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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

What?

“Work on your stuff, or your stuff will work on you.”
Steven Forrest

About ten years ago I got the message that it was time to start exploring the experience of not moving, just staying put. Not that I should never move, but that I should over and over again explore stopping. I’ve been a tardy student. Oh how reluctant! How many attempts at escape! Yet the instruction has not abated, only become more insistent and detailed. Little by little I have paid attention, done the homework, and it’s got to the point where I’m doing so with fascination and pleasure.

Now, of course I’m not the only one with a little inner movement teacher. We all have. It just takes practice to listen. Use whatever knowledge and skill-set you have, and develop it. Studying with other people is great, but if you really want to go places, don’t rely on people called teachers, or events called workshops and classes. Get down to your own nitty gritty and investigate your own situation in detail. It will shift the effectiveness of your practice onto a whole new level. Added to that, developing your own practice in a personal way like that will give you a grounded, ordinary, every-day foundation and self-authority that will enable you to assimilate and integrate the more extreme highs of classes and workshop experiences.

So, any of these or other questions:

What’s bugging you?
Where do you fall short?
What are your strengths?
What’s crying out for light and love?
What could you expand on?
Where are you holding back, holding in, holding down your life-force and brilliance?

adventure

Using the 5Rhythms as a modality for moving with these questions in depth will often require more than just dancing a wave or three. You’ll probably need to do more than just use the Heartbeat work too. When you are up against the creative edge of your shortcomings you’re inevitably dealing with your life patterns, parents, wounds, world etc. When that’s the case it’s usually not enough to just move your body and express your feelings, even though that’s a good foundation that you’ll need to rely on over and over. You’re going to have to use the Cycles** material. Chances are that you’re going to be up against your own egoic patterning too – you’re going to have to use that Mirrors work, dress yourself down and dress up your ego, find a sense of humour and put that stuff in the spotlight. And if you really want to take your whole situation to the next level to where you are seriously shining as you truly do, the magic of 5Rhythms soul work will need to come on through too. Not to mention the invisible hand that is behind it all.

So do all the study you can, and then use it. Practice. Not just the rhythms on a physical level: use things from anywhere on the whole palette. At home or in a class or wherever you need to. Dance your stuff with your dad if that’s what’s going on. Move through your fears about work, money, and sex. Turn up to class in a costume some time. Tell the truth to someone who needs to hear it. Go spend a week in a monastery or dance very subtly on the bus ride into town. And if you haven’t read Gabrielle’s book “Sweat Your Prayers”, then do. It’s brilliant, and full of great ideas for playing with all these maps.

We all have a part to play in deepening and developing the 5Rhythms field of experience and study. These maps are about as perfect as it gets on this planet I think. Such elegant accurate simplicity only happens in nature, and these maps are just that, mirrors of nature. Our nature. They weave together threads of shamanic, tantric and zen qualities into beautifully balanced dynamic patterns that continue to take my breath away after 25 years. But how we practice them, how we teach them, and the kind of community we continue to form around and between them – all of that is messily human and flawed. It’s OK. Let it be so. How can it be any other way? We are evolution in progress. We are light, dark, and shadow, and that’s the way of our unfolding. Just be part of that unfolding. Stand up, take responsibility and make a move. We all have something to offer. Every step each one of us takes develops and deepens the whole.

War?

wisdom

Each morning when I drop my youngest boy off at school, I have to walk past a mum who’s always standing in the same spot doing the same thing, talking loudly and angrily to her friend. She always looks and feels exactly the same way too, physically, emotionally, and mentally: toxic. I’ve been developing a practice of looking the other way because my natural proclivity is to pay attention to her, but it feels like that opens a portal to her toxicity and I suck some up. So I look at the sky or the ground, and focus on my own body, my breathing. It’s a little game in a way, but it’s for real.

Maybe we could use some of this practice collectively around the flood of bad news being streamed constantly towards us. I am as chilled and horrified as anyone by the massacre in Paris. And touched by the defiant editors and cartoonists who are continuing to speak out about this appalling mockery of the spirit of Islam. I watch my attention go to the attackers, or more accurately to my fantasy about them. Watch my fear and rage and grief mingle with prejudices and quick easy judgements. Watch my ‘system’ trying to assess the danger. But nothing has happened to me, or anyone I know, and most importantly, any conventional response to danger (running, using a weapon etc) is totally unnecessary.

But something did happen to our world, and our culture, just as it did on 9/11, and as it has continued to do in the nightmarish slide into this new chaotic form of world war we’ve seen since then. If it’s true that we’re globally in some kind of war that touches our lives by choice or ‘fate’, it befits us to become warriors. But what kind of warriors do we choose to be? What would we really be fighting against or for? It’s surely not really to do with Islam at all. I don’t think it’s even about freedom of speech.

web-dave-brown-paris-cartoon

(Cartoon by Dave Brown of The Independent)

I reckon at the heart of it is a struggle to evolve as a species. To move beyond the me, me, mine mentality and wake up to the reality that we’re all in this together. That no-one is embodying anything that we don’t have within us too. That the point of maximum power for my own actions is within my own consciousness. That the most dangerous enemy to my own integrity and ability to love I’ll ever have to deal with is my own ego, and compared to losing that battle, having to drop my body might not be such a big deal. That growing up is much harder and much more on-going-work-in-progress than we learnt in school. That nothing is simply what it seems, and everything contains the seed of its apparent opposite.

So appalling dramas play out. They’re probably going to get a lot more dramatic, large scale, and painful too in our lifetime. But that’s not all that’s happening. There’s something dawning in the human race that is incredibly exciting, beautiful, and full of hope. There is an awakening happening. Our moves do make a difference, and the most subtle of them may be the most powerful.

When danger threatens, we’d better have our fear antennae vigilant, and our feet, hands, and voice ready to take action. And we are in danger. Maybe not from a Kalashnikov rifle, thank God, but something more deeply destructive of a much wider target.

Maybe then the way to fight it is to take up an internal spiritual struggle. Totally contrary to our conditioned adrenaline response, this fight requires laughter, celebration, and love. It asks us to stay focussed on the solution, which is the state of consciousness we hopefully practice on the dance floor: being present, allowing energy to flow, being both receptive and generous in relationship, seeking emptiness and unity within and between us. Which at it’s most simple comes down to an awareness of the breath and the body. Which requires neither a dance floor or music. Any time will do.

Then hopefully there will be some outer form of action, which because it’s grounded in a confrontation with your own darkness will not involve so much projection, and can genuinely scatter seeds of love. What are you called to do? How can you give your heart and soul to the world? Small steps will do just fine. What are you waiting for? The time is now.

Click: A damn good song for this moment

give

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?

Turning the page

To all those of you who have shown up and surfed through waves with me, co-created so many incredible moments of work that feel as though they genuinely make a difference, not just in our own souls but in the world as a whole… Thank you for teaching me over and over again what this dancing path is about, and what my own nature is revealing to me. Thank you.

To anyone I have hurt or invaded, been arrogant or impatient with, whom I have misunderstood or ignored… even in the smallest way… I’m sorry.

Like everyone, I’m learning: wounded, half-blind and just plain foolish sometimes… Please forgive me.

Within the One that we are in truth, the One that moves through us all, breathes through us all, unfolding through every moment on and off the dance floor… I Love.

What a beautiful, extraordinary, humbling year.

Blessings as we turn the page, everyone.

(thank you Ho’oponopono)

Tracking Shadows

There are five basic ways to practice the rhythms (see here).
The second one, where we get specific about our developmental stage and next steps could be waaaay stronger in our tribe. I’m drilling down into the possibilities of this one more and more enthusiastically both personally and professionally; it’s so fruitful and exciting.

A recent workshop “Deep Focus” was all about this, working individually with each dancer, finding ways to dive into each person’s particular blocks, strengths, and potential. Increasingly often I find myself talking with students on this level, coaching them on how they could go further, with such worthwhile results; people who’ve been going along to classes and workshops for years can find themselves stuck in patterns that they never become aware of, yet with a little feedback whole new possibilities can open up. Ask your local teacher for feedback, for something specific to work on.

Or do it yourself. Really pay attention. What works? What doesn’t? Where do you get stuck?

Practicing by yourself at home is great for this. Just a few minutes regularly is enough to touch into things that will transform your dance and realise new potential for when you’re next in class. But it needs a particular kind of focus; sure, you can just show up and move your ass for a few minutes, and at least you’ll get your blood moving, but to really make a difference you need to focus sometimes.

Shadows

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about from my own practice recently:

Tracking a shadow that surfaces every now and then for me – a reluctance to breathe out, a fear of exposure, an urge to retreat inside myself – it’s clearly related to Staccato, so this morning I decide to go through all 5 rhythms following my hips (hips being the gateway to Staccato). It’s a while since I’ve done this, and I enjoy the physical ‘newness’ of the experience in the first three rhythms, but when I get to Lyrical I suddenly find a vulnerability and tenderness there that takes my breath away, and I realise that it’s shame. Staying with the Lyrical hips thing on a physical level I let myself fall into the shame, let the painfulness fall through me, and I can feel a subtle rigidity of the story attached falling away with my tears, can feel the vulnerability change shape, from fearful and brittle to warm and embracing. A few minutes later it’s seven o’clock and time to wake up the family for the day. There’s a gentleness in my hips as I make breakfast.

This is some of the magic of what Gabrielle created – a practice that is so flexible that it offers endless possibilities for creative exploration, shaped to specifically investigate one’s personal make-up, and with this underlying naturally catalytic structure that so often brings us to surprising edges, with the grounding and energy to simply move through something, and then get on with one’s day.

I only had 15 minutes to practice that morning, and it was profound. I didn’t need any music.
You can do this too: have a good look at yourself, be intelligent, create a simple structure to explore and transform what’s going on.

If you take yourself on in this way, becoming your own creative project, then your practice will get more and more fascinating, challenging and enlightening. It will also make you more and more available for the third way to experience the rhythms, where you get to totally surrender, let go of all these maps and structures, and disappear in the dance, into the One.

Today

mountain-path-“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space” Anon (well lots of people claim to have this as their quote, but I don’t know who really did coin it first)

A human being is an extraordinary creature. This much we know – the question is more, in what way are you seeing the trick of the light that you are, taking shape today?

Today I’m seeing that no matter who you are or how far you seem to have evolved/ healed/ developed, you’re only one step away from the abyss, and one step from heaven. They’re both so close that one day I’m going to be able to laugh my sides off at the joke. Doesn’t matter how far we’ve walked on some path or other, our ego is always one step behind, tailing us faithfully as a shadow should, and all the while, beauty is just a breath away.

We’re only as fine as the last few choices we made. There are no laurels to rest on. At least not for longer than a night or two. Maybe a week at the outside *. As discipline starts to slip, addictions take hold (and I’m not just talking about substance abuse, but the root that we’re all addicted to: our core wound), and in a heartbeat, we’re sliding down a slope we know all too well.

woodland-pathBut what blew me away this morning was the also-familiar return of the light, as soon as I chose to take myself in hand again. Time out is great, but the truth is I love to walk. I love my path. I love travelling. And I love the practice of taking myself by the hand and telling myself, with increasing gentleness as the years go by, that letting things slide is not good enough; we’re going to keep walking. Not because I’m under the illusion that I’m going to get anywhere that I’m not already. Just because walking my path is actually what I love best. This is the heart of discipline – it’s about love. Being a disciple. And we can choose to be a disciple of anything of course; I started out following other people, but that’s not it any more. It’s more like something that’s behind my breath, inside the movement of my feet.

What are you practicing? What are you devoted to? Who or what are you a disciple of?

* …to be accurate, isn’t it that: each choice we make is a wave**, and big decisions leave a long wake, some for a lifetime, while most of the decisions we make are small and have a short wake, soon overtaken with the general noise and chaos of all the other influences in our lives. When we make a choice that is in integrity with our discipline and devotion, we flourish, and to the extent that we’re still in the wake of that choice we can continue to flourish, riding on it’s crest, even if we’ve let things slide. We’re multi-layered complex though: there’s another level that is utterly in the moment, and either we’re on track or we’re not. No wake. No past or future. No excuses. Just reasons to stay with it, and be kind.

**F: the sifting, S: the decision, C: the repercussions, L: the learning, S: the resolution

Today

I love the Autumn Equinox, with the change of night/day balance at its fastest, hurtling towards the dark just as the harvest is at its fullest. Magical. Also, it’s the day when the whole world has the same hours of night and day: 12 hours all around. Unity today.

So, apposite to this day of diurnal unison, here’s news of a wonderful radio program about a breakthrough in our understanding of human evolution, which alters our collective self-perception towards something more peaceful.

I guess the creation myths of any culture are hugely influential to the collective psyche of its people. Over generations the stories behind us seep through into our self-perception as individuals to create those “just the way it is” beliefs. So it was with goosebumps that I listened to David Attenborough (Britain’s best known and best loved BBC natural world presenter of many decades) talking for an hour and a half about a complete turnaround in our understanding of how human beings evolved to be the way we are.

The theory that we adopted in the years after the second world war, developed by a couple of men, was that we’d ‘come down from the trees’ and onto the African savanna to become violent hunters. The emphasis was very much on the violence, and on what the males were up to, with little mention of what the females might have been doing.

freedivingNow it seems the science is overwhelmingly revealing that that is not actually what happened at all. It looks as though we evolved to stand on two legs, lose our body hair and acquire our large brains by living next to water – mostly the sea shore – wading and free diving for fish and shell fish. We would have lived in peaceful tribes, with plentiful food that the women – even pregnant and elderly – could access as well as if not better than the men. (There’s a wonderful account of women freediving into their 90s!) This theory has been brought to light by Elaine Morgan, a Welsh writer, and now has the attention of the entire anthropological evolutionary world.

What if we were all taught as children that we evolved this way instead of as violent hunters? How will this affect us culturally over the course of a generation or two? I feel like shouting “Hurray!!”

And of course for me personally, being so utterly fascinated by the map of the rhythms, I love the idea that we actually became the creatures we are in the very place where these rhythms happen more explicitly than anywhere else on the planet – amidst breaking waves. How cool is that.

I hope the link works in your country: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07w4y98/episodes/player

Timing

When we first find a new piece of ourselves, a new feeling inside, or a new knowing
It is as well to keep quiet about it for a while
Maybe even many moons

Then when the time comes,
Revealing ourselves to others will hopefully be a moving experience,
Engendering a true expansion and communion

But only if we’re ready to do so,
And able to be received by the other person.

Openness is a delight when the time is right,
But if you don’t respect your own need to be hidden,
And the other’s readiness to see you,
Then you’ll damage the very doors that create the experience of openness

doorways

The wound

I’ve been quiet for a while here, without writing anything. It’s been time to go inside awhile, and lick my wounds. Seems like no matter how far I go, from time to time this organic system called myself requires me to return to the most vulnerable places I have, and hang out there for a while. To go through the fear, feel the pain, and spend some time sitting in the dark. To allow any big ideas about myself that might have accumulated to fall away and return to humility. To do a little healing and self-care, Then as I return to the world of sunlight and pleasure, I always find that – lo and behold! – I have some precious gems in my pocket, a parting gift from the underworld. More energy, or a deeper compassion, a steadier hand, a stronger voice, or some insight that serves my path and others.

Sometimes the fall into the underworld happens on the dancefloor. That’s one of the best places to go for a good old plunge into the dark, and definitely my favourite. That rabbit hole opens up right in front of you and you know in an instant that there’s something painful down there, but courage runs strong and the blood is hot with the trance of the dance, and you know you’re doing down. You open your mouth and body wide to let it all in, let it all out, and you jump. The feelings come wildly, there’s no censoring available any more even if you wanted to as you surrender to the fall, and the descent with your demons becomes strangely ecstatic. Pain is not painful when there’s no resistance, and as the screams come and the body writhes there’s a very small place inside you that’s completely still, and you just know this is a profoundly healthy moment so you don’t miss a beat. Feet pounding, sweat flying, whole body releasing, this is healing at its most immediate and empowered, this is art utterly inspired and real, this is you.

PersephoneSomewhere down in my bones I knew all along how to do this, but numbed through years of survival in the emotional desert of middle England, I forgot that I knew. One beat of Gabrielle’s drum, passed through recording studio, from tape to tape, finally into my ears in a midnight room in Norfolk in ’88, I heard the call, and started to remember.

None of us ever really forgot what our distant ancestors knew, that the body has its own way of dealing with the wounds of the psyche. We just need to remember that we know. And then when the call comes to go down, we dare, holding onto one bar of light as we journey into the not-altogether-safe realm of our depths, one bar of light called Creativity.

But when the fall happens big time, and it’s not over when the music stops, or it happened in the night anyway, not when you were on a workshop, then you are going to need a little more self-reliance. Listen carefully to yourself for what you need to do. Dance. Sing. Write. Draw. Walk in the woods. Swim in the ocean. Visit your parents and give or ask for forgiveness. Plant some roses. Take a whole day to rest in bed. All of it with the intent to turn your suffering into art and art into healing. Sometimes you may realise you need help. Then ask for it. And if you don’t know where to find it, ask the ocean, the woods, your body, a friend, to help you find some help. You’re not the only one. We all do this. No-one is immune from their own wounding. And ultimately, that vulnerability is the source of your deepest power.

Thank you Gabrielle.

mountain-lion

The Time is Now

Talking with a friend last night, he was relaying a story of some meditation teachers of his describing this as “dark times”. I found myself wondering about that phrase. I find these to be everything times – beautiful and terrible, dark, light, shadowy, and everything in between. The only thing that doesn’t seem to be readily available is mediocre. If I had to choose a phrase I would say these are high-voltage times. The pace of change is relentless both inside and out. It’s like being in the birth process at the stage when contractions are coming so thick and fast that there’s no space to rest between them any more. No sooner have I been through one intense learning/healing/growth experience than life is presenting me with the next. However, the sheer amount of energy moving around seems to mean that if we can remember how to direct it, the potential for a wildly wonderful ride is extraordinary.

I bought a new book by a famous meditation teacher recently. He was talking about these troubled times we live in, and suggesting that Nature has a way of providing solutions to problems on this planet, and maybe this natural process will give birth to a new messiah, who will guide us through.

No! I don’t believe it! That’s SO old school. The time for heroic leaders or saviours is over. The time for “The One” is over. All that belonged to the patriarchal era, the 10,000 years we’ve just got through. We’re moving on. Staccato is over, Chaos is now, and the divine is within us and among us, not above us. Nature IS providing a solution, but the new messiah is not one special person: it’s US!! We’re all in it together, and we all have a little bit of power: the choice of where to put our attention, and thus where to direct energy.

sun

The way to be part of the solution is to be in meditation. To be centred and grounded and open enough that Spirit is flowing through you like a silent mighty river. There are many ways to be in meditation. I love to move my body, but I also love to be still. I love to be alone in nature, but also to practice the art of loving with friends, family, and foes. What about you? What do you need to do to be in Spirit?

Then once you’re plugged in and connected, how are you moved? What are you moved to give? To say? To create? The time is now. If we choose. Healing the ancient split between heaven and earth. Take a breath. Then take a step.

The good stuff shows

I hear anecdotal evidence of the positive effects of our practice all the time. People change careers, bust out of unhealthy relationships and transform others, find new loves, heal old wounds, take up creative paths they never considered before. Every now and then someone tells me the 5Rhythms saved their life.

No doubt if you’re reading this you probably have your own story of how you’ve been turned around, lifted up, or recovered your balance by dancing. I have countless moments from my own life since the 80s, when I took my first 5R step.

Recently though, I heard my favourite story ever.
Here it is:

Someone turns up at the HOME class at a college in London.
There’s a guy at the entrance to the building where you can sign in.
As she walks up to the desk, he takes one look at her and says “Five rhythms?”
“Yes” she says, “how did you know?”
He replies “Well, you looked me directly in the eyes, and gave me a lovely smile. You’re all like that.”

Technique! — “Breathe through the mouth?”

Someone just asked me, “what’s the thing about breathing with your mouth open during 5Rhythms practice?” This was interesting timing because after donkey’s years of being convinced that this is the most advantageous way to go, I’ve just seen things from a different perspective. I’ll share what wisdom I’ve gathered, both old and new. 

Summary:

Softening the jaw and breathing through the mouth helps your whole body/heart/mind system to relax, and helps you to connect with your physicality and sensuality. It also allows you to be more easily relational with what’s around you: allow your jaw (and lips and even your tongue) to soften a little and feel how you open and engage more fully with what’s around you.

Why?

In all the years I studied with Gabrielle, only once did she ever ask us to breathe through the nose alone, and that was for a particular practice on an advanced workshop (and even then she was clear about keeping the jaw relaxed and mouth a little open). I’m not going out on a limb here. It’s standard 5Rhythms basics. Relax your jaw. Let the breath in and out through your mouth as well as your nose. 

So many of us have been programmed to shut up. Look around, and everywhere you can see tight jaws and pursed lips holding back mountains of fear, fury, and grief. Even joy! We’re afraid to feel anything, afraid to live and love. We’re afraid to receive deeply, and afraid to let stuff show freely. 

Most of us skirt away from what we fear rather than face it, feel it, and expand through it. A highly effective way to avoid experiencing all that scary relational, sensual, emotional stuff, is to breathe more shallowly and tense your jaw (along with the lips, tongue, neck and shoulders). Pay attention to your patterns; chances are that if you haven’t practised something else on purpose, that’s the way you go. I’ve been practising it for decades, and I’m pretty good when I’m actually on the dance floor, but it’s still another matter when those fears come up during day to day life. Everything tenses up, and one of the key places the tension shows is in my jaw and mouth. 

Softening the jaw and breathing through the mouth will help all that relational stuff to open up. Your whole system relaxes along with the jaw, to be more fluidly connected with whatever is around you. You’re more vulnerable that way —which may be a big part of what you’re fearing and resisting— but that vulnerability is the ground for your deepest power and beauty if you can only let yourself expand into it.  

This is what I’ve taught and practised, ten thousand times. It’s accurate in many instances, and good baseline technique for some of the fundamental purposes of conscious movement practice such as embodied presence, relational openness to others, and surrendering to the One that moves us all. 

However……

The other day during my practice, I noticed that my mouth wanted to shut. Consistently. So I paid attention and investigated the experience for a while. 

For the last few years, I’ve been circling closer and closer to trauma points from my very early childhood. It’s got to the point where I realise that in all these years of practising the rhythms, for the most part, it’s been too fast, too loud, and too big for that part of me. I’ve literally been overriding my wounding. (This is a big deal to realise, after 30 years! It is throwing up some big questions about our practice per se, and how I teach. It’s right in keeping with the quantum leap in my understanding of the role of Stillness, as any of you who have danced with me recently will know.) 

This part of me is so incredibly raw, that if I really stay with it, my movements are very very gentle, slow and nuanced. I’ve been exploring that over the last couple of years, but just the other day, for the first time, I found that this part of me needed my mouth gently closed. It helped me to turn within to withdraw into myself for a while, which felt healthy.

So that call to write about this from someone coming just days later was a strong enough sync for me to say yes. Hope this is all useful.

But…….. 

For the most part, when I look around the room in a workshop, often the mouth-shut dancers are either deeply trained in yoga (a practice that although has overlaps with the rhythms, also has some quite fundamental differences), or are rather unconsciously running ‘shut down’ programming: sensually, emotionally, and relationally.

If you can connect with a place within you that truly needs to turn within, and closing your mouth helps with that, then I’m right with you. But that may be advanced practice for you, and a closer-to-now step is more along the lines of: open up, breathe deeply and consciously, and Let Go.

Over to you now. Experiment and explore what works. Go down into the roots of your felt senses and find your best way forward. It’s all good. 

Stillness Compassion

I’m on a plane and it’s getting really bumpy. Walking down the isle back to my seat, I pass a couple with a small boy, probably two years old, who’s crying his heart out, terrified. It’s quite a sound, and understandably the parents are distressed too. My own heart jumps inside my chest as I pass them; he’s sitting in his mother’s lap, while the father is frantically trying to interest him in a smartphone in a clearly hopeless attempt to stop him crying.

This was hard to see, being on my way home from dancing through Cycles with Jonathan, where we all bore witness to a hundred father wounds. (What a powerful workshop that is. Lost count of how many times I’ve done it, and it’s still so new and incredible every time.)

Our dear fathers, who teach us how to trust our own hearts, how to communicate from an emotional field. Or not.

Oh how I longed for them to put their arms around him and say “Yes, yes, beloved boy, it’s scary isn’t it. We’ve got you safe. Yes, it’s scary. We love you. We hear your cry for help.”
Deep deep sigh as I walked on by.

Sometimes the most compassionate move we can make is to do nothing but feel it.

River

Silence in practice

When I was first getting into the 5Rhythms I was living in a converted van, so my practice often happened in forests or on mountains where I was parked up. There were no evening classes to be found anywhere either, so I had to figure it out for myself. Coming from ten years of sitting watching my breath for an hour a day, it came naturally to me to move in silence anyway, and I still love it. There’s a silence inside our breath that’s easier to pay attention to when there’s no music, as well as there being nothing to guide us except our inner landscape, so these aspects of the practice are actually easier – to move within the emptiness of the breath and from the fullness of the body. Less distractions.

It’s also great for home practice in the midst of busy lives because you can have a productive session in as little as ten or twenty minutes, and you can practice before the kids are up without disturbing anyone!!

Of course it’s more difficult in some ways too: you’ll be faced with your own psyche more nakedly, so your weaknesses, lack of focus and discipline, and mental confusion will all be more apparent. That’s all good stuff to work with though. If you’re uninspired it can be tough, but if you find your way through that blindspot, you’re really onto something.

lionbreath

Some possible guidelines for practice without music:

– work with any or all of the rhythms, or the body-parts meditation

– or just throw out the maps and simply move, curious as to what arises and where you go

– pay close attention to the natural flow of your body and be disciplined enough to follow it

– remember it’s OK to move on purpose, to change what feels ‘natural’ on purpose and just try something different, throwing yourself out of a rut

– move with your breath, and breathe with your moves

– music provides focus, so without that it can be great to add a particular focus, such as going through a whole wave following one part of your body (e.g. a part that hurts, or is unusually energised), or going through all the rhythms within one rhythm, or just working with one rhythm in an unusual way e.g. expansive, or slow

– allow the possibility of your movement being very different to what you’re used to in a class or with music

– stay alert to what your ‘blocks’ are: you may find yourself in a phase of being very lethargic, or bored, or spaced out….. what’s going on? Can you find the root? Find out by going in: go into the state you’re experiencing as a dance. Go into it until you find the emotion underneath, then let that move. Keep going in until you come through. ‘Difficulties’ are likely to become the breakthrough point of your session.

Sexuality on the dance floor

In the lunchtime of a workshop recently, a woman came to me distressed. She was feeling harassed by a man on the dance floor that morning, and she was asking for guidance on how to deal with it. I am well aware that this happens a lot. It happens the other way around too of course, and between same-genders, but I’d guess not nearly as much. Person A pursuing person B with varying degrees of intensity, apparently not noticing they’re unwelcome; person B clearly not comfortable with it yet apparently unable or unwilling to change the situation.

This is very tender ground for us collectively right now. This student was so grateful for my response that she asked me to write about it, and immediately I could feel my fear. I recognised that it would probably be useful to put something out, but way easier to keep quiet. It’ll be scary to press “Publish”. I have my own stuff to work through on this theme and am not writing from a perspective of some totally clear and sorted role model. I feel more like ‘work in progress’. I’ve offended people, got caught in my shadows, and overstepped boundaries. Maybe though I’ve made enough mistakes and seen enough going on in others to have something useful to say. I hope so.

“I want a lover”

Gabrielle used to describeUs desaturated the rhythms as the ultimate safe sex, and of course, when people are both attracted to each other, it can be delicious, delightful and expansive to explore that way, with so much freedom and creativity. But this works so much better if we’re not actually cruising for something to happen off the dance floor, obsessing with and identified with thought patterns such as “I wonder if there’s anyone here who would come home with me?”

If you’re hungry and lonely, it can be hard not to do that. However, if what you’re really doing is seeking a lover while pretending to do something else (going through the rhythms as though that’s your focus), that split is a difficult thing to dance with.

Rather than trying to be ‘good’ (which essentially involves you suppressing yourself), if you truly desire to find a lover then you could do it as a dance. You could do this entirely alone, and for yourself! Do it brilliantly, passionately, 100%, so you get to feel all the feelings and see what your mind gets up to. Allow all your feelings and desires, but don’t take them so seriously. Watch whatever comes up, pour it into the dance, and learn about yourself. You can still be in “I want a lover” mode, but you are making your practice the priority again rather than the script itself or the feelings themselves. It’s all just waves passing through.

“I’m not looking for anything outside of this moment, but I like you a lot…”

Then there’s the question of how to handle being attracted to someone specific on the dance floor (rather than generally cruising). Many of us will steer clear altogether, preferring to dance with the safe people — those we’re neither particularly attracted to or turned off by. If you do choose to explore an experience of intense attraction, a good first step would be to get out of your head and move with it all. This can be tough because the mind loves to get a grip on moments like that, but it works if you make a clear choice and just do it. I’ve transformed some sticky patches into profound moments by literally dancing head-trips like “Does s/he like me?” and “I want to…”, often taking me to places that are really nothing to do with the other person at all, but more to do with my own psyche. There’s no need to bother the person with this — just taking those feelings and thoughts, and going somewhere else in the room to move with the whole gamut of oneself can be very empowering.

Then going to dance with them maybe!

Whatever inner work you do, any actual relating with someone you’re attracted to will go a whole lot better if you’re genuinely paying attention to them and being responsive to them rather than obsessing with your internal dialogue. Pour everything into the dance. Keep letting go of your head-trips. Give attention.

“I don’t like you”

Dislike is an inevitable part of being in a group. I asked this woman a few weeks ago how clearly she’d said ‘No’ to him. When I suggested that she use a gesture of pushing the palms of her hands vigorously out towards him from the centre of her chest to full arm extension, and firmly saying or even shouting “Back off!”, her response was “Oh! Is that OK to do that?”

My feeling is that it’s not only OK; it’s essential if all the usual signals don’t work. You could try the gesture first without the words, but yes, if necessary: say something! Otherwise, you’re putting a social norm (in this case the 5R rule of no talking on the dance floor) before your own safety or well-being. That’s a dangerous way to move through the world.

No chatting on the dance floor is a good rule of thumb to keep attention with movement body and breath, but occasionally a word or two greatly empowers the experience, whether or not your boundaries are threatened. This can be so either with partners or even dancing solo: Sometimes one needs to voice something out loud, like “We’re alive!”, or “I love you”, or “No!!!” Very different from chatting.

Simply turning around and moving away is another one. Politeness can be deadly, at the very least to your integrity. If your whole system is saying to you “I need to get away from this” and you don’t, hoping somehow it will change, you’ll get messed up. Who cares if no-one has said “Change partners” yet? Maybe s/he will be offended or hurt, but so what? Walk away. And if s/he follows you persistently, turn around and flash a moment’s fury at them, voice and all, and then again walk away.

If someone is not respecting your boundaries, you’d better find some way of insisting upon it or you’ll be giving them the responsibility for your boundaries, hoping they’ll be nice. No-one is nice all the time. We all cross other people’s lines at times. When someone is crossing yours, it’s your call to do something about it. Be clear. Use whatever works.

“I don’t like you, but that’s interesting”

It may be that your basic response to someone is ‘Yuk’, but you realise they’re not behaving in any way that’s ‘off’. It’s simply your felt response, the result of your chemistry with them. In that case, it can be really fascinating and empowering to dance deeply with them. If you always avoid partnering with people you don’t like, you miss out on a lot. Dance with them and let everything move through you. Let all those feelings deform you out of and beyond your ‘normal’ dance, into your own shadowlands and secret places. Go there for yourself, not in order to ‘do’ anything to the other person. You’ll learn and grow.

“All this is too hard”

I know there are some of you for whom all of the above would be a big stretch. For whom even saying ‘No’ in any situation is very difficult, let alone actually allowing anger to show. If this is true for you, you could say kindly but firmly to yourself: “I need to work on this.”

In the moment, if there’s a situation that is really intolerable for you and beyond your current resources to handle, then inform the teacher or an assistant and ask for help. Maybe even walk out of the class if that feels right, but take it as a major signpost that you’ve got some homework to do.

Invasive crossing of boundaries is one face of shadow-Staccato (the other is separation), whilst essence-Staccato (and it’s emotional counterpart, clear authentic anger) is good medicine for righting such wrongs or even preventing them from happening in the first place. Find your Staccato and your anger and learn to dance with that force until it becomes a sword that you can use in the name of love to defend innocence and vulnerability. You’d better practice over time in situations where you are not up against it; then you will have those skills available when someone goes too far for you. Get one-to-one coaching from someone who can help you, whether that’s a 5Rhythms teacher or a therapist, and work on it. It may well be that the reason you find this difficult is because you’ve been wounded by an invasive experience somewhere along the line. Look after yourself. I highly recommend Karen Melin as a starting point, a somatic experiencing therapist with a lot of 5R experience who can work internationally via skype.

We’re all in this together

There’s a potential invader in all of us, men and women. Don’t we need to learn to listen? To notice when we’re unwelcome, take ourselves in hand and dance, grateful for the feedback? To dive into the longing to be met by someone else on the outside, and instead enfold those longings from the inside for a while?

How hard that can be. Yet how incredibly rewarding, to find our own embrace. To rest in our own arms, and cry our tears of longing even whilst they’re being assuaged in ways we maybe never had as a child?

At other times, isn’t it glorious to step fully into our fiery desire, standing tall and empowered, unashamed of the force of our nature, reclaiming the beauty, nobility and courage it takes to let that desire be seen and felt?

For as ten thousand years of patriarchy crumbles around us, embodying the masculine desire to enter the feminine (whether you be woman or man or other) has become deeply taboo in many circles. This is not an easy time to be a man. A big chunk of men’s natural medicine has become culturally unacceptable, particularly in the personal development world. Dance floors have a lot of men afraid to be masculine and afraid to show their desire, often resulting in a kind of subverted shame-filled leakage that feels oily or slimy to receive instead of a straight out and clear revelation that is easier to take or leave as you choose.

We all have that masculine energy: expressive and out-going, the part of us that desires connection and will reach out across borders to touch hearts and hands. We all have the rhythm of Staccato going on. We’d be lost without its essential medicine, endlessly waiting for the other to come to us, and unable to stand up for our values or boundaries.

I had a profound moment recently on this theme. As a group of men entered a women’s sacred space, I heard a wailing of anguish and rage coming from some of my sisters that was so ancient and utter, it went through my very soul. And I tell you, it felt so good to hear. As a man, I have a longing to be pierced by that cry of rage and pain, because I can sense it so often anyway. There’s a kind of “Ah…” about it. This is real. I feel it. I get it. I’m grateful to hear it how it is, and in the listening I feel the healing going both ways.

I see men and women both experiencing a collective anger and pain now, albeit in different ways. What wild times these are. All that stuff needs to come out, no question, but we can keep moving through so we find forgiveness and understanding. What if we all cut each other a bit of slack, with some good humour thrown in together with a degree of compassion? The dance is a wild spirit, and when we let go into it, we’re going to become wild too. Wilderness is not always comfortable or pleasant, just like Clarissa Pinkola Este’s wolves, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be happening. Unconscious material is going to come up. Hopefully, we’ll take responsibility for that, and learn from everything (what’s coming up from inside and what gets reflected back to us from outside), but our core lessons will come around again and again for reworking. We’re going to make mistakes.

Can we keep remembering that we are all capable of being invasive? That we all get hurt sometimes? There’s a time for saying ‘No, this is not OK with me”, but the narratives which have us believing there really are bad guys and good guys are too small for these times. Deep down we’re all longing for connection in ways that feel nourishing, respectful, and juicy. Whether we tend towards port or starboard sides, we’re all in the same boat.

 

Following a great many comments on Facebook, I added this addendum:

Great that this article has sparked so much discussion! More than anything else I’ve ever posted, more shares too. Clearly a ‘live’ topic. 

I want to add a couple of things in response to the many many comments I’ve read:

Firstly, I think it’s a fair criticism that because I’m writing from the perspective of a white male I have been somewhat unconscious of the power imbalances that carry over onto the dance floor in my writing. Thank you to the many who have pointed that out. 

I have a caveat on that though. I’ve been leading men’s groups for 25 years, and in recent years I’ve seen something new. There’s a kind of defeated stance, overwhelmed with a weight of judgement and blame that belongs with the collective, but is being carried by some individual men very deeply (no doubt those whose internal chemistry makes it a functional fit, or have been in the firing line personally for some reason). Just as it’s easy for me to not really ‘get’ the feeling of what it’s like to suffer from the power imbalances that women are at the end of, or people of colour, or trans people, it’s no doubt just the same the other way around and hard for others to really ‘get’ what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this tidal wave of judgement that is battering all things masculine in so many ways right now. 

I feel a very strong call to stand up for the masculine and for men at this time, because to the extent that we lose the strength of the positive masculine as a culture, we’re all in very deep trouble. 

Secondly I think some of you are writing from a misunderstanding of what the 5Rhythms were intended to be, and are. They are not purely a healing practice. They are in fact a perfect blend of shamanism, zen and tantra, forming a practice that in turn forms a perfect triangle of three approaches (not correlated with the s/z/t): art, healing and spiritual practice. I wrote about that in another Red Line post. As an art form, which is a fabulous third of the rhythms practice, all this discussion of safety is literally detrimental. Art is not safe, nor should it be. Healing does need to be safe. This is a deep paradox woven into the fabric of the rhythms, and one could argue is a weakness or a strength I guess. Reaching for solutions to the paradox, or trying to pull it one way or the other, is not the answer. Living with the paradox produces profound creative insight, and is in my opinion the way to go. 

Let’s remember to dance wild and true, listen to our breath, and stay open to changing! 

Sex, Money and Power

Sex, money and power: the three world heavy-weights, forces of human nature. Because they’re the three things the ego gets most worked up about, having us thrashing around somewhere between lust and judgement, they tend to be problematic and we have to deal with them in some way – even if by abstinence – to fully stand on our own feet as adults.

Dancing the first warmup for Fear, Power & Beauty last weekend, I had a sudden ah-ha moment about the nature of power. Here’s what I got, expanded back to include money and sex. Work in progress. Comments welcome by email…

Sex

Sex is flowing; allow it to move continuously through the body, without trying to define, confine, or refine it. Down to earth works.

Money is staccato: keeping it clear, straight, open, it can forge a strong connection to others. Don’t be messy. Open-hearted works.

Power is chaotic: whatever power you have is by grace alone, and can be taken away at any moment. Don’t get attached to it. Just let it pour through you, endlessly letting it go. Mindful awareness works.

Then what is the Lyrical force? We’re beyond the zone of the ego by now: I reckon it’s Creativity.

And the Still force? Maybe we could call it Unity?

Sex, dreams, and creative action

I just led a workshop that got so hot so fast that I could see what was coming if I didn’t do something. Not that I have anything against sex or heat, but in this instance I had an instinct to ask everyone to hold off. No exchanging of bodily fluids please. It became one of the deepest workshops I’ve ever done, and I’m sure this was a factor.

Safety
It’s very natural to get scared in the face of intimacy. It’s a pity if we avoid it in order to avoid feeling the fear of course, but the fear itself is a natural response to the vulnerability and exposure, the strong feelings that can arise, and the transformation it can catalyse. On the dance floor, intimacy is often immediate and intense, and can often be very sexy too. One of the things that might make us hold back and defend ourselves against such an experience is if we are thinking “where will this lead??” If we have a boundary in place that says “It’s not leading anywhere, it’s just for this moment”, then we’re immediately more free from our internal dialogue and can be more present with what’s happening. The boundary creates freedom to be experimental and learn deeply.

Dreaming
When we dance, we’re not just ‘doing a workshop’. We’re dreaming together. We literally enter into a dreamworld journey (that in fact is already happening before we even get together physically and continues long after we part company). This subtle, magical, mysterious process is both strong and delicate at the same time. It affects everything we experience, and all our choices affect it.

dreaming

Everyday perspective: in the altered state of consciousness that we find through our practice, we are free to feel, think, and see in a more expansive way than normal. If we make a big decision whilst in this state, and actually act on it before the vision is integrated into ordinary consciousness, we may live to regret it, because it hasn’t been tempered by the nuts and bolts of everyday life. Better to wait, let it settle, and act on the balance of vision and practical considerations. Having sex with someone, you cement something in place. What’s done is done. It’s the same as bringing a vision into action, so better not to do it whilst in the workshop; it can muddy and spoil something that was wonderful. Wait a while. Meet up after the workshop if you wish, and see what’s there then.

Dreaming perspective: One of the things that true dancing does is to create a bridge between the dreaming and ordinary worlds. Exchanging sexual fluids does the same thing; it brings the dreaming world right down to earth. However, unless you are skilled in using sexual energy in a conscious way, through the study of Tantra for instance, having sex with someone on a workshop will almost certainly bring you down, and you’ll lose the subtle magic that drew you together in the first place. And that will affect the whole group to some degree. The primary functions of our being together are prayer and healing, and if you take that into ‘ordinary’ sex, no matter how hot and fabulous it might feel, it’s likely to cheapen and coarsen the journey for everyone.

Creative Action
Take the heat and plough it into your practice. Dance all the feelings, and even the thoughts. The dance of “ohmygod I want to fuck him/her so much” is a truly fabulous one, and to experience it with the deepest freedom for yourself I would actually recommend moving well away from whoever seems to be catalysing you, so you can let rip without worrying about their reaction.

Off the dance floor, try checking in with people you’ve had strong dances with; check out what’s real, what’s shared experience, and what’s a solo head-trip. Speak honestly about your feelings if they’re willing to hear you, practising the art of relationship in words the way you’ve been practising it non-verbally.

Enjoy the ride: let your heart and mind open. and let your energy course through your whole system like the finest medicine, for healing, growth, and enlightenment.

“Intimacy is the default position. We have to work for anything else.” Gabrielle Roth

Seeing clearly

Coming to the ending of this year’s on-going group, in Poland…. such a huge and extraordinary journey…. we were so awash with love, I realised I just couldn’t handle the usual deep and meaningful goodbye with every single person. So I said so, asked everyone to do goodbye with no deep and meaningful whatsoever, and the result was a revelation to me: totally refreshing!

I learnt that the deep and meaningful things we find ourselves saying during goodbyes is mostly stuff we didn’t say along the way. I have resolved to be more on the ball with saying what needs to be said when the time is now.

The other thing we’re up to during that kind of goodbye is emotionally hooking each other; even whilst we’re in the act of apparently letting go of each other, we’re casting little hooks into each other that are basically saying “even though you’re leaving, this will keep you from really leaving me”. It seems loving at first glance, but I realise I don’t like it. I don’t like doing it, and I don’t like being on the receiving end of it. The goodbyes I had without that hooking were so much lighter, and left no sticky residue. Much more joyful and appreciative. And even when there was sadness there, the sadness was still lighter, more of a genuine let-go and less self-pitying.

goodbye
Even when there were no deep and meaningful words spoken, on a more subtle level a goodbye hug could still come with or without emotional hooks. Interesting! So, next level: how to not be snagged by hooks thrown, so that I don’t need to control anyone else’s behaviour in order to have the kind of goodbye experience that feels healthy for me. Two ingredients I see so far: firstly total awareness so that I can feel the hook being thrown, and secondly to be non-sticky in my own relating so that I neither fight it nor desire it. Then hooks thrown just pass through without snagging.

Easier said than done, but within reach at the end of a profound ten-day workshop. God, I love my work so much. So grateful to be so immersed in that depth of consciousness. Huge gratitude to you intrepid explorers from this year’s journey.

Revolution, Rhythm, and Russell

Has Russell Brand been grabbing your attention recently? He’s been getting mine, and my admiration too. I love how outrageously cavalier he is with his truth, flinging it around like a loose cannon, though I feel for the object of his derision at times – he can be as cruel as a kid in a playground. It was interesting seeing him meet his match pitted against Jeremy Paxman.

Russell’s call for revolution on a grand scale seems to be hitting a nerve. Looking at world events it’s hard to see what else could possibly happen, the current system of organising resources careering into overdrive in such shocking ways. Things like the transatlantic trade deal and the stats on distribution of wealth andownership of capital make it clear where macro-power lies.

Something’s got to change on that level, and it seems inevitable that the whole thing is at some point going to topple and collapse under its own weight. No doubt many people will play very active roles in this happening, but I have a feeling the most fundamental contribution we can each make is to deeply let go. To let go of our attachment to the fruits of an abusive relationship with our natural and human resources, and our attachment to a world view that is rooted in the experience of separation rather than unity.

This takes us into the heart of things – what’s happening is a change of consciousness. The very act of surrendering to your body’s movement is about as revolutionary as you can get in my opinion – aseagull profound overturning of 10,000 years of patriarchy – but how can we surrender more deeply?

– What gets in your way?

– How many minutes of your warmups are half-baked waiting time, almost as passive as watching TV?

– How much are you abdicating responsibility to music, teachers, or partners, for your experience?

– Are you sometimes exploiting your body to get a high, or even to conform to ’the room’ rather than truly listening to your own body’s rhythm?

– How often do you sit on your energy like an oppressive ruler censoring the embodiment of vulnerability or expression of power?

– To what degree do you spend time manipulating yourself during your practice and others in order to avoid ……………or control …………or deny……..…..? (fill in the blanks)

– How about instead of damning yourself into changing any of those patterns, you have a go at turning them into yet more detailed consciousness by turning them into yet more dances you never did before?

One wild Autumn night almost exactly 32 years ago, cycling down a street in Sheffield, I felt the spirit of an unprecedented global revolution blowing in the wind, and knew I was part of it.

What is life bringing forth through you?
Can you feel it?

I’m incredibly grateful to have found work that feels in alignment with this, but that’s not where the buck stops. Off the dance floor it becomes another whole practice in itself. A thousand times a day there’s an opportunity to make a difference again. Finding freedom beyond or within the patterns of my family is often the hardest, rubbing up at the cutting edge of my ability. Then there are all those moments out in the world when I can choose to collude with normal or break through to real. When I can pretend that it doesn’t matter, or reach out and touch. When I can sleepwalk, or take a breath and a step that has a little sparkle of consciousness, intent, and prayer in it.

Native American wisdom has it that the tipping point will be when 144,000 people on the planet have woken up, or to put it another way, stopped feeling sorry for themselves or anyone else.

Shall we dance?

you-cannot-buy-the-revolution-ursula-leguin

Renewing teachings…

I just landed in the magical wild west of New Mexico, coming straight from the Heartbeat training in Zagreb. It was a very long journey, but it didn’t matter, I was so refreshed and inspired from our time as teachers together.

It was so good to see and sense us re-forming and re-newing as a teaching circle. So good to dance with colleagues and dear friends. Jonathan’s doing a damn good job, and doing it beautifully.

2

And… we’re all colleagues in a way. We’re all part of shaping this practice, and the collective ‘field’ of the 5Rhythms. We’re all falling in love with the same mystery whether it’s a headlong rush or a timid tiptoe. We’re all dancing into the same One, no matter what the t-shirt.

There’s no question, the dance is magic: throwing our raw material into motion simply works. Hopes become real and fears become power. Confusion becomes catharsis, which births the next horizon. And there’s no question, moving together is magic; one footstep at a time we work it out, let it in, and find our way as a collective field that is damn good medicine for just about everything. Magic.

Renewal

Funny thing, a new year, isn’t it? We all look for significance and new beginnings to go along with the calendar. I feel fortunate this year to have had some kind of gateway happen totally naturally without any ‘doing’ from my personality (which I take as a good sign). It’s linked to all of us somehow, so I’ll share it with you.

To start with the personal: last year was extremely uncomfortable, life kneading me hard into a humbler shape. At times the depth of arrogance, vanity, and self-deception I was seeing in the mirror was so ugly and plain nasty that it was really tough to admit to myself it was my own reflection.

As with so many tough things though, it’s borne fruit, both within myself and within my relationship to the 5Rhythms. All has been stripped down and reworked, leaving me with a renewed and matured sense of freedom that I’m very grateful to experience.

A knock-on of that in turn is that I am seeing our collective mind-set in a different way. Our mind-set about the practice I mean. Do you see it too, that tendency to take ourselves rather seriously, believing that what we have is so special? We get precious about it, which adds a rather unpleasant cult-flavour to us. It sometimes seems as though we’re in a collective trance.

It’s not that the 5Rhythms maps aren’t special and precious. They are extraordinary, and in fact this shift within me has gone alongside an insight into the essential nature of the 5R pattern that is so profound I’ve been almost shocked, leaving me a quantum leap more fascinated and in awe of what Gabrielle found. More on that some time in the future when it’s cooked.

No, it’s not that the Rhythms themselves aren’t amazing, it’s that we have got attached to some way of seeing ourselves as amazing in our practise of it. At first I wondered whether this was all my own reflection (as I certainly can see myself in it), but I’ve checked with friends and colleagues whose perception I trust, and am sure it’s not just me in the looking glass.

mirrorThere’s often a kind of wonder and beauty in deep spiritual experience that leads to a sweet ecstatic kind of love. Very lyrical. That happens to many many people, who then fall in love with the dance. But if we hang on to anything Lyrical, getting attached to the experience, it becomes its own shadow and we’re left clinging to an idea, lost in fantasy and unable to see that the rose we were holding has withered.

The key is to keep letting go; to let the experience die so we move into some kind of Stillness-vibe with it, then the whole thing can keep turning and new cycles begin. There are ways we’re not doing this collectively as far as I can see, so we’re held suspended in a weird trance, believing we’re special. Then we add to that beliefs like we’re all somehow the same – I heard someone the other day say with relish “We’re all misfits in here aren’t we!” As though everyone else is not. (Thank you Jess :-) Or the belief that we can automatically trust each other on the dance floor. No, we can’t. People are up to their tricks just like anywhere else. There might be a higher proportion of people in the room who you can trust in certain ways compared to a London street on a Saturday night, but at any one moment anyone can be lost, ego-tripping, dissociated or downright dangerous, and a dewy eyed trust of everyone is just new-age rubbish.

There are ten thousand spiritual practices, all of them with their own special something, and all of them heading to the same place. We are not special. We are only a club or a cult when we believe we’re in and others are out, and that kind of tribal thinking is so last-millennium that whilst it might worth a dance step or two, to take it seriously would be a ghastly mistake.

As the lady said, it takes discipline to be a free spirit, and that includes letting go of our self-importance, especially when it comes to the moment of stepping into that freedom.

Refresh
Let go
Deep breath
Nothing special – just our bones and breath first moving then stopping, moving and stopping.

There – that’s my catch up.
Happy new year :-)

With my deepest thanks to my beloved Lorca for seeing me through everything, and to my three children for being such a warm and wonderful influence on me.

Recapitulation on and off the dance floor

‘Recapitulation’ —in the context of healing— is the process of releasing patterns that have been holding us, stuck in the past in some way. There’s lots of advice out there on how to do this on purpose; identifying something you feel is holding you back, and doing some kind of exercise to let it go. The danger with this is that your ego remains in charge, and ego will always choose a version of change that feeds its own  agendas.

There’s a way of recapitulating our past that cuts deeper though, with a strong element of unpredictability. This happens courtesy of life if you stay quiet, dwelling in the silence within your breath and letting the stream of life do its work on you. If you stay in your silence, then the parameters of your inner restrictions and old baggage will inevitably collide with the events of your life in such a way as to strip you of those burdens.

If you let it.

Instead, we all too readily resist, blame, avoid, deny, reinforcing the carapace we know by listening to the incessant nagging of our internal dialogue rather than our inner silence, moved by ego’s distractions rather than the body’s flow. That voice will always try to stop the process, blaming circumstances or other people or our own failings to avoid letting the impact of our experience reach our core and change us from the inside.

butterfly

All of this is accelerated on the dance floor. When your attention is awake upon the fullness of your body and the emptiness within your breath, free movement will bring up all that is not free for recapitulation. This is especially so when that movement is going through the rhythms which are such a powerful natural catalyst for change. You often won’t even know what it is that’s being released, though sometimes a knowing will arise from the experience you’re having.

The nub of this release process happens in two phases:

The first is through a Chaotic vibration. It could be via physically chaotic movement which is your body letting go, or via sadness which is your heart’s way of letting go. Either of these can happen within any rhythm of course: for example, you could be deep in Flowing when it comes, with your Flow acquiring a chaotic quality.

The second is through a Lyrical vibration, without which your recapitulation will become mired in self-importance and the carapace that was being set loose will re-embed itself within your self-image, appearing to be different but in reality just wearing a new mask. There needs to be a lightening, a laughter (or at least a rueful smile), a tender gratitude despite the pain, or a phase of creativity where something is offered to others; something like that.

This letting go, and then the lightening, are the heart of the matter. To complete, there needs to be a peaceful return to the grace of silence and stillness, where there is no issue to deal with, and never was. That way the change finds a healthy integration into your psyche.

However, as in the rest of life, this process can be sabotaged or blocked on the dance floor, as in life. We often resist the stages that come before the grieving, when there’s a period of struggle: of tossing and turning internally, wrestling with our demons. We have to give ourselves wholeheartedly to such times when they arise, allowing our feelings to bend us out of the shapes we know. We have to be willing to become as twisted as the patterns that are coming up for release, and often that’s not pretty. We may need to make weird sounds, drool, tear at our clothes or hair, flung to the floor or rampaging through the room.

And before even any of that happens, there’s the first phase of all, which is related to fear. The trouble begins here. Usually, the first sign of fear is flicked away before it can be felt as such because our automatic avoidance systems click into gear so fast. Before the alarm can become conscious, our internal dialogue is already telling us that ‘something is wrong’, and the solution requires stepping out of our practice in some way. We’ll become strangely tired, or we just have to drink some water, or look at a flyer, or the music isn’t right, or we just space out and pay more attention to that nagging voice than to our silence and movement.

The way out of all that, or rather the way into what’s really going on, is to move into your experience within the practice. Dance tired, or dance thirsty, or dance “I can’t dance to this music”, or dance spaced out and dreamy — and with commitment and dedication to as much artistic excellence as you can manage.windmill-day1

Make it your practice to be that dedicated, and you’ll set a template for the rest of your life, and develop resilience for the process of change: not to protect yourself  against it or engineer it from the level of ego, but to have the courage, persistence, and creativity to go with the flow of life and become bigger than you were.

With thanks to Marc Silvestre for creating and holding the space

 

 

 

 

Real

refugee

Vienna main station, changing from one fast clean modern train to another, I walk around a corner and suddenly I’m in the midst of hundreds of refugees. A huge queue outside a ticket office. Lots of security guards. Police in threes on every corner. Families slumped in rows, sleeping, eating, talking, gazing at us commuters. The smell of people who haven’t been able to change clothes for many days.
I just watch for a while, feeling very distressed, especially seeing the children.
Everyone has small shabby bags with them. I am embarrassed wheeling my expensive luggage full of electronics past them, bigger bags for my weekend away than any I can see around me.
“I’m so very sorry”, I want to say.
I know that my country has contributed to their plight, both by glib avoidance and by cruelly greedy action.
I’m so so sorry.
How long will we continue to collectively allow psychopaths to hold so much power?
My life is so comfortable though… can I just get on this next train?…
Is that how my own psychopathic moves go by unchallenged? Disguised with comfortable cappuccinos and distracted by the need to recharge a battery?
A bitter taste in my mouth and tears in my eyes, I’m whisked away to an airport, overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed, but very grateful, both because I’ve seen this on the news of course, and it’s somehow to see something for real that I’ve already been affected by. Also though because I am on my way home from ‘teaching’ a workshop wherein we dance-prayed deeply for some aspect of the world that we were feeling with. My dance was for the refugees: a passionate, whirling, blizzard of strong feelings. To be with them less than 24 hours later was quite something.

Quiet

just saw how long it is since I wrote something here

has it been that long?!?

sometimes it’s best to be quiet

while we fall

shadow

Quiet

It’s funny, how things go. I had my website completely redesigned, and then in the very same time frame I unexpectedly moved through a doorway into a different inner landscape that I don’t know how to write from. So I have this brand new blog page and haven’t written anything on it.

I guess I will recover the power of speech at some point. For now, every time I’m about to figuratively open my mouth, I find myself falling silent again.

Even when I’m dancing, I’m just listening. At least, when I remember.

It feels like the only place to be right now: Still.

Á bientôt…

Power and vulnerability

There is a dark-light power

Given to us from above and below

To use as we choose

For a few short yearscandle

 

When we fully stand in that power

Allowing it to stream through

And be seen by the world

We expose our deepest vulnerability

 

Let’s shine

And dare

To dream

Music

Driving back home late Saturday night after a class in London… tuning into some random station I found these monster beats thumping out of the radio. It went on for some 25 minutes before someone spoke. The soundscape this guy was pumping was just incredible: a masterpiece for altered states, brilliantly designed to take my brain through wave after wave of ecstatic trance. If only I’d been able to dance! I’d heard stuff like that in clubs but never this good. We’re getting more skilled at the art of this kind of music. What a fabulous use of computers, to get ourselves so deeply high. What an extraordinary species we are.

Much of indigenous cultures’ music is based around percussion and designed for the same purpose. Then our culture took this long departure away from the drum into melody, with lots of very heart-centred music. Now we have come full circle with this whole genre that took off from the rave scene in the ’90s once we had the technology to do it, that’s more about the mind rooted in the moving body. You just gotta dance to that stuff.

I heard the pulse of the world inside this guy’s beats last night. The world is in chaos, and chaos is orgasm. We’re emerging into this massive, tumultuous orgasm on a psychic level that’s been growing for decades now, a planet-wide collective howling of agony and ecstasy in awakening, and it’s artists and young people leading the way.

together

I could hear billions of voices crying out, a vast moving together of consciousness that is gathering momentum as the years go by to become the most enormous tsunami the world has ever seen. This kind of music is just part of it, but it’s a big part I think, and a fascinating one. As we all know, time spent on computers gets us so into our heads, but then we’re using them to create this art that gets us, with the participation of the moving body, out of the head and into the deep mind, the whole mind, whose essential nature is to go through wave after wave of shattering ecstasy.

Everything has it’s shadow, and you only have to turn on to the mass media to see the shadow of chaos. But on levels that the news finds hard to reach, there’s something incredible happening. Something brilliant, electric, vast and unprecedented.

The eye of the storm is inside every one of us. Stay centred. Stay real and grounded. Open your heart and let yourself be emotional. Let your head go. Centred in the eye of the storm we don’t get thrown out and mashed. We get taken into God exploding through every cell in constant simultaneous creation and destruction.

Dance is where it’s at. The body is the key. The time is now. Stay tuned.

Midsummer

Midsummer dreaming

warm footsteps fall

breath takes shape in sand

Sunset view and footprints in sand

Men

A men’s heartbeat 7000 feet up in the Rockies, Colorado. Wow. It’s so fascinating what happens to us when we do this. Many of us are wary at first, or even downright scared. We may be missing the women before we’ve begun, but as soon as we’re in the room something takes over, and we move from scared to sacred.

When it’s just us, it’s easier to focus on the work in some way. For the most part we’re not so distracted by fantasies, we’re not competing for attention in the same way, and a space opens up where we find the barriers within and between us just falling away, leaving a raw and real exploration of the human heart that goes somewhere it simply cannot when the women are there. There’s a different openness to our aggression and tenderness, with emotional honesty right around the spectrum and stories of beauty and shame. In that space it all becomes very simple.

Not that it’s better — all kinds of fabulous exploration and healing and growing can happen when we’re in a mixed group as we know — both experiences are healthy and necessary. It’s just that when it’s men only (and from what I hear, by the way, it’s the same deal for women when they get together without us around) we get to accept and open up our vulnerability in a profound way, and going there with a bunch of guys all on the same page leaves us so deeply and truly empowered to be ourselves that I always wind up thinking why aren’t we ALL doing this from time to time? There are so many men I know who’ve never done this. So many women who’ve never done a women-only group.

If that’s true for you, just GO DO IT. I’d be extremely surprised if you regret it. I’d be surprised if you were not totally grateful, supercharged with energy and zest for life, relating to both men and women in a clearer, brighter, more joyful and generous way. Especially if you’re interested in relating to the opposite sex from a place of balance, able to be both vulnerable and strong, able to let her be the woman she is, able to give your love with an empowered presence, to be a true gentle-man and rock ‘n roll dude. Or if you’re gay, and long to have a space where you can be totally who you are in good company, loved and appreciated for your you-ness. Soul food.

Osho

Huge thanks and appreciation for Pieter Van Winkle who had the vision and got the ball rolling, to Melissa Michaels who opened out her community in Boulder to us, to the Men’s Leadership Alliance and the Starhouse for your support, and to all you men who showed up and just let it rip so very wide and far.

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

Liquid light

Walking down to the station from my house in gorgeous late afternoon sun; England is so beautiful on days like this. I love my home, yet there’s always a spring in my step when I’m out on the road again. I really am a pilgrim.

For that’s what it feels like each time. No matter where I’m going actually, but especially when I’m heading off to immerse myself in the amazing field that emerges through any decent practice. (I feel pretty much the same whether I’m in a 5Rhythms room, or Qi Gong, or chanting, or whatever.) As I’m walking I can feel the fullness of my body infused with the spaciousness of my consciousness, these two forces interfacing as the dynamic polarities of my nature doing a walking dance down the street, pulled by the intent and vision of the weeks ahead where I get to be part of the groups coming up.

sunshine

I can see clear as day, while I’m walking down this sunbathed street in meditation mode, that what happens is we become liquid light. My body, our bodyness — the earthiness of that — is infused with the totally non-earth polarity of consciousness, and in the combination of physical movement with awareness we become liquid light, which simply loves to dance. I walk as liquid light.

I have had a month of pilgrimage, travelling through many landscapes inside and out, but all of it with a backdrop of seeking something subtle in the moment. I’m always listening for my next step, always yearning for the experience of One, with endless waves unfolding through their natural cycles that have become so familiar to me through the rhythms, from unconsciousness through struggle and release to en-lighten-ment and no-thing-ness, then begin again. Countless cycles going on simultaneously with different wavelengths, from moments to days to months and even years. It’s all a pilgrimage, whatever I’m doing.

Yesterday was particularly intense, through my practice in the woods at first light; through reading aloud the final chapters of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my youngest (which had me really fighting to keep my voice steady enough to get the words out, with tears rolling down my cheeks, such a beautiful story of pilgrimage, so elegantly told for children); through watching David Whyte’s wonderful TED talk in the evening on the same theme.

The last three years have been so incredibly challenging, leaving me ragged and broken at times. I’ve wept more than the rest of my life put together I think. Seriously. And now I cannot escape from the mirror, always dogging me to see what a load of BS my patterning comes up with. Endless waves of entanglement. So it’s become necessity to constantly listen for the empty space and feel for love, and I’m grateful for that — for the nagging of my internal dialogue being so unpleasant in it’s constancy that I am compelled to practice more consistently.

Really, three years ago I thought I was doing alright. Then life took me by the scruff of my neck and has been rubbing my nose in the dirt relentlessly. I’m a nutcase. Crazy. I think we all are. I’m so tired of it. And so grateful for people close enough for love and hard truths, as well as a sound practice I can fall back on. I know some of you reading this look up to me, and I know some who won’t read this look down on me, but really, that’s all nonsense. We’re right alongside each other. We’re all on the same path, walking with the same feet, pulled by the longing in the same heart, the yearning for One.

Light

Heading home on a fast train through beautiful Scottish lowlands, blazing sunlight streaming horizontal under clouds and over hills. How I love these isles, especially in the north, where the rocks are darker and the air shimmers with some mystery that’s harder to see in the more civilised south.

Feeling full and clear from a weekend moving with fear, power and beauty in Glasgow.
Such a never-ending edge, to stay fresh and creative doing this thing called ‘teaching’.
Over and over again I have to struggle, lose the plot, wonder what I’m doing here, gasp for inspiration, get to that place where I really don’t know where to go, before I can find my next step. Like any creative process.

scotland

Yesterday, as is so often the case, I found it on the floor along with the group. Put on some killer track with another one lined up ready to go, and get down along with everyone else. Sweat out another t-shirt, let my head go, drop my trips, and fall into my feet. To become a begging bowl for spirit, as Gabrielle used to put it so beautifully.

I know people who are not ‘teaching’ this work often look up to those of us who are, as though we’re doing something amazing. We’re not. Not really. It’s just another dance.

We’re doing just the same thing as everyone else. Seeking the sweet spot where we can disappear and simply be moved. Wrestling with our own ego, which requires not so much wrestling as letting go, though it often feels like wrestling until the moment we manage to let go, doesn’t it?

I’m just so grateful to be in rooms where this is the agreed-upon activity so often. I love being in meditation, and am so very very glad to have found this way of being there that is so interconnected with other people, not just sitting on a cushion alone. What a blessing.

Life!

Is life meant to be safe? Or alive?

wave

Letting go

….a hugely busy autumn, followed by a very full Christmas, then four workshops in a row, followed by 3 days preparing accounts for the tax man…..done!…. and within hours of finishing the accounts I feel myself start to spiral into blessed breakdown, my body finally giving way to a cold I’d felt knocking at the door for a couple of weeks

ah beloved body!
I feel so loved and supported by your timing!
now I can fall, and the fall is sweet
I didn’t know the ground was going to give way
only a vague unease and disquiet
but once it’s happening I love it
breaking open is vulnerable and welcome
Lorca and the kids move me to tears
nothing needs to be done for a few days
the cycle of life pulling down my edifices
no doubt will make space for something new
happy to lie in bed and doodle a few words for now
listen to the rain on the roof
goodbye January….

let-go

Late night shadows

Over 3 hours delayed on my flight home from Prague, but we’d had such an extraordinary weekend I didn’t mind being up til almost 5am.

Three whole days going through the 5Rhythms shadows – we took the shadow of each rhythm and danced through it in all 5 rhythms if you see what I mean. (For example experiencing the difference between shadow-Flowing in a still way, and shadow-Stillness in a flowing way.) Then we made and moved with masks to investigate more deeply each dancer’s particular individual shadow-chemistry. Explored how to move into the light from those places. Good stuff.

Anyway…. so I’m getting a very late night taxi from the airport, full of these shadow dances, and the driver is this very neat man, quietly spoken, slow and careful in his info-input for the GPS. But he has this really annoying habit, a slight pumping action on the accelerator. Once I’d noticed it I couldn’t stop paying attention to it. He’d accelerate slightly for about one second, then back off a bit, then pump it again, over and over. The whole ride. Like clockwork. I was really glad to be staying with relatives who only live a few miles from Gatwick; if it had been all the way back to our house I would have had to say something.

And then it hit me! He was in Staccato shadow-Chaos! Indecisive.

indecision

Well this just kind of made my day once I’d realised. Perfect example of how these shadows often crop up. You’d have to look twice to notice it: a guy who seems very controlled and careful, operating in deep suppression, with his fear leaking out in this unconscious nervous twitch where he can’t decide how fast to go, constantly speeding up and slowing down, barely noticeable but constant.

The shadow of Chaos is a kind of out of control mental confusion, which in it’s Staccato phase expresses itself as indecision, and there it was, so subtle you could easily miss it. A shadow, literally. His brain was probably doing overtime thinking about something a million miles away from the M23.

Worth the late night :-)

Inertia

Jump!

you can’t protect yourself from life

and you can’t save yourself from death

so let go….

“The time between when you jump and when you land; that’s God.” Gabrielle Roth

skydiving

Integration

It’s a question I get asked a lot – how to integrate the experiences we have on the dance floor back into daily life.

There’s an article I wrote called After the Rush that addresses that, but there’s also something to say about our practice, and how the process of integration is embodied or not as we actually dance.

Any 5Rhythms experience is like a wave (you’re like, “duh”, but wait, see what I mean). When you’re considering going to a workshop, there’s the whole process dreaming into it that is very Flowing, then making the actual decision, booking your place, getting yourself there, etc is Staccato. Then your time on the dance floor is Chaos in that you’re immersed in the actual experience by then, not really in control. Afterwards there’s a Lyrical phase where the glow of the workshop is still very much in your system even though it’s over, and then finally the experience fades into the background of yourself, apparently disappearing, which is Stillness.

nightsky

The integration phase is clearly Lyrical and Stillness, so I want to describe what I see on the dance floor mostly in these rhythms: any time there’s a distinct downshift in tempo, intensity etc, a lot of you space out, lose focus, lose interest. Sometimes the loss of interest is temporary, and you’ll reapply yourself once you have got in gear with the new rhythm, but often not with the same commitment, or only if there’s a new uplift of energy in Lyrical. It’s as though there’s an internal script saying “That’s the fun bit over with. Guess I’ll kinda hang out ’til the end, but really I’m kinda done now”. Or “Downhill is bad”. It’s a marked contrast with the other side of a wave, where as upshifts occur into Staccato and Chaos there’s usually an immediate getting to grips.

If this is true for you, then you’re literally practicing not integrating your peak experiences.

It’s a hangover from patriarchal thinking where up and high is good, down and low is bad. Old-school mistake. Let’s wise up [sic]. Cherish the valleys.

Suggestions:

– On the way ‘down’ from Chaos to the end of the wave, there’s a natural lightening and spaciousness. What if you changed the belief system to deeply value the tail end of the wave, and found a lighter, more spacious way to stay totally present rather than spacing out and losing your feet?
– What if you deeply valued that which is not as obviously exciting and stimulating?
– What if you practiced staying conscious and embodied through sudden downshifts, literally taking those moments where the music changes suddenly as vital opportunities to learn something important?
– Often people stop their feet at such moments, pausing to understand the new beat before continuing. What if you practiced giving any such moments to your feet to handle, rather than your head?
– What if the dedicated practice of Stillness creates a template in your psyche that means those wildly intense 5rhythms experiences find their way naturally into your daily life much more easily?

And just to stir the pot the other way before I sign off: obviously your ability to be in Chaos in a way that’s not pushing, so you don’t have to collapse once you’ve come, actually depends largely on your ability to stay true to your own flow. Practice Flowing like it matters. It’s the business.

:-)

valley

Insights from the dance floor

We’ve all felt that sense of deep health that comes out of a damn good dance, but there’s also this phenomenon of learning things, right? We literally get insights into our character and life story that can be profound.

Question: how to make the most of these gems? Tackling this question is vital if we’re to take our dance floor experience into daily life.

There’s no single right answer of course, but here’s one ingredient: creative action. For the most part when we get an insight, it carries within it something like a pressure, to take action in some way. There’s often a piece of communication required, along the lines of owning up and apologising for something, or giving thanks, or rewriting a way in which we’ve with-held our loving.

Giving ang taking

Giving ang taking

Sometimes there’s a project that needs another step taken. Or a habit that needs changing. Something from home that needs taking to a charity shop!

If you don’t do it, it’s like having planted a seed and then not watering it. If you stifle the growth inherent in the workshop you did, it will indeed get stifled.

Having said that, if it’s a really big step that you feel propelled towards, you might want to wait. Might be best not to change careers or leave a relationship in the few days after a workshop! But even a big step like that, you can water the seed that came to you by doing your practice a little bit each day (even a few minutes makes such a difference!), talking it over with friends or a coach or therapist, and listening for what the most grounded way forwards is.

Whether it’s a big step or seemingly small, don’t just forget about it. Write it down at least, maybe in a visually creative way, and then stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day.

Then stay attentive to the pace of movement it’s asking for, and do it, becoming more ‘you’ in the process. The experience of this creative action will literally imbed the insight into the soul-matrix of body heart and mind that you are. This is literally spirit coming to earth. It’s up to you.

seedling

Innocence

Dancing this morning with only a candle and moonlight streaming into our kitchen, I was suddenly awash with all the freshness and innocence that I had 25 years ago when I consciously took the rhythms on as a practice.

This was so dear to feel after so many years. Years through which, along with countless breakthroughs, high points and beauty, there have also been many phases of losing my way, not really enjoying practice, questioning why I’m doing it at all, feeling like I’m just going through the motions. All the stuff that is inevitable in a long relationship.

To feel this joyful innocence, combined with the depth, freedom and spaciousness that all these years of experience have brought me; I value it more than ever and know it so tenderly to be mine. When I first encountered it, it seemed like it came from the rhythms, and I was all agape in wonder at this amazing practice that had come to me from somewhere outside of myself. Now, the rhythms have become so deeply embedded in my soul that ‘they’ feel like ‘me’, or I realise that ‘I’ simply am that movement, and everything ‘else’ in the world too, so this wonder is both internal and external at the same time.

What I’m saying is: don’t give up. When you get bored, or jaded, and it seems pointless — stay with it. Practise simply embracing that emptiness. Or dig deeper, going into the feelings you’re experiencing. Wrestle passionately with it all, so you find new ways of moving through.

Seasons come and go. Light dies, but if you stay for the night, then with its rebirth you have a maturity and appreciation that’s all the more wonderful for that time in the dark.

sunrise1

How to move through impossible

Being on the horns of a dilemma is not comfortable. When part of you wants one thing, another part is totally going the other way, or your heart’s desire seems impossible in your circumstances, or you’re in a relationship where the two of you choose different things: an irresistible force is meeting an immoveable object.

It’s uncomfortable.

And our ‘natural’ response is to attempt to get off the horns of the dilemma by going one way or the other. Trouble is, this probably leaves us less than whole, feeling partly suppressed or unrepresented, at best vaguely dissatisfied, at worst profoundly depleted in the integrity department.

The other way is to just be with the discomfort, stay there experiencing it as deeply as you can. Feel the feelings, be with the mind-churning, and let it work on you.

Zen masters famously used mental versions of this experience – the Zen koan, such as “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” – to catapult the student towards enlightenment. We can do the same just by focussing on the experience of life right now, because as we fall deeper and deeper into the rhythm of Chaos globally, we are presented with more and more profound koans by life; situations which feel impossible. If you can’t find one in your personal life just check out almost every facet of human existence on a collective level right now. Unsustainable, impossible, no-way-out dilemmas. Change of consciousness required!

dilemma

Here’s one way you could work with a life-koan in movement:

Flowing: focus on the dilemma, aware of the whole situation, the big picture, and as you flow literally take it into your body. Let it become a kinaesthetic experience more than the head trip it’s probably been. Every time you notice that you’ve got sucked back into the head-trip, return to the practice of dedicated embodiment. Big breaths. Pay attention to physical sensation.

Staccato: let the feelings out. All those pent-up freak-out fears, all the furies and frustrations, all the agonising painfulness of it – let your Staccato body express the whole gamut. Struggle. Bump up against the limits. Feel the heat. Make some noise.

Chaos: right into the middle of it. Fall into the impossibility. Instead of you trying to change it, the opportunity here is to let it change you. This is what we’re going for here – a change in consciousness. Let the impossible nature of your situation rip you apart. Shatter. Trust your feet, let your head go, and let your assumptions and dogmas go with it.

Lyrical: this is can be radical – what’s up now? Having let the dilemma rip you up, who are you? Anything could happen here – you could be a mess on the floor in tears (in which case remember you have the option to turn that into a beautiful dance), or you could find yourself on fire with an outlaw rebel spirit, revolution in the air. Your dance might be delicate or devilish, but whatever it is, take as much notice of it as you can, treat it like a treasure, because it is – this is the fruits of your labours being given to you.

Stillness: letting Lyrical subside, rest in the spaciousness of having gone through something, let life change you, grow you, evolve you. Savour the moment of having made a journey, and for now having arrived with no need to go further, bur rather just appreciate. If this is a big issue in your life, you may have to go around this cycle many times before you’ve grown fully through it, but for now, you’ve made a step, and your system will be more ready to go again if you give yourself time to rest and recuperate in the completion phase. Drink from the stillness.

We live in interesting times. We’re all in it together. Every step bravely taken makes a difference. It’s OK to stumble and fall. Alongside all the difficulties, there is a vast surge of faith, growth, and beauty too. You’re not alone.

NB: I created a podcast that’s probably going to work well for you to use with this wave. Click here to download.

Churchill-quote

Hope?

“Don’t curse the darkness; light a candle.”

Met a friend on the street the other day, whom I could see was upset. I asked her what was up, and after stumbling through a few things that hadn’t gone well that day, she said “Actually, it’s the state our world is in.” We both almost fell into tears right there on the corner. Guess you could have been there too, right?

I have phases where I keep away from the news, but this isn’t one of them. I know exactly what direction Syria is in when I step out of my front door, and that photo of the drowned boy….. The impotent rage and grief is hard to deal with.

I remember Gabrielle asking us once to dance our particular focus of concern in the world, and when she asked me what mine was, I said rather helplessly “Everything!!”
“You can’t do that Adam” she said. “It’s too big. Choose some place you can make a difference, and give to that.”
The feeling has remained with me though, as some kind of instinct; I have a deep urge for global unity, even to the point where I perhaps ridiculously think we could get there. Maybe we’re creating the depth of crisis that will take us to that point, just like we do as individuals sometimes.

I am beyond grateful to have my work to offer anyway. And I do believe our inner work counts for a LOT. Keep maturing through the petty wars within my own heart. See my projections of ‘evil’ for what they are, and re-integrate my judgements and condemnation to become fuel for loving more deeply.

I wept for the plight of the war-torn while I danced today, wondering what I could do other than cry. Opening up my emails an hour later there was a request for blankets and clothes being collected. OK. Thank you… Will do…

Healing old stuff

A map of the process of healing, seen through the lens of the 5Rhythms, that may be useful for those of you who have been grappling with a personal issue for a long time, done tons of healing work, and are wondering why you feel like you’re still spinning your wheels.

1. Underground: just in the wound, not doing anything with it; may be very unconscious

2. Emerging: beginning to tackle it – getting to know it, define it, feel it, struggle with it; usually involves some attempts at avoid/escape/deny

3. Gateway: the central healing and transformation – that experience where you know you’ve just been through something huge and the whole world, your whole self, feels profoundly altered.

4. Connections: what needs to happen in the constellation of relationships and people that is your life? Do you need to talk with someone? Give someone a gift or take them out for the day? Reveal something to someone? (By that I mean actually show them how something feels to you as you tell a story, not just talk ‘about’ it.) Even if that someone is dead, or you’re so estranged from them that communication is out of the question, there are things you can do: light a candle with deep intent and dance ‘with’ them, write to them and burn or bury the letter, do a huge drawing in the sand on a lonely beach and let the sea take it….. you think of something…. Do you need to tell someone you’ve forgiven them? Or that you can’t yet? Like life, this phase of your journey is not safe; the outcome will not be guaranteed. It’s possible to get hurt or hurt others, so go steady, with kindness if you can, and remember that when you tell someone something, you’re opening up a dialogue: things are going to come back to you in ways that are not predictable.

5. Creation: doing something creative with the experience – turning it into writing, painting, cooking etc. Maybe you get to use it in your work in some way and help other people, with the spirit of your inner work fuelling your worldly service.

compass

I often see people thinking that the first three phases of this journey are all that’s required, but the last two are essential to ground and integrate the Gateway experience. All five are needed for joyous and empowered health. Be aware that just as Lyrical and Stillness contain the preceeding rhythms within them, the fourth and fifth stages of the journey outlined here can require you to rework and revisit the earlier stages. Deep wounds are big projects. Ask for help when you need it: we all do at times. Courage, curiosity, patience and persistence will serve you well.

Note: in my experience, wounds that are really central to your early life come around again and again for attention. This isn’t the same as being stuck, and doesn’t mean you’re not getting anywhere. Those core wounds are the crack where the light gets in, the source of renewable energy for your growing, the thorn in your side that keeps you in touch with your humanity. When that same stuff comes up yet again, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. And remember that as you approach stage 3, you’ll be asked to let go of everything and go through the gateway as if you’ve never been through before, naked and clueless. At least for a moment, everything you’ve ever learnt will suddenly be no use to you. That’s when it happens. But once it has happened, remember to keep going so that you find the life after Chaos. That’s when it gets more interesting, and even enjoyable.

Friendship

Third module of Moving Paths….. we investigated how to integrate the teachings of the dance into speaking with each other more deeply than I ever have. In particular how to go through conflict.

Here’s part of what we saw:

That in a good friendship, each person can trust the relationship more deeply than even themselves or each other. “I trust you” wasn’t the strongest thing; it was “I trust this”. The relationship can be trusted to show up and compassionately deal with any blind spots or ego stuff that comes up. It’s a deep and rich resource for each individual.

And that can happen as a group too, not just one on one. We could lean into it, and feel it lean back into us, keeping us straight and clear with each other. That was really something. Every single one of us was willing to play our part and show up for the sake of each other, for the sake of us, and for the sake of the dance that we all love.

Gabrielle said “God is the dance” and she was spot on. But Spirit is also bright in the space between us. That is what we can lean into, and find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love – with what might seem to be each other, but really it’s with Spirit. We’re all falling in love with Love, which is both the dance, and the space between us.

swans

Footprints

Do you get the paradox of discipline and freedom being inescapable partners? For many, the first taste of freedom in a 5R class is due to a relaxing of constraint, and loving that rush, they make the mistake of thinking that’s the whole deal, and that any discipline would be a step backwards.

In fact it’s just the first stage, and the next steps can only happen to the extent that you’re willing to be disciplined: to be a disciple. Of your dance. Which means confronting that in you which is terrified of movement or change.

Reluctant to knuckle down and confront your walls, those very limitations that you’re seeking to escape creep in towards you, almost unnoticed except for a vague recognition that your practice is not as exciting as it used to be. Maybe it’s time to go off and take up some other path instead……..

Or you take the medicine the rhythms offer really seriously, and get down to study your patterns with all the fury of a boxed-in teenager, the diligence of an elder, and the delight of a child.

I got this note from a dancer in Melbourne last week. I’d hassled over and over again during the first few hours of a workshop to stay aware of her feet, learn how to follow them:footprint

“I’m so glad you went with your instinct [to hassle me] because it changed a lot for me. I havent really been doing the rhythms when I dance as I hadn’t yet experienced deeply how they could really truly relate to me. I was doing my own thing on the dance floor ( a projection of my isolation, fear and separation habits in life). So when you insisted I use my feet it was so hard and I was crying my way through it, it was excruciating. But I committed and kept going, finding my feet through that pain and resistance almost like I was waking up to something. Literally. Like walking for the first time. My dance has changed. My flow has changed, I’m connecting to people more. Feet and human connection – who would have thought..? THANK YOU for helping me break a pattern.” (printed with kind permission from Natalie Krasnostein)

Notice how she found it hard, to the point where she cried? That’s what we’re scared of, naturally, being the comfort-addicted species we are. But it’s so worth it, to endure the discomfort. Insist on diligent practice sometimes, and it will take you through a confrontation with your limitations that will set you free. Over and over again. If you choose.

“Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Gabrielle Roth

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

Fear is Love

Just found this, that I wrote a couple of years ago and forgot to post….

In Walmart. I know, I know… Well I needed a cable, and there was Walmart. A huge Walmart.

I have our 2.5 year-old boy with me. We do really well for a while taking in turns to look at cables and toys. Then thinking he’s engrossed with something he is holding I focus on my cable situation for all of 15 seconds, turn back to check on him and he’s gone.

It’s the day after Thanksgiving so it’s monstrously crowded in here. I walk fast back the way we’d come for a couple of blocks – er, I mean aisles – then not seeing him walk faster back another way to where we’d been standing.

Nowhere.

Soon I am running up and down aisles, wildly conscious of every turn of my head, glance of my eyes, timing it with the changing views to left and right with lightening fast precision, my mind doing overtime fast calculations on when I should use precious seconds asking one of the attendants for help, dismissing them all as looking too stupid or sleepy.

Finally I crash in at a help desk pretty much shouting at the poor woman there to call for help. She tells me dazedly that I have to go to the front of the shop (which is at least half a mile away over to the East somewhere) and ask them. I don’t even stop to reply, but start running about again calling “River!!” very loudly indeed. All the while I’m thinking how extraordinarily beautiful and golden this boy is compared with everyone and everything around here, my blood running cold as I helplessly watch my imagination doing ugly overtime.

An older woman customer stops me and asks how old he is, what he’s wearing, and tells me she’s going to get someone to make a call for help for me so I can keep looking. Thank you… Then as I’m telling her, I see him way down the other end of the aisle I’m on.

He’s sitting peacefully on the floor looking at a firetruck. Of course.

My system still in high-octane mode, I adjust my energy all over as thoroughly as I can so that by the time I reach him I’m relatively calm, and can tenderly scoop him up into my arms and hold him tight to my chest all the way back to the car while we talk about trucks.

What a vivid experience of how fabulous fear can be!

Even looking back at the whole thing with the benefit of hindsight, I can’t think of one single moment that I could have improved on, except for the moment I was studying the cable packet when I felt a subtle disquiet, and ignored it for several seconds. I should have known better.

But everything else was brilliant – the incredible effectiveness of our built-in warning and action system that drives up all our senses to serve what’s needed.

The thing about this that fascinated me most though was what happened afterwards. For several hours I felt literally high, like I was on some kind of enlightenment drug. Extraordinary! The surge of fear I lived through was so vivid and vital that it blasted the more flimsy flotsam of my mind out of the way for a while and all that was left was some crystal clear priorities and perspectives. Though not an experience I would wish to repeat, I’m grateful to have had it, as with almost every strong encounter with fear I’ve ever had.

We live with so much low level fear, chronically whining in the background of our psyche, it’s actually refreshing to be put right at the frontline of this energy, where it was designed to be felt. Each time I’ve encountered fear at this maxed-out level, I have learnt something very specific and valuable. This time it was about love – how utterly loving survival-level fear is. True instinctive fear loves life, totally.

Memories of Gabrielle saying, in the first workshop I ever did with her, “Fear is just one of the colours of love”.

Ego

“Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.”
― John Lennon

Having a discussion about holding space for people to experience the 5Rhythms the other day. The thing people call teaching but in reality feels like another kind of dancing. We talked about the ego, and how vital it is to get some perspective on that if you’re going to stand up and offer that space to others.

There’s a myth about the ego that still circulates amongst groups that see themselves as into ‘spiritual growth’ (pompously pious) and new age (so 1980’s), that somehow we’re supposed to get rid of it. I don’t think so. We can’t get rid of our ego. We can’t transform it either. It is what it is: somewhere between monstrous enemy, cardboard cut-out chimera, and multi-functional tool, depending on what day it is.

I have a good friend who’s been lucky enough to get to know many of the world’s spiritual heavy-weights, all those ‘enlightened’ ones, the big names of that world. She said that all of them, without exception, are dealing with their own ego just as much as anyone else. My ego was glad to hear that.

Our relationship to it is where we have some choice, and it’s a constant —constant! — work in progress. No exceptions, no excuses, my ego is always one step behind, like a tin can tied on to my ankle. There’s just one thing my ego can’t do, and that’s create. It can’t dance, can’t sing, can’t write. It can copy the last move I did, or someone else’s, but that’s all. It’s a brilliant imitation machine.

Standing up in front of you to ‘teach’ some class or workshop, like anyone else, I’m a strange and wonderful and terrible mixture of inspired and twisted. Constant work in progress to stay on the inspired program, and an endlessly repeating cycle of falling asleep and waking up, failing and recovering. Guess it’s just that I have learnt over the years to wake up more quickly and more gracefully than I used to. To recover my balance more quickly than I used to when I fall off-centre.

ego

I’m noticing that I’ve written a whole thing about the ego without being funny. Oh dear….I can imagine Gabrielle tickling me. Well, it’s the best I can do right now. A psychic in Bali told me almost a year ago that I was up for a whole year of crying. At the time I couldn’t see what that would be about, but within days I had some news from my far distant past that set me off, and she’s been right: I’ve cried more this past year than any other in my whole life. Looking at the calendar, it’s about time for things to lighten up, but for now, please forgive me if I’m not very funny. Maybe I’ll get some lessons from Eliezer.

If you’re serious about this 5Rhythms path, and want to see the awfully-funny side, go do Mirrors. Get some degree of physical freedom first through practicing and studying the rhythms pure and simple, then open up your emotional world studying the Heartbeat map. Then do a Cycles workshop once or twice to get to grips with your personal story enough to let it fall into the endless empty space of the dance. Then go do Mirrors. My life was never the same again. In a good way :-)

Easter

Easter Sunday: I woke from a strong dream about ritual, family and Spirit. Clearing our space in the living room, lighting some candles, thanking ancestors and earth, greeting future and light, I then dedicated my practice to the movement of breath and infusing our space with awareness. Simple Easter blessing.

When I was younger I was very reluctant to invest meaning or power in anything outside of my own skin. I’m still a bit averse to ‘altars’ in dance rooms, preferring artistic installations for inspiration to vaguely new-age-religious icons. But as I’ve got older I’ve found the roots of my fear and taught myself to walk a different way, with a more trusting relationship to the world.

Partly through our own powers placing attention and taking action, and partly through something more mysterious I don’t understand, objects and places can become imbued with meaning and Spirit in ways that can then come back full circle and nourish us humans spiritually.

What a beautiful and magical world we live in.

May we all be refreshed, renewed, even reborn, at this time.

creation

Earth Day moves

Sun light soaks through day after day
slow rhythm burns into my gardening hands
family time rocks my rolling heartbeats

 

Brief instructions for dancing outdoors:

– wear old clothes that can get dirty, so you’re free to be sensual and roll around, dig with your bare hands, make love with a tree, bite the grass, anything you might suddenly wish to doeday5

– find somewhere that feels like ‘it’ for now (might not be what you expected, but you can walk around until there’s a kind of ‘clunk’ inside you, or between you and the life around you). Be aware that you’re a guest.

– don’t try to have the same experience you have at a class; if you’re new to moving outdoors then let go of your past experience and find out what this is

– if the ground is uneven, be careful, and include that care as part of your awareness practice

– receive the environment around you and let your awareness be immersed in it, love it, let it change you like medicine you’re breathing in,let it hold you like the big mamma it is

– feel the world and your self intermingling through your breath and movement

– leave a little gift of thanks in some way, spoken or physical

….. and then don’t speak of your experience too readily, just let it settle in your bones and blood and breath until it’s part of you. Then anything that is ready to be shared will give of itself naturally through your gesture, glance, and presence.

“The earth has music for those who listen.”
― George Santayana

Down and in

tree_roots

Deep, quiet, inner journey time, whilst travelling to far away lands.

Putting practice into practice – thousands of hours learning to flow on the dance floor – can I resist the call of the world to move out, and instead stay in?

Not entirely is the answer; but reasonably well.

Grateful for the space and ability to do as well as I have.
It’s easier to go with my flow when it’s outward or up, the directions of the world prizes.
Yet ‘down’ and ‘in’ are such a sweet medicine. Nourishing roots.

Diary on the road

The day or two leading up to a workshop is a very particular experience
Vulnerable
Sometimes awkward, sometimes graceful surrender to the undertow of this new wave coming in
Mysterious intelligence working on me
Pulling me down, under, in to the belly of this dream called ‘workshop’

Strange path
Walked often enough to trust that it will be exactly as it needs to be
But for now the truth is that I could cry and cry, curl into a ball and crawl under a blanket

What is this love I feel yet again?
In yet another town I’ve never been to yet that feels so familiar?
So I must love like this again?

It’s the ache of my heart being asked to open yet again, to open wide and surrender to whatever comes through
Another group of wild dancers, only to let them go again a few days later
A bit like the whole of life, only compressed into a short time
Strange this mixture that is painful ache and blessing
I wouldn’t have it any other way
Love falling, love letting go

It IS a dream – at this very moment as I’m jotting all this down on my phone – while the young man busking right across from my bench sings Halleluiah – and two guys come up to me and ask if I’m Adam – they’re here from far away, flown in for the workshop. Dreaming on. How very strange and wonderful life is. Guess I’m right where I need to be. “Knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door” the busker sings. Thank you God.

Decisions and the role of chaos

I use to think of an action, actually doing something, as being the end point of a decision, but then wondered how the process of making a decision looks through the lens of the 5 rhythms, and saw that actually the taking action part is just the staccato phase:

listen for the best direction (flowing)
take a step (staccato)
deal with the consequences (chaos)
integrate the teachings and gifts (lyrical)
rest (stillness)

(That’s right: doing nothing is a crucial phase. If you try to miss it out and immediately look for the next step, you’ll deplete yourself. Take a breath!)

The consequences of our actions are rarely what we expect. It’s natural after taking a step that we get thrown a bit off balance by the ensuing chaos. The practice of the rhythms teaches me to roll with it rather than think something’s going wrong, then integrate the teachings and gifts, take a breather, and then listen for my next best step.

We often experience some of that kind of off-balance reaction after doing a workshop for example – a workshop experience is a powerful step taken – both our internal system and external world will have a response to it that may throw us. Maybe there’s nothing wrong; we just did something strong.

Resource yourself?… find ways to keep moving, remind yourself that falling is natural at times, smile when you can, and reach for help when you need it.

boy

Dancing is just an attitude

a little while ago I resolved to talk less and move more
in my marriage, with my friends, everywhere
I like it

I bought a little notepad and pen, and wrote on the front page “I’m not talking at the moment”. Showing it to people when I feel like being quiet, and then negotiating some kind of communication without words is fun, and fascinatingly intimate, and when I’m in that mood it’s such a relief. Such a relief to overtly step out of being normal.quiet

Visiting an old friend recently, we talked for a bit, then we just put on some music and moved together. I cried with love for this funny thing we humans do called dance.

But for the most part it’s a joy to be much more subtle. Just saying a bit less, paying more attention to my body and breath, and engaging with the physicality of my situation more through the daily shuffle. Stepping out of things when they get headtrippy. The spaces in between silence are so touching, so mysterious.

“Dancing is just an attitude” Osho

Dancing at home

In my early days of being in love with the 5Rhythms, I lived on the road, in a van. So my practice needed to happen out in nature a lot. I quickly learnt that it was a mistake to try to have the same experience in the woods as if I was in a studio. The fact was the floor was bumpy not smooth, and brambles were a hazard. And there’s a tree just there not a wall. And people might walk by. I learnt to move with the reality of my environment, rather than treating it like a problem I was trying to ignore.

The same is true at home. We don’t have a studio; just a large living room. So it’s like moving in a theatre set, and I’m doing my practice with the reminders of my children’s existence over there, with that sofa where we watch movies here, with that opening to the kitchen on the side, with the view over the valley streaming in through the windows. It’s not a clear Zen space, much as I would often like that.

bubbles
But hey, that means I have to do my practice in a way that is not escaping from the day to day reality of my life at all, but completely the opposite. I’m in my daily life, and I’m moving for real, the dream of my spiritual path taking root in the simple places of my ordinariness.

Know what I mean?

Cracks & Light

Leonard Cohen famously said that there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in. Though in the case of us humans, it’s also how the light gets out, so I would say that when we crack, the light gets through: Chaos begets Lyrical

Teaching Into the Light last weekend in Helsinki, where it stayed light all night, we became lighter and lighter through the weekend til we were almost invisible by the end, just a wisp of colour in the breeze. So beautiful.

I saw that Light is the illumination that happens when we are filled with Spirit. Spirit itself is not the light – it is Void – but Soul loves Spirit so utterly that it lights up in its presence.
That we only become filled with Spirit to the extent to which we’re integrated, whole, unified; otherwise we’re still filled with our own self-importance.
That we can only become whole by being willing to fall apart, to let the doors of our perception crack and break open, letting go of our belief structures, around which our identity is formed and maintained. To let the mind be in the deepest truth of its own nature which is a constant shattering, consciousness going through endless waves of orgasm.
That we are terrified of that shattering, of letting go of “I know who I am and what’s going on”.
We can only break open as far as we’re willing to feel the fear and be courageously empowered moving through it, otherwise we’ll freeze and grip on tight rather than let go.
To find that empowered relationship with our fear of letting go, so that we’re enlivened rather than brittle, we have to be embodied. We have to be able to let the fear be a physical movement, or we’ll end up on a head-trip.

 

crack-lightWe could say it’s a wave of prerequisites, with the presence of Spirit actually depending on our ability to be embodied. Can you see each rhythm in the sequence? What a wonderful practice we have, that all this happens even if we don’t know it’s happening. Each rhythm catalyses and nurtures the blossoming of its corresponding aspect of the psyche, for example dancing Chaos helps the Mind be more deeply in its true nature.

We want Light to be nice and sweet, and in a way it is, but the journey there is rigorous and challenging and there’s no skipping that part. Then once we’re there any effort or hardship falls away completely and it’s blissful.

Funny old business, being human, isn’t it. I like it.

Contact Improv and 5Rhythms?

 

This is a subject that comes up every now and then between 5R teachers — many of us find it annoying when people are basically doing a different practice on the dance floor, and contact improv is the one that shows up most often. If I was leading a Christian service and someone was chanting prayers to Krishna I guess I would find that annoying too, but that would probably have some dogmatic stuff in it which isn’t really what this is about.

Actually I love dancing in contact with people sometimes; I studied contact improv when I lived in Bristol where it was a big thing in the 90s, and have countless times been glad of those skills on a 5R dance floor, but then sometimes I’m dancing with someone and I can feel them suddenly shift into ‘doing contact’. There’s a subtle rigidity I can sense in their thinking which then affects their movement. I can feel it switch on as soon as they realise I’m up for moving in touch with them. Something about expectations, so there’s a listening for certain moves that might come next out of a repertoire. The emptiness of the moment is gone, filled with something else that is more like control than meditation.

GabrielleFreeSpiritThis touches into a wider question that I know many many people around the world struggle with on a 5R dance floor:
“Isn’t this about being free? And isn’t freedom just about doing what I want to do? What’s the problem?” And this is the rub: No, freedom is not just about doing what you want. That doesn’t work. It leads instead to moving in small circles within what’s familiar, trapped in your own ego.

Part of my job is to care for the whole field in the room. By caring for it, I mean to keep opening doors and tending to edges so that it expands as wide and deep as possible whilst staying focussed within the moment. This creates a space that facilitates connection: for each dancer within themselves, with each other, and with the One that moves us all. As individual dancers we all get into our shadows, caught by our own ego trips, and I’m as fallible as anyone so I’m not casting stones. But as group leader for the day, I take it as my responsibility to sometimes attend to a dancer individually if they’ve got caught. Partly to help them personally, but also because each individual’s consciousness affects the whole.

What I often see in contact improv dancers on 5R floors is a subtle pride, and a performance, mixed in with a whole lot of control. It’s a kind of shadow Lyrical dance masquerading as freedom, and it’s a drag; a sort of psychic lump in the room. Lumps in the room are not the end of the world, but… Added to which it’s physically dangerous — I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard of someone getting whacked by a stray leg of a CI dancer on a 5R floor. They don’t go together on a physical level or on the level of consciousness. So please don’t do it. Go do contact improv in a space where that’s the clear intent and beautiful practice which it is. Or even, allow your contact skills to soften and become less programmed so that you’re not ‘doing contact improv’ but rather letting that technique dissolve in the emptiness, then dance in contact with others by all means, attentive to the unfolding moment that is always calling to us through the unknown, quiet as a whisper.

 

Colorado Morning

jet-lagged early dark
my practice is an old friend
sitting in silence afterwards
an ocean
so grateful to be here

Chaos has barely started

Are you aware that what’s going on at this time is a collective shift from an era of Staccato into one of Chaos? Going through my “Evolution” workshop in Toronto over the weekend, this was our investigation, and I was asked to write about it too. So here goes…

We’re approaching the middle of a gigantic wave, unfolding through very long time spans: 

Flowing phase: We lived in small nomadic tribes as hunter-gatherers. Constantly on the move, living close to the earth, and with a tendency to perceive the divine as feminine, this is quintessential Flowing culture.  

Staccato phase: Things changed with the advent of agriculture. We began parcelling up land with borders and fences, taking ownership of earth and people, with a much more controlling way of relating to the natural world and a tendency to perceive the divine as masculine. We’ve got roughly ten thousand years of Staccato behind us. 

Chaos phase: Every wave must break, and the hallmark of Staccato at its peak is that the leading edge of water pushes out and forward to the point of being unsustainable. The only way to go is down. For anyone attached to Staccato, Chaos is a disaster. To that mindset, moving forwards is the ultimate value, and falling is to be avoided at all costs. But if we see the big picture, the unsustainable moment at the end of Staccato is a thrilling transition into that mighty crash we all love when we’re watching big breakers. 

And this one is BIG. Ten thousand years, just for Staccato?! Wow. It’s a behemoth of a wave, and we’re just beginning to tip into zone three. (The best bit if you’re either a spectator or a surfer! Or a dancer :-)

Anything we can glean from the rhythms about how to manage this without wiping out?  

What does the dance of Chaos have to teach us? The following are all pretty clear to me after 30 years of practice, but maybe you can see some more: 

1. Surrender to the process. Trying to keep things in Staccato is a recipe for pain. Get with the program and let Chaos come.

2. Stay grounded and present. Do whatever works for you to attend to the ordinary: take care of the garden, use the kitchen well, and avoid getting lost in screens or head-trips. The fundamentals of movement practice — to be aware of the fullness of life within your body, and the silent space within your breath — don’t leave that on the dance floor. Practice constantly.

3. Let go of old stuff. Going through Chaos is a cleansing process (when it’s functioning well anyway; when it’s not, it’s a mess.) In the process of letting old stuff go, it first has to rise to the surface. Shadows abound, and can seem overwhelming: Stay embodied so that you keep in touch with the knowing, intuitive side of your mind, rather than getting lost in the thinking chat rooms. Let feelings be expressed and released. Be open to changing, radically. 

4. Integrate feminine and masculine forces, finding ways for them to work together. This is imperative, both within your self and between us as humans with tendencies towards one end or the other of the gender spectrum. It’s not surprising that the whole business of gender roles is in the mixing pot right now. Chaos does just that: stirs up what was clear and defined and mixes opposites together. Alongside this, there’s a lot of hurt and anger playing out between men and women, with both personal and archetypal forces involved. Chaos asks us to find our way through and work together, not as equals in the sense of all being the same, but as humans each with their own particular mix of masculine and feminine qualities to add to the mix.

5. Community is the new Buddha. The divine no longer appears to us as distinctly feminine and of the earth, nor as particularly masculine in the sky, but now as androgynous and amongst us, between us, within us. Chaos is all about the collective. It is entirely in keeping with this that networks and groups are springing up all over the world and making things happen, from the untold number of personal development groups that form and dissolve every weekend to the agency for change manifesting through groups like Avaaz or the Pachamama Alliance. Chaos is the rhythm of the mind (Flowing-Body, Staccato-Heart), and we’re naturally perceiving the divine as an intelligence, immanent within everything. Chaos teaches that all is divine, both the force of life and the manifest creation itself. Body and Spirit. Sexuality and spirituality belong together. 

Let’s look a little deeper at the integration of feminine and masculine forces. Chaos is the union of Flowing and Staccato, and it functions well when we take the teachings of those first two rhythms together and integrate them within our experience of Chaos. You can see the analogy in terms of the life cycles represented by these rhythms: our task during adolescence is to let go our parents as teachers, but to integrate their teachings, at least what was useful, within us. We have to learn to mother ourselves, knowing how to care for our needs and give ourselves space to go with our own Flow. We also have to learn to be a good father to ourselves, knowing how to set ourselves limits so that we can stop when required, and how to internally hold our own hand encouragingly when we’re scared so that we can take risks out in the world. 

There’s a natural fall of patriarchy going on globally, with so many institutions that embody masculine authority in some way being toppled — everything from the banking sector to governments to the police. Collectively, we used to look up to such archetypal forms, but that’s all changing, and quite right too in many ways. 

However, we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater in ways that render us in trouble. We need to take the teachings of Staccato with us, or Chaos becomes a bloody mess. If we just decry all things Staccato, we lose our way. It’s vital that we stay heartful, aligned with a sense of purpose, and able to discern when something’s toxic. Bringing the medicine of Staccato along into the fall of Chaos helps us to maintain a sense of dignity, knowing the function of discipline in the face of adversity inside or out. It will re-mind us of the necessity of boundaries to protect vulnerability and nurture new growth. 

I have to mention Jordan Peterson here, because he is speaking out so bravely and brilliantly on this subject. I don’t agree with everything he’s saying, but most of it I’m right with. (And much of what people get offended by is probably because they’re only paying attention to soundbites or headlines, but if you take the trouble to listen to the whole argument, it totally makes sense.) He’s an incredible ambassador for Staccato values, which is not an easy thing to be right when we’re breaking into Chaos. But he’s got such a strong point: don’t throw out the teachings of Staccato just because we’re going into Chaos! Integrate them! He’s making a massive difference to a huge number of young people, particularly young men, who are the most vulnerable to the fall of the masculine as an archetype. 

As a man, I feel very strongly on this subject. Yes, the old ways got rigid, and there’s plenty that needs to change. But it’s a terrible mistake to just lay waste to all things Staccato, and an even worse mistake to blame men for the problems we face as human beings. 

A similarly brilliant strong human, somewhat ahead of Peterson perhaps and holding the ground for the feminine, is Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her famous work is Women Who Run With The Wolves, but I’m currently listening to The Dangerous Old Woman (audiobook from Soundstrue) and loving that even more.

We’re all in this together. Let’s keep learning to trust our feet, love fiercely and hold hands often as we are taken mightily by the holy fall that is the rhythm of Chaos.

Brutal Compassion?

Here’s a transcript from a long residential workshop: about compassion, the shadow, and the importance of not taking oneself too seriously (which I brilliantly demonstrated at the end by almost setting myself on fire, knocking over a candle as I sat down!)

It’s natural and appropriate to take ourselves if not seriously then at least personally, to take ourselves on, when we’re in a flowing or staccato space. When we’re working with fear or anger, our babyhood or childhood – all those Zone 1 or 2 things [anything related to Flowing/Staccato]. It’s appropriate to take ourselves on, take our story seriously. The task in any Zone 3 state such as Chaos or sadness or adolescence is to let go. To let go of our person-ality. And once we’re in Lyrical we’re way past it: we cannot be in Lyrical and take ourselves seriously. The two are a complete anathema. We cannot really be in joy, or really be in the world, in maturity, if we’re taking ourselves seriously. We can take our work seriously, but our work is an impersonal affair.

The nature of lyrical is a subtle and complex unification of the first three rhythms turned inside out, so it figures that maturity is the way it is, a complex dance of recapitulating our past and integrating our younger selves through creative action in the world. In this way even our inner work is still a creative offering if it’s done in a genuinely mature fashion; far from narcissistic. It’s our spiritual work, our healing work. It’s work. And it’s not personal. Our personal work is not personal. If we take it personally we start veering off track, at least if we go on taking it personally for more than a moment. And what was a simple gesture of beauty quickly becomes sickly if we hang on to it for too long and take it too seriously – the inner work becomes sick with self-importance.

What I’m seeing is that the shadow of compassion is among us. Yes, it’s beautiful to be a healing force for each other, or more accurately to allow a healing force to come though us for each other. I’ve totally seen that happening this week. But the minute we get attached to ourselves – we get attached to that experience – it becomes sick. It’s too sweet. It gets sickly, and we become sick. Then before long we need to break up – we’ll be literally sick of each other because we’re too sweet. This happens because we get attached to being a good person. We get attached to being so loving with each other. So I’m seeing people wandering around the dance floor, looking outside of themselves for something, not connected inside, and the next moment they’re trying to ‘be there’ for someone else!

This is the shadow of compassion. The shadow of compassion needs to heal somebody. It needs to be compassionate towards somebody else for its own self-worth, and its own self-image, its own validation. “Oh, I’m really somebody now….. Mother Theresa…..”

buddha-7
 

True compassion is brutal, in that it is totally impersonal, like everything related to Stillness and Spirit. We want it to be personal. We want God to be nice. We want God to care. We want God to be sentimental actually. God is not sentimental. God is no more sentimental than that lake out there, which would drown us in a heartbeat if we don’t look out, and swim. It doesn’t give a shit. Food for the worms and the fish. Great! The lake doesn’t want to save our lives, and nor does Spirit. Not really. At least there’s a way in which it doesn’t. Spirit is just utterly empty. It doesn’t give a damn. All that caring stuff, and kindness, that’s all the Lyrical, very human, level of love. Total Love is bigger. It’s not personal. I die, a bird dies, a fish lives, a planet is born, a star blows up – it’s all part of the dance, and the dance is what is happening. It’s not good or bad, it’s beyond that kind of judgement. All that meaning is stuff we humans colour the universe and life with. Life itself is not that personal. In the big picture, it doesn’t matter. None of it matters. It’s all just happening. And we want to be attached to some sentimental story of goodness. It’s part of the picture, yes, sweetness and goodness and light, and our human experience of loving, which is very Lyrical – its light and warmth and sweetness – but we get attached to it and it turns sick, because it’s not the final truth. It’s not the endpoint. We want to stay there, but it’s not the endpoint. Stillness comes next, and there, it all goes. All that light: all gone. The void. Emptiness. Death. Stillness is the rhythm of death: it’s all going to go. All our precious ideas, all our precious warm feelings: gone. Relationships: gone. And if we don’t keep pouring ourselves back into that Stillness in our practice, then we’re lost. We have to be willing to let go of all that is personal, again and again. My bones. My breath. In the end there’s not much else, except this funny little dance that they’re doing together for a few fleeting moments, while Adam Barley seems to be alive.

So our personal story; it’s not that it doesn’t exist, but we have to be willing to treat it like it is, which is just some paints we’ve been given. Some colours. We’ve just been given some colours. Let’s paint a picture. That’s my creative work: let’s paint a picture. Oh! – all those feelings – does she like me? – am I doing a good job out there? – all that stuff – give it up, give it up, give it up – and create something beautiful out of it.

dancersunset

Awakening #5

WE’RE ALREADY HERE, AND THIS IS ALREADY HAPPENING (Stillness)

So this is the first of five notes on awakening – five different styles or stages, one related to each rhythm. There’s an intro about it here.

Each of these five notes relates to one of the rhythms, but I’m going to go in reverse order, starting with this one related to Stillness.

Let me tell you a story.

Before I took on the rhythms as my practice, I was engaged for ten years in a sitting meditation practice taught by an Indian guru. The rules were very clear – you sit for an hour a day, every day. So when I fell in love with the rhythms and decided to make them a regular practice, it felt natural to give them the same priority. Each day I would show up for my practice, have a moment to feel into what I would focus on and then go for it.

After many years of this, one morning I found myself knowing that my next step as a 5Rhythms student was to give up this daily routine thing. I didn’t understand why at first, but the intuition was clear and I chose to trust it.

I didn’t dance that day. Or the next. Or the next. And I found that my daily life had to change. I became aware that I had created a pattern which acted as a safety valve, allowing me to blow off steam, release my energy, have an experience of deep inner freedom etc that allowed me to cope with continuing to some extent as the same old repressed Adam for the other 23 hours a day. I had to become more expressive, more unconventional, more creative, or I would go nuts. I had to let the spirit of my 5Rhythms experience flood into my every waking moment because there was no outlet any more in my own little practice zone.

It was a major awakening moment for me, and something has stuck. Yes, I still love to dance of course. I love to go wild and throw my limbs around, let my head go and drop into the beat. I love to fall into that zone where dreaming becomes awake in motion, alone or with others. It’s bliss. But there’s something more subtle that has become just as important to me. Something that I’m tracking all the time, listening for all the time. A kind of open silence, a simple awareness.

chopwood

This is the fifth style of awakening, and one we could all cultivate any time we remember and choose.

To listen to the no-sound of the breath, expanding into the stillness and spaciousness that brings.

To tune into the same consciousness we find when we dance – aware of the body, it’s instincts and hunches about timing, space, and pace.

To allow the free flow and creative expression of our feelings in and out of relationship with others, including more body-awareness and embodied communication with our friends, lovers, and enemies, remembering how to speak straight from the heart, and listen with everything we have.

To totally engage in the moment to moment teachings and alchemy that the events of our lives are constantly giving us – whether in a brush with a stranger, an intimacy with our family, a conflict with a friend, or encounters with birth, death, sex, money, and creative endeavour. All the stuff of life has the potential for deep and profound personal evolution, both as healing and growth. Whether you dance daily at home, weekly at your local class, or in periodic high-octane blasts at workshops, a strong practice will create and strengthen pathways in your body-heart-mind that make this kind of engagement more readily available. Gabrielle Roth, the founder of this practice, communicated this kind of engagement with life so beautifully in all three of her books. (If you haven’t read them, just do it. They’re brilliant.) There’s something about movement practices that do this particularly well I think. Because they’re rooted in the body, they create pathways within us, new neural networks, that engage us with ourselves and each other in a very ‘whole’ way. Then off the dance floor those same pathways quite naturally get used to engage us in some mysterious way with life, allowing it to affect us more deeply and teach us more vibrantly, shaking us loose from our moorings of social convention, constantly nudging us awake.

Nudge me awake. More please. Next step. I’m waking up again. A little more. Listen. Yes. Now. Take a breath. This is it. Let love in. Let myself show. Let life hurt me. Let life bless me. Let go, let go, let go. Let go of letting go and stick with something long enough for creation to happen. Let this be. Here we come.

All these things happen all the time. There is no need for a dance floor. No need to move in a way that would look weird whilst shopping for vegetables at the market.

Now is the moment of power.

Awakening #4

THERE’S A WORLD OUT THERE! (Lyrical)

There’s a common impulse I’ve witnessed a thousand times amongst people who fall in love with this practice. Very early on, even after their first deep moment on the dance floor, they will have the urge to teach. This is very natural in one way, and yet often a subtle case of mistaken identity. The mind is grasping for a concept it can understand in the face of a felt experience that’s new.

When we move through the rhythms, the increased fluidity of the body is obvious. So is the increased depth and intensity of our feelings. What is more subtle and not always noticed is the experience of integration that happens. There’s an inner connectivity and alignment, that in turn creates a spaciousness through which the breath can flow more freely, and this soulful experience of ourselves immediately opens up the desire to offer ourselves creatively to the world.

And the truth is, the world is absolutely parched for what you have to give. That warmth and love and generous impulse to connect in a creative responsive way is so desperately needed everywhere, it’s not even funny. Even if the world was in a healthy way, it would still be thirsty for you, but given the edge we’re walking globally, ‘thirsty’ is not even close. The world is dying for the creative impulse that is you, and it’s a mutual force of attraction. That impulse to give from what you experience on the dance floor is IT.

And this is the 4th way of awakening.

Give
Generously
with great gratitude
and celebrate
what you find there

give1

Story:
The other day I was going to see an old friend, and the retreat centre she’s been building for the last few years. I wanted to take some flowers to her, but as I drove, all I could see were standard shops and petrol stations with wilted bunches of sorrow outside. Within a few villages of my destination I thought I’d have to settle for less, went into one such place past the tired carnations in a bucket. It was busy in there, with a small crowd of people at the till. The woman serving caught my eye through the customers, and sidestepping my English “don’t make too much noise”, I followed a sudden impulse to call out loudly to her so everyone could hear, asking if there was by any chance a florist anywhere near. Everyone turned around and looked at me, and I smiled back as several people at once lit up and told me yes, there is one “just a few streets away opposite the pub down there”, pointing back the way I’d come. It was only a small village, and not very wealthy, and it was clear that they were proud to be able to tell me this. I thanked them gladly and went to find it.

A few minutes later, watching the owner doing a truly beautiful job of wrapping my tulips, I told her what had happened in the shop; of how proud the locals were to have a ‘proper florists’ like this in their village. She was so pleased it was delightful to see.

Both these impulses to speak out in the way I did – the timing, the words I chose, the body language and eye contact I used with it – a lot of it I learnt on the dance floor, and honed in daily life. And the feeling inside it, the generosity, I know has roots in my movement practice too.

Everyone involved left those interactions feeling lighter and more awake, I’m sure. We all could be doing this a whole lot. Like, a lot.

And that’s just a small example of what I mean.
There’s also the way you parent your children.
Then there’s your work.
And what about your relationship with nature? Do you garden? Walk or sit with awareness there? Plant trees anywhere?

Do you have enough outlets that feel creative?
I guess you dance, or you wouldn’t be reading this, but do you sing, or play an instrument?
Write poetry or tell stories?
Paint or draw?
Massage your friends’ shoulders?
All of those things can be done in ways that are not particularly creative, but we need to allow the kind of free spirited creative exploration we get into on the dance floor to happen through other avenues too.

Do you give thanks as a practice?
Specifically and explicitly?
And celebrate what you have?

How about the way you sweep a floor? Or the way you give attention?

Creative action is revolutionary. Each creative step taken, where we don’t quite know what we’re doing but have all senses blazing, moving with courage, relating with compassion, is a waking up situation. Over and over again. Because waking up is not a one time thing, it’s an over and over again remembering, reconnecting, reinventing of ourselves.

Give
generously
with great gratitude
and celebrate
what you find there

“Each man comes into this world with a specific destiny: he has something to fulfil, some message has to be delivered, some work has to be completed. You are not here accidentally, you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The whole intends to do something through you. Drop the idea of becoming someone, because you are already a masterpiece. You cannot be improved. You have only to come to it, to know it, to realize it.”
Osho

Awakening #3

ALL CHANGE!! (Chaos)

“The time between when you jump and when you land – that’s God.”
Gabrielle Roth

We get these turning points, don’t we, where something has to change.

Sometimes change comes as evolution, feeling natural and easy, Flowing-style. But sometimes it storms through as a Chaotic force. We can feel our moorings being swept away, our foundations being shaken, our hat being blown off. We can sense we’re being asked to let go of the old with no guarantees over where we’ll end up. We may not even feel like we have a choice, and find ourselves torn from the hand-holds we’re desperately clinging to.

When this comes on the dance floor – when we’re already physically fluid and connected, when we’re already emotionally open and vibrant – even then there’s often a moment of hesitation, of resistance, of “Oh no, not really?!? Am I really about to become that alive???” Then before we know it we’re over the edge and it’s happening, we’re breaking through and it feels amazing.

In day to day life though, it’s a bigger ask. It comes on a timescale of days, weeks or even longer, so the impulse to change bumps up against our sludgy suppressions, rigid routines, and addictive avoidances. We get to encounter the force of life as it tries to move through a self that is not as integrated or brilliant as when we’re on the dance floor: less embodied, less emotionally available, less willing to be moved freely. We’re afraid of coming off the rails.

rails

Thank God for our practice. And Gabrielle. Essential medicine to take all that mind-chatter we can get into, and turn ditched-up into danced-out. To take all those emotional states back to the beat, whether volcanic or fragile, and give them the space to move, express, and create. Most of all, to just get physical again: to be that simple. Like this we have a hope of remaining on the surfboard while life does its extreme sport phase with us.

But like all things related to Chaos, this style of awakening doesn’t involve a whole lot of control. We can make ourselves ready by developing a good grounding in awareness practices, and by literally practicing the dance of Chaos, so we have some choice about how we respond to what comes, but we don’t get to control the outcome. We’d better just practice surfing day by day so we have the muscles, consciousness and courage to ride the big ones when they come.

Long ago, late one night at a certain large festival in a desert somewhere, dancing the night away with a couple of very sexy women on a podium, I found myself in one moment thinking “this is soooo cool!!”…. until the very next breath when it all turned to ashes, and the world stopped for a second. I suddenly saw all the flashing lights, the cacophony of sound systems thumping for miles around, the heaving bodies dancing frantically – all of it as a hugely elaborate and dramatic distraction from our pain. My pain. I wandered off into the night to sit by myself. I sat very still and felt how deep my loneliness goes.

Sometimes awakening happens in a flash. Then it’s a matter of setting about clearing up the mess we’ve made whilst thrashing around in our sleep. Open the curtains. Stretch. Tidy up. Ask for a little forgiveness. Say a little thanks. Make some tea. Turn our focus to Awakening #4.

Note: It can be incredibly useful to get some specific individual support at times like this, either from a trusted 5Rhythms teacher, or from some other modality. We sometimes need help to deal with the way our fear, vulnerability and shame kick in, meshed with deep rooted wounding, defences, and blinkered thinking. Sometimes doing an intense workshop can trigger this kind of whole-system change: do remember to ask for help if you need it. Sometimes we need to find a damn good therapist, or a wise-woman healer, or a friend to just their arms around us on the sofa for a while.

Awakening #2

READY, AIM, FIRE! – (Staccato)

Going with the Flow is great when the time is right, and a Chaos-worshipping surrender to the big mystery is bliss when it comes naturally. But in between these mighty rhythms lives the much-maligned masculine deity of Staccato, and sometimes when Father says ‘stop’ we’d better stop. And when he says ‘go’ we’d better get off our ass and do it, because quite simply if we don’t there will be trouble.

Once you’ve left home and that archetype is deep in your heart (or to the extent that he’s not, he’s showing up on the outside, courtesy of the grand choreography of life) these dictates can be just as irksome as they were when we were 9 years old, but even more imperative.

There are times when what’s needed in our spiral path of waking up to life is to get proactive and do something. To look care-fully at our situation and make a choice: I will now walk this way, not that way. It might be an outer choice around work, love, or lifestyle, or it might be a call to focus inwards and work on something specific in yourself. It’s the latter I want to focus on because this is the bit directly related to the 5Rhythms practice, and I think it holds huge untapped potential for us as a group of inner travellers.

This way of working seems to be a big unexplored wilderness for most people who love the rhythms; many times when I start coaching someone to use their practice in this specific staccato-style way they will tell me they’ve never tried it before. For example people who have struggled for years with their inner critic have never embodies that critic or done the dance of being under its thumb, and are surprised at the idea they could, let alone that they could have fun doing it. Partly this is because people haven’t done the levels of practice where you learn to get a handle on your patterns (Cycles and Mirrors: just do it!), but I think it’s also part of our 5rhythms culture.

We show up and dance our socks off, which moves stuff around, releases some day to day toxicity, opens us up to others, and plugs us back into source. It feels good. But not many of us stop to look deep into the mirror, see what needs working on, and then create a specific movement-based pathway to facilitate that. Not many of us get one-to-one tuition, which is so very helpful if you want to pierce deeply through the veils of your own blind spots.

What’s up with you? What’s going on in your life, and what’s your next step? What are you longing for? What are you scared of? Can you see how this plays out on the dance floor? If not, why not? Are you making yourself normal even there? What are your 5rhythms habits? Are they working for your enlightenment or keeping you safe, muffled from your own edge?

We have to be willing to feel and move through the discomfort of denial dissolving, to embody express and release the emotional energy locked up in our patterns, to dig down into the roots of those patterns (from childhood, culture, or ancestry), and detach ourselves from the ego characters keeping the show running through the same old same-olds. We have to find our creative drive to expand beyond what we know and become who we might be.

archer

As with most things Staccato, this kind of self-confrontation is often uncomfortable at first, and requires a degree of self-discipline, until the new pathways being carved out begin to fire us up. It also requires a kind of creative intelligence in the way we deal with ourselves, to apply our situation to the mapped landscape that unfolds so endlessly and intricately from the basic five-fold shapes of the rhythms.

You could ask your local teacher if they’re willing to give you some individual coaching. If they don’t feel like the right person for that (the person who holds a good space for your local class might not have the experience to do so, or the chemistry between you might not be good for that) you could ask around for another teacher who could help you. Or go find a good therapist or healer to help you see yourself, and then create your own movement practices to investigate and expand upon what you’re learning there.

Be curious. Focus on the presence of your situation. Take aim. Loose the arrow. Go for it!

NOTE: this kind of individual work has become one of my favourite ways to work with people, but it takes time, so it tends to only happen during on-going groups like Awakening, or in the workshop Deep Focus which is specifically designed for this kind of study. However, I am also available to do a bit of coaching via skype. Get in touch if you’re interested.

Awakening #1

ANOTHER ORDINARY DAY – (Flowing) sunrise

“Life in itself is so beautiful that to ask the question of the meaning of life is simply nonsense.” – Osho

This morning, the sun came up: as it does. I saw it peeking through the trees on the other side of the valley, still in my dressing gown, making breakfast for Lorca and the boys, and as the beautiful golden light poured into the kitchen, I was glad to be alive. Nothing needed to be done other than stirring porridge, making tea, chatting about homework and batman. Gently waking up to another day.

Growing up happens. Life alternately showers us with blessings and rubs off our corners, uplifts us and takes us down. We get what we need, not necessarily what we want.

When I first read Maps To Ecstasy I remember being vividly struck by the possibility that life has built into it the process of enlightenment. After a decade of meditating religiously and reading many books alluding to this seemingly impossible to reach goal, it was a novel idea that the everyday business of living could actually be taking me in the right direction if I could just get out of the way and allow it’s natural momentum to carry me.

Finding our way in the world, making friends, learning to love, raising children, dealing with money, building a home, tending to a garden, finding one’s community, creating meaningful work, and above all step by step facing the reality of our own death… all these things are profound tasks that alter us deep down inside. Sometimes dramatic, often ordinary, day to day life is a big thing to learn to manage, and to adapt to as it changes, and the iterative awakening of power, wisdom, and responsibility is inevitable.

Except it’s not.

According to Native American wisdom we all have one deep-rooted addiction: to our primary pain. No-one escapes this, it’s just part of the deal of human existence at this point. This fundamental wounding and attachment then manifests in those patterns we all know so well before getting as far as obvious substance or behavioural abuse – the tendencies to shirk responsibility, avoid awkward decisions, to suppress difficult feelings, to generally shunt ourselves back towards unconsciousness. Many of us spent long years practicing the art of denial before it got to some breaking point and we found something deep inside crying out for more. And then having taken our brave first steps to reverse this imprinted cultural tide, it’s still terribly easy to fall backwards at any time.

This is where a practice that works for your life and lifestyle is invaluable, sustaining a subtle ground of awareness that’s always there, strengthening the entire span of your presence from body to spirit, helping to keep you emotionally clear, and giving you an avenue for healing as and when it’s needed.

The other thing a good practice does is make us more available and alive to the teachings that life naturally offers us day to day. It’s as though the daily flow of life can take us one of two ways long term – either becoming chronic drudgery or on-going awakening. At any point we have a choice about which way to turn, and a strong practice that works on all levels of the psyche – like the 5rhythms does – simply helps.

Thank you Gabrielle, what an amazing gift.

Good morning…….
Dance, anyone?

”You can’t stop the flow of life, but you can constipate it!” – Gabrielle Roth

bekind

Awakening – intro

 

Connected to this year’s on-going group, Awakening, I am writing a series of five Red Line posts, about five styles of awakening. Here’s the intro to the series…

Maybe it sounds a bit grand, calling this year’s on-going group “Awakening”. My English tendency towards understatement didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s not even my idea. Or Eckhart Tolle’s! Everybody’s saying it.

All over the world, from Tibet to the Amazon rainforest, indigenous wisdom keepers have been saying for a few decades now that the time has come for their most sacred teachings to be shared freely with anyone who will listen – human consciousness ‘technologies’ that have for countless generations only been passed down orally to carefully trained initiates.

But beyond even that, we all feel it, see it, know it in our guts: we’re not just on the brink, we’re off the edge and falling.

Well, that’s Chaos. Chaos falls. The wave needs to break.

After ten thousand years of gathering Staccato momentum, pushing out and forwards like all good waves do, it’s come to the point where that forward motion has become unsustainable, and the pull of mamma earth is taking over again. Such is the nature of Chaos, and this wave is so huge, we’re seeing the beginning of a break so mighty, we can barely begin to grasp it’s depth or power.

FAR OUT!!!

How are your surfing skills, people???

How are you with ‘down’ as a direction?
(You know that Flowing moves in, Staccato out, Lyrical up, Stillness centred, right? Got a problem with “Down we go!”?) ***

nextwave

Having been through one of the most difficult passages of my life so far in the last few months I feel both stripped and stronger, ready for a big year ahead. Ready to explore this theme of Awakening, which no doubt will be present at all dance floors, all mediation cushions, and all kitchen stoves all over the world as we go farther in, farther out, farther down, farther up, farther through.

Because as far as I can see, there’s no escaping what’s going on. For any of us. We do get some degree of choice as to how, like whether you want to do pharmaceutically engineered, mass media driven, ego feeding nightmares on the one extreme, or whether you’re willing to turn around and look deep into the mirror, dancing with what you find there.

You going to live in the shadow of Chaos?

Or dive into the eye of the storm, and keep waking up?

The answer is probably a bit of both isn’t it? Because awakening is not a one time thing. It’s a moment to moment, day by day, step by step process. Never ending.

I’ll break down the process into five clear stages or styles of waking up. First one coming in a few days. Watch this space.

with love,
Adam

*** Seriously, on that subject, if you do have a fear of down as a direction, or Chaos as an experience, ask your local teacher for some guidance that’s specific to your personal chemistry.
Let your head go. Feel the feelings, do the practice anyway, and have faith in small steps as well as big ones. Trust that as you learn on the dance floor, so it’s easier to be in the kitchen. Remember you’re an organic system not a website: change happens as a spiral process not an immediate result.

Attention Wave +

Dear Red Line followers,
This post from last week – your responses made me realise I could have been more explicit. I meant for you to use this as an inspiration, and create your own waves. What aspect of human experience could you investigate? Can you find the rhythms moving through it?

my practice this morning

pay attention

persistently
fiercely
totally
tenderly
spaciously

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. 

Addiction to peak experience – what else is possible?

On the island in Poland a couple of weeks ago I found myself talking about chasing peak experiences in spiritual practice. How I sought deep and meaningful experiences as though that was the goal and the benchmark of good practice.

Er… no… that’s one fifth…..

Technical note for those interested in such things: each aspect of practice discussed here is obviously in vibrational resonance with one of the rhythms, but that does not mean that aspect is only properly experienced when ‘in’ that rhythm. For instance, a peak experience is related to Chaos, but can just as well be experienced in Stillness as at any other time.

A new phase

I’m going to own up to something (now that I’m not doing it any more!).

I’ve been through a long long period – many years – of focussing on the discipline of our practice. I’ve been fascinated by what happens when we dedicate ourselves to mastering the form of the rhythms: having all five gateways in motion (feet, hips, head, hands, breath), when we diligently focus on the art of each rhythm, embodying our feelings, emptying our head trips into the dance. When we move even when we don’t feel like it, just including the “don’t feel like it” as another dance to embody.

It’s been an exciting investigation for me, and has taught me a great deal both personally and as a 5Rhythms teacher.

But everything has its shadow, and the shadow of this phase for me has been a kind of rigidity. I was becoming a bit stuck in my ways. Like, it would really bug me if someone wasn’t moving their feet, or had their mouth clamped shut. It was bugging me too much: it was clear that in some way my feet were stuck in one spot.

So there came a period of deep questioning, where I just found myself scouring out all these stuck ways and sticking them in the washing machine. I questioned everything, let go of all the assumptions and blueprints that I’d been holding onto, and fell into the nowhere zone.

question

It wasn’t very comfortable of course, but coming out the other side I find myself rejuvenated, like a new spring day, not bugged about stuff in the same way. I still know and cherish the value of disciplined practice, but I’ve begun to grow another branch within my teaching, and am very grateful for this turn in the journey as well as all that has been so far.

I love this about teaching the rhythms – it won’t let me go to sleep for long. The process demands that I am engaged in a constant cycle of growth, part of which is very challenging, like anything.

If you were ever on the receiving end of that rigidity from me in a way that hurt, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m only human, and learning stuff like everyone.

Let’s raise our eyes up, help each other out, keep rubbing each others’ corners off. Thank you to those of you who helped me see that I wasn’t seeing.

A guide to Heartbeat work

How to move through Heartbeat work with integrity?

Years ago I would have thought that a strange question. I believed the accuracy and potency of the Heartbeat map to be enough to ensure a healthy experience for anyone who moved through it. However, there are some things about getting older that are wonderful: becoming more aware of detail and subtlety is one of them, and it’s clear to me that many of us ride roughshod through our own integrity on the dance floor.

This astonishingly powerful practice, which builds integrity so simply and effectively, needs care and attention after the first flush of freedom and rejuvenation that comes when we are new to it.

On the one hand, people often don’t have the resources, or simply don’t care about themselves enough to face their inertia and investigate it, but that’s another blog post.

The subject of this one is how we can easily get carried away by the heat and drama of a group experience, especially working with fear and anger. We get bigger and busier than is really true for us, missing the specific personal nuances of our relationship with those emotions in the moment.

The result of that is at the very least a missed opportunity for healing and self-knowledge. At worst it’s the re-traumatising of the organic system that we are, which is a serious mis-taken path for a healing practice.

As a teacher I can set up the space and create awareness of this danger, or I can be oblivious to it and get carried away myself, which I’m sorry to say is what I’ve sometimes done especially as a younger man.

However, the group animal has its own life and will, and at times it’s going to be full on wild.

mountainpathSo then it is up to you as a dancer to trust your own experience and stay true to your own flow even if it’s nothing like the main current in the room.

That takes practice and determination, and is one of the main reasons why it’s so important that you have a grounding in the physical level of the 5rhythms maps (“Waves”) before tackling the emotional Heartbeat work.

It may be that your fear-chaos dance is simply a very slight trembling in the hips, not the dramatic flailing dance that you might expect. Maybe it needs to start with you lying on the floor, because the event from years ago that your body is trying to release happened while you were lying down. You don’t necessarily need to know where a long-buried feeling came from, but your body has its own intelligence, and will guide you if you are willing and able to listen.

I’ve been teaching Heartbeat for a while now, since 1999, and it’s been a big part of my own practice since 1991. From all I’ve seen and experienced, I have some suggestions for you to stay true to yourself as you go through the intense experience that is a Heartbeat workshop:

 

    • Trust your own experience, being willing to be different from anyone else in the room.

 

    • Stay very aware of your breath, letting it be part of your movement, and listen keenly to the signals of your body, the position it wants to be in, the way it wants to move, whether it wants to make sound.

 

    • When we’ve been wounded emotionally, we become misshapen inside – deformed – and to release that we have to experience that deformity embodied. Be willing to take very strange shapes sometimes, or move like someone with a mental illness, or a child who’s crazed with distress. Let go of the way you ‘normally’ dance.

 

    • If you know that you’re dealing with severe trauma (most of us are actually, but it’s not always at the surface of our conscious experience; just keep tracking and stay curious), then you might do well to get some individual coaching with a teacher you trust. You could at least ask for time to talk to your teacher about it before or after a session.

 

  • Remember that this is not therapy. It’s a spiritual practice that evokes your ability to heal yourself at the deepest level. And that involves turning your suffering into art. However intense your suffering is, don’t take yourself as seriously as the wounded child inside would like you to. Dance for your life.

Of course it may also be on another day that all such advice is totally unnecessary, and you can just go steaming in and have a rocking great dance. Letting fear and anger rip through you unimpeded can be incredibly good fun and exhilarating, the power and beauty of sadness unleashed completely awesome, the sweetness of joy and vastness of compassion just mind-blowing. But as with any exploration of wilderness, it’s good to know how to handle yourself if you get into difficulty.

It’s up to you……

A blindspot, a teaching, and a laugh

There’s only one thing Gabrielle told us during our teacher training that I really remember, but 23 years later it’s still as clear as a bell: “Get ready. You’re going to be doing your healing in public now.”

I’ve found that to be true a thousand times in front of a room of dancers, but since choosing to have a blog as a teaching forum that ‘public’ thing has become way more so.

I trust the flow of my feet, listening for my next step pretty spontaneously, both in life and in my teaching. It’s not a very safe way to move, but I rather like that. Often the consequences seem miraculous and magical, and sometimes I land flat on my face in the mud. That has just happened, so I have a disclosure to make, in order to set things straight and allow the field — including myself — to rebalance. It’s a deeply held principle for me that when I’m teaching and I mess up, then I will be transparent about that and make amends. In a room of dancers that might be as subtle as allowing a shift in my stance and perspective, or at the other extreme it might involve me literally explaining what I see and apologising.

In this case it’s about my previous blog post; the one about contact improv in a 5R space, within which I’d ebulliently pointed the finger at two dancers, criticising them for being caught in the shadow of Lyrical, the ‘Impresario’. A couple of good friends were kind enough to contact me and gently suggest I take a look in the mirror.

contact

As I did my homework, what I saw was so funny that I literally laughed out loud. There in the mirror I could see myself strutting around in exactly that same character, and not only generally so, but even specifically in the way I’d written that blog post!

What a classic.

Another of Gabrielle’s gems was to remind us to be a teaching rather than a teacher. I hope that offering up my blindspot as a giveaway like this will serve; that my mis-step and now this adjustment gives you a chance to smile, and breathe the sigh of relief that usually comes with the truth.

One last thing: I totally stand by the substance of what I said about mixing CI and 5R. It was just the way I said it that was off. I don’t think they mix together well, both because of the subtle quality of presence that’s different for each, and for physical safety. CI is a great practice, and as I said, I am very grateful for having some of those skills, but using them within my 5R practice (which can work really well) is very different from actually shifting modes and essentially practicing CI whilst everyone else in the room is practicing 5R. I’ve now edited the original version of that post to remove the finger pointing, having had conversations with both the dancers I was referring to, and acknowledging my foolishness personally with a good few laughs about it. 

With big thanks to Ya’Acov and Kinga.

“Beyond” the rhythms

Breakthroughs can come in unlikely places, and they’re not always spectacular.

Lorca and I have just had the honour and pleasure of giving our Live Wire workshop in Krakow, at a wonderful new black box theatre there. Friday evening we got everything set up with time to spare, and I got to use the whole huge space to dance alone for a while. It felt like one of the more significant moments I’ve ever had in 25 years of working with the rhythms, yet it wasn’t dramatic at all.

I simply felt a shift in emphasis, from the practice to the source. Somehow I’ve been listening to the source through a filter of the rhythms, always focussing on the practice rather than what’s behind it. That fell away on Friday, and I feel like I’ll never dance the same again.

This shift is in the field generally at the moment for sure, and I owe it in a big way to some recent conversations with old friends, particularly Andrea, Susannah & Ya’Acov, Kathy & Lori. The GrandChoreographer has been laying the ground for this awhile though, and I can see it fitting with fine synchrony into the pattern of the next couple of months too. I’ll turn 50 in August, and as it happens, the first workshop I’ll be teaching in this next decade of my life will be the long summer residential in Poland, which this year is fundamentally rooted in Stillness.

So this breakthrough is perfect, because in many ways what happens in that rhythm is a disappearance of form. I feel deeply ready, and no doubt will be more so by the time I get there. I’m being moved, like we all are. On good days, I manage to use my will effectively and can probably claim a little responsibility for my path, but I’m reminded of something my first meditation teacher said – that we only need make 1 step towards Spirit, and Spirit will take 99 towards us.

monks

It has always been my fascination, and still is, to keep expanding the ways we travel through the rhythms maps. For instance, working on some old and new trauma patterning using Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing in the last few years, I began to perceive big gaps in the way I’d been teaching the Heartbeat maps, and my experience of Hellinger’s Constellations work continues to inform me of limitations in the ways we’re tackling the Cycles maps.

However, I don’t think that this indicates any shortcomings of the Rhythms themselves as maps, it’s just that we are still very young in our development of their potential. The body of work that has grown out of this five-fold pattern is still growing, that’s all. It’s up to all of us, teachers and dancers alike, to keep adding our own wisdom and experience, influencing the ways it grows.

I could be wrong, but the rhythms seem limitless in their potential: it’s just up to us to keep expanding the ways we use them, and not to confuse the essential nature of these 5R maps with the human stuff that’s grown up around it with its attendant inevitable limitations. The latter is temporal and is up to all of us. The maps themselves are the most elegant fractal I’ve ever come across, and keep yielding fruit as long as we’re willing to use them, which – and this is crucial! – includes periodically letting them disappear back into the mysterious emptiness from which they came.