Moving with Mosquitos

I have the most mosquito bites I’ve ever had per square inch of skin. The most affected area is my left calf, but there are bites covering my entire body.

This year I’m spending the summer with my parents in Northern Connecticut, along with my 11-year-old son, Simon. In the past, I brought a heavy duty speaker and set it up under a shady maple tree to dance. A big patch of grass was worn away by mid-August last year and the dirt was dusty and hard packed. 

On the days I didn’t dance in the yard, I would run to a place I love in the woods by the humble Scantic River and dance there instead.

This summer, I didn’t bring the heavy duty speaker, so my best option has been to dance in the woods. 

The only problem is the mosquitos.

On Monday there were a lot of mosquitos. But Tuesday and Wednesday were ridiculous. 

Turning down the road into the woods, gnats and mosquitos swarmed my face. Both days, I was happy to find my favorite spot available, and no one fishing anywhere nearby. Making sure I was alone, I created a circle on the sandy riverbank, asking all ancestors, deities, guides, and protectors to support me in my practice. The mosquitos smothered me as I moved through this ritual, landing on my arms and biting right through my leggings. At one point, I looked down and there were five mosquitos all attached to one leg.

I realized it was either leave the woods or surrender, so I stopped my wild swatting and said, “Ok, mosquitos, have at it! Feast on me for all you’re worth.” And I started to move in Flowing. I found that the more I moved the more I was able to discourage the mosquitos from landing, but they continued to bite as I turned my attention to the soles of the feet, noticing the pull of gravity and allowing it to draw me into circling.

Sustaining attention throughout an entire 5Rhythms wave for nearly an hour both days, I barely noticed the tiny parasites.

Later, scratching the many bites on my legs, I asked myself if this was really the best idea. It was a valuable experience to decide to re-cast something that was extremely unpleasant into something neutral, but I thought I might have to suspend the woods practice at least temporarily if the mosquitos kept up at this level.

I wasn’t feeling inspired about moving in any other spot, though. 

So I decided to try a little harder to make it work. I laid leggings, a tank top, baseball hat, running shoes, and socks over a chair on the deck and sprayed them down with a highly concentrated Deet bug repellent. As soon as the Deet dried I put all of this on. Despite the over-100 soaring temperatures and high humidity, I also pulled on a pair of light, loose pants over the leggings, hoping to thwart the mosquitos who had bitten me right through the leggings on the previous two days. I tucked in the tank top and tied the pants at the waist. Finally, I sprayed my exposed skin with a citronella bug repellent, and sprayed my sneakers again for good measure.

I told Simon I would be back shortly and set out for the woods. Today, I once again found my favorite spot available. Again, I drew a circle in the sand of the riverbank and asked for support. The mosquitos were still thick but they didn’t seem to be swarming my head as much. 

Since I’ve been training to become a 5Rhythms teacher, my practice takes one of two frames. Either I work with what’s inside and around me, allowing whatever needs to arise. Or I practice teaching, talking out loud and providing prompting to an imaginary class. Today, I taught to a class. 

In practice, I never know what will arise. Today, I led my class into Flowing from the ground up, encouraging them to patiently enter the space, to connect with the floor, to consider helping me to move around the perimeter of the room, recognizing that space is sacred because we choose to define it as sacred. 

In nature, with no music, on an angled river bank, I could feel the pull of gravity and of the earth’s center, so I initiated a theme of feeling the immense density, the magnetic pull of the earth’s center, and allowing it to pull us into weighted circling. 

A pickup truck drove by, rushing the road gravel not far from my sandy riverbank. I looked out the side of my eye, wishing for solitude and hoping they would leave quickly. I continued to move anyway, regardless of self consciousness and a slight flavor of fear. Thankfully, they pulled out again long before Staccato sparked. 

Occasionally I said too much, diluting the power of my prompts, so I backed up and offered the same prompt again, aiming to be economical with words, to say just what was needed.

I led myself – I mean my imaginary class – through a gravitational version of the body parts meditation, moving with strong engagement. When Flowing was well established, and my feet felt soft and awake, I invited the class to breathe in and allow the elbows to feel the pull of the earth’s magnetic center, and to allow it to pull them into circles.

I invited them to meet a partner with their elbows as my breath grew sharp and I began to snap and cut the hips. Each partner took a turn to dance their heart, while the other partner witnessed. I kept bringing my gaze to a nearby tree stump – a sort of surrogate partner. “What if none of these gestures are arbitrary?” I offered. “What if this moment is your destiny? What would it mean to meet your destiny in this moment? What are you holding back right now? What more can you give right now?” This series of prompts hitched a sob in my throat, and I lowed slowly, feeling tears rise as I continued to move.

After meeting every partner in the space, we started to notice that holding all of those stories was too much. “You are not responsible for all of these stories,” I said. “You don’t have to hold them in your body. You can let them in completely and then let them all go.”

Chaos was vivid, emphatic. I found new patterns and new ways to disorganize my patterns. “Nothing to grasp toward, nothing to push away,” I intoned. “What are you holding back?” I said evenly as I hung my baseball hat on a cut off branch and released my head completely. “This moment is your destiny. There is nothing but this.”

Lyrical found me looping and extending, energetically porous, circling in an entirely different way. I led myself and the imaginary class through the portal of the body and into infinite space, sharing an ancient practice that was given to me by a sky goddess.

When the final gestures of Stillness concluded, it occurred to me that I’d been in the woods for a long time, and that I needed to get back and make sure Simon was ok. I again noticed the pesky mosquitos and the grueling heat, marveling that I hadn’t paid attention to either for at least an hour – and perhaps quite a lot more – as I had been absorbed in this beautiful practice. 

I wondered what else in my life I can decide not to be irritated by, and what ways I can give more, what ways I can step up for the life that is right in front of me, the destiny that calls me to it and is only available right now – the rest is just holding back.

Meghan LeBorious is an artist, writer, and meditation teacher who lives in Brooklyn, New York. This blog consists of her own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher. Photos are courtesy of the author.

Inner Currents

After several beautiful beach days in a row, this one was stormy. I spent last week at Cape Cod with family, a tradition that has continued since my mother was 13, in 1963. This year had an excellent turnout with 20 family members scattered through various cottages, including my 11-year old son, Simon, and three other kids. Maybe the drain from this long year of isolation and uncertainty made us crave time with family more than usual, though I found that I still needed a lot of time alone.

Each morning I packed a small bag with drinking water, a towel, goggles, and swim cap, then hiked around jetties and down several beaches to the two-mile-long West Dennis beach. Then I would put my bag under a lifeguard chair and walk until it felt far enough and swim back to where I started. On the way I might be rocked by choppy waves, find beachgoers’ lost treasures, or observe golden sand ripples and busy crabs under calm water.

A storm at sea made the water so turbulent and green-grey opaque that I was afraid sharks would be near the shore. I put on my bathing suit and packed my bag anyway, this time putting loose legged pajamas back on over my suit and tying my towel and bag inside a plastic shopping bag so they wouldn’t get soaked. 

I planned to dance a 5Rhythms wave on the sand, then decide later if I would still swim along the shore. The tide was nearly high and there was not much packed sand to move on, but I started to circle in Flowing, giving full attention to my feet as they churned half moons and indentations in the sand. The rain faded from the center of my attention and I got wetter as my body warmed up from moving. After some time, I realized I hadn’t given any attention at all to the sea, and shifted to feeling the pull of its depths and moving with the broken, asymmetrical waves as they were dragged back into the sea’s body.

At the beginning of the week, I had noticed a rare arising. My inner talk was gently confident and self-compassionate. In contrast, on this day, I could feel the drag of inner currents; and self hatred kept flaring. I dropped lower and returned attention to my circling feet every time I noticed my mind turn against me, or turn away from the feet, the wind, the sea, the feeling of rain and mist on my skin, the sounds of crashing waves and crying birds, or the smell of seaweed and salt.

I expanded my radius briefly but a heavy cache of sharp slipper shells was too much for me and I returned to a smaller area. The tide was climbing higher, leaving me just a thin margin of packed sand for my dance floor. A longing I don’t have language for swelled in my throat. I moved in this small space, and kept my wide pajama legs clear of the landing waves to avoid getting totally drenched. These factors became part of my dance, too.

As the sand darkened with wet, I moved into a short phase of Staccato. A lone beach walker with her rain jacket tied tightly around her face approached. I moved toward the water, making space for her as I sank into the hips, exhaling strongly and moving emphatically as the waves rose and crashed.

Chaos came and went quickly on this day. My spine coiled, curved, and twisted – gestures originating in the hips and tailbone, then whipping along the length of the vertebrae and out the top of the head. 

I threw a piece of drift-plastic close to my towel so I would remember to put it in the trash can on the way out and a black-faced tern hovered just above it, thinking it might be a snack. More terns and several seagulls came rushing in. The wind caused them to jerk and wobble, ready to fight over it.

I rose up onto my toes and followed the birds, moving in light, extended loops as they expanded into wider and wider orbits, cutting the wind with the flats of my hands as they changed direction and arced back around. The wind passed right through me as much as it whipped my hair and clothing.

Stillness was several breaths of gazing at the wide horizon and balancing different parts of me against other parts.

This led into a yoga practice which seemed to last a long time. I moved around my small dance floor to find better packed sand for my hands and feet so I could balance more easily, frequently changing the direction of my front from east to west so a different hip would be tipping downhill. Sand caked my wet skin and pajama pants as I stretched on the ground.

Eventually I settled into a sitting pose just past the tongues of waves and wrapped a big towel around my shoulders against the rain, resting my hands on my knees. I usually spend time tucking myself into a custom-made sand cushion so I can meditate comfortably, but on this day, I moved effortlessly into a comfortable seat. I rocked side to side with the wind, wet and covered with sand, still subject to an indescribable longing, still grateful for time with family, and feeling absorbed by the elements, blissfully connected.

My brother walked onto the beach just as I was about to leave so I joined him for a swim before heading back to re-join the rest of the family.

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher. Photos are courtesy of the author. Meghan LeBorious is an artist, writer, and meditation teacher who lives in Brooklyn, New York.