Prepared for Grief & More: what Gabrielle Roth did for me

When I learned by text message last October that Gabrielle Roth was passing through the veil of death, I sat in silence, cradling the phone in my hand. I remembered that my first meeting with her was like meeting the Buddha. She had an inspiring presence backed up by a body of teachings shared by followers around the world. I had come to think of her as immortal even though I knew that she was growing frail with stage four lung cancer. As I processed the news, I realized that from the moment that I first walked into one of Gabrielle’s 5Rhythms classes she was preparing me to handle this grief.Sweat your prayers

Gabrielle Roth is renowned for her dance and movement meditation practice 5Rhythms. Her ideas were spread through books such as Maps to Ecstasy (1989), Sweat Your Prayers (1997), and Connections: the Five Threads of Intuitive Wisdom (2004).  She also recorded over twenty albums, mainly as Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors.  Many of these albums are popular in yoga classes. In 2007, she founded the non-profit  5Rhythms Reach Out to offer her movement practices to prisoners, inner city children, the elderly, and other special needs communities.  Roth passed away October 22, 2012.

The 5Rhythms moving awareness practice that Gabrielle Roth created is my own core spiritual practice—my way of investigating, healing, connecting, questioning and celebrating the experience of my life. Her refrain was, “A body in motion heals itself.”

The 5Rhythms are movement frameworks called Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. There are no prescribed movements, only guiding principles for one’s creativity. When one moves through a sequence of the 5Rhythms, it is called a Wave.  Gabrielle laid out additional maps for the 5Rhythms practice, including guided workshops.  Even so, Gabrielle encouraged each person to find his or her own way, because the 5Rhythms is a way of describing the energy of the creative process, not a prescription of a particular form of dance. “This is just the little black dress I put on for you,” she said.

A List of Lasts

The last day of third grade
Is so clear.
There are cupcakes and gold stars.
You can give the lastness of it
Your full attention.
Not so the last time I saw my friend
The last time I roller skated to work,
The last time I drew you,
Or the last time we made love,
And slept together,
Held and holding.

2 June, 2010

100 Black Birds

Let me not flatten you out
For my own comfort, my love.
If you call yourself a morning person,
Then dance all night,
I’ll not consider it defection.

An old pattern twitches in my mind,
Like birds pointed south.

Thank you for understanding
Why I don’t have a favorite color.
It is not that I lack vibrancy,
But, rather, that I prefer to embrace fluidity.
So many seem capable only
Of perceiving what they know in themselves—
Assigning words and phrases to traits and qualities,
Then deciding whether or not they align with their own.
I squirm under this imposition of coordinates
This disrespect for wild mind
These petty strains of knowing.

A hundred black birds
Swoop and arc as one
Their gestures like a huge trick kite.
I once saw their conductor—
A man with a giant swath of fabric
Dancing on the rooftop–
A hungry ghost, an aching specter,
Directing the birds’ gestures.
I realize now that dreamt him.