“Imagine the conversation we’d be having if we weren’t debating facts.” –Masha Gessen
“The impulse to normalize” was the subject of a radio interview I heard in the car on the way to class at the Joffrey in the West Village. In the interview, Masha Gessen, author of “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” encouraged the press to continue to report lies and inaccuracies, but at once to analyze language and missives for hidden intentions, and to include reporting on the deeper stories at play. In my mind, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, economic opportunism, and hatred should never be seen as normal.
These thoughts preoccupied me as I stepped in to the Sunday Sweat Your Prayers class, taught today by Mark Bonder. I began to move in looping circles, occasionally changing level or direction with a drop or rise of weight, absorbed in gentle movement, my entire body released before Mark even stepped into the room. One song brought me to the floor to stretch and move in continuing circles and arcs, then I was up again, continuing an endless, weighted spin.
During Flowing, Mark put on the Herbie Hancock version of Bob Dylan’s 1964 protest song, “Times They Are A’ Changin” with the female vocalist Lisa Hannigan. Her gentle voice broke my heart as I considered that in 1964, though there were many challenges and obstacles, times seemed to be changing for the better, at least in terms of prospects for oppressed communities. Now, in post-election 2016, times are again changing, though from my perspective, not for the better. I encountered a friend and remembered the powerful tide of emotion she expressed during a discussion at a spring workshop because of the outbreak of overt misogyny directed toward Hillary Clinton. Hugging each other softly and rocking from side to side, we both cried, understanding each other’s grief without any need for words.
According to the 5Rhythms Heartbeat Map that was created by Gabrielle Roth, the originator of the practice, each of the rhythms corresponds to a fundamental emotion. For example, Flowing corresponds with fear, and Chaos corresponds with sadness. For me, however, these two are reversed. In Chaos, I find relief from fear, the release of trapped emotions, and the expression of previously repressed energies—which might include grief. The sadness and grief that are intrinsic to human experience, or that occur in current events—both personal and collective—for me, that all finds its expression in Flowing.
Flowing—of the five rhythms, the rhythm that is perhaps most foreign to my nature—has been a solace for me lately. Once I begin to move in circles and feel my feet on the ground, I often move around the room, awash in humanity, floating in a sea of gestures. There is a brushing, touching kind of seeing-and-being-seen. It is not the direct, individual eye contact of Staccato, but rather the humble seeing-and-being-seen that drifts gently, letting in without judging, framing or resisting. I move patiently, saying to each person (whether I meet their eye or not) “I see you there; and I am grateful for it.”
When Staccato arrived, I groaned inwardly. Lately, I have not wanted to move into Staccato. My mind wants to argue, “Isn’t it enough to be alive now? To be moving and finding some small joy? Must I find direction on top of it all? Do I really have to act?” My yoga teacher yesterday delivered a staid, yet impassioned call to arms about the state of the union. In principle, I totally agree with her. Yet the fact is that I have no direction at the moment. At some point, I have to stop reeling and pick a point to move toward. In Staccato, the music featured big, clear beats, then some small skirmishes. I focused my attention and tried to step directly on the big beats—no small accomplishment, given my affinity for syncopation. I had a useful insight as a result: in addition to being expressive, bold and sometimes uptight, Staccato can be methodical.
In a culture where we are encouraged to live from the heart in a hallmark sense—to be bold in flashy gestures—the heartfulness of methodical action—of discipline—is often overlooked. In the last couple of weeks, I have been seriously considering quitting my current work and finding a way to earn a living as a healer. I very much want to be immersed in practice and in work of spirit. However, I realized within today’s Staccato dance that chucking everything and starting a new path wouldn’t necessarily be the most skillful way to follow my heart. In fact, in my current work I am very much a healer already. If I continue to water the seeds I have been planting, I will realize my dream within my existing context, without even having to defect from my profession.
Staccato, Chaos and Lyrical toggled back and forth in the first wave. I joined forces with a new friend and we leapt and flew, including dramatic stops, extensions and emphasis at the far edges of our gestures.
In Stillness, I drew inside. My eyes nearly shut, a litany of symbolic gestures arose. I imagined that I spun a thick cocoon around myself, then created an exit, stepped out of it, and left it on the floor. Revealed, exposed, I felt as though the Gods could fully see me, dancing in a light body, though I told myself that if I needed it, I could always re-gather the cocoon, which was laying close by on the floor.
In the second wave of the class, Chaos and Lyrical were braided together. A few days previous, in the elevator with a friend, we talked about the current political situation. “We’re fucked,” she said, trying to sound casual. I said, “Lately, whenever I have had a moment of Lyrical, of joy, amongst the Chaos, I’m like, ‘Wow! I’m actually happy! Let me just appreciate this!” I was delighted to find pockets of Lyrical even inside of intense, prolonged Chaos. At one point, Mark played a rollicking, jig-like song by the Swedish band Hedningarna and I soared, along with many others, sailing, flicking, fluttering—with every possible pattern of ball change, high up on my toes, then we moved back into heavy Chaos—clearly, the rhythm of our time, reflecting that the only thing that seems “normal” to me at the moment is the inevitability of Chaos.
December 4, 2016, Brooklyn, NYC
(Image of Bob Dylan on winning the Nobel Peace Prize from consequencesofsound.files.wordpress)
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.