Note on Practice

January 4, 2014, Brooklyn, NY

Last night dance was not fun. Everyone else seemed to be having fun, but I could barely move. I notice that once I start not having fun, I wish that I could connect with someone, but at once lose my ability to connect. Most of the time, I move fluidly between partners—noticing that some people are more appealing to me and others are less appealing—but in some way it doesn’t matter. We flow in and out of each other. When I am not having fun—let’s just say it—when I feel isolated, it is an entirely different story. Last night, I hoped Tammy would instruct us to partner so I could get out of my self-made bubble, but she didn’t. Not even once.

I have a “bad” dance from time to time. Or, rather, an unpleasant one. Sometimes even several in a row. Early in my narrative of doing 5Rhythms, there was a painful period of several months when I left every dance feeling angry and isolated. I layered despair on top of all that because I was afraid the gigantic, epic experiences I had come to expect on the dance floor had deserted me forever. There were several dancers who triggered me frequently during those months, and my brain tried to blame them for my not-fun, though I knew I was just looking for a scapegoat.

Thankfully, by the time this painful season set in, I had already taken on 5Rhythms as one of my core practices, so I never considered not attending. The alchemy that 5Rhythms catalyzed for me was immediately apparent and I knew it was well worth my wholehearted commitment. For the first several months in 5Rhythms Waves classes I wept throughout every class. I found that I had to collapse again and again, and went through a period of writhing and twisting on the floor. I felt like I was working through layers and layers of shit, and I was surprised to find that I liked what I found underneath it all.

For me, my connections to particular practices arise organically. I try something out, and if I notice I have developed a habit, I put the new practice under a microscope to consider if the time and energy it requires are worth what it will give me. Really, I want to know if it will make me happier, and if it will make me a better influence on the world.

For example, four years ago, I started writing haikus as a fun exchange with my sister. We never actually wound up sharing any haikus with each other, but the project evolved into a practice of writing a poem a day, which I have maintained since that time. I like the practice because it helps me to stay connected with the poetic aspects of my daily experience.

Once I decide to define something as a practice, I do it whether it is fun or not. Some nights midnight comes quickly, I know I have to be up at 5.45AM and still I have to write a poem. The entire poem might be something like, “Exhausted. Bed calling me. Loud.” Sometimes it is beautiful. Since it is a practice, it makes no difference.

This is the most fantastic secret: discipline is the gateway to joy and to freedom. There are truly some upsides to growing older, and this one is huge. Gabrielle taught me this. Tammy taught me this. Real freedom may look controlled.

In fact, Gabrielle built discipline into the fundamental practice. No matter what, in a 5Rhythms class you have to keep moving, even if it is subtle. Gabrielle often said, “A body in motion will heal itself.” Whether it is good or bad, pleasant or un-pleasant, fun or un-fun, eventually it will shift again. Probably someday I will even have another dance that I think is the best ever.

Though I am usually drenched by the end of a class, I barely sweated this time. I took a shower afterward anyway, knowing that the next class will be a fresh start where anything can happen.

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