This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and are not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
Somehow on Friday I managed to arrive a little late to Tammy’s Night Waves class, although I arrived in front of the Joffrey building thirty minutes before the start of class. I would not say that I am chronically late, but I do note a pattern. Class nearly always begins with the rhythm of Flowing—the rhythm that is the most opposite to how I see myself. I have written extensively about how important and challenging the teachings of Flowing have been to me; and wonder if this might not have something to do with my occasional late entrances.
Tammy had several beautiful teaching points. One was to note that there is often a particular rhythm that people distance themselves from. This could show up as just not being into it, stopping movement completely, telling yourself a story about how misguided everyone else is and how on point you are, literally leaving the room (or, perhaps in my case, showing up just a bit late, leaning the tiniest bit away from the teacher of Flowing.)
I reflected on a period lasting a year or more when I noticed that I would go wild with the joy of Chaos, then, the moment the music transitioned us into Lyrical, instead of carrying that joy into levity, I would panic. For months, I could not resist going to check my phone, certain there had been some sort of emergency with my small son. I knew it was just a function of my triggered mind, but I had to go through with checking nonetheless. It was as though the kind of joy that arises for me during Lyrical was too much–harder to face, for example, than grief, guilt or aggression.
On Friday, the room seemed emptier than usual. I wandered for some time before I found a spot to sink down temporary roots to unfurl and stretch. Tammy began the wave subtlely, suggesting that we focus on different parts of the body, leading me to a contemplative, interior mood.
I’ve been reading a book called “Mindset” by a renowned educational psychologist. The researcher’s position is that most people align with either a “fixed” or a “growth” mindset. People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that you are born with certain abilities that inevitably express as talent. People with a growth mindset tend to believe that you are born with a range of capacities and that hard work and the ability to incorporate feedback are the keys to success. The interesting thing (and important for my own insight) is that even seeing yourself as smart, competent, creative and capable can be problematic. In this case, research shows that people will defend their smartness, creativeness or capableness—even shying away from working hard because hard work might somehow disprove their inherent talent, especially if they were to work hard and fail.
People with a growth mindset tend to see failure as a challenge, or as information they can use to grow. This brings me to Tammy’s remarks about people who check out—or even literally leave the room—during a particular rhythm. The growth-minded amongst us are willing to hang with discomfort and challenge, and are willing to at least try to stay in the room even when all our sensors tell us to run screaming. It seems like the rhythms that are least comfortable might offer the greatest possibilities for challenge and growth.
As has been true lately, I found all kinds of new ways to move. In Chaos, there was a marching, driving, military song. Tammy made a suggestion about moving with resistance. I balled my fists, drew my elbows back taut, and marched away—then released again into boundless, unrestrained Chaos.
As the first wave ended I found myself in a shamanic-like trance. Tammy said something about experiencing multi-dimensional breath. I first took this to mean space in all directions, and expanded the ways I was moving to include all possible heights and orientations. Then, I took it to mean all times and spaces that have existed, moving into different territory entirely. During the period of Stillness, I experienced compelling visions.
The fixed mindset/growth mindset information, along with Tammy’s suggestion about staying with it even when you want to check out, led me to think about how I, myself, have been affected by fixed mindset. As a child, I could sense two things about myself. The first is that I had an iron-hard core of strength that ran right through the middle of me. All I had to do was pause and turn inward to sense it. The second is that I was smart. I grew up believing I was smart (I can even remember the moment it first formed as a construct), and being told that I was smart all the time by well-meaning parents, teachers and relatives.
When I was 7 or 8 my Dad was slightly contemptuous when he believed I mispronounced a word. Around the same time, my uncle told me my favorite author, Stephen King, was “a fountain of trash literature.” I took both of these incidents as an affront to my smartness and began to set up architecture to support my vision of myself.
As I was considering the idea of fixed mindset, I also thought about all the energy I wasted wondering if I was a “good” artist. It wasn’t until after I had my son (and no longer had time to waste on neurotic internal dialogues) that I realized the question is completely un-important. Since I don’t believe there is any inherent meaning or any inherent self, there is no point whatsoever in considering this question. What matters more is making, process, progress, challenge and growth.
I went through a period when I realized that I was actually quite arrogant, and that I had developed kind of false meekness in an attempt to hide the arrogance. I had no choice but to express the arrogance for a time, in an effort to find some kind of authenticity. After a recent conflict with my son’s father, my mother told me that I can be kind of “rigid, sometimes” when it comes to things that concern my small son. She also told me it can come across as haughty. Ouch. The same week, I asked my boss to mediate a dispute with a colleague (hoping she would take my side); and she told me if I wanted to make any real progress—right or wrong—I would have to find some humility (implying, therefore, that she thought I lacked humility, at least in this instance). Ouch.
When I get similar feedback from more than one source, I have to at least entertain it as a serious possibility. Do I lack humility? Have I developed a kind of arrogance, perhaps to defend my self-perception as smart? OUCH. (Did I just write that?)
Thankfully, I am willing, even when I want to disconnect from the rhythm at hand, to at least stay in the room. Through practice (both 5Rhythms and in a meditation tradition) I have attempted to root out what the educational psychologist calls “fixed mindset,” yet I keep finding hidden reserves that surprise me.
On Friday, I danced with a friend I love to dance with and was sad when our dance dissolved. One of the last songs of the wave kept switching back and forth between a driving chaos track and a bounding Irish jig and I found myself in every different part of the room, moving quickly through both high and low spaces.
Often writing about my experience of 5Rhythms practice leads me to cathartic insight, poetic awareness or profound gratitude. Sometimes it ties itself into a neat bow by the last paragraph. On this occasion, it gives me more information to consider as I go about making my life, and, hopefully, to use to inform my practice both on and off the dance floor.
December 14, 2014, NYC