When Jilsarah Moscowitz taught the first Sweat Your Prayers class of the spring season two years ago, for the first time ever I considered the possibility that I might secretly have a lyrical nature.* This came as a great surprise since from the very beginning of my 5Rhythms path, Lyrical had always seemed incomprehensible and inaccessible, except in tiny, occasional glimpses. Today, the first day of spring, Jilsarah again taught the Sunday Sweat Your Prayers class; and I was again granted wings, though my lyrical side is, by now, no longer a deeply buried secret.
Every day walking in to work, I take a few moments to gaze at the living sky before stepping inside the dark building. This week, a tidal wave of afflictive material has arisen there, but I have been able to act skillfully inside of it—noting and feeling strong emotions, but somehow (this time) being able to hold them inside of a much larger experience of space.
The event’s producer had written a quote by Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, on a small dry erase board posted on the check-in table. It said, “Ride the energy of your own unique spirit.” This, at first, struck me as a quote in the spirit of the rhythm of Lyrical, but as I looked more closely, I realized she had written the whole quote in blue, except the one word “spirit,” which was written in green. “Ride the energy of your own unique spirit.” This, for me, moved it over the threshold of Lyrical into lyrical Stillness. These nuances and interstices have fascinated me lately; and I was grateful for this first contemplation of the morning.
Before entering the studio, I chatted with a friend who has been practicing for many years. One thing that came up is that 5Rhythms has the ability to hold absolutely everything. He shared that a 5Rhythms teacher from out of town had once used the hands as the means to enter into Flowing—an unusual choice, as Flowing is usually associated with the feet. I shared that lately I have been noting an emphasis on simplicity, as though it were preferential to complexity. I also shared that in my opinion, the practice holds both equally. Complexity, along with simplicity, seems to exist equally in the vast, dynamic emptiness that gives rise to everything.
One of the first to step into the light-filled room, I made a motion to place my water bottle on the window ledge. As I turned, its weight carried me in a gently extended curve. Instead of putting it down, I took it as my partner, passing it from hand to hand, looping it down, up, around me, in big circles and tiny arcs. I closed my eyes since there were few people on the floor yet; and I didn’t want to know if anyone was watching me in this elaborate web of weighted circles. My spine circled, too, along with every part of me, casting down, raising up, turning and twisting at once. During this dance, the water in the water bottle never sloshed, but instead moved in harmony with the momentum of these layered gestures.
The music changed and I found the floor, stretching and moving in arcing circles with one part of me firmly attached, always, to the floor. The music changed again and I moved with circles and pauses in still Flowing.
Before long, the room started to come to life, and I danced through the studio, looking for empty spaces and allowing myself to be pulled briefly into gestures and energies until I was beckoned by a new open space or a new focal point or a new exchange. During this part of the class, I made a conscious choice to see everyone in the room, sometimes looking at a fellow dancer and repeating the adapted Thich Nhat Hahn phrase, “I see you there; and I am grateful for it.”
Jilsarah moved us gently into Staccato with a classic reggae song; and I immediately stepped into partnership with a woman I have never shared a dance with before. Before long, we settled into the jaunty, uprising rhythm, carried along on it and adding our own cheerful flourishes. A man I like to dance with came and invited me to partnership, but I continued to gaze, smiling, into the eyes of my partner, making space for him, too, but staying with her right through the end of the song. I was grateful for the opportunity to experience this scenario, as I have occasionally felt irritated when I have been sharing a dance with a woman and she has abandoned me the moment an attractive man has come into her field.
Someone who has triggered wildly afflictive emotions in me for many years stepped into the room. I noted the emotions that arose and held it all in the vast, tender space of love, silently welcoming this person and physically moving to embrace her.
A Sweat Your Prayers class is, by definition, minimally instructed, and Jilsarah had the lightest of light touches. The only thing I really remember her saying was something like, “As an individual, in partnership, and with the whole community.” Quoting Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhthyms practice, she said, “There is only one of us here.”
Jilsarah did not offer any instructions about whether or not to partner, but I rolled and spun from one partnership to the next, equally receptive to nearly every person. In Lyrical in the first wave, I danced in delighted partnership with a good friend. Another, equally delighted, partnership cropped up beside us. I circled them and we became four. Beaming, bounding, spinning with this small group, I attended to everyone around me also, weaving others into the small group.
I love being in a small, tight-knit group of three or four or five when we are weaving in and out of each other like a matrix; but I am also sensitive to including people. I don’t want anyone to feel left out; and though it is not fully in my control, I try to keep the boundary porous. Even when I am in partnership with just one person, I often connect in a tiny series of gestures with a nearby dancer, then return to the partner I am primarily engaged with.
At several points I looked around the room, taking in an infinite range of beautiful dances and partnerships. Seeing, tears welled up and poured out gently, for just a few gestures, then shifted again.
In the second wave, I found a surprising undercurrent of Stillness in the Staccato part of the wave. Something similar happened to me recently in Chaos, when everything seemed to go into slow motion and get kind of goo-ey. A few moments after I noticed this novel (for me) kind of energy, a friend who I love to dance with stepped into me, remarkably in a very similar field. We moved together in what (for me) was a kind of still Staccato, then into a more full expression of Staccato—a place I love to meet him. Later, he shared that he had noticed from across the room that he and I were in the same kind of energetic space and had come immediately toward me. He must have realized before I did, because it had just entered my consciousness when he appeared—sweeping toward me almost magically.
I was given a teaching that I call “Passing Through Practice” many years ago. When in a very porous and receptive state, it is possible to move gently through everyone who is open to it around me, and to let them move through me. Today, this very tender practice within the practice was available during much of the class.
I found myself rocking at the end of the second wave, and recalled my earliest experiences of perfect love. My father would hold me while he rocked me in a wooden rocking chair and would sing lullabyes in the tenderest voice imaginable. Tears again rolled down my cheeks.
As the music ended, Jilsarah very softly invited us to find a formation that would allow us to acknowledge ourselves as a community. We moved toward a circle, all at different paces. Jilsarah added, “Let’s allow those who are not in the circle to stay in their authentic place.” We held the circle for just a moment, then followed Jilsarah’s gesture when she raised her hands to the sky, shaking them in a happy pulse and smiling, then letting it all go.
March 20, 2016, Brooklyn, NY
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
*Although most posts to this blog are written for a general audience, this post assumes significant prior knowledge of 5Rhythms practice and language. The five rhythms of 5Rhythms practice are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. To talk about a “lyrical nature” is to talk about a nature that has similar qualities to the rhythm of Lyrical—perhaps joyful, light, heartful, participatory and knowing.