In the Middle

October 26, 2014

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

Lately, I have a very strong sense of being in the middle of many exciting trajectories.  My very first post was about Lucia’s Waves workshop in December, 2013; and the key insight that I experienced during the workshop was that I am very much in the middle.  At times, I have missed the middle completely because I thought I was still warming up!  There is no point in pacing myself, as I sometimes do, so I will have enough left once things really heat up.  I can easily talk a good game about being in the middle, about being present now, and about not holding back; but being in the middle in a satisfying way also requires a lot of dedicated work inside the many ongoing beginnings.  I think the experience of being in the middle might actually be the pay-off for faith and discipline. Getting older might have some upsides after all (!)

I am being vague. Thank you for bearing with me, dear readers, if, indeed, you have.  Let me locate myself in relation to the dance first, then I will be happy to share specifics about my own experiences.

Amber taught Tammy’s class on Friday night. Have I mentioned that I love Amber? It is immediately apparent that she has always been a dancer, and that she has an exceptional ability to teach exactly what needs to be taught.  As I stepped inside, pausing and bowing to the room as is my habit, Amber said something on the microphone that let me know she saw me come in.  I was impressed and felt she seemed to be able to see everything in the room.  One of the first songs she played was a thick, tonal track from Massive Attack and I found myself wanting to pull and slide low to the floor.

During her talk, as we paused and rested in a circle around her, Amber reminded us of the two-year anniversary of Gabrielle Roth’s death—the beloved founder of the 5Rhythms practice.  She also taught the core Flowing practice of walking and dancing through the room while seeking empty space; and advised us to consider slowing down.  I found a new way to dance the low spaces between people, and kept touching one hand down, swooping one wing, then curving back into higher open spaces.

One man raised his hand after her talk because he wanted to make a suggestion.  He said, “I appreciate all of your teaching and insights and exhortations and all of that, but could you just let the music teach us during this next wave?”  She said something about loving to dance and he said, “So do we.”  I bristled.  Amber is part of “we”! How dare he try to include me on his team that made her into an Other!  Her response was perfect.  She ended with “I think you will probably get your wish,” but not before she explained that in a class like this (a Waves class), we especially come to dance the 5Rhythms and to practice the basics.  If we just come in and do what we always do, there would not be any growth.  Rather, we come to try on new things and to take on new challenges.  I loved that she was sharp and clear and held her ground, without being defensive or emphatic in any way.

As much as I found in the content of what Amber said, I found that the space she created lead me to alternatingly expansive and constrained expressions of abject joy and excitement.  New forms kept finding me and; and I felt I was dancing the fullness of many things, the tenor of joy, and the squirmy, specific, arcing and leaping and undulating forms of the creative process.

The things I spoke vaguely about before include several different projects.  First, as an artist, I have nearly finished a large body of work that continues to reveal itself to me in delightful glimpses.  Shockingly, gloriously, it has dumped me right into the next body of work.  If you will excuse a reference that only a few will get, it is just as Mahayana practice might dump you abruptly right into Vajrayana like a great mountain stream emptying in a rushing crash into a deep, dark cavern’s pool.  In another trajectory, my avatar as a 10th grade teacher, I have made a little progress, too, and have been sharp and strategic about using what skills I have in the service of students and of the school community.  On another note, after an arduous process, my little son skipped pre-K entirely and entered right into public school kindergarten, where he is thriving and happy—no longer the beginning of sheltered pre-school, but full-on even including homework.  In addition, we are nearing the one-year anniversary of this blog.  Although I am still learning, I am beginning to sink deeply into the process of writing, and to find my voice within this ever-evolving content.

Most relevant to this blog, my own 5Rhythms practice has also opened up in a new way as I take on a role of service within the community through organizing the Family Waves class, New York’s first 5Rhythms class for both children and adults.  I have had the excellent fortune to work closely with Amber as the frame reveals itself, and I have benefitted immensely, learning from her and being influenced by her approach to her own practice and to her own life.  The Family Waves class itself, as well, has moved into a stage of middle now, and I am thrilled that the community is growing and is acquiring its own identity and vision.

The last movement of the night on Friday was, for me, a breathy trance.  The dance loaned me two big, feathery angel wings that I spun gently inside of, forgetting everything but the magic of movement and the quiet grace of being alive.

I Think the Theme is Pain

October 19, 2014


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

Occasionally, I suffer with this weird pain.  It feels like the sciatic pain I had in my legs during pregnancy, but it is in my arms, too.  I feel it most in the heels of my hands and the bottoms of my feet.  It is worst right before my period, and can be very intense.  It makes me feel afraid.  In addition, contrasting my accustomed cavalier attitude about germs, I have been acting like a germophobe in the last two weeks.  Anxiety about ebola (whether justified or not) has ricocheted through my mind and body; and I have been subject to the tightening of fear.

Walking into class, I wondered how the pain in my hands and feet would affect my ability to move.  I experimented with giving it its full shape, holding my hands, rubbing and pulling at the sore surfaces, curling over, holding my shoulders like they held up tightly folded wings.  Thanks in part to Advil, the pain started to subside, and I found myself deep inside a thrilling and tender dance.

I danced with one enigmatic friend, who I have been increasingly drawn to over the last few months.  For a long time our dances were similar, but recently have taken on many new aspects.  We found ourselves in a soft, tender, breathy dance in the Lyrical phase of the first wave, and I found that I kept turning the soles of my feet toward him—a humble offering and expression of gratitude.  On my own, I pressed both my hands down onto my chest in a physical expression of a heavy heart.  By the time Tammy stopped the music between the first and second waves, tears were coursing down my face.  She had us sit in silence for several minutes.  I couldn’t help but think about times when the collective field has been unbridled joy, such as when Obama was first elected, and how much I noted the contrast, feeling on this Friday such gravity.

I did not plan to go to the Sweat Your Prayers class today, but decided to accompany my sister, Courtney, and attend.  My sister’s heart is very, very heavy right now.  Her best friend, who she has been close with since middle school, is very sick.  She will begin receiving hospice services this week.  She will have her 39th birthday in November; and she has a seven year old son.  Courtney saw her yesterday.  I wanted to respect her need to experience her pain without interfering, and also kept feeling drawn to rub her upper back and to move with her.  I hoped that I wasn’t being too pushy, but stayed with her as often as it felt right.  When my favorite dance partner—my wild Vajrayana-like friend who travels with me into unexpected pockets of reality—came to invite me to dance, instead of falling into a dance with him, I kept close to my sister and the three of us danced together.  I wanted to just hold her and hold her.  Sometimes there is the mistaken wish that if I can just love someone enough, I can take pain away.  Really, I think it is too much pressure on them, and I am just not that powerful.  Then the pain becomes about me instead of an honest expression of the loved one’s reality.  Instead, I tried my best to hold the space and be as supportive and loving as I could be.  And, too, I shared exquisite dance after exquisite dance, including several with the friend I bared my soles to on Friday.

During the final of several waves, the music dropped out during Chaos.  The room went wild, and we spontaneously turned the room into a big Chaos circle.  I took a turn in the middle, leaping and whirling with all the explosive love of living that came to me in that moment.  When the music came back, Peter (who was subbing for Jonathan) continued with the circle format.

Courtney and I left a few minutes early, as I had a firm appointment I could not change.  I left feeling amazed, amazed, amazed, as I am on so many occasions at the ability of the 5Rhythms to hold everything, in every way it is needed.

Everything is Perfect

October 5, 2014

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

 Everything is perfect.   Even when it is all a gigantic mess.

I showed up to Tammy’s class on Friday, which was substitute-taught by 5Rhythms teacher Kierra, feeling like my circumstances were impossible and unworkable.  I doubted I would be able to move at all.  When I walked in, I ducked behind the person who was greeting people at the door because I wanted to walk in naked, on my own terms, not in the lens of another’s gaze.  Rather than finding a spot to stretch and de-compress, as is my usual practice, I wandered about distractedly for some time.  At one point, I realized I had traversed the room and couldn’t remember how it happened.

I have at least three full-on careers, and several additional professional trajectories—the most challenging of the three is my work as a 10th grade teacher at a New York City public school.  The students are delightful—even when they are challenging.  The adults, on the other hand, are not always delightful.  I have only one kindred spirit in my school community, and she, herself, is marginal to the politics of the place.  On Friday, I presented an issue that I feel passionately about and that I thought there would be receptivity to, and was resoundingly defeated.

I found myself talking with a new friend about 5Rhythms on the topic of how each of us relates to rhythm.  “I realize, after many years of metaphoric bumps and injuries, that I have a different beat,” I said.  She thought I was making a joke, so I clarified, “For a long time, I thought it was just a rebellious teenager thing that I have, but I believe it is deeper than that.  I can do the big beat, the rhythm of the room, but very often, left to my own devices, I find myself finding the tiny rhythms, finding the metarhythms, finding myself in the air when most people around me are stepping on top of a downbeat.”  This realization, in the context of my school dilemma, made me feel sad.  Sometimes I feel so different.  (A little sweep of sad gets me as I re-read this.)

Walking in, I was tight, withdrawn, wrinkled. Caught in a story of how I don’t deserve to be wrong.  Miraculously, within moments, I remembered that everything is perfect.  Even when it is a gigantic mess.  Kierra put on a popular song with the lyric, “Say what you’ve got to say…” I danced it to its edges.  I rose and fell; I walked and retreated; I emoted and enacted; I spun and stopped and arced and bit.  Then, she put on a song with an epic swell and I found the grace and dignity of it, the point, the reason to bother even when it seems pointless and impossible.

Whereas I came in feeling like I wished I had kept my mouth shut at work, wishing I hadn’t come out of the closet as a reformer, after these few songs I had a totally different take.  There is no point in being attached to my own experience or to my own righteous position, nor to disowning it.  I said what I had to say, there is integrity to my position, and now I will take the consequences and see where things go.

As Flowing unfolded in the first wave, I noticed that I felt vulnerable.  I was very aware of the spot in the middle of my upper back—the place behind the heart where an arrow could easily kill you—a part of my body that I worked with extensively in my first year of practice as my elaborate armor began to dismantle.  Once I noticed I was feeling vulnerable, and that my back was vulnerable, I decided that I might as well be uniformly vulnerable, to all people in the room and with all parts of my body.

In the interlude between the first and second waves, Kierra prefaced her thematic offering with, “I invite you.  I invite you.  If it is right for you, if it feels right for you, you take it on.  If not, that’s OK.  I invite you, not I command you.”  She was speaking my language already.  I really want to be invited, not commanded.  And, as a teacher, I want to invite and not command my own students.

She then said something to the effect of inviting us to take on the idea of being in harmony with the seasons.  Next, she said that if we were living close to the earth, this time of the year in this region would be one of harvesting.  I thought about my own harvests.  About how  as a visual artist I just had a wonderful artwork exhibition—the culmination of years of hard work. I also thought about how as a teacher, I have honed some skills and competencies that I can now employ.  And about abundance and the fact that I am blessed in infinite ways.  When the music started again, I doubled over, determined to feel my feet connected to the floor, the ground, the earth.  I lifted each toe with my hands and placed it deliberately onto the floor.  Then, I carefully isolated each part of each foot, feeling its connection to ground.  Tears arose—of gratitude and release.

I shared many exquisite dances.  With two experienced dancers, all of us threading and swooping in and out of each other.  Several with my favorite dance partner ever, who I could dance with as a full time job and still find totally uncharted territory in every new minute.  With a friend who I seem often to meet in playful Staccato and who I love to keep my eye on by bending backward, even as I spin and dip in our shared orbit.

Sometimes salvation is too much to hope for.  I walk into the room feeling terrible and I leave feeling worse.  Sometimes, sometimes if the stars are aligned and I have not eaten too much or too little and if I am willing to let everything move and if the sun is not in my eyes…sometimes I can walk in my truth, that everything, absolutely everything, is perfect.  Even when it is a gigantic mess.