May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

This was the quote I drew from a bowl full of folded pieces of paper that sat in the center of a circle of women gathered for the Embodied Meditation program I took last month at Kripalu. The quote, from Rainer Maria Rilke, brought a smile to my lips—here I am, author of Flowtation Devices, randomly selecting a verse about allowing my essence to flow.

I re-discovered this piece of paper this weekend, tucked inside of my wallet. It was good timing—it was my birthday weekend (today’s my actual birthday!), and it reminded me about all the flowing and growing I’ve done this past year.

When I started dancing 5Rhythms two and a half years ago, I never imagined it would become a life practice. It’s a little bit like what happened with yoga—I started taking classes because I danced and thought it would help with my flexibility, and soon I was trying to learn Sanskrit on my own and reading about the yamas and niyamas. With the 5Rhythms, I was looking for a cardiovascular workout that wouldn’t further damage my aching hip, and now I use the dance as therapy, a practice in interpersonal communication, and as a means of fostering connection with not only the people I dance with but the world around me.

I was so thrilled to take a pre-birthday 5Rhythms class this past Friday, a class during which my dance really felt like a 31-year-old transitioning into her 32nd year. I had strong eye contact with others. I laughed. I was spontaneous in my movement with others. These things were once so hard for me, because back in the day I just wanted to dance; I didn’t quite grasp the connection bit yet.

At one point, I partnered up with a female classmate who usually keeps to herself. I can see she always feels the music very deeply, but it is rare for her to engage. However, during Friday’s class, something opened up between us. It was a Lyrical song, and we were both still feeling the vibrations from Chaos. The dance that emerged was new for the both of us—a very sensual, feminine, sometimes intertwined-arms partnership, our eyes locked, our sweaty hair matted on our cheeks. It felt like a motion picture version of the Visions of Arcadia art exhibit. I wasn’t trying to force this connection, but I began the dance with an intention to be radically open—to let what I do flow from me like a river—and the result was quite rewarding.

Off the dance floor, I try to move in the same manner. For instance, every morning I go walking around my neighborhood before work. I frequently pass a woman who keeps her eyes straight ahead and never gives me so much as a half-nod when I pass her and say “Good morning.” But every morning, I keep trying. “Good morning!” ::silence:: It was tempting to just give up and greet her with the same muteness, but something clicked late last week—I got a return “Good morning!” Granted, it was rather mumbled and void of much emotion, but it was connection! (And I may have given myself a little victory fist-pump after I passed her.) 🙂

My greater commitment to conscious dancing this past year (attending more classes, classes in other areas, workshops) has been so helpful in getting the real me to emerge. Sometimes I say that the dancing has changed me, but I think it has just taken what has always been inside of me and transformed it into action.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking around with my iPod in and just wanted to break out of my stride and DANCE when a particularly powerful piece of music came on. Well, the other week, I did. I dance walked! Around the creek, with joggers and cyclists and dog walkers. I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to be outdoors, saying Yes! to dance when my body craved it so much. Instead of thinking, “Ooooh, how I love this song. It stirs my heart. Wish I could dance. Wish I could dance. Wish I could dance,” I just did it. I danced!

And then Saturday afternoon, there came a beautiful sun shower; well, a sun downpour, really. I stood in my upstairs hallway, hypnotized by the combination of brilliant sun and driving rain, soaking the tree leaves outside the window, falling on the roof. I had a sudden desire to run outside, naked, arms outstretched, and take it all in, the way characters in European avant garde movies do. The impulse was so strong that I ran to my dresser, pulled out my bathing suit (it was the closest I could get to naked without having the cops called on me), and dashed outside. Who is that girl in the Speedo, standing on her front walkway, arms outstretched? Me, and it felt amazing. Not just the sensation of standing in a downpour with the sun shining on me but the sensation of listening to the voice inside of me that craved so desperately to fully take in this meteorological display.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ikhlasul Amal

I have no reservations on my birthday today about “getting older.” With age comes practice, experience, and wisdom…and a few wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes as humble indicators of the ever-unfolding journey.