Harsh Reality

“What?  This can’t be.  Oh, my God, this can’t be.  How could this be?  This can’t possibly be.  What are all of these overnight text messages about.  They are no longer celebratory, as they were last night.  This can’t be true.  Let me look at the internet.  Oh, my God.  Oh, my God.  Please, no.  Please, this can’t be.  So many people would suffer.  This is impossible.  How could Americans elect this person?  How could anyone vote for this man?  Please this is just a nightmare.  Let me wake up.  This can’t be.  Let me text back to some of the texts.  Please let it not be so.  It can’t be!  My God!  No, please, this can’t be! So many people would suffer!  The economy! Unchecked hatred!  Please say it is just a nightmare!”

Often before I start a new text for this blog, I write automatically for ten minutes. Writing automatically usually helps me to find an entry point, a theme, maybe even an idea for a structure, but today my mind remains scattered, dulled by its struggle to accommodate the new reality that my fellow Americans have elected Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.

At Kierra Foster Ba’s workshop “Light & Shadow” last weekend, Kierra took us on a journey through the shadow aspects of each of the 5Rhythms—the shadow of Flowing, which is inertia; the shadow of Staccato, which is tension; the shadow of Chaos, which is confusion; the shadow of Lyrical, which is the quality of being spaced out; and the shadow of Stillness, which is numbness.  In addition, she introduced the idea that the shadows might have to do with the parts of ourselves we would rather keep hidden or disown completely.

After the workshop, I wrote feverishly, very much wanting to deliver a text on the shadows work of last weekend before Tuesday’s election results, realizing that no matter what happened, anything written before Tuesday would become automatically outdated.  Although I was very nervous, I wrote with the assumption that there would be a Hillary victory in the end, and, too, with the assumption that after the election that we would have to find ways to work with and address America’s unleased collective shadows of abject hatred and opportunism.

Before the election, my psyche simply could not accommodate the possibility that Donald Trump might actually win the election.  It was simply too surreal—too much the stuff of nightmares.  It simply could not be. Americans certainly would not go to such extremes, even in the face of anger and disempowerment, that we would actually elect such a person, someone who does not believe in and would threaten our very democracy, who is the confirmed perpetrator of countless, outrageous crimes and abuses, possibly even of rape.

The lively activity at my polling place in Brooklyn made me feel like Hillary would surely win.  The better the voter turnout, I argued in my head, the more likely she would prevail.  I brought my six-year-old son along with me, regaling him with stories of when Obama was first elected—the long, happy lines to vote; and after the results came in, the streets filled with celebration, people thronging Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I lived at the time.  I told him excitedly, “This is a moment you will always remember, when we voted for the first woman president!”

The memory of the first 5Rhythms class I attended after Obama was elected in 2008 seemed like a totally different lifetime.  It was Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class.  For days, I had been walking around the city sobbing for joy.  It would hit me, buying a tea, waiting for the walk sign, standing on the subway.  Talking with everyone.  Beaming.  Not only had we—a nation built with the blood and sweat of slaves—elected a Black man, but we had elected an ethical, competent, intelligent leader, who was intent on building consensus, examining the minutiae of evidence on the many matters that faced him, and with the stated intention—and possibly the skill—to extend the prosperity that a small number of Americans enjoyed to a larger portion of society.  That was the first time since I was a baby in a leaf pile playing with my parents, that I had ever moved in pure joy.  The room was filled with a different kind of vocalization than what we experienced in class this week—hooting and hollering that moved through the air in waves of its own.  We were a glowing mess, drenched, crying, leaping many feet off the ground, the entire wood floor bouncing, the music getting louder and louder.  It was paradise.  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was—to be alive in this time, to be part of this seismic shift, this uncontainable joy.

A few sleepless, dark morning hours after learning the results (during which my son and I sat on a meditation cushion together, my stomach in knots, him reading quietly or practicing meditation along with me) one of the people I am closest to—a Black and Latino man—entered the house.  He shared an opinion that I have since heard echoed by more than one person of color—that this was no surprise, and that “Black people in America have been dealing with this level of hatred and injustice all along.   Now, it is just out in the open.”  He also reminded me that his joy when Obama was elected had been mitigated by his prediction that there would be a monstrous backlash after Obama’s term.

Since the election, hate crimes have surged, according to the New York Times, USA Today, CNN and a long list of reputable sources.  “Make America White Again” has been scrawled on a whiteboard in a University of North Florida library, and in countless other places countrywide.  My father told me with grave consternation that there had been a KKK rally in my parents’ small town in Northern Connecticut, to my knowledge an unprecedented event.

During and after the “Light & Shadow” workshop, I grappled with the concept of ground, wondering if in clinging to the idea of ground, I might be limiting my perception of reality.  Kierra sought to share her insight, and an insight likely shared by Gabrielle Roth—the creator of the 5Rhythms practice—that the ground is always there; and that it is possible to find the ground even in an earthquake.  Instead of only finding the ground in Flowing, where we traditionally establish it, Kierra lead me to also consider finding it through releasing into Chaos.  My idea of “the ground” as Gabrielle Roth intended it continues to evolve, but I realize that the idea of ground is compatible with the realization that absolutely everything is in constant, dynamic flux; and that there is truly nothing to cling to.  The ground is the foundation, from which we hear and trust our instinctive, physical selves, and from which we come to trust the fundamental correctness and workability of reality.  Truly, finding the ground and being at ease through releasing into Chaos is a powerful tool, as we seek to navigate (at minimum) the next four years.

Driving alone to a 5Rhythms class, my first since the election, I bawled and keened, my face contorted, tears streaming down my cheeks to the point that my skin actually started to itch from all of the salt.  My mind raced, “Would I choose to leave the US?  What steps would I have to take?  Is there anywhere in the western world that is exempt from this impulse toward xenophobia and aggression, this reaction to globalism?  Should I stay and be part of the resistance?  What would the resistance be?  What would happen to all the people without insurance?  Would my son be safe from racism, hatred and violence?  Would New York City be safe, once Trump started provoking countries around the world?  Would I lose my job as a result of recession?  Would my friends lose their jobs?  Would all of my parents’ lifelong hard work for social justice be wiped away, just as they are growing old, beginning to tally their contributions?  Would they lose heart and lose faith?  Would I?  Do all of the people who voted for Trump hate women?  Do all of the people who voted for Trump hate me?  Do they all think that the sexual trauma I have suffered in my own life is no big deal and that the pain I have struggled with for a lifetime is just someone’s lark—locker room pranks—without accountability?  And how, in this crazy world, would I counter this monstrous influence on my small son?  Is there any way to protect him?”  I had no schema for any of this.  Through years of diligent practice, I had developed powerful faith in the basic goodness of human beings.  How could I reconcile these seemingly contradictory realities?

Arriving at class, I took my time to enter the studio, noticing the powerful ritual of stepping from the world into the space of formal practice.  I was not wracked by grief.  There was no catharsis, as I had in a way hoped for.  Instead, the group moved through the first wave, breathing in and out, trying our best to release into Flowing and then into each of the other rhythms.  I noticed that my version of Flowing was agitated, and I made an effort to slow down, to let it in.  To let in the reality of my stress and grief-wracked body, and the reality of the outcome of the election, which I still could not fully grasp.  Staccato barely arrived in this first wave, finding me fumbling, unsure of my feet for once, disassociated, perhaps still in the throes of shock despite my stated willingness to let in. Chaos was loud and energetic, though mental activity continued to churn, in disjointed snippets and unruly threads.  The tiniest hint of Lyrical emerged, and it crossed my mind that somehow I would have to find a way to let joy in, too, despite everything, or I would lose four years of my life, perhaps even causing an atrophy of joy that I would not recover from.  I reminded myself that expressing joy is not an intrinsic affront to suffering, and that being miserable, angry or sad wouldn’t help me to control anything.  It would just make me miserable or angry or sad.  Whether I find Lyrical or not—the situation is very much outside of my control.

On Wednesday morning, arriving to work, I went straight to my one strong work ally.  Hugging him, I sobbed.  Although there were a few people there who were also devastated by the results of the election, I felt very alone, both at work and in the context of the country.  On parting, I said, “This is a call to arms.  We must each become a warrior of the heart.  That is our only hope at this point.  As of today, any kindness is now an act of political resistance.”

At the class, I felt like a whole layer of neurosis had become outdated, along with everything else that happened before November 8, 2016.  Most of the people I was moving with were allies, and could be trusted.  Petty irritations seemed extra pointless, considering the need to build community.  Despite this, some irritations did arise, and I wondered if they were a last sprint of a certain kind of ego, or if they might be a way for my psyche to work on some things that I couldn’t manage to confront directly.

In the interim between the two waves, I sat leaning in a little pod with a small group of friends who happened to be seated near me; then, began to flow back-to-back with one friend, at first just gently swaying from side to side.  I was still disassociated and not capable of fully releasing to ground, but did my best to show up for my friend and for myself.  Eventually gaining our feet, we moved around each other with great energy, then smiled thankfully, beginning to move separately throughout the room.  I spent part of this wave considering disaster preparedness, with a long list of specifics, despite the shared intention to really see each other, to really give to each other.  In Staccato, I found ferocity in bursts, but still felt disassociated.  I partnered with one friend, and marveled at her fire.  Inspired, I grew gigantic, too, forcing it ever so slightly, trying it as an experiment, an intention, rather than as my full expression in that moment.  Even so, I recognized the need to step up in every way, to step into my power, to help the people around me to step into their power, to organize, to defy, to build community, to speak, to listen, to offer, to receive.

Today, as I write, I have a bone infection in my jaw.  It is incredibly painful.  Instead of succumbing to self-pity, I remind myself that there are many people around the world who at this very moment are also experiencing excruciating dental pain.  Maybe also on top of other kinds of pain, too. The great Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron teaches a Tibetan meditation practice called Tonglen.  In Tonglen, instead of resisting or pushing away pain, negativity or other afflictive emotions, we breathe them in.  Then, we breathe out equanimity, positivity and pleasant emotions. In the process, we work against our conditioned impulse to push away what threatens us, frightens us, or rocks our fundamental notions of who we are.  In doing so, we transform our relationship to aversion—the energetic pushing away or non-acceptance of things we usually can’t escape anyway.  An aspect of Tonglen that acts as a counter to despair is that we remind ourselves again and again that we are not alone, that whatever pain we are experiencing, there are countless others who feel or have felt the same pain.  As such, it is impossible not to call to mind the billions of people who suffer or have suffered under the leadership of corrupt, greedy, dishonest or incompetent leaders.  I am not alone.  We are not alone.

I have been very careful to write about the nation as “we,” though it is a stretch for me at this moment.  One sneaky form of aversion is setting up a group of people as “others” who are distinct from “us.”  This is a fundamental premise of postmodern identity politics and of post-colonial theory—the idea that in order to construct ourselves a certain way, we set up groups of people as “others” as a counterpoint to the “us.” It is like we can only have an identity by defining who does not have our identity, excluding certain people from our experience completely. I am using “we,” and thinking of the many complex causes that gave rise to this moment, rather than succumbing to the temptation to simply revile Trump’s supporters to make them “other.”  Truly, this is a phenomenon that all of us have participated in producing.  This place we find ourselves is not an anomaly, and is not simply the result of someone else’s misconduct.

The Black and Latino man I wrote of earlier and who is one of my most important allies again shared his thoughts on the current political moment, reminding me very much of the teachings on the shadow aspects of the 5Rhythms.  He said, “The thing is, people of color have always known it was this bad.  It always has been.  The good thing is that we know that the only way to change things is to first actually accept how bad things are.  That’s the thing that white people just haven’t realized; and that’s why so many people are so shocked.  It is only when we can really accept what is actually happening that real change can finally occur.”

Gabrielle Roth often expressed that the rhythm of our time is Chaos.  As volatile as it inevitably has been, she believed that our era is also marked by possibility and creativity.  I try to imagine what she would say now, if she were still alive.  Perhaps that no matter what, we have to keep moving.  Perhaps that to shut down and lock up would be the real death of us.  Perhaps that the best way to work with Chaos is to release directly into the middle of it.  Perhaps that, ultimately, nothing and no one can take away our freedom or peace of mind, unless we ourselves allow it.

Rending, guttural screams flew through the space as we moved in Chaos.  I found the floor, pulsing vigorously through my middle back, on my hands and knees and crouched into the hips with my pubis almost touching the ground, then I would leap and spin, finding all the while stops and edges inside my own maelstrom.  The friend who was so ferocious in Staccato moved with just as much vigor right next to me.  I moved to the floor and up from it, leaping quickly, perhaps in a primal defensive gesture, landing first in a deep squat, bursting upward, my head a car on the speeding rollercoaster of my spine, then moved back to the ground.  I remembered Kierra’s words about releasing into Chaos, and as the rhythm played out I found more softness, less edge.  If I was tempted to check myself out of this intensity, I reminded myself of the critical importance of releasing to Chaos as a tool for survival.

Lyrical came, too, and then Stillness.  I partnered with a friend who I love to dance with, and we beamed as we moved together, more expansive than in our past dances.  High up on my toes and both finding discrete patterns, we played in and out of each other’s orbits.  In Stillness, I moved unselfconsciously, pulling away from a friend who wanted to partner, giving myself a quiet moment to turn inward.

Though there will be times that we all need to turn inward, community has become critical.  Right before the election, I had invited several friends to a series of dinner parties because I had realized the need to re-focus my priorities on the people around me, rather than on my very stressful job.  Now, after the election, having a way to gather together and cultivate our relationships seems even more important—in fact, like a matter of emotional and political necessity.

At the height of dental pain, I decided to take a yoga class.  I reasoned that I would try it, and if it was impossible I would just leave.  The pain was an 8 or 9 on a scale of 1-10 most of the time, but at moments it receded to the back of my mind, as I attended diligently to the poses and to the breath.  I was surprised that I made it through the entire class, despite the pain.  The teacher, who I trust deeply, said, “It might be hard to hear this right now, but the truth is that we are made for these times.  This is what we have been practicing for.”

On Saturday, I attended a candlelight vigil and rally at Fort Greene Park, where thousands of all races, classes, ages, religions and orientations came together to affirm our commitment to oppose injustice and hatred in all its manifestations, to affirm our commitment to love, and to support each other in resisting the temptation to feel isolated or incapacitated.  A heartful voice sang out, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” We all joined in, raising our candles in the falling night.  My voice was ragged, the words barely coherent.  A friend from the neighborhood I hadn’t realized was right next to me turned and embraced me.  I looked to my other side and saw another friend—this one from college in Boston—and I turned and kissed her cheek.

We are not alone, my loves.  We are in this together.  In the words of the woman whose light guides me, the woman who continues to show my heart the way, Gabrielle Roth, “There is only one of us here.”

November 13, 2016, Brooklyn, NYC

(Image is a photo I took at the “Vigil for Hope & Human Kindness” that took place in Fort Greene Park on November 12, 2016)

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

Sacred Places, Otherworldly Fog & Cheerful Good Byes


Otherworldly fog took over the landscape on Monday.  After dropping my six-year-old son, Simon, off at camp in Dunhill, I went to the unmarked beach again.  Suffering from heavy anxiety, I paused to look out over the vast beach from the top of the steep cement stairs, and the line of vision was severely blocked by the heavy white cloud.

Exploring and seeking an inspiring place to dance, I walked west, passing several beaches that were framed by giant, fallen boulders.  I came to a cave (or perhaps the shaft opening of an old copper mine) and investigated briefly, then suddenly realized that I had no phone reception whatsoever. I was nervous about being out of contact while Simon was at camp.  Lately, I have been unusually nervous about keeping us safe, given a series of mishaps.  Simon has also been nervous, asking me to sketch out endless scenarios of what would happen if one of us got hurt or died during the trip; and he has been unwilling to be apart from me in any room of our friend’s 300-year-old cottage, as he believes it haunted.  I have tried to calm his fears, but at times I have also felt afraid.  I held the phone in my hand and walked back toward the cement stairs, staring at the screen and pausing whenever it said, “searching.”  I settled on a still-remote-from-the-stairs spot with very black sand where the signal flickered in and out.  I put the phone on a rock where I could check on it, created a large circle in the sand that I could dance inside of, then settled into a patient Flowing.  As Staccato arose out of Flowing, I went to check the phone and realized that it was again saying “no service.”  I tried to talk myself into letting go of the nervousness about being out of contact.

In the end, I was able to re-connect with Flowing despite pausing to check my phone.  I danced a brief wave, moving through each rhythm:  Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  Resuming after the pause to check the phone, I realized that despite the fog and mist, the day was warm.  I took off my clothes.  The feeling of the cold mist on my skin helped return me to my senses and release the anxiety I was feeling.  It was exhilarating after being so wrapped up in garments for so many chilly days.  Before long I returned to a bathing suit, completing the wave fairly quickly.  Stillness emerged vividly and the felt senses of the cliffs, the sea, the mysterious and heavy air, and the rocks and boulders found their way into my movements.

Then, I moved to the opposite end of the beach, where it was much less remote, but where I did have reception.  For this second wave, as with the first, I started by creating a circle in the sand to dance inside of, though I did not stay inside it except for in the beginning of Flowing.  This wave was definitely practice.  Bits of beauty flecked it, but I was not particularly inspired.  I was left thinking about how anxiety blocks receptors to everything—to danger, to joy, to fluid experience, and to the constant stream of information we receive from the world around us.

In the brief time I had before picking Simon up from camp, I made an unsuccessful attempt to find an ancient site that my friend had urged me to visit, but the next day (Tuesday) I was determined.  I re-traced my driving steps, remembering not to turn down the tiny, stone-walled lane where I had aroused suspicion the day before.  I had a map my friend’s archaeologist neighbor had given me, which included all of the small rural roads.  Even armed with it, it was very difficult for me to navigate.  I was told the site was just next to a cow field, and that it was locked gate but that there was a stile—a gap in the gate—that allows people to enter.  That description seemed to match pretty much every gate I passed.  I asked a woman who was walking on the road if she knew of the site, and she scrunched up her face, looking upward to think and pointing downhill.  “I’m not sure, Pet.  I think it might be down there, but they’re building a house there now.  I suppose you could go there and ask if you could enter.”  I felt discouraged, but decided to go just a tiny bit farther down the road.  Shortly, I actually did find what I was looking for—indicated by a discreet arrow sign that said, “Gaulstown Dolmen.”  I walked through the stile, down the driveway, through another entrance, then down a wooded path.

The monument is remarkable.  It consists of six very large, flat stones that were placed in a Stonehenge-like configuration around 5,000 years ago.  No one knows exactly how, as they appear to be extremely heavy.  According to the archaeologist, it is likely a burial site, based on nearby similar sites that have been excavated.  There was a small clearing around the dolmen, but it was very much enclosed with grown over trees and grasses.  I sat for a few minutes, then got up to walk in a circle around it.  Prickers caught my long skirt; and I moved into a flat spot to dance in Flowing.  Absorbed, I imagined a low, chanting hum as I listened and sensed the place.  I saw a moving black shape out of the corner of my eye that could have been the farmers’ dog, but that got me to thinking of ancient spirits.  Staccato was brief but expressive.  In Chaos, I stepped right inside the dolmen, wondering if it had also been intended as a portal.  I was slightly afraid of the possibility of possession and at once totally fascinated.  In Lyrical a flash of creative energy entered into me.  In Stillness I moved with reverence—an homage to the ancients.  I was left feeling like I should do what I can to develop my capacity as a mystic, and that all I need is available in every moment, if I know how to pay attention properly.

Later, I went again to the secret beach.  Reception was better without the fog, and I choose a spot that was not as remote.  Still, the phone came in and out.  The day before I’d told myself, “Maybe I can be ok with being out of reach for a little while.”  When it came to it, I was still nervous, and couldn’t bring myself to practice until I found a spot where the phone would have at least one bar.  I stayed in Flowing for a long time, returning to the image of the dolmen again and again.


As with previous dances, threads of Stillness continued to present, for example during Flowing when I witnessed a bird soaring absolutely in place, not moving at all, buoyed by strong wind.   I realized that at times I have confused Inertia—which can present as a lack of energy and is considered to be the “shadow” of the rhythm of Flowing—with Stillness.  Stillness, as it continued to present during my many dances with the land and sea in Ireland, was very much invigorated and alive.


The rest of the wave unfolded.  Staccato started only after a long time in Flowing; and I returned many times to Flowing even after I had fully entered Staccato.  Staccato was not very energetic until Chaos began to appear, then the last burst of Staccato was very vigorous.  I covered vast ground, moving far beyond the little circle I had drawn in the sand at the beginning of Flowing, all the while taking in the landscape even as it flashed across my field of vision in Chaos.  In Lyrical I again played with my version of Irish step dancing. In Stillness I experimented with concentrating my energy field close to my body, then extending it far beyond my own edge.  I ended the wave with my feet firmly planted and wide apart, holding my hands together in front of my chest, standing still and facing the sea, sensing myself as a colossus—taller even than the high, green cliffs.

The next day was the final day that I was able to dance in Ireland during this trip.  As soon as I dropped Simon off at camp, I went to the secret beach, where it was again overcast and deserted. I spent some time creating an artwork, then drew a circle in the sand around myself and began to move in Flowing.

From the beginning, this wave was alive.  In Flowing, I moved with ease and freedom far beyond the outlines of my little circle.  The weather started to improve and a few people made their way down the cement stairs.  Shy about occupying so much territory, I moved back behind some boulders, though I was still partially in view.  Flowing shifted into Staccato and I covered even more distance, discarding my concerns.

I tracked the subtle shifts of energy, moving intuitively.  The wave followed this pattern, if I recall correctly:  Flowing, Staccato, Flowing, Staccato/Chaos, Staccato, Flowing, Flowing Chaos, Chaos, Flowing, Lyrical, Chaos, Lyrical, Chaos, Flowing, Flowing Lyrical, Stillness.  I let everything in, deeply sensing the enormity and vast power of this incredible place.  I went into Lyrical two or three times inside of Chaos, rising up onto my toes.  In Stillness, I returned again to the original circle I had drawn in the sand.  I invoked deities, helpers and guides, including Gabrielle Roth—the creator of the 5Rhythms practice—asking for help on my path, a clean heart, and the courage and insight to live my life in service to love.

I picked Simon up from the little, rural camp a little early since it was his last day.  The camp included only children from the small, local villages; and most had multiple siblings.  I told Simon I was incredibly proud of him for having the courage to step in and find his place there.  As we moved toward the car, many of the children hung over the fence, waving, and calling out, “Bye, Simon!” The next day, we set out for home.

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

Falling Rocks & Strong Currents

Yesterday we woke to blue skies for the first time since we have been in Ireland.  After dropping my son, Simon, off at camp, I set out to explore the local beach again, hoping to find a place to dance.  Given the fair weather, there were several people enjoying the beach and I didn’t feel comfortable dancing there.  Because it is exceedingly dangerous, I’ve sworn off the unprotected cliff path that departs from the east end of the beach, despite its compelling beauty.  I spotted a different cliff path at the west end of the beach and decided to at least try it.  This time, most of the path was set back from the cliff’s edge (with the exception of one short section) and I felt more at ease.  The vast horizon was striated with deep emerald and turquoise water.  Views from the cliff walk included huge rock formations topped with greenery, toppled boulders, squared green fields, rock walls and the endless crashing waves far below.

Absolutely by chance, on the secluded cliff path I ran into a childhood schoolmate of the friend who is hosting us and we chatted briefly.  “I think it is a little bit dangerous up here.  There has been a lot of erosion lately,” she shared.  I nodded and told her that I decided I wouldn’t go on the other cliff path anymore; and that I am trying to play it safe, given a number of holiday calamities.

Reaching the end of the cliff path, I saw a beautiful, unpeopled beach far below.  There were only sheer cliffs in front of me and there didn’t seem to be a way down, so I decided to try to reach it by way of the road.  Returning, I avoided the one very dangerous section of path by detouring through a heavily prickled patch.  I turned off the path and walked through a field, hoping I could avoid returning all the way to the beach I’d started at, but a wire fence that I feared might be electrified blocked my way.  I returned to the beach where I’d started, then turned onto the road and tried to find the secret beach.  I regretted my choice to walk, as a long section of the road was treacherous for pedestrians, but I jogged along in my flipflops, hoping to get out of the way before any cars came barreling along.  I got off the road as soon as I could, then walked parallel to it through someone’s field.  Again, I reached a dead end, totally blocked by impassable shrubs and brambles.  Determined still, I returned to the cottage and got into the car.  Driving west, I spotted a nearly concealed, unmarked road in the middle of a hairpin turn and turned onto it.

The graveled parking lot was at a 45-degree angle and I made sure to engage the parking brake to the last possible “click” before getting out and gathering my things.  This was, surely, the secret beach that I had seen from the cliff path.  Despite the first-in-many-days blue sky, there wasn’t a single person besides me.

There were two graphic signs on the stairs leading to the beach below indicating falling rocks and strong currents.  The stairs were made of concrete with big, coarse rocks cast inside, and were very, very steep.  The first flight was relatively intact with the exception of a few crumbles, but on the second flight the stairs were severely eroded, smoothed almost to a flat ramp in some places by powerful high tides.


The beach itself was remarkable.  Soaring and crumbling cliffs formed its north face, with fields and endless plants and grasses visible above them.  Green-topped rock islands jutted into the sea at both its ends.  Rocks and boulders were cast throughout the water, causing the powerful waves to act erratically.  Thankfully, it was near low tide, since based on the most recent high tide line, the beach would be treacherous at high tide, if at all accessible.  On a stormy day at high tide, the waves could reach the top of the long stairs, pummeling the cliffs and beach and making access impossible.

Looking up, I could see the crumbling cliffs with the turf edging hanging down like thick carpeting.  I resolved once again, firmly, to stay off of high cliff paths that are right on the edges of cliffs.

I wasn’t totally sure what stage the tide was at, and I eyed the sea warily.  This is dragon land, without question.  I ventured a short way down the beach, but chose a spot to dance that was a short sprint away from the steep, cement stairs in case high tide came in fast.  I made a circle of stones for myself and also noted a cluster of round stones a short distance in front of me.  If the sea reached those stones, I decided, I would call it day and head for the stairs, no matter what phase of the 5Rhythms wave I was in at that point.

I broke the crusty surface of the warm sand with my bare feet.  As with the previous day, moving brought tears almost immediately.  I don’t know how long I was in Flowing, but I do remember that it was characterized by totally unselfconscious, fluid movement.  In Staccato, I moved along the beach so I could dance on the unbroken sandy crust instead of in the sand that was already churned up by my circling feet in Flowing.  I felt a tiny bit restrained.  Respectful of the danger around me.  Chaos, as in the previous days, was slightly restrained, also.  I endeavored to release my head, but never moved with wild abandon.  In Lyrical, I traced the gliding movements of birds with my hands while raised up onto my high toes, seeking sections of unbroken sand to help with lifting upward.

Stillness in the first wave took its time.  I let in the energy of everything around me—cliffs, ocean, sky—and it was almost overwhelming.  I had the thought that if you really let in the reality of the absolute, you let in the reality of your own death, too, and let in the reality that those you love will one day die.  I staggered a little at the enormity of it, and at the wondrous enormity of the landscape around me.  Perhaps that is why it can be so frightening. Sometimes.  For me.

One of the biggest benefits of practicing independently is that I can really work with the mercurial shifts of energy as they arise.  I realize that (in previous days) it made no sense to “hold” myself in Flowing.  The fact is that even once I did move into Staccato, I moved back into Flowing many times.  It wasn’t an all-or-nothing thing.  Even when I got to Chaos, I still found myself going back to Flowing.  I have often felt that I needed to keep myself in Flowing longer than felt intuitive so I could be responsible and find the ground beneath me before taking on any other investigation.  Here, the stakes were different.  I needed to attend to the many small subtle shifts of energy as I fluctuated between different rhythms.  And in doing so, the energy of the land started to reveal itself to me.

It was not what I expected, to say the least.  The land or anything else about Ireland.  I have contemplated my relationship to this place at length.  My Irish American grandmother and aunties were very Irish identified, but as I became an adult, I related uncomfortably to this heritage.  I can see how identifying strongly helped them to feel empowered (perhaps in the face of discrimation), to connect with their families and community, and to find meaning and purpose.  For me, though, several generations removed, taking it on has felt more like an identity decision, not a real connection to a living culture.  Before this trip, I thought, “Perhaps I could connect with this lineage in a real way, and claim this one of many parts of who I am.”  I felt strong emotion in the Waterford museum in Dungarven reading about the famine, the independence movement, the seafaring history.  And in talking with one well-dressed, sweet, old Irish lady, who strongly remembled my now-gone beloveds.  And again, at a country fair, seeing teenagers in a dance performance—jaunty, alive, lyrical.  The peasant history, the mystical strains, the aching land.  I know all of this in my body.  And yet I have felt distant.  And more afraid here. I hope I haven’t betrayed my ancestors.  My heart wants to be open, though.  Perhaps there will be a breakthrough.

The second wave emerged organically.  Again, in Flowing I moved in linked, concentric circles, totally unselfconsciously.  I found a melody that has appeared in independent practice again and again, feeling like an ancient song.  Since I was totally by myself (except for one lone man in a blue jacket, a tiny dot far on the other side of the beach), I sang it with full force.  It morphed into a chant—an homage to the sun that had tremendous density and power, and that persisted for most of the second wave.  A thread of Stillness passed through as I danced with five black birds who soared together overhead—crossing, dipping, and gliding.  The gestures of Chaos arose totally from the angles of my feet in the already agitated sand.  In Lyrical, I again found lift, in my own joyful version of Irish step dancing.  In Stillness, I let the waves pass through me; and at the end of the wave, I sat briefly in meditation, cross legged on a towel on the sand.

Today, I went again to this achingly beautiful, secret beach.  First, I carefully checked the tide charts, since I did not want to be caught far from the stairs in a rising tide.  This time, the sky was not blue, but white; and I walked west instead of east.  The horizon was a vague shift in densities.  Although according to the tide chart I should be ok for over an hour, I continued to fear the possibility of a quickly rising tide and watched the sea carefully.  I explored at length, passing the first open beach to a set of giant rocks that would surely be islands at high tide, and on to another open beach (this one with black sand) and to another set of giant rocks.  Everyone makes such a big deal about the greenness of Ireland, but here, the power of Ireland’s ancient rocks and stones presented.  The stones became anthropomorphic as they began to reveal themselves, and I saw not only people, but animals and otherworldly creatures.  I shot them with the phone camera like I was doing portraits; and they revealed themselves even more.

I crossed paths and chatted briefly with the man in the blue jacket that I had glimpsed far down the beach the day before.  I noticed that he was attractive and we chatted about the weather.  He asked if I planned to swim.  In keeping with my recently established personal guidelines about safety, I asked, “Is it safe to swim here?”  He said, pointing, “Well, you don’t go out too far, just in that part there.”  I didn’t fully take it in, believing the sea much too cold, and said, “Well, have a great morning!” and moved on.

I finally had my fill of exploring, and selected a place close to the sea-damaged escape stairs.  In fact, I found another cement staircase and the remains of a man-made walkway that had been totally pummeled and melted by the sea.  I fell in love with it—this sturdy man-made creation that was easily felled by the raging power of the ocean.  It was both humbling and heartening.  Humbling because of the failed hubris of creating human structures on this wild beach.  Heartening because nature so quickly reclaimed and restored itself in the face of human intervention—making our constructed foibles look like mere flashes in the pan.


In Flowing, I was happy and at ease.  I felt no exertion, no inertia and no self.  In Staccato, I felt no urgency or strain.

I saw the man I had spoken with swimming far down the beach, and began to feel like we were sharing a dance.  After a long while in Flowing, I realized he had finished his swim and was standing by the escape stairs, drying off and watching me.  This was an interesting development.  I let Staccato emerge fully, rushing into space far beyond the original circle that I occupied in Flowing, some bold back cross-steps and deep squatting gestures working their way in, as I grew taller, smiling and engaging fully with the sometimes conflicting gestures of breaking waves.  I kept glancing at the man, very aware that he was watching, but never made eye contact with him.  I wanted to speak with him, to connect with him, but I lost my chance.  As Staccato transitioned, I saw that he was walking up the stairs.  I had suspected that he was naked but at this time it was confirmed.  I waved good-bye to him, wishing he would come back and telling myself, “Oh well, he’s probably married anyway, like almost everyone in Ireland.”

This got me to thinking of physical love, and of the many memorable lovers I have met in my travels over the years.  I thought about another beach meeting, near Puntarenas, Costa Rica.  In that instance, I was on a long vision quest on the beach, lone, ecstatic, far from the village I was staying in, when a beautiful man literally rode up on a black horse, stopped short and said, “I want to dance with you!”  Yes, I said, “Como no?”  (Ironically, I never had sex with the horse riding man, who I quickly fell in love with, but instead entered into a primal tryst with an itinerant surfer from Argentina who sold jade jewelry to tourists and lived in a lean-to on the beach.)

For a spell, I was distracted from my senses.  Chaos did not so much arrive as support my intention to complete the wave.  Spinning, I quickly grew dizzy on the tilted plane of the beach, then found a familiar way of moving in Chaos that I realized is just a very articulated and weighted way of spinning.  I moved in and out of Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness again and again, letting the flow of energy have its way.

This place, where two twisting strands of my ancestors hail from, is not what I expected.  The pre-digested Ireland of cartoon leprechauns and Blarney Stone kisses is only a tiny piece of the story.  In reality, it is much scarier.  Much darker.   Incredibly beautiful.  And still, totally foreign.

July 16, 2016, Annestown, Co. Waterford, Ireland

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


Putty in Its Hands

I arrived early to today’s Sweat Your Prayers class at the Joffrey Ballet, and stepped in to an already breathing room. Amber Ryan, who lead the class, played tonal, attenuated music and I langored on the floor close to one of the mirrored walls, moving in great circles, my body at times stretched star-like, finding circularity, my limbs and head threading around me and back into the arc of the circle. As Amber added a song with a touch of a beat, these pendulous motions gained lift and twist and lead into a group of energetic gestures that felt like breakdancing—perhaps inspired by four aging b-boys whose performance I witnessed during a walk through Times Square on Friday night.

Several times I bounded to my feet, then, finding myself at a loss, dropped down again to the ground. Finally, I gained my feet, and began to move through the room. As is often the case at this point, I saw and experienced the people I shared the room with, my movements being influenced by the gestures and paces of everyone around me. I was a little confused by the music at this point. I couldn’t figure out what rhythm Amber was indicating through her song choices; and I noted a slight lag in energy. I meandered to the edge of the floor again, and got back to the ground, re-connecting with the ground-level family of gestures that I had started the class out with.

There was a person in the room who was waiting for a project from me—a project I have had a hard time finalizing. I realized that as long as something is easy, it is no problem for me to jump in, but that once it gets harder and starts to take up more time, I start to lean back a little. Afraid, perhaps, of being swallowed by my many initiatives, and of losing contact with my own creative work in the process. I realized that there are hints of resistance all over the place in my life. Then, I had the tear-accompanied insight that 5Rhythms practice itself is one of the very few things in my life that I meet with absolutely no resistance. I am putty in its hands, truly.

I noted that I was slightly concerned that this person might be angry with me, and that I felt guilty for even being in the class instead of at home working on the project. I was tempted to allow my inner dialogue to defend me and make excuses. Instead, I decided to allow whatever the person was feeling, without even my own internal resistance, and simply resolved to make a sincere effort to deliver a final product today after class.

I danced worlds just inside the class’s first wave—what we call it when we move in sequence through each of the five rhythms: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. I connected with many new faces and with old friends, moving fluidly from one partnership to another.

My all-time favorite dance partner was there and together we moved into every outrageous extreme we could wiggle, burst, shake, collapse, spin, freeze or leap into. We alternated between surrender and the wordless exploration of all our edges—playfully facing our many characters and habits, even re-casting old explorations that we spent countless hours investigating in past dances.

I often get swept along when someone dances by me, and found myself following behind many dancers. One who I followed is a woman I am always very happy to see. She and I shared one of the most beautiful gestures of my entire 5Rhythms dance career. She is a white woman from Greenwich, Connecticut—a category of people that I sometimes feel resistant toward (though I am not far from that category myself). I followed her and she noticed me, turning around to smile and share a dance. Her heartful, grounded and welcoming presence brought tears to my eyes.

As Chaos began to transition, I moved through many brief partnerships, then found myself with a friend who I have shared many emotional dances with over the years. In Lyrical, I flied, sailed, and dropped to my knees; smiling and extending my arms to their limits. I was delighted with how I was moving, and had the thought that I would really like a video of myself right now, so I can have it when I am old. I went quite a ways into that planning—even losing myself in thinking of how I might present this idea to Tammy, who prohibits photographs or video during classes (maybe I could blur out all the faces except mine, maybe I could ask people on the way in, maybe I could agree to never make it public….) Just then the song changed and the lyric was something like, “Someday we will be old; and we will think about all the stories we could have told.” The synchronicity was remarkable. I started to cry, and to feel strong pressure on my throat. I let myself sob. My partner noticed immediately, showing up for me without trying to fix or adjust me. Next, I had the thought that when I die, I want two images to be included in the ritual—a photograph of me and my tiny, newborn son, sleeping on my chest; and a video of me dancing, at a moment when I am totally surrendered to the dance, to the universe, to all that is. That is how I want to be remembered someday. This made me cry more. And, too, soon after, I turned to the question of how I want to live, knowing that before I know it I will be old, will be facing death. Amber uttered one of her signature phrases into the microphone, “What is your intention?”

“Radical freedom,” my mind answered. Freedom from my self-imposed constraints. Freedom even within the constraints that arise—that I have no choice but to deal with (and that have been exceptionally present lately). I gently took the hand of my friend and tried to entice her to dance through the room with me, but we moved only a short distance, finding a still dancer with a frozen cry and dancing spontaneously around him. He quickly regained his motion, and soared off into the room. My friend stayed with me still, hugging me as I cried while Amber gathered the room around her and offered brief verbal instruction.

And that was only the first wave!

The feature presentation—live drumming—was still to begin. I lost myself completely in the layers of rhythm offered by Robert Ansell and Sanga of the Valley. In the past, I haven’t always been able to find my connection to live drumming within a 5Rhythms class, since I couldn’t find Flowing easily. In this case, however, the opening wave, Amber’s added DJ’ing and the subtle changes in rhythm and intensity lead me seamlessly through the wave. The entire room was alive. Spontaneous conjuctions of three, four, even five dancers arose and fell away as we responded to Robert’s big, steady drum and to Sanga’s skillful syncopation.

I just managed to catch the down elevator and encountered a friend inside. She shared that she had known Robert and Sanga for over thirty years, and that at one point during the class she had looked over at them, and had also seen a vision of a very young Gabrielle Roth—the recently deceased creator of the 5Rhythms practice, and also Robert’s wife and Sanga’s long-time musical collaborator.

The class unfolded in its own interstice in time, folding us all into it, collapsing the distinctions between us and between our own many selves. Then, I went home and did my best to finish my project; and after that, sat down to write.

December 5, 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.

Inverse Operations, Love Songs & The Pain of Living


I have had Amber Ryan’s “Examine Stillness” workshop on my calendar for over a year. When I first spotted the date on Amber’s calendar, I emailed her, thinking it was a typo. She responded, letting me know it would take place in 2015, not 2014, and that the date was correct. I noted it right away, and have looked forward to it since that time. I am dismayed and, indeed, angry, to report that I was not able to attend today.

I emailed the workshop producer yesterday to let her know that I would not be able to attend as I was ill, and, too, that I have to take a big test tomorrow afternoon and need to study. I am feeling slightly better physically, but the test still looms. I have been teaching Global History and English in a high school in Brooklyn; and (in part because of a clerical mistake) I recently learned that I have to take and pass several exams in order to continue teaching. The one I am facing tomorrow is a Math test. The test includes Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, Functions and Calculus. I took remedial Math when I was an undergraduate, and struggled even then. I already failed the test once, but was determined to beat it this time, and have immersed myself in studying for the past several weeks.

I don’t know if I am writing now because I am taking a break or if it is because I have given up. I am still struggling to master high school Algebra, never mind the higher-level concepts I will surely encounter on the test.

Peter Fodera taught Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class this week. I was not feeling well, but decided to attend and move gently, giving myself permission to leave early if I needed to. Arriving to an already active room, I flowed right in, even feeling joy and excitement as I found a safe spot for my belongings and began to move in the collective field.

During that afternoon, I had found myself sobbing after two days of school parent-teacher conferences. I sat with a co-teacher, receiving parents of our shared students both Thursday night and Friday afternoon. I was happy to offer compliments and good news to some parents; and also offered targeted suggestions when called for.

More notable was what the parents and students were bringing to us. It doesn’t feel correct to publish the specifics, but the hours were filled with stories of death, illness, abuse, challenges and sadness. Too, they were filled with resolve and the intention to persevere and thrive, but what lingered in the air was the tone of pain.

After the final session had ended I saw a student in the hallway. He introduced the family member who had come to the parent-teacher conference to support him. Both my colleague and I had tried repeatedly to contact someone from his family without success, as we were concerned that he was not succeeding academically. I also know that his history is pocked with severe difficulty, by his own account. The student’s family member, who I had not even known about, professed great love and support. I was incredibly relieved that this kid had someone to look up to and to watch out for him. I know it is not professional, but I started to cry. I tried to turn away, but the student lingered. “I love you, Ms. LeBorious,” the student said, leaning over to hug me. I hurriedly sent them along to another teacher, shut the door to the room and broke down.

I was happy that I made it to Friday Night Waves class, despite not feeling well. I moved without any effort, relaxing into the music. Peter had been thinking about the Paris bombings; and he decided to select music with the theme of love in response to the events.

In the rhythm of Chaos, I alternated the pace of movement, slowing and softening—almost going slack, then bursting into a new flurry of gestures. I kept sneezing and blowing my nose, even in the excitement of Chaos.

I did not partner as much as usual, preferring to keep to myself. I felt more subtle than expansive, and more gentle than emphatic. I shared several dances, including with one of my favorite partners of all time, but in most cases disengaged after just a song or less.

After the first wave, I decided to take it easy and head for home. I knew I had left my water bottle in a particular spot; but I could not find it. I pawed through bags and jackets to no avail.

At the same time, Peter paused the music briefly to offer verbal teachings. He shared that he had been in Berlin the week before when the recent bombings took place in Paris. A close friend—another 5Rhythms teacher—was practicing alongside him. She was from Paris and had left her young child in another’s care to attend the Berlin workshop. She thought about returning right away, but in the end decided to stay in Berlin and dance.

Peter’s message was clear. You can always choose love. You can always make the choice to turn toward love, no matter what you face—even when there is great fear. Knowing a little bit about Peter’s personal story, this pronouncement has even more weight. He carries some heavy challenges, yet he smiles with his entire body, dances with everyone he encounters and seems, by all accounts, very, very happy. “That is one of the things I love about this practice,” he said. “You can fall in love with everyone! Why not? Why not fall in love with everyone?” He asked, smiling, holding both hands upward as his eyes moved around the room, making eye contact with the many seated dancers gathered around him.

I sit here writing, knowing full well that I should apply myself to studying, and at once feeling doomed. I will return to the studying shortly, but for now I have a little more to say.

I finally located my water bottle, which had been knocked off the end of a table and buried by piled-up coats and bags. I decided to stay just until the next wave started, to avoid being rude while Peter was talking. Then, Peter told us he had selected music with the theme of love (teasing himself a little—I guess for his supposed sentimentality); and I hung my things on the studio doorknob, deciding I would stay for just one more song. I was tired, but the music motivated me.

After the first song of the wave ended, I stayed for just one more. Traveling around the room, I passed a friend who was dancing on the floor—not wanting to put weight on a foot that was bound in a soft cast. I put my hand on my heart and met her eye by way of greeting, thinking I would continue to move through the room, but instead found myself pulled in to dance with her. In Flowing, we danced with increasing expressivity, never rising to our feet, but instead arcing sideways, spinning on the floor and undulating—smiling all the while.

With just 25 minutes left in the two-hour class I did finally leave, thinking I could at least get a little studying in before I went to bed.

The next day, I studied some more. I arranged for a friend to take my son for the afternoon, though Saturday is my only full day with him, and continued to study. Material did not seem to be sticking. In a way, I was trying to learn 15 years of Math in just a few weeks. I felt discouraged.

My five-year-old son woke up as usual before dawn, and, as he stretched his back and rose to consciousness, muttered, “Mommy, are four sets of nine thirty-six?”

That day, I studied some more. I re-did some practice tests and got many of the things I got right a week ago wrong this time. I started to entertain the idea that I might, in fact, not be able to pass the test. That I might lose my job. I even started to think about where we would move if I didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford the rent any longer. Anxiety took over. I thought of all the unfair, horrific events and deaths that have touched me in recent years. I thought of my son’s father—unemployed for far too long. I thought of losing my parents one day. By this point, my mind had completely taken over. I even started to feel anxiety about imagined, projected events of my son’s teenage years, which are still over a decade away.

Another thing that plagued me was that I couldn’t stop thinking about my 22-year-old friend—my son’s babysitter—who has been in a coma for three weeks. Thankfully, she is starting to regain her senses, but she is not communicating at all yet. I finally found out what had caused it—her doctors think she had a stroke. A stroke. I just couldn’t manage that.

By the end of the day, I started to see the tricks my mind was playing on me. I attended a yoga class, and, immersed in embodiment, found language for what I was experiencing. Simply put: fear. I was afraid and aversive. I was angry at the injustice of my situation. Slowly, I let myself open to the fear I was experiencing; and to the reality of the situation I was embroiled in. Really, it was just a slight shift of perspective. The only thing I have some measure of control over—really, when you come down to it—is how I choose to deal with what I have to deal with. Whether I am open to it or not, I still have to deal with this crazy test somehow.

As a result of opening up to my own fears, I noticed my compassion for other people in impossible situations. I felt compassion for the many teenagers I teach who try and try and cannot pass the difficult state exams required to graduate. I also thought about the many Syrian refugees—fleeing danger and violence and stepping into total uncertainty. People in abject poverty. People with terrible illnesses. And, too, all of the people in the exact same situation I am in—having to pass the Math CST test in order to continue teaching despite the fact that they don’t teach Math and have not been trained in the material. Opening to my own pain, and to everyone else’s, softened me; and I spent much of the class crying, with my forehead on the floor.

The anger that I had experienced initially toward an unjust system had dissolved completely; and I was reminded that the measure of my humanity is not just my ability to surmount obstacles and to set and reach goals—but is, too, defined by my ability to open to everything that arises in my experience, even when my circumstances seem impossible and the air seems filled with pain.

November 22, 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.

Dancing From One Low Tide to the Next (Everything is Perfect)


One day during my last week in Nosara, Costa Rica, I danced from low tide at 5:30 in the morning until the next low tide over twelve hours later—from 5:30AM to nearly 5:30PM. This was not 5Rhythms practice, but rather an artwork performance, a ritual, and, indeed, an endurance event. It was beautiful to witness the site—a place I have grown to love at the farthest reach of Playa Pelada—go from the first light of day when the cliff island in front of me was completely in shadow and a group of buzzards slept perched on a tree, to morning, when the shadow slipped down the island’s cliffs, then mid-morning when the shadow edge moved to the sand and slipped across it, finally overtaking me and thrusting me into the full light of sun. The night before the performance, as I compiled the things I would need to survive it, my uncle said, “This isn’t just a performance artwork. It’s a vision quest!”

I left home and walked to the beach when light was just breaking. I had several bags of colored salt with me to use somehow, and realized right away exactly what I should do. I created a large, rainbow-colored spiral on the morning low-tide beach. For the duration of the first low tide, I interacted with this creation as my centerpiece; and an interesting construction arose. I moved again and again between the relative and the absolute—I would walk through the spiral into its middle and dance in absolute space, where it was crowded with spirits and guides; then, when I wanted to be in relative reality, I would coil back out of the spiral, and there consider my own psychology, things of the world, and the phenomena of the senses.

I had been very concerned about hiring a helper for the performance, since I was nervous about being alone on the beach throughout the entire day. I called a friend and asked if she knew anyone who might be interested in a day’s work. She said she would ask her boyfriend. I never heard back from her, so I assumed he was not available. Once I got to the beach and started to work, I was grateful that I didn’t have a helper after all; but, to my surprise, my friend’s boyfriend appeared, trotting good-naturedly down the beach. I explained how he could help, then returned to dancing. Not long after, I told him I realized that I could absolutely handle doing the piece by myself, but that he could keep some of the fee I had offered initially. We had a beautiful conversation during which he asked if I was doing a ritual of some sort. He also told me that it seemed very much like a Mayan dance, as they, too, had danced into spirals—a valuable connection that gave rise to many ideas. “Is this curative?” he asked. “Yes, absolutely,” I answered. “Quien quieres curar?” “Who are you trying to cure?” he asked next.

Moving into the middle of the large spiral was like moving into the middle of the earth. This image connected with something that arose during a long, intensive session with a Reiki master the previous week. In the Reiki master’s very capable hands, I was invited to “journey” and some of the images from my journey found their way into my dance. For example, I imagined that I accompanied a dragon through a volcano into the earth’s hot core. In the dance, I went inside the volcano of my vision, where the lava purified and cleansed me of obscurations. In the dance, I became large in the space of the earth’s core, almost like I was a baby pressing inside a mother’s womb. At the end of the session with the Reiki master, she offered to empower me with a Level I Reiki transmission; and I gratefully accepted her offer.

I was deeply affected by this experience with Reiki. Reiki is an energy-healing lineage wherein the Reiki practitioner channels and directs universal energy to invite positive transformation. In my case, transformation on many different levels took place at once. The teacher called on the Reiki spirits repeatedly, asking them to help when she gets “in the way.” She emphasized again and again turning toward light, and doing everything in service to light and love as she channeled the energy of the universe to help me to heal and to thrive.

At the beach, I stayed in Flowing for ages. Even with the excitement of the Reiki-influenced vision, I grew languid and was captured by the weight of inertia for some of the long period of the first low tide.

The very same day as the Reiki empowerment, my five-year-old son, Simon, and I were joined by my uncle and cousin, who would share our final week in Costa Rica. This was a slightly jarring transition, and I found myself irritable, trying my best to be loving and grounded, but not always succeeding. My uncle and cousin are very easy to love, but I noted the depth of the work I had done so far in the month and my aversion to abandoning my own deep engagement. Too, I noted the change in our relationship to the place. It felt like we shifted from being members of the community to being tourists. To make it more challenging, Simon started to act up—absolutely crowding my cousin’s space again and again. The two of them vied to be first, to get the biggest, to be the best, to unlock the door—anything and everything seemed to lead to bickering. My uncle and I have similar parenting styles, but when you are together every minute of every day for several days in a row, even small differences seem huge.

For the day of this long dance, my uncle had Simon and my cousin—his daughter—for the entire day, from sunrise to sunset. They came to see the performance at around 11AM, after I had already been dancing for five and a half hours. By then, one great wave had rolled up and erased the entire rainbow spiral design.

The swells of high tide crashing, swirling and colliding around the cliff island gave me a lot to respond to during the entire phase of high tide; and, despite feeling tired at moments, I became engaged and inspired. Rolling, turning, following the waves, walking the edges: I immersed myself in participating in the dynamic activity around me. At times, the waves coming from the two different sides of the cliff island faced off, crashing into each other, vying for dominance, pulling, pushing, twisting and receding—the soft plane of white salt bubbles moving calmly back beneath a newly presenting wave.


The woman who owns the (spectacular, beautiful) place we were staying, Nosara B&B Retreat Center, appeared during the early stages of high tide. She advised me that a friend and her sister were waiting at the Retreat Center to assist me with the piece. I was, as when my friend’s boyfriend appeared, confused. I had asked my friend if she knew anyone who might assist me with the performance, but since I hadn’t heard back from her, I assumed she hadn’t found anyone. I told the owner to please let my friend and her sister know that I worked it out, and no longer needed help. This was not without torn guts and stooped posture, however. I reflected that every action in the world involves a terribly high risk of causing harm. Self-dislike sparked, as I feared that I had taken people’s time lightly and failed to communicate. Though I realized no one was devastated, it still made me want to repair to a dark cave and live in seclusion.

My contemplation for the month was “Everything is perfect.” Many different takes on the phrase came to mind, but I especially considered the belief that absolutely everything that arises, including very uncomfortable or even painful feelings and events, are part of the exact material that we can use to wake up to our lives. Twelve hours of dancing gave me plenty of time to experience both sacred beauty and afflictive emotions, including self-dislike and the belief that I had caused harm.

My uncle was supportive when I shared this reflection during their visit to the performance. As they were leaving, he said, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” This wish touched me deeply. He also said, “It is great that you are willing to project this out. Not everyone is willing to do that.”

Owing in part to the blazing sun, the dance was more subtle than I had anticipated. I was grateful that I had not promoted it widely. Somehow, even the friends who were determined to come out and support could not find the site and did not, in the end, make it. Overall, the day evolved patiently. At around 2.30, I realized that if I did not sit down in the shade for a little while, I might faint or vomit. My uncle had the keys to the casita, or, to be completely honest, I might have called it a day and gone home. I found a small piece of broken surfboard and used it as a meditation cushion, settling into sitting meditation for over an hour in a tiny wedge of shade cast by a tall cliff. The landscape crawled, alive with hermit crabs, insects and lizards.

Gradually, the sun moved west and flared, illuminating the patient, gliding flights of the vultures—their shadows dancing over the sand. After this rest from exertion, I found another small burst of energy, dancing on the soft sand revealed again by the second low tide, dipping and casting a reverent arm toward the sea. I recalled my uncle’s wish of many hours before, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Slowly, I brought the images of the many people in my life to mind and said to them, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” This was the only time during the day that tears erupted, as I moved softly, fascinated.

July 29, 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.