Back in March, I attended one heavy-duty Heartbeat-level 5Rhythms workshop with England-based teacher Adam Barley.
I haven’t blogged about any of it yet because I’m afraid.
Which makes sense, because the topic was FEAR.
This was not a workshop to take for shits and giggles. Like, don’t sign up for this if all you’re looking for is 15 hours of ecstatic dance. Adam is a fun teacher, and sure, we danced a lot, but it’s serious work. Adam wants you to get your money’s worth. Which means that when the workshop is being billed as “Fear,” Adam wants you to get up close and personal with that super-scary F-word.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in this particular workshop is how the “shadows” of each of the Rhythms serve as obstacles to truly facing what scares us.
I’ve gone through each of these shadows in an attempt to blog about this very workshop. These shadows are familiar and arise often when I’m faced with something that’s going to make me vulnerable.
The beauty is that now I’m aware of these little mind games, and somehow knowing what’s going on behind the scenes makes the whole process a little less scary.
But enough of the esoteric introduction. Let’s get to the nitty gritty, shall we?
Adam split our class into 5 groups—one for each rhythm/shadow—spread out across the room. The direction was to fully dance in that shadow for some time and then—when prompted—move to another group, exploring the movements associated with that shadow. So on and so forth.
> Flowing became Sleepiness and Complacency. Instead of firmly rooting our feet into the ground, we allowed our limp bodies to topple into it, the earth as our floppy pillow rather than the solid foundation it is supposed to be. Half-open eyes, yawning—how easy it is to just rest my head here on this person’s back. Why stand up when I can just…lie…down…right…here Zzzzzzz.
This shadow felt all too familiar. I resort to it all the time when I’m afraid, because instead of facing fear head-on, it is SO much easier to say “I’m tired” and succumb to that “I-can’t-keep-my head-up” heaviness. Can’t deal with fear when you’re asleep, right?
Granted, there are times I am legitimately exhausted but how peculiar that every time I sit down to blog, I suddenly feel verrrry sleepy…
> Staccato became Anger, Rage, and Blame. When it’s too scary to step boldly into the empty spaces and be direct and honest, why not transform that intensity onto someone else? Bare your teeth, stomp in someone else’s boundaries, jut your head forward and invade their personal space. Suddenly Staccato begins resembling a kung fu movie, and no one is safe.
For me, this shadow translates to “It’s so-and-so’s fault I can’t write because he/she is [insert blame here]!!” or “There are just too many dance events, I have no time to write about them. The people who schedule every awesome event under the sun in June clearly have no respect for my schedule!!”
> Chaos became Loss of Control. Although it is important to let your head go when dancing in Chaos, it’s just as crucial to remember your feet’s connection to the ground. A room full of dancers engaged in an ungrounded Chaos will result in potentially dangerous collisions, driver-less cars hydroplaning in every direction.
This kind of movement is dizzying, exhausting, cross-eyed, flailing limbs striking others as you stumble from here to there to everywhere. A sense of panic arises—as though trying to escape a burning building—but you’re not even sure if you’re heading toward the exit.
Sometimes it’s easier to wear myself out then face anything challenging. If I mindlessly speed through a morning of working out, scrubbing the tub, pushing myself through a few sun salutations, running to the pharmacy, dancing a Wave, there’s no possible way I’ll have the time or energy to confront my fear. I’m a sweaty, exhausted mess in a matter of hours, most likely finding myself back at Shadow #1: Sleepiness.
> Lyrical became Distraction. Welcome to La-La Land, where all senses are on overdrive. You want to see, smell, hear, taste, and feel everything…but all at once and without being very mindful about what’s coming your way.
Movement is disoriented, eyes darting from one body part or person to the next, moving just to move but never feeling connection to anything you make contact with. It’s a blip on your radar, a quick Ooooh or Ahhh before something new distracts you.
I should refresh my Twitter feed. Have a bite of those brownies on the counter. Yes, I love this song! OMG, I can write my name in the dust on this table. What was that kid’s name in the movie about that monster? Lemme look that up on Wikipedia. Holy crap, it’s already 7 p.m.; I should get my work clothes ready for tomorrow so I’ll be all set, maybe make my lunch while I’m at it.
Before I know it it’s bedtime, and I’ve done everything but anything that really matters.
> Stillness became Blankness, Catatonia, Numbness. Nothing in, nothing out. When fear paralyzes you to the point of near-immobility, unable to emote in any fashion, unable to feel, locked in a state of physical and mental frozenness.
Movement is hardly movement at all, more like uncertain steps in no particular direction, eyes closed or gazing off into nowhere, moving solely because you are asked to move, not because you have any desire to.
That guy is raising his arm. Maybe I should do that too. … There, I just raised my arm. Now I will put it down.
This shadow is usually the last resort when dealing with fear, after all of the other options above have been put to the test. I’ve worn myself out, played the blame game, distracted myself into a tizzy, fallen asleep, and now have finally sat myself down at the computer, opened to a blank page, and … … …
Look at that white screen.
There is nothing.
I need to write words because that is what a blog entails.
I need to pee but I can’t even leave this seat. I am so parched but I will just sit here staring at this screen and allow my throat to get drier and drier. I can’t feel my ass now, but I will continue to sit this way and allow my legs to feel as heavy as my mind.
The computer screen is as blank as my expression.
* * *
In the heart of this exercise, Adam stopped telling us when to shift shadows and instructed us to move freely from one shadow to another when the moment felt right.
What we were really doing was experimenting with defense mechanisms, exploring the things we call “Anger!” or Sleeeeeepiness, which are really just masks for the bigger emotion: Fear.
When fear comes up–whether it entails heartfelt, authentic blogging; telling someone what you really mean; or trying out a new class/applying for a new job—the brain kicks in with excuses, overshadowing the fear.
Fear becomes blame. Fear becomes distraction. Fear becomes muteness.
Adam’s exercise was a valuable lesson: By observing these patterns and being aware of our habits, we can transform fear.
The next time you find yourself yawning at a friend or yelling at a partner, staring mindlessly out of windows or spiraling out of control, ask yourself: What is this really?
Is this fear? Am I afraid?
After all, the full title of the workshop was Fear, Power, and Beauty.
Own your fear. Give it the power to be heard and seen.
From that, beauty will emerge.