Coming Into Alignment

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 –

***Meghan also has a five-class online writing/dance 5Rhythms “Writing Waves” class that starts on September 15. Registration is required –

Notes on Site Specificity

 When I dance outside, getting to a place where I feel inspired to move is part of the odyssey.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite places, Jacob Riis Beach, located on a narrow strip of land just south of Coney Island. Rising up on the bridge over Jamaica Bay, I examined the water level for information about the tide and judged it low. I had been with family just the day before during a very high tide with wild waves – at that time I dove in head first and sewed a line through the waves with butterfly stroke and navigated the huge crashing swells. But today’s lower tide left an expansive stretch of packed sand, perfect for a patient dance.

When I dance outside, I often seek solitude. If I am in someone’s view, I notice that some level of me is performing. Not a problem per se, but I appreciate when I have the opportunity to get over myself, to take a break from performing not only my dance, but also my identity. To connect with instinct and raw awareness, it helps to remove myself from at least the external gazes that are society’s constant surveillance. 

I parked the car and my bladder started screaming immediately. From the start of the pandemic until recently, I danced at this beach every single week, and sometimes more often. I would park, use the bathroom, then head to the vast beach. My body reminded me of how entrenched our patterns become.

I walked to the farthest western edge of the boardwalk, then crossed the wide beach to the water’s edge and continued further west. This is the part of the beach you can only get to on foot, so it is much less crowded. Nonetheless, I passed bay after bay, marked by rock jetties or wooden pilings, nodded to people with deep sea fishing rods, and intrepid beachgoers with their daytrip-outpost-setups.

I picked up a plastic bottle to ferry to the trash, and was delighted to read “Holy Water” and note that it still had some fluid in it. I picked up several translucent, smooth, orange stones, and several bits of frosted glass that had been smoothed by the sea, thinking I might use them for an altar. 

An older man walking for fitness came up quickly behind me, “They’re always complaining!” he said cheerfully, gesturing toward two american oystercatcher birds with their skinny, bright orange beaks. He sailed by, stepping jauntily, his broad chest lifted to the sun and his palms upturned.

I remembered another beach walker, one frigid winter day when the beach was practically deserted. She moved with the same delighted presence, in an ankle length fur coat and bare feet, dancing along the water’s edge. At the time, I wondered if she might be a spirit or a deity.

I made it almost to the big cabana buildings in Point Pleasant and decided to pick a relatively quiet spot rather than keep pushing for solitude. 

I eyed a man who was laying down a towel far off on the other side of the beach while I drew a heart in the sand and placed the precious objects I had gathered  inside it. In a sudden inspiration, I also included a discarded water bottle and a clear plastic cup with a split on the side, deciding it would all be included as sacred today. Then I put a little of the holy water on my wrists and over my heart and added the bottle to the installation.

I walked in a giant circle around this centerpiece three times, preparing to step into practice. As I began to move in Flowing, attentive to the push and pull of the arriving and receding waves, the man on the other side of the beach strolled to the water’s edge completely naked. I eyed him with low level concern, but continued to move. 

The air was heavy; and I found my engagement flagging. It took awhile for Staccato to ignite, but I did eventually make my way out of Flowing, and into the rhythms of Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. 

I used the phone to make a short video to help with an instructional idea, and when I looked at it realized I had no service. This concerned me because my son, Simon, was at day camp and I wanted to be reachable in case of any possible emergency, so I cut practice short and trekked back to the main beach where I would have service. Then I went for a brief swim, sat on the beach in meditation, and headed home. 

Last night, I didn’t sleep well, but today is the last day that Simon will be at camp and I won’t be working, so after I dropped him off I again headed to Riis Park Beach, thinking that the lack of sleep might impact my ability to step into practice. This time, it was very much the opposite experience. 

I arrived feeling disengaged, and left the beach feeling joyful, embodied, and light.

This time I had a hard stop at 12 because of a 1pm meeting, so I couldn’t go as far. I chose a spot just past the lifeguard beach and tucked myself behind the rocks. I shared the bay with only two people fishing in their loose long pants and sleeves and wide hats to protect them from the sun.

As yesterday, it was nearly 100 degrees, and I sprayed myself down with sunblock as I peeled off a layer to give more of my skin’s surface area to the wind. 

I was definitely not alone, and instead of moving through the 5Rhythms decided to move with some fluid yoga poses. Yoga makes me feel like less of a weirdo than throwing down in dance. 

I wasn’t sure if today would be just yoga, but as I got comfortable in the spot, I felt the pull to dance and followed it, beginning by moving with the push and pull of the arriving and receding waves. 

In the 1997 essay “One Place after Another: Notes on Site Specificity” Miwon Kwon positioned site specific art –art that responds to its physical or cultural location–at the opposite end of a continuum from minimal, objective art like white cubes or large hunks of metal placed inside fancy galleries. The context of minimal art was as though it was birthed purely from the supposed genius of the artist, and could exist anywhere–a blue chip gallery, the middle of a public plaza, you name it. Self-contained, eternal, permanent, monumental. Site-specific art, on the other hand, acknowledged its interrelatedness and permeability, and even embraced and celebrated these qualities.

Her essay very much influenced my practice as a visual artist, and has influenced my dance.

When I come to a new site, it affects how I move. It’s not like some genius dance gesture is just lurking inside me, waiting to show itself off. The gestures that appear are decidedly influenced by the context in which they arise.

When I come to the ocean, there are so many things that fascinate and inspire me. As much as I love to dance to music, I can also dance the ocean, its crescendo, its decrescendo, its adagio, its allegro. The waves as they arrive and depart. The intersections and lively tussles between competing waves. The roaring crash as a wave dies. The moment right before a wave dies, when it has identity for a split second before it returns to its essence. The salt traces left temporarily behind. The ocean’s dense, dark depths. The horizon’s expansive trance. The gliding sea birds. The racing clouds. 

Once I even danced from one low tide until the next, almost 12 straight hours of dancing with the ocean, following it through its daily cycle.

Today as I began to move with the push and pull of the waves, I suddenly noticed that I was staying beyond the edge of the water and recognized it as a habit I had developed over so many sessions of dancing in winter boots and snow pants during the frigid winters, when stepping into the water would be a bad idea. 

Noticing, I stepped into the surf, my feet waking up to the cold sensation of the water. I was much more immersed now, feeling the pull ahead of me and uphill as the waves receded, rising and falling up and downhill, threading down the edges of the arriving and departing water. 

I stayed in Flowing for a long time, not sure if Staccato would ever emerge. Eventually, I got interested in the edges between the waves, and found ways to express them with my body, exhalation building in force. I slightly wondered if the couple on the blanket on the other side of the beach noticed how much more interesting my dance had just gotten, but left it alone and continued to move with the breathing and crashing ocean.

Chaos came in its time, and threw the hat I had been so carefully using to shield my face from the sun down onto the sand as I was flung in infinite directions, noting the crash of the waves when the form that has gathered itself into a definable shape explodes with force and shatters into mist and nothingness.

Today Lyrical visited me with full expression, and I dashed and lept all over the wide beach, beaming, casting my fingertips down to the sand, then lilting back upward to the sky. If they were watching me at all, the people were appreciating this part – this unbridled joy despite the oppressive heat, despite the state of the world, despite the zoom meeting I would now have to rush to.

Stillness whispered every part of me. I saw the wide horizon, felt the ocean’s dark depths, rose up onto my toes, balanced, sank, rose and sank again.

Having two days in a row with a similar practice routine was a blessing. Riis Park is a blessing. My son is a blessing. Being alive is a blessing. Summer is a blessing. Site specificity is a blessing. 

I’m so lucky I’m not a genius. That would be so much less fun!

Brooklyn, NY, August 10, 2022

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, “Paint My Spirit Gold.” Join a single class or join the full series for a discount. Registration is required –

***Meghan also has a five-class online writing/dance 5Rhythms “Writing Waves” class that starts on September 15. Registration is required –