Today I listened patiently to a friend’s thoughtful perspective on a particular challenge I’m facing. I had prepared for the call in advance, telling myself that it was an important time to listen deeply. After listening for some time, I switched to offering my own opinions and perspectives. This could be seen as a normal turn of conversation, but this time, I had set the intention to just listen, and not have so much to say. My friend had to take a different call, so our time ended abruptly; and I wished I had stuck to my original intention.
My ten-year-old son, Simon, was working on a Minecraft building project with his cousin, so I decided to do the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation practice in the backyard of my parents’ house, where we are temporarily staying.
Lately, I’ve been gardening. When I was Simon’s age, I had a big garden that I tended by myself. I would spend long hours there, sometimes just sitting in the middle of it in the hot sun, staring at a plant or vegetable. This was before I even knew the word meditation; and long before I callously overthrew this earlier earthy self in favor of an edgier, more savvy, more urban self.
After watering the garden with a hose, I carried speakers, water, and the computer outside and set up to move.
As on the previous day, anxiety plagued me. It was chronic, rather than agonizing, but it danced along with me, rarely leaving my side. The music led me through a 5Rhythms wave, which is to say, I moved through each of the 5Rhythms: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness.
In Flowing, my attention was suddenly captured by a planter being taken over by weeds, and I paused to remediate. I reset the first song, and told myself that if I could just feel my feet, it would be enough. Stories sparked again and again about the challenge I was facing, and the conversation with my friend. I kept returning the attention to the feet, then getting hooked by the stories again. At moments, I was engaged, moving with creativity and enthusiasm, but often my attention was hooked by anxiety stories. It felt like there was an effervescent tablet, like Alka Seltzer or something, right at my diaphragm, just fizzing out anxiety.
I danced for over an hour, then thankfully, afterward, the puzzle pieces of the afternoon landed easily. Simon and I were able to meet with some local friends, and he actually had fun and got exercise with people his age – a huge blessing, all things considered.
In a way, the garden initiative could be seen as a waste of time. It would, objectively speaking, be more efficient to earn $3.00 and buy a bunch of carrots at the grocery store than spend months and hours of careful attention, of repetitive gestures, of noticing concerning trends and designing interventions, and of patiently creating the conditions for the carrots to grow.
Perhaps similarly, Simon is home full time for the first summer in seven years. I’m doing my best to create conditions for him to grow strong and healthy, rather than sending him off to camp and counting on the counselors and teachers to create learning opportunities for him.
Later the same day, Simon joined another planned playdate online, so I decided to run. I ran down a big hill to my favorite place by the local Scantic River. There was intermittent rain, so I was nearly alone, and I started with a big loop around the trail.
After the loop, I decided to dance another 5Rhythms wave.
I drew a circle around me on the wet earth of the path by the river. Beginning to move in Flowing, my feet churned up the wet sand. There was a slight incline and I allowed momentum and gravity to pull me into circles, using the slope to help me feel the earth’s pull. Ideas for ways to improve the world, ways to improve my life, ways to improve my mind, and ways to make positive change came through. I kept thinking I would transition into Staccato – the rhythm of action, but every time I tried, I found myself back in Flowing – the rhythm of receptivity, gathering, and humility. “I think I just need a lot of Flowing right now,” I reflected, thinking about my earlier unrealized intention to only listen to my friend.
Staccato came through in small bursts. Chaos, too, was muted today, and kept leading me back into Flowing.
At a certain point, I gave up on caring if I was doing the 5Rhythms or not, which was when I started crying. A red pickup truck drove by and I felt visible, but still I kept crying, sometimes bawling, inside my little circle.
I had called my ancestors, guides, guards, and deities into the circle, and I felt like they came through at this point, supporting me and offering specific advice for how to move forward.
I was no longer in any recognizable rhythm, but kept moving regardless, engaged but totally un-self conscious, sobbing and grateful, listening to the messages that were coming through.
A few days later, I went outside after midnight, barefoot, to see the full moon and the penumbral eclipse. A lunar eclipse is a time to work with our shadows – the things that lurk in our personal and collective unconscious; and the full moon amplified its influence.
The simple work I’m doing in the garden feels like it’s paying off. Simon picked two big cucumbers, and my mom sliced them paper thin, salted them, and soaked them in vinegar, using a recipe my grandfather taught her. We’ve also eaten radishes, yellow squash, and broccoli rabe from the garden already.
I remain eager to charge forward with making the world better, but for the moment, I’m sticking close to the ground, calling in humility, trying to avoid causing harm, and doing my best to become a worthy listener and ally.
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.