Take Me to the River

Dancing near the humble Scantic River today, language rolled through me. 

Out on a run, I was drawn to a smooth beach, its surface wrinkled with recent currents. It had poured on Christmas and nearly a foot of snow had melted in a single day of warm temperatures, and the river had overwhelmed its usual path. The water had since receded significantly, leaving me this perfect dance floor. 

I began to move in the rhythm of Flowing, using the shore’s incline to pull me into circles. At the edge of the water, the frozen mud gave slightly, making a subtle crackling sound.

My ten-year-old son, Simon, and I are staying with my parents for two weeks over the holidays, on a short hiatus from our lives in Brooklyn, where fears about COVID continue to impact our lives significantly.

Being pulled along in the direction of the river, I rose up onto a walking path where it was easier to see the surface of the water. I observed that although the main gesture of the water is pressing in a curving line toward the sea, there are infinite sub-gestures. The closer to the edges, the more coils and eddies and interruptions. 

I let this be my musical score, dropping my hips low to spin and loop back, catching the drift of a different current, slowly making my way by curving around fallen trees to greater space on the other side, then getting caught inside another eddy where I whirled for who-knows-how-long before a floating branch came by and shifted me out of my spin.

I reflected on the passing year. On the slow crushing roll of the pandemic and the toll it has taken, on families, on communities, and on the fact that it has killed nearly twice as many people of color as white people. I reflected too on the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery and so many others, and on the protest movements these events have catalyzed. I thought about Simon and his learning pod, a group of four students who meet every day to learn and connect, and of the many challenges of establishing and sustaining this construct. I thought about the six months Simon and I spent living with my parents, of our thriving vegetable garden, of dancing every day in the woods or the yard, and of our nightly dinners, where all four of us lingered long after the food was eaten, talking about social justice and its despicable enemies and challenging each other’s assumptions. I thought about washing floors every day, opening boxes with gloves, masks, alcohol pads, facial shields, and hand sanitizer. I thought about teaching remotely and the challenges and insights it has brought. I thought about sleepless nights and then the explosion when Joe Biden was declared the winner of the US presidential election, when I personally went bananas, and New York City exploded with a brief interlude of unbridled, uncaged, untethered joy.

Flowing, I knew that whatever language came I could watch with curiosity as it passed through my mindstream. That there was no need to write it then or to try to capture it, that whatever arose that was needed would still be there later, when it was time to write.

I smiled, remembering a canoe trip during summer 2020 on this same river with Simon and my father, where we encountered obstacle after obstacle, but were able to work through them, a relief after so many grueling months of daunting uncertainty and countless challenges.

Staccato touched me between the river’s undulating coils, decisive expression arising periodically, then settling me back into circling. It took some time to notice that I was in Chaos, coming so quietly today as it did. I spun and dipped with bits of stories, a softly released head, fragments to write later like bits of broken mirror, watching bits of psyche flash by in the process.

A creative project that knocked at my door for years has found its voice in me, and I’ve been swimming in it for the last several days, in the process of giving birth despite periodic, crippling self doubt and anxiety.

Lyrical had me rising up onto a slight incline, arms raised high and moving around a bigger radius.

Stillness brought me back to the river, and to every river, feeling its currents pass all the way through my body. I remembered another time when I danced with the majestic Hudson River near Garrison, New York. I was on a meditation retreat, and still made time to practice the 5Rhythms every day. On this day, I was going through the motions, uninspired, until something in the river beckoned me, moved me into a different space entirely, dancing with the cool, black density of the river’s deepest channels.

May you thrive in 2021 and always.   

May you give and receive many gifts.

And may your river carry you to freedom,

In every way imaginable.

December 30, 2020, Broad Brook, Connecticut

Rhythm & Reckoning

My earliest memory is of watching a summer parade from our big, second-floor apartment window in Chicopee, Massachusetts with my father. What I remember most was not watching, though. It was what I heard and felt. A passing marching band included a musician with a huge bass drum. When he slammed the instrument, the air vibrated. I was stunned, my little mouth wide open. I could feel the drum through my entire body. 

Gabrielle Roth, the founder of the 5Rhythms practice said, “Rhythm is our mother tongue.” Lately, rhythm is holding me, even during this period of grueling pandemic uncertainty and intense racial reckoning. 

Today I danced the same wave – the same song list – twice. In 5Rhythms, a wave is when we move through each of the 5Rhythms – Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stilness – in sequence.

The first was at high noon, after a long bike ride with my ten-year-old son, Simon, and a period of sitting meditation. I slathered on sunblock and set up speakers in the backyard at my parents’ house in Northern Connecticut, where Simon and I are temporarily staying.

Thoughts circled in my brain as I settled down into Flowing. Thoughts about racial justice initiatives, red tape I need to attend to, the many challenges around Simon’s schooling for the fall, and challenges around my own work, which is also in a school, kept spiking even as I turned attention to the feet again and again, moving in unending circles in the dappled shade of a maple tree on the yard’s edge.

As the flowing songs I had planned ended, instead of a flowing staccato song to transition into Staccato, I put on a thick, twitchy, poetic track that moved me to shake and swoon, a mini moment of Chaos that set the tone for the rest of the wave.

For the second rhythm, Staccato, one of the songs in this playlist was a remix of a Paul Simon song. I thought at length about a conversation about how different songs had impacted different people; and how important it is to listen carefully to lyrics, to research the artists, to understand the context of a song, and to consider it through a lens of racial justice before playing it publicly. I find this remix irresistible, but because of issues of cultural appropriation (which may or may not be valid) with Paul Simon’s work in South Africa in the 1980’s, I would be hesitant about playing it publicly.

Still, I felt ferocious as song after staccato song ran me all over the yard.

Chaos surprised me. When I dance at high noon, I have to be under the shade of the big maple tree, and I’m much more visible than usual to my parents’ neighbors and passing cars. I tend to be less vocal and less explosive. Today, that was not the case. Some potent emotion came gripping my throat and I danced it before I could name it, throwing my head wildly, dropping low, vocalizing, and moving in a wild matrix.

The emotion that was presenting was rage. 

In recent facilitated conversations during this moment of racial reckoning, I’ve tried to talk myself out of this emotion. 

Who am I, a white woman, to feel or express rage now, of all times? At a time when Black and Brown voices should be centered, my place is to listen deeply, to be in service. But then what to do with this emotion, that is boiling over, that is taking over my body? It’s rage toward myself for the times I should have spoken up or taken action against racism but stayed silent. For the times I’ve been unskillful. And for the times I’ve caused harm. 

Back in April, I had a conflict with a family member who wasn’t observing social distancing with my ten-year-old son, Simon, in a way that felt safe for me. And just last week, my sister came to visit with my niece. My niece wanted to see something in the garden, and without even thinking about it, I scooped her up and carried her over the fence, totally disregarding social distancing, and certainly upsetting my sister. I didn’t even realize I’d done it until the next day. 

Some unexamined impulse that felt automatic came up and I just acted. Just like my own family member who I was so upset with. This is part of the inner work for me now, to deeply examine what feels automatic for underlying narratives of racial superiority, and its supportive underpinings. 

This is not only a moral prerogative, but I also stand to personally benefit. Every time I identify and interrogate a story that makes me believe I am in any way separate, I move closer to truth, freedom, and a true sense of belonging.

And this rage that came up in the dance wasn’t just directed toward myself. It was also rage for the systems we are immersed in. For all the times I’ve brought things up and been gaslighted. For what I’ve seen and felt and known as the parent of a child of color. For all the instances of generalized oppression and othering that contribute to and create a basis for racism. 

Who am I to feel all of this? 

And yet I feel it and what to do. Where to put it, where to express it. Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. And this body, that is not separate from all bodies, is in pain. And this pain is problematic, but there it is, searing and tight.

I want to express this and I don’t. I don’t want to bog down collective forums with the individual work that I must take personal responsibility for. And at the same time, I answer to my body, above everyone else, and it is speaking loudly.

I love and respect the activists who are generous, patient, and committed to the long haul. But I’m not feeling that way right now. 

Right now, I want to blow things up. 

I’m tired. I’ve had a front row seat to oppression for too long now, as a white teacher in a segregated public school district; as a human being in a country that voted for Donald Trump; as a practitioner in a Buddhist tradition that basically detonated because of patriarchy and abuse, where I bumped into a wall of opacity again and again. 

Please, please don’t tell me to put it into the practice. For more than a decade, I’ve been putting it into practice. And that has helped me to cope and to gain insight. But it can’t just end with personal practice. Now it’s time to move beyond just my personal reckoning, to a reckoning on a larger stage. To a systemic reckoning.

And all that was just the first wave.

Later in the day, I danced to the same wave. I had planned to join a group of dancers via zoom, but misinterpreted time zones and class invites and wound up on my own instead. I considered having a glass of wine and relaxing with my family, but decided to play the day’s earlier wave and move to it again instead.

Flowing was brief. I thought maybe I could half-ass it a little, cut out some of the songs, sort of move through the motions. I felt bad because my family was finishing up dinner, and I didn’t want the music to disturb them. I was clipped, noting the very hard, dry ground and wondering if I could even go all out without hurting myself. 

Then that same thick, poetic song, which was “Let the Devil In” by TV on the Radio, exploded me again, giving me exactly what I needed – a peek into gigantic, poetic reality, a chance to shake myself to life. I thought about the folk belief of letting the devil in, the idea that you made this mess, you brought this on, you let it in, and I couldn’t help but relate it to American society as I now experience it, and my part in it.

I put on a lyrical-feeling staccato track, Jerusalema, by South African DJ and producer Master KG featuring vocalist Nomcebo Zikode. I threw down in delighted engagement, at times doing my best to replicate the dance I’d seen on a youtube video, moving my hips for four counts, jumping my feet in scissors for four counts, dipping and turning, then repeating the sequence.

In staccato chaos, I fell out to a song by Tribe Called Red, which I’m embarrassed to say I only just learned is an Indigenous Canadian band. I sunk low, rocked hips in a planar experiment, and bounce-paused in rhythmic expression.

Chaos was, again, the centerpoint and critical mass of this dance, seducing me to explode with what I was carrying. I thought Chaos was over after a long, psy trance track, but the next song took me deeper still.

This was also a TV on the Radio Song, this one titled “Happy Idiot” – my version of a shadow lyrical song. It’s about a breakup, but also about shutting down and trying to convince yourself and others that you’re happy when you actually are not. It’s the same song I had put on after a long, formal conversation about racial justice the day before. It was like a demon took me over. I growled from the deep belly, occasionally acting as a “Happy Idiot” and waving enthusiastically, then switching back to a sarcastic rage I wasn’t fully aware lived in my body. 

I put on one of my favorite lyrical tracks, then a beautiful stillness track, though I still wasn’t fully ready to wind down. I could have growled in Chaos for several more hours, but life called me back.

Tomorrow is another day of reckoning, another chance to be whole, another chance to remember that for all of us, rhythm is our mother tongue, calling us back to who we really are, calling us back to our birthright – which is love – and calling us to action.

July 29, 2020

“And someday when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union — whether it’s years from now or decades or even if it takes another two centuries — John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.” –President Barack Obama

“All this dancing is bullshit if we aren’t taking it into the streets.” –Gabrielle Roth

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

(Image: cincinnatimagazine.com)

An Apology

 I would like to open with an apology. 

This is an apology for all the ways that I’ve benefitted from White privilege, for all the things I’ve wittingly or unwittingly done to sustain systems of oppression, for all the times I’ve made myself separate and superior from another human being in my mind, for all the times I’ve been insensitive or ignorant in thought or in speech, for all the times I’ve congratulated myself on being a not-racist without really thinking through or understanding what that might mean, for all the times that I have hurt, disregarded, dismissed or in any way harmed a person of color. 

I’m sorry. 

It is not the responsibility of any Black or Brown person to accept this apology, of course, but I offer it in case it somehow matters.

I remember a time, one of many, when I was taken apart in a conversation by a person of color. He challenged me to both act to end racism, and to be sure to act with precision and sensitivity.  He also challenged me to get past my own ego so I would be able to see more clearly.

On the note of letting go of ego—I thought about an incident that took place during a meditation retreat I was staffing several years ago.  We were sitting on meditation cushions in a group of ten, engaged in a formal discussion about aversion—the Buddhist concept of pushing away what is unpleasant or uncomfortable.  

In response to a comment about the aversive energetic shell humans create to keep ourselves safe, I said, “Well, you know.  It would be one thing if creating a shell actually worked to make us happier or keep us safe. The thing is that it really doesn’t work. If it did I would be all for it, but it doesn’t.” I’m not exactly sure how it was framed, but I said something about, “It’s not like it’s the subway in the South Bronx at 2AM in the 1980’s, when you might actually need a shell around you.”  

A flash of raw anger shot around the circle; and every single person felt it before even a word was said. One woman spoke up, expressing that what I said was racist.  

Man, that hurt. Shame of the most intense possible quality flooded me. My heart started beating like crazy. My partner of many years at the time was a Black and Latino man. We had shared hundreds of hours in discussion about racism, ranging through many different levels. Secretly, I had always been terrified that on some deep level I was actually a racist. Though I was afraid, I approached the woman during the next break and asked her to talk with me about her feelings. She was receptive; and after, I understood how she could see my comment as racist.  

This terribly painful experience gave me great insight; and a rush of relief flooded me with another set of powerful chemicals. I realized I had been afraid that there was some essential part of me that was racist. Every other *essentialist part of my psyche had been rigorously interrogated, but this part remained hidden, obscured by shame and fear. I realized that just as there is no essential self; too, there is no essential racism. As I currently understand it, racism is a process—a process that affects every single person who lives in this culture. Fundamentally, it is our flawed human tendency to separate the world into “us” and “them” that lays the foundation for racism, not an intrinsic hidden evil; though there is no denying the virulent intensity and complexity of racism as it now functions. 

This understanding of racism as a process helps me to feel like improvement is possible. Rather than overcompensating to make up for my inner fear that I’m a racist, or getting defensive and unable to listen and learn, or stepping onto a liberal soapbox, I can then humbly recognize that I have a lot to learn and set about learning it.

It would be impossible to overstate the importance of these insights for my personal path; and I am deeply grateful to the woman who called me out. Even my firmly-held idea that I was a not-racist was limiting my perception of reality, and, as such, needed to be interrogated, as much as any other part of me, in the interest of uncovering the deepest truth and the cognitive biases that block me from seeing the truth. 

From a practice perspective, so much of my training–both in meditation and in the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation practice–has been about building up the capacity to stay with discomfort. Being able to stay with discomfort, rather than doing the infinite things we do to try to escape it, is a key skill for being able to encounter ourselves and others in a meaningful way, and to interrogating even the deeply guarded biases that keep us ignorant.

Being able to stay with discomfort also seems like a key skill in this moment of reckoning, of examining and challenging four centuries of racism and oppression in America.

On a different day, I might have found a way to rationalize or diminish my fellow participant’s outrage, but thankfully this time my practice training served me and I was able to stay with discomfort, in this case agonizing shame, to engage in a process of inquiry.

Moving forward, I am a committed White ally to Black and Brown people, and an activist for social justice. I acknowledge that in stepping up, I will sometimes misunderstand and get it wrong. I promise to listen with receptivity, especially when I have misunderstood and to do my best to repair any harms I cause. But I won’t let my fear of messing up or of seeming like a racist or of stepping on someone’s toes keep me from acting and from stepping up in the best way that I can. 

I step up not as an authority whose opinion has special weight because of the color of my skin, but as a humble collaborator, to examine my own biases, and to partner in the critical work of dismantling the structures of oppression in our hearts, minds, institutions, and policies.

Our humanity is at stake now. It’s the least I can do.

*As you probably know, from the perspective of some Buddhist philosophy “essentialism” is the belief that there is a separate and definable “self” and too, implies that reality has some logical coherence or definability.

Photos: lakeviewnews.com, nydailypost.com

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

I Won’t Die From Being Uncomfortable

I’m on a train headed home after a late night out in NYC. A man halfway down the train is trying to catch my eye. There are 20 or so people on the train, all of them apparently people of color except the one white man who is trying to catch my eye.

I didn’t have language for this kind of experience until I saw a retrospective of the artwork of Adrian Piper at the New Museum in 2000. Piper is a Black artist who was often mistaken for a White person. She created small index-size cards that start with the text, “Dear Friend, I am black. I am sure you did not realize this when you made/laughed at/agreed with that racist remark…” She handed the cards out when White people mistook her for a White person and tried to team with her, setting Black people up as an “other” and making racist remarks. I love to picture her handing these out, for example on the subway.

Perhaps like this man, who seemed to be trying to connect with me for the simple reason that we were the only two White people on the train, perhaps trying to team with me to create an affinity that made him feel like he was separate, different from the rest of the train riders.


My core personal practice is the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation. Normally, I dance in a 5Rhythms class once or twice a week and occasionally on my own, but since the start of the pandemic, I dance a 5Rhythms wave every day. To dance a wave is to move through each of the 5Rhythms–Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness–in sequence. 

Yesterday, I felt disheartened and lethargic. The coverage around the murder of George Floyd swirled around in my head and I kept having ideas for things I should do, actions I should take. Memories, regrets, insights, and bits of speeches mixed in my head with the recent reporting. 

I danced a lone 5Rhythms wave in the woods, on the bank of the Scantic River. I couldn’t get traction until I started to move with full attention to the breath in each rhythm. 

In Flowing, I drew air in, emphasizing the inhalation, filling my lungs, letting in as much air as I could take, allowing my body to move in response, circling as the breath fell out. I didn’t think Staccato would be available, but after a time in Flowing I suddenly shifted attention to the outbreath, exhaling with force, pumping my belly, sinking into the knees, exploring the points of the elbows. In the rhythm of Chaos the breath got choppy, sometimes gasping, sometimes fast, sometimes with a forceful exhalation, sometimes briefly held, defying regularity. In Lyrical, the breath stayed just as unpredictable, but got much quieter and softer. In Stillness, the breath was elongated, and also seemed to be coming into and leaving the body through the pores.

Today, after a full day of working remotely and spending time outdoors with my ten-year-old son, Simon, I decided to set up speakers and dance a wave in the backyard of my parents’ house, where Simon and I are temporarily living.

Before I started, my mom took a picture of me taking a knee, a gesture inspired by NFL football player Colin Kaepernick’s controversial action of taking a knee before a game to acknowledge the continuing deaths of Black people at the hands of white police officers, and to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement. I planned to post the image in my school community.

I remembered something that happened in a classroom several years ago. I was co-teaching with a Black Haitian-American woman; and the class was entirely composed of Black and Brown high school students. Something we read led a student to express anger about White people and their racist actions. 

Everyone cringed a little and looked at me. I was the only White person in a room of 20 or more people, and they thought I would take it personally. “Guys, listen. Don’t worry about me. Seriously. I am just one White person in a roomful of Black and Brown people. It is totally ok if I’m uncomfortable. Sometimes things come up that might make me feel uncomfortable. I won’t die from being uncomfortable. Everyone should feel free to discuss their feelings and opinions here.” 

Looking back, it’s crazy that just one White person could have so much impact–a manifestation of White privilege. Back then I didn’t have that language, but I knew what was happening felt wrong, and that I didn’t deserve to have so much impact on the discussion. If I didn’t think to say what I said, I wonder how many voices would have been silenced? I wonder how many children of color in classrooms with White teachers do feel like they have to temper what they say, to hold back their opinion, to account for the sensitive teacher’s White fragility and inability to cope with discomfort? Thank God I had the insight and courage to speak this time. I wonder how many other times I haven’t even noticed?

So much of my practice and my training, both in meditation and in 5Rhythms, has been about building up tolerance to discomfort, being able to stay with what whatever is happening, rather than trying to escape it–in this case it would have been at the expense of discounting and silencing many young voices. It this willingness to be with reality that is needed now, even if it is uncomfortable or painful, as we interrogate the internal and external structures that sustain oppression.

I remembered another classroom incident, this one more recent. A student reacted to a phrase in Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club,” when Chinese American character Jing-Mei’s mother says, “You look like Negro Chinese.” Hearing the passage, the student raised his hand and said, “That seems kinda….racist.” My co-teacher minimized his feelings. “Oh, no, that’s not really racist, it’s just…” 

I don’t even know if you would call this gaslighting because she seriously believed her position. To be fair, she is one of the most dedicated educators I know, and believes she has devoted her life to helping young people. And I guess it’s possible she was trying to protect the student from discomfort or pain. It’s also possible she wanted to avoid discomfort, or that she was just unable or unwilling to see it.

Either way, the student closed his mouth, tightened his jaw, and folded his arms in front of him–even after I indignantly protested. What would a lifetime of experiences like that do to you? What does a lifetime of experiences like that do to you?


In contrast to yesterday’s wave, today’s was loud, energetic, and messy.

A blaring fire siren went off while I moved in Flowing, so I moved with its urgency along with the patient, circling track. 

Today, I had less difficulty than yesterday with the rhythm of Staccato–for me the most variable of all the rhythms. I moved easily, gearing up with purpose. My feet were alive and expressing minute shifts of balance and force. My shoulders came alive and I expanded my zone, taking up more and more space, hopping, double hopping, sometimes adding a punctuated jump up. I was way in a cut, then suddenly the song tore me up and I was sobbing, snotting, thinking about the state of things, and praying to see reality clearly. Ideas for action kept jumping to mind. I needed several staccato tracks today, and went through a huge range of emotions, including anger and growling ferocity during one energetic song.

Chaos kept sneaking in all along, and when it finally broke out in full force, I flung my head around in weighted spinning, sinking low and keeping my arms alive and defiant. I cried more, grateful for the chance to discharge some of the powerful emotions coursing through me.

Lyrical started out extremely fast, at 173 beats a minute. I tried to dance to every single rhythm, melody, and sound, an impossible but engaging attempt. 

I moved for some time to the currents in the air even after the music stopped, reverent.

 As a White person, my role now is to be a ferocious advocate and a humble collaborator, in service to justice and dignity for all people, for my own child and for every mother’s child. 

It’s the least I can do.

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” –Desmond Tutu

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

I Can’t Breathe

Like many, I’ve been preoccupied with the killing of George Floyd and the protests across the nation.

As throughout the pandemic, I continue to do the 5Rhythms dance and movement practice and to meditate, sometimes multiple times a day. 

Yesterday, I had a video call with a group of students; and we discussed the unfolding events in Minneapolis. One student said, “It’s like it was me.” Several students agreed with her. We discussed how among the last words of George Floyd were “I can’t breathe,” and how symbolic that is.

Today, I went for a run. My favorite place to run is in the woods along the Scantic River, near my parents’ house, where my ten-year-old son, Simon, and I are temporarily living.  

I felt the hush of the shade canopy as I turned off the road, with the trees, plants, and animals moving fast toward the full expression of summer. The river was low and muddy; and beaches that are usually hidden by the water were revealed. I stretched through each stride, and ran fast enough for breath to be foregrounded in my awareness. I was alone in the woods, except for two white men I passed who were sort of leaning on a pickup truck, socializing.

I started looking for a good place to dance a wave, which is to move through each of the 5Rhythms–Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness–in sequence. I noted a lovely river beach, revealed by the low water-line, in a grove bordered by gnarled roots. 

I also noticed a path snaking along the water that I had never seen before, as it was concealed by the grass next to the main path, and most of the time is under the water level. I thought about how this moment has revealed things that are often hidden, the deep roots and vast reach of racism coming above the surface at this time.

I’m raised by deeply committed, practical activists who serve on multiple local councils and committees. I shared their belief in democracy, incrementalism, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s idea “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I wasn’t deluded about the continuing ravages of racism on American society, but I really believed that, little by little, things were improving.

That was, until Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Despite countless appalling and egregious abuses against people of color, women, immigrants, and differently-abled people in his personal history and during his campaign.

I started to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t just despite these abuses, but in some cases because of these abuses that he was elected.

And suddenly I had to come to begin to come to terms with an agonizing reality I hadn’t been able to see. And to come to terms with the layers of internal bias, and layers of white privilege that I personally benefit from, including the fact that I couldn’t actually see just how bad it was. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. This country is not solely defined by Donald Trump and the white nationalists he associates with. It is also my country, my progressive parents’ country, the country of countless activists, visionaries, and extraordinary children of color who are rising up into their own power as we speak, including the teens I teach, and my own ten-year-old child.

Back to my run in the woods, and my search for a good place to dance.

I love picking inspiring places to move, and this little beach was calling me. The only problem was that I was slightly visible through the trees to the two men by the pickup truck. I told myself they could barely see me, and that I could just stay a bit to the side. 

Beginning to move in Flowing, I dared to take my shoes off. My feet released on the packed sand, but I remained wary. I stayed in the rhythm of Flowing for a long time, trying to settle in. Throughout, I remained preoccupied with the unfolding events in Minneapolis and other cities. Segments from news stories filtered through my mind. The president’s thinly veiled racist comments. The image of George Floyd, dying under a nonchallant officer’s foot. Activists, leaders, and commentators’ perspectives.

I understand the desire by black protestors to protest, and in some cases to riot, recalling the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “A riot is the language of the unheard.” But another developing angle was that in Minneapolis reportedly a lot of the protesters who were looting and inciting riots were actually from out of town and were white supremacists. 

My mind struggled to find a way to integrate all of this information.

I couldn’t fully gather myself, and I kept wondering about the men by the pickup truck. If they came after me, what would happen if I screamed? Would I be able to talk them out of an attack? I wondered if they were Trump supporters? And what if they thought this kind of dancing was weird and they wanted to attack me? I tried to talk myself out of it. Probably they were perfectly nice. This is a small town, they couldn’t risk raping or killing me because it would be easy to figure out who they are. I noticed the soles of my feet on the ground, I sunk my weight low, and I moved in arcing circles, but still fear kept sparking.

And I am a white woman, who benefits from the privilege of being white. I kept imagining what it might be like for a person of color, to bear this kind of fear and more, not knowing if you could trust someone by the river, perhaps always wondering if someone’s internal hatred would incite them to violence, perhaps always feeling, on some level, unsafe.

I moved into the rhythm of Staccato, lately so available, but today faltering, then started to break hesitantly through to the rhythm of Chaos.

Then, one of the men started clapping. Slow, punctuated clapping. 

Maybe not for me? Maybe for me? 

I thought then that it was crazy to be there without my shoes on. What if I had to run? I stopped the wave I was dancing and put my shoes back on. Quickly. 

I moved down the river path, again connecting with Flowing, beginning with the feet, moving to the ankles, the knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows, and head. As I moved in this second round of Flowing, I mapped out an escape. I could wade across the shallow river, run through the trees and brush on the opposite bank, and tumble out onto the road if anyone tried to go after me, even if they threatened me with a gun.

I watched all of this. This explosion of fear. This developed escape plan. And part of me recognized that it is arising from my own psychology. And another part of me recognized that sometimes people do attack, sometimes fear is totally valid and necessary. Which is especially true if you are a black person in America. If you have watched people who look like you callously murdered. If someone in your family has been abused or killed by the police. My fear was real, and I kept empathizing with what a person of color might be feeling now, might feel at any time.

I moved into Staccato, still hyper-vigilant. At a certain point, I moved into a very energized state and started slaying invisible demons, but for most of the time, I stayed in a slow groove, trying to gather myself into some kind of storm, but unsure of how to direct myself. 

Chaos was a nominal release.

Lyrical was brief.

In Stillness, I listened to the sounds of wind moving the leaves. Often, by this point dancing in the woods, I’m subsumed by the energetic world, but today I continued to be ready to run if necessary. 

I sat down on the sand to meditate, allowing myself the space to sink in. I noted the many shifts of awareness, and that I kept coming back to the developing events in Minneapolis. 

As a human being, I am heartbroken and concerned. As the parent of a child of color, I am enraged and afraid.

Watching news coverage of high energy protests in cities across the country, including in my own neighborhood, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I pray for the safety of the protesters, I pray for the safety of my own child and of every mother’s child, and I pray for change. 

I offered a talk to my students about how proud I am of them for the work they have done around empathy, for being able to take different perspectives, and while I was dancing realized an error in my timing. 

This is the not the time to praise people of color for developing empathy and awareness of interdependence, but a time for all people, including people like me who benefit from white privilege, to demand change in our structures, and for racism, and its roots in the belief that human beings are separate and distinct, rather than unfathomably connected, to be interrogated in every heart and mind, and exorcised from our structures and policies.

In the words of one of our many great civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his last Sunday sermon at the National Cathedral just days before he was assassinated, “The time is always right to do right.”

May 31, 2020

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

(Photos from CNN.com and NBCNews.com)