My body breathes a sigh today.
Yesterday, Saturday, the bright sun was too much for me. Grey clouds parted in the afternoon and instead of feeling the joyful charge of spring, I stood in the middle of the sidewalk blinking, unable to take it. The bright, warm afternoon just felt like too much pressure.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been struggling. What is that tiny shift that happens when things go from workable to hopeless? The truth is that there is nothing wrong – at least not compared to what people around me are coping with. I know better than to try to talk myself out of feeling bad, but still there I was. Miserable and shaming myself on top of it.
I did yoga in the living room in the morning. It helped to move, but a few times I noticed myself stopping. Not like taking a break, not even like holding my breath, really. More like just blanking out in the middle of a chaturanga with my face to the floor. And thinking vaguely of some ancient reason I should beat myself up until I gave a little shake and restarted the breath and movement.
My thirteen year old son, Simon, was feeling down, too, and I was happy that he decided to join a friend’s family for dinner and a sleepover.
Almost simultaneously, I learned that Amber Ryan was offering a 360 Emergence class at Paul Taylor studio on the Lower East Side; and I bought a ticket immediately. Amber is a former 5Rhythms teacher; and the 360 Emergence is a new practice with deep roots in the 5Rhythms.
I barely had time to gather my things, bring Simon to his friend’s house, and find parking. On the way, I learned that a powerful storm was in the forecast, and that there was a tornado watch.
Me and a crowd of afflictive emotions walked up the stairs, and they all entered the studio with me. I paused to move through an energetic ritual as I crossed the threshold, then walked across the wide floor.
One friend’s gaze seemed to skitter over me, not registering when I tried to catch his eye to silently say hello.
I moved around the edge of the room to orient myself to the space and the group, bringing attention to my feet, and occasionally glancing my fingertips or inner arm along the wall to wake up sensation in different parts of the body.
And soon delight arrived.
It’s not always like that. You never know what will happen when you step into practice. Sometimes you even feel worse at the end than when you started. But on this evening, I made the barely perceptible shift from feeling like things were hopeless back into believing they are workable.
Within ten minutes, I was ranging softly through different levels, stretching intuitively, and tasting the air in the different parts of the room.
Amber guided us through a practice to connect with different energy centers in the body. As encouraged us to engage the ribcage in moving energy around the solar plexus, a wide groan escaped me along with unleashing some painful teen and early adult memories.
Since Simon has become a teen recently I’m finding that I have new strata of unresolved trauma – trauma that I thought had been long dispensed with. I recognize the need to move with it quickly, so I can be clear and direct in parenting this extraordinary human, and not mire him in the tangles of my own psychology and the fears that arise for me.
A friend from my long-ago days in the underground dance world found me this week, too. She wants to hold a reunion – a rave, actually – for those of us who are still alive. I was happy to hear from her, and plan to participate, but it knocked on the door of some pesky demons.
My whole face was wet with tears as I threaded throughout the space, slipping through gaps between bodies, sliding in and out of partnerships, and collaborating with the circling room.
Amber kept inviting us to pause and return to “zero” throughout the class.
Many years ago, Amber led a workshop in this very same space called “Zero Zone,” which was the first time I heard her talk about zero.
I wondered briefly if “zero” was influenced by Dzogchen, an energetic Tibetan practice of dropping into raw awareness on the spot. And I wondered how it relates to Stillness in the 5Rhythms. And a chain of other associations. Then, the thoughts receded again into the background as my own body and its experiments emerged in the foreground.
At one point, Amber invited us to very intentionally move with the breath, then opened up the music again to allow us time to integrate these new seeds that had been planted.
When the intensity peaked again and again, I found myself right in the middle a lot of the time, moving with all the energy I could need, sinking to the ground, then spiraling back up, casting upward, diagonaling myself back down and across, sometimes finding myself face to face with a partner, and sometimes on my own.
I was so engaged that I didn’t notice darkness shining through the many windows until there was a flash of lightning outside.
In an experiment that involved taking turns with one person in the middle while three others supported them and held space, I felt heat rising to my face and crown when it was my turn to be in the middle. And I felt just as engaged when it was my turn to hold space. I remembered my nature as a healer, as an energy worker, and that we are all healers and energy workers.
In the final stretch of dancing, some stayed with their small group, while others moved through the space. Amber put on an electronic dance song with an engaging beat that pulled us deeper into motion. Then, to my surprise and delight, the beat dropped fast in a low, heavy bassline and the room exploded.
I found many new ways to move, sometimes quirky, jerking, skimming, bursting. I found a new loop around the back of my neck, a new way to rise up through my back from the hips, a new flutter in the heels, a new triple count step to stop short without jamming.
All that is to say that I found new ways to be alive.
Before stepping in, I wondered if I would have the energy to move given how disheartened I had been feeling.
By the end I felt grateful again. Grateful to be alive, grateful for the dancing path, grateful to have the chance to do my best as a parent, grateful that my body has accumulated decades of athletic experience yet still hasn’t broken down, grateful for the spirits and ancestors who I believe dance with me. Grateful for all of it. For everything.
My body remembered why I set foot on this dancing path to begin with. I also remembered what my body never forgets – that the mysterious tiny shift I was contemplating is really just a matter of being embodied. Of being alive to this moment, to this precious life.
Thank you, Amber. Thank you, Gabrielle. Thank you, my son. Thank you, this body. Thank you, this life. I am blessed in every sense. My path is strewn with flowers, and I can again see the gentle rain of blessings.
Meghan LeBorious is a certified teacher of the 5Rhythms dance and movement meditation practice. This writing is not sanctioned or commissioned by the 5Rhythms organization and is solely the writer’s personal experience.