Practice aligns me.
This week, in West Dennis Cape Cod with extended family, my mornings are devoted to practice with the ocean. Today was my earliest start time this week, since many of my family members–including my 12-year-old son–were up early for a deep sea fishing trip. By 7:30, I was walking ankle deep in the waves toward West Dennis Beach.
I treat all parts of this process as practice, which is to say that from the time that I leave the cottage to the time that I return, I do my best to settle into the experience and not press forward, wishing time away. It also means that I show up every day–or nearly every day–regardless of conditions and sometimes regardless of what I feel like doing. For example, yesterday’s forecast was for 100% likelihood of rain. I wasn’t eager to get up early and head out to the sea, but I pushed a little, recognizing that practice means you don’t evaluate it every day; and you don’t allow your mind to have a conversation with itself about the pros and cons. I put my towel in a plastic shopping bag so when I got out of the water it wouldn’t be drenched, and headed out.
Today was bright and high tide was falling. My mom, who is delightful, enthusiastic, walked with me for a while. We paused to interact with a dog, fondly remembering our own dog of many years ago who was mostly the same breed as this one based on our best guess.
After I passed the Lighthouse Inn, I pulled out swim goggles and cap, peeled off the layer I had on over my bathing suit, then dropped my backpack with afterswim supplies on the sand and continued west.
Walking away from the morning sun, I gave my attention to the feet as they fell on the ultra-soft sand, to the sound of the waves, and to my moving body, inviting the shoulders to relax down, the belly to soften, and the hips to deepen in their sockets. Whenever I shifted into a story, a plan, an explanation, an analysis of my body’s symmetry, or an argument for or against my good character, I noted it and gently shifted attention back to the feet when I could so without excessive effort.
At Bass River, the boundary between West Dennis and Yarmouth, I turned my back to the wind and bent over to gather my hair in my hands, then stood up and turned toward the wind to coil it just behind the crown of my head. I put on the bathing cap and goggles, then hesitated briefly, tightening my shoulders against the cold water and wind, then wading in and diving hands first, heading back east.
There was a fierce chop today, and the wind was coming from the southwest, an assist on today’s eastward journey. In a pool, once my attention starts to settle with movement, I move my focus throughout the body. But in the ocean, there is usually plenty to anchor my attention in the present. Today, the waves rolled across me, lifting me up and casting me down, and I had to pay attention to the timing of my breaths to avoid getting a mouthful. The water was ochre and gold, the bottom rippled sand or obscured in stands of seaweed. I noted razor shells, clam shells, one big conch with an animal still inside it, and horseshoe crabs underneath me.
Periodically, I lowered a leg down to make sure I could still stand. I can handle the deep water just fine as a swimmer, but a (somewhat irrational) fear of sharks keeps me close to shore. And I figure if a shark ever does attack me, I’ll have a better chance of survival if I can stand up on my feet and punch them in the nose. I have it all figured out.
That doesn’t stop me from an occasional mounting shark panic, but I try to see even that emergence of fear as another opportunity to work with my mind.
I’ve been doing this swim or a similar swim for over 20 years now. It started back when I actually competed in triathlons, and really took off when my sister was doing triathlons too. Those days are long gone, but I still love long swims in the ocean. At first it was an occasional thing, at any time of the day it happened to fit. Over the years, I noted how much it helps me–not just during the week that I’m doing it but in the bigger picture, too–and became more and more committed to the point that I actually plan around it, even declining the offer to join a deep sea fishing trip with my son, my Dad, and other family members this morning.
That’s just how it went when I started to dance the 5Rhythms 15 years ago. At first it was just a class or two here or there. But within less than a year I was planning my life around attending Tammy Burstein’s Friday Night Waves class in the West Village, and also added whatever additional classes I could squeeze in and every workshop that came up.
Everything changed for me then. I galloped through layers of trauma and learned habitual patterns. Creativity exploded. I was able to connect with people with much greater intimacy. I was more playful. Walking on the sidewalk in Midtown became a game.
I also moved through agonizing stretches of feeling isolated, witnessing my own self abuse, and coping with difficult emotions, but following each period of agony somehow emerged even more committed to practice.
After the wild west end of the beach, I passed the first lifeguard chair: white painted wood with a red number 8 on its side. The wind and waves helped me out, and I continued to note each successive chair from 7 all the way to 1 as I made it the two miles back to my backpack in what seemed like a shorter time than usual.
I moved quickly to the towel, then changed my wet bathing suit for loose pants and long sleeve shirt. I sat for a while in meditation, then decided to do some yoga movements to warm myself up. Once I was warm I sat for longer, in no particular hurry to get on to anything else.
Last night, I danced the 5Rhythms. I walked with some family members, but they headed west and I stayed put. The evening beach was more crowded than I hoped, but I found a quiet-ish corner to practice. The tide was high and I circled up and down from the high tide line as I began to move in the rhythm of Flowing. In this session I made a clear distinction between each of the five rhythms–Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness–as I moved through each of them. I could see my sister, brother, brother-in-law, and niece in the distance, occasionally bending over to gather a treasure, and figured I would dance just until they made it back to me. After moving through each of the rhythms, an internal gear slipped me deeply into Stillness, and I whisper moved with the waves, the horizon, and the soaring birds. Vision tracked energy. I could feel heat rising to my cheekbones and the crown of my head. Chemical releases in my leg muscles set loose a shake. When they were almost back to me, I reconnected with my feet, intending to reconnect with day-to-day reality, though practice had opened the doorway to a different layer.
This morning, caked in sand, muscles awake and stretched, wind making a flag of my loose shirt, hair knotted and half-wet–I could feel my edges softening, recent and past experiences moving through, and my selves gliding into alignment.
Thank you, my beautiful son. Thank you, family. Thank you, ocean. Thank you, Gabrielle Roth. Thank you, practice. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I bow down to the universe, to my teachers, and to this precious life.
August 18, 2022, West Dennis, Cape Cod
Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and recently became a 5Rhythms teacher. She was inspired to begin chronicling her experiences following her very first class; and she sees the writing process as an extension of practice—yet another way to be moved and transformed. This blog is not produced or sanctioned by the 5Rhythms organization. Photos courtesy of the writer.
***For NYC dancers, Meghan has a seven-class 5Rhythms series coming up that starts on October 14, “Spirit Drenched in Gold.” Join a single class or join the full series for a discount. Registration is required – https://spiritdrenchedingold.eventbrite.com
***Meghan also has a five-class online writing/dance 5Rhythms “Writing Waves” class that starts on September 15. Registration is required – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/writing-waves-tickets-397987811257
I didn’t even know snow was in the forecast until I woke up and looked out the window.
Following an in-person yoga class, I wavered on my plan to go to the ocean to dance the 5Rhythms – my Sunday ritual since the beginning of the pandemic. The snow was coming down pretty hard, and it was the goopy, wet kind of flakes. I didn’t have a hat and couldn’t turn one up even after rummaging through the car. In the end I decided I might as well give it a try. If it was horribly uncomfortable I could always bail.
I had made my weekly pilgrimage in less temperate weather than this, I reasoned. Plus, when the weather is horrible, there’s a good chance I can actually be alone, which means I can scream, cry, move like a demon, sing loudly, or allow whatever comes through in a way that I’m unlikely to do if there is anyone around to see me.
In the car on the way, I heard Bulgarian journalist and activist Yana Buhrer Tavanier on the topic of play even in the face of grave circumstances, and carried her words into my practice. I tightened the laces on my snow boots and jogged across the wide sand, pausing to examine whatever captured my attention, allowing curiosity to be my guide.
I noticed a set of footprints and started following them toward a sand dune, talking cheerfully to myself as I roamed.
My eye caught on what I thought was a seagull perched at the top of the sand dune, barely visible with the white snow and white feathers against the white sky. I wondered why this seagull was sitting so upright, not like rubber-ducky posture like seagulls usually sit when they’re resting. This bird was vertical, with dignified shoulders. Could it be an eagle? It was also bigger than most seagulls, and totally white. It didn’t even have an orange beak. Then, she twisted her neck around like it was on a track and I wondered if she might actually be an owl.
I took a few pictures, then crept a little closer, daring to take a video. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Owls seem magical to me – a symbol of wisdom, power, and ancient mystery. She stayed a little longer, then got spooked or maybe annoyed and took off down the beach, gliding low.
I got onto my knees and touched my forehead to the cold, wet sand.
The snow had slowed, but picked up again, landing wet on my forehead and cheeks. I began to move in Flowing around the jagged contours of ended waves. Often, I pick a spot, put my bag down, and even draw a big circle to dance inside of. This time, I let myself move wherever I wanted to, at one point going to examine some thick tangled rope, then reversing course and heading west along the edge of the water. I was grateful to be alone and vocalized loudly, moaning, crying, and even making up songs and poems, then offering them to the sea and the sky.
Today I wasn’t sure which rhythm I was in, I just knew that I needed to move. Streams of wisdom poured through and I gave voice to all of it.
The snow picked up more, to the point that the sea and sky were barely distinguishable.
I climbed up onto the dune, dancing along its spine and looking for evidence of the owl, at one point in Chaos letting myself go while trying to avoid tumbling down either side of the dune.
I walked back across the wide beach feeling tall, striding – despite the cold, despite the winter, despite the state of the world. Remembering my place in things. Heartbroken and free. Grateful. Alive. Ready.
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.
Today is my birthday, so I wanted to do all of my favorite things. After breakfast, my 11-year-old son, Simon, meditated with me for a little while, then I continued to meditate on my own. After that, I joined a zoom yoga class with a beloved master instructor who I’ve been practicing with for more than a decade.
Next, I drove to Riis Park, a wide open beach that’s just 30 minutes away on a light-traffic-day. For much of the drive, I had to keep the windshield wipers on maximum, and I was curious about what dancing in such heavy rain would be like.
On the way, I spoke with my mom, who told me the story of my birth, as she does every single year on my birthday. The details of the story change, but the main theme is always the same. “You are loved. You have always been loved. We loved you before you were even here.” I always feel my heart rise up with a tide of tears. Some years I’ve suffered in the face of this love considering my own self hatred, but this year I said, “Tell me about how tiny I was again and what it was like when you first saw me.”
Arriving at the beach, I sat in the parking lot, writing a list of intentions for the year, and also for the new moon, which happens to fall on my birthday. The one that I liked the best this time was, “Set free what is no longer now.”
Simon had loaned me his waterproof spring coat; and I pulled up the hood and tied the strings around my neck. Droplets hitting the hood kept up a constant pattering sound. I could feel the raw air on the inches of ankle left bare by low socks.
The horizon was obscured by white mist as I made my way across the wide, wet beach. The waves were powerful but the tide was low, leaving a wide section of packed sand for a dance floor. Rain seemed to be coming in hard from the side, and the wind pushed against me almost parallel to the water.
A lone pair of people and a dog were visible in the distance when I first arrived, but before long I was totally alone. Still with the hood tied under my chin, I began to move in big arcing loops, enjoying the pull of gravity as I ascended and descended the steep slope by the water’s edge. A whole rush of words, bits of conversations, and fragments of experiences from the week and month came streaming along. Since I was alone, I sang loudly, moving from song to song as they popped up in my head, continuing to move in big circles. I also repeated the intentions from the list I had written in the car, offering them to the dance and trusting its power, repeatedly saying, “Set free what is no longer now.”
Following this flowing chapter, this opening act of my personal dance, Staccato began to catch in my throat and hips. I let out several cries as I sank low, grateful I could let my voice fly to the wind without fear of being a spectacle.
Before long Chaos moved me into energetic space; and I was coiling and spinning, moving closer to the ended waves, giving attention to the heaving sea as it rose as form then broke apart again.
Lyrical backed me away from the wind, rising onto my toes, arms raising up, and turning my face toward the sky. Wisdom poured through, reminders from the universe about my place in things, about letting go of the small stories that keep me afraid and separate. And gratitude came pouring out. Gratitude for this life, for my work, for my son and family, and for the many blessings I’ve experienced.
There was a lot of crying today. Even from just the past week, there is so much that needs to be processed, integrated, and healed. In a way, the path of a life is a million wounds and a million healings. But I guess that’s only if we’re lucky. I guess that’s only if we are here for it, if we can set free what is no longer now, keep moving with what life brings us, and keep finding new ways to dance.
April 11, 2021, Brooklyn, NY
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
“Dance like this is your last dance,” Ray Diaz, who is teaching this morning’s Sweat Your Prayers class at the Joffrey in the West Village, tells us. “Because you never know when that last dance could be.”
Stepping in to the studio, the room is very full. People are sprawled all over the floor, beginning to stretch and unfurl. A little current of wind turns me right away, and I rise and fall, one hand touching ground the other reaching to sky, my shoulder rolling open and turning me in the opposite direction – big, weighted circles on the ground’s plane and on every diagonal, my head blissfully released.
Ray encourages us to move slowly and softly, and to begin to “fill up the inner reservoir.” I find a spot near the middle of the room and stretch to my full length, rolling over the back of my head, stretching my hips, leg muscles, pressing my chest down to stretch the front of my shoulder. Before long I am on my knees, with a raised leg that crosses behind me and drags me into a spin, sinking to the ground again, coming up onto my shoulder blade and using its momentum to pull back up into my hip and raise my heel high up behind me, undulating back again, and beginning to move toward rising.
Before class, I filled myself with inspiration. I listened to a Buddhist talk on stillness, that included the idea that although the positive behaviors and habits we cultivate are an important part of the path, ultimately, even these are a mask, and if we are to fully wake up, we have to let go of even these positive stories that we tell ourselves. In the morning also, I read some selected excerpts on Dzogchen, a spiritual system that emphasizes opening to bare, naked, luminous, absolute reality, on the spot. Here. Now.
Staccato’s appearance is unmistakable, and Ray encourages us to let go of the hips. The room is wild, expressive. I move around, connecting with many successive dancers, including my favorite dance partner of all time, who I circle in a twittering lasso, my hands grazing the ground as I greet him, entreating him to dance. After my first turn with him, I partner with a young woman who I haven’t seen before, and she teaches me a new way to engage my knees, opening possibilities for moving. “Go even deeper, with breath,” Ray offers. Next, I join with an exuberant dancer who seems to move from her inner thighs. I imagine that I am moving in her body, exchanging myself for her, exchanging self for other.
Chaos appears exactly when it should; and it is everything. Sometimes it is hard work for me to be in Flowing and leave the edges out. I am grateful to be in Chaos, where anything goes, and I can be as sharp as I want to be, as soft, as tense, as released, as gigantic, as minute. The room continues to be dynamic, with some people dancing in a given spot, and others moving quickly around the space. A thought comes and I say “thinking” and return to awareness, moving totally creatively and as part of the entire organism at once. I imagine that I remove my skin, hang it on one of the room’s center columns and dance around in my bones. The outer boundaries of me are not so clear, the other bodies might be my body, too. I dance my friend’s heart, feeling the pain of her heartbreaks, feeling her incredible tenderness, her magic, her power. Chaos and Lyrical dance back and forth with each other as the wave finds its closing expression. In Stillness, cold wind from the window causes a strong sensation on my exposed skin; and I turn to dance with it, beginning with the rocking and bouncing tree branches below the height of the window, then with the wind itself. Turning toward the room again, I move with inner winds that swirl around inside and near my body, especially along the sides of the spine.
After the first wave, Ray pauses us only briefly, not calling us to sit around him, but instead inviting us to stay where we are and just turn toward him for a moment. “We have to dance like this could be our last dance,” he says, “because you never know.” He goes on to say, “I’m going to share something with you. Almost exactly twelve years ago, I lost my wife.” He shares that this tragedy is what compelled him to step over the line into 5Rhythms. He goes on to say, “Hold nothing back. Just give it all you’ve got,” and “I invite you to dance, too, with those who are no longer with us.”
Ray appears to be in a place of humility and strength, of vulnerability and clarity, and capable of transmitting this clarion call, this urgent message, in a way that we can hear. Hold nothing back, his entire self communicates, hold nothing back, you have no time to lose, you might not get another chance to give more, to give better, to give fully, this could be your only chance.
I feel a gasp of sadness rise up into my throat and the woman next to me starts to sob. I don’t know her and I don’t want her to think I’m trying to fix her, but after a momentary hesitation, I reach out and put my hand behind her upper spine. She turns and hugs me, still shaking. She smiles through her tears, eyes shining, mouth closed, and puts her palm on my cheek.
I think of a work colleague who died this summer, young, in a car crash. In a circle discussion at work, we each had a chance to offer our thoughts. “If my time comes,” I said, “I only pray that I have emptied my whole self out. That I have been of service. That I have offered everything that I have in me to offer.” Breath snagged on something inside; and I cried for several aching heaves.
Ray starts the music again, and I check out for a few short moments, then say “thinking” and come back in. Energy flags slightly, I note slight inertia in Flowing. We glance through Staccato and then dive fully into Chaos again. “Release!” Ray cries out from the teacher’s table, and the room explodes. Chaos keeps going and going and going, rings of a tree, going back to its start as a sapling, as an acorn, when the tree was already contained in it. I connect with a dancer I’ve never seen before, delighted by her unique expression. I remember my maternal grandmother and cry, wishing I could have loved her better. I think of my paternal grandmother, who just died this past spring, and how she left in a whisper. Friends of similar age to me who have died come next. My friend Gerard, who died at 36, tells me again, you just have to do it, Meg, just open up, step up, let it in, you don’t need anything but what you already have. Howard, another dear friend, who died just a few weeks before Gerard also comes to mind. When I got the phone call about Howard’s death, I was with my son Simon, then an infant, dancing to the flights of birds from a rooftop pigeon coop who swoop in a rolling loop over Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, while Simon watched me from his stroller, the reflections of clouds rushing over the planes of my eyes, my arms raised and turning all of the planes of me.
As I move through the room, the energetic bodies that extend beyond the skin pass through me.
The sky beckons me. I ache for it. I start to climb up over the ballet bar, but am sure it’s against the rules and withdraw my leg. A new friend seems to think I need help and holds my elbow, unwittingly encouraging me. I know I’m going to get into trouble, but I just have to. I mean I have to, so I climb up over the bar, through the window, onto the cold metal fire escape. I keep my feet planted and soar up into the sky. I think of the Dzogchen teaching of open sky, the principle of space, of unrestricted awareness. My movements are unmoored from intentionality, totally intuitive. Tears pour down my face, drawing around the curve of my chin and neck. I am barely visible, with my back to the bricks, my feet on the cold metal, but a member of the crew spies me and comes and says, “This is not safe. Sorry, but you have to come down from there.” I climb down into the room and continue to move, near the window, to the wind, the sky, with space. I move again throughout the room, whispering through, not separate. I find one dancer sitting in meditation, and lower myself down next to him. Thoughts come but awareness dominates. I reflect that I can wake up fully in this lifetime, that I am destined to, that all of us are. The room is luminous, bodies alive. Ray mixes a tonal track with a recording of Gabrielle Roth, the revered creator of the 5Rhythms practice, speaking. She says, we believe that if we keep dancing, over years and hundreds of dances, we can shed what doesn’t serve, we can let go of what no longer serves. Tears are a river down the whole front of me.
Ray brings us all into a circle that completely fills the spacious studio, and enacts a closing ritual that allows each person to be heard and seen, re-membered after having been shattered and scattered and taken apart during the course of this Sunday morning 5Rythms class.
If this was my last dance ever, I know that I stepped up with everything I had to give. What else is there, really? Nothing but boundless love, the cessation of all that blocks it, and the chances we are given to live it. Nothing but this tiny life and what we choose to fill it with. Ojala, gods-willing, let me choose well, let me not die wishing I hadn’t held back during my very last dance, let me empty out my whole heart first, in service and in love.
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher. Unedited Image “Riskall” copyright Meghan LeBorious
“I think we’re here to learn to be calm. And gentle. And also to be fast. And to notice things.”
-Simon, age 7
Have I mentioned recently that I adore my son? Absolutely, totally and completely adore him. Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, provided a model for me in this. She adored her son, Jonathan Horan, too—unabashedly, wholeheartedly—and made it no secret. Sometimes I think my own wounds might have kept me from fully embracing and displaying this love if it hadn’t been for Gabrielle’s powerful example.
This week, my son, Simon, turned seven. We had a jam-packed, rollicking party with nearly seventy people in our apartment that included singing, dancing, playing music and rough housing—a chance to practice a manageable version of chaos in the face of the growing chaos of the national arena. The day before his birthday, Simon called me back to the room after I put him to bed, crying. “Mommy, I’m sad for you that I’m getting older and I’m not a baby now!” “Oh, no! Simon, I’m a little sad that you are not a baby anymore, but I’m even more happy and proud about the young man you are becoming!”
The times I have felt closest with Simon and most aware of the love I have for him have been inside 5Rhythms classes. I started dancing two years before Simon was born; and I danced throughout pregnancy, right up until the very last week before giving birth. A short time after he was born, he started to come to daytime 5Rhythms classes; and he has been attending classes periodically ever since.
Simon is too young to come to Tammy Burstein’s Friday Night Waves class (though he has been trying to convince me otherwise), but I thought of him during the class this week, especially since his birthday was just the day before. In the first wave—what we call it when we move through each of the 5Rhythms in sequence: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness—I entered the studio after Flowing was already transitioning to Staccato, but still felt I had enough of Flowing, somehow. Though I have noted some reluctance toward Staccato recently, I entered into Staccato with ease. Trying to work against my recent impulse to rush through Staccato straight into the next rhythm, Chaos, I lingered in Staccato. In the process, I missed Chaos completely, waiting, as I was, for it to fully arrive. I vowed to let loose in Chaos during the second wave if it was at all available to me. At moments, I thought about the chaos of the country and how it might affect Simon’s life.
In the gap between the first and second waves of the class, Tammy offered spoken instructions as she moved through the different rhythms. Her words caused me to reflect on what I consider to be “normal,” and how much my perspective on what is normal has shifted since November’s election. Given that affronts to democracy have become frequent, frequency does not mean that these affronts are normal, by any means. There is absolutely nothing normal about the current moment.
In the second wave, I made sure not to miss Chaos. As Flowing began, Tammy encouraged us to turn in, and I had a flash of the starry cosmos inside as I lowered my eyelids. Stepping in to Staccato, Chaos seemed to come quickly. I shook, almost violently, rocking deep in the pelvis during the transition from Staccato to Chaos, then continuing to shake. More than one rhythm operated on me at once. I intersected with a friend briefly, and we were wild, creative, expansive. We separated, then came back together again in Lyrical. Lyrical kicked in like a switch had been hit, with a flick, and with a rush of delighted inbreath. I noted the millisecond it arrived, thinking, “Lyrical! Here it is!” We twittered and flew, but retained the ferocity of our earlier Chaos.
Next, I joined with a dancer I hadn’t ever seen before in an athletic Stillness. We bounded and leapt, on and off the ground, in an attitude of breakdancing, sliding and twittering, pulling and gliding, pausing in curious, emphatic shapes the whole while, once with my cheek pressed to the floor, weight in my hands, and my legs twisted and raised, with tension in the balls of the feet. I tossed myself under the bridge of his back, both of us laughing. We disregarded Tammy’s instructions when she said, “Change” into the microphone, inviting us to take a new partner, but after the third “Change” we bowed melodramatically to each other and finally moved on.
I joined, once again, with my creative and expansive friend, both on our knees, our hands fluttering a gentle dance.
Simon and I had decided to attend the Sunday Sweat Your Prayers class the night before, and waded through the considerable rubble of Saturday’s birthday party, deciding to leave the bulk of the cleaning for later in the day so we would have enough time to get a snack before class. He was short-tempered as we were preparing, and I told him, “That’s it! You can’t use a screaming voice. I don’t think we’re going to be able to go today.” “No! Please! Please, Mommy! Please! Please, I promise I won’t scream anymore! Please take me to the class!” I told him he would have one final chance and we set out.
We arrived at the Joffrey Ballet, where most 5Rhythms classes in NYC are held, with enough time to pay and get settled. There was a line all the way up the stairs and out the door that seemed to be made up of ballerinas, based on the tights and smooth ballet hairstyles. We learned that they were trying out for a professional ballet company as we threaded past them and into the crowded elevator. In the elevator, people were generous with their attention, and Simon felt seen and welcomed. The class’s producer, too, kindly welcomed Simon’s hug and kiss with open arms after we arrived on the 4th floor.
Simon and I have a ritual for entering a class, designed to help him understand and notice sacred space. This was especially useful when he was smaller, to help him notice that once we enter, we don’t speak with words. We stand in the threshold of the studio door, hold hands, take a big breath in, then, as we exhale, we jump into what we call “The Magic Dance Room.”
Once across the threshold, we found a spot, tucked into a comfortable corner near a pile of coats, and Simon got himself settled as I started to move around the room in Flowing. He pretty much burned through all of his snacks during Flowing in the first wave, then got up in Staccato to join me on the dance floor. He wanted me to hold both his hands, and he made this very clear when I tried to release one hand and extend my range of motion. When he was tiny, he often wanted to be carried during a class. If he was on the ground, he would wrap his arms around my leg. I found a whole way of moving, even with one leg restricted, that I never would have otherwise uncovered. In this case, I still moved very much in Staccato, though my dance remained attentive to his needs. He trotted out some fancy footwork as we moved around the room, still holding tightly to my hands, and looking at all the dancers around us. As Chaos arose, Simon went back to his spot in the corner and played with his Legos. I moved around the room, then joined with a good friend in Lyrical, letting extensions pull me upward, and following her pendulous spinning. The dancers close to us influenced the dance, too, as we found unending new forms.
In Stillness, Simon and I both stretched out on the floor and rolled, side by side, slowly into the middle of the room. Before long, I sat up and moved near him, but he remained on his back, pushing himself slowly through the room with his bent legs, gazing upward at the dancing adults.
At one point, someone triggered my anger. I perseverated for a few short moments, then let it go, not wanting to taint the experience for myself or for Simon.
As the next wave started, Simon took another Legos break. In Staccato, we danced near his spot. For the first time, he let go of my hands and got creative with his feet as we moved toward Chaos, letting me loop around him and ranging over several feet. As Chaos deepened, Simon went back to his spot in the corner again, while I moved into an exceptionally creative Chaos with one of my favorite dance partners. We found new patterns, as one of us would express a sequence and the other would fall into it, each delighting in surprising the other with a new idea or expression. The room was crowded, and our usually unbridled dance was softer (though still wild) and slotted in around the dancers close to us, but still taking up all the space we needed.
In Lyrical, Simon pointed to the door of the studio, and we both stepped out briefly. “The music is too loud. It’s hurting my ears,” he said. “OK, we can stay out here for a little while.” “We can go back in when the song is done,” he said, leading me back into the room as soon as the music shifted.
Coming back through the door into the studio, Stillness had already begun to unfold. Simon poured his weight onto my forearm, as he does when we are walking home and he is extremely tired. We were invited to partner, and to take turns telling the other, “Why are we here?” We snuggled with his head on my shoulder and our arms wrapped around each other. I said, “Do you want to talk about why you think we’re here?” “I think we’re here to learn to be calm. And gentle. And also to be fast. And to notice things,” he said, prompting me to kiss him on the forehead. I took my own turn to speak, saying, “I think we’re here to make others happy and to make ourselves happy.” We continued to snuggle and to rock back and forth gently. At one point, I gathered him into my arms, sideways, like when he was a small baby, and rocked him gently. As the final song began, Simon rested his head on the tops of my feet, leaning back, relaxed. I felt a rush of love and gratitude, as we held hands and gently moved each other’s arms, listening to the last song Gabrielle Roth ever recorded.
When the music concluded, the mood in the room was reverent. Simon lead the way to our things. We quietly picked them up, then headed out of the studio. I said, “Simon, I’m so proud of you. When the teacher asked us to leave the room silently, you followed the directions.” He said, “I didn’t even hear that, Mommy. I just knew I was still in the Magic Dance Room and I couldn’t talk.”
We ended our adventure with a special lunch, and talked about our experiences. Of everything that I do as a parent, I think that giving Simon access to the 5Rhythms is, quite possibly, my best offering. Every phase of his development and of our ever-evolving relationship has been reflected in the 5Rhythms. I am grateful for the many moments of glorious connection, when the practice draws back the veil of mundane experience, and reminds me of the divine blessing of my sweet little boy, my darling son.
February 7, 2017, Brooklyn, NYC