NB: for those of you Google-translating into French, remember that your word ‘esprit’ is both ‘thinking-knowing mind’ and ‘there’s-only-one-of-us-here Spirit’ in English, which are two completely different things. I use the word ‘mind’ to mean the aspect of the psyche that is related to Chaos – it thinks and it knows, intuits and intellectualises, creates and categorises. I use the word Spirit on the other hand to mean the aspect of us that is related to Stillness. It is not the same as ‘Soul’ either, which is related to Lyrical and describes the part of you that is uniquely ‘you‘, individual and distinctive, the creative presence that is the unification of our body heart and mind (Chaos related). Spirit (Stillness related) on the other hand is the aspect of our being that is beyond individuality. It is the place where we disappear, where we are not just connected to all things, we are all things, or perhaps more accurately we are the n0-thingness that is the true nature of every-thing.
I awoke this morning understanding something more fully and deeply than ever before: that the 5Rhythms are the process of awakening, embodied. I could suddenly see a new layer of exactly how this is so, and how it could be used more effectively than it often is.
For the majority of the last 29 years I’ve been practising the rhythms in the way that most of us seem to, as a bell-shaped curve that peaks in the middle then fades to nothing by the end. Most times I see an exaggerated form of this when I go to public classes; it’s 5R-mainstream to practise the rhythms like conventional sex, aiming for a release in Chaos after which we have a little happiness and then fade out, often ending up literally lying down on the floor by the end of Stillness, more asleep than awake.
I began to grow tired of this years ago, but it radically changed in the last 9 months through unpacking the insights I was given about Stillness being a polarity to Flowing, and how to practise with Spirit as an alive and present counterbalance to Body. It changed everything, and this morning I saw one notch deeper….. hard to describe, but I’ll try….
The bell-shaped curve style of practice is body-centric. It’s modelling a life that is all about the body: I’m born, I grow, then the peak is when I’m making babies, then there’s a glow, and old-age/death is the end. From the point of view of the body, death has no value and old age has very little energy.
But the 5Rhythms were never intended to be all about the body. They are the pathway between Body and Spirit (or more accurately they are interference pattern between those two vibrational polarities, forming a pathway we can travel along.) It’s possible to practise focussed on both polarities, not solely on Body whilst vaguely hoping Spirit-experience will somehow happen anyway.
When we make our practice Body-Spirit balanced, there are two waves happening simultaneously, each one inside the other and woven together like yin and yang. The ‘conventional’ curved wave is happening as the life of the Body, but there’s also the emergence of Spirit happening at the same time. That Spirit-opening process is essentially linear rather than the curve of the body’s journey. The presence of Consciousness is there right from the start, but it develops through five stages in a steady fashion, each step bringing it more to the fore, so that by the time I’m in Stillness, there’s a sense in which that’s all there is.
The way to find that balance is by bringing the medicine of Flowing (movement of the body) right to the end, whilst imbibing the medicine of Stillness (consciousness within the breath) right from the beginning. That way the bridge between the two poles is strengthened in both directions, with the medicine of each one reaching all the way to the other shore.
If I’m aware of death from the moment of birth, that’s a life enlightened. I am practicing that by meditating on the medicine of Stillness right from the beginning of Flowing.
In this way the 5Rhythms become a true practice for awakening. Without the balance between Flowing medicine and Stillness medicine, our practice is more like masturbation – it has some effect, getting us in touch with the body and some feelings, getting some energy moving, releasing some tension. But it’s perilously close to practicing addiction. The dopamine cycle gets stimulated again and again, and we always feel as though we’re getting somewhere but we remain strangely unmoved on a deeper level, again and again building up a charge and then cathartically releasing it. But if we practice accurately balancing the two ends or polarities of the wave then it’s more like tantric sex than masturbation, and it works as an awakening tool. And far from being addictive, it’s scary. Like, bloody scary. Am I really ready and willing to wake up again? Now? No, no, just a little more dreaming…. please….
As I start to Flow, knowing exactly where I am going —heading to loss of ‘self’— I am immediately terrified. It’s literally hard to keep going, and at first I collapse a little, crouching down with my hands on the ground wondering whether I’ll continue. Even in this first rhythm, I can feel that I’m starting a process that will result in my death, and little-self cries out “stop!….” Somehow I find the discipline to continue, letting feelings come forth in Staccato, then allowing myself to….oh my god, awakening is…. Chaos… is too big to hold and ‘I’ am breaking…. tears streaming down my face…. it’s not scary any more… just a strange mixture of utterly familiar and ‘never been here before’ simultaneously… a cascade of moments falling through each other like flower petals of consciousness unfolding… It’s so odd to be ‘alone’ in Lyrical that I step outside and give my dance to the morning sky, to the trees, and the little plants climbing up the fence by my front door….. Stillness doesn’t feel like an end at all, it’s arrival. I’m home. I am waking up, dreaming that I am waking into dreaming that I am waking into dreaming that I am… home….
This kind of process does happen anyway, almost by accident, if we practise the rhythms the conventional body-centric way. But we can make ourselves far more readily available to it by being body-spirit balanced as described above. I only practise that way now, whether simple waves-level movement, working with emotional energy, moving through Cycles material or anything else: whatever is going on, balancing the poles accelerates the process, turbo-charging everything. Far more effective, and far less effort, for the sake of a shift in attention.
Having said that, that shift of attention takes a certain kind of effort at first. Especially if you’ve been practising a certain way for any length of time, you will have built up a momentum in body-centric attention, and momentum takes time to change. Adding attention to something very subtle can be strange when you’re used to the coarser level of focus that physical movement, emotional energy, or psychological states requires. Because it’s not even about paying attention to the breath itself, as the movement of air. That’s a start, but more truly it’s about the non-physical presence that is carried on the wings of your breath. It’s about the silence inside the breath. Feel that Presence, and listen to that Silence, balanced with the dance of your body. Then the two forces of Body and Spirit are love-making within the temple of your practice.
See also this earlier post on the same subject.