A Tiny Sunshine

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

Today’s Sweat Your Prayers class was held at the Martha Graham Studio on Bethune Street in the West Village rather than at the Joffrey Studio.  I arrived on time and whisper-stepped onto the one-step-up sprung floor.  I found movement easily, and felt rising emotion as I started to find my feet.  The room was neither too warm nor too cold, and I sensed the flush of spring’s optimism despite the tenacious grip of winter.  I hadn’t danced (officially) for two weeks.  My two most recent dances before this hiatus had ended painfully, with constraint and distraction.  Today, it was like my body re-set itself.  I found an entirely new dance—investigating suspension with many tiny articulations inside of big, expressive gestures.  On the floor, I began to stretch and twist, attenuating the farthest reaches of myself and letting the end of the stretch curve back in, moving naturally into circular motion and to Flowing.


I very much wanted to connect and moved around the room, falling into step with everyone I encountered.  I noticed that although I tend to be bold about approaching people to dance with them, I am very quick to move away if they are not immediately receptive.  There are often many layers to intention; and I note that, in part, I don’t want to invade anyone’s space.  And I sometimes like to move through the whole room without settling in with anyone so I can enjoy the experience of being in the human field.  Also, I think part of me is afraid of being rejected.

When someone else approaches to dance with me, it might take me awhile to key into their advance and to warm up to the idea of accepting it.  If someone is persistent without being aggressive, I might appreciate that they really want to dance with me in particular, and that they have made a conscious choice to connect.   I vowed to experiment with staying a little longer in instances when I approach someone to dance but they don’t immediately (or obviously) engage in partnership.

I note a parallel in my job-work life at the moment.  Sometimes I start out gung-ho, then if I encounter resistance, I pull back.  Perhaps it is unrelated, but simultaneous to this noticing, I managed to find a new angle—a new way to approach my work with integrity and excitement, rather than by giving up and retreating when I feel like I am running into a wall.  For some reason, I still have to remind myself to look for the empty space, especially when I am in partnership.

I was slightly apprehensive about dance this morning.  Sometimes when I have a run of unpleasant experiences, I start to fear that the dances of freedom, athleticism, creativity, insight and connectedness that I often experience have evaporated forever.  Tears came and went as I was swept by inspiration, repeatedly raising my hands high overhead and arching back with my eyes upward, taking in the antique tin ceiling and stage lights as my head swept back and then rolled forward dramatically again.

During the Stillness after a recent yoga class, the instructor suggested that we should invite what we need into our lives.  For me, the first word that came to mind was “inspiration.”  The winter has been long and grueling; and although I am not consciously begging for spring, I feel emotionally exhausted.  Money has been tight, work has been rock-and-hard-place-y, sleep has been brief, and long dormant issues have reared their heads with unexpected vehemence.

Tammy reminded us that the neighbors below the Martha Graham Studio do not appreciate dancers’ feet pounding heavily on the floor above them, and I experimented with gentle feet, only occasionally forgetting and punctuating a movement of the hips with a sharp, percussive stomp.  Knowing how to be powerful without making loud noise is a skill I would do well to learn.

After the first wave, I felt connected and porous.  That is to say, I felt like my energy field was uncompressed and could easily mingle with the energy fields of other practitioners.  I was able to do what I call “passing through practice,” something that was taught to me by an ancient spirit.  I mean, that Iimagine an ancient spirit taught to me.

I wrote this at the time:

“A couple of weeks ago during Jonathan’s class, I (imagined I) was seeing everyone’s
spirits including my own: light bodies, pain bodies, and a diffuse kind of
light.  One of my spirits—I think a very old male ancestor—really wanted
to interact with me.  At first I felt nervous because he was
manifesting differently than what I usually see. He was more like a shadow
spirit. But I told him, it’s OK, I am not afraid, I am totally porous and I
am not afraid of you.  So he started to dance with me, to overlap with me,
and to pass through me. It had never occurred to me that possession could be
so gentle. At times both our spirits were intermingled.  Then, everyone
else’s personal energy fields were kind of passing through mine, and mine
through theirs.” –January, 2009

This practice is absolutely not available unless I am in a connected and porous state, but if I am blessed to arrive there, it is simply a matter of intention and shifted perspective.

My energy faltered slightly as we moved toward the end of the class, but I left feeling uplifted and re-connected with myself.  Stepping out onto Bethune Street, I found deep slush, hard winds and steadily falling snow.  But my heart held a tiny sunshine, reminding me that after a particularly aggressive winter, the awakening of spring is all the more glorious.

March 1, 2015, NYC

Pregnancy, Birth & The Creative Process

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

The most spectacular human being on the planet was born five years ago tomorrow. I mean my own small son, of course. Gabrielle’s unabashed adoration of her son, Jonathan, who is now the lineage holder of the entire 5Rhythms tradition, opened the door to openly admitting my feelings, without embarrassment, holding back or making light of it. I wish that every child could be loved as much.

At this time five years ago, I was eating dinner with my son’s father. I had spent the day doing errands in Manhattan, and had been for a swim in the Chelsea Pool. I had to walk slowly, slowly as my body was beginning to cramp around the baby. I did not identity it as labor until after we had eaten and had settled down to watch a movie. The realization dawned on me slowly. “I think I might be in labor,” I said. He reacted badly, suggesting angrily that I call my sister. I tried, but could not reach her. She had just completed the Miami marathon, went out drinking after and was fast asleep. I called the midwife and started to gather some things I might need. We got into a car service. Then, it became very clear that I was, in fact, in labor. The first rounds of real pain caught me off guard. I turned and kneeled on the black leather seat facing out the back window, literally biting the upholstery and calling out in pain.

We arrived at the Brooklyn Birthing Center around 11pm, ahead of the midwife, and found the door locked and the lights off. I could barely stay on my feet at this point, and was becoming shrill with pain. The midwife arrived shortly after and let us in. She examined me and decided to have me move and walk before formally admitting me. At this point, she became strident, “You have to focus. You can’t totally lose it now.” She encouraged me to breathe through the contractions, and showed my partner how to press on the back of my pelvis to help relieve the pain.

I danced throughout pregnancy. In the very beginning, I stopped going to classes because I had heard a rumor that loud music could be bad for a developing baby. I couldn’t find any good evidence to support this; and since things were turbulent at home, I realized I had to return to classes or risk harming my little son with held-in sadness and anxiety. I even did an intensive, weekly shadows workshop that met late on Wednesday nights during the fifth and sixth months of my pregnancy.

It was in dance that I connected with the miracle of pregnancy. For the first time in my life, I was completely filled in every way. I was dancing three rhythms at once, my own, the baby’s, and the rhythm of us together. I was awestruck when I thought about the fact that I had two heartbeats; and I could hear and feel both.

In the Shadows workshop, my process of working with fear-entrenched patterns accelerated, as I hoped to evolve, somehow, before welcoming a new human into my life. I danced hard! It must have been a remarkable sight. When we investigated Chaos, I remember laying on the ground at the end fearful that I might have harmed the baby.

I spent hours and hours in the days immediately before birth tilting gently side to side on an upholstered rocking hasset, sitting in front of an altar that I made—of chandelier crystals and the little rainbows they cast, my grandmother’s glass Blessed Mother statue, and transparent blue and white fabric. I was beginning to turn in, to gather energy, to enter a trance that (in retrospect) lasted for several months after my son was born.

Before and during this period, I felt pulled to spinning. I was powerful and engaged inside a spin, and I dipped and cut the air with my hands, slowing and speeding up for long stretches. It might be interesting to note that when my son was tiny, the best way to calm him was by holding him in my arms and spinning—very fast and very gently.

Because I danced all the way through pregnancy, I don’t think I ever moved like a pregnant woman. Instead, I was able to adjust to my fast-changing body, including to the shifts in balance.

I wasn’t afraid leading up to birth—at least not of the birthing process. In fact, I was interested in testing my limits. Once the midwife re-set me, I got into a rhythm. Between contractions I danced Flowing in the hallway at the birthing center, moving in gentle spirals, my feet in constant motion. When a contraction came, I put my hands on the wall and breathed until I came to the other side of it.

Before long, the midwife declared that it was time, and I was helped into a warm bathtub. In the bath, I felt totally supported. My son’s father, the midwife and a birthing attendant were in the room with me. When the process got very intense, I turned to the side of the bathtub, held onto a metal bar and learned to beat a rhythm on the wall as my body radically adjusted and my pelvis stretched to make way for the baby.

I had to leave the bathtub when it was time to push, and for some reason I insisted on putting on my bathrobe as I was assisted to the room next door. I was patient, ethereal at this time, asking for a sip of water. Then, things got very urgent. The midwife said that the umbilical cord was totally wrapped around the baby and that we had to get him out immediately. I was immune to stress, but followed directions, pushing like I was doing a resisted sit-up. After all the pain leading up to the pushing, I was surprised that the last stage was painless. He emerged easily, with just a couple of pushes hours before dawn.

He gazed at us, centuries of wisdom in his tiny eyes. We spent the morning in the birthing center—where it was warm, dark, quiet and private. My sister also appeared and we took turns holding this still-otherworldly creature.

The year he was born—2010—was marked by blizzards, and we spent our first weeks silent and flowing. The beauty of the snow, the white sky, the silver line of the subway sliding by in view of the window, and the quiet cadence of the soft rocking chair folded into days that slid into nights and opened again into dawn.

The first time I was due to meet Gabrielle was on my son’s first birthday. We were out of town and had to travel back literally during the height of another blizzard. My father drove us to the closest Amtrak platform and waited with us for the long-delayed train. It eventually came trudging down the track, its metal snow plow carving a path ahead of it. Shortly after we boarded, the train went out of service and we had to wait in a station for hours, take a bus to another place entirely, and re-board another train. Gabrielle was already sick by then, and she had to cancel that day because her voice was weak.

After I had been dancing for about a year, I noticed that my relationship to creative work changed completely. Before, I had wasted time on neurotic activity, wondering if I was really a good artist, if I should really be a writer instead, if being a good writer would automatically mean that I was a bad artist—and on and on and on. After, I stopped asking myself these questions, and found that I had (without making any resolutions) started to actually trust the creative process to unfold and show me the way to a form. Creative work started to pour out of me. I was no longer serving my identity as an “artist” in the same way. Instead, I rode the winds of inspiration like a galloping horse.

After my son was born, I shed yet another layer of inane self-talk that held me back from creative activity; and I stepped without hesitation into ambitious projects and opportunities that arose.

A good friend told me about Tammy’s class a couple of days after my son was born. The friend put a picture of my son, showing his tiny head cradled perfectly in the palm of his father’s hand, on the altar. Tammy announced to the class that he had been born, and, according to my friend, many people were moved, some even cried. She said they felt like he was their baby, too, since we had all gone through the experience of pregnancy together.

February 1, 2015