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Welcome to my blog page. It’s mostly about the 5Rhythms practice and insights and experiences that come from it.

I hope you enjoy the posts and find them useful. You can see a list of all the posts if you click on the word “List” above here.

You can sign up below, then you’ll get new posts by email as soon as I write something.

Adam

Nonsense

Stop practicing as though your body is all there is!

It is only from the point of view of the body that Stillness is at the ‘end’.

From the point of view of Spirit, which is also you, seeing Stillness as the ‘last’ rhythm is nonsense!

The nature of Stillness is omnipresence. From that perspective it’s more accurate to say that what’s happening when we ‘get to’ the 5th rhythm is that all else disappears, and we’re left with that which has been there all along. That which is every-where and time-less.

Even that word ‘stillness’ is misleading, as the talking mind can only deal with things. The word gives an impression of a lack of movement relative to other things, almost an impression of lifelessness. But that which ‘Stillness’ refers to is not relative to anything; it is everything. Or the No-thing inside everything. Rather than lifelessness, it is the total opposite – infinite fullness and presence.

Stillness

The body is specifically in a particular place at a particular time. It moves through space and time. Your body naturally goes through the rhythms from 1 to 5.

But as Spirit you are already everywhere.

Divinely intertwined lovers Body and Spirit: you are here, now, and everywhere, all the time.

The rhythm of Stillness is only at the end for your body, your heart and half of your mind. For the rest, it is everywhere.

What happens to your practice if you open to this?

Love and War

Once again, I’m moved to write something about world events. The tragedies happening around the world such as in London last night, like a cry of pain and rage utterly desperate to be heard. There are many people writing much more skilfully than I can about the political causes and ramifications, so I won’t go there even though I have strong opinions about it.

What I can speak of is the power of our personal presence. Don’t we have a contribution to make this way as well as with our actions? I count myself lucky to live in a democracy (deeply flawed and undermined though it is), and always vote, but what we do with our attention from moment to moment is surely even stronger.

The body-parts practice is so potent for this, because it sharpens key aspects of your ability to be present in a choice-ful way:

  • Practise moving your attention from one specific part of yourself to another. Builds ability to choose where your attention goes. 
  • Practise blending that physically focussed meditation together with the kind of open field of awareness required to notice the subtle presence found inside your breath. Strengthens ability to keep your awareness wide and open inside even whilst focussing on a task or an event. 
  • Practise leading with one part of your body while the rest follows. Learn how to be a good leader, listener, and team player all at the same time, becoming more ‘whole’ within yourself all the while. 

These are all deep meta-skills, with benefits that spill out way beyond the dance floor.

So you get the news of another appalling act of violence. Then how much detail do you really need to pay attention to?

What if you turned away from the horror, and gave attention to your own body and breath? Giving attention to your body you’ll find the whole gamut of feelings — the fear, the hope, the numbness, the tenderness and love of life.

If you only stay with your body, all that stuff is overwhelming. So balance the fullness of your body with the emptiness of your breath. The nothingness inside your breath perfectly compliments the everythingness of your body.

FStencils - Lisbonor there is indeed a war going on, only it isn’t a war on terror (how ridiculous!) but war for attention, which is a war for energy: Energy flows where attention goes. The most basic power you have is where to put your attention, which is the simplest and most essential act of loving. So this ‘war’ is really a global scale spiritual struggle, and you’re involved whether you like it or not. What are you giving your love to?

Does your attention still feel like love, or has it corrupted to something resembling a puppet, bound by endless convolutions of fear, greed and addiction?

The monstrous world-machine we’ve created writhes and warps in its death throes, more and more fiercely devouring our energy. It behaves like an entity in its own right, using every trick in the book from airbrushed bikini-clad models to detailed coverage of bloody tragedies, all designed to catch our eye, and if we look for too long we’re hooked, mesmerised by the combo of suppressed panic, disconnected sex, and soulless death, just as so many people are hooked on food full of salt sugar and fat.

Take a glance, for sure, so you can keep track of what it’s up to, but don’t look too long or it will suck you in.

The ten thousand years of Staccato are over, and the patriarchal world it spawned is collapsing just as surely as the forward thrust of any breaking wave must fall towards earth again in a mighty crash. Chaos always comes. We have a choice: we can lament the fall, or we can get with the new program, staying present with what is here and now, and learning to see the beauty in what’s emerging even as the wreckage intensifies.

We can always choose to become aware of the physical presence of the body, and the non-physical presence within the breath. The essence of Chaos reveals itself in that choice to be centred and present, where we surrender to its slip-stream and find that life is magic.

Then we can look up and see what’s in front of our very eyes, and give something to the moment that is unfolding before us. Whether that be a lilt in your step, a smile at the sky, a kiss to a loved one or a word of kindness to a stranger. Life is beautiful almost all the time on the small scale, right where we are. If we’re in a war for attention, then it’s a political action to notice the flowers and be glad. It’s an effective move to be gracious in a crowd and give way. It’s a major step when we manage to love generously in the face of our own internal triggers.

Ancient middle eastern proverb: Trust in God, but always tie up your camel.
21st century equivalent: Trust in Silence, cast your votes, and remember to dance.

wersm-the-invisible-war-for-your-attention-on-social-media-657x360

Underneath Form

I’m referencing the diaspora of the 5Rhythms world here, some of which are listed on my links page

Last year I finally went to One Dance Tribe; they’d been inviting me for a few years and the dates hadn’t worked, but also I’d been hesitant to immerse myself a smorgasbord of practices. I love the 5Rhythms so deeply, and thought that if I was going to spend my precious life-time in movement, I’d rather it was 5R-based. I’ve never felt drawn to any of the other practices that have grown out of the rhythms, much as I love and respect the people who have created them.

However, the reality touched me unexpectedly. Working with all these different styles of movement, what emerged as foremost was the underlying common denominator. Far from feeling scattered, I was pulled deeper than any of the forms into the foundation of them all, the simple love of movement as meditation. Added to that, it felt like we were all experiencing that same love, so the politics of comparison actually felt much less present than ‘on the street’ of the movement world. We didn’t care about any of that, we just all loved to dance.

I bother to write about this because I’ve been close enough inside this world to feel the pain of the fault-lines that accompanied the creation of some of these other paths. Where there’s money and power, there’s politics, and sometimes I’m saddened by our ways of handling ourselves. But ODT was a refreshing surprise and a delight, going beyond the people organising it, beyond the teachers or teachings, and beyond my little dogmas.

A core of personal belief that remains (could be called a dogma I guess, but I would say it’s simply my on-going experience) is that the map of the 5Rhythms has something uniquely brilliant about it. It is a diamond among patterns, much as the Native American medicine wheel is, though for me the fact that Gabrielle got it embodied takes it beyond even that venerable map in terms of user-friendly interface. The way we practice it and the community that’s grown out of it is flawed as one would expect from anything we humans do, but the 5-fold pattern itself has a quality of perfection about it.

The way I practice and teach the rhythms can become rigid though, when in truth they demand infinite flexibility to do them justice, and immersing myself in other practices was a good way to loosen my mind.

May we all remember what we love, and finding our common ground. If not us, then who? If not now, when?

Awakening practice

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….

lifeThe 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….

lightwave

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 evebodyspiritn 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.

Art, healing, and politically correct minefields.

Gabrielle used to say that the 5Rhythms are a practice that integrates three paths: shamanism, tantra, and Zen. There’s another way to cut it as well – to see our practice as balancing and integrating healing, art, and spiritual experience. I think we conflate these aspects of our work, leading to confusion, disappointment, and even damage. Yet this tripartite nature of the 5Rhythms experience is one of it’s great strengths; it’s exceptionally well balanced between all three forces. I’m writing this as a drop in the ocean towards clarity and consequent empowerment.

Healing

When we’re seeking healing – be it from physical emotional or mental wounding – certain conditions are needed to enable that healing to happen. Particularly important is to feel safe. We need to know we are not going to be hurt further if we expose our wound. We probably need a lot of gentleness, and a sense of spaciousness in terms of time. Kindness, tenderness, loving acceptance, and good clear boundaries are probably vital.

Art

To be creative is to live on the edge, and to create art is essentially dangerous. There has to be the permission to go over the edge actually – how else do we learn where the edge is? There has to be the potential to break all the rules and be truly experimental. Art is not safe, nor should it be. It doesn’t have to be shocking, but it has to be able to be. For great art, we have to be willing to risk everything, and give ourselves the freedom to go anywhere even if it’s taboo.

Spiritual Experience

[The word ‘spiritual’ has been commercialised and trivialised horribly. I don’t know what to do about it. Alternative suggestions welcome.] 

A moment of en-lighten-ment: you’re suddenly aware of the silence inside your breath, a subtle presence that is everywhere.  There’s a profound sense of connection to all things. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to be done: all is already perfect including the wounding you still carry and the creative steps you have not taken. This can happen at any moment, during any activity. It is not dependent upon circumstance in any way. [Oh God (sic), did I really just try to define a spiritual experience?)

arthealingspirit

It is immediately apparent that these three are radically different. Healing gives attention to something remaining from the past, to practice our art is to be working towards something and is future oriented, whilst spiritual experience is totally in the present. Art and healing are at first glance deeply incompatible whilst spiritual experience is basically unmoved by either.

Sometimes it’s clearly more one than another: Yesterday I woke up grieving. I staggered downstairs, set a gentle piece of music on repeat and moved very very slowly for long time, holding myself like a baby. Then I knew I needed to be in nature so walked out to the woods awhile, came back and gave myself a hot bath. There were flickers of artistry, but the whole morning was about healing really. Then today my practice was to dance all five rhythms with a quality of Stillness. No doubt some healing probably happened without me knowing it, but my whole focus was on developing my art. Both sessions were infused with moments of presence where everything else disappeared, there was no art or healing any more, just ‘this’.

More often, particularly in a group, all three are happening simultaneously in the room. How do we deal with that??? This is actually an open question for me in both my personal practice and my teaching. I don’t think there’s one right answer, or set of answers. Each dancer has to find their own balance point moment to moment, and anyone teaching the rhythms has to continually evolve their own style of melding the three.

However, having some clarity about the difference between these three is really helpful. Particularly the difference between art and healing, because they can get in each other’s way so easily. Someone who’s in a wildly creative space can be traumatic to be around if you’re deep in healing, particularly if they are expressing strong feelings or going out on a limb with their sexual energy. On the other hand the need for safety can be a total buzz-killer for a wild artist who is on fire creatively.

It really is possible to balance all three of these aspects of practice in a dynamic way so any one is free to rise to the fore for a while without getting attached to it. Gabrielle embodied this balance like no-one I’ve ever met. She had it down so deeply that it seemed effortless to swim between them. But as the 5R world has grown her personal influence has diminished, and the rhythms practice has become embedded within a complex mishmash culture that embraces many practices but leans towards healing and spiritual experience, wherein it’s easy for the value of ART and daredevil artistry to be lost. It’s easy to cry out that safety is paramount and end up with politically correct environments that stifle creativity.

We lose something vital that way – literally we lose vitality – and I love Gabrielle’s insistence on turning our suffering into art, art into awareness, and awareness into action. Turning suffering into art necessitates coming out of navel gazing, with no room for self-pity other than yet another dance move. It requires us to become dancing soul-warriors, welcoming our fears along with our joys, sorrows alongside celebration, pain just as readily as pleasure. How refreshing!

I pray that we seek compassion and tolerance for each other’s position and place, and value everybody’s contribution. Let’s keep learning how to have clear boundaries and be kind when needed, as well as how to burn bright and wild as the artists we all are. Most of all though let’s keep learning to listen for that subtle presence, the silence that breathes through us all, because a reverential dedication to that listening brings us to the centre, to the One, where everything rests in balance, where all polarities and struggles and conflicts disappear into that silence. Until they arise again that is….

With thanks to David Deida for clarifying my perception on this subject.