Parenting & Practice in the Time of Coronavirus

The hardest part of my experience right now is parenting. 

I don’t feel like I have the skill set for this. Some days my ten-year-old son, Simon, and I ricochet off of each other, caught in a cycle of reactivity. Today, he called me a “jerk” repeatedly, told me I’m “the worst parent in the world,” and told me he hates me. I said, “Sorry you feel that way.” When I asked if he preferred to go hiking or biking today, he screamed and cried at maximum volume, protesting. Sometimes I feel like he only wants to play video games (something I virtually prohibited before this time), and is trying to make life so miserable that I will just leave him to it. It’s true, too, that he is suffering with all the painful changes and uncertainty. I said, “Ok, I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. We’re leaving in ten minutes.” 

And that was all just in the morning. 

It hasn’t been easy to help him be active, especially since there are no other kids to wrestle or run with. Yesterday, we went to a big field with a kite, and took turns running to get it to fly. We laughed as it zigged and zagged, sprinting to avoid getting dive-bombed. 

We also discovered a toad on the back deck, a phenomenon that delighted Simon.    

So some days have been better than others.

For the time being, I’m parent, playmate, teacher, athletic coach, and, as he told me yesterday, “You’re my therapist, Mommy.”

Despite some nice moments mixed in with the challenging ones, by afternoon my patience was shot. I left Simon (after much coaxing) in a zoom meeting with his friends and in the care of my parents and went for a run. 

I felt strong, my lungs expanded from anger, my leg muscles flushed with blood, preparing to fight or flee. Arriving at the soft trail by the Scantic River, I picked up my pace, trying to let my feet relax completely with each pounding step. 

I did two fast loops, then decided to dance a 5Rhythms wave, choosing a sandy spot where I wasn’t visible to anyone. I turned in circles, gravitating to a flat spot. My brain rushed with the events of the past hour and of the day. I scanned my body, noting fire at the bottom of my esophagus, the seat of my anger at the moment. I also noticed my shoulder wasn’t moving much, and invited it into motion. 

Gradually, more of my body joined the circling, and thinking started to settle down. I breathed in the anger I was experiencing, then started to breathe in the anger many parents are experiencing at this time, and to breathe out equanimity. I was practically gulping in air at this point. I also started to breathe in the fear that many parents are experiencing, and to breathe out equanimity, again. Then, I started to cry in big, jagged sobs and to wail. I realized I’m afraid that Simon will acquire habits that will lead to an unhappy life, that I’m afraid about the long-term effects of social isolation, and that I feel powerless in a situation that I very much wish to control. 

I stayed a long time in Flowing, and when I finally did move into the second rhythm of Staccato, I could feel myself wanting to collapse. “I can’t” my mind kept saying. This time, I really had to rely on practice. I chose directions to move into, emphasized the out-breath, and gave my attention to the hips. Still, there was something in me that wanted to crumble, and something that kept my heart from being totally open. I gave myself permission to not know what to do, but kept trying to stay alive to the woods, to the rushing current, to the blue heron that took to the sky and landed on a branch nearby.

Schedule changes, different approaches, and different perspectives I could implement to improve things came to mind.

The third rhythm of Chaos surprised me in arriving. Today, I was ardent, giving myself to the fire with a great deal of energy. My head came loose and wheeled itself around, though there was still a hint of holding in the sides of my neck. I growled–crying, spitting, sweating. I started to move into the fourth rhythm of Lyrical, then pulled myself back, acknowledging the need for letting go today, and moved a little longer in intentional abandon. 

Moving into Lyrical, I said out loud, “I give myself permission to be as light as possible.” The loudness of my breath, feet, and thoughts dissolved. Now even quieter, I could hear active rustling at the heights of the trees, the river gurgling around its obstacles, and birds calling to each other. 

Stillness, the fifth rhythm, comes easily in this place, and I closed my eyes, continuing to move softly, breathing in and out with everything around me. 

I was called to sitting meditation and settled myself down on the clean sand by the river. Still, even after all this catharsis and sweat, my mind felt unstable. After a period, I let go of meditating, shifting into just being. At that point, my mind became very precise. I noticed a dazzle in the far woods, rippling water, a subtle muscle release in my foot, pressure on my sit bones, tension in my shoulder, a flicker of thought, breath, the light on the water, rippling water again, tension in the jaw.

I was able to follow these shifts of attention with great agility.

Eventually, the sound of approaching hikers shook me from these depths and I set off for home, running back up the hill I ran down and returning to my parents’ house, feeling like I had a secret. The seemingly impossible challenges felt manageable again; and I had new insights about how to handle them.

When I arrived, I jumped straight into the shower, scrubbing myself down with a rough washcloth. 

I reflected that I am open to working with so much that is difficult in my experience, but when it comes to parenting, there is something in me that refuses to have a growth mindset, that wants to retract, to refuse to accept that it’s both challenging and workable, and instead to shut down.

My mom came in as soon as I got out of the shower to report some challenges that had arisen while I was gone.

All of the space I had found in the woods seemed to collapse, and weight settled onto my chest again. My resolve crumbled, and I stepped back into the messy work of parenting, praying, for all the world, that I will somehow find a way, that I will stop saying, “I can’t” because there is no other option right now except  “I must.”

May 23, 2020, Broad Brook, Connecticut

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.


Light & Shadow

“The intention for this workshop is full, complete and unrelenting self-acceptance,” said highly regarded 5Rhythms teacher Kierra Foster-Ba during the course of the one-day workshop “Light & Shadow” at Martha Graham studios on Saturday.  5Rhythms is a dance and movement meditation practice created by the late Gabrielle Roth; and the “Light & Shadows” workshop was a committed investigation of the shadow aspects of each of the five rhythms—Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  After a series of tightly scheduled events, I found myself en route to the West Village, hoping a miracle would grant me parking; and pondering the fact that there are so many terrifying, uncomfortable, collective shadows to dance at this particular moment.  No matter how things go with the election, there is no denying that we have seen some horrifically ugly aspects of our humanity recently.

Before stepping up onto the gloriously forgiving sprung floor, I took several moments to notice the powerful ritual of stepping from the world into the space of formal practice.  We began with a brief wave—what we call it when we move through each of the 5Rhythms in sequence—and I found movement easily, though I noticed that I was more introverted than usual.

After the opening wave, Kierra gathered us together to offer spoken instruction and to demonstrate one way of moving in each rhythm.  Kierra noted that there were several participants who had never before attended a 5Rhythms class or workshop; and she took the time to teach essential points before moving on to the shadow work.  She spent the most time on Flowing—the first and most foundational rhythm.  She explained that Flowing is led by the feet, and is an invitation to drop all the way down into the feet in order to connect with the instinctive self.  Next, her movements became sharp and she exhaled noticeably, “Staccato is about being in the world.”  She went on to say, “Staccato is directional.  Letting in and letting out.”  The movement of her head accelerated and she began to rock back and forth energetically, saying, “Chaos is about letting go.”  She emphasized that if you give yourself over to Chaos, including not caring at all about how you look to others, you are inevitably led into Lyrical—the rhythm of joy, of lightening up.  At Kierra’s request, another well regarded 5Rhythms teacher, Jane Selzer, got up to demonstrate the rhythm of Stillness, as Kierra explained on the microphone that breath is the gateway to Stillness, and that in Stillness we begin to let pauses come into our movements.

Having set the foundation of the rhythms, Kierra went on to speak about the shadows.  The shadow of Flowing is inertia, of Staccato is tension, of Chaos is confusion, of Lyrical is being spaced out, and of Stillness is numbness.  Although the temptation is to see the shadow as a negative aspect of the rhythms or as something to get rid of, Kierra encouraged us to think of the shadows as something with real “nutrition,” and even went on to later describe the “gravy” of each shadow, inviting us to consider that the shadow rhythms might even be as enjoyable as the “essential” rhythm in some ways.  She also introduced the theme that the shadow rhythms could relate to parts of us that we are ashamed of and keep hidden, sometimes even from ourselves.

Tuesday was a difficult day for me.  I can’t exactly say why.  A stressful situation had dissolved a few days before; and perhaps it could only hit me after the fact.  My nails were bitten down, my hair’s ends broken, my skin was unhappy, I couldn’t eat as I had something that must have been heartburn, and my lower back hurt.  The dentist told me the pain I was feeling in my jaw was not because I needed some urgent dental surgery, but that the likely cause was that my gums and teeth were showing signs of stress.  I couldn’t find joy or optimism, especially in the context of work.  Everything seemed hopeless and useless.  To make matters worse, I couldn’t swim after work, my daily habit for re-setting myself to neutral, because in my rushing movements I had forgotten my swim bag.

That evening, my six-year-old son, Simon, did his very best to cheer me up.  He is an exceedingly charming child and tried all the tricks that usually work.  “How can I make you happy, Mommy?” he finally asked.  “Oh, my beautiful son!  You always make me happy.  But today I am just not feeling good.  I’m not exactly sure why, but I just don’t feel happy.  Sometimes it is like that, little one.  Sometimes you just have to let whatever it is work its way through without trying to fix it.”  After Simon went to bed, I was tempted to call my mother, as she always helps me feel better, but I decided not to.  I wanted to have a beer as soon as Simon went to bed, too, but I decided not to.  Instead, I practiced yoga for a while, letting the painful, disheartened feelings I was experiencing have full sway. It was not easy to be with the discomfort.

Kierra was transparent about the structure of the workshop; and explained her plans for working with inertia—the shadow of Flowing.  She invited us to stretch out on the floor and let ourselves slowly be called to action by the music.  There would be three songs to let ourselves be in inertia, then find our way into moving.  I started out moving kind of quickly, and consciously tried to slow way down.  The gravity and resistance of inertia didn’t feel that different from how I normally experience Flowing—where I love to whirl and grind myself into the floor, partnering with gravity and solidity.  I slowly gathered myself and rose to my feet, beginning to move throughout the room.  Kierra picked up the microphone, “At this point, ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now in order to find Flowing?”  What came immediately to mind for me was, “I need other people.  I need to see and be seen—not direct, not confrontational, but obliquely, softly.  To be influenced by other people’s gestures, to be swept along by the currents of the bodies around me and to gently affect the currents of the room, myself.”  I thought of traces, of mingling, and of kelp plants, waving their tethered arms with the movements of the deep ocean.

To some extent, working with the shadows is about transforming our relationship to aversion; and Kierra again and again visited the theme of loving and supporting all parts of ourselves, including the parts we would perhaps rather disown.  In Buddhist terms, aversion is the act of pushing away from what we find distasteful or frightening.  Working intentionally with the shadows is to choose to move toward the things we would normally try to push away.  Both in 5Rhythms and in many Buddhist traditions, moving intentionally into what we want to move away from is seen as a way to open the heart and mind, not as some form of masochistic self-abuse.  Perhaps moving directly into pain—rather than doing everything in our power to get away from it, through over-drinking, over-eating, over-exercising, over-working, gambling, drugs, filling up every space in our minds with churning thoughts, or filling up every space of our lives with frantic activity—can serve us.

Next, we moved on to the investigation of Staccato.  The shadows of each rhythm are even less fixed than the essential rhythms; and though we learned that the shadow of Staccato is tension, Kierra also added that the tension can lead to repression and control.  I clenched my fists and set to it.  I had to keep fluttering my lips and shaking out my head, as the level of tension in my body didn’t feel healthy.  My dance at this point was not very inspired.  I thought about Gabrielle Roth, how she used to stop and straight out tell people to dig deeper, to give more.  At that point, Kierra stopped the music and said, “I’m going to play a song now that is really going to allow us to go there.  This might even be a little bit aggressive.”  And, oh, was it!  Filled with angst and speed and resistance, I became a demon, letting aggression and anger arise, deep, deep in the hips, scraping, clawing the air around me, raking my knees into sharp angles, my head released and flinging itself with as much speed as my hips, feet, knees and elbows.  I danced near a friend with a very strong practice and his devotion, passion and energy inspired me to dig even deeper.  A giddy, chemical release flooded my quadriceps and soon the rest of me.  As the last Staccato song concluded, Kierra commented that anger can be a teacher; and that it can alert us when our boundaries have been inappropriately transgressed.

On the note of repression, I thought about an incident that took place during a meditation retreat I was staffing several years ago.  We were sitting on meditation cushions in a small group of perhaps ten people, engaged in a formal discussion.  We were talking about aversion—again, the Buddhist concept of pushing away what is unpleasant or uncomfortable.  In response to one of the comments about the aversive shell we create to keep ourselves safe, I said, “Well, you know.  It would be one thing if shutting down or pushing away actually worked to make us happier or keep us safe.  The thing is that it really doesn’t work.  If it did I would be all for it, but it doesn’t.”  I’m not exactly sure how it was framed, but I said something about, “It’s not like it’s the subway in the South Bronx at 2AM in the late 1980’s, when you might actually need a shell around you.”  A flash of raw anger shot around the circle; and every single person felt it before even a word was said.  One woman spoke up, expressing that she felt that what I said was racist.  Man, that hurt.  Shame of the most intense possible quality flooded me.  My heart started beating like crazy.  My partner of many years was a black and latino man.  We had shared hundreds of hours in discussion about racism, ranging through many different levels.  Secretly, I had always been terrified that on some deep level I was actually a racist. Though I was afraid, I approached the woman during the next break and asked her to talk with me about her feelings.  She was very receptive; and after, I understood how she could see my comment as racist.  She also thanked me, saying that she was always calling people out for racist comments; and that I was the first person who had ever come and asked her to talk about it.

This terribly painful experience gave me great insight; and a rush of relief flooded me with another set of powerful chemicals.  I realized I had been afraid that there was some essential part of me that was racist.  Every other essentialist part of my psyche had been rigorously interrogated, but this part remained hidden, obscured by shame and fear.  (Note:  As you probably know, from the perspective of some Buddhist philosophy “essentialism” is the belief that there is a separate and definable “self” and too, implies that reality has some logical kind of coherence or definability.)  I realized that just as there is no essential self; too, there is no essential racism.  As I currently understand it, racism is a process—one that affects every single person who lives in this culture.  Fundamentally, it is our flawed human tendency to separate the world into “us” and “them” that lays the foundation for racism, not an intrinsic hidden evil; though there is no denying the intensity and complexity of racism as it now functions.  It would be impossible to overstate the importance of this insight for my personal path.  Even my firmly-held idea that I was a not-racist was limiting my perception of phenomena, and, as such, needed to be interrogated, as much as any other part of me, in the interest of uncovering the deepest truth.

As the songs devoted to the investigation of tension—the shadow of Staccato—ended, I caught a friend’s eye.  We both smiled, and our shoulders started a conversation.  Without any thought, we stepped into a Staccato dance, with open chests and shyly playful gestures, before sitting down with the rest of the group to debrief the round of exercises.

Before the second half of the Light & Shadow workshop, we took a brief break, then danced another short wave before settling into an investigation of confusion—the shadow of Chaos.  For the first song, we were invited to start with the shapes of “I don’t know.”  This exercise did not resonate for me—which is not to say that it didn’t work for me.  Certainly, it was acting on me in some way.  In every class and workshop, even when I am transported by bliss, there are some exercises that have more charge than others.  The following suggestion, that we dance an agitated kind of confusion, didn’t really resonate this time either.  Maybe it is partly because I don’t actually mind being confused.  I am as cerebral as they come, but I don’t mind that I have all kinds of contradictory opinions and experiences and theories.  The final invitation during the Chaos shadow work was, “What does it look like when you really don’t know something, but you are pretending that you do.”

Just that morning, I had been bragging that I don’t usually hide when I don’t know something.  I saw a friend—the parent of a child in my son’s class; and I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name (it was this friend I was bragging to).  We had shared at least four or five conversations, been at the same party or picnic several times, and our children genuinely like each other.  Her name has four syllables and seems unusual to me.  I felt embarrassed that I still couldn’t remember it, but I came clean right away, rather than trying to skirt around my lapse.  We spoke at length about names and naming and identity; and I learned a lot about her home country. And I have finally committed her name to memory, so I will be able to hug her and greet her by name the next time I see her.

At the workshop, we paused to share thoughts on the shadow of Chaos.  Kierra was kind enough to acknowledge my barely-raised hand, and I shared, “What I got was…that confusion arises from misunderstanding the nature of reality.  The dissolution of all meaning systems.  That everything is moving.  And that even the ground isn’t fixed.”

Kierra surprised me by asking, “Can I work with you for a minute? To help you find the ground.  I want to ask you to go into Chaos.”  I stood up and moved instantly into a massively energetic Chaos, with whipping head and whirling gestures, moving from the floor to the sky and back, with occasional pauses of sharpness in a fast-spinning storm.  Kierra offered an oblique compliment that made me feel happy, then went on to talk about how the 5Rhythms can also be seen as a philosophy and as a way to live.

I was very grateful for her kind attention, but I feared I hadn’t communicated the emotional truth of my experience very well.  That even the ground moves feels like a revelation (or at least a reminder), rather than a lament.  For three years, I worked with teens from Haiti who had been in the devastating earthquake, when the ground literally broke apart.  Nearly all lost many family members; and some were injured.  I have also practiced 5Rhythms extensively at the edge of the sea, where the ground shifts constantly.  There, what was once ground could suddenly be underwater, roiling with rocks and sand.  I have incredible gratitude for the principle of ground, but believe there is nothing—absolutely nothing—that is fixed.  I think that the principle of grounding is a different matter, in a way. When I say there is no ground, I guess what I really mean is that the only ground we can count on is actually an experience that comes mostly from within.  Rather than trying to find a fixed external point to attach myself to, I try to build the skills I need to live in a world that is always in joyful, terrifying, ceaseless motion.

Kierra seemed to be wanting to demonstrate that release is part of the secret to finding the ground.  I understand and appreciate this perspective, but I continue to grapple with a new level of what “ground” is.  Somehow I have to find a way to trust, surrender to, and adore the ground—at once without clinging in any way to the notion of it.  Yet another thread that is a work in progress!

To conclude our debrief of the Chaos exercise, another participant raised his hand to share that, ironically, letting himself go into confusion seemed to allow him to find direction and focus.

Then, there was Lyrical—the rhythm that for years was so foreign to me I would pretty much skip it when I practiced independently.  During classes, when Lyrical arrived, I would often be stricken with terror, and have to fight an impulse to check my phone to make sure there hadn’t been some horrible calamity.  Kierra invited us to start by making “spaced out” shapes.  I started with the familiar shapes of feeling verbally attacked, withdrawn completely—disassociated to the point that I literally could not follow a conversation, prompting a criticism I heard hundreds of times, “Oh, great!  The ‘deer in headlights’ look again.  That is just like you.  You…” Our next investigation was of being distracted.  I marched anxiously around the room fixated on an imaginary cel phone.  During the final song, Kierra invited us to let ourselves space out to see what might happen.  I loved this part!  I fixed my gaze on some high up, far off point, sometimes in a different direction than the one my body was moving, and soared through the room, high up on my toes.

The rhythm of Lyrical—after many lifetimes of estrangement—opened up for me the summer before last.  After sinking several levels into connection with the ground as a result of many years of disciplined practice, space beckoned me.  On a wide beach, a man was flying a huge, red kite-surfing kite, the kind with two heavy-duty handles.  It became my partner, and we joined in a massive, radial dance of perhaps a hundred yards or more, surrounded and joined by my son and a group of running children.  From then, Lyrical became available to me, accompanied by rainbows, and I welcomed it as a miracle.  It was only the combination of ground and open space that allowed me access to this gateway.

I recall another experience of space that offered me an earlier glimpse of Lyrical.  It was also during a meditation retreat.  We had been following instructions about how to work with our minds and bodies for many weekends.  During the first weekend, we held our eyes open, with our gaze just a few feet ahead of us.  In the second, we raised the gaze slightly.  By the fourth, we would occasionally lift our gaze upward, even into the space above us.  We went to practice in Madison Square Park on a beautiful fall day.  I sat cross-legged on a park bench; and began to practice.  At the moment that I lifted my gaze, I drew breath in quickly, in a sudden rush of delight. In a flash, I saw many beings that hovered in the air, above the fountain, above the park, above the trees.  The dynamic aliveness of this moment wrote itself into my body.

In the current political context, and also in the context of my work, it occurs to me that the maturity of Lyrical—the full, shimmering, vibrating, sharp, vivid, spectacular, booming beauty of Lyrical has to do with stepping in to joy with full, open-eyed awareness and acceptance of all our pain and of the collective pain of the world.  It is only with the integration of the shadow principles, and, too, of our own psychological shadows, that joy can fully arrive—not just the happy-because-something-went-well-joy or the I’m-going-to-look-happy-since-I’m-not-sure-how I’m-feeling-joy, it is not the innocent joy of a child either.  Rather, it is the joy that has wisdom in it, joy that pushes nothing away, joy that sees from vast heights, joy that has enough space to hold all things inside it.

As the workshop drew to a close, Kierra invited us to create a circle, saying, “Now we are going to go in, one at a time.  You can do whatever you want once you are there, but the rest of us are all going to hoot and holler and really make you feel appreciated.”  I was so happy, clapping and cheering as nearly every participant stepped in.  I waited for inspiration, thinking I might walk discretely into the middle then turn slowly, looking each person in the eye, then dance whatever came.  As it was, I stepped in just as another dancer, too, stepped into the circle.  I backed away, but she beckoned me.  Instead of our individual time in the circle, we shared the spotlight, leaping and cascading and smiling as we met each other’s eyes and swooped in and out of each other.  I briefly circled her shoulder with my arm, turning her to look at the circle, but we only turned through one small arc.  She returned to her original spot in the circle; and I cross-stepped back to my own spot.

Kierra drew us together again and invited us to hold hands, close our eyes, and stand in both our light and in our shadow.  Then, gathering us together for a final chat, she tied some of the threads together, expressing that it is only when we fully support and accept all parts of who we are can we live authentically, from the heart.  Kierra also said something to the effect that the thing that causes us to suffer the most is the idea that we are separate from each other, and that actually we are deeply connected, in ways “both miraculous and mundane.”

Today, as I write, is marathon Sunday.  I got to watch the middle of the pack for a little while, and cheered enthusiastically. There is nothing more gorgeous than people being beautiful—living their dreams, perhaps pushing themselves far beyond what they thought they were capable of.  My cheers were jagged with little sobs of joy.  What a blessing, to be alive.  How incredibly lucky we are.  To live and to witness others in living.

I had to leave the discussion a few minutes before the end, as I didn’t want to be too late for the babysitter.  The friend I shared the spontaneous, staccato dance with stood up and followed me to the studio door while the discussion continued, embracing me warmly before I stepped down off of the dance floor and the sacred space of formal practice, and back into the world.

November 7, 2016, Brooklyn, NYC

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” –Albert Einstein

Joyful Patterns

“In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that it is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it.”  -Christopher Alexander

Today features a white sky and a steady rain.  Although Brooklyn’s trees are still green, just a few hours north, where I am this weekend, the leaves have started to display their colors.

Last Tuesday night I attended the High Vibration Waves 5Rhythms class at the Joffrey in the West Village, taught this week by Peter Fodera.  I had a bad cold with a headache and wasn’t sure what kind of energy I would have, but decided to go anyway to see what might happen.

Last weekend at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton with my six-year-old son, Simon, we talked about the artworks we encountered, trying to identify what might be the main conceptual concern for each artist.  Encountering a Dan Flavin sculpture, which featured one, two and then three vertical, white fluorescent lights, I asked Simon what he thought this artist was mostly concerned with.  He looked intently at the artwork, then quickly said, “Patterns.  And math.”  (He is getting pretty sophisticated, this small son.  He also said this week, on riding his scooter down the block, “Ah! My back! I’m just not as agile as I was when I was three!”)

In the Flowing part of the class’s first wave, Peter encouraged us to “walk on every inch” of the floor, and to “look for the empty space.”  I langored in this opening act, my feet whispering to the floor. Then, Peter invited us to “walk with someone for a while” and to “see their feet.”  In Flowing, I love to be pushed and pulled along by the gestures and trails of the dancers around me, occasionally gliding in unison in a shared motion.  I particularly love to step into Peter’s wake as he sails through the room—it is like drafting in the water behind a champion swimmer; and as the seas part for him I move in the space he opens up.  I slipped from person to person.  Even when I have a thought of where to go, something would interfere with my trajectory, and carry me into an entirely different direction.  Peter’s next instruction, to “walk with someone” and “see their flow,” had the surprising effect of closing down the movement of the dynamic room.  We just couldn’t seem to swoop in and out of each other, and instead became mired in partnerships in one small spot of floor as soon as we joined with another dancer.

When my energy is low, sometimes it is the energy of partnership that carries me through.  In Chaos, and continuing through Lyrical and Stillness and the wave’s end, I joined with a dancer I had not danced closely with before.  We moved into gentle contact, very much in the hands—in subtle, expressive communion.  As our dance concluded, we touched our hands together and rocked back and forth, coming through the wave’s other side once again into Flowing.

In a different partnership during the class—this time with a dancer I was reluctant to partner with—I found myself backing away from him.  In the process, I accidentally bumped into a woman behind me.  I held onto her arm gently, wanting to express that I was sorry.  She tore away from me with a furious snort, moving to the other side of the room.

In the second wave, Peter repeatedly instructed us to partner, then to find a repetition and carry it with us around the room, joining others in brief partnership.  As we were moving from partner to partner, I crossed paths with a friend I had sought out but found unavailable earlier.  We both smiled, stepping into each other.  I am a very small woman; and this friend is a very tall man.  He carries his size gracefully, but when I dance with him sometimes I wonder if he feels like he has to contain himself around so many smaller bodies. Absorbed in Lyrical, we did find repetitions, though from the outside, it might not have looked like it.  Rather than big, easy-to-follow, repeating gestures as sometimes arise in Lyrical, we skittered down chains of intricately arranged repeating patterns, which would then shift and re-configure, taking form then never landing for long enough to be defined or understood.  Our dance featured some bursting and chasing gestures, too.  I would rise up on my highest toes, reaching for his height, wanting to be expansive along with him, then squiggle myself down and away.  He laughed at my antics, joining in, too.  After this long, intricate, layered exchange, we finally ended up doing the initial assignment—a simple repetition—grinning wildly as we both realized it, rocking back and forth.

We spoke for a few moments after class about our experience.  “That was such a great dance!  You just kept finding all of these patterns—all of this footwork—so intricate!” he said.  His compliments opened the doorway to an obliquely procured insight, about one way that energy can be perceived and worked with, something I hadn’t considered before.

I accidentally bumped into the same woman I accidentally bumped into earlier in the class. Later, as we moved around the room, she glared into my eyes as she passed me, both arms raised, her elbows bent.  I spent a few moments wondering if she might actually tell me off after the class.  I’ve been there!  I know how it is to be triggered by someone.  And here I was triggering someone! I even prepared a response to the glaring woman in my fantasy version of our possible future exchange.  I had two different versions, but in the one I preferred I would say, “I’m sorry I offended you.  Thank you for the feedback.”

This conversation with my tall friend helped me find language for a category of repetitive motions that I have experienced in practice.  One kind of repetition, I call “catching a glitch.” This can be emotional and personal.  For example, when I first started dancing, I had been holding myself so tightly for so long that I found I needed to collapse to the floor again and again.  Through all the collapsing, I was able to mine the gesture for insight, and eventually the pattern released me.  This is when a repetition suddenly becomes compelling and you follow it along its fully trajectory to see what it has to teach.  According to 5Rhythms teacher Kierra Foster Ba, Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, used to tell a story about a painful memory from babyhood that was lodged in her wrist—and that took years of working with to arrive at.

Another kind of repetitive motion—of pattern—is, I think, the kind identified by my tall friend.  Perhaps in this case, the pattern that gets expressed is a tiny window into something that is bigger than any one of us. Perhaps it is something mundanely cosmic—the very movement of energy as it flows around and through us.

Three days later, at Tammy Burstein’s Friday Night Waves class, I arrived late, during the transition of Flowing into Staccato.  I know how important it is to ground myself in Flowing, and lowered myself to the floor for a few brief moments.  Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to step right into Staccato.  On these occasions, all I can do is hope that all the Flowing I have practiced over the years has been integrated enough that I can rely on it.  Tammy played a Michael Jackson song that I love.  Instructed to partner in Staccato after just a few minutes of being in class, I joined with a smiling woman, actually singing the lyrics as we moved in joyful unison, expanding diagonally into the available spaces around us.

At work that afternoon, a colleague had “thrown me under a bus,” in my own words.  When I told a friend about the incident, he said, “No, she didn’t just throw you under the bus.  She tied you up in rope, rolled you into the street and then beckoned a bus to come toward you!”  I was called into a meeting with supervisors, with no warning, no chance to work up to it, no chance to prepare.  As I walked to the meeting, I correctly guessed its nature, and realized that I would have to step right into Staccato, praying for as much skillfulness as I could muster.  I let this colleague speak, only expressing myself at key moments, as she dug herself a very big hole.  It was truly remarkable.  Sometimes, you have no choice but to step right in, and hope that your relationship to the ground is well enough established that it will carry you through, even when the stakes are high.

The valuable opportunity to practice stepping straight into Staccato gave way before long; and, by the end of the class, once again, I explored a new way of perceiving patterns of energy during dance.  Moving again in Lyrical, I entered a partnership with a very practiced friend who seems to have a gift for seeing energy.  Though I love to soar, this friend prefers to remain grounded in Lyrical due to the need to care for his knees; and I met him there.  I experimented with resistance, dragging my feet slowly along the floor as part of the foundation of my gestures.  As we transitioned to Stillness, I let go of the dragging feet, but instead found woven resistance residing in the spaces of the air, moving along with this partner, expressing, again, the energetic patterns in and around us.

October 19, 2016, Brooklyn, NYC

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Image:  Fibonnacci Spiral children’s artwork published on afaithfulattempt.blogspot

Sacred Places, Otherworldly Fog & Cheerful Good Byes


Otherworldly fog took over the landscape on Monday.  After dropping my six-year-old son, Simon, off at camp in Dunhill, I went to the unmarked beach again.  Suffering from heavy anxiety, I paused to look out over the vast beach from the top of the steep cement stairs, and the line of vision was severely blocked by the heavy white cloud.

Exploring and seeking an inspiring place to dance, I walked west, passing several beaches that were framed by giant, fallen boulders.  I came to a cave (or perhaps the shaft opening of an old copper mine) and investigated briefly, then suddenly realized that I had no phone reception whatsoever. I was nervous about being out of contact while Simon was at camp.  Lately, I have been unusually nervous about keeping us safe, given a series of mishaps.  Simon has also been nervous, asking me to sketch out endless scenarios of what would happen if one of us got hurt or died during the trip; and he has been unwilling to be apart from me in any room of our friend’s 300-year-old cottage, as he believes it haunted.  I have tried to calm his fears, but at times I have also felt afraid.  I held the phone in my hand and walked back toward the cement stairs, staring at the screen and pausing whenever it said, “searching.”  I settled on a still-remote-from-the-stairs spot with very black sand where the signal flickered in and out.  I put the phone on a rock where I could check on it, created a large circle in the sand that I could dance inside of, then settled into a patient Flowing.  As Staccato arose out of Flowing, I went to check the phone and realized that it was again saying “no service.”  I tried to talk myself into letting go of the nervousness about being out of contact.

In the end, I was able to re-connect with Flowing despite pausing to check my phone.  I danced a brief wave, moving through each rhythm:  Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  Resuming after the pause to check the phone, I realized that despite the fog and mist, the day was warm.  I took off my clothes.  The feeling of the cold mist on my skin helped return me to my senses and release the anxiety I was feeling.  It was exhilarating after being so wrapped up in garments for so many chilly days.  Before long I returned to a bathing suit, completing the wave fairly quickly.  Stillness emerged vividly and the felt senses of the cliffs, the sea, the mysterious and heavy air, and the rocks and boulders found their way into my movements.

Then, I moved to the opposite end of the beach, where it was much less remote, but where I did have reception.  For this second wave, as with the first, I started by creating a circle in the sand to dance inside of, though I did not stay inside it except for in the beginning of Flowing.  This wave was definitely practice.  Bits of beauty flecked it, but I was not particularly inspired.  I was left thinking about how anxiety blocks receptors to everything—to danger, to joy, to fluid experience, and to the constant stream of information we receive from the world around us.

In the brief time I had before picking Simon up from camp, I made an unsuccessful attempt to find an ancient site that my friend had urged me to visit, but the next day (Tuesday) I was determined.  I re-traced my driving steps, remembering not to turn down the tiny, stone-walled lane where I had aroused suspicion the day before.  I had a map my friend’s archaeologist neighbor had given me, which included all of the small rural roads.  Even armed with it, it was very difficult for me to navigate.  I was told the site was just next to a cow field, and that it was locked gate but that there was a stile—a gap in the gate—that allows people to enter.  That description seemed to match pretty much every gate I passed.  I asked a woman who was walking on the road if she knew of the site, and she scrunched up her face, looking upward to think and pointing downhill.  “I’m not sure, Pet.  I think it might be down there, but they’re building a house there now.  I suppose you could go there and ask if you could enter.”  I felt discouraged, but decided to go just a tiny bit farther down the road.  Shortly, I actually did find what I was looking for—indicated by a discreet arrow sign that said, “Gaulstown Dolmen.”  I walked through the stile, down the driveway, through another entrance, then down a wooded path.

The monument is remarkable.  It consists of six very large, flat stones that were placed in a Stonehenge-like configuration around 5,000 years ago.  No one knows exactly how, as they appear to be extremely heavy.  According to the archaeologist, it is likely a burial site, based on nearby similar sites that have been excavated.  There was a small clearing around the dolmen, but it was very much enclosed with grown over trees and grasses.  I sat for a few minutes, then got up to walk in a circle around it.  Prickers caught my long skirt; and I moved into a flat spot to dance in Flowing.  Absorbed, I imagined a low, chanting hum as I listened and sensed the place.  I saw a moving black shape out of the corner of my eye that could have been the farmers’ dog, but that got me to thinking of ancient spirits.  Staccato was brief but expressive.  In Chaos, I stepped right inside the dolmen, wondering if it had also been intended as a portal.  I was slightly afraid of the possibility of possession and at once totally fascinated.  In Lyrical a flash of creative energy entered into me.  In Stillness I moved with reverence—an homage to the ancients.  I was left feeling like I should do what I can to develop my capacity as a mystic, and that all I need is available in every moment, if I know how to pay attention properly.

Later, I went again to the secret beach.  Reception was better without the fog, and I choose a spot that was not as remote.  Still, the phone came in and out.  The day before I’d told myself, “Maybe I can be ok with being out of reach for a little while.”  When it came to it, I was still nervous, and couldn’t bring myself to practice until I found a spot where the phone would have at least one bar.  I stayed in Flowing for a long time, returning to the image of the dolmen again and again.


As with previous dances, threads of Stillness continued to present, for example during Flowing when I witnessed a bird soaring absolutely in place, not moving at all, buoyed by strong wind.   I realized that at times I have confused Inertia—which can present as a lack of energy and is considered to be the “shadow” of the rhythm of Flowing—with Stillness.  Stillness, as it continued to present during my many dances with the land and sea in Ireland, was very much invigorated and alive.


The rest of the wave unfolded.  Staccato started only after a long time in Flowing; and I returned many times to Flowing even after I had fully entered Staccato.  Staccato was not very energetic until Chaos began to appear, then the last burst of Staccato was very vigorous.  I covered vast ground, moving far beyond the little circle I had drawn in the sand at the beginning of Flowing, all the while taking in the landscape even as it flashed across my field of vision in Chaos.  In Lyrical I again played with my version of Irish step dancing. In Stillness I experimented with concentrating my energy field close to my body, then extending it far beyond my own edge.  I ended the wave with my feet firmly planted and wide apart, holding my hands together in front of my chest, standing still and facing the sea, sensing myself as a colossus—taller even than the high, green cliffs.

The next day was the final day that I was able to dance in Ireland during this trip.  As soon as I dropped Simon off at camp, I went to the secret beach, where it was again overcast and deserted. I spent some time creating an artwork, then drew a circle in the sand around myself and began to move in Flowing.

From the beginning, this wave was alive.  In Flowing, I moved with ease and freedom far beyond the outlines of my little circle.  The weather started to improve and a few people made their way down the cement stairs.  Shy about occupying so much territory, I moved back behind some boulders, though I was still partially in view.  Flowing shifted into Staccato and I covered even more distance, discarding my concerns.

I tracked the subtle shifts of energy, moving intuitively.  The wave followed this pattern, if I recall correctly:  Flowing, Staccato, Flowing, Staccato/Chaos, Staccato, Flowing, Flowing Chaos, Chaos, Flowing, Lyrical, Chaos, Lyrical, Chaos, Flowing, Flowing Lyrical, Stillness.  I let everything in, deeply sensing the enormity and vast power of this incredible place.  I went into Lyrical two or three times inside of Chaos, rising up onto my toes.  In Stillness, I returned again to the original circle I had drawn in the sand.  I invoked deities, helpers and guides, including Gabrielle Roth—the creator of the 5Rhythms practice—asking for help on my path, a clean heart, and the courage and insight to live my life in service to love.

I picked Simon up from the little, rural camp a little early since it was his last day.  The camp included only children from the small, local villages; and most had multiple siblings.  I told Simon I was incredibly proud of him for having the courage to step in and find his place there.  As we moved toward the car, many of the children hung over the fence, waving, and calling out, “Bye, Simon!” The next day, we set out for home.

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Things to Climb & Games of Invention


I was overly optimistic in putting on a bathing suit.  During a brief glimpse of blue, we rushed to get to the sea, hoping for at least a few moments of beach fun.  As it was, the blue was enclosed again by white sky long before we made it to the beach, but we decided to explore anyway.  We found a place to park near Bonmahon Beach in Co. Waterford, Ireland and set up the sandy path to the sea.  I shivered with a three-quarter sleeve sweater and my six-year-old son, Simon, complained—between designing games with sticks, investigating the tidal river, running toward the roaring waves, and creating performances for an imagined audience modeled on a show we had seen in Galway the week prior—that his hands were cold in the wind.

Monday, I finally got to practice formally as Simon attended his first day of camp in Dunhill.

I dropped Simon off at camp, lingering while he acclimated.  Most of the other children were part of large family contingents, and I wondered how he would fare.  I had been awake the night before, anxious about entrusting him to new people.  I also kept reviewing an incident of a few days before, when he and I climbed to the highest point of a castle ruin.  I regretted my decision as soon as we climbed up, and had a moment of intense fear as I gathered the strength and focus needed to get us back down.  When I was checking out the climb before I ok’d it for Simon, he stood for a moment with his back to an extremely steep, crumbling stone staircase.  I gasped and drew him to me, reminding him to never turn his back to a ledge or a staircase.  I kept re-playing it and re-playing it, realizing that no matter how many times you say it, a six-year-old is unlikely to have the mindfulness needed to manage things like climbing up dangerous rocks.  With camp looming, this episode that had felt like an adventure a few days prior now felt like terror.  Our trip has been filled with challenges; and I realize that fear has begun to encroach on my peace of mind.  As it was, the camp seemed safe, spacious, uplifted and cheerful; and he quickly joined a group of his peers.

I was very eager to practice and to venture on my own.  I returned to my friend’s lovely thatch cottage that is our temporary home and gathered what I thought I might need.  I walked across the street and down a little overgrown path to the Annestown beach.  I wandered to the east end, investigating the attributes of high tide, then made my way along over piled, large, round stones to the west end of the beach where I knew there was an unprotected cliff path.  I had embarked on the path a few days before with Simon, but quickly realized that it was too dangerous, especially given his punchy mood at that moment, and turned back.  Stepping onto it again, I couldn’t believe I even considered it with him.  On one side there was an electrified fence protecting an open meadow of grazing cattle. On the other, high cliffs dropping down to open sea.  I moved along the path slowly, choosing my steps. Once, I stumbled on the small, loose rocks that littered the path and was very grateful that I hadn’t stumbled on one of the most dangerous sections directly above sheer ocean cliffs with no buffer of grass between.

I followed the path as far as I could, until I wasn’t sure at if it was just a run-off ditch for water or an actual path, then picked the most beautiful spot to practice.  I returned half-way back along the cliffs then turned left onto a path that lead to the end of soaring bluff.  It was totally flat, and featured a lush meadow of perhaps fifteen feet across.  I crawled out on my belly to look over the edge, but as the tip of my nose reached the tiny red flowers growing in the side of the cliff, I decided it was too dangerous and squirmed back, fearing that the rock at the edge might crumble.  Below, the sea churned and two small, rising, green-covered islands sustained the pummeling waves.  I placed my flip flops and bag three or four feet in from the ledge to remind me to stay away from it, even as I started to dance.

I tend to be intrepid and to love the sharp edge of mild danger, but this time, practice was restrained.   In Flowing, I was reluctant to move my feet.  This was partly because of the liberal amount of rabbit shit in the thick, green grass, partly because of some tiny, sharp sticks that hurt to step on, partly because of the real possibility of falling to my death, and (surely) partly because I have had a recent spike in fear, resulting from a series of confidence-shaking experiences since the beginning of this trip.

At once, it was exquisite.  A vast, moody sky stretched for endless miles.  I could feel the sugar in the bright grass and had a powerful felt sense of the carved cliff beneath me.  The waves crashed below and moved around the islands in dynamic, unpredictable patterns.  Winds presented strongly, too, filling my ears and applying their own force.  My senses were full of the elements and I let them fill me and pass through.

I felt pulled quickly to Staccato, but resisted, hoping to dance for at least an hour and thinking I should spend more time in Flowing.  I also hoped that Flowing might open up more, and that I might find more flexibility and ease.  After some time of moving in Flowing—sometimes with subtle inspiration and sometimes vaguely—I moved into Staccato.


Each rhythm manifested subtly.  Though I went dutifully through the entire wave, I only practiced for a half hour or so.  Last summer when I was practicing independently like this—also without a teacher and without music and with the sea—my first few dances seemed lackluster, too; and I assumed that if I continued to set the intention, the practice would open up in its own time.  I spread out a towel and sat in meditation following this short 5Rhythms wave, then made my way very, very carefully back down the cliff path.

I hoped that dancing would raise a sweat, but it never reached that level of exertion.  I have not been getting enough exercise since I have been in Ireland; and I have craved the endorphins.  Although I can usually count on practice for a workout (Gabrielle Roth—the visionary polymath who created the 5Rhythms practice even occasionally touted this benefit), I don’t like to put that much pressure on it, so I went for a vigorous run later in the afternoon, again (as mentioned in my last text) visiting the local castle ruin.

I picked Simon up from camp at 3.30.  He complained mildly about his day, saying that pretty much everyone there had lots of brothers and sisters, and that he wished he had brothers and sisters, too.  We stopped at a much-talked-about local playground on the way home.  It had a giant, net-like rope structure to climb, a zip line, swings, slides, see-saws, and many iterations of things to climb.

Simon was playing happily with two other kids on a large spinning disk merry-go-round when he had an accident. He had been rolling off the spinning edge and tumbling away quite skillfully.  I told him to roll off the other side, rather than into me and the woman who was standing next to me with a four-month-old baby strapped to her chest.  The first few tumbles went fine, but the third was calamitous.  Simon rolled down a hill and right into a stone wall, hitting the back of his head on a big rock with a loud “whack” sound.  He started to cry right away and stood up.  I ran to him and realized that the back of his head was spurting blood.  I was terrified.  Thankfully, the woman with the four-month-old baby sprang into action.  “I need to take him to the emergency room, right?” I said breathlessly.  “I think so,” she said back quickly.  She tried to calm Simon down in the most cheerful, reassuring voice, while also trying to get a look at the cut.  Thank Gods, Simon had no signs of concussion, but I was extremely worried.  The woman helped us get to our car, bantering kindly all the while and offering to help in any way she could.  I was tight with fear and kicking myself for not realizing this possible danger, and I spent the drive tight with anxiety, unable to fully address Simon’s questions about stitches and the emergency room.

Somehow I managed to get us home.  Once the house was in sight, I felt like I was going to fall off the earth.  I was so afraid Simon’s wound might be very bad—perhaps a puncture or a cracked skull. I imagined the worst.  The bleeding had mostly stopped, but there had been so much blood for a minute or so.  I was fiercely hot and ripped off my sweater.  I sank to the kitchen floor, saying, “Simon, come snuggle with Mommy on the floor for a second.” The world spun and I was very close to fainting, but I told myself I had to get it together.  I got Simon settled in front of some cartoons, then ran to get a bowl of water and a facecloth to wash the wound and have a look at it.  I grabbed socks and a sweater, also, as I had begun to shiver and my teeth were chattering.  The wound didn’t look too bad, but I couldn’t tell for sure.  He still had no symptoms of concussion, but after several hours home, I decided to take him to the local hospital.  Sitting in the emergency room waiting area, Simon put his little head in my lap and went to sleep.  I was so worried I couldn’t even be bored.  Thankfully, we were seen quickly and the doctor was confident that Simon had only a superficial wound.  We set out for home shortly after midnight.

The next day, he stayed home from camp and we explored a local town all day, including the toy shop.

As we woke up the next day to prepare for camp, Simon shared that he was very nervous about something.  “Mommy, what if you die while we are in Ireland and I am all alone?”  I did my best to reassure him, again, but part of me was very fearful, too.  Things had been going extraordinarily not-well.  My mantra for the day became, “Stay alive.  Stay alive.  Stay alive.”

After dropping Simon off at camp, I searched at length for a car mechanic my friend had recommended.  I have a big squish in the side of the rental car, and face a 1500 dollar deductible if I can’t get it repaired before I return it.  (I parked next to a stone wall, where one big stone protruding outward was hidden by some greenery.  The rest is history, as they say.)  I finally resorted to calling the number she had given me.  “Hello?” “Yes, hello, is this Maurice from Lenihan’s Garage?” “Yeah.”  “My friend highly recommended you to me.  I have a bad car problem and I’m trying to find you.”  He asked where I was and I tried in vain to explain.  He said he was next to a school.  I hoped the school might come up on the GPS and asked, “What school?”  “It doesn’t have a name,” he said, “We don’t really want to be found here.”  That made me feel sort of unwelcome, but I did manage to find it eventually.  When I arrived, Maurice scarcely looked at me, turning me over immediately to an associate who told me the job would probably cost at least 1000 euro.  On the way home from there, I nearly took a casual right turn into a speeding truck, accustomed, as I am, to easy right turns, and forgetting for a moment that I am driving on the opposite side of the road.  I inhaled sharply and returned to my mantra, “Stay alive.  Stay alive.  Stay alive.”

After, I went to a beautiful local beach.  Parking, I felt constrained.  Fear was wearing me out.  I had not slept well, again.  I was trying to talk myself out of this fear of dying that had persisted now for several days—perhaps a result of so many mishaps and mis-steps in recent days and weeks.  I had to keep dragging myself back from a trance of anxiety again and again.

I intended to investigate the west end of the beach near a small surf station, then go to the beach’s east end to find a quiet place to practice, but a spot near the surf station called me.  It was at sea level, not high on a sheer cliff, and not the most dramatic site in the area.  The tide was very low and there was almost no surf.  The west end of the beach was hemmed by a tall cliff and another tall cliff rose on the north side.  The spot I chose was a little circle—perhaps eight feet across—protected by some fallen boulders.


I danced a very classic 5Rhythms wave. It was classic in the sense that each of the five rhythms was fully attended to; and each rhythm had nearly equal time and weight.  I began to move right away, finding Flowing easily.  I was grateful to be at sea level, feeling my feet in the sand and not worrying about cliff edges.  “I could stay here for hours,” I said internally, taking off my jacket as I began to warm up.  The first thing that came was tears.  I wanted to be taken care of—and I craved the people in my life who have been kind enough to take care of me.  I cried for the expensive car issue, for the many hours I had spent lost and driving down skinny country lanes that all looked alike, and for the many moments of disempowerment, fear and frustration I have experienced.  I also re-lived Simon’s accident in the playground, finding a gasp of horror (along with guilt and primal fear) that temporarily stopped the flowing, circular movements my body was finding as my feet revolved on the packed, wet sand.  I found another gasp, the same one that escapes me every time I come around a harrowing blind curve in one of the skinny lanes hemmed by stone walls and thick hedges and encounter a vehicle barreling toward me from the opposite direction.

In Flowing, I let in primal fear and anxiety.  Though I couldn’t fully embrace it, the idea that I could fundamentally trust the universe presented.  I had been tightening, hoping if I try very hard to pay attention, I could keep us safe.  Rather, I remembered that the best way to stay safe is relaxed awareness—attending to the senses and responding appropriately as things arise.  The glaze of anxiety that comes from tightening against experience does the exact opposite, and leads to more errors in judgment.  My heart became external and I danced with it, caring for it like a child that needs extra love and patience in the throes of a sickness.  I thought about the many people I have encountered who bear so much fear and anxiety that they don’t have the energy to be pleasant or artful or inspired; and in that moment felt similarly bedraggled.

Unlike two days ago when I thought I should keep myself in Flowing, I let the rhythms change as they wanted to, this time not insisting that I stay in Flowing when my body wanted to move into Staccato.  Part of deepening practice is, I think, knowing when “instinct” is really conditioned response, a way to escape something unpleasant.  At these times, skillful resistance is called for.  At other times, what feels like “instinct” is intuition, and, as such should be acknowledged and attended to.  I realized, as Staccato arrived, that I had not served myself in slowing my entrance to Staccato the previous day.  I needed to be very clear about my boundaries on the cliff.  Later the same day, I also needed to step directly into Staccato when Simon had the accident in the park.

Staccato arrived.  Firm.  Clean.  Sharp breaths powered my movements.  I let myself be seen—heart and all, as I moved in and around my little rock circle—an energetically safe spot that allowed me to relax into the moment.  Even vigorous Staccato did not raise a sweat as the day was still chilly, but blue sky peeked through the low clouds and warmed me; and I was able to take off my sweater.

There was so much happening inside me during this wave that I only danced for a fraction of each rhythm with the sea.  Chaos was shy—not huge, but honest, real.  Lyrical came and I wanted to fly, to soar with the birds overhead.  As there was little wind, the birds were not soaring in great arcing gestures, but were instead fluttering and flitting, and I followed them in this, too.  I did not gloss over Stillness, as I have tended to do when practicing independently in the past, but found wind, clouds and long, slow gestures.

I considered moving to a different part of the beach to do another wave, thinking I would take a moment to practice Reiki then move on, but another wave started up spontaneously.  In Reiki there is a strong emphasis on healing energy in the hands; and in this case, I was once again holding my heart in my hands, and dancing with it.  My movements found weight as the heart was large and heavy.  I danced in and through it, at once, with weighted inertia.  Staccato broke through, again, without the energy of confrontation, but clear, with a simple willingness to be seen.  Succumbing to a familiar habit, right before Lyrical arrived, I had to check the phone to make sure Simon’s camp hadn’t called with any emergencies.  In Lyrical in this second wave, I found a little more grace, a little more flight.  I sailed up, too, in a set resembling traditional Irish step dancing, enjoying jauntiness and verticality.

Finally, I found my way back to Stillness, and back to my original Reiki intention.  I saw Gabrielle, above and to my right, and drew her into my heart.  Then, I experimented with expanding and contracting my energy field and with how far I could be to feel the energy of the large rocks in my circle.  First, swelling to fill the whole rock circle, then contracting again to a tiny field close to my body (a layer I’ve been exploring with a friend back in New York).  Using Reiki, I looked at the pain body and cleared spots of blocked energy in the diaphragm, hips, lower belly, and right back heart.  At the end of the wave I practiced sitting meditation for a little while before gathering my things and leaving the beach.

When I picked him up, Simon told me he had fun at camp.  The evening was relatively warm; and we went to the beach together, playing tag and several other games of Simon’s invention.

July 14, 2016, Annestown, Co. Waterford, Ireland

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.