Winter time—with all of those holiday obligations, family gatherings, office parties, and pollyanas—tends to seem like the season of overdoing, but I believe my peak of exhaustion always comes in the summer, as in, right about now.
Ever since Daylight Saving, the hours of extended sun, the increasing heat, the mating bunnies and the birds, and just being able to walk outside without the need for a coat the strength of a sleeping bag has led to one huge steaming pot of prana churning in my gut that makes me want to dance, run, swim, frolic, chant in Sanskrit, and speak in tongues, all at the same time. The moment those clocks leaped ahead one hour, so did my heart, and my calendar has since been jam packed.
I have given my fullest to every engagement—whether dancing Nia, 5Rhythms, Let Your Yoga Dance, Wu Tao, Journey Dance, or even just dancing in the living room with the air conditioner intentionally off so I mean it when I say I’ve sweat my prayers—but now that it’s August—today is unbearably sticky and humid and everything August is supposed to be—I am tired. I am exhausted. My feet are dirty, I haven’t showered, my hair’s a mess, I am sleep deprived, and my husband just told me that I smell (it’s true).
I attended a special 5Rhythms workshop this weekend, a 7-hour extravaganza titled “Riding the Wave.” This was the class description:
In this summer Waves workshop lies an invitation to experience moving with ease, effortlessly, from a place where we allow ourselves to be moved, a place of being rather than doing, a place where we let the music play us, where we become the dance. Come explore how to let go and ease into the caressing waves of the 5Rhythms, and allow them to carry you to the quiet shores within.
It sounds so idyllic, doesn’t it? Summertime waves. Seagulls. The seashore at sunrise. Ebb, flow, back, forth. Ahhhh.
Not for me. My dance was more like last year’s Hurricane Irene. A board-up-the-windows-and-prepare-the-sandbags kind of dance. The kind where it’s very tempting to just follow the “evacuation route” sign from shore to mainland, but instead I opted to stand out at sea and allow the waves to take me.
The exhaustion never sets in right away. I mean, check out this picture of me right after class, with teacher Rivi Diamond.
I am glowing! I survived a storm! I have salt all over my face and dirt on my feet, and I am loving it!
Part of this glow is that, despite throwing myself through one hell of a wave, I was fully supported the entire time. That’s the one really, really beautiful thing about dancing as a group—it’s a tribe, and everyone is there for each other. We do not dance to critique or judge or compete. We move to be moved, and when that movement gets scary or sad or intense, so many people are right there alongside of you, some friends, some strangers.
For example, this is me and Lauren:
I met Lauren once before, briefly, at a previous workshop. We didn’t even remember each others’ names this time around. But we were paired together for a “waves-versus-steady shore” dance, in which one person danced their waves and the other acted as the watchful island, a witness and support system to caress the crashing water. I felt comfortable with Lauren and wasn’t afraid to let my waves crash around her. Likewise, I enjoyed being Lauren’s shore, her movement stirring my sand, bits of me breaking off and entering her ocean so that we became one unit rather than two parts.
And this is my new BFF Valeria:
Valeria and I partnered up at the beginning of class, after instruction to make eye contact with someone you know least. We were complete strangers at noon and left the building at 7 p.m. hugging, kissing, exchanging contact info, and vowing to do coffee and dinner and dancing! We danced “Summertime…and the Living is Easy” together, easily following Rivi’s instruction to hold onto the partner’s head, neck, shoulders, back, and hips, the one partner’s hands being a supportive “shore” for the other’s ebbs and flows. At the end of class, during our final check-in with each other, Rivi gave us permission to tell our partner what we needed: talk? tears? distance? a massage? Valeria and I didn’t exchange any words, but our conversation was touching and profound. It was such an honest display of emotion and longing, with tears, snot, massage, and gentle touch. It is how every human should be held and received.
Even during the most wickedly intense portion of class for me—Chaos—the supportive shoreline was always there. We had stretched out in a giant circle; those needing to ride the wave went in the center, and those with more solid footing stayed on the perimeter. That perimeter saved my life. I was drowning in dance, throwing myself in the waves, screaming (literally), thrashing my now unbound hair, but my eyes always found a steady support there around the “life preserver” ring, whether just a smile or gesture or transfer of invisible energy. This tiger was on a rampage, but the cage around me expanded and contracted as needed, never constricting my movement yet giving me a sense of loving containment. In return, when I saw friends in need, I screamed, shook, and vibrated along with them.
Near the end of class, I experienced a brief sensation of aloneness as I walked through a “graveyard” of bodies, people spread out in various shapes of savasana. It was as though everyone’s old self was dying, melting into the earth, and I was joining them in this passage. It was a bit sad, but when I closed my eyes I saw all of my classmates’ faces so vividly, each of them crying along with me. It may sound mournful to have that kind of vision, but it was actually an uplifting one, a bit of an energetic reminder that everyone hurts, everyone cries, everyone needs each other.
So yes, there was much thrashing and crashing during the workshop, but also so many moments of “steady shore” support, whether rocking shoulder-to-shoulder like a human raft out in the Caribbean, watching an amoeba of human beings expand and contract like seaweed, and using the rhythm of Stillness to support each of the other 4 rhythms (what a relief to dance Chaos with the undercurrent of Stillness!).
I emerged from the waters sun-kissed, salty, and a survivor! That was one helluva ride! But, as I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m feeling it now. It’s summertime, and the living is…sometimes exhausting. But the truth is, I don’t think I’m ever going to chill out and stop dancing. As long as I’ve got the rhythm of Stillness guiding me home, I think I just might be OK.