I went into the woods on December 26th with a heavy heart.

Like most years, I spent the holidays with family in Northern Connecticut. It had been a delightful few days and I was counting my blessings. 

Still, I couldn’t shake this heaviness. 

Parenting has been a heavy lift lately. I’m working hard to find the right construct for my bright, talented 12-year-old, where he feels included, motivated, and inspired; and we definitely have not hit the right balance in the past year and half.

I tried to talk myself out of it, arguing that my parents are growing older and I should be enjoying every second I have with them.

But still the painful heaviness persisted.

The air was frigid as I made my way to the river. I chose a favorite spot and picked up a branch to clear dead, wet leaves away, creating a sandy circle. I invited my ancestors, guides, and deities to help me see what I needed to see. 

There was agony in my chest and back and I wondered if I would even be able to move. Almost as soon as I began to drop my weight and circle – the soft river sand yielding under my running shoes – I began to sob. I continued to allow difficult feelings to move through me as I invited more and more of me to release to gravity and to endless, circling motion. 

Flowing is the rhythm of the ground, of the instinctive self, of receptivity,  and of raw, unfiltered experience.

I stayed in Flowing for a long time, late enough that the winter sun started to shift and spotlight through the trees on the other side of the river. 

I realized that anxiety had taken me over in recent weeks, especially with respect to my son’s schooling. I was focused on the future, toggling through all possible dangers and scenarios. I was sacrificing the present for a desired later time, and I was acting out of fear. 

I told myself that I had to find a way to be in this present, even if it is uncertain and frightening, and even as we continue to make plans and make moves. I also realized that my fear could easily be interpreted as a lack of confidence in my only son. At moments I howled with emotion, thankful I was alone in the woods.

After an hour or more, I shifted into the rhythm of Staccato, with the sun dipping low and dappling and the white sky draining of light.

Anything can happen; and practice doesn’t always shift painful and difficult states, but on this day it did. I moved through the rest of the rhythms with engagement, eventually growing quiet and moving like a whisper. 

Resolving to be a more skillful parent, I went home and hugged my son tightly, telling him how proud of him I am and how much I love him.

The next day was warmer. 

My circle was still visible on the sandy bank, and I redrew its edges with a stick, then began to move in Flowing, the first of the 5Rhythms. After a short time, I naturally and seamlessly found myself in Staccato, the second rhythm. I exhaled, I moved with clarity, found angles with the knees and elbows, and explored the different shapes that were coming through. 

Staccato is the rhythm of taking bold action in this world, of making moves, of creating systems; and it is the rhythm of the heart. I realized I was dancing prayers, and, as the day before, moved through each of the rhythms, and remained engaged for a long time. Once I moved through a full wave and found myself in Stillness, I pushed off of the 5Rhythms map and simply moved with the woods, the river, and inner and outer forces.

The third day was warmer still. It is over a week ago now, but I can remember my delight at finding my circle still undisturbed, the comfort of redrawing its edges, and the feeling of losing myself in movement, of total immersion. After moving through all of the rhythms and drawing a ribbon of prayer through each, I danced a snowy owl, imagining what it would be like to sense the edges of things with the tips of my powerful wings, and scanning for subtle movement in the underbrush.

I ran back up the big hill toward home, feeling grateful and bright. My eye caught on a white feather on the side of the road. I looked up and the first thing I saw was a snowy owl statue on a neighbor’s front porch, its wings outstretched, ready to soar, ready to greet a new year.

Meghan LeBorious is a 5Rhythms teacher, meditator, artist, mother, and writer. She has been on the 5Rhythms dancing path since 2008. She was moved to write about her experiences following her very first 5Rhythms class; and has been writing about them ever since. This blog in independently generated and is not sanctioned or produced by the 5Rhythms organization.