Finger Pointing Instructions

The movie brought both of us to tears. It was the 2009 “Where the Wild Things Are” and my 12-year-old son, Simon, and I couldn’t believe that we had somehow missed it – given our shared love of the same children’s book. Near midnight, Simon sat with his head resting on me, crying the spilled-over tears of a full-heart, and perhaps a backlog of other experiences. Tears poured down my cheeks, too. Where the Wild Things Are

The previous day, I’d heard an interview with a religious leader who argued against classifying anything as “spiritual.” It got me to thinking about what “spiritual” means to me, and why I might (or might not) choose to define anything as spiritual. 

As I sat in the quiet dark, holding my soon-to-be-teenage child, and flowing with him as strong emotions arose, I felt we were sitting in a rain of golden oak leaves and light. That a portal opened up, and there was nothing but this very moment. That I couldn’t imagine how it could ever be possible to love a human being more than I did in this moment.

If “spiritual” is a thing for me, it would have to encompass this moment. 

To me, “spiritual” means recognizing and collaborating in beauty. And by beauty, I mean what’s real and alive, even if that means broken, messy, awkward, or complicated.

In the Zen Buddhist tradition, it’s said that you can point at the moon with your finger as a way of providing teaching, though the pointing can never be the actual moon. Here are 100 finger pointing instructions toward what “spirituality” might be:

  1. Sitting with my brand-new, tiny son in the early hours of morning, watching a train glide by the window, watching the moon, watching snow glitter on the branches near the window
  2. Sitting with my 12-year-old son as he empties his heart, connecting with what matters most to him, and working through what has challenged him in recent months
  3. A snowy owl on the dunes at Riis Park Beach that twists its head around, then lifts off in expanded flight low along the beach
  4. Catching my mom in a hug as tears well up in her eyes, seeing her gratitude for the people who are alive, present, and joyful at this year’s family Easter celebration, and her grief for those who are no longer with us
  5. Practicing the 5Rhythms in community in a friend’s class, feeling inspired, exhausted, creative, alive, aggrieved, hopeless, and motivated all in just two hours time
  6. Meditating in the pre-dawn hours as light seeps into the sky
  7. The Rocky Mountains
  8. Exquisite cheese
  9. Having candlelight breakfast every day
  10. Running and diving into the ocean, then doing butterfly timed with the swelling waves
  11. My grandfather making the sign of the cross every time he stepped into the sea, then floating on his back with his ankles crossed, staring up at the blue sky
  12. My sister’s extraordinary ability to animate puppets with breath
  13. Having clear closets and clean weekly systems
  14. My father’s commitment to meaningful civic action
  15. My mother’s commitment to disrupting the status quo in favor of beauty and human dignity
  16. My uncle’s tireless work to create a community health center
  17. Beach glass
  18. Dancing with the sea
  19. Poetry
  20. Song swelling in the body then expressed as vibration
  21. Fireflies
  22. Dancing with fireflies
  23. Having a fuzzy caterpillar crawl across your bare foot
  24. Eating burritos on the top of a mountain with my brother
  25. The ocean at night
  26. A story that makes me ache
  27. A joke that gets wrapped around four times, including everyone in the humor, yet impossible to re-tell
  28. When your best friend answers your text right away and sends an emoji that perfectly matches how you’re feeling
  29. The joy of wonderful-smelling deodorant
  30. When linear time loosens its grip and you are free to move through multiple dimensions
  31. The first garden tomatoes of the season
  32. Falling in love more after you break up
  33. Getting to know your grandfather more after he transitions to after-living
  34. Petals blowing all over my Brooklyn street in early spring
  35. Missing the train
  36. Snow under streetlights
  37. Daylight savings when it means more daylight
  38. Daylight savings when you’re forced to return to the austerity of winter
  39. My spirit entourage
  40. Being somewhere no one can catch you in their gaze
  41. Being in front of an audience
  42. My mother’s love of rich pattern
  43. The densest, coldest, deepest part of the Hudson River
  44. Protected space
  45. Parking tickets
  46. Patient attention with no agenda
  47. Being reprimanded by your boss
  48. Speaking your truth
  49. Cutting through bullshit
  50. Going on a hike with a big group of people you barely know
  51. A reflective glacial lake with no boats
  52. Portals
  53. Ley lines
  54. The movie E.T.
  55. When smell opens memories
  56. Bedtime routines
  57. Singing to my son
  58. Singing with my Dad (even when he gives me evil eye if I’m off key)
  59. Straining to sing a lyric
  60. Resonating and singing a challenging lyric with ease
  61. Singing publicly
  62. Singing alone
  63. The incense and candles at Catholic church
  64. The sound of rivers
  65. Horrific boredom
  66. Poorly fitting underwear
  67. Purring
  68. Puppy enthusiasm
  69. Holidays when no one gets too drunk
  70. Meditating on the beach in the early morning
  71. Snow angels
  72. When your mind gets so quiet you can hear energy
  73. When your eyes get so quiet you can see molecules
  74. Traffic jams
  75. Dancing while in labor
  76. Dancing to integrate failure
  77. Dancing to remember your place in things
  78. Dancing everywhere
  79. Owls
  80. Snowy owls
  81. Did I mention owls?
  82. River spirits
  83. Card games
  84. Scrabble
  85. Dancing the grief of spirits
  86. Dancing with birds in flight
  87. Dancing your relationships
  88. Dancing your life cycles
  89. Sleeping through the entire night and remembering your dreams when you wake up
  90. Turning off the flashlight and walking through pitch black woods at night while listening to owls, wolves, and stars
  91. Clear water in glass bowls
  92. When someone paraphrases you so well they show you something you didn’t realize you said
  93. Avocado with lemon
  94. Having somewhere with a beautiful view to write
  95. Community
  96. Ferocity
  97. Integrity
  98. Mindfulness
  99. Vision
  100. Love

In the beginning I didn’t think this would be anywhere near 100 items, but I felt happy and playful as the list grew.

I do very much believe there is value in setting up “spiritual” practices and spaces. The sands of our daily lives are so quick to bury anything that isn’t on our daily task list that it is essential to intentionally create space and time for spiritual work.

But that doesn’t mean anything in our experience should be excluded. On the contrary, there is nothing that can’t be seen as part of our “spiritual” life, as food for our spiritual growth, as an opportunity to step more fully into this wild dance of love.

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 and videos courtesy of the writer.

Image is a still from the 2009 movie “Where the Wild Things Are”


A Prayer

Tap Tap. Tap Tap Tap Tap. Tap Tap.Tap Tap Tap Tap.

When I heard this sound I had already danced a 5Rhythms wave on the snowy bank of the Scantic River and was sitting cross-legged inside the circle of snow that had been packed down by my dance. I was offering thanks and saying a prayer for 5Rhythms teacher Mati Vargas-Gibson, who is terminally ill at this time.

I got back up from my seated pose, and moved in the rhythm of Staccato, dedicating the dance to Mati, someone I have never gotten the chance to know aside from a few digital interactions, but who I have very much admired and have hoped to one day connect with.

I moved with my exhalations, listening carefully for the woodpecker who was making this gorgeous pattern, hammering away at a tree on the other side of the river–measured and persistent. In no rush and clear on her objective. Confident that if she kept at it she would find what she was looking for.

Earlier I had parked by the road and hiked in–breaking the surface of new snow as I made my way to the river.

I wandered around looking for the most inspiring spot to dance, eventually finding myself in a small clearing on the river bank. Beginning to move in Flowing, I noticed a lot of work ideas coming and going, sometimes hanging on for long trains of thought. My feet moved without friction on the snow. As the snowfall got heavier I tried to watch one flake at a time as they cruised to the ground, but soon gave up and surrendered to being part of this quiet crowd of endings and beginnings.

Back to the dance with the woodpecker, her clear patterns became more erratic. I followed her, loosening, coiling, still moving to the beat she was tapping out but giving up on trying to understand it, giving up on finding a way to translate it, just spinning and quivering and falling and rising.

As Lyrical descended I remembered my hands, and noticed the sensation of the soft ski gloves on my fingers. My perspective widened. I heard the gurgling sounds of the river and identified the water obstacles that were giving rise to them. I also noticed the complicated patterns of ripples on the river’s surface and began to move with them.

In Stillness, I was porous, moving with infinite patterns now, grateful to the woodpecker for providing a rhythm to move with, for reminding me that all of existence can be read as a score for our dance.

Blessings to you, Mati. Thank you for your many gifts. May your memories rest lightly at this sacred time. And may your wisdom and teachings live on. 

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 and videos courtesy of the writer.

What Just Happened?

“What just happened?” my entire nervous system seems to be asking. My son, Simon, just completed elementary school, I just finished up the school teaching year, and we just moved homes. 

Moving day was in the high 90’s and extremely humid, and by early afternoon I had heat exhaustion. My eyes were strained to the point that it hurt to look sideways. I pushed on regardless, telling myself that somehow it simply had to happen. By evening I felt like I was spinning off the surface of the earth. 

I managed to get a small air conditioner from the old apartment to the new one and up the stairs to the third floor, then shut the door to one of the bedrooms and cranked it up. I stripped down and stretched out on a bare mattress, hoping a rest would re-set my system. My skin felt hot to the touch; and I was trembling and throwing up. Logically, it seemed likely to be a combination of de-hydration, heat exhaustion, and anxiety, but I felt like I was dying. I wondered if I might have a brain tumor, a stroke, or some other terminal malady; and went on long thought trains trying to decide if I should go to the emergency room. 

I woke up the next day feeling better but still shaky. I walked into Home Depot in Bed Sty and realized that it was hard to see anything at a distance. This is most likely because my eyes are going downhill, but I got scared again. I could feel adrenaline spiking and flooding my body’s systems. I managed to calm down and get what I needed, but I still felt vulnerable. I spent the day building closets out in the new apartment and drinking liter after liter of water. Despite my precautions, I started to feel extremely weird again by late afternoon.

My sister, a marathoner and iron man athlete, has been heat exhausted countless times, and has also suffered from at-times crippling anxiety. “I’m really sure you’re ok. This is what anxiety does. You think you’re dying. Even if you logically know you aren’t. It’s fight or flight.” I found this reassurance immensely helpful. I also spent some time slowly breathing out for longer than I was breathing in, which helped to calm my overstimulated nervous system. 

Simon was with my parents so he could be shielded from the chaos of the move and I could be freed up to work efficiently. We moved into the apartment we are just leaving as he was taking his first steps; and now, ten years later, we are leaving as he gets ready for middle school. My priority was to arrange his room so it would be inviting for him when he first walked in and this kept me going even as stress hormones continued to flood me.

On the fourth day, I decided to do one more trip to the old apartment to rescue a box of drawings I had decided against; and I found that I had also forgotten my checkbooks and the hardware for Simon’s bed frame. 

I had the odd feeling that we were a receding tide in this place. In the front of the building, I said good bye to my favorite tree. As tears heaved up, I circled its trunk with my arms, thanking it for watching over us all these years (and very much hoping no one was noticing this display of emotion).

I did not practice the 5Rhythms for these four active days, or the two days previous – an unusually long break in practice.

On the afternoon of the fourth day I left to travel to my parents’ house in northern Connecticut and re-unite with Simon. 

Last year during the first stretch of the pandemic, Simon and I stayed with my parents for 6 months. During that time, I made it to the woods and to the Scantic River most days, and often danced in nature, in solitude, and in relative silence. In winter, the river flowed along with only the bare trees as witnesses. In early spring, the water level was high and the water flowed rapidly. By late summer, the banks had widened and the river had shrunk down to a small stream.

Last summer was the first of many years that Simon and I didn’t travel; and it turned out that this opened an unexpected door. 

To my immense surprise given many years of poor credit, I was able to buy a place in Brooklyn – something that had never seemed like even a remote possibility. This was because of a brief buyer’s market when many flocked away from New York City, the fact that I didn’t spend thousands of dollars on summer travel, and the support of many friends and family members.

Today, following a torrential rainfall, the river was swollen, fast, and muddy. I ran on a loop trail, then decided to do a 5Rhythms wave – that is, I decided to dance through each stage of the 5Rhythms practice: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. The ongoing light rain intensified, but I found a spot on the trail that was sheltered by tree cover. 

I thought I would just dance a two minute wave, but it opened up once I started moving. There was a slight incline, and I used the feeling of gravity pulling my body downhill to find my way in. I noted the sensations of the moving feet, and took deep breath after deep breath. The rush of thoughts settled much more readily than I had anticipated that it would. 

My experiences from the previous year when I had danced by this same river almost every day came back to support me. 

Today Staccato arrived with ease and precision. I had no problem moving with decisive, clear gestures. The sound of the rain on the tree canopy increased; but I was still shielded and the ground stayed soft rather than muddy. 

Chaos disorganized me. “Faster than you can think,” ran through my head, something Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms, would say. It occurred to me that moving faster than the brain can process proprioception might indeed allow us the opportunity to short circuit our habitual patterns – the things we do again and again to escape discomfort, avoid pain, and reassure ourselves that we exist, that we are separate, and that we will never die.

I thought about how territorial I had been during the weeks leading up the move – no doubt an attempt by my mind to reassert what it knows and relies on. 

The rain got lighter again as Lyrical arrived, and I rose, extending as I stretched my arms upward, casting and arcing around my small dance circle.

Stillness always calls me strongly in this place, and I moved with quiet absorption.

I left the woods and ran back home in steady rain, barely noticing the steep uphill climb, just taking it one single footfall at a time.

July 2, 2021, Broad Brook, Connecticut

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

A Small Shift in Practice

This is where indigenous Podunk people once lived during cold months, where my grandfather loved to fish, and where I’ve brought my ten-year-old son, Simon, to experience the changing seasons more closely. For months, since Simon and I have been staying with my parents in northern Connecticut, I’ve run nearly every day in the woods by the Scantic River, then found a place to do the 5Rhythms dance meditation practice. I’ve loved the flowing river, the soft ground, and the shaded seclusion.

Like many practices, it started with following my intuition, then as it felt right, turned into a daily (or nearly daily) practice. But as the river got summer-low and stagnant, I started to feel less inspired. Still I ran and danced there almost every day, and still I was grateful for this beautiful place. 

For a week or more, dance didn’t feel good. Most of the time, dance feels good. Even when I’m coping with a lot of anxiety, I can often let it go and let go in movement. Sometimes it’s even cathartic. But at times, I don’t feel any better after dancing than I did before I started, and I stay mostly flat. 

I was on such a streak. 

Thankfully, after over a decade of practice, I know what to do when it doesn’t feel good: keep practicing regularly, embrace whatever arises (even if it sucks), and remind myself that the magic always comes back eventually.

Yesterday, instead of turning right to head down the big hill to the woods and river, I turned left instead. This time, I ran one house down, then turned into the athletic grounds behind the town’s middle school. Here, rather than running in the dense, enclosed woods, I ran on a half-mile gravel track surrounding a wide open field. I relaxed, pausing frequently to gaze up and take in the open sky. After the first loop, I changed direction, so more of the time I would be facing the widest open space. 

Practice is always a mix of discipline and flexibility. The teachings of Staccato teach us to apply intention and energy to our work, including holding our own feet to the fire in daily practice. The teachings of Flowing support us in following our intuition, and in being flexible and attentive to our own needs. As the Buddha taught, if practice is too loose, we could say with only flowing energy, it will not be effective. If practice is too rigid, we could say with only staccato energy, it will not be effective. It takes a balance of both of these energies to avoid stagnating or developing unskillful habits.

After four loops around, I decided to dance a 5Rhythms wave – which is to move in sequence through each of the 5Rhythms of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. 

I found a tucked away inlet of cut grass, off to the side of the field where there was a small platform for outdoor exercise like sit-ups. I stepped up onto it, immediately liking the low friction feel of the wood-like material, and sinking into the circling movements of Flowing. I sank low and swung my hips over the edge, moving in a big arc, curving up onto one heel and back in the other direction, with a gesture like an athlete coiling a heavy discus. 

I felt no rush to move into the second rhythm of Staccato, instead feeling like I could keep doing this gentle circling all day. Eventually, the rhythm of Staccato did break through just as the humidity shifted to a thick, slow rain that rattled the leaves like a percussion instrument. The sky remained light and blue on the other side of the field as I moved with sharp edges and exhalation, sinking low in the hips, emphatic with my elbows and the outside ridges of my hands. Next I moved in Chaos, briefly, gently, my gaze flopping around and rushing through clouds, grass, trees, my own feet, my own hands, the blue edge of sun, a bit of a house across the field.

Then, for the first time in over a week, the rhythm of Lyrical visited. Lyrical is like a bird on your shoulder. If you make a loud noise or look directly at it, it flies away. If you stay porous and move gently, it might stay there and coo, maybe even dancing along with you. I fell upward into extensions, turning my smiling face to the sky again as I raised my hands up.

For a short time I moved with everything – the spirits of the woods, the rain, the changeable sky, the breathing trees.

There was something in me that needed to let in space this time. Maybe I will return to the woods. Or maybe dancing in the field will become a new practice. I don’t take ending the woods practice lightly. At the same time, I don’t need to cling to it if it is no longer serving.

Then a jogger joined me on the other side of the field and I knew it was a matter of time before she was right beside me on the gravel track. Not wanting to shift into being verbal just yet, I climbed down from the platform and walked back home in the attitude of walking meditation, loving the sensation of each foot touching down, feeling alive and reverent.

Walking, I barely thought about the difficult question of whether or not I will send Simon back to school in September. I barely thought about my own teaching job, and what the school’s hybrid teaching plan might look like. About the new science that’s showing that COVID may have significant long-lasting impacts and that people who die of it are riddled with blood clots. About how children may be vulnerable. About how having the disease once may not provide immunity. Notably, I barely thought about our foul, inept, self-serving president and all the blood he has on his hands. And I even took a break from thinking about the intricacies of racism in our country, and what would need to happen to eradicate racism, patriarchy, and all oppression, including what I could personally do to have an impact.

I just walked slowly along, stopping once to eat a wild blackberry, then making my way back home.

Individual practice is keeping me alive. Truly. But at the same time I recognize the need for collective work that goes beyond just working on ourselves. Inner work is absolutely critical, but if practice is just there to make us feel good, then it’s not practice. It is actually a sedative, a conditioned habit. 

Practice is a tool to pierce through layers of illusion to the radical, shining truth, even if it is politically inconvenient, uncomfortable, challenges our personal views, or challenges existing power structures. I’m extremely grateful when practice feels good, but hope I can push myself toward the truest truths, even if it doesn’t feel good sometimes.

Later in the day, I brought speakers outside and danced in the yard. To my surprise, I again moved with engagement. In Flowing, I moved with a circular swing in the yard. I dipped low, rolling it around my hips and moving in a big circle around it, at times moving toward it and falling, then rising and arcing away. At first, my arms followed my body like sea kelp, but soon, I started holding the swing and pulling it to its curving edge, then falling back into circling. In Staccato, I stayed in the shade of a big maple tree, feeling creative and vibrant, finding new ways to rise and fall, advance and recede, and work with the kinetic energy of the moving hips. Chaos challenged me to explode and release, and I let my head go and moved in a fast matrix, going all out. I was surprised that I had two long Chaos songs in a row in the playlist, but decided to go with it, telling myself to release and release and release further.

A chaos-lyrical song started and I bounded over to the computer to change it, putting on one of my all-time favorite tracks instead of the one I had planned. Lyrical overtook me; and I found a whole new category of movement. This time, pointing a leg and rushing into one direction while leaning back from it, and somehow a wild skittering with the other leg covering 10 or 15 feet in a gushing, joyful gesture, then bounding, leaping and twisting, all with my face tilting upward, smiling.

I have no idea what’s coming, but I suspect that for some of us, this might be a blessed interlude, a raging storm’s quiet eye. I hope I can settle into it, be available for joy if it visits me, step up to help dismantle injustice in ways that are skillful and collaborative, and love the people around me to the best of my ability.

That’s the best I can do for now. 

June 16, 2020, Broad Brook, Connecticut

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

Facing Real Obstacles

“I think I have to get out,” I said as my Dad, my ten-year-old son, Simon, and I sat in a stuck canoe on the Scantic River.

I climbed onto the slippery, protruding section of the log that was blocking us and tried pushing. The canoe remained stuck. I instructed Simon to get out too, then balanced my way to a spot on the limb that had an extra branch where we could hold on to balance and exchange places. My Dad shifted from the back of the canoe to the front and leaned heavily backward, trying to lever the canoe over the tree trunk that was blocking our passage while I pushed and tugged. Eventually, it shifted. I squatted low, and held my hand out to Simon so he could creep down the log back to the canoe, then let go of his hand and climbed in myself.

The river was extremely low for canoeing. Normally, my Dad shared, the river is cleared by local parks officials every spring, but it seems like they took this year off as our path was riddled with downed trees. 

For the past few days, I’ve been anxious. My work is teaching; and most years by the beginning of July, I’m finally starting to unwind and relax. This year, I’m having the opposite experience. I kept telling myself if I could just get Simon and I through the school year, summer would be waiting for us like the promised land. I also thought that if we could all just isolate for three months, we would move through the worst of the pandemic, and then we could return to life safely.

But it’s been over three months, and the pandemic is still raging. Even in places that have “flattened the curve,” as in New York City where Simon and I live, there are still significant new cases daily. And though there is no end in sight and many states have precipitous increases in cases, the president insists that we need to get back to driving the economy so he can get re-elected in November. 

I can’t even begin to imagine what the fall might look like. I’m worried about how vulnerable I’ll be if I’m back in a classroom. I’m worried about how vulnerable Simon will be if he’s back in a classroom. I’m also worried about how Simon will do if he’s not back in a classroom. I’ve even wondered if I should consider leaving NYC and starting a new life entirely. 

In addition, like many, I feel called to action as the movement for racial justice sweeps across the nation, and at once feel the need for deep listening and introspection. The need to lean into this work while there is a window of opportunity creates a sense of urgency, at the same time the need for inner work creates a need for patience. This alone would make for a challenging – though absolutely essential – period, never mind dealing with the ongoing pandemic.

The obstacles to dismantling centuries of racism and oppression feel overwhelming at times. It’s hard to even know how best to define the obstacles, or rather, the complex, overlapping processes that sustain racism, let alone set about overcoming them.

On the river, for this one day, it was a relief to encounter tangible obstacles we could move through and leave behind us. 

Since March when the pandemic started, I’ve practiced the 5Rhythms – a movement meditation practice created by Gabrielle Roth – nearly every day, occasionally in zoom classes, but most often on my own. Most of my dances have been characterized by strong engagement, but in the last few days, movement has been uninspired. I’ve been practicing for long enough to know what to do when practice goes flat: continue to practice regularly, accept whatever arises, and remind myself that the magic always comes back eventually.

Most days, I dance in the backyard, where I can freak out without stressing my knees and joints. Yesterday, the sun was beating down, so I wore a baseball cap and moved in and out of the shade, from the patio where the speakers and computer were set up, to the farthest part of the yard, which is well-shaded by trees. The oppressive heat and humidity might have been a factor, but I kept losing heart. I didn’t want to play any of my favorite songs – the ones that always cause me to explode in dance – since I wasn’t sure I could lift off and was afraid to ruin the songs’ power to move me in the future. 

I moved diligently through the entire wave regardless. When I felt a twinge in my lower back, I leaned forward to stretch out my hamstrings. When the wave – that’s when you move in sequence through each of the 5Rhythms of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness – concluded, I spent some time stretching in silence, feeling less flexible than usual and noting many aches and strains.

“Dad, when is the landing coming?”

“Oh, I think we must have passed it,” my Dad said as we navigated yet another seemingly impassable obstacle in the river. 

Simon and I have been with my parents in northern Connecticut since March when the pandemic started in our region, and finding ways to keep him productively engaged has been a challenge. Our plan was just to see if we could get the canoe to the river, and paddle a short distance as a test run. The canoe had not been used much in the last several years, but it seemed like something we could do to entertain ourselves during the summer doldrums. 

Unfortunately, we missed this first landing and had no choice but to take on a much bigger adventure than we’d signed on for.

I pulled out the phone out of its ziploc bag, opened the GPS, and squinted, trying to make out our location. 

“I think we just have a few squiggles in the river, and then we should come to a road. But do you think we should turn back?”

Simon loudly insisted, “Turn back! I vote we turn back!”

My Dad assured us that it would be much harder to paddle back upriver than to continue until the next landing, so after a brief period of discussion we decided to continue in the same direction.

A dragonfly with a shimmery turquoise body and black wings twittered into the boat. Simon screamed and jumped reflexively from his seat on a wooden crossbar in the middle of the canoe, stepping his weight to the side of the boat and nearly tipping us over. “You can’t freak out now! It puts us all in danger! You are going to have to keep it together,” I said sternly. Simon shifted back into his seat and tried his best to work with this mandate.  

We continued to paddle and work around fallen trees, rocks, and shallows, with Simon and I paddling in sync, and my Dad steering in the back and calling out instructions.

In addition to dancing every day, most days I run down a big hill from my parents’ house, and around a trail loop in the woods, sometimes several times. 

Then I find a place to dance. Yesterday, I chose a spot on the sandy path near a gurgling section of river. The speed of the current here as it churned over a section of rocks heartened me, as many other sections have slowed and stymied with the summer heat and low water level.

I drew a circle in the sand to dance inside of, then imagined that I invited the guardians of the four directions, along with my ancestors, deities, teachers, guides, and spirit animals. I moved in the rhythm of Flowing – the rhythm of receptivity, listening, and grounding – at great length, taking in my own ill ease and unrest. I wasn’t sure I would ever break through to Staccato – the rhythm of action and directed intention, but eventually it did appear, if briefly. I noted a mild headache as I released into the rhythm of Chaos, bouncing gently back and forth. Lyrical today was a mere formality. The final rhythm of Stillness moved me to notice the woods, trees, and thriving green life, though still I remained subdued. 

Over a decade of 5Rhythms practice, particularly practice in the rhythm of Chaos, has helped prepare me to deal with uncertainty, but lately it has been uncomfortable. I know that if I can just relax into it the deadening anxiety will release, and I’ll be left with just raw fear and grief, but there are still so many decisions to make, so many factors to weigh, so much information to evaluate. 

Part of me thinks something is wrong, and wants to make these feelings go away. A wiser part of me understands that however I feel is fine, and will eventually shift anyway.

Since my mom was planning to pick us up wherever we ended our adventure I tried to reach her, but couldn’t get a signal.

I kept checking the GPS to see if we were parallel to the road yet, but it seemed to be zooming out. I turned off the phone to conserve battery, as we were at just 12%, and stashed it in the front of my shirt. 

There were no houses, picnic tables, other boaters, or signs of life beyond green wilderness. The river was so low that the sides seemed like cliffs, with normally-concealed, gnarled tree roots framing our course. 

“I like this part,” Simon said as we drifted through a clear section with fewer bugs.

I checked the GPS again, and made the alarming discovery that we were moving in the opposite direction from what I thought. I had a moment of panic, especially concerned for my 70-year-old father who has a heart condition and diabetes if we were stuck out in the sun for a prolonged period, though he appeared to be holding up just fine. I tried to reach my mom again, but the call still wasn’t connecting. When the next big insect appeared, Simon broke down crying.

We continued to paddle. “On the left everyone! Let’s try to clear this log!” my Dad shouted as the canoe thudded to a stop once again. This time, I got out, my feet splooching up past my ankles in slimy mud as I pushed the canoe back into movement.

We celebrated as we maneuvered around another tree, this time continuing through a tight spot without getting stuck.

I tried to reach my mom again, but the phone wasn’t even ringing. I tucked the phone away to avoid crashing into the sharp overhanging branches of another felled tree as the canoe sailed under it with the current, then tried one more time.

“Meghan, we should wait until we get somewhere so she doesn’t have to hang around,” my Dad argued reasonably.

“But we’re almost out of battery, and someone needs to know where we are!” I countered.

“We’re going to die!” Simon wailed.

I was finally able to reach my Mom, just before the battery died. And though I was beginning to fear we might have missed another landing, we spotted a bridge with my mom in the middle of it, waving and taking a video.

“We’re still alive!” Simon cried out happily as we rounded this final bend, waving his arms to get my Mom’s attention.

The long list of uncertainties and fears is still there, and continues to dampen my joy in daily practice, but I know that if I keep opening and opening to the uncertainty that is inevitable anyway, I can move through the obstacles that block the river, and move into the future, knowing full well that this uncertainty is just a hyperbole of the uncertainty that is always there in our experiences, lurking at every bend in the river.

July 13, 2020

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