360 Emergence Workshop in NYC

After bowing to the space, to all of my teachers, and to practice itself, I took a slow lap around the perimeter, absorbing information with all of my senses, excited to join such a large gathering of dancers. I paused to put my fingertips on the speaker, to directly feel the vibrations of the music. I also traced my forearm along the soft black fabric lining the window-opposite-wall and moved my feet slowly, noticing slight shifts in the temperature of the floor.

Aside from one brief online session, this was my first experience with The 360 Emergence, an embodiment modality created by Amber Ryan and Kate Shela.

I had been groggy before the session, but brightened with curiosity as soon as I started moving inside the space.

In Saturday’s session, after my lap around the room, I wandered to the middle, spiraled for a short time, then lowered myself to the ground to stretch, undulate, and prepare. Before long, I soared throughout the space, delighting in the seemingly infinite exchanges given such a large number of dancers. I was happy to find elation, and cascaded through multiple patterns and gestures and vignettes, sometimes catching someone’s eye and sharing a gesture or an embodied conversation, then moving back into the collective field or dancing with my own internal impulses. 

Amber kept inviting people who were embodying “spider energy” to weave through the space, and I felt supported in continuing to move and thread throughout. At the same time, I was careful to monitor when there was a flavor of grasping and reminded myself to slow down if I found myself roaming and searching, rather than simply present to whatever I found or found me.

The second half of the session on Saturday was a marked contrast to the soaring, effusive first half.

A conjunction of factors flattened me out.

The rest of the dancers seemed to be having the opposite experience. It seemed like they were slow to light up, but now they were exploding with life, veritable fountains of creativity.

I was grounded. Dull. Disconnected. Disengaged.

Whereas in the first half, I moved with grace and power, glancing by, slipping through moving gaps between bodies, finding expression and connection with partners and with the whole room, now my feet were flat. Before I was a moving matrix, easily making my way to the ground, the sky, and back around. Now my knees hurt, I was afraid of damaging them, and I couldn’t remember what it was like to range with ease through many different levels.

During the second half, one good friend bore me up in a joyful, bluegrass-sounding jig, but other than that, I stayed flat, though continued to move at least some part of me.

Whereas in the first half I moved easily even through very crowded parts of the room, now I was afraid of getting hit or crashing into someone, energetically opaque, and knew that if I stayed in the middle where the energy was most intense I risked getting hurt or hurting someone. 

At the end, I packed my things and darted out, feeling isolated. Then I remembered that there were many close friends inside, who I had missed during the long pandemic years. I talked myself into going back in to visit with them. I remained flat, however, and now also added on socially awkward and anxious.

I finally headed home, deciding not to take too much stock in this unpleasant and uncomfortable mood. My twelve-year-old son, Simon, was away for the weekend, and I was alone in the apartment. I ate a simple dinner, made a clutter-mess, and decided to get to bed, wondering if a good night would improve my aching knees and my feeling of isolation.

I slept deeply, for more than eight hours. Sunlight was peeking through my sleep mask when I finally woke up, and I was happy to see that I had slept until 8 AM, three hours later than my weekday rising time.

The morning flowed easily; and I arrived at Mark Morris Dance, the home of the workshop, in good time.

Without negotiation or incident, the awkwardness dissolved, and I greeted friends and acquaintances in the foyer of the giant James and Martha Duffy studio happily, excited to have the whole session in front of me, and wondering what would happen.

Kate and Amber appeared to be well-aligned, and moved back and forth seamlessly, using the pronoun “we” often. In their teaching, they emphasized presence, consent, permission, and energetic alignment. 

They also invited participants to attend not only to the visible, but also to the invisible, and even mentioned ancestors. The room seemed alive with spirit. I found one ancestor lingering at the margin of the room and took them by the hand, escorting them into the middle of the dance. 

There was a pause for some teaching in the middle of the session, and Amber and Kate invited people to verbally share what was coming through for them. Many expressed relief, gratitude, and delight to have the opportunity to move inside such a uniquely inclusive and affirming container.

I shared something myself, and noticed a burst of chemical activation immediately after. It settled quickly as I passed the mic (humorously renamed the “michelle” by Kate!) to another participant.

For nearly the entire four hours, I stayed bright and engaged. 

At one point, I was dancing enthusiastically near Kate and Amber’s table when Kate said something like, We really have to take our medicine in measure, and we have to take care of our bodies. We can’t go throwing our bodies around like we’re 14-year-olds when we’re actually 50! 

I had to smile. I teach 14-year-olds in a public high school, will be 50 in less than six months, and frequently jump in to dance with them, even doing dramatic drops on the spot with no warmup whatsoever.

Just the day before I had gimped down a steep flight of stairs, feeling tender in the fronts of both kneecaps. At the time, I had given myself a stern talking-to about taking it down a notch and acknowledging my age and limitations before I cause irreversible damage. 

Kate’s offhanded comment hit home in a way that somehow managed to delight me, even though she was, perhaps unknowingly, calling me to acknowledge my vulnerability and give up the hope of being a hero and/or the impossible (though compelling!) dream of impressing the 14-year-olds I teach.

I continued to weave, delighting in infinite exchanges throughout the journey, once in a lifetime intersections. Some I will forget, some will live in my memory forever.

At the middle of this glorious day, when we paused and sat together to speak, taking turns with the “michelle,” Amber brought up Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation tradition. Both Amber and Kate were trained in the 5Rhythms, and were 5Rhythms teachers for many years. Amber acknowledged Gabrielle as the root teacher, and told the story of her path to the 360 Emergence with a fully engaged heart. 

Then, she paid homage to the 5Rhythms tradition, and invited all of the 5Rhythms teachers in the room to stand up. That includes me now, and I was self-conscious as I stood, along with five or six others, and my heart swelled up with gratitude, joy, and a crashing tide of other strong emotions, bearing along years of experiences, thoughts, and emotions.

Finally, Amber invited a handful of interns, the first generation-in-training of 360 Emergence teachers; and I cheered along with the others, happy for this new vision, happy to be alive, and happy for this blessed new emergence.

This blog is not sanctioned or produced by the 5Rhythms organization. Meghan LeBorious is a 5Rhythms teacher, meditator, artist, mother, and writer. She has been on the 5Rhythms dancing path since 2008.

Thoughts on Partnership in the 5Rhythms

For me the 5Rhythms has been an interpersonal laboratory, among many other things. 

This week in the “Spirit Drenched in Gold” 5Rhythms class, we’ll focus on the rhythm of Staccato, and the theme of Intention; and if it feels right, the invitation is to step into the room as an interpersonal laboratory, to investigate what is alive for each of us in partnership. I don’t know if it will be true for you, but for me, it has made a difference in my life both on and off the dance floor. 

Lately, some have been asking me about partnering in the 5Rhythms and I wanted to share a few ideas from my own embodied research.

For the first many years of my practice, partnership was a central area of inquiry. From the beginning, I was interested in dancing with others, and also knew I needed time when I wasn’t trying to relate to anyone else.

It might be interesting to note that I was in a very challenging committed relationship at this time with a lot of deeply entrenched patterns. As a result and because of previous layers of trauma, I had a lot of holding and oppression to work through in my body before I could even begin to connect with others–on the dance floor or off. I had been trying to hold myself together for so long, trying to avoid causing harm, trying to avoid setting a certain someone off, trying to keep myself under wraps. So at first I just had to collapse again and again and again and again, and twist and coil and work myself into the floor. 

After a few months of this, I started to look outward and be curious about what other dancers’ concerns were, what might be moving them. I started to pay attention to what part of the body was leading them, and to imagine what it would be like if I was led by that same part of the body. I started to find delight in the particulars of each body, and to play with mirroring, then making the movement something of my own. 

When people mirror me, sometimes I find an even deeper expression of whatever it is that I’m doing. Sometimes I notice something surprising. Sometimes we build something new together. (And sometimes I feel like they are making fun of me and might actually feel annoyed or angry.)

Personally, I love when the teacher says, “Take a partner.” The instruction is usually to turn to whoever is there, without overthinking or evaluating.

The instruction to partner tends to wake me right up and bring me into the moment, though I know that is not the case for everyone. In formally directed partnership, there is a lot to work with. Noticing if I feel pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral with a given partner. Noticing what stories come up. Testing my ability to be present and really see my partner. Considering to what degree my body believes they are seeing me. Imagining what it might be like to move in their body. Maybe finding something in how they are moving that I can experiment with, perhaps expanding my own range. 

And then the teacher says, “Change” and I’m either relieved, sad to leave them, or neutral, ready for the next interaction, turning in a new direction to whoever is there.

I love that it’s so clear. It’s easier for me to connect with this overt invitation to do so. It’s also easier to isolate the different variables and notice what’s arising for me than when I’m entering or leaving partnerships on my own.

When the teacher has not instructed us to be in partnership, partnership is still available, but there are a lot more variables. Both can lead to insight. 

From the beginning, I noticed there were some people I wanted to dance with, and some I did not want to dance with. Deciding to follow my intuition and not dance with some people freed up some of my power. I also found it empowering to dance with people I did want to dance with, again, following my intuition.

Just as interesting was deciding to stay when I felt repelled, or deciding to leave when I was feeling connected – in a way working against what felt comfortable and right. Sometimes this decision brought new insights about my own psychology. Sometimes this decision even brought new insights about the conditioned patterns I have habituated, in some cases to the point that they feel “intuitive.” Being willing to explore discomfort is just as important as learning to honor the instinctive self and move with intuition.

Both the decision to stay and the decision to leave can bring countless insights and can help us learn to discern between intuition and conditioning – a very important difference to investigate as practice deepens.

That said, there might be times when the body declares a given partnership emotionally unsafe. In those cases, it’s important to trust yourself and act on it with firm resolve. It’s also important to keep in mind that being willing to explore the uncomfortable does not include the requirement (or even the suggestion) that anyone allow inappropriate touch of any kind.

One time that I rarely like to partner is when I first enter a 5Rhythms room. I often say a ritual prayer and set an intention as I cross the threshold. I step in naked, with my soul exposed. At that moment, I don’t want a hug. I don’t want to answer “How are you?” I don’t want to relate to another’s gaze at all. I just want to step in with integrity, on my own terms.

When I first step into 5Rhythms practice, once I have bowed to the space and connected with the ground, I often move through the space, taking a moment to notice each person and silently saying, “I see you there; and I’m grateful for it” – adapted from a practice taught by the late Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn.

I don’t know if this qualifies as partnership. Perhaps there is a spectrum of partnership and this barely registers, but it is a way of connecting and seeing another. At this point, I sometimes make brief eye contact, but mostly keep my eyes lowered and soft. If someone seems very open, I might share a turn with them. If someone seems internal, I would move gently, keep my distance, keep my eyes lowered, and silently move through some form of acknowledgement.

In fact, whenever someone seems to be attending to their inner world, I try to move gently, but I don’t ignore them. For myself, at times I’ve moved with deep layers of myself and reality, and I might not seem receptive to dancing with another. Then if someone is really pushing into my experience it has been harmful. 

At other times, I’ve painfully isolated, painting myself into an energetic corner. Then I’ve been grateful when someone has been a little more assertive in connecting with me, while demonstrating that they don’t want to fix or change me but that they see me, even in sometimes-bitter pain. That has at times been healing for me. So I try to hold that possibility open when it feels right, doing my best to be sensitive, and carefully monitoring my own inner experiences, including my intentions, which, of course, can be mixed. In any engagement, I try my best to notice and to notice, and then to notice some more.

The thing about not fixing or changing people is really important. If I find that I’m trying to fix or change someone or their experience, rather than respecting where they are in their process, that’s a sign that my engagement is really about me and not about supporting them. I remind myself that I’m not practicing to prove anything about my own identity. That would be totally counterproductive.

On the contrary, I’m trying to peel back layers of identity and temporal stories so I can fully know reality. Partnership can detract from this purpose if I’m not carefully monitoring and examining my own intentions. Partnership can also support this purpose if I’m fully grounded in the mindfulness of Flowing, and am humble and curious.

The most common instruction to dancers when someone is crying or breaking down is to leave them alone to be in their process. And I’m 1000% on board with that. The freedom to express our emotions, even sometimes emotions that have been deeply buried in the body is critical for our self-healing and empowerment.

At this same time, there might be moments when to hold or be held can be life changing. I have had a very few experiences like this. One was with a beautiful young woman in a workshop. I had judgmentally dismissed her as bubbly, without deep wisdom or much to offer. In a dance of partnership, the quality of her presence shattered my heart, and she held me as I sobbed loudly, at length. I will never forget this experience. Tears spring up even as I write about it, well over a decade later.

Another time that comes to mind was when a friend, deep in her process, was crumpled into herself, crying piteously. Something told me to be close to her, and I wound up sitting behind her back, breathing with her, then wrapping my arms around her. This time, as I moved toward her and lowered myself to the ground, I used words, and asked quietly, “Is it ok if I’m here with you?” She nodded.

There are always exceptions. Having clear rules might be easiest, but in this world, in the 5Rhythms, we take responsibility for ourselves, and to some extent for the people around us and our communities. There aren’t clear rules in life either, much as we often wish there were.

There are guidelines and boundaries, teachings and prompts, but no one is going to tell us the exact rules, the steps, the checklist for waking up. That’s the expansive freedom many of us both crave and fear, and why it can be so frightening and complicated.

Occasionally someone goes into a full-on trauma response. If someone is shaking, and seems very afraid, this might be what is happening. In this case, it is important to not touch them, at all, as they are in a state of primal fear and might actually hurt you. 

The state will pass. It might be necessary and correct for it to arise so the practitioner can move through it. It might be appropriate to make sure the teacher is aware of what is happening. Another possible response is to sit a few feet away, without looking at them or touching them, and deeply embody the energy of Flowing, of connection to the ground. A nearby settled nervous system might be of some benefit. If others come over, you can say, “This person needs space. You can sit calmly with us, but please don’t touch them.” This is another time that language might actually be necessary, since it is an emergency. The state will eventually shift. 

It is always important to approach someone with the knowledge that they could potentially be in a state like this. I, myself, experienced a trauma response during a meditation retreat. It was terrifying, but I was supported skillfully by my teachers and facilitators and I moved through it, only able to integrate it after my nervous system had settled back down.

There are tiny moments of joyful partnership that live in my body. The time at a workshop at Martha Graham when I turned around and breathed someone in. Our forearms merged and we moved together in intimate connection for just a few short moments. Another time, on the last day of a five day workshop when another dancer and I swept, spontaneously and ceremoniously, onto the dance floor for our closing session, arm in arm. The time when my infant son was dancing on my shoulder and a 5Rhythms teacher played a song he recognized and he lit up with delight, wrapping his tiny arms around my neck and speeding up his quivery baby movements. A wild dance of chaotic abandon with ranging shifts and surprising turns with a friend who was my regular partner for many years, and the many times we would rush to each other and jump back into the dance we’d been having for years as soon as we spotted each other in the studio.

I’ve been dancing in partnership with my 12-year-old son, Simon, since before he was born. The times when I’ve felt the closest to him have been in dance; and we’ve explored our evolving relationship over the years inside the laboratory of dance–often getting insight into what is at play for us that isn’t as visible set inside our daily patterns.

There have also been times when I couldn’t partner. When I was locked into my own body, isolated, and lonely. There was a stretch that lasted almost two months when dance felt excruciating. The more isolated I felt, the more difficult it was to connect with anyone, and the more forced and unnatural partnership seemed. It was like I was carving a track of loneliness into my reality.

I can’t remember how it finally shifted, but remember that I started to pay attention to when partnership flowed easily and when it felt forced or unavailable.

One thing I notice is that if I step into the room with receptivity to different partners and experiences, and have a light touch, things go better. If I meet someone’s eye or move near them and they seem to quicken or orient toward me, we might share a turn, a gesture or even a dance. Sometimes one of us turns away, the dance dissolves, and we move on. Sometimes the other person is still there, and we continue to be in partnership. Sometimes I’ve even danced with a partner who was all the way across a crowded room, or even chased and followed a partner in lyrical delight throughout the entire space, sometimes even pulling other dancers into our game. 

Sometimes I feel the pull to move with my own inner experience, or to be in the collective field rather than in partnership. I might offer a gesture of gratitude to acknowledge what we’ve shared or just move on, moving in the river of practice.

Sometimes I start to feel the pull to move away once the dance gets deeper and I resist it. Sometimes I go with it. No matter what, I notice.

When I sense that someone wants to pull away from a dance with me, I notice whatever feelings come, and remind myself that it isn’t personal–that every one of us is in our own process in our own way and deserves the grace to move with their truth. 

It is interesting to notice if I am off-my-center looking for someone to partner with, roaming around the room. At these times, I have to ask myself what is my intention. The answer that comes back from my body is yet another thing to consider and work with. At other times, it’s interesting to notice if I’m very attached to being in my own private dance. And to consider my intention. Again, whatever comes back is food for thought.

There have been times when another dancer has not noticed my lack of receptivity and has continued to pursue partnership anyway, even if I have been literally backing away. This has at times enraged me. Once I remember moving into a dervish-like spin to try to get some space from someone, and he only seemed to consider it more of an invitation. Another time, an effusive dancer repeatedly entered my personal space, smiling and trying hard to make eye contact, even though I was feeling the need to be internal. It made me angry because it seemed like it wouldn’t even cross his mind that I might not be up for a dance at a given moment. I can’t imagine moving with that kind of entitlement, but I bet there are people I’ve interacted with who think exactly that way about me.

Given that consent is so important, it’s hard to explain why we don’t speak with words during the dance–to ask someone to dance with us or to accept or decline an invitation (except in extreme circumstances). In some ways, taking a break from language forces us to attune to each other and to our inner experiences in a way that may have been previously hidden by our accustomed noise. 

I’m still contemplating this, though. Maybe it’s something we should consider. Something in me wants to keep this boundary, but I haven’t yet determined if it’s because of intuition or habit. I will have to continue to move with it and notice what arises.

This week in class, we’ll focus on the rhythm of Staccato, and the theme of Intention; and if it feels right, the invitation is to step into the room as an interpersonal laboratory, to investigate what is alive for each of us in partnership. I don’t know if it will be true for you, but for me, it has made a difference in my life both on and off the dance floor. 

What else is there really? What really matters but doing everything we can to be here for our one precious, temporary dance? As Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms, said, “If you don’t do your dance, who will?”

This blog is not sanctioned or produced by the 5Rhythms organization. Meghan LeBorious is a 5Rhythms teacher, meditator, artist, mother, and writer. She has been on the 5Rhythms dancing path since 2008.

Kindness Is the Only Thing That’s Real

Today I found myself dancing on a wide open hill with some soaring birds of prey. At the time, I was looking for a trailhead at the Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania, where I decided to spend the last few days of summer. When I finally did find the trailhead, at the edge of the sloping meadow, I decided against it and continued to circle the field instead. In some areas the shadowed edge of the grass was still wet with morning, though by now I had already been up for several hours.

The Himalayan tradition, from what I gather, is a wisdom tradition with a lineage of teachers from the Himalaya region. Retreatants are allowed to pay a daily fee and enjoy the grounds and trails, three lovely vegetarian meals per day, and are allowed access to the meditation building–a circular structure that is at the heart of the campus.

Being here reminds me that there are an infinite number of traditions that can lead us to wisdom and awakening. One of the most wonderful things about this place is that it is not focused only on individual practice, but on worldwide, sustainable activism and empowerment, currently in the countries of India and Cameroon. They also make Moka chocolate, and source ingredients and materials ethically from communities around the world.

Entering the meditation building, as I did at 6 AM this morning, means walking to a side entrance, removing your shoes, stowing any belongings in a side coatroom, and stepping into a circular hallway that surrounds the main shrine room. All of the door handles are tied to minimize noise, but stepping through one of the three doors to the shrine room still inspires the wish to move with dignified silence. 

Inside is quiet. Very, very quiet. People sit on chairs or sand-filled meditation cushions and a small mat on the floor. The ceiling is circular, and there is a diffuse light above the line of the ceiling. There is small altar with flowers and a metal object in the part of the room that people orient toward.  I spread my small mat, posted my sand-filled cushion, and joined the river of collective silence. 

Before coming to the Himalayan Institute, I went to Jacob Riis Park to practice the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation practice with the sea. This time, I didn’t travel so far down the remotest part of the beach that I lost phone reception since I wanted to be reachable in case of any emergency with my son, Simon, who is at a sleepaway camp for the first time. 

The tide was extremely high, pushing my steps into the soft rather than packed sand when the waves pressed toward the dunes. I was not in a crowd, but was definitely not alone either. A nearby fisherwoman eyed me curiously as she monitored her line, and beach strollers passed every five minutes or so. As is so often the case, I began to move in Flowing and wondered if I would ever gather the energy to move onto the next rhythm of Staccato. I stayed there for a long time, settling attention downward, and orienting awareness to the feet.

At some point, Staccato came through. My body showed it to me before my mind did. It arrived somewhat feebly, though I gave it breath and attention as I stepped more decisively, with more clarity. I noticed all of the lines of the beach–the high tide line, criss-crossing lines of dried seaweed, the quickly receding saturation line, and the lines of the edges of arriving and departing waves. I let myself off the hook, recognizing that I might not be in a space for the fullest expression of Staccato, wanting to sink into this very last stretch of summer and put off planning and scheduling and organizing priorities for just a little bit longer.

I needed to use the bathroom, but didn’t want to swim in such a remote area. I also didn’t want to head all the way back to the public bathrooms. I felt exasperated with my own inner dialogue at the expense of practice, and waded into the water to use the bathroom. Problem solved. No need to have a huge long conversation with my own mind about what to do. 

I stayed half in the water after that and continued to play with the edges of the waves, Staccato becoming slightly more alive in the process.

I finally let myself move into Chaos, at first gently, then growing in physical intensity, and expanding my radius. Lyrical was unbounded, moving all across the wide beach, scanning the horizon, and lifting up, even leaping in curving twirls. Stillness wrapped me into its folds, deep in the comfort of home. I continued to move for another 30 minutes or so, not in any particular rhythm, finding myself ending with prayers for Simon, myself, and many others as we start a new school year.

Back at the Himalayan Institute, a teacher guided a small group of us through an evening Hatha yoga session. He encouraged us to balance out the body and to let go of tension. Sometimes it is just that easy. To identify friction, discomfort, obstacle, and remove it or let it go. Sometimes it is just a choice, and noticing that there is a choice.

Last night, I didn’t fall asleep right away. Fears popped up. Regrets made an appearance. Guilt. Shame. I hit a little patch of self-hatred, one of my default patterns in the fact of transition or challenge. I’d been in and out of it for the past few days, not with searing intensity, but enough to pepper the edges of my awareness with ugly holes.

Today, after the early morning meditation session, I moved between walking meditation in the woods and sitting meditation in the deeply silent shrine room. In the early part of the day, I continued to suffer with self-hatred off and on.

I paused on a flat rock and closed my eyes to listen. I heard insects, birds,  and small animals moving. My mind followed them in the space around me. 

The community here touches me. I ate lunch  in silence, tears streaming down my face, remembering my place in things. Remembering home and the interior paths that lead me there. Remembering that beauty is only attention. Remembering that kindness is the only thing that’s real.

September 2, 2022, Himalayan Institute, Pennsylvania

Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator ​​who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and recently became a 5Rhythms teacher. She was inspired to begin chronicling her experiences following her very first class; and she sees the writing process as an extension of practice—yet another way to be moved and transformed. This blog is not produced or sanctioned by the 5Rhythms organization. Photos courtesy of the writer.

***For NYC dancers, Meghan has a seven-class 5Rhythms series coming up that starts on October 14, “Spirit Drenched in Gold.” Join a single class or join the full series for a discount. Registration is required – https://spiritdrenchedingold.eventbrite.com

***Meghan also has a five-class online writing/dance 5Rhythms “Writing Waves” class that starts on September 15. Registration is required – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/writing-waves-tickets-397987811257

Coming Into Alignment

Practice aligns me.

This week, in West Dennis Cape Cod with extended family, my mornings are devoted to practice with the ocean. Today was my earliest start time this week, since many of my family members–including my 12-year-old son–were up early for a deep sea fishing trip. By 7:30, I was walking ankle deep in the waves toward West Dennis Beach. 

I treat all parts of this process as practice, which is to say that from the time that I leave the cottage to the time that I return, I do my best to settle into the experience and not press forward, wishing time away. It also means that I show up every day–or nearly every day–regardless of conditions and sometimes regardless of what I feel like doing. For example, yesterday’s forecast was for 100% likelihood of rain. I wasn’t eager to get up early and head out to the sea, but I pushed a little, recognizing that practice means you don’t evaluate it every day; and you don’t allow your mind to have a conversation with itself about the pros and cons. I put my towel in a plastic shopping bag so when I got out of the water it wouldn’t be drenched, and headed out.

Today was bright and high tide was falling. My mom, who is delightful, enthusiastic, walked with me for a while. We paused to interact with a dog, fondly remembering our own dog of many years ago who was mostly the same breed as this one based on our best guess.

After I passed the Lighthouse Inn, I pulled out swim goggles and cap, peeled off the layer I had on over my bathing suit, then dropped my backpack with afterswim supplies on the sand and continued west. 

Walking away from the morning sun, I gave my attention to the feet as they fell on the ultra-soft sand, to the sound of the waves, and to my moving body, inviting the shoulders to relax down, the belly to soften, and the hips to deepen in their sockets. Whenever I shifted into a story, a plan, an explanation, an analysis of my body’s symmetry, or an argument for or against my good character, I noted it and gently shifted attention back to the feet when I could so without excessive effort.

At Bass River, the boundary between West Dennis and Yarmouth, I turned my back to the wind and bent over to gather my hair in my hands, then stood up and turned toward the wind to coil it just behind the crown of my head. I put on the bathing cap and goggles, then hesitated briefly, tightening my shoulders against the cold water and wind, then wading in and diving hands first, heading back east. 

There was a fierce chop today, and the wind was coming from the southwest, an assist on today’s eastward journey. In a pool, once my attention starts to settle with movement, I move my focus throughout the body. But in the ocean, there is usually plenty to anchor my attention in the present. Today, the waves rolled across me, lifting me up and casting me down, and I had to pay attention to the timing of my breaths to avoid getting a mouthful. The water was ochre and gold, the bottom rippled sand or obscured in stands of seaweed. I noted razor shells, clam shells, one big conch with an animal still inside it, and horseshoe crabs underneath me. 

Periodically, I lowered a leg down to make sure I could still stand. I can handle the deep water just fine as a swimmer, but a (somewhat irrational) fear of sharks keeps me close to shore. And I figure if a shark ever does attack me, I’ll have a better chance of survival if I can stand up on my feet and punch them in the nose. I have it all figured out.

That doesn’t stop me from an occasional mounting shark panic, but I try to see even that emergence of fear as another opportunity to work with my mind.

I’ve been doing this swim or a similar swim for over 20 years now. It started back when I actually competed in triathlons, and really took off when my sister was doing triathlons too. Those days are long gone, but I still love long swims in the ocean. At first it was an occasional thing, at any time of the day it happened to fit. Over the years, I noted how much it helps me–not just during the week that I’m doing it but in the bigger picture, too–and became more and more committed to the point that I actually plan around it, even declining the offer to join a deep sea fishing trip with my son, my Dad, and other family members this morning.

That’s just how it went when I started to dance the 5Rhythms 15 years ago. At first it was just a class or two here or there. But within less than a year I was planning my life around attending Tammy Burstein’s Friday Night Waves class in the West Village, and also added whatever additional classes I could squeeze in and every workshop that came up. 

Everything changed for me then. I galloped through layers of trauma and learned habitual patterns. Creativity exploded. I was able to connect with people with much greater intimacy. I was more playful. Walking on the sidewalk in Midtown became a game. 

I also moved through agonizing stretches of feeling isolated, witnessing my own self abuse, and coping with difficult emotions, but following each period of agony somehow emerged even more committed to practice.

After the wild west end of the beach, I passed the first lifeguard chair: white painted wood with a red number 8 on its side. The wind and waves helped me out, and I continued to note each successive chair from 7 all the way to 1 as I made it the two miles back to my backpack in what seemed like a shorter time than usual.

I moved quickly to the towel, then changed my wet bathing suit for loose pants and long sleeve shirt. I sat for a while in meditation, then decided to do some yoga movements to warm myself up. Once I was warm I sat for longer, in no particular hurry to get on to anything else.

Last night, I danced the 5Rhythms. I walked with some family members, but they headed west and I stayed put. The evening beach was more crowded than I hoped, but I found a quiet-ish corner to practice. The tide was high and I circled up and down from the high tide line as I began to move in the rhythm of Flowing. In this session I made a clear distinction between each of the five rhythms–Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness–as I moved through each of them. I could see my sister, brother, brother-in-law, and niece in the distance, occasionally bending over to gather a treasure, and figured I would dance just until they made it back to me. After moving through each of the rhythms, an internal gear slipped me deeply into Stillness, and I whisper moved with the waves, the horizon, and the soaring birds. Vision tracked energy. I could feel heat rising to my cheekbones and the crown of my head. Chemical releases in my leg muscles set loose a shake. When they were almost back to me, I reconnected with my feet, intending to reconnect with day-to-day reality, though practice had opened the doorway to a different layer.

This morning, caked in sand, muscles awake and stretched, wind making a flag of my loose shirt, hair knotted and half-wet–I could feel my edges softening, recent and past experiences moving through, and my selves gliding into alignment.

Thank you, my beautiful son. Thank you, family. Thank you, ocean. Thank you, Gabrielle Roth. Thank you, practice. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I bow down to the universe, to my teachers, and to this precious life.

August 18, 2022, West Dennis, Cape Cod

 Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator ​​who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and recently became a 5Rhythms teacher. She was inspired to begin chronicling her experiences following her very first class; and she sees the writing process as an extension of practice—yet another way to be moved and transformed. This blog is not produced or sanctioned by the 5Rhythms organization. Photos courtesy of the writer.

***For NYC dancers, Meghan has a seven-class 5Rhythms series coming up that starts on October 14, “Spirit Drenched in Gold.” Join a single class or join the full series for a discount. Registration is required – https://spiritdrenchedingold.eventbrite.com

***Meghan also has a five-class online writing/dance 5Rhythms “Writing Waves” class that starts on September 15. Registration is required – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/writing-waves-tickets-397987811257

Notes on Site Specificity

 When I dance outside, getting to a place where I feel inspired to move is part of the odyssey.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite places, Jacob Riis Beach, located on a narrow strip of land just south of Coney Island. Rising up on the bridge over Jamaica Bay, I examined the water level for information about the tide and judged it low. I had been with family just the day before during a very high tide with wild waves – at that time I dove in head first and sewed a line through the waves with butterfly stroke and navigated the huge crashing swells. But today’s lower tide left an expansive stretch of packed sand, perfect for a patient dance.

When I dance outside, I often seek solitude. If I am in someone’s view, I notice that some level of me is performing. Not a problem per se, but I appreciate when I have the opportunity to get over myself, to take a break from performing not only my dance, but also my identity. To connect with instinct and raw awareness, it helps to remove myself from at least the external gazes that are society’s constant surveillance. 

I parked the car and my bladder started screaming immediately. From the start of the pandemic until recently, I danced at this beach every single week, and sometimes more often. I would park, use the bathroom, then head to the vast beach. My body reminded me of how entrenched our patterns become.

I walked to the farthest western edge of the boardwalk, then crossed the wide beach to the water’s edge and continued further west. This is the part of the beach you can only get to on foot, so it is much less crowded. Nonetheless, I passed bay after bay, marked by rock jetties or wooden pilings, nodded to people with deep sea fishing rods, and intrepid beachgoers with their daytrip-outpost-setups.

I picked up a plastic bottle to ferry to the trash, and was delighted to read “Holy Water” and note that it still had some fluid in it. I picked up several translucent, smooth, orange stones, and several bits of frosted glass that had been smoothed by the sea, thinking I might use them for an altar. 

An older man walking for fitness came up quickly behind me, “They’re always complaining!” he said cheerfully, gesturing toward two american oystercatcher birds with their skinny, bright orange beaks. He sailed by, stepping jauntily, his broad chest lifted to the sun and his palms upturned.

I remembered another beach walker, one frigid winter day when the beach was practically deserted. She moved with the same delighted presence, in an ankle length fur coat and bare feet, dancing along the water’s edge. At the time, I wondered if she might be a spirit or a deity.

I made it almost to the big cabana buildings in Point Pleasant and decided to pick a relatively quiet spot rather than keep pushing for solitude. 

I eyed a man who was laying down a towel far off on the other side of the beach while I drew a heart in the sand and placed the precious objects I had gathered  inside it. In a sudden inspiration, I also included a discarded water bottle and a clear plastic cup with a split on the side, deciding it would all be included as sacred today. Then I put a little of the holy water on my wrists and over my heart and added the bottle to the installation.

I walked in a giant circle around this centerpiece three times, preparing to step into practice. As I began to move in Flowing, attentive to the push and pull of the arriving and receding waves, the man on the other side of the beach strolled to the water’s edge completely naked. I eyed him with low level concern, but continued to move. 

The air was heavy; and I found my engagement flagging. It took awhile for Staccato to ignite, but I did eventually make my way out of Flowing, and into the rhythms of Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. 

I used the phone to make a short video to help with an instructional idea, and when I looked at it realized I had no service. This concerned me because my son, Simon, was at day camp and I wanted to be reachable in case of any possible emergency, so I cut practice short and trekked back to the main beach where I would have service. Then I went for a brief swim, sat on the beach in meditation, and headed home. 

Last night, I didn’t sleep well, but today is the last day that Simon will be at camp and I won’t be working, so after I dropped him off I again headed to Riis Park Beach, thinking that the lack of sleep might impact my ability to step into practice. This time, it was very much the opposite experience. 

I arrived feeling disengaged, and left the beach feeling joyful, embodied, and light.

This time I had a hard stop at 12 because of a 1pm meeting, so I couldn’t go as far. I chose a spot just past the lifeguard beach and tucked myself behind the rocks. I shared the bay with only two people fishing in their loose long pants and sleeves and wide hats to protect them from the sun.

As yesterday, it was nearly 100 degrees, and I sprayed myself down with sunblock as I peeled off a layer to give more of my skin’s surface area to the wind. 

I was definitely not alone, and instead of moving through the 5Rhythms decided to move with some fluid yoga poses. Yoga makes me feel like less of a weirdo than throwing down in dance. 

I wasn’t sure if today would be just yoga, but as I got comfortable in the spot, I felt the pull to dance and followed it, beginning by moving with the push and pull of the arriving and receding waves. 

In the 1997 essay “One Place after Another: Notes on Site Specificity” Miwon Kwon positioned site specific art –art that responds to its physical or cultural location–at the opposite end of a continuum from minimal, objective art like white cubes or large hunks of metal placed inside fancy galleries. The context of minimal art was as though it was birthed purely from the supposed genius of the artist, and could exist anywhere–a blue chip gallery, the middle of a public plaza, you name it. Self-contained, eternal, permanent, monumental. Site-specific art, on the other hand, acknowledged its interrelatedness and permeability, and even embraced and celebrated these qualities.

Her essay very much influenced my practice as a visual artist, and has influenced my dance.

When I come to a new site, it affects how I move. It’s not like some genius dance gesture is just lurking inside me, waiting to show itself off. The gestures that appear are decidedly influenced by the context in which they arise.

When I come to the ocean, there are so many things that fascinate and inspire me. As much as I love to dance to music, I can also dance the ocean, its crescendo, its decrescendo, its adagio, its allegro. The waves as they arrive and depart. The intersections and lively tussles between competing waves. The roaring crash as a wave dies. The moment right before a wave dies, when it has identity for a split second before it returns to its essence. The salt traces left temporarily behind. The ocean’s dense, dark depths. The horizon’s expansive trance. The gliding sea birds. The racing clouds. 

Once I even danced from one low tide until the next, almost 12 straight hours of dancing with the ocean, following it through its daily cycle.

Today as I began to move with the push and pull of the waves, I suddenly noticed that I was staying beyond the edge of the water and recognized it as a habit I had developed over so many sessions of dancing in winter boots and snow pants during the frigid winters, when stepping into the water would be a bad idea. 

Noticing, I stepped into the surf, my feet waking up to the cold sensation of the water. I was much more immersed now, feeling the pull ahead of me and uphill as the waves receded, rising and falling up and downhill, threading down the edges of the arriving and departing water. 

I stayed in Flowing for a long time, not sure if Staccato would ever emerge. Eventually, I got interested in the edges between the waves, and found ways to express them with my body, exhalation building in force. I slightly wondered if the couple on the blanket on the other side of the beach noticed how much more interesting my dance had just gotten, but left it alone and continued to move with the breathing and crashing ocean.

Chaos came in its time, and threw the hat I had been so carefully using to shield my face from the sun down onto the sand as I was flung in infinite directions, noting the crash of the waves when the form that has gathered itself into a definable shape explodes with force and shatters into mist and nothingness.

Today Lyrical visited me with full expression, and I dashed and lept all over the wide beach, beaming, casting my fingertips down to the sand, then lilting back upward to the sky. If they were watching me at all, the people were appreciating this part – this unbridled joy despite the oppressive heat, despite the state of the world, despite the zoom meeting I would now have to rush to.

Stillness whispered every part of me. I saw the wide horizon, felt the ocean’s dark depths, rose up onto my toes, balanced, sank, rose and sank again.

Having two days in a row with a similar practice routine was a blessing. Riis Park is a blessing. My son is a blessing. Being alive is a blessing. Summer is a blessing. Site specificity is a blessing. 

I’m so lucky I’m not a genius. That would be so much less fun!

Brooklyn, NY, August 10, 2022

Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator ​​who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and recently became a 5Rhythms teacher. She was inspired to begin chronicling her experiences following her very first class; and she sees the writing process as an extension of practice—yet another way to be moved and transformed. This blog is not produced or sanctioned by the 5Rhythms organization. Photos courtesy of the writer.

***For NYC dancers, Meghan has a seven-class 5Rhythms series coming up that starts on October 14, “Paint My Spirit Gold.” Join a single class or join the full series for a discount. Registration is required – https://paintmyspirit.eventbrite.com

***Meghan also has a five-class online writing/dance 5Rhythms “Writing Waves” class that starts on September 15. Registration is required – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/writing-waves-tickets-397987811257

Longer Days

Summer means something to me.   

Daily routines during the school year can be crushing. Not only am I a teacher with a long list of roles and responsibilities, but I also work hard to support my own 12-year-old son in his learning.

There are many things to catch up on, projects I want to attend to, outings to plan, and many competing priorities. 

But for the moment I’m in a Flowing space. Flowing is the first of the five rhythms in the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation practice. It is receptive, circular, patient, grounded, and humble. It bides its time. It listens to the vibrations in the ground. It reminds me that if I try to charge forward without first finding my “ground” any actions will lack integrity.

It takes me awhile to change gears and trust that I don’t have to press to do every single thing in the most efficient way possible. I think it’s partly because the longer days make me feel like I have more time. 

Even when I’m trying to work my way through my list, for the past week I’ve more or less drifted from task to task.

“You have to know what you want! You have to really see it, visualize it, know it as real, to make it a real thing!” Excellent job-seeking advice from a trusted advisor.

But I’m just not there.

I’m still detoxing, integrating, processing. I don’t know the way forward just yet. My practice at this moment has been to take a break from trying to know, and instead to dive into practice.

Today I practiced and practiced and practiced. I did sitting meditation, yoga-type movement, ran in the woods, and danced multiple 5Rhythms waves to music in the backyard at my parents’ house, where my son and I are staying for much of the summer. 

I played with weight in the rhythm of Flowing, imaging my feet were weighted, or that they were made of metal and the ground was a magnet. Before long, I also imagined that my hands were weighted, dragging me toward the ground after a dramatic rise, and pulling me into endless circling. Moving into the rhythm of Staccato, the powerful ground that had been established opened the doorway for exuberant expression.

I have nothing tangible to show for these many hours spent in practice. And yet, the time feels well spent. To be honest, I don’t think there could be any better use of my time. 

Later, as I ate dinner on the back deck with family, the sky started to rumble and wind coursed across the landscape like contour lines on an elevation map.

I sat myself down to meditate by my little altar as the sky opened, wracking every surface with pelting rain.

I remembered another thunderstorm, this one during a meditation retreat at Garrison Institute that I wrote about in 2019, during a period of community silence and relentless heat. 

“We were told there was a severe weather alert and that if we felt nervous we could take shelter on the lower level of the building. The storm tore the sky apart, and it was like the outside came resoundingly inside the soaring, once-Franciscan-cathedral main hall. Still in silence, several of us made our way to the front steps where we had a view of the sweeping lawn and river. The pavement and plants gave off steam. Mist exhaled into the entryway and landed coolly on my exposed arms, legs, and face. A white cliff-waterfall on the other side of the river tripled its size. A woman seated next to me on the marble steps ate a crunching apple, savoring each bite.

Back in the meditation hall, the storm continued as mindfulness became increasingly concentrated. At one point, I realized it was too intense for me, and stepped into the foyer, intentionally interrupting practice. After a few minutes, I went back in and sat down on the cushion again. Then, I had a sharp, sudden sensation on the left side of my head, and was seized by the fear that I might be having a stroke. 

I remembered something the vipassana teacher, Dipa Ma, once told a practitioner who was freaking out during a sitting period. She sat next to him and said, “If you can stay with this sensation, you will accumulate great merit.” I settled down and the flash of pain and fear soon faded.”

Later I realized this was an important turning point in my path; and revelations poured through in the coming days. I have always loved storms, but now a storm can feel like a blessing.

In the evening, I finally sat down to write about practice.

Today new information about the January 6th insurrection also poured in, and I am amazed to find that my jaw can still drop. For now, I am gathering, receiving, biding my time, and listening to the ground. 

July 12, 2022, Broad Brook, Connecticut