Taking a Break from Practice

A lone duck appeared while I was meditating on the bank of the modest Scantic River. The duck was industriously chugging her little head back and forth like a small child on a big wheel, letting out a periodic call of “quack” as she floated by. I was touched by her efforts, smiling and internally cheering her on.           

It’s been over five weeks since I left NYC along with my ten-year-old son, Simon, to join my parents in Northern Connecticut and try to wait out the pandemic. 

In the beginning I practiced ferociously. Every day, every spare minute. Zoom 5Rhythms classes, individual waves, dancing on the grass in the backyard, dancing in the woods, dancing in the little practice space in my temporary home. 

Every session started to blend together. My knee started to hurt. I started feeling generally left out and isolated. Simon started to act up, no doubt suffering from the loss of contact with people his age, and the pervasive sadness and uncertainty.

Yesterday, I decided to lighten up for a few days, and give myself a little distance from practice.

I juggled my afternoon options: should I go for a run? Meditate? Do yoga? Dance a wave? What did I most feel like doing?

Since the day was lovely and several not-lovely days were forecast, I settled on a run in the woods. I felt safe going hard on the soft trail, and lost myself in moving. I paused to take photos along the way, loving the visual narrative the images were revealing.


I came to my favorite spot, the convergence of a small river and a large stream, with a grassy point between the two. There, I decided to dance a wave. Easing into the rhythm of Flowing, I moved up and down a small hill, dipping and casting into low circles. 

At a workshop once, in Flowing, the teacher advised us to work with gravity as though we were dancing on a hill. Being on a hill, I played with rising and falling, and the shifts of gravity as I moved up and down it in hoops and arcs, to a soundtrack of babbling water splashing over a fallen tree. 

Someone appeared in the woods on the opposite bank, and I tried not to meet his eye. Staccato crept up, then drifted back into Flowing. I moved back into Staccato, with punctuated exhalations, low-sunk gestures, and emphatic movement declarations. 

It took me a while to warm up to Chaos, but it eventually presented itself. I jumped and leapt, releasing my head and encouraging myself to go all out, despite the person across the river who might be watching, and who I was pointedly avoiding.

I practically skipped the rhythm of Lyrical, as suddenly the hum of the woods brought me straight to Stillness. I consciously called on Lyrical, though, and found several minutes of light, creative movement. It wasn’t until then that I noticed the person across the river had gone. It was possible I’d been alone for most of the time, so apparently I’d wasted my energy in purposefully ignoring him and psyching myself up to go all out even if he thought I was weird.

This place calls me to Stillness, and I was content as I finally settled into it. In Lyrical, I danced with everything that was moving. The small animals, the wind in the trees, the passing cars, the complex currents in the river. I even started to move with sound waves like bird calls, the rush of trees, and the sounds of the water. 

I remembered an experience at an underground dance party many years ago. Thousands of partyers were crowded into an old warehouse, and giant bass speakers shook the architecture. At this party, they also had complex light projections that twisted and morphed. I spent the entire night in rapture, dancing to the light show. As an artist, realizing that I could dance to visual cues, not just music, blew my mind. 

Since then, I’ve learned that I can dance to anything, to everything. A passing train. A sequence of feelings. An announcement over a loudspeaker. The receding tide. One of my neighbors in Williamsburg, Brooklyn kept pigeons, and I used to dance with the swirling, diving flock as they raced around in response to his direction. Today, moving to everything in the woods reminded me of that first opening. 

Curiously, though I was in the woods alone, it started to feel hectic. I decided to let go of the hectic feeling, but to continue to move with everything around me, including wind; and the curves, intersections, and complexities of currents. Nothing changed but suddenly I was enveloped by silence.

Later, I spent time doing yoga, but I wasn’t trying to get a workout in, wasn’t trying to be as present as possible, wasn’t doing anything except following my inclinations and feeling the joy of having a body. 

Today, after a full day of online work, I decided to join an afternoon 5Rhythms Zoom class.

I had to get Simon settled into an activity, so I joined the class a little bit late, then fell happily into the rhythm of Flowing. I’ve really been into grounding lately, much more than usual, and I exhaled as noisy energy poured down my legs into the ground. Today, I picked up a weighted meditation cushion, and started using it much like I used the hill yesterday, to experiment with gravity and momentum, at times dropping it around me in circles, passing it hand to hand. When I wasn’t holding the cushion, I let my arms be soft and fall around me as I moved in endless circles.

I discovered that the meditation cushion had a sewn-on handle as the music transitioned into the rhythm of Staccato, and I continued to play with weight and momentum, now pausing with the cushion on my side, on my back, at times letting it pull me through emphatic movements, my elbows sharp. I also experimented with holding the cushion in front of me, dropping it, then using its momentum to rush me straight across the small circle I was dancing inside of.

This, too, reminded me of my experiences in the underground dance world of the 1990’s. I was a fast and athletic dancer, and would imagine I had weight in my hands and feet to source power from the ground: to land, coil, and fling myself into all sorts of dramatic gestures. Once a group of people told me they had come from a neighboring state to see me dance this style at a local club’s jungle music night. It was a cool compliment, but by then I was trying to detox and withdrawing from club dancing. Shortly after, I withdrew from dance altogether for several years.

In the practice video I made for my own curiosity, I seemed very committed in this part, though I remember that thoughts of work were occasionally distracting me. I paused to give an instruction to Simon. Watching it I acknowledge the reality that it’s rare for me to be able to take a full break from parenting to practice, especially since we’ve been staying at home and I am now his parent, teacher, and playmate all-in-one. 

I thought I was flat in Chaos, but watching is fascinating today. My head rolls me around on my shoulders, hips released after a long yoga stretch session before dancing, sending movement through the spine and into this lolling head. I pause again to say something to Simon, then drop my head again, and bounce back and forth, then fall into side twisting and spinning.

At the outset, Lyrical was elusive again today. But I started spinning my hips around, almost like rolling a hula hoop and followed it into motion around one leg and then the other, and soon into pauses and full extensions. 

My hands look like two beautiful racing creatures in Stillness, then I shift into simply stretching. I paused again to say something to Simon, then in one final shape before clicking “leave meeting.” 

I was hoping some revelation would come through before finalizing this text, but sometimes it isn’t so obvious. Sometimes the revelations aren’t epic or picturesque, but come in tiny increments, in daily practice, in patient engagement.

Good thing I took a break from practice. It helped me to feel more responsive and curious, though truthfully, I don’t think I actually “practiced” any less.

April 29, 2020


Alive! Alive! Alive!

Though the day was chilly, things are finally starting to bloom after the long, grueling winter, and magnolia, dogwood, and flowering pear trees are heavy with blossoms all over the city.  Yesterday my eight-year-old son, Simon, and I took a leisurely bike ride, wandering aimlessly around our neighborhood and noticing the explosion of life all around us.  Eager to express the season, I was exactly on time to the Sweat Your Prayers session at the Joffrey in the West Village this morning, led today by Jilsarah Moscowitz.

I started in a squat, deep in the hips, stretching the inner thighs, feet and calves, rotating and staying low.  I soon found my way to the ground, where I continued to stretch and coil, rolling over the fronts of my shoulders, the back of my head, and through the hips, moving from my stomach to my back over and over in a wide circle.  Staccato arrived more quickly than I expected, and I burst upward with a knee-lifted back step and half-bent spin.

At the waves workshop “Elemental” that Tammy led last weekend, she offered a prompt that helped me to connect with Staccato.  Staccato was my first love, my first “home rhythm” when I started 5Rhythms practice over ten years ago.  Its sharp, expressive, fiery tendencies felt intuitive, well aligned to how I saw myself.

Then, after nearly two years of regular practice, I stepped into true Chaos for the first time.  For most of the first two years of practice, I don’t think I was ever actually in Chaos, though I certainly thought I was.  In retrospect, what I thought was Chaos was more of an agitated, super-fast Staccato.  When I finally found myself in Chaos, I was shattered.  Completely dissolved. Tear-strewn, windswept and erased. Clearly, Chaos was my home; and I embraced it with all my heart.

For the years that I considered Chaos my home rhythm, I did not have a strong connection to Lyrical.  I just didn’t have much access to it.  In fact, when I started to enter into Lyrical in a waves class, I would often be struck by some terrible, irrational fear.  When I practiced independently, I would pretty much skip Lyrical and Stillness, with maybe just a few passing gestures.  On the first day of Spring four or five years ago, on another occasion when Jilsarah led the Sweat Your Prayers session, she created the conditions for me to consider that I might actually have a lyrical nature.  And over the next few months, to my immense delight, Lyrical arrived in my experience; and I now consider Lyrical to be my home rhythm.

I never forgot my first love, but my relationship with Staccato has not been dominant for many years.  At the workshop, Tammy’s prompt created the conditions for me to draw fire into my body.  The beautiful, growling ferocity, the sheer relentless force of Staccato captivated me for long stretches.  It seems a worthwhile project: deepening, refining, clarifying and possibly even repairing my relationship to Staccato, and perhaps my ability to be ferociously kind, and kindly ferocious in the world.

Today in the Sweat Your Prayers, I continued to explore my relationship to Staccato.  My hips seemed to have learned a whole new list of vocabulary words, and were forming entire new sentences and paragraphs.  At one point, I planted my left foot firmly, setting up a physical problem to respond to.  I swung the right foot forward, walked it out, cast it back, sunk low and angular, rocked my pelvis, and played with isolating my back hip on just the right side, experimenting with levels and angles.  Then, I switched and planted my right foot, letting my left foot range as far afield as it cared to, moving far ahead and far behind, even making low steps to the side, again deep in the hips, and isolating the back hip to explore different levels and angles. When I let go of this constraint, I had built up tremendous force, and continued to move with vigor and specificity.

I kept playing with edges as the room transitioned into Chaos, enjoying the problem of resistance.  I joined with one of my favorite dance partners as Chaos began to lighten into Lyrical.  Though we have shared hundreds of dances, we continue to find new forms and patterns, and today our wild spins were peppered with shakes and coiled landings.  I continued to be led by my back hips, occasionally rising up from low with a big, diagonal back step and a dramatic raised arm, and sometimes bounding up high, fast and light, effortless, drawing on the kinetic energy of the inner thighs and hips.

Jilsarah referenced Connections, the third and final book written by Gabrielle Roth, the founder of the 5Rhythms practice, and invited us to consider the image of “threads.”  She spoke of following the threads of our lives, the thread of our breath, and the threads that connect us to each other.

A tone of reverence entered the room.  I moved softly, pulsing, twittering, surrendered to breath, still attentive to the hips, sometimes low, with my knees pressed together, coccyx pulling toward the ground, sometimes softly turning around the planes of my feet, moving through the room and noticing the overlap in energy fields, the blend of vibrant colors–bright pink, viridian, violet–as I turned gently, led by dragon trails and the room’s subtle currents.

I noted a minor story that played in my mind.  At times I felt left out. There seemed to be groups forming in the room that I was not part of.  There was one person in particular who kind of–how can I say this?  Kind of–energetically ignored me.  This was far from agonizing, but was both uncomfortable and interesting.

Was my perception accurate that the person energetically shut me out?  Do I do that to people, too?  This is something for me to contemplate.

I noted the story as thinking, the single most powerful strategy for annihilating all that blocks me from total presence.  Soon, I returned to expansive, delighted connection.

For the most part, the room seemed to be very flexible, with many different groups forming relationships, then dissolving back into the collective.  Even in engaged partnership, I danced slightly with the people on all sides of me at once.

Circling around to Staccato again in another wave, I joined with a different friend, moving to a reggae track in a patient groove, finding yet more ways to move the hips, this time from the hip creases, rocking the pelvis in loping, swooping gestures.

“Alive! Alive! Alive!” Jilsarah chanted.

In Chaos, someone tromped on my foot.  I was not seriously injured, just annoyed.  I’ve had significant foot pain recently, so I extra disliked being stepped on.  Jilsarah noticed right away and left the teacher’s table to check in on me.  After a minute or less, I jumped back into the collective, in a particularly creative version of Chaos, with delightful unpredictability, micro-movements within larger gestures, and all sorts of plays on balance and levels.

In the final phase of Stillness, I went deep inside, moving subtle energies, muscles and bones whispering.  When I noticed the outside, more than half of the room had formed a hand-joined circle.  I continued to whisper-move, backing up to the edge of the circle and taking the two hands beside me.

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

Image Credit:  Collage/Spring Poem by Simon Pizarro, age 8

Journey into Trance

“Moving with the spirit has taught me all I know.”  -Gabrielle Roth

I didn’t have much time to contemplate what I might experience when I signed up for “Journey into Trance,” a two-day workshop with Jonathon Horan, who is both an experienced 5Rhythms teacher and the current holder of the entire 5Rhythms lineage. Stepping out of the elevator onto the 5th floor at the Joffrey in the West Village, I happily greeted many friends and prepared to step in to the studio, bringing many ongoing narratives into the room with me.  Right before I entered, I ran across Jonathan and embraced him in greeting.  Immediately after, I wished I had been more discreet, thinking that he probably has people coming at him from all sides, and may not have actually wanted to be hugged.  I let that go and moved across the threshold of the studio, feeling a knot of emotion in my throat, along with a rush of gratitude.

A few days before I’d had a conversation with my seven-year-old son Simon about the difference between brain and mind.  The brain, I shared, is a thing in your head with complex electrical wiring to the rest of your body.  The mind is your brain, but also stretches past just your own head.  Because all that you think and perceive and experience is influenced by things outside of your body, you could say that your mind also includes everything that ever is or ever was.  After that, he asked several profound questions about the nature of existence and consciousness.  Then he said, “Mommy, can we still get that book to hold all my Pokemon cards?”

Another thing I carried into the studio was the experience of teaching Mindfulness to teens.  I have been dabbling for several years now, but this is the first year it has become a significant part of my schedule.  The technique I taught students this week was “First Thought,” when you watch for a thought, then when one appears, simply label it “thinking” and return to the object of meditation.  My experiences with the students (and also some with the adults) crowded my mind, and I kept reviewing my inspirational speeches, past and future.  Then, I would catch myself and say, “thinking” and return to the experience of feet, breath, body, rhythm.  Truly, I gave myself few escapes this weekend.  A fortunate thing, because it doesn’t seem like Jonathan would have accepted less.

I started most sessions with laps around the perimeter of the room. I felt like it helped me to arrive in the space. I also imagined I was helping to establish an energetic container.  On my first lap, as I walked past the beautiful black-feather-themed visual presentation created by Martha Peabody Walker and Peter Fodera, I discreetly dipped my hand into a metal washtub of salt that was part of the installation, scooped up a small amount, and rubbed it onto the soles of my feet.  Initially, I moved gently around the space, saying internally, “I see you there; and I am grateful for it,” as I encountered each person.

As the wave progressed, drenched with sweat and thirsty, I paused to drink water, facing out the 5th floor window onto Sixth Avenue.  For the first time ever, I saw people high up on an outdoor walkway by the clocktower of the historic church across the street.  Smiling, I raised my hand in greeting.  One woman waved back, and nudged a man next to her, who did the same.  Delighted, I continued to be strongly connected to everyone in the room, and also to the world outside the studio throughout the weekend, often picturing the sky on the other side of the ceiling, and occasionally, the curving, vast earth.  Once in Stillness I sent energy from one hand to another, but it took a long route, traveling not just across my hands, but around the entire sphere of the earth to arrive in my other hand, creating a long, circular arc that I completed into a circle with my own body.

In this opening wave, I danced a ferocious Chaos.  At times, I wasn’t sure which rhythm we were in.  Lately, I have had work to do in Staccato, and have been deliberately holding myself in Staccato rather than charging on directly into Chaos.  During “Journey into Trance” there were times that I suddenly realized we were already moving into Lyrical without ever having really let loose in Chaos.  As a result, my neck was very sore the first day.

Continuing to reflect on my own students, who are mostly people of color, I thought also of the courage of people of color who are part of the 5Rhythms community.  That week, I had led circle discussions about the events in Charlottesville.  During the same week, a student in a different class spoke out hotly during a reading, “This is making me feel a certain type of way!” he said.  “How are you feeling exactly?” I asked. He started to explain that a character’s remark seemed racist.  A teacher, who identifies as white, like me, and who I share the class with, tried to talk him out of it.  “Well, I have a neighbor who…” I let her talk for a few moments, then said, “You could definitely read that statement as racist.”  “Thank you!” gasped another student.  I thought about how many times I’ve been in full 5Rhythms rooms where there has been just one apparent person of color.  I thought about how incredibly important diversity of all kinds is for the integrity and vitality of the 5Rhythms community.  I thought, too, of the incredible courage of my fellow dancers.  How despite the daily ravages of racism, how somehow many people of color have managed to step up to be courageous, surrendered and vulnerable, fully in the dance.  And how remarkable and valuable that is.  And how inspiring.  A point of hope in this ugly world that seems to grow uglier daily.

We took a break in the late afternoon.  I didn’t feel like socializing, and ate in the nearly empty studio.  I made a few notes about the morning in my journal, then followed the suit of another dancer and sat in meditation with my back to a column.  Then, I lay myself down and entered a chthonic, deep relaxation, falling into the floor, the earth and darkness.  As people returned from the lunch break, they thundered by me with their pounding footsteps, but I continued to rest until the music started again.

Instead of leading us into a wave right away, Jonathan gathered us together and began to speak.  He talked about Gabrielle Roth, the founder of the 5Rhythms, first.  He said that witnessing her dance, she was so transparent and embodied, you could just cry looking at her.  Gabrielle Roth was also Jonathan’s mother, and he spoke of growing up with her at spiritually radical Esalen Institute in California, then moving to New Jersey at the age of 7, where he felt out of place.

At this point, he switched from his own experience to ontology.  He argued that we have all pretty much entered into a fool’s agreement, “That I won’t see you, and you won’t see me.” Why be half-hearted? He posited.  Gabrielle, herself, was not a rule follower.  Instead, she relentlessly sought what was real and true and beautiful.  What I heard was, Wake up! Wake up!  Your very life is at stake.  I’m making it all sound funny because it is, but we don’t have time to languish in generalities.  Let go of the many limiting ego stories that are stifling you. Life is passing so quickly.  Before we know it, we will die.  Jonathan said later, “After all, we may only live once.”

Next Jonathan invited us to consider the frame of “Journey into Trance” and reflected that trance might look differently for different people.  He also suggested that we approach the weekend with curiosity and an attitude of spaciousness, accepting that some might need to roll around on the floor screaming, make odd noises, or act in other socially unacceptable ways.

After Jonathans’ talk, we began with simply walking around the space.  We experimented with allowing ourselves to be led with our bellies, and then with allowing ourselves to be led by our heads.  I noticed that I had a much lower center of gravity when the belly was leading, and that I felt like part of the collective field, as opposed to when the head was leading.  Despite a sore neck, I danced a very athletic wave.  Every time a thought arose, I said, “thinking” internally and returned to the physical experience of my body, finding endless new ways to move: big back steps, a new complication of low-weighted spinning with open shoulders moving my hands up and over me like coiling carnival rides, deep front and back movement in the pelvis and sacrum, sunken with my heels touching the backs of my knees and then stepping forward, my heart bursting open, then coiling my entire abdomen back inside, then bursting my heart forward again, sometimes continuing this arcing in the space in front of my spine, and through the hips and pelvis.

“Are you in or out?” Jonathan asked.  “And if you’re out, can you come back in?”

At a moment when my energy dipped, I encountered a friend at the outer edge of the moving room.  She, too, seemed tired, and somehow we fell into each other, quivering, shimmying, small, precise.  We rolled inside discreet shoulders, cascading forward and back.  Making oblique eye contact, we both smiled.  Moving from our bellies, I recalled images of Fela Kuti’s many wives who accompanied him onstage, dancing with vibrancy, the rhythm of the body pouring out at the heart, with arcing, arching intensity.

At day’s end, I was thoroughly exhausted, and my neck was very painful.  I recalled that not only had I perhaps not given myself fully over to Chaos, but also that Simon had woken up very early and put on a movie, which I half-watched along with him, my neck propped awkwardly onto pillows and twisted for the duration of the three-hour film.  I darted out, making my way to the subway, where I made the happy discovery that I had a little bag of snack food in my bag, then spent several minutes trying to open it.  Struggling, I finally resorted to attempting to pierce the bag with one of the sharper keys on my keyring, when I finally looked around.  Just across from me on the same platform stood Jonathan, two blazing sapphires staring out of his face, his arms crossed over the railing, one forearm over the other, grinning and giving off sharp little glints of light.

My parents were in town to care for Simon, and I met up with all of them.  I was too tired for intelligible conversation.  I went to bed as soon as I got Simon organized, tucking a sheet onto the couch in the living room since my parents would sleep in my bed, and settling in as quickly as possible.

Saturday night I slept very deeply, and, miraculously, woke Sunday with no pain in my neck.  I went to brunch with my family, then made my way back to the Joffrey for the second day of “Journey into Trance.”  As I pushed open the glass door from Sixth Avenue into the Joffrey, Jonathan was entering too.

As the music started, I did a few laps of the perimeter, then found Flowing easily.  I was gentle, small, with my arms close to my torso, totally fluid, slotted in among the many prone dancers, almost crying, connected to the entire field, not separate.  Moving around the space, I did what I call “Passing Through Practice” where I sort of energetically whoosh through everyone and everything–even the columns–and let them all whoosh through me.

Jonathan spoke of a “deep inquiry into the interior self.”  Listening carefully to the teacher’s talk is a practice itself, and every time my mind drifted, I directed it quickly back.  “Are you in or out?” he asked again, “and can you know when you’re out?  Can you stay in?”  I rebelled internally, thinking it would be better not to grasp and push, and instead to just notice.  But maybe this is a different level of practice, I thought, maybe it is possible to stay in the entire time.  Maybe even all the time, on and off the dance floor.  Jonathan also suggested that we experiment with “soft eyes” rather than direct gaze, to support the experiment of working with trance.

eHe also said to the group, “If I were you, I might have come in with resistance today after dancing like you danced yesterday.” I reflected that I have, in a way, encountered very little resistance to 5Rhythms over the years.  Even when I am aware of how vulnerable I am, how torn to bits, how connected, how surrendered, how energetically porous, even when I have felt judged or left out–even at these times I am not late on purpose, I don’t lie to myself and blame others when I don’t feel good (even when I do), and I always step into each rhythm with the sincere willingness to fully bring it to bear.  It is a curious thing.  In other practices, such as yoga, I have encountered much more resistance.  Sometimes the edge is razor sharp, though, and when I go very deep I may spend ensuing days feeling irritable or otherwise “off,” perhaps my ego’s desperate attempts to re-assert itself.

At one point, Jonathan said something about how ridiculous it is to pay attention to how you look in the mirror.  Here, too, I rebelled, realizing I had been so intent on not looking in the mirror, that it had acquired the flavor of aversion.  So I spent a little time right next to the mirror, turning to the side so I could fully examine the complicated sways and arcings of my stomach, lower back and pelvis.

After the talk, I glued my belly to the floor and moved with weight, pulling myself around with my arms and coiling spine.  I pulled up onto my knees and set about finding as much movement in my spine as possible, my head forward and simply following and completing the many ratcheting, twisting and undulating gestures of the spine.  I stayed deeply connected to myself as new forms arose in Staccato.  At one point as we moved from Staccato into Chaos, I played with balance, staying on one foot, and swinging, bounding and descending with the other, looking for the farthest edges of balance.

I recalled that when I first started dancing, I pretty much always kept “soft eyes” as it seemed rude or intrusive to look straight at anyone.  Back then, almost a decade ago now, I often stayed inside a heavy trance for the duration.  For me, it became most intense during Chaos.  I was kind of a trance junkie–craving that depth, that intensity, the shamanic glimpses, the sense that life is deeply meaningful, that “this” layer of reality is just a tiny piece of the picture.  Then, I started to open my eyes more, literally.  I found the ground, I met people’s gazes more directly, more often.  I felt like instead of privileging transcendence, I was connecting with greater awareness to the world.  Trance would still come in pockets, spirits would visit, ancestors would soothe me, visions would present, energy would move tangibly and visibly.  But I never experienced the sustained trances that I did in the first two years of dancing again.  To my surprise, “Journey into Trance” was, for me, an opportunity to re-integrate those early experiences, and to enter into other dimensions with the full support and protection of my spiritual community and teachers.

Call on your guides, your ancestors, your spirit animals, your lineages, Jonathan invited at one point.  I spread my arms as wide as the room and grew very tall, regal, a great trailing cape rushing from my arms as I moved in sweeping ribbons through the space, my spirit entourage in a phalanx beside and behind me–my emotional support system, my protectors.

During this wave, I was very released in Chaos, unleashing a massive proliferation of forms, including everything, somehow, leaving nothing out.  In Lyrical, I again moved through the room, passing through people and objects, feeling the whoosh of merging.  In Stillness I had a vision of eyes on the palms of my hands.  Even with my eyes shut, I could see everyone in the room, could see the sky through the ceiling, and could see inside of my own body and the interior bodies of people in the room.

Before Sunday’s break, Jonathan lead us in a guided meditation.  Laying with my full back on the floor, my arms and legs extended, he spoke into the microphone, suggesting an image for the cessation of ego defenses.  At its conclusion, I had to remind myself where I was.

I floated down the elevator, avoiding eye contact, not wanting to dissipate, not wanting to disperse.  I went to a local health food store, and chose food as efficiently as possible, thinking that I would write after eating.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my journal on the bench in the locker room at the Joffrey, so I didn’t have any way to write.  Instead, I listened to the most curious, avant-garde recording of two older women in a fascinating conversation about movie stars from the 1980’s that was playing on speakers in the dining area.  Slowly, I realized there was also music playing.  Then, I realized that only music was playing, and the conversation I was listening to was actually taking place in real time, between two women just a table away from me.

I thought of a story about a conversation between Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, and His Holiness Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche, who was the head of the Tibetan Nyingma lineage.  As the story goes, the two friends were sitting in contented silence on a bench in a garden, enjoying a pleasant afternoon.  After some time, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche pointed and said to the other, “They call that a tree!” at which point they both broke into peals of laughter, which went on for some time.

After lunch, Jonathan started us off with intentional self-care, guiding us as we massaged our necks.  Most stood up for this, but I remained on the ground, sticking various parts of me to the floor emphatically.  At this point, I moved around the room in Flowing, my eyes soft, saying, “I feel you there, and I am grateful for it,” rather than what I often say internally in Flowing, “I see you there, and I am grateful for it.”  During this wave, I partnered less, turning more and more inside, “cruising the emptiness” as Jonathan said, quoting Gabrielle.

“What’s real, what’s true, what’s deep, what serves the big dance of love,” Jonathan chanted, ever suspicious of sanctimonious bullshit, calling out our egos stories, our feeble escapes, our neurotic self-making again and again.  In Chaos, I moved with total engagement and energy, released, erased.  I hung my skin onto a nail while I danced around in my skeleton, near a friend who always inspires me, both of us totally plugged in, but on different journeys.  Moving into Lyrical, my bones glowed with ancient writing, light on every bone’s surface, the plane of my shoulder blade, the big femur bone of my leg, on every separate link of my spine.  Then, a spirit visited me (or so I imagined).  I remembered him from many years ago, when he came to dance and overlapped with me, weaving in and out of me as I swooned and tears poured down my cheeks, teaching me the Passing Through practice.  This time we danced again, becoming one body and then separating, ending with swaying, my hands pressed to his hands.

Jonathan selected a soaring, tender song with the lyric, “There is a place I know.  Only I can go there,” that I associate with the passing of his mother, the beloved Gabrielle Roth.  A low, grazing groan of grief dragged out of me, a deep-bass lowing.  I moved in a gesture that finds me nearly every time I am in Stillness, looking down, moving my hands slowly to the left, turning my body around, and felt I could see the origin of this gesture, many lifetimes ago, in a scene of trauma and destruction.  I was a gigantic, swooping, flapping vulture, and the air displaced as I beat my wings.  Still groaning, crying, breath totally moving me, not separate.  Even as I gasped, every muscle echoed it.

Though I was totally lost in this place, I gently settled back in, like a feather landing.

At the end, my breath was rich and resonant.  Like some ancient grief had cleared.  In the coming days, I would experience the irritability and emotional volatility of an ego that feels seriously endangered after it has managed to step into the sky, into the vastness of experience, where its tiny stories are drowned out by the deafening hum of existence.

At the end of the day, I made to leave, still feeling private.  I changed my mind and lingered for a little while, talking with several friends with whom I had shared gestures or insights.  I made my way to Jonathan, remembering that my earlier hug might have been overkill, and stood with my hands in prayer, touching them to my forehead as I made a tiny bow, my eyes smiling. “Thank you.  This has been so beautiful.”  He gave me a generous hug and a kiss on the cheek.

The five-year anniversary of the death of Gabrielle Roth was just a few days after the “Journey into Trance” workshop.  I hope we honored her memory this weekend.  I hope we served her vision.  I hope trance continues to unfold for all of us, in Jonathan’s words, inside this “cathedral of bones” this “wilderness of the heart.”

October 16, 2017, Brooklyn, NY

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


Fly in Formation

At Riis Park, the solitary birds are my first dance partners this morning.  Before long, however, I join with an entire flock, soaring as they soar, holding my arms out wide, twisting in an arc as they move to the farthest edge of an orbit, sinking deep and looping one arm through the other as they change sides, rising suddenly and falling back into my edge, my feet grinding circles in the cold winter sand, covering vast distances on the deserted beach.  Seeking solace and insight in these deeply troubling times, I planned this artwork performance—a ritual, of sorts—hoping to find some clues to show me the way forward.

Another place I go to seek solace and insight are 5Rhythms classes and workshops.  Created by Gabrielle Roth in the 1980’s, 5Rhythms is a dance and movement meditation practice that embodies Gabrielle’s vision, “A body in motion will heal itself.”  The five rhythms are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  Each rhythm has its own character, which becomes territory for endless experiments.  To dance a wave is to pass through each of the 5Rhythms in sequence.  In a typical two-hour class, we move through two waves.  On first glance, a 5Rhythms room would probably just look like a wild dance club, but for most people it is also much more.  For me, it is laboratory for life, encompassing psychological, emotional, philosophical, interpersonal and shamanic levels.

At a 5Rhythms class just a few days before the performance at Riis Park, 5Rhythms teacher Tammy Burstein says, “We don’t have to just be at a loss, because we have a map,” remarking that many people seem to be stepping into the class “still carrying a lot.” In having a map, we have the comfort of knowing that we have a way forward that doesn’t rely solely on our own initiative or motivation.  This is particularly useful when we feel stuck or overwhelmed, as many, including myself, have felt for the last several months.

Waiting in line for the bathroom before class, a woman I had shared a dance with the week before says, “I love your dance.  It is like you are always weaving, somehow.”  I think she is talking about the way I move through the room, sharing dances, winding gestures inside the empty spaces, and following the currents caused by the many moving bodies.  I introduce myself and smile, thanking her for the compliment and for the feedback.

Just two days later, I find myself weaving the air with my arms as I undertake the performance artwork at Jacob Riis National Seashore.  I had been thinking of doing this performance for many months, but when I finally decide to actually do it, I have less than a week to prepare.  I send an invite to a few close friends, but I send it late at night, just a few days before; and I anticipate that it might be just me and the photographer.

In frigid temperatures, my hair a taut flag in the caustic wind, I set up a wooden box as a table, a dozen glass bottles with corks, a pen, and a ream of paper—barely held in place by a jagged piece of brick.  Then, I begin to move with the ocean birds as they appear in the sky.  I watch them carefully, doing my best to revive the lost art of augury—an important ritual for several groups of ancients—divination, or fortune telling, by the flights of birds.  I hoped to draw some meaning from the sky that might offer hope and direction in the coming months, especially since the political situation has grown increasingly worrisome of late.

Stepping into the 5Rhythms class a few minutes late, I do not start down on the floor, as is my usual custom, but instead stay on my feet and join the group in moving my attention slowly through different body parts, as led by the teacher.  I find vibrant movement quickly, releasing the shoulders, releasing the spine and releasing the head’s weight, which cascade me into circular motion in the first rhythm of Flowing.  Flowing is characterized by rounded, unending motion with a strong emphasis on the feet; and I move softly, with weight, the soles of my feet in in close contact with the floor.

Still engaging in the Body Parts exercise, we segue into the second rhythm of Staccato, and I begin to move around the room. Staccato is characterized by sharp, clear movements with an emphasis on the hips; and I sink low, my knees sharply bent, moving forward and back, my elbows forming pointed triangles and leading me into movement.  Tammy suggests that we could make a choice to just let go of everything we are carrying.  I stop thinking of things outside of the dance and step into many successive, brief partnerships.  Wondering if she perhaps prefers to be left alone, I nonetheless join with a friend who often favors the periphery.  As I move toward her, she smiles and steps forward to dance with me.  Another friend joins us, seeming to boing upward as he approaches, then twisting and weaving around us. We both become even more activated, the three of us moving in an elastic matrix, swapping places and moving around the edge of our small group, and taking turns moving through the middle.

The third rhythm of Chaos and the fourth rhythm of Lyrical reveal the miracle of being totally unique and totally universal, at once.  I join with a woman in Lyrical with whom I have shared many dances of rolling shoulders and circling hips, each of us bending forward in turn as our shoulders descend and cross downward, losing eye contact, then rising again as the shoulder pulls back from blocking the jaw, smiling, and moving similarly around each other’s backs, always arriving again at smiling eye contact.  This time we find new patterns—intricately-syncopated steps inside of steps—as a playful, remixed disco song booms from the powerful speakers.

I learned that the Ancient Roman augurs—the ritualists who read the flights of the birds for official purposes—would have had a great deal of say in who would lead Rome.  If the signs were interpreted favorably, a king or emperor would be crowned—the origin of the word “inauguration.”  It was believed that the birds transmitted the will of the Gods, and reflected the relative chaos or harmony of the larger cosmos.  I wondered what would have happened if anyone read the birds’ flights on January 20, 2017; and if dire predictions would have mattered.

Total porousness comes a little easier after so many years of practice; and it’s been awhile since I’ve had the pleasure of being totally shattered as a result of feeling integrated into the collective field.  In this case, during the fifth and final rhythm, Stillness, I move through the room gently, like breeze, passing through people’s energy fields and allowing them to pass through mine.

Again on the beach in the performance ritual, as words arise, I kneel in front of my little table and write down any phrases that come to mind.  Then, I roll up the paper I have written on, push it into a glass bottle and cork it.  It is very cold and I have to sustain vigorous movement, but I do this a dozen times, quickly, preparing the bottles that will be thrown into the sea at the conclusion of the ritual.  Of my attempts at divination, one stands out:

“In times of fear,

Turn to community-

Fly in formation.”

The following week at class, the experience of having undergone the performance ritual with the birds works its way into my dance.

This time I begin with my body in full contact with the floor in the first rhythm of Flowing, moving in concentric circles in every direction, edgeless, finding tension at the most extended points to stretch my muscles, arcing through my side, shifting over the back of my head onto the spine, then back around.  Still moving in concentric circles on the floor, I begin to move through the room, one leg reaching far behind me and pulling me into another level of circling.  While rolling over the back of my head, I gaze up at the standing people around me, finding empty space as it opens up and moving into it, still on the floor.

I’ve been working with a therapist lately; and we begin each of our sessions with five minutes of movement.  Recently, I started with my ear on the soft oriental carpet.  Hums from the building became audible; and I heard two voices from the floor below in conversation.  I thought of 5Rhythms teacher Kierra Foster-Ba, who has often said, “Just like any other animal, we receive a lot of information from the ground.”  With my ear to the ground, literally, I felt like I could listen for danger, read the signs, and respond appropriately—engaging my primal instincts during a time when I might otherwise be tempted to rationalize the signs of danger to convince myself I am safe.

A recurring dream came up then, too.  I am at Cape Cod in a rented cottage on a cliff by the sea with several members of my family.  The ocean has receded by miles, exposing the sand beneath; and an eerie quiet had arisen.  Although when I first had this dream I didn’t know the early signs of a tsunami, somehow I knew that a gigantic wave was about to erupt from the silence.  Walking through the screen door, I plead with my mother and sister to leave with me, to flee to high ground.  They decline, peacefully resigned.  I get into a car and drive uphill, overtaken by complex emotions—a sharp desire to live, both grief and admiration for my mother and sister, and fear that the massive wave will overtake me.

On the way in to class, I feel annoyed and unreceptive.  There is someone in attendance I always have a lot of mind chatter about, believing she is superficial for some reason that surely has little to do with her.  But before long, the music hooks me and I am moving through the room.  A dance version of Erykah Badu’s “On and On” offers me a Staccato door to enter through, and I step into multiple partnerships, moving low and backward, ratcheting different body parts, and articulating movements with precision and thoroughness.

Before dance that night, my seven-year-old son, Simon, uses the phrase “magical sweat” in relation to some wet socks that have surprised him by drying quickly.  The phrase “magical sweat” repeats for me several times during the class, and particularly as Staccato gathers fire.  As Staccato transitions into Chaos, I let loose, grateful for a reserve of easily available energy.  My hair falls over my face and eyes as my head whirls freely, leading my entire body in spinning.  I note the woman who I had judged as superficial dancing right next to me, and realize the smallness of my petty resentment.  The truth is that we are all superficial to some extent, myself included.  As I let go, I inwardly celebrate that she lets go, too, and move with many emphatic and wild dancers in close proximity.

In Lyrical and then in Stillness, I spin and leap in the center of the room, my wings held wide, recalling the movements of my many bird partners the week before.  Several successive dancers join me in flight, each seamlessly integrating into my dance of sky, swooping and soaring very close to me, then spinning off into new partnerships.

Realizing that my feet will get wet when I go to the edge of the sea to throw in the bottles, I know I have to move quickly or risk frost bite.  I make three trips, carrying several bottles at once, and toss the bottles into the waves.  As soon as the last one hits the water, I sprint to put on my boots and winter jacket, considering the performance complete.

Regardless of whether the signs I have divined in any way foretell the future, and, too, regardless of the direction the map may or may not take me, I am grateful to have a map, grateful for a way forward, and grateful for the unlikely blessing of this life, this tiny glimmer that reflects the magnitude of infinity.

“Good hope is often beguiled by her own augury.”  -Ovid

March 19, 2017, 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.

Heart’s Content

I gave a little shudder as I stepped up onto the sprung dance floor at Martha Graham studio this weekend and gently eased my body down onto it, tears coming even in these first few moments.

I fell in love at “Heart’s Content,” the 5Rhythms Heartbeat workshop lead by Tammy Burstein at Martha Graham, this weekend.  I’m not sure who I fell in love with exactly, but the answer that feels right is “with everyone.”  Gabrielle Roth—the creator of the 5Rhythms practice—designed the Heartbeat Map as a way to describe and work specifically with the energy of the emotions.  In the Heartbeat Map, each of the five rhythms are correlated to five of the strongest human emotions: fear, anger, sadness, joy and compassion.  The weekend was an intensive investigation of how each of us relates to these different emotional states.

The first night began with a wave and also with a series of paired speaking exercises.  The wave was, for me, characterized by happiness and freedom of movement.  I stepped into several beautiful dances, but one in particular stands out—a bouncing, kinetic, shaking Chaos that I shared with a smiling friend.  Because of its forgiving floor, Martha Graham is one of the few studios where I occasionally let myself leap straight up, an exclamation point on a whirling gesture.  When we entered the speaking exercises and it was my turn to speak, the main theme was again joy, and also the stamina to sustain joy.

I shared that for the first several years of practice, I could scarcely relate to Lyrical—the rhythm associated with joy.  When I practiced independently, I would move through Flowing, Staccato and Chaos, then very glancingly nod to Lyrical and to Stillness.  I experienced Lyrical only in tiny glimpses—at times transported—but never really acknowledging my relationship to it. That all changed about a year ago, when the energy of Lyrical came into my experience with a sudden rush, and I began to develop confidence that I, too, like many I had admired, could walk in joy.

I got up to dance with my last speaking partner of the night, who, like me, had spoken from the depths of his heart.  We soared, even moving together in a few big gestures throughout the room.  My face hurt from smiling.

Stillness in the last wave of Friday night’s session found me very conscious of the pulses in my hands as I moved them slowly around myself, imagining I was healing places of energetic malady in my own physical field.

For the next session, Saturday morning, I was late.  Over a half hour late.  This was despite Tammy’s repeated requests during Friday’s opening session that everyone arrive early enough to start dancing right at noon.  I was in pain as I waited for my parents, who had been delayed by traffic, to arrive so they could care for my six-year-old son, Simon.  “What?  What time does the GPS say?”  I asked repeatedly, distracted from connecting with Simon on these few weekend moments we would share.  In the meantime, Simon worked in his art studio, creating decorations for the front door.  Remarkably, he created three drawings on small post-its, one for happy, one for sad, and one for mad.  Then, he used a red marker to divide a large page into many separate boxes and drew many of the more subtle emotions that he could find images and language for.  I had not shared with Simon that my weekend dance workshop would be about emotions, but somehow he managed to pull it from the air around me.

The wait continued. When my parents reported that they were close, I called a car service, as I doubted I would be able to park in the West Village on a Saturday.  The car service arrived and waited for several minutes, then left with a skid since I still wasn’t ready to go.  My parents finally arrived and I greeted them with strained affection, setting off down the block to try to hail a cab.  Having no luck, I called another car (from a different car service) and returned to my stoop to wait.  The dispatcher told me five minutes, but I waited, 10, 11, 12, 15…finally I was able to hail an unoccupied taxi.

I called to cancel the car service request and settled in for the taxi ride, trying to convince myself to shake it off.  I was angry, but fighting it.  I sent a text, “My parents were late and I am super late to the workshop.  So upset and ashamed.”  The response, “Ashamed?  Go to your workshop and hold your head high.  Get all that you can from it.  Life happens.  All is a learning tool.”  Instead of trying to shake off being upset, I let it all in.  I realized I was feeling sorry for myself, and, too, defensive.  Then, I recalled Simon’s exquisite front door drawing installation of major and minor emotional states; and I realized that the teaching had actually been happening all along.

As I entered the studio, I made a gesture of apology to Tammy (who smiled warmly and continued to attend to the music), then, instead of stepping up onto the dance floor, this time I crawled up onto it, touching my forehead to the floor, prostrate.  I sobbed quietly for a few moments, still feeling sorry for myself.  The room was in Staccato as I entered; and, after a few flat footed gestures in Flowing, I, too, moved straight into Staccato.  Here, I found a ferocious anger and a dance that was filled with edges and sharp angles.  My repeated punctuation here was a gesture of sinking down into the hips—knees squared—and with a forced, hissing, open-mouthed exhalation, and clenched, raised fists.  Chaos released me.  Once again, I found uncontainable joy; and I partnered with everyone who was available to me as I soared around the room.

In a partnered exercise, we were asked to share what we were taught about the emotions.  I blathered on about my parents, casting around for something with emotional charge.  Sometimes these exercises can be cathartic, and a crucial insight will jump out of my mouth unexpectedly. Not so on this occasion.  Later, reflecting, I was shocked at my omissions.  How could I not mention the two relationships that for years dominated my emotional landscape and cost me, collectively, over 20 years of therapy? In those two important relationships, I learned distance from my own heart.  I also learned how to walk on egg shells, in constant fear of the next attack.

The next wave unfurled.  At its end I found myself in gentle contact with a dancer I have known for many years.  Softly, we turned one another and turned around one another.  Once again instructed to partner in speaking, we settled onto the floor facing each other.  I gazed into his kind eyes—dark with a light blue ring around the edge of the iris—and he gazed into mine.  Asked to speak to the question, “What do you fear?”  his words moved me deeply.  I, too, spoke of my fears, though I held back slightly for some reason.

Tammy gathered us and spoke about Staccato.  Sometimes Staccato has the stigma of being officious, administrative, pushy.  But on this day, Tammy talked about her love of New York City, of its creative life, of its heartfulness, of its staccato pulse.  She has said on many occasions that she identifies most strongly with Staccato, and this time she said as she moved, rocking into her front foot and drawing back, “Even after all these years, I sort of have to rev myself up and back into Flowing.”  This seemed like a perfect description to me.  She talked about anger, too. She said, “To cut out anger is to cut out the heart,” and proposed that even anger has something to teach us.

I ate lunch in Hudson River Park alone.  Leaving the studio building, one perfectly nice woman from the workshop fell into step beside me and began to make small talk.  I felt non-verbal, attuned to the sacred, and a bit like I was tripping on acid.  After we crossed the street to the park I said, “Have a nice lunch!” and walked to the left, then found a shady bench seat for myself.  I ate the food I had packed and watched the heaving of the river’s waves, the shimmering edges as they rose up.

After lunch, we danced a short wave, then set upon an investigation of “No!”  We were invited to partner, then each danced our personal version of, “No!”  After each person’s dance, the other was told to share if they “believed” the dancer’s version of “No!”  After my dance, my partner told me that she was convinced, and that it was a “very dynamic version of No.” For the second round, Tammy invited us to remove all of the tension, but do the same dance.  This time, my partner said, “I was convinced this time, too.  But this time it was like you were telling me your boundaries and inviting me not to hurt you.”  For some reason, this touched a nerve and a ragged sob escaped me.  This is something I have really been working on:  how to create and maintain boundaries without aggression.  Since my family is very symbiotic, this is a not a skill that comes naturally.  After years of trying to rise to the occasion, I have finally set a healthy boundary with someone who has lacerated me again and again and again.  I think I might have made a tiny bit of progress.  After we each had two turns speaking and moving, my partner and I moved into a sinewy dance, with strong eye contact, approaches and retreats and a continued investigation of “No!” though as we moved it began to dissolve itself, moving into Chaos.

As we approached Chaos, I joined with another friend, echoing her swaying diagonals.  I realized that I like to get very close if I can curl inside my partner, sometimes in a slow, furled spin, even in the throes of Chaos.

Tammy gathered us into a big circle and we took turns stepping into the middle, letting loose in Chaos, each seemingly responding to the question of anger in our own way.  I was tired, but I had promised to dedicate a dance to someone close to me, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity, especially given that he is, at times, plagued with anger.  I watched and supported my fellow dancers, then entered the inner circle, moving sincerely, but without inspiration.  Moving back to the outside of the circle, I noticed that several people had not yet entered the center.  I held back briefly, wanting to make space for them, then decided that I could simply let everyone be responsible for their own needs. On the third go, I found a gigantic dance that was almost demonic, with a fast flipping head and a massive range throughout the circle’s interior.

We explored a number of tribal exercises, when one person assumes a simple gesture and a group follows.  I tend to lose interest during Tribal, but I tried to be a good sport and to open myself to the experiment.  When we first transitioned, I was in a natural position relative to the dance floor and to the group to take the first lead, and I stepped up with only mild reluctance, finding a simple gesture that everyone easily followed.  In the past, it was agonizingly difficult for me to pick one simple movement and I often blundered around at length, in complex syncopated maneuvers that no one could follow.

In another speaking exercise, we sat in a group and each person took a turn expressing what about anger they would like to transform.  Someone took a breath to speak first, and I realized right away that I was the last one in the lineup.  Tammy let us know when to change, but the second person went way over his time.  The next person went over her time, too, and I got anxious, concerned that I might not have a turn to speak.  When the second to last person was finished speaking, Tammy said, “Raise your hand if you need more time.” I raised my hand and said I had just started.  I lost my train of thought and the group kindly helped me to re-gather it.  I again returned to the theme of creating boundaries without aggression, realizing that “if I am confident about the boundary I am making, then I don’t have to be defensive or to police it.  I can trust that it simply is, that no one can breach it without my collusion.” I realized that the grief I had about separation when I created a boundary with someone close to me had dissolved; and that I was not mad any more.  I no longer needed to be furious to justify my position.

On Sunday, I arrived with time to spare.  Although in the early afternoon we were immersed in the investigation of sorrow, for me the entire day was characterized by joy.  At Tammy’s invitation to all of us, I sat back-to-back with a woman I had never met, and we moved together in Flowing.  Then, we turned to face one another and each spoke to the question, “What moves you?”  I was touched by her attention and by her words.  We turned to listen to Tammy, then; and I assumed we would break for lunch.  I was very hungry, and starting to get tired.  I was shocked when I looked at the clock and realized we had only been dancing for two hours.  Instead of sending us to lunch, Tammy set us off into another wave.  This one started tiny, with the gentlest, released flowing head movements.  Tammy skillfully guided us into the emotional energy of sadness, and many sobbed loudly.  A few sobs moved through me, too, but as I rose slowly to my feet, I returned once again to the emotion of joy.  I soared from partner to partner, as Tammy instructed us to “change” and “change again.”

I stepped up to a man I have been seeing around for some time, but had never spoken with.  He was tall and athletic; and I nearly dismissed him because of it.  I thought, “Ok, this guy must play a sport. I think it is something with his shoulders and diagonal movement.  I am game.  Let me get into this.  I will swing my shoulders, too.  This seems like his thing.”  I sort of felt like I was humoring him.  To my surprise and delight, the dance caught fire quickly and took off in several directions at once.  I realized that I had totally underestimated his capacity.  (This has nothing to do with any shortcoming of his, but rather with a prejudice of mine that I notice springs up around certain men.)  Staring into one another’s eyes, we were suddenly very close, very connected, and very, very light.  We bounded around an entire section of dance floor in loping circles, like we were figure skaters, sometimes in perfect unison, sometimes in opposite gestures.  Lately, I have been finding a kick and direction change in the air, with gestures pulling strongly through my heel; and this movement repeated, in different combinations and cadences.  We began to include touch in the dance, and moved around and behind each other, softly touching our forearms together and moving into looping arcs.  There was a lot of creativity in the way our feet touched ground, in the leaning into each other, in the angles, in the pace changes, in the different levels we toggled through.  I stood up to him gently.  He led often, but I had input, too.

At one point the music shifted and I started to move away.  He lingered and I realized I wanted to continue the dance, moving back toward him again.  Moving from Lyrical into Stillness, our dance stayed just as beautiful, but it came back to ground, losing its bounce.  We came into more contact.

Instructed to partner in speaking, we were invited to express our feelings about sorrow.  I looked into this partner’s eyes, rapt with attention as he spoke.  When it was my turn to speak, I barely touched on sorrow, but instead (again) spoke of joy.  “I have always been very, very comfortable with sorrow, with grief.  I have no problem with opening up to the sadness of the world.  I have even—at times—danced the grief of spirits.  For me, joy has been much more challenging.  For ages, every time the music shifted into Lyrical, I would freak out.  I would suddenly have an overwhelming compulsion to check my phone to make sure something terrible hadn’t happened to my small son.”  I went on to say, “I also felt uncomfortable with joy, like being joyful was an affront to all the people suffering in the world.”  And yet, here it was, this absolutely flowing river of joy.  Drenching me completely.

I had a delightful lunch with this partner, watching the rise and fall of the shimmering river once again, and chatting mostly about our relationships to 5Rhythms practice.

Lunch passed quickly; and the final session was also very beautiful.  I shared an unbridled, quivering dance with a friend.  At one point, I played an invisible violin concerto, making fun of myself for my own melodramas.  Later, I found a spot on the floor where I could move gently back and forth from strong sun to shadow; and I rocked between the two with my eyes closed.  I also shared a playful dance with a friend who I had to step purposefully into and who pretended he was giving me the stiff arm, then walking away.  I pushed against his hand in full suspension as he resisted; and we ended with laughing smiles.

At the end of the day, Tammy gathered us into a big circle, grounding the group’s energy.  She offered closing remarks, then sent us back into the world, on our own to integrate the weekend in the coming days and weeks.

September 27, 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.