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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.) ūüôā

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.

Tonight I’ll be dancing the 5Rhythms, so while I’m moving through Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness, here are five things from me for you to do!

(1) Laugh!

Growing up, my sister always had a knack for saying funny things to ease the awkwardness at family gatherings, so after one too many “You’re so funny! You should be a comedian!”, my sister finally said, “OK!” She’s a marketing coordinator by day and stand-up comic on nights and weekends. She’s got at least one gig every week, plus she co-hosts a weekly open mic night in Philly and just got back from the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon. My lil’ sis is such an inspiration; she just gets out there and does it, even if that means starting at the bottom of the ladder (read: redneck beef ‘n’ beers; small-town coffee shops) and working bit by (comedy) bit through the muck.

(2) Cry!

With the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking a few weeks ago, the Internet and radiowaves were buzzing with news about the epic disaster. One of the stories I happened to catch was that of Wallace Hartley, the conductor of the Titanic’s orchestra, who led his musicians in song as the ship sank. This quote from historian John Maxtone-Graham was particularly stirring: “He was taking care of [the musicians’] spiritual needs near the end of their lives by giving them a job they could do that would fill the time. My conviction is it gave as much comfort to the men who were playing as to the people who heard them.”

The movie Titanic has some cheese-factor moments, but the clip above is a tearjerker. Now I’m wondering, if my world was ending before my eyes, would I dance to the death?

(3) Move!

I’m still not sure what exactly this is, but TaKeTiNa looks pretty awesome. Come to the East Coast (read: Philly) soon, please!

(4) Dance Walk!

I get the cops called on me for dancing on the beach, but this guy turns into an Internet sensation for chasseing through the streets of Manhattan. I love the concept, though; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking around town listening to my iPod and have wanted to dance walk along to the music. (Secret: Sometimes I sneak into the wooded trail area of the local park and do just this! Shhh!)

(5) Read!

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (

While doing some research for my post about Nia earlier this week, I came across this story by Nia teacher Amy Podolsky. She writes about recovering from surgery and being instructed by her doctor not to do aerobic activity for a month. This was devastating news to a dance teacher, and her story here is how this limitation actually brought her closer to her body and spirit.

It reminded me a lot of what I experienced during one of my early 5Rhythms classes, on a night my hip was acting up and I couldn’t move the way my mind envisioned. I still had an amazing experience, though, as I documented in my journal:

I did not move as much as I normally do, but I was very aware of every movement I did make. Every finger flick, head roll, and spinal flexion was done with intention, and I became immersed in my breath. In fact, the teacher lined us all up at the one end of the studio and told us to allow our breath to carry across to the other side. “Move as though you are your breath,” he said. That was one of the most intense experiences of the night, and when I reached the other side, turned around, and saw the other students breathing their way toward me, I felt this surge of energy wash over me, like everyone’s oncoming energy was meshing with mine and making me feel kind loopy. I felt a deep connection with everyone for the rest of the class, and I became more open in my movements, more welcoming to the other students.

That said, I can’t wait for my own Friday 5 (Rhythms) tonight! Have a great weekend!

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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