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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

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. 

Stillness, Spirit, and Masculinity

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.

Polarities

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.

tumblr_nz3zjdhnlx1spnyg9o1_500The 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.

Stillness

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 :-)

End Notes

eipispiralAll 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.

Coda

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.

waveHere’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.

Fear…..again!….

Oh It’s so scary being alive!! For what feels like the ten thousandth time, my practice this morning is to let my fear actually move, to crack the ice, to get down out of my nonsense and come alive into the embodied presence of my animal instincts: my Fabulously Effective Awareness Radar for change and danger. To come out of cower and into power.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I go through fear, it’s still profoundly challenging and uncomfortable. How deep the habit of victim is within me, how strong the plaintive wish for some deity to sort things out, yet how relentless the urge to grow up and make some choices.

I’m so grateful I can dance this stuff, that I have this road map through the head-trips into real edgy loving creative life.

You do too! Get down and do it. Put aside twenty minutes and change the course of your day. Or life!

dalai-lama-quote-yourself-doost