The first time I set foot in a meditation center was on Martin Luther King Day in 2007. I had to work during the day, but I felt called to find a way to observe the occasion in the evening.
I snuck in an internet search at work, and found that a meditation center in the West Village was hosting a public sit that evening. Meditation felt right to me – a way to reflect on and honor the legacy of Dr. King and countless other activists who have given their labor and lives to the cause of racial justice.
There was never a time that I didn’t meditate, but this was the first time I found myself in a mediation community. Previous to this, whenever someone brought up meditation or anything else that seemed New Age-y I would roll my eyes and make sarcastic comments, even though I was meditating daily myself.
Following this night, I was swept onto a new path entirely.
Today, I hadn’t been to dance with the ocean in a couple of weeks. I dug through storage to find ski clothes, and put on snow pants, winter boots, wool socks, a sweater, ski jacket, neck warmer, hat, and gloves.
There was very little traffic, and I arrived in less than 30 minutes. The giant parking lot at Jacob Riis Park Beach in Queens was almost completely empty, owing to the frigid temperatures.
The sand of the wide beach was laced with ice. The old wooden pilings that were being slammed by powerful waves had ice caps. And the tide was low, leaving a wide area of packed sand for a dance floor.
Once I stepped onto a path of meditation, I progressed quickly. Thankfully, the tradition I joined had an initial linear path, so I didn’t have to ask too many neurotic questions about what to do next. I just kept stepping forward.
Today, I drew a giant circle in the sand, then walked around it three times, calling my teachers, ancestors, spirits, guides, and deities. I decided to record myself this time, and pulled off my neck warmer to prop my phone onto. As I began to move in Flowing, I occasionally glanced at the phone, checking to see if I was in the frame.
I asked for answers to some questions that seemed important to me in that moment: Where does the swelling anger that rises in me at times come from? What should I do about a particular work dilemma? What is my path forward?
Less than a year after I stepped onto this meditation path, I also stepped onto the 5Rhythms dancing path, and the two traditions have worked together to dismember and remember me again and again.
Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about how meditation can support racial justice, especially since I teach meditation to teens of color in a Brooklyn high school. Meditation can make us aware of the inner stories and assumptions that drive our words and actions, the necessary prerequisite for beginning to mitigate our internal biases, including internalized oppression. Meditation and other forms of practice like the 5Rhythms can also be essential triage and harm reduction for people who may be subjected daily to harms arising from living in a racist culture.
From my perspective, the purpose of practice is to be fully in reality – that is to say without the filters of coping mechanisms, escape behaviors, racist assumptions, the push and pull of desire and aversion, stuck emotions, ego attachments, unprocessed trauma, cultural conditioning, and internalized oppression.
No wonder that it was on Martin Luther King Day that I first found meditation as a path. The call is not only for individual practice, but is also a prayer for collective awakening.
Today was cold and I knew I had to get moving quickly. As soon as the giant circle in the sand was drawn, I brought attention into my feet and began to move with the pull of the deep sea and the dynamic, shifting waves and tides. I also started working with the feeling of having weight in my hands and feet, and let that draw me into circling and shift me through different levels and spinning tracked circles.
I was in no rush to leave Flowing. My body felt like it was sloshing, rolling liquid in a container. Today, I kept rising and presenting my chest, then falling back into circling. I sang whatever bits of songs drifted into my mind, grateful to be almost completely alone and more free to vocalize. Lately, I let my body dip and fall in circling, then catch my weight and spin again around the track I’ve created.
Work has been shitty lately, and it doesn’t seem like I have many options to improve it at the moment. I didn’t expect Staccato to arise easily, so when it did it surprised me. First it just peeked through my patient, delighted circling. I took off my coat and moved with confidence and vigor, still bursting my chest forward, now sitting back low, squatting, dropping, growling, and calling out with guttural force. I moved forward and back in a line, hesitating then bursting, then stepping back across, using the elbows to power my gestures, receiving an answer to one of my burning questions.
I kept myself in Staccato just a little longer when I was already feeling the pull of Chaos, and finally letting myself fall into it. After the drawn-out ferocity of Staccato, I thought I would stay in Chaos at length, but today it blew through like a storm. Lyrical, the fourth of the five rhythms, lifted me and also blew through quickly.
Stillness found me tiny, a little speck in a gigantic landscape with the roaring sea stretching to the wide horizon and luminous overcast sky huge above me.
A few weeks before when I was dancing with the sea, a pod of whales appeared, shooting water through their blowholes, with a crowd of sea birds swarming around them.
At this point, I started crying from the throat and belly, almost braying. I don’t even know what rhythm I was in at this point. In fact, most of my practice today happened after the first wave completed itself. I kept thinking about the whale that was beached here in December, how it died alone. I thought about the likely future for whales, the likely future for the earth, and ongoing, entrenched injustices. I cried a lot, pausing to compose myself when a lone pair of beach walkers strolled by, then shifting into a bounding Lyrical, then back into sobbing. Now I was moving with gratitude and freedom, still sobbing, still moving. I laughed at myself, then started crying even louder.
Eventually I was empty. The questions I had dropped into the well of practice were answered, as much as they could be for now. I was ready for Martin Luther King Day. I knew the way forward. Remembered. Back where I started and ready to begin again.
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.
Ouch. Is a sore lower back a possible impact of Covid?
I’ve been in quarantine along with my 11-year-old son, Simon, after we tested positive for Covid. We missed family Christmas, but have had relatively mild cases and have been making the best of it. I’ve made serious progress on my to-do list and have had more time to write, think, and practice. My not-husband and I are taking turns making dinner, and in the evenings we watch a movie or play a board game.
Between working on the computer, interacting with Simon, and mundane rituals, I’ve been practicing and writing. Today I practiced sitting meditation for 45 minutes right after I woke up in front of an altar made to celebrate my recent graduation from the 5Rhythms teaching training program. Later in the morning I did yoga. And meditated again after lunch. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I finally got around to 5Rhythms practice.
I’ve been hobbled by a sore back since yesterday; and I wasn’t sure if it was advisable or even if I would find any inspiration.
I thought of something Gabrielle Roth, the founder of the 5Rhythms practice, wrote in her first book Maps to Ecstasy about a student who was having severe back problems. She wrote, “After doing the rhythms for several months, her whole body started to loosen up. Now, when her back starts seizing up, she moves gently to the rhythms rather than giving in to the spasms, and the tension eventually subsides.”
I vowed to move gently and rolled up the living room rug to reveal the hardwood dance floor beneath, put on a playlist I already had made, and settled in. The day before my practice had been flat, and I wasn’t sure what I would find.
I began to move in Flowing to a lullabye-sounding song that I danced to with Simon on my shoulder when he an infant. I felt fully engaged, and looped around the space, feeling the soft give of my feet, rocking up like the swinging pirate ship ride at the amusement park, and falling slowly back down the other side of the loop, then turning and circling and rocking upward again. I felt no rush to progress beyond Flowing, and was grateful that the playlist still had two more flowing songs to move with. I remember now that I was also crying in this part.
I sneezed hard and felt the muscles in my lower back clench, and wondered if frequent sneezing might be a factor in the lower back distress.
As the playlist cued me into Staccato, I discovered that raising my knees high and crossing over the midline of my body caused pain, so I found different ways to move instead. The staccato songs on this playlist are irresistible to me, and today was no exception. Before long I was moving in sweeping diagonals, stepping back and across hard, turning and even dropping low. A fast Staccato Chaos song brought me even lower and jittered me, flipping me through the spine, and continued to pull me along. “Just take this ride, Meg. Don’t push anything,” I reminded myself.
The first chaos song was a delightful, twisting jazz track that coils me in every direction and angle, and today was no exception. I thought about skipping the song to try to avoid too much twisting, but something interesting started happening. Some kind of chemical release in the legs and spine. I wondered if Covid was working its way out of the spine and out of the body, and dug a little deeper, let go a little more, gave myself a little more permission, and let the sacrum lead the rest of me into release.
The last chaos song was wild, and I growled with ferocity, trusting something in me, in my body, in my ancestors, in my teachers, that told me this dance was necessary, that told me I was moving something that needed to move, even as I shuddered, sunk low in the hips, jumped my knees in crazy forward and side-out patterns, and contorted and released my face as my released head whipped all around.
Lyrical found me grateful, shining. Still moving with engagement, though with slight hesitation.
During the one brief Stillness song, I watched my hands in the darkened TV screen that is mounted on the living room wall, gave thanks, and almost immediately started thinking about all the things I would accomplish in the afternoon.
Then I put myself in the shower to rinse off whatever poured out in sweat and sat myself down to write.
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. Images in this post are courtesy of the writer.
“Yes, he’s definitely sick. But I can’t reach his parents and there is nowhere else to put him, so I’m sending him back to your class.”
I held the phone receiver and scanned the full classroom as I huddled near the door, speaking with the school nurse.
“But if he’s sick, I don’t think it’s a good idea if he’s in the classroom. There are over 20 students in here. What if it’s Covid.”
“Listen, I can guarantee you’ve already had sick kids in your room. Just make sure everyone keeps the mask on. I’m sorry, but it’s the only option,” the nurse said firmly.
Symptoms started for me on Tuesday night, though I wasn’t sure it was Covid. I woke up at 3AM with a headache and felt odd. I wasn’t sure if my mind was playing tricks on me, or if I had some kind of allergies or sinus infection. Simon, my 11-year-old son, seemed ok, but I kept both of us home as a precaution.
Both of us had waited in line for four hours on Saturday and tested negative on the PCR and rapid test. I left Simon home by himself and went again to wait in the long line for testing. Again, I got a negative on a rapid test.
Extended family held their breath as we waited for PCR results. Late Thursday they finally came in.
“Negative! That’s great! It’s going to be a great Christmas this year. We’ll see you tomorrow,” my Dad said.
The rattle-y, respiratory dissonance must be from a cold or some other kind of virus, I reasoned. I would wear a mask just in case. I continued to wrap gifts and pack for our trip.
The next morning, Christmas Eve Day, Simon’s symptoms started to kick in. I heard him coughing before I even got out of bed. I was able to get an immediate sick visit at his doctor.
“You both tested negative on the weekend, and you just got negative PCR results yesterday? And you’ve been in since Tuesday night? You’re probably good then. I could just swab him in case since you’re here, though.”
The doctor came back and told us he was positive from outside the examination room, “No Christmas for you this year! You have to stay home,” she said. Then ushered us quickly out while opening up the window and rushing in with Lysol.
By sheer luck, I was able to get hard-to-find rapid tests at the pharmacy across the street from Simon’s doctor. This time, mine also came back positive.
This was a frightening near miss. My parents, Simon’s grandparents, are 71 years old.
I don’t know for sure if I was infected by my student. There is so much Covid at the moment, it is hard to say. Many of my students’ families have shared that their kids have symptoms, but were not able to officially test because they couldn’t wait in line for hours and couldn’t find rapid tests at any local stores.
I put away all the stuff I was packing to go away for the holiday. Then I cleaned the shit out of the apartment, picked some music that called me, and settled in to dance.
My living room is easily converted to a dance studio. The rug has a big, long cut so I can easily roll it without moving the couch off it and reveal the hardwood floor. I swept the grit from underneath it, too.
This time I decided to record myself dancing, something I haven’t done since the first long year of Covid.
The first song I play is “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues – which starts out with the lyrics:
“It’s Christmas Eve, babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one.”
In the video, as soon as the melancholy story starts, so do my tears. I think I was crying for multiple reasons, including the exhaustion of nearly two years of fear and anxiety. I fall right into lively spinning and dipping despite the phlegm in my throat and lungs. Part of the song shifts into Lyrical as the story moves into a fantasy about New York, and I move with energy in tracked and lifting circles.
I took care to breathe extra deeply, and to drink a lot of water. I had to stop often to blow my nose, especially when I was crying.
I included extra flowing songs in this playlist, as I anticipated a lot of inertia due to illness, but (to my surprise) when I stepped in, I had plenty of energy and inspiration. I continued to circle, sometimes wobbling backward into my hips, swaying from side to side as I lifted from spin and back into it. My arms look released and awake, and these little ribbons of Lyrical keep lifting them up and then dropping me back into low, weighted, grooved spinning.
“We Might as Well Dance” by Madeleine Peyroux, a song suggested to me by a friend, brings my circling to an ever-wider radius. I alternate between gratitude and grief, sometimes smiling, sometimes holding my sore swollen throat and groaning.
I started thinking about the Italian folk dance, the Tarantella. There are some conflicting accounts, but some believe that the dance originally arose as a way to save the life of a villager who had been bitten by a poisonous spider. The idea was that to survive, the victim would have to dance the poison out. Musicians would play wildly to keep her moving and the entire community would assemble to dance along, for hours or even sometimes days, to help the dancer stay alive.
A new staccato song I can’t trace the origin of comes on. The beginning is mysterious and I’m not even sure it’s a staccato track, but within 20 seconds I’m hooked in – dancing right back into my hips, low. I make the arm of the couch a partner, sweeping my leg over it, pausing mid air, pushing my foot against it and finding a whole new set of movements. Thankfully, though the song is energetic, there are a lot of spacious rests and the tempo is not too fast. During a pause I cough heavily, then start this diagonal dropping and cutting, bringing the knees in ferociously, letting the elbows express themselves freely, sometimes in big arcs in front of my face, sometimes leading me in a dropping spin.
I pause to cough and drink water again, still grooving, then hold both my arms out, palms up, and rock side to side while shifting one hand higher, then the other, like a living balance scale.
I started thinking of Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, and that she died of lung cancer. I interviewed her during the time that she had lung cancer. Once, she had to postpone because her voice was too weak to talk. I was thinking, too, of how vulnerable my own lungs felt. I imagined that Gabrielle was there with me, standing firm and holding the sides of my ribcage, sending healing to the lungs, reminding me that I had a lot of work to do in this world yet, that there was still a path in front of me.
I tried to put my parents’ neighbor, who just died of Covid at age 45 despite being vaccinated, out of my head.
Today while I’m watching back the video of myself dancing, Simon asks me to cut the sound and put on Christmas music, since it is after all Christmas morning.
“And none of that weird Christmas music from yesterday, Mom! Real Christmas music!”
I oblige, and shift to listening to Burl Ives and watching myself without music.
I look really happy and engaged in this part, I think it’s a Dre beat that I love. I can see my energy dip periodically, my shoulders and elbows lock a little, especially on the left side, then move back into sometimes blurry-fast-engaged, no-holding-back Staccato.
My arms are both extended straight up and my face is contorted. I put one hand on my ribcage and then the other, praying for my own full recovery and for Simon’s. I raise both arms back up and turn left and right at 30 degrees, straight up and down like a cake mixer, my face still crumpled. Wiping tears, I go back to moving around my entire individual dance floor – the twinkling Christmas tree in the background of the frame.
All of these long months of the pandemic, I had worked so hard to keep us safe, taking every precaution, drilling the importance of mask-wearing and hand-washing into Simon, wearing the finish off the floors with bleach cleaning, staying home for long stretches. At one point I didn’t even get into the car for over two months. I was so afraid of the long-term impacts on the body – all the horrifying accounts I’d heard, some of them first hand.
And here we were with Covid. All that aversion and warding off and pushing away and fear and constraint. And now nothing left to do but accept, drink lots of fluids, monitor ourselves, and try to avoid infecting others.
We spent Christmas eve home in Brooklyn, playing Scrabble and drawing together at the table – me, Simon and my not-husband, his father.
And now in the video it’s clear that Chaos has taken me over completely. I remember originally thinking I should pick a chaos song that wouldn’t drive too hard. And then I change my mind, add a heavy-drumming Rishi and Harshil track, and throw down: moving low, raising my knees and stepping on every fast beat like I have percussion instruments tied to my ankles. I’m going crazy now, my head released and fast, jiggling and throbbing and flinging, gestures flipping through the spine from the tailbone and out my coiling head.
I click slightly forward in the video, and now I’m smiling and playful, though still moving so fast I’m blurry. This is the lighter chaos track that I had originally picked – a song that always inspires me.
I open a door and disappear from the frame here, going to ask Simon if he will please dance with me. He declines, but I come back and set the intention to dance for both of us, energy rising up, lilting. I imagine that sickness is leaving us, exiting in whirls into the air above.
I take another drink of water, and ride the wave into Stillness, moving with a tender cover of “Higher Love.”
My aunt sent a video of multiple family members wishing Simon a Merry Christmas at a family party, and he buried his face in a pillow and cried.
Later, Simon developed a fever and was too dizzy to shower. Tylenol brought the fever down, but I was still concerned, and monitored him for a lot of the night.
Today, Christmas, I worked hard to make a happy occasion in collaboration with my not-husband. Today, Simon seemed to appreciate his gifts. He even said, “Do you ever have that feeling that you can’t stop smiling?”
Bending over to tie up my hair, I feel the weight in my lungs pulling down from the bottom to the top with gravity as I am bent upside down. Simon is drawing in his room, my not-husband is watching a video and resting. Soon, they’ll go for a walk to get some fresh air, and I’ll dance again. Maybe they’ll even dance with me later.
I’m not sure if I’m the one who has been bitten by the spider, or the villager who is supporting her in staying alive by dancing in wild frenzy at her side.
December 25, 2021
Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and recently completed the 5Rhythms teacher training. 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. Images in this post are courtesy of the writer. The blue drawing is by the artist and depicts the wing of a great horned owl.
It was glowing dark, blood red. Then it was just black with a thin arc of light on the bottom right. I sat there in full darkness, clutching my elbows, amazed.
I woke up at 3AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, owing to a racing brain. The good news is that I got to see the almost-full lunar eclipse on Thursday night. The bad news is that I had another night of poor sleep. Nights of poor sleep have been too frequent lately. I just haven’t had enough time to process my experiences given the pace of work lately.
Saturday was another sleepless night. At one point I jumped up and ran to the window, hearing screaming and fearing someone was in danger. Then I heard, “Happy Belated!” and realized it was just people celebrating. I did fall asleep at some point, but slept less than two hours in total.
“You know, I don’t have that problem,” one of my close advisors shared, “I just lay down and I let the day go and that’s that. You can’t hold onto that stuff.” I gritted my teeth, knowing he was trying to help, but feeling judged and annoyed.
Sunday I dragged. It was hard to form thoughts. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I was quick to tears and slow to regulate.
In the afternoon, I went for a massage. My trusted massage therapist (who I visit once every four or five months) was not available so I went to a new person at the same studio. I practiced my lines on the way over, “I haven’t had a massage in a long time, and I’m feeling really sensitive, so if it doesn’t feel right, I’m going to need to cancel. It’s nothing personal.”
For whatever reason, I trusted him right away. He started with my neck and back. My muscles cramped and relaxed again and again. I was able to stay present in the pain, although at times it was very intense.
The tears started within five minutes. At first just dripping down through the face-shaped hole in the massage table, but by the time the masseuse started working through the knots on my right shoulder I was crying more loudly.
Recollections of the fights at the school where I work drifted in and out. Of the time when a student charged into my room, going after another student. Then after I pushed him out, the same student banging on the door, along with several of his friends. Of the fight when kids barricaded themselves in a room, and several filmed it and posted videos. Of other experiences in my life when I felt unsafe or vulnerable.
When he was working on the nerve tangles around my sacrum, I got very activated then very relaxed. I really felt like a spirit, somehow. I thought, “I might die now. I think I’m going to die,” realizing that letting go of the fear that was controlling my body felt like a potential threat to my survival.
By the time he got to the nerve tangle in my right hip and gluteal, I was scream-crying, sobbing and trying to suck air in, wondering if the asymptomatic case of COVID that lead to a recent positive antibody test had impacted my lungs because I couldn’t seem to get a breath.
He ended with a head massage, with a lot of attention to the base of the skull.
I felt very relaxed at the end, and kind of transparent.
Today was better. Work is still a lot but I have drawn some boundaries. Classes flowed and there were threads of joy.
After school, some students came to visit since they had extra time before basketball practice. “Guys, I’m about to dance. You either have to go or dance,” I said.
“Ok, I’ll dance,” one good-humored, receptive student shrugged.
“Naw. I’m not dancing,” another said.
“Me either. At my middle school they forced me to be in a dance club that the dean taught. They all laughed at me, and when I told them to fuck off I got in trouble.”
“Well, you can’t just sit there and watch the two of us. That’s just weird.”
“Fine. Ok. I guess we’ll dance.”
I had mixed feelings about giving up my personal practice time, but was curious to see what could happen. I figured it would last five minutes or so.
In the end, we danced for 45 minutes and ended sucking wind and dripping with sweat.
“Can we use the ball?” one student asked, picking up the plush globe that I use as a talking piece to pass around for circle discussions in classes.
“Sure, that’s a good idea,” I answered.
I put on a flowing song that sounds like a video game.
“Ok, so now every time you pass the ball, you have to spin around first.”
We started playing with spinning and dropping, all moving around the room.
I said, “Ok, now drop your weight way down when you spin,” and we all did our own version of the prompt.
I put on another flowing song, this one quite a bit edgier, and they started getting in each other’s faces in a playful way. I put the song on freeze, and they all froze, then moved, then froze, then moved.
I pulled out another “ball” as I put on a staccato track, and watched the magic unfold. We took turns with the spotlight, including the kid with dance trauma, cheering each other on. We moved into partnership, the kids delightfully present with each other, flexing and advancing, busting complex moves with attitude and precision, sarcastic but real, alive and honest and present.
Eventually I had to kick them out so I could dance like a wild animal and not worry that if I raised my arms my back might show. But they want to do this every day.
I could think of worse things.
Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and is currently enrolled in the 5Rhythms teacher training. 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 in this post are from blogs.nasa.gov.
It has been a wild ride lately.
There are serious teacher and substitute teacher shortages at this time and as a result, many are carrying an almost-unsustainable work load. Also as result things have been chaotic, which has arisen to more fights than usual among the teens we teach. The principal was hurt breaking up a fight three weeks ago, and hasn’t been in the building since, though she has been trying to lead from afar.
On top of that, someone in my home building stole an amazon package, and a loud physical fight over a parking space erupted in the street in front of the building. The day before, a teen was hit by a car and thrown a huge distance. The driver left the scene while me and some other horrified neighbors tried to protect the severely injured child from traffic. We waited ten minutes or more for an ambulance.
I chose this place to be as close as possible to my son, Simon’s, middle school when we had to find a new place to live this past summer. I’m praying I made the right choice and that he can feel safe here. He keeps telling me he feels like he has to be “on high alert” though.
Today I had some time to myself; and I went straight to Riis Park beach.
Akin to the previous week, it was clear that the sea had surged over the boardwalk and all the way up to the bathroom area–a vast distance of beach swallowed up by high winds and high tides. Wet sand pooled in rivers and you could see dark and light sand patterns left by the receding waves.
It was not so cold that I needed snow pants, but cold enough that there were few beachgoers. I made my way along the boardwalk. The entire beach landscape was wet and smoothed down. Even the sand hills that are made in winter to protect the boardwalk from storm surges had been rounded and smoothed.
In the car on the way, I sobbed raggedly, thinking about the state of the world and how my personal experiences have intersected with it. I decided to dance with an intention today: physical and emotional safety for Simon, for friends and family, for the students I teach and members of my school community, and for all beings.
I found a driftwood board and made it into a small table with some rocks and shells. Then, I decided to search for objects to place on this altar that I would charge with protecting power, and give to some of the people I was hoping to send protection energy to.
We also got an email from Simon’s principal on Friday advising us that there had been a shooting on the corner right by his school in the middle of the afternoon. This is the first year he takes the bus alone, with only a peer and no adult supervision. He likes to stop for a snack at the deli on the way, and wasn’t happy when I told him he should go straight to school from the bus stop.
To give my attention something to hinge on, I decided to look for purple shells. It was low tide, and I spent some minutes searching for suitable objects among those embedded in the packed sand of low tide.
Last night when I was tucking Simon in, it occurred to me that the baseboard heaters get very hot, and it might not be a good idea for the bed and couch to be pushed right up against them. I consulted google and confirmed that bedding directly on the heater is not recommended. (Duh). I told him we needed to adjust and started moving things to make it safer. He was furious and screamed loudly that he was just trying to fall asleep.
My fingertips were cold and I wished I had thought to bring gloves. It was too cold for bare feet and I kept my shoes on as I started to move in Flowing.
Thankfully, I was quickly absorbed.
In part inspired by some somatic anatomy lessons led by 5Rhythms teacher Erik Iverson, I played with internal and external rotation in various body parts, moving from the feet, toes, arches, ankles, and heels on up through the rest of me. I spoke it aloud, teaching myself and also trying to be clear and concise as though I was leading a class.
Staccato felt like too much risk today. Every time I wondered about that, I just settled more into Flowing, feeling the need to settle my system and sink deeply into mindfulness of my feet–a core practice in the 5Rhythms system. At times I closed my eyes to allow me to turn further inside.
When I finally started to toggle quickly between internal and external rotation, especially in the shoulders and hips, Staccato started to emerge. I also began to play with pushing through the heels of my hands, then letting energy flow, and similarly pushing then releasing into the gestures of the heels of my feet.
Finally warm enough, I took off my shoes and coat and let my feet touch the cold sand as I trailed them in lines and dug them in deep twisting circles. I turned away from the water and into the land, moving with my own shadow on the sand as I cut and dipped, pushed and released, clipping, sinking, rising up, pausing, then letting the gesture fly, sometimes with sharp vocalizations
I remained completely absorbed as I moved into the rhythm of Chaos and continued to prompt myself with various body parts, internal and external rotation, and pushing then releasing through the heels of my hands and feet.
In Lyrical, the pushing that was coming through the hands and feet opened up into full looping gestures. I imagined myself as the blue of the sky, with clouds passing through my torso.
In closing, as the sun climbed higher into the morning, I moved with the dark inside myself, feeling both density and weightlessness, imagining I had no references points and no cardinal directions.
I walked back along the boardwalk with still-bare feet, feeling quiet and calm, and cautiously ready for the coming week.
Meghan LeBorious is a writer, teacher, and meditation facilitator who has been dancing the 5Rhythms since 2008 and is currently enrolled in the 5Rhythms teacher training. 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. All photos are courtesy of the writer.
Today was the first day in a long time that work thoughts weren’t dominating my mindstream.
It has been a wild ride at work lately. We are very short-staffed at the school where I teach, and everyone is wearing too many hats and working too many hours – the case pretty much everywhere in the country. As a result, things have been extremely chaotic; and there simply hasn’t been time to process events given the intense pace. On top of work challenges, my 11-year-old son, Simon, has had a difficult couple of weeks himself, which preoccupies me, though I know he has the ability and confidence to move through the challenges that arise.
The first thing I did this morning was create a new altar. The previous summer-themed altar had been lingering for too long. I pulled out all of my boxes of special objects and cloths, and assembled an altar in honor of my ancestors – both biological and spiritual – something I do every year around this time.
During the past two weeks, I’ve been distracted during meditation, often with thoughts of work.
Today, I sat down and was absorbed into a state of still concentration. Tears began to pour down and I rocked myself from side to side, “listening” to the wisdom of the ancestors. I had been contemplating extensively the role of a teacher, and my role in particular. The idea that knowledge does not come from a teacher came through strongly. A teacher sets the conditions and holds the container, but the learner makes the knowledge through their personal process.
I love how Albert Einstein, who was famously oppressed by his teachers, puts it, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”
The mistaken idea that a teacher is the source of knowledge (especially if the teacher holds this idea) leads to a fundamental misunderstanding. What poured through was the understanding that it is not me, it is not any genius teacher, but is rather source pouring through and taking its form in this moment.
This understanding is freeing, humbling, and empowering. Freeing because I don’t have to hold it all myself and I’m not solely responsible for what arises; humbling because I understand that teaching does not serve my individual ego, and empowering because the well of power that flows from source is infinite, and is not limited to my own small reserves.
This insight feels important both in my work teaching mindfulness and meditation with teens in a Brooklyn high school, and to the 5Rhythms teacher training, which I am currently participating in.
I imagined my heart was an opening flower that poured light throughout my body.
After this session and breakfast with Simon I drove to Riis Park to practice the 5Rhythms.
As I crossed the wide beach, I considered picking up a scooped half shell, but rejected the idea since the shell seemed too ordinary – the beach was strewn with many similar shells and I already had a number of the same type at home.
But I pushed back on my own discrediting voice. “Yes, you DO need that shell,” I countered. And I went back and picked up the shell. I found two more, and decided to create another altar, this one on packed sand, with the three shells representing past, present, and future.
If I hadn’t gone back, I don’t know if the world would have opened to me as it did.
I wandered aimlessly, feeling like the world was unfolding to offer its magic to me, and like I understood the language it was speaking. I found a large, compressed, glittering rock and put it into the past shell. I found a piece of smooth, striated, peach and purple shell and put it into the future position.
The present shell I filled with beach glass. I’ve been collecting beach glass my entire life, following a passion of my mother’s. I love that glass is made from sand, and sea is in the process of returning it to sand, and that the glass is made by human hands, and that its journey is a collaboration between humans and the elements.
Today beach glass was more abundant by a factor of two or three than it has even been in my life; and I was finding giant, translucent pieces with smoothed edges in dark green, light green, aquamarine, brown, and frosted white.
These jewels were being offered in abundance; and it seemed important that their sharp edges were now refined and smoothed down.
I moved closer to the water, and began to range across the packed sand. Today Flowing felt whispery. My body was both heavy and light at the same time. A flock of birds circled over the water, looping as white shapes, then disappearing into thin lines as they curved, then coming back as a flock of white shapes and looping away again.
I stayed in Flowing for a long time, asking for help with a difficult decision and letting the universe pour in. Sharp stones and rocks were under my bare feet, but my feet stayed aware so even when I stepped on a sharp edge I was able to soften and avoid injury. I let the push and pull of the waves and gravity as I moved up and down the sloped sand move me in circles.
Staccato started to spike, and I began to exhale more forcefully.
I fell back into Flowing again, noticing how much physical activation came from moving into Staccato, and how much I preferred to stay in Flowing, or move through into Chaos.
I started to move from one shell or rock to another, imagining myself as a fighter. I directed force in different directions, vocalizing, dropping my weight, and shifting my gaze.
Finally, Chaos started to come through and I let fly. At first it seemed whispery and patient, like much of this wave, but before long it turned demon-fast. I was flung around by my whipping and coiling spine, tossed off balance and turned out, the bright sun shifting to cloud cover and back to bright sun, turning my vision orange behind closed eyelids, throwing shadows across the sand and sea.
This was written on October 17 near the full moon, and I returned to the beach again today, now almost to the new moon. Though the tide was low, the surf was wild, owing to heavy winds. Someone was kitesurfing down the beach – a graceful, green curved kite held taut against the wind that dipped and curved like a dragon. I moved along with it, with clouds racing across the sky, waves piling up and crashing, and birds soaring in shifting groups. I kept thinking: I remember I remember I remember.
I remember the way home.
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
Photos: Original images by the writer October, 2021.