Back in April I had an insight regarding the way the masculine principle is represented with the rhythms maps that radically expanded the understanding I have had for the last 25 years. Being a fool, I blurted it out in a newsletter right there and then, but having been exploring and integrating it for a while now I’m ready to share what I’ve found in a more grounded way.
Notes in homage to the limitations of language:
1. By feminine I mean a receptive presence that can be penetrated. By masculine I mean an active presence that penetrates. All men and women have both qualities to varying degrees that are not necessarily matched with their apparent gender.
2. As with any attempt to talk about the way of things deeply, to understand this perspective you will have to embrace paradox. You’ll need a kind of Zen-koan mind at some points.
3. Anything said in words is not the whole truth.
If you want to skip the intellectual understanding and go straight to the practice, watch the video at the bottom of this page. Here I explain how to shift your attention and explore this stuff for yourself. But having done that I encourage you to come back to this writing and read it until you get it, because the intellect is powerful and influences all other levels of our experience. If you’ve been practicing the rhythms for any length of time you probably have unquestioned ideas about the nature of feminine and masculine, a priori assumptions which affect your practice and are worth examining.
The classical understanding of polarities within the 5Rhythms map is that Flowing is feminine, which gives rise to the masculine Staccato, which come together in Chaos, followed by the unification of the first three within Lyrical, all four of which then disappear in the deeper integration that is Stillness. From this perspective the rhythms ‘come from’ Flowing, from the body. [Each part of the psyche – body, heart, mind, soul, spirit – has its home base in a corresponding rhythm. In this way we can freely use corresponding parts of Gabrielle’s maps interchangeably, for example Flowing and body, or Staccato and heart.]
Now be completely still for a moment, and experience your breath on the level of physical sensation. It’s making love with your body. In, out, in, out. Your body is being penetrated by your breath. Go deeper, and listen to the subtle silence inside your breath, its non-physical presence. The felt sense of your body is of that presence penetrating every cell. I’m not saying that the breath actually is masculine — more on that later — but the body experiences it as penetrative, both as the movement of air, but also as the way Spirit interfaces with the physical.
The rhythms only appear to come from the body; more truly they’re the result of the interaction of the forces represented by Flowing and Stillness, from the interaction of Body and Spirit. These two ends of the wave are another polarity, behaving with each other like feminine and masculine. We could say Flowing is the Sacred Feminine, a force that streams through the rhythms from 1 to 5, energising each rhythm as it goes. And we experience Stillness as the Divine Masculine, a force that streams through the rhythms from 5 to 1, inspiring each rhythm as it goes. There are actually two ‘waves’ going on simultaneously and in opposite directions, one in the material world and a second in the spirit world, each completely intertwined with the other.
Now, when we actually step into the world of Stillness or Spirit, we find that it is beyond all duality, dispelling all descriptions or definitions such as ‘masculine’. But until we get there, as long as we’re identified with the material world, we experience it as a masculine force relative to ourselves. Once we enter into Stillness, once we’re identified with Spirit, all things disappear — there is no duality, there is only no-thingness. We’re in the void. But within the world of the first four rhythms, being identified with body, heart, mind, or soul (soul being the integrated vibration that is the unification of body, heart, and mind), then our felt-sense experience of the fifth element is that it’s masculine — it is ‘other’ in a profound way, and penetrates us utterly. The force of Spirit penetrates us, animates us, witnesses us — it feels masculine.
From this perspective, Staccato is dwarfed by Stillness as a masculine presence. It’s as though Staccato is a ‘human masculine’, whilst the fifth element is the Divine Masculine, or if you have a problem with the word ‘divine’ we could equally well say Deep Masculine. (Flowing on the other hand is both the human feminine and the Sacred Feminine, which has all sorts of fascinating implications for gender politics!).
The World is Feminine
Therefore it is our experience as human beings that relative to Spirit, the body/heart/mind/soul are all part of the feminine — they’re all aspects of creation utterly intra-penetrated by the One. Those first four levels are all part of the world, while the fifth element is on the other side. They’re all aspects of our uniqueness, whilst in ‘zone 5’ there’s only one of us here, only one thing happening: no-one, no-thing. Thus Staccato/the heart is actually an aspect of the feminine, part of Mother Nature — but it’s the feminine taking a masculine form. Staccato is a masculine shape and penetrative energy, but relative to Spirit or Stillness it experiences itself paradoxically as feminine.
Staccato / Heart is a very curious phenomenon in fact, a kind of wormhole or portal that has some of the qualities of Spirit or Stillness within it, yet is not it. It’s only if that human masculine moves in ignor-ance of Spirit that it arrogantly declares itself as ‘The Masculine’. If it stays in conscious relationship to the Divine then the heart, and Staccato — and men! — stay humble, one step removed from the ground of Sacred Feminine yet penetrated by the Divine Masculine the same as everything else.
To reiterate: once we enter the zone of the fifth element we find that it’s not masculine at all in that it’s beyond duality. But we could say that being beyond duality is itself a masculine quality — beyond, or outside of things, a witness. Paradox. Time to dance! Seriously :-)
All the above is actually a highly condensed summary of a cascade of insights and connections that have come to me from seeing the masculine in this way. A huge piece I have omitted entirely (but which has been fundamental to my understanding) is the maths of the 5Rhythms – Euler’s Identity. I’m slowly working on a video to explain the maths. But for now, I’d suggest you watch the video below and experiment with your practice. I’ve danced with this a LOT this year, and it began to change my practice immediately, but it’s also changing the way I live my life. I hope it’s fruitful for you too.
Maybe this is simply froth on the top of a wave that’s already complete, but for anyone else who’s fascinated by connections between physics and mysticism, I’ll add it here. It’s a reference to the way (mentioned above) that the heart is a kind of portal to Spirit, or Staccato a wormhole to Stillness. If you watch a breaking wave, it looks as though the wave ‘comes from’ it’s flowing stage. It’s flowing shape changes to form an edge, then breaks down, plays up, and completes. But the reason it goes through that cycle beyond its flowing stage is because it begins to be affected by the approach of the shoreline from underneath. It feels death coming, just as we become conscious of death and our own limitation as the ego crystallises and the Staccato life cycle begins. We could say the wave begins to be affected by the deep masculine.
Here’s the curiosity: look at the wave in cross section and see the similarity of its shape in Staccato and Stillness – in both cases it has formed a point, but in the Staccato phase the point is unsustainable and must surrender to the pull of gravity, whereas in Stillness the point is its ultimate dissolution into the force of death itself, the shoreline.