawn inside a coupled spin, our eyes meeting playfully, the rest of the room fell away. Looking me in the eye, she firmly circled my waist with her arm, just as my dance partner in the Dominican Republic years ago grabbed me in the throes of a lively merengue, and I rested my hand on her other raised arm, being lead, being guided.
In today’s Sweat Your Prayers class, I found a dance with a 5Rhythms teacher who I love dearly. I asked myself, if I were enlightened, right now, right in this moment, how would I be? My heart answered that I would be total presence, just like her, just like the friend I was in that moment dancing with. Winds swept through me, coiling around my spine, entering it, making all of me porous.
In Chaos, I danced for the mother of the drowned little boy. I danced, too, for all mothers who lost a five-year-old boy yesterday, and, indeed, danced with my own fear of losing my own son. I let the prayer dissolve, spinning and leaping, gazing up, my fingertips casting upward. I recalled, perhaps, a memory of a past life that has presented many times over the years, that I once lost a child, drowned in a pond on my own land.
Halfway through the class, I connected with another dancer I have a long history with; and who I trust absolutely. We moved unselfconsciously; breathing each other in, our spines undulating patiently, profoundly in Flowing, unable to stop moving even as Daniela paused the music and offered brief instruction in the middle of the class.
We found each other again at the very end, and connected in creative emptiness, the ceaseless activities of my self-making mind pausing briefly, moving in sublime silence, even with all of the world’s activity around us, even with the street noise of the West Village on a hot summer Sunday in the thick of August.
August 16, 2015, Brooklyn, NYC
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.