Flatlines and Faith
All alone I have cried
Silent tears, full of pride
In a world made of steel,
Made of stone.
Dancing saved my life in my early forties.
My marriage was in shambles after a long bout with infertility. The high cost of treatments over six years bankrupted us.
The miscarriages broke our hearts. We lurched between grief and guilt. Family sent flowers. Friends brought food and left it on our porch.
I didn’t trust my body. I resented it for not doing its job. What was wrong with me?
I blamed myself. I blamed the universe. I got depressed. Then, I got really depressed. Eventually, our marriage caved in. My husband and I separated.
The endless landscape of possibility from my twenties was replaced by the finite fields of my forties, a constricted geography.
Some dreams died suddenly. Others felt more like a long bloodletting, a steady drain of life itself splashing red into a white bowl. I was disoriented and weak, my life-force diminished.
The bloodletting. There were ways in which I had given my power away, how I had lived my life for other people. I wanted to be liked. I wanted my parents’ approval. I wanted to belong.
I closed my eyes and asked for all the help I could get, for any angels or guides or ancestors to find me, to guide me back to myself.
5Rhythms and Fate
First, when there’s nothing
But a slow glowing dream
That your fear seems to hide
Deep inside your mind
One day, I felt a spark deep within myself trying to ignite. But there was no oxygen, not enough movement for it to light. I realized my spirit was still intact.
I wanted to live. I wanted to get out of my head and trust my body again. My ribs felt like prison bars locking up my heart, in solitary confinement.
In this state of vulnerability, I discovered a dance practice called 5Rhythms.
I was invited to a workshop called “Slow Dancing With Chaos” in New York City with Gabrielle Roth, founder of the 5Rhythms dance practice, part of the conscious dance practices that use free-form movement as a practice to awaken your awareness, not only of your body, but of your heart and your spirit.
I said yes, even though I felt insecure about being with a bunch of “real” dancers in glamorous Manhattan. I was more curvy than sinewy. And I led with my head. I went to disrupt that pattern.
You could move to music however you wanted. There was only one thing to know: there were “waves” of music, flowing to staccato, to chaos, to lyrical to stillness.
But that was all the structure there was in the dance. There was no right way to move, no prescription for being “good” or “bad” on the dance floor, no steps to follow. You were to follow your feelings.
It scared me to have so much leeway—I found myself looking to other people. What were they doing? How were they moving?
I saw that this looking around for approval or to my teachers for permission, or outward to a societal norm as a guide were huge roadblocks in my own movement in life.
It turned out Gabrielle was gravely ill. Instead of canceling the workshop, it was mostly taught by her son, Jonathan, who was grieving his mother’s impending death. Her tribe, including 5Rhythms teachers from all over the world, had come to say goodbye and honor her.
At one point, we took paper and wiped our sweat and our tears on it and placed them at an altar, as an offering to Gabrielle.
We danced through our pain—for many, that included the pain of letting go of their beloved teacher—and through our sadness, our joy, our judgment of ourselves and others, and through our uncertainty and doubt.
When we got stuck, we were reminded to move our feet:
“It all starts with the feet.”
“Feel the music, the rhythm.”
“Let it come up from the floor and into your body.”
“Move from that grounded, authentic place.”
Other times, we moved from fear or from shame or sadness and felt that all, too.
Somehow, we all just knew when a person was being authentic. What stood out was when someone moved like themselves, when it came from deep within and wasn’t forced, or a performance.
We learned about not forcing things and going with the flow. The movement set me free; I saw how I could alchemize one state of being into another with even just a few movements.
We were to seek the empty spots that flashed up on the dance floor—to not try to occupy the same space as someone else, but to find the open spaces and go there.
I didn’t have to do it like everyone else.
I could follow my own flow.
I didn’t have to get it right or get permission, validation, or approval.
I realized that I choose and create my own dance. I thought I just came to dance, move and maybe lose a few pounds. Instead, I took back my entire life for myself.
Now I’m dancing for my life.
Take your passion
And make it happen.
Gabrielle died the week after the New York City workshop back in 2012. Her legacy lives on.
I devoured her books and studied with some of her senior teachers, Kathy Altman, Lori Saltzman, and Kate Shela, going to over a dozen 5Rhythms workshops over a two-year period. Then, I joined the conscious dance community in my own city.
I became an apprentice to movement.
With every movement of my body and with every deepened breath—every inspire—I earned more freedom for myself, took back my own power and authority.
I learned a wider vocabulary of movement, including new ways to stretch myself, a deeper bend, a sassy twist, a floor crumple, a joyful leap, a fold of surrender, an elongated dip.
Movement was the key that freed my caged heart.
Observing—and not judging—my habitual patterns of movement was a way back to my true self. I was more embodied, grounded. I was able to be more present for others.
Everything followed that internal movement, the expanded breath. My husband and I reconciled. We moved back in together. We adopted a puppy named Lucky Blue.
I danced myself back to life.
-“What a Feeling” lyrics written by Irene Cara, Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey.
“Dancing is not just getting up painlessly,
Like a leaf, blown on the wind;
Dancing is when you tear your heart out
And rise out of your body
To hang suspended between the worlds” ~ Rumi
Images: Floyd Rocker