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On the last Friday of October, I set out for my monthly 5Rhythms class in South Jersey. Fourth Fridays at Yoga for Living, as I had been doing regularly for the past two and a half years. It’s an event I mark on my calendar with exclamation points and spirals; it brings an anticipation that hits me full-force at around 3 p.m. on the day of, my feet becoming restless in my office chair, my body aching to move beyond the three gray walls that comprise my cubicle.

This time, however, something felt different.

Not even a week prior, I had been in New York City dancing in what turned out to be probably the biggest celebration of 5Rhythms of all times. Four days of moving, crying, laughing, stomping, rolling, exploring, discovering, sweating, and breathing with 150 individuals from around the world, sharing this practice with some of its most devoted dancers and talented teachers. It was such a massive group that one collective inhalation and exhalation sounded and felt like Mother Earth sighing. The energy was electric, as powerful as the speeding subways that ran under our feet, the megawatts of light that illuminated the island around us.

So, I wondered, how was I supposed to go from THAT to *this*, the quaint little 5Rhythms class in southern New Jersey, held in the basement of an office building, where the low-hanging ceiling prevents any enthusiastic leaps upward, where at most maybe a dozen or so people would show up? Where on earth would the energy come from? I had taken one of the deepest breaths of my dancing life in New York; could this 2-hour class with only a handful of other individuals sustain me, or would it feel like sucking through a straw?

The doubt lingered with me as I descended into the basement. But then, as I entered of softly lit, womb-like dancing space, my eyes made contact with my teacher, Richard, and then moved across the room to the altar in the corner, a framed photo of Gabrielle Roth surrounded by flickering votive candles, an illustration of a commanding black bird perched at foot-level.

Instantly, all of my hesitations evaporated. No, dancing won’t be a problem, I thought. And with that, I spread my wings and allowed the raven inside of me to take flight.

* * *

In these funky, frenetic times, we need our feet on the ground, our instincts intact and our intuition in full force. Being true to the signs and signals that come from within is our survival art, not to mention a way to move with integrity in a world in flux.

So began the description of “Slow Moving with Chaos,” the workshop I had emphatically penned on my calendar back in the summer, when word had begun to spread that 5Rhythms founder Gabrielle Roth—who rarely made public appearances anymore due to her ailing health—would be teaching a 4-day workshop in New York City. For the longest time, there were no concrete details about the event, only dates and the fact that Gabrielle and her son Jonathan Horan would be facilitating. I checked The Moving Center’s website almost every week, waiting. TBA. TBA. TBA, all through the summer.

As a planner and stickler for details, it killed me that I didn’t have all of the 5Ws right away; nonetheless, I was going to New York, come what may. As you may be able guess from this blog, 5Rhythms is a HUGE part of my life, beginning in 2009 when I read Gabrielle’s Sweat Your Prayers. Everything I have ever felt about dancing was reinforced in that book, and it opened my eyes to a form of movement that so perfectly follows the natural rhythms of the human persona and natural world. The book is very much like a bible to me, a work that I can re-visit over and over again, sentences and paragraphs touching me in new ways with each reading as my own practice expands. The pages are dog-eared; notes are scribbled in the margin.

Gabrielle’s words, her oceans of prose from which five lighthouses guide weary sailors—Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, Stillness—had become my mantras. The wisdom she had imparted on her teacher trainees, who then passed this kinesthetic knowledge down to students like myself, was changing my life, day by day, Wave by Wave, rhythm by rhythm.

I needed to meet this woman.

As soon all the details about the workshop were released, my check was in the mail.

* * *

Hello Dancing Loved Ones,

Over the last few weeks Gabrielle has been moving into stillness. Robert [Gabrielle’s husband] and I [Jonathan] have been deeply moved by the love and support pouring in from around the world. We appreciate each and every message and have been watching her smile when we share.

We have now entered a time when we need to focus our energy on Gabrielle. We would like to ask that you all please understand that we can no longer respond to the outpouring of beautiful words via phone and the email individually. Gabrielle has asked to take refuge in stillness and solitude, and as her family, we need to honor that.

This was the e-mail I received from The Moving Center only a few days before the workshop was scheduled to begin. Gabrielle was dying, yet people from all over the world were actively on their way to New York by planes, trains, and taxi cabs to meet her.

The news rocked the dancing community by surprise. Online, prayers and songs of stillness were shared via a Facebook page set up in Gabrielle’s honor. The outpouring of love was overwhelming.

Yet, no one ever said the workshop was called off or postponed. How could we dance Chaos when our teacher was in her final breaths of Stillness? Who would lead us as Gabrielle lay in bed with her son by her side? So many questions, but with a heavy heart and an open mind about what the next 4 days would hold, I set off to the city.

* * *

Day 1, Manhattan, Lower East Side. The mood in the lobby of the Paul Taylor Dance Company studio on Thursday night was a heavy happiness; fellow dancers excited to see each other but unsure if smiling was appropriate at this time. The doors to the main studio were still closed, so many mysteries lying just a few feet away. When they finally opened, I walked into a sacred space of Sanskrit chanting, ethereal white lights glowing on the floor and ceiling, the installation at the front of the room a black-and-white homage to Gabrielle, a clothesline strung from wall to wall, decorated with images and words representative of her work. A vase of flowers, candles floating in a bowl of water.

It was like walking into a church, a Buddhist temple, a funeral home. Heads bowed, utmost reverence. Still, we were unsure of what we were actually walking into. Was this a vigil? A memorial? A wake?

Instead of asking the questions, we danced them. There was no introductory speech or Hello, How Are Yous? Thanks to the last-minute help of NYC teacher Tammy Burstein, music played, and everyone instinctively knew it was time to warm up and flow. As we moved to Staccato and then to Chaos, it was clear that everyone here knew this language, despite the international flavor of the crowd. Just moments ago, I had been in the women’s changing room, surrounded by a flurry of accents and conversations in German, Spanish, and French. On the dance floor, there was no such thing as a linguistic barrier. Different tongues, same language.

The center of the room is like a concert pit—crowded, hot, a throbbing powerhouse of either ecstasy or anxiety, depending on one’s tolerance for lack of oxygen. I am simultaneously thrilled to be moving with so many bodies but also terrified. How can I have so many people around me but feel so alone? I feel like I’m dancing in the middle of Times Square. It’s not until Tammy instructs us to walk around the room, meet the eyes of those you pass, and then brush hands with those you pass that the anxiety dissipates. The emotional and physical contact with others grounds me; I realize then how much I have grown in my past 2.5 years of doing the 5Rhythms, having gone from being reluctant at the notion of having to share my movement to needing it to be nourished.

After Lyrical, our Stillness is sitting, ears and hearts open as Robert, Gabrielle’s husband, comes to the front of the room to update us on her condition. Somewhere in an apartment in the city, Gabrielle is dying. She is in good care, Robert assures us, and her face continues to light up whenever her son Jonathan enters the room. Never a quitter, Gabrielle had exclaimed, “I gotta do that f**king workshop!” only 3 days beforehand, Robert said. This was supposed to be her retirement party, the last hurrah.

After wiping tears from his eyes, Robert took his usual place behind the tom drum and led us through another Wave, the percussion hitting me deep and creating an easy entrance into movement. We end the evening chanting Om Namah Shivaya, Gabrielle’s favorite mantra, heading out into the night with uncertainty lumped in our throats.

* * *

Over the next 3 days, we stepped into the studio each afternoon not knowing whether Gabrielle was still with us. Robert was present for most of the program, and much to our surprise, Jonathan showed up halfway through Friday’s session and remained through our final moments on Sunday.

I remember seeing Jonathan walk into the studio as we were in the middle of a Wave; I had never met him in person before but knew his face. The magnitude of his presence hit me in the gut, adding fuel to my movement. I think we had all accepted the fact that our two leaders would not be present for the workshop, and so for Jonathan to show up—and facilitate—100-some people as his mother lay dying was truly a gift.

“The Raven still lives!” Jonathan exclaimed as we gathered around him that afternoon, a collective sigh among our group. From there, he spoke candidly about living, dying, and love, his face crumpling at times, beaming at others.

He was genuinely human, a man in the throes of living with dying, talking from his heart, speaking through his body, reminding us to pay attention to the signals we get from our body as we dance. “What are you going to do with that information?!” he prodded. How can we become our own teachers? “Jonny won’t always be here to tell you to move your hips!” he reminded.

He demonstrated a stilted version of the 5Rhythms, acting out each rhythm without intention, without heart. It was a humorous but sad pantomime, a visual reminder of the two-dimensional world we often find ourselves trapped in.

“Yeah, you can say ‘I love you,’” he said in a nasal voice. “I love you [pointing to someone], I love you [pointing to someone else], I love you!” he demonstrated, charming, but no depth to his words. And then Jonathan stood tall, took a long inhalation, and bowed forward, gesturing gracefully toward the group. “I L O V E you,” he expressed, the emotion palpable. The difference in presentation was profound, and several of us gasped or awww‘ed or sighed as his words hit our heart. Without intention and passion, our words and actions are like yoga poses held without breath, going through the motions without actually being in our bodies.

“And why do restaurant servers always ask if I’m still ‘working’ on my meal?” he questioned. “No, I’m enjoying it,” he said. “My dinner isn’t a job. It’s not work. I’m loving this food.”

* * *

Food and love went very much hand in hand during the workshop. After so much dancing and sweating, our 20- to 60-minute snack breaks were a welcome reprieve, the peanut butter-filled pretzels and gluten-free ginger snaps the crew provided tasting like food of the gods. The difference between the final dance pre-break and the first dance post-break is like night and day. Nourished, hydrated, and rested with time to pee, talk, and reboot, our movement carries a new quality, wilted flowers sprouting back to life after a rainfall. I feel reborn.

* * *

Our breaks are essential. The physical act of dancing is exhausting, but so is all the emotional baggage that comes along with the practice.

I find myself against the back wall during an exercise in exploring centeredness versus uncenteredness, a dance I will not forget for a long time. I never intended to dance with that wall for so long, but I closed my eyes and fell into one of the most powerful releases of movement my body has ever endured, the wall being tender, the wall being a punching bag, the wall being a window, the wall being just a boring old wall. Somewhere in the depths of my brain, a little voice tried to pry me away from the wall, to interact with the rest of the group, to open my eyes, but I resisted the temptation to escape; my body was giving me so much information, and as violent as it looked, it needed this freedom and time to get out.

My body surprised me again when Jonathan instructed us to dance our dance of power…and then put the brakes on that and had us switch to powerlessness. Things must have been cooking in my body, because within seconds something came to the surface out of nowhere, a sudden reminder of a time of powerlessness in my life, leaving me squirming on the ground, wailing.

And then there are all the interactions with others, sometimes brief, sometimes extended moments of giving, receiving, and sharing. Engaging in unlikely partnerships, touching the hair of someone you originally were unsure of, placing trust in another to lift you off the ground. Wordless dances that speak volumes, kinetic conversations with others that stay stored in your muscles (the heart being the biggest).

* * *

Why, when we introduce ourselves to others, California-based 5Rhythms teacher Lori Saltzman posed, are we always so quick to talk about “the bad stuff”? Why do we think sharing our traumas, inadequacies, and limitations is so appealing?

What if we celebrated the things we love? she asked.

So, after dancing one of the wildest, loudest, longest periods of Chaos, Lori told us to stop. The room went from frenetic drumming and screaming to silence. We got in groups of four. Paper and pens were passed out.

Use this energy built up from Chaos to reflect on what you love, Lori instructed. And be descriptive, she added. Don’t just say you “love dancing.” Write about the smells, sensations, and sounds that come along with this love. Be specific.

It was serious work. We went to town with those pens, writing furiously. People wrote about books, nature, pets, children, spouses, lovers, friends, mentors. We knew we’d eventually have to share them with our group; that was a given. But that wasn’t the most challenging part of the exercise.

Now, Lori said, after you’ve read your list to your group, end it by saying the following: “And when the time comes, may I say goodbye with grace.”

Tears began to pool in our eyes before we even started speaking; of all the dancing we did over those few days, this was by far the hardest exercise requested.

But it was also the central theme of this emotional roller coaster of a workshop, wasn’t it? All of us had gathered to celebrate the joy that Gabrielle had brought to our lives, our love for her, whether personal or indirect. We had come to “Slow Dance with Chaos,” and now the time had come for us to say goodbye with grace.

* * *

Of course I am sad to have never met Gabrielle in person, and I was very much looking forward to doing so at this workshop, but the poignancy of what occurred in its place is just as moving. The entire event was deeply emotional, essentially turning into a vigil/memorial/life celebration. 5Rhythms teachers from across the country stepped in to help, and I feel so fortunate to have witnessed such devotion.

I stood among people like myself who had never met Gabrielle; people who did one or two workshops with her; people with strong, spiritual connections to her; newly certified teachers who had only recently studied with her; teachers who have followed her dancing path ever since Gabrielle embarked on it herself.

Being among those people with such deep ties to the practice, those so close to Gabrielle, was a phenomenon to witness. Because I didn’t have those strong associations, I found it difficult to mourn the way others were, but I didn’t want to force myself to feel a specific emotion where there was none. I accepted being neutral, a conscious witness, taking in the tears around me without getting overly empathetic. I saw the pain and loss in Tammy, Lucia Horan, and Douglas Drummond’s dances; I heard Jonathan’s voice crack; I felt the sorrow and fear that erupted from Robert’s drumming during Chaos.

I had never met Gabrielle, but being with those closest to her during these moments of vulnerability provided me a glimpse into her spirit; through their exhalations of anguish, I sucked in the air they had shared with their mentor, mother, master, Mama G.

We ended the program by again chanting Om Namah Shivaya and “decorating” blank paper tags with our prayers, whispers, sweat, kisses, breath, and love and hanging them on the medicine wheel at the front of the room.

Gabrielle died the following evening at the age of 71.

* * *

Back to the little South Jersey yoga studio—where this story all began—I’m staring at the framed photo of Gabrielle, suddenly remembering why I’m here. No, it’s not New York, and no, there isn’t an international contingent of 100 people around me, but those aren’t reasons to dance.

We dance because we can, the way classmate Michelle so eloquently commented: “I will continue to move as long as my body allows me to, what it allows me to.”

Her words echoed what Jonathan had told us about his mother’s last movements, the way Gabrielle had danced to songs of stillness with her hands during her final days, because that was the only part of her body she could move.

If that spirit can remain with someone through her dying days, then it can sure as hell ignite movement in a healthy 30-something with nothing but a diagnosis of self-doubt.

My experience in New York was a time to memorialize, pay tribute, bow my head, clasp my hands, hold my heart. Now it was time to celebrate Gabrielle’s spirit, pay it forward, lift my head high, and open my hands and heart wide to new connections.

Aahh, so the first work week of 2012 is over! It was only four days long but it still felt like an eternity. There’s just something about coming back to the office in January that is so blah. Kids are back in school again so the commute is slower (I live two blocks from an elementary school…think crossing guards, buses, cars stacked on either side of the street), colorful Christmas decorations are gradually being removed from people’s porches, and Starbucks has said goodbye to the red cups and returned to its default, ho-hum white and green (Is it just me, or do gingerbread lattes taste more gingerbready when served in a red cup?!).

I couldn’t have asked for a better New Year’s, though. My friends from high school, Emma and Peter, re-instituted their annual New Year’s get-together (read: a laid back dinner, moderate drinking, male shenanigans [2008: cat versus laser pointer; 2011: coffee table football], Scattergories) after a two-year hiatus. This was the reason for the hiatus:

Hi, I’m Gabriella!

I love this little bugger. When I entered the house, she came scampering over to me, arms outstretched, for a hug. Then I gave her a fake pizza kit, and she named all the toppings for me, even the mushrooms and olives! When I went to pretend eat the pretend pizza, she wrinkled her nose and reminded me, “That’s not real! You can’t eat that.” She was fascinated with my handbag and kept creeping up to it to look inside. I finally let her take out my camera, and we made silly faces.

Then she insisted she be the photographer. I showed her the safe way to hold the camera, and she diligently followed my instructions.

Not bad for a 2-year-old!

Shortly thereafter, as the adults were all gathered in the kitchen–and things were eerily quiet in the living room–I surmised, “I betcha she’s going through my handbag.” We sneaked up on her and caught her red-handed; her guilty-as-charged expression was priceless. In return, I made her show me her handbag.

Our hosts served us the most delicious dinner: butternut squash lasagna, bread, and salad–all homemade, of course, even the lasagna noodles. Homemade cookies and gourmet cupcakes followed, plus some snazzy gingersnap liquor to spice up our coffee. Gabriella went to bed around 9, crying as Emma scooped her up to take her upstairs. “Aww, it’s OK honey,” she said. “Say ‘night-night’ to Bryan.” And through her sniffles and tears and pouty lips, Gabriella leaned over to him and whimpered the cutest-ever “night-night,” giving him a little kiss on the cheek.

Hands-down, cutest moment of the evening.

The adults stayed up an excruciating five hours longer. As mentioned earlier, there was dancing.

As I padded down the steps at 8 the next morning, I heard Gabriella inquire, “Who’s that?” and run to the stairs. She was excited to see me, I to see her, and we nestled on the living room floor for morning storytime.


She attempted to join me in my morning yoga stretches but gave up after 20 seconds. “OK, I’m done,” she said and stood up from tabletop pose.

After everyone showered and dressed, we headed to our traditional New Year’s Day breakfast hangout: Cracker Barrel. It was the first time in two years we needed to request a high-chair! Gabriella reminded us that a little experimentation is needed to make food interesting.

Cherry pancakes, minutes before she added the ketchup.

Somewhere between the sobbing “night-night” and pajama storytime in the morning, I got a bit misty-eyed myself as I grew into this pseudo-Aunt Jen role. I was reminded of my own childhood, when I was the little one in the footie pajamas and a curiosity about others’ handbags, and the person I ran to with excitement was my Aunt Adzia.

Adzia was my “cool aunt,” the one who understood my obsession with Barbie dolls, coloring books, and, well, more Barbie dolls. For a moment that New Year’s morning, the first day of 2012, I finally understood how rewarding it must have been to be in that aunt role, when a child shows you complete attention and engagement in a mutual activity, the overwhelming warmth in your heart when the child’s eyes light up after realizing that you slept over and are still here the next morning to play with; heading out of the house to go to Cracker Barrel and hearing a hopeful, “Is Jen coming with?”

It reminded me of weekends when Adzia would spend the night at my grandparents’ house, and, like, the coolest thing ever was when she’d go out to breakfast with us, sometimes even the mall, and then maybe even out to lunch! The “Adzia” component made everything 10 times more exciting as a kid; it was like having your BFF with you at all times, only this adult BFF bought you candy and toys.

It reminded me of when I was 8 years old and was out of school for a month with pneumonia. Adzia had come to live with us for a week to take care of me during the day when my parents were at work, and one day we spent the entire afternoon dressing my 50-some Barbie dolls in new outfits and displaying them along my bedroom wall. I remember the moment because at the time it was SO COOL to have a GROWN-UP show such interest in my Barbie obsession for hours on end; now, 23 years later with Gabriella at my side, I see the adult perspective: the heart-bursting, soul-nourishing sense of love and connection of having a child completely engaged with you in a single act, whether it’s dressing Barbie dolls, making fake pizzas, or sitting in storytime. The child isn’t playing with you just to fill time, and the adult isn’t following along just to be nice. It’s done with intention and 100% devotion.

The instant when the need for each other becomes equal–when the scales are balanced so that you need the child as much as she needs you–the heart fills with love.

By the time this is posted on Saturday, I will be in Pennsylvania for what is shaping up to be one of the most coincidental full circles of my life.

On this weekend back in 2006, as I have been documenting so fastidiously, I was saying goodbye to Kripalu and my yoga teacher training family, which included facilitator Rudy Peirce. Today, I will be returning to Rudy, exactly five years after he pressed sandalwood on my forehead and acknowledged me as certified yoga instructor.

The way this all unfolded tickled my soul and reinforced my belief in universal connectedness, that somewhere under all the muck and distraction and chaos of everyday life there is an energetic hum that we all sing and dance to.

One month ago, when I started the process of transcribing my notes from Kripalu, the more and more I re-visited that time and place, the more my respect and admiration for Rudy grew. He was one of the two main facilitators for my program; Megha Buttenheim was the other. As a pair, they have been described as yin and yang, Tigger (Megha) and Eeyore (Rudy), due to their opposing personalities. When Megha bounced, Rudy sat still in meditation. When Megha belted out songs and chants, Rudy sang with a simple, subtle voice.

Megha (Tigger)

Rudy (Eeyore)

With Megha being a dancer, I naturally gravitated toward her as my “favorite” of the two, although looking back at my journal notes now it’s obvious that every asana practice, meditation, and pranayama exercise that Rudy led affected me deeply. My consciousness soared to new heights with Rudy leading a meditation, and my lungs danced to his breathwork instruction.

Rudy is known for his gentle approach to yoga; in fact, his nickname is “The Gentle Yogi.” Kripalu yoga in general stresses the importance of adapting or modifying poses to be accessible for all bodies, abilities, and limitations. I feel that Rudy, however, goes the extra mile to make sure that even if you’re using two blocks, a blanket, and a bolster to get into a pose that you’re experiencing and living the pose, not just struggling with some props while everyone else around you has some amazing transformation while in folded picture-perfectly in pigeon. Transformation is for everyone, and there are all different routes to get there. Rudy makes sure that happens, not only through his words and instruction but simply his overall demeanor of compassion and reverence.

I didn’t realize how important this was until my hips started to get all funky two years ago due to some torn cartilage and an unstable sacrum. Poses that were once “regulars” in my yoga repertoire suddenly became painful, uncomfortable, or simply inaccessible. It was at this point I understood why I had gone to Kripalu; if not to teach yoga to others, then to teach myself. To be able to go to classes and find other routes into a pose or alternatives altogether. To create a home practice with modifications and poses that may not look “normal” but still allow me to sink into satisfaction. To remember that when my body doesn’t want to flow, I can still achieve peace of mind through meditation and breathing. My Kripalu training has always served me well, but it wasn’t until I recently began re-reading my journal from that time that it finally dawned on me just how important Rudy was in the overall picture.

I would love to take class with Rudy again, I thought to myself a few weeks ago after transcribing a journal entry. I don’t think I gave him my full appreciation at the time. I thumbed through the most recent Kripalu catalog to see if he’d be leading any workshops in the winter. He was, but I don’t even know why I looked in the first place. Kripalu costs money. Kripalu in the winter may require 4-wheel drive. Kripalu requires vacation days that I don’t have right now.

Two days later, I logged into my long-abandoned Yahoo! account to resolve a pestering e-mail issue. There, among the 200+ e-mails (mostly spam) was a newsletter from Rudy I had signed up long ago to receive. It announced his workshops at Kripalu ($$), a special yoga retreat in Italy ($$$$), and…wait, what? A weekend workshop in suburban Philadelphia, the Philadelphia that lies 30 minutes from my house?? A studio I can access simply by car and $5 for the bridge toll, not a 5-hour road trip into the potentially snowy Berkshire Mountains or a trans-Atlantic flight to Europe?

Needless to say, the universe was speaking to me, and I signed up. It was only recently I realized the workshop coincides with the 5-year anniversary of me saying goodbye to Kripalu. Today, I will return—not to the physical structure of Kripalu, but rather the spirit within its walls and the energy that emanates outward. Today, the circle becomes complete.

Since undertaking the grand challenge of re-living my entire monthlong Kripalu yoga teacher training experience (Day 1 starts here in case you missed it), I’ve really begun to miss the warm and fuzzy things associated with Kripalu: smiles, breathless dancing, and instant connection with others. While it’s true that I attend a 5Rhythms class at least once per month and that that kind of dancing is no doubt full of healing and feeling, traveling back down this long road of Kripalu memories has made my heart yearn for Kripalu’s brand of free dance (termed DansKinetics while I was there and since updated to Kripalu YogaDance).

Whereas 5Rhythms is largely self-guided, YogaDance is structured enough so that people who have never danced before will have an idea of where to begin while at the same time is still open to interpretation enough that experienced dancers won’t feel restricted. In YogaDance, there is a time to have fun and be wild with the group but also a time for private reflection and personal movement. Most important, you have to come to YogaDance with a willingness to smile, make eye contact with others, and shake your booty (even if just a little).

As if the universe was listening to my thoughts and lending a sympathetic ear toward my desire to be re-acquainted with Kripalu, I recently found out that a woman who was in the Laughter Yoga class with me a few weeks ago is training to be a Kripalu YogaDance instructor and, as part of the certification process, must teach three practice classes in-between her two training sessions. A local yoga studio owner was kind enough to allow Nikki to conduct the classes at her studio, and—just like that—last week I found myself immersed in Kripalu all over again.

Anyone who has taken a “Let Your Yoga Dance” class at Kripalu knows that its founder, Megha, is the spark that sets the place on fire. Taking a class with Megha is akin to studying ballet with George Balanchine—you’re getting the real deal, a 10 gazillion mega-watt (pun intended) practice.

 

I admire all YogaDance instructors and at times wish I myself had done the training, but I gotta say, once you’ve taken class with Megha, the bar is set pretty high. I hate to step into a class with expectations, but my time dancing at Kripalu is so near and dear to my heart that I just can’t help making comparisons.

Which is why when Nikki stepped into the studio and began leading our class, I instantly felt at home, as though she had stepped straight off the bus from Kripalu, still brimming with that wonderful vibe passed down from Megha and everyone at Kripalu.

She was authentic, funny as hell, and just glowing. Her instruction was clear but conversational, giving class the lightheartedness it deserves, not a robotic, “This is what we’re going to do now. And now we do this next. Do this, now that.” We joined together as a group and took turns leading each other in movement like a flock of birds; we took time to ourselves to close our eyes and move in our own little prayer dance. We banged on our stomach as though it were a djembe; we took turns stepping into a circle with our interpretation of a “powerful” movement. A particularly poignant portion of class was the “healing” dance, in which we partnered up and exchanged what we thought of as a healing movement, whether for ourselves, for the planet, or for humanity. I happened to be partners with Nikki’s aunt, who confessed to never having done yoga or a structured dance class before but yet was still able to flow with grace and express herself through movement. It was easy to copy her moves, feel them in my own body, and find my own version of Nikki’s aunt’s healing dance. In YogaDance, the point isn’t necessarily to “copy” each other’s moves but to find inspiration in them and add your own flavor as it feels appropriate.

The healing dance was immediately followed by the familiar tune of C + C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now,” a total juxtaposition but one that instantly made everyone smile, relax, and get their groove on. We stood in a circle again, showing off our best dance moves from the ’80s and ’90s, and then sweated even more as a swing dance number came on.

With 5 minutes to spare, we lay in savasana, the events, emotions, and energy from the past hour seeping into our system and spreading through our bodies. I emerged from relaxation totally revitalized, despite just having come from 8 hours of work. Most important, I felt alive, that kind of vitality I felt at Kripalu. I was amazed that Nikki still has another week of training before being certified; I told her she was ready to teach, right here, right now.

I’ve always had a fondness for Kripalu, but I’m feeling it especially strong now since I began doing my day-by-day documentation of my own teacher training experience. Nikki was able to fill that little space in my heart, and for that I am ever-so-thankful. In fact, when I got into my car to drive home, a song that I’ve always associated with Kripalu was on the radio as soon as I started the engine. Woah. Keep the energy flowing, Nikki!

I didn't even know it was flowing white sweater night!

So it’s been about one week since I left my happy place.

Not gonna lie…it hasn’t been easy. Despite this being my 12th trip to Walt Disney World (and 13th Disney trip, if you count last year’s Disneyland), I still come home with a bad case of PDD (post-Disney depression) that leaves me unable to watch Disney commercials or listen to Disney music for a solid month without immediately tearing up. Coming home from vacation is hard enough, but when you’re going from a land of pixie dust and parades and nightly fireworks to, well, New Jersey, it’s slightly more difficult than just returning from a week down the shore.

Leftover caramel-glazed apple pie for breakfast

Instead of getting "the finger" on your morning commute, you get "the hand."

9 a.m. meetings are replaced with morning photo shoots

This is your home for a week

The view from the pool during your morning swim

International amigos

Outpouring of love

Where monsters aren't scary

On the set of a fairy tale

Unlimited milkshakes

Dance-offs with dogs

The only time you're actually happy to see a mouse in the house

Because it’s geographically and financially unfeasible to visit my #1 happy place on a regular basis, I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out where my closer-to-home happy places are, places that don’t require airline tickets and a week off from work. They may not include all the bells and whistles (and parades and fireworks) of Disney World, but they make me smile and are my go-to places when I need some everyday magic.

Happy Place #1: My Living Room Floor

Although I absolutely loved our rustic-feeling hotel room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it was very tight on space and I had little room to do my morning/evening stretches and wake-up routine. Sun salutations took place in the narrow entrance way between the bathroom and the closet, and to do viparita karani (legs on the wall) at night (a necessity after days of walking anywhere from 8 to 16 miles), I had to squeeze myself between the TV cabinet and table, the only wall space available.

At home, the living room floor is my stretching oasis, the place I go to every morning to twist and stretch and rock and roll. I can do downdogs and warriors without banging my hands into the wall or on the ceiling lamp, and I can lie on the floor in cobra without being skeeved out about who (or what) was on the carpet before me.

Morning routine: Pee, brush teeth, roll

In addition, my living room allows me the space to DANCE! 🙂

Happy Place #2: Poang Chairs

When I’m not dancing or rolling around in my living room, I’m seated comfortably in one of our IKEA Poang chairs, in front of the TV.

Shhh...it's a pack of Poangs!

I’m not particularly a fan of the boob-tube, but I do love our Netflix subscription that allows us to watch streaming shows and movies via our Nintendo Wii system.

Instead of watching TV shows in real-time, Bryan and I have instead been plowing through entire series of shows through Netflix streaming. That way we don’t have to wait weeks in-between episodes or feel like we lost 6 years of our life if a show ends badly (::coughcoughLOSTcoughcough::). Most recently, we completed the 202 episodes of 24, a series that had us glued to the Poangs for months. I became very attached to the characters and screamed, shouted, and cried along with them. It was a very emotional ending, almost as heart-wrenching as leaving Disney World! Mickey Mouse, Jack Bauer…I love you both!

Netflix is also my source for rare, hard-to-find movies and documentaries. Sure, I’ll watch Tangled the week I return from the World (gotta catch up on my Disney princess knowledge), but this same week I’ve also watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Christmas is less than 100 days away…juicer, please?!), half of the PBS special Doctors’ Diaries, and–OMG, the cutest movie in the world–Gotta Dance.

PHOTO: Gotta Dance & NBA Entertainment

Remember that documentary a few years ago, Young @ Heart, the one about the group of seniors who sing contemporary music? Well, this is the same thing…but with DANCE. The movie documents the inaugural season of the NETsationals dance team, a group of 13 seniors ages 59 to 83 who dance hip hip for the New Jersey Nets (in the photo above, their jersey numbers indicate their age). A few had amateur dancing experience (ballroom, tap), some had danced recreationally, and none had ever done hip hop before. These folks are living proof that age is just a number and old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Heartwarming, uplifting, inspirational…this movie a shot of the warm and fuzzy feel-goods without the overly sappy chicken noodle soup for the soul. I stood on my feet and applauded the TV during their first live performance! I could watch this again and again–and probably will.

Happy Place #3: Red Bank Battlefield

I am fortunate to live near several parks (all very nice, too!), but my favorite by far is Red Bank. It’s a national park, so it’s well kept and clean; it attracts a lot of cute older couples (I once witnessed an older husband and wife unwrap a particularly challenging Werther’s Original candy together); and, being directly across the Delaware River from the Philly airport, there are PLANES! Lots of them! As I’ve written again and again, I am obsessed with plane watching. I will say I don’t care, but then I’ll hear the roar of a jet engine, and immediately my eyes go to the sky. I’m particularly fond of Southwest jets (one, they represent our transportation to Florida; two, they are the most colorful of the liveries), cargo jets (HUUUUGE!), and planes that are taking off in my direction.

Sometimes I’ll go to the park before work (quiet and peaceful), other times after work (more traffic but interesting characters), and sometimes on the weekend with Bryan for reading-under-a-tree time. A loop around the park is a little over a mile, and nowadays you can almost always spot a deer or three, which have become acclimated to human beings and don’t even bat an eyelash when you’re walking their way. The other morning I walked past six deer (including two males with giant antlers), one only inches from me!

It’s a good thing I appreciate the solitude of the park in the morning, because soon that’s the only time I’ll be able to go; the park closes at sunset, and as I much as I pray that it won’t happen, there will come a time this year that I leave work and it’s dark out. Where to go when my Disney World closes at dusk?!

So those are my non-Disney World happy places, accessible within minutes. If I’m willing to drive a little longer and pack a few more things, next on the list are (a) my gym, for a solo swimming session; (b) the yoga studio, for a 5Rhythms class; and (c) the Jersey shore!

What places do you return to when you need some magic?

Although my birthday was just about a month ago, I have not forgotten about one of the best cards to enter my mailbox, and I think it’s only fair to publicly thank its sender.

Back in July, I posted about this year being the first without receiving a birthday card from my aunt, who died earlier this year. She was meticulous about addressing and signing the card, using a ruler to pencil in straight lines on the envelope. My friend Emma commented:

As much as I love Emma, I really didn’t expect her to follow through on her words. But, lo and behold:

Ruler and everything! Nice handwriting, too, which I imagine was a PITA for Emma, who works as a pharmacist and has most likely unconsciously adopted the scribbly scrawl of the doctor’s prescription pad. (The card itself was a Shoebox one involving jokes of laughter and pee and overall fun, juvenile humor.)

Along a similar note, I received a card on my desk the other day from a woman in my office. Her father had just died, and I had no idea why I would be the recipient of a card. Inside the little “just a note” card, she had thanked me for passing along the news of her father’s death to a former colleague, who in turn attended the viewing:

“Having [former colleague] at my father’s viewing meant so very much to me. It wouldn’t have been possible if you hadn’t shared the news with her.”

She could have easily told me this in person or shot me an e-mail expressing her thanks, but the added touch of paper and handwriting–especially during such a tough time–made the gesture so much more profound. I was touched that she was touched enough to go the extra step.

If reviving the lost art of letter writing and 3-D, tactile cards and paper is of interest to you, you should check out my YTT classmate Stephanie’s blog, My Year of Letters. She’s making a commitment “to write one letter a day as a way to practice mindfulness, to reconnect with friends and family, to spread a little joy and love around the world.” I think it’s ever-so-pertinent during a time when the government is studying the possibility of closing 3,700 post offices across the nation.

I used to carry around a set of small 2 x 2 cards in my handbag, to write quick little thank-yous or just-a-notes if the occasion arose, like if a cashier or salesperson was particularly helpful or kind. I remember writing out one to my manager when she took on some of my work assignments during a busy time, but I honestly don’t remember using them elsewhere. I think I’ve been inspired to refill my handbag–and actually put the idea into action this time.

I’m not a designated food blogger so I don’t always remember to snap photos of the interesting things I eat, so instead you’ll have to imagine the sweet, gooey dessert I ordered last night at The Pop Shop:

• 2 scoops vanilla ice cream.
• hot fudge sauce.
• Reese’s Pieces.
• broken sugar cone pieces (yes, that’s an actual topping on the menu!).

This order was very atypical for me, especially after a day of full eats, which included a carb-heavy lunch with my in-laws at an Italian restaurant, a few handfuls of chocolate peanut butter popcorn from Gourmet Popcorn Creations, and then my pre-sundae dinner at The Pop Shop: eggs, turkey bacon, home fries, and toast.

Normal Jen probably would have ordered one scoop of soy ice cream with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. After all, I am a huge proponent of small, yet delectable treats:

Seasons 52's delightful mini-indulgences desserts

But when I examined the dessert menu last night and saw that combination of toppings, I was instantly transported back to my childhood and the days of the Friendly’s Cone Head Sundae. You guys know what I’m talking about, right?

This dessert was a treasure chest of goodies; underneath that innocent-looking ice cream face was a hot fudge-filled swimming pool of even more Reese’s Pieces. Experienced servers would dump a handful of candy into that metal cup; they were smart and knew that the happier the kid, the more the grandparents would tip. This dessert defined my childhood, and it’s probably why I’m so partial to Reese’s Pieces now. (Sorry M&Ms, your sentimental value is lacking.)

So that’s what I ordered last night, a combination of ice cream and toppings that re-created my beloved Cone Head Sundae. It was probably more than I really needed–and I ate way more than I anticipated–but it’s what my heart called for, and–despite it being ice cream–it made me feel warm and fuzzy.

It is not normally this easy for me to break free of the self-imposed restrictions I place on “fun” foods; in fact, this is probably the first time at The Pop Shop I ordered real, full-fat ice cream and not a soy variety. I probably have Susan over at The Great Balancing Act to thank for this mini breakthrough. She has taught me a lot over the past few months since her lymphoma diagnosis, especially in this post, in which she writes that being a personal trainer, healthy eater, and nonsmoker doesn’t mean you can’t get cancer.

“I ate my fruit and vegetable servings every day. I exercised almost every day. I did lots of yoga. I meditated (sometimes). I laughed (a lot). I got fresh air walking and running, I slept my eight hours a night. I haven’t touched a cigarette since 2005 and I drink maybe once a month. Maybe.

According to Dr. Oz, I was doing everything right. And I still. got. cancer. At 25 years of age no less.”

At the end of the post, Susan is shown smiling, holding a giant chocolate cake with boiled icing made for a special family celebration.

“I will still try my best to eat my veggies and exercise, because that’s just who I am. But I now know that obsessing over it is fruitless. What I do know is that I want to spend my days feeling engaged and enjoying every hour lived. Not slaving over some notion of what I ‘should’ be doing. I just want to be stress free.”

I know it’s hard to see clearly until you’ve been in the middle of the storm yourself. I acknowledge I’m not 100% there yet, but in the meantime I tip my Cone Head hat to Susan and her sweet, sweet wisdom.

It's what's on the inside the really matters.

Thursday was my office birthday celebration, which meant my manager brought in the treat of my choice (brownies!) and decorated my cubicle with the “Happy Birthday” confetti.

This time last year I felt anything but happy. I had never associated turning 30 with “getting old,” but then right before my birthday my hip situation worsened and an MRI revealed a torn labrum. At the same time, an x-ray of my leg revealed a mysterious “thing” in my femur, and I went for three agonizing months not knowing for sure what it was. Before I had a specialist deem it a harmless “bone island” (a true medical term, not the next FOX reality show, I swear), I spent my days making orthopedist and bone scan appointments, experimenting with antidepressants (which lasted for a week; I couldn’t stand the side effects), and having to take anxiety medication to go to sleep. The timing was awful, and I felt like my body was a cruel prankster, making everything break down at such a milestone year of my life.

Yet, even with those setbacks, being 30 turned out OK. The hip thing makes my body slightly more fragile, but I have learned to cope with it, taking my time getting in and out of cars, avoiding pigeon and related yoga poses, and always toting around an ice pack to strap on my side after a long day of walking or a cycling session at the gym.

I know I look older; I can no longer mask a night without sleep–the dark circles under my eyes give it away. I have a few more wrinkles on my face, and I am oh-so-crotchety. I am a 30-something, female version of the “Get off my lawn!”-yelling grandpa. Or a cuter version of Larry David. Either would be correct. Just ask my husband.

But, before I go grab a frying pan and yell at the local youth walking across my grass, here’s a look back at the high points of Year 30:

• I celebrated the big 3-0 down the shore with my sis. It was a great lil’ getaway; we went to Wildwood, a shore town we used to frequent annually as kids but then hadn’t been in years. We did some rides, strolled the boards, took goofy pictures, scared ourselves silly riding ducks suspended on an overhead track, took the “back roads”-way home to avoid an accident that left us thinking we accidentally drove into Kansas, and then sat our sandy and sweaty beach butts down at IndeBlue back home for dinner.

I dorked out seeing Morey's Pier after such a prolonged absence.

Even mannequinns get heatstroke.

Heads up!

I've been on countless roller coasters, but returning to the Sea Serpeant fuh-reaked me out! I'm Death-Grip Donna, fourth row from the top.

• 30th birthday celebration II: Surprise Riversharks baseball game with friends. Bryan coordinated the event with a respectable number of guests; any more and I would have cried. I made it very clear to him that I did not want any big birthday surprise parties!

My kind of crowd!

• Birthday celebration III: Another outing with my sis, which included mango mimosas and omelets for brunch, a random African flea market, and a friend’s production of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, during which I was asked to be a part of the cast!

• Birthday celebration IV: A trip to Atlantic City, to redeem Bryan’s birthday gift to me: Tickets to the Season 7 So You Think You Can Dance tour!

Robert and Dominic!

• One of the greatest moments of my 30-year-old life was visiting a Disneyphile’s Mecca: Disneyland! Walt Disney World in Florida is my home base, but our trip to California last September allowed us the opportunity to walk in Walt’s footsteps.

The very first Disney castle!

As an East Coaster my heart will always belong to WDW, but the trip allowed us to see lots of cool things original to Disneyland:

An outdoors "It's A Small World"!

The Matterhorn!

A Monorail that runs through the park!

A Haunted Mansion that switches over to a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme!

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (does my shirt scream "Geek"?)!

A whole new Disney park–California Adventure!

Totally awesome evening show: World of Color!

• Being in California also meant seeing some really cool sights in the LA area:

Hollywood from the hills

LA traffic

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

A frozen yogurt junkie's heaven

The beautiful Getty Center

Sepulveda Dam, which I thought was so lame at the time. (I have a new appreciation for it, now that I know it was featured on "24" and "Alias.")

• My 30th New Year’s celebration included some awesome rooftop fireworks over Philly, which we may never see again now that our friends who lived in the high-rise apartment complex have moved.

• After maintaining a fairly private blog since 2003, I started this here Flowtation Devices in March!

• After being without a “yoga home” for more than a year, I find a studio right by my office–and a teacher whose classes I love!

• I took time to polish up my resume, reminding myself that I done good.

• I put on my big-girl shoes and drove to Philly by myself so I could start attending 5Rhythms classes in the city.

• 30 became the year of fanatic plane watching:

• One of the best places to watch planes is Red Bank Battlefield Park, which became a go-to spot for Bryan and I on nice days:

• My dad won tickets to a Phillies game–my first time at Citizens Bank Park, and some SWEET seats, too!

• I finally got to bang on my djembe a little more at some rockin’ drum circles:

Facilitator Jim Donovan and Old-Lady Friend Carrol.

• Bryan and I spend the evening with fellow NPR nerds at a live recording of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me at the Academy of Music. Things get even better after Christmas, when Bryan gets me a shiny red iPod Nano and I can finally listen to the podcasts!

• I enter my first sporty competition and complete the swimming portion of a team duathlon.

• A railroad crossing near our house that has been closed since the dawn of time OPENS, meaning we can drive from one side of town to the other without having to make a giant u-turn. I consider this 30th Birthday Celebration V; it was a huge victory in our town!

• Bryan gets a new job that allows him to work from home–more husband time! And weeknight dinners together, too–a brand new concept for the wife of a former newspaper photographer!

• I supervise some kick-ass interns at work. It feels good to work with young, intelligent minds…and even help one score a full-time gig!

Round II of physical therapy for my hip includes some odd moments (nothing like having a male PT assistant glue electric nodes to my “underwear” area), but I walk away from the 2-month endeavor feeling better and armed with some incredibly useful hip and back exercises.

• I take blogging to the next level by joining an online community. Ahhh, commitment!

• While delving into all kinds creative movement, I fall head-over-heels in love with Biodanza during an introductory workshop. (It’s returning to Philly in August!)

___________________________

…So there you have it, kiddos. 30 was such an odd year for me, because I do the pee-pee dance when I see Donald Duck dressed as a pumpkin (and break down in tears when he walks away before I get a picture), yet I grumble and scowl like an old lady when kids go splashy-splash in the pool during my lap time at the gym. How one can be so much like Dora the Explorer and Dorothy Zbornak at the same time is a mystery…but–yes, thank you Lady Gaga–dammit, I was born this way!

A real-time photo of me transforming from age 30 into 31.

My birthday is in exactly one week, and so far the only greeting card I’ve received in the mail is one from the physical therapy office I attended more than a year ago. Hey, turning 30 last year was bad enough, but now that I’m officially entering my 30s, getting a reminder about how the body breaks down isn’t exactly the most pleasant punch in the arm (although if someone does punch me 31 times in the arm next Saturday, at least I know a place that can help me with any resulting shoulder injuries).

But actually, the sender of that first birthday card isn’t really what bummed me out–it’s the fact that it made me remember that my stash of birthday cards will be one less this year. As soon as I opened that envelope and saw the birthday greeting, my heart sunk. It’s July, it’s birthday time, and there will be no card from my Aunt Adzia this summer.

The cards Adzia sent me were never glamorous in any way; they didn’t come with birthday confetti inside, and they had nothing to do with any of my interests, the way Bryan selects cards with pugs or how my mother-in-law tries to find something Disney related. They were your typical flowery, butterfly-dotted, overdone cursive cards, the ones you can hardly read because the scripted font is so dramatic, the kind that start off with introductory questions, as though the card is making a high school graduation speech: “What is a niece?” I’m not particularly fond of these cards, but apparently my aunt put much thought into them; my grandmom said that whenever she and Adzia went to Rite-Aid to go card shopping, Adzia would stand in front of the greeting card display and open card after card, reading the messages, making sure they were “just right” for each recipient.

Sometimes I’d get two cards–one that was mailed, and another she’d pass along to my grandmom to give to me. This one usually came with a bow taped onto the envelope–and not just any old bow. We’re talking fancy, curly packaging bows, the kind that cost $1.99 at card stores. On days I was feeling silly, I’d tape the bow onto my shirt or in my hair, or just hang it in my cubicle for a week. Sometimes the extravagance of the bows meant more to me than the bank envelope of birthday cash she’d slip inside.

Before 9/11 and a sudden fear among my family that people might try to mail me anthrax disguised as a Hallmark card, Adzia never used to put return addresses on her envelopes. Still, it was no mystery which cards came from her. Maybe it’s because she went to Catholic school and perhaps was scolded by the nuns for bad penmanship, but Adzia would address every envelope by first penciling a straight line with a ruler, using the faint lines as a foundation for her trademark wide and bubbly cursive handwriting. The inside was no different, but here she usually erased the penciled-in lines after signing her name.

Adzia's penmanship perfectionism carried over onto the boxes of decorations she stored in the basement.

For a while, it was odd to see only Adzia’s name on the inside of my cards. I had grown up knowing my Aunt Adzia, her sister, and their brother–who had all lived together–as the gang of three. For most of my childhood, these cards–although in Adzia’s handwriting–would close with “Love Always and Forever, Aunts Adzia, Stasia, and Uncle Cas.” When Uncle Cas passed away, the signature shortened to “Aunts Adzia and Stasia.” Stasia died in 2007, and since then my birthday cards came from one person, with one signature.

Adzia was good with birthday cards–they usually arrived a week before the occasion, right in between the cards from my realtor and chiropractor and those from my immediate family. It would probably be in my mailbox today, in fact. But the cards have been dealt; the time has come for the perfectly aligned greetings to fade into history. I may never see Adzia’s freshly penned signature again, but at least her love is Always and Forever.

Adzia keeping an eye on my sister, as she reads her own birthday card.

This past weekend I went to the bank to deposit a check and get some cash.

I gave the teller my check, the deposit slip, and requested my $50 back in tens.

Click, click, click went his computer, and in seconds he was presenting me a handful of five $10 bills.

I paused, furrowed my brow. What the…? The transaction was over way too quickly, and I felt uncomfortable by the way he just magically produced my cash and handed it over without counting it. Every teller counts your money! Several times, in fact! That’s why they wear those plastic finger condoms, so they can whip through those bills like a blackjack dealer. The nerve of this teller, to just assume he produced the correct amount of money…

…and then reality hit me. I saw the black printer-like machine next to the teller–a money computer. Just days ago, this teller would have opened a drawer, pulled out some tens, and flip, flip, flipped through the wad to give me the correct amount. But now all he has to do is click in some code that translates to $50 = tens, and with a yawn he reaches down, grabs the cash, and ho-humly passes it over to me like a bored CVS clerk giving me my receipt for a bottle of water.

Technology, 1; Things That Make Life Exciting, 0.

Sure, counting money the old-fashioned way must be time consuming when paired with a robot that does the math for you, but there is something fascinating about watching a bank teller whip through a stack of new, freshly cut bills with cheetah-like speed: 10-20-30-40-50. Re-stack. 10-20-30-40-50. Re-stack. 10-20-30-40-50. All yours! Have a great day! It’s a sensory experience of watching the teller flash through the the money, hearing the flip-flip-flip of the paper against the person’s hands. It adds some color to the otherwise mundane task of going to the bank, a little magic trick of sorts to make that 10-minute wait in line seem not so bad in the end. And, jeez, at least it gives the teller a little dignity! Going from bank lobby pseudo-magician to robot peon can’t be good for self-esteem.

The bank encounter reminded me of other sensory experiences being silenced in place of technology, one of which is the old time board at Orlando International Airport.

Image source

I nicknamed this behemoth the “flippy screen,” because any time a plane departed, arrived, or was delayed, the line in question spun like the numbers on a slot machine until the new designation was listed. At times several lines would flip at once, making the sound of a card dealer on speed. It was fun to witness, too, a bit mesmerizing, like watching little old ladies in a casino pull their slot machine lever over and over and over again. Lucky 7s? Flight to Philadelphia on time?

So you can imagine my disappointment when, several years ago, my beloved flippy screen became a victim of technology and was replaced with several flat-panel televisions. They’re boring. They just sit there. When a flight status changes, in just a blink of an eye, the wording goes from “Boarding” to “Departed.” Like that! No sound, no anticipation of where the flippy board will end. It’s like getting a scratch-off lottery ticket and finding that the numbers appear by themselves without you having to grind a penny into the card and brush the metallic crumbs off your kitchen counter. Yes, it’s quicker, but what’s the fun in that?

We have eyes and ears and a nose for a reason. We’re sensory creatures!

Now, I dislike the traffic that builds up around toll booths on bridges and expressways, but I’m not looking forward to the day these guys go extinct:

Image source

True, true, these coin baskets can sometimes be a great cause of anxiety on the road (“Do I have exact cash?” “Is my car too far away from the basket?” “What if I have awful aim and the coin misses?!”), but again, it’s a sensory experience. There’s the satisfaction off “gettin’ the coins in” (c’mon, we’ve all at least once compared ourselves to some sports hero when all the money reaches its destination), the jingle-jingle as the money funnels to the bottom of the basket, and the final nod of approval from the monitor that has counted all of our coins and gives us permission to pass through the gate.

There are plans underway to make many of the roads in South Jersey all under the control of EZ-Pass, eliminating not only these delightful sounds of quarters and dimes tap dancing in a plastic bucket but most of the physical, human people who serve as toll collectors as well. No matter how many times I tell my husband the story of the charming toll collector on the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge who flirted with my grandmother every Friday when she crossed into Philly to visit her siblings, he firmly stands by fiscal responsibility and eliminating unnecessary jobs and doesn’t care about jingle-jangles or romantic glances from overpaid toll collectors. I totally see his point, and my brain agrees–it’s my eyes, ears, fingers, and heart that struggle to make peace with all of this sensory-stealing technology.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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