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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).

This is me.

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.

Our “beach.”

I know I am going to regret posting this the second I hit publish, but it’s about damn time I post a video of me dancing on this here dance-centric blog.

I remember being so excited when one of my favorite dance bloggers, Meg, first stepped in front of the camera in this post. I was reading about her wonderful dancing all of the time but until then never actually saw it in person. A few weeks later, she’s all like, “OK, I’m going to dance for y’all three times a week!” and started doing all of these cool experimental dance videos.

I came home from the office today with an intense desire to dance. I’m in the middle of this crazy work project that has me validating a database of nearly 600 of our archived articles, and so all day, every day for the past week I’ve been hunched over my computer like a 21st-century Bob Cratchit. The only thing keeping me going is my iPod and music–lots of sweet, sweet music. The only problem with listening to music all day is that my body wants to play along. I occasionally do a head roll here and a finger flick there, but otherwise I’ve had to resort to foot tapping and some torso bopping, when inside all of my muscles and bones and heart and soul just want to DANCE!

So upon coming home today, I went a little crazy in my living room. Unleashed the pent-up junk and–thanks to Florence + The Machine–just shook it all out. (God, I love that song!)

But then I got a little serious.

Because I’m a bit shy about just letting the world see me dance in my living room, I wanted my first video to be a little…mysterious. And by mysterious, I actually mean “I’m Not Going to Face the Camera and I’m Going to Dance in An Intentionally Dark Room in Silhouette.”

I also wanted to explore the concept of upper-body dancing. A lot of people say they can’t dance because they have “two left feet.” OK then, so try dancing with your arms!

Dancing is so much more than steps or counts or choreography. To me, dancing is the kinesthetic equivalent of writing poetry or singing a ballad. Sometimes you thrash. Other times the movement is ever so subtle. Particularly in the practice of 5Rhythms, the final rhythm of Stillness is sometimes no more than a slow gesture or even mindful inhalations and exhalations.

This is actually the second of two videos I shot dancing to this music (Hans Zimmer’s “Time” from Inception, FYI). I didn’t like the first because it felt so forced. The second I knew the camera was rolling, my movement suddenly became all rigid and inauthentic. (Also, my stellar videography skills had me cutting off my hands whenever I reached them upward, which was not ideal for an “upper-body” video.)

So I tried again, this time with a partner. (OK, so my partner was a set of curtains, so what?)

This is an experiment in the dance of Stillness (with a little bit of other stuff thrown in).

Truth be told, I still don’t like the video 100%. I feel the camera transforms me into “performer” mode, and that isn’t me anymore. I need someone to sneak a camera into one of my 5Rhythms classes. Also, please disregard the crap music quality, the Boeing 737 model on the table, and the cell phone chirping somewhere near the end. (I know, I know, I’m such a freakin’ pro over here.)

I’m going to shut up already and post the video.

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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