Do you ever get perplexed about this journey we’re on? This thing called Being Human? At the age of three I found two vital forms of prayer: Lakota Sioux sweat lodges and — after jumping onto the stage during my sister’s dance performance — dance.
Growing up, I danced everywhere I went. At each party from age three onward, I was the first one moving. At 21, I remember a girlfriend looking at me in a bar and saying, “Oh, I finally get it — you move the way you FEEL!”
A decade later, after my sister took her own life, I was left with a pain that filled my days. In her absence I felt the stark reality that although there was love all around me, the expression of it was scarce. It was at this time that I understood that the only way to inspire myself to keep enjoying my life was to teach dance.
“Dancing, singing, storytelling and silence are the four universal healing salves.” -Gabrielle Roth
As I dabbled in leading small groups through choreography I learned that that work wasn’t in alignment with my desire to inspire awareness and growth on a soul level, like the way I knew I could by teaching embodiment through yoga and Pilates. And yet, in all these forms — dance, yoga, and Pilates — I was watching people go through their self-defeating inner dialogue about not getting it right, not being good enough, not having the coordination to move like their teachers.
It saddened me. The words “I can’t dance” are some of the heaviest words I hear. Behind them are shames and limitations that kill the pure expression of spirit to move through these bodies of ours.
Today, I want to inspire people to explore movement that has nothing to do with looking good and everything to do with moving energy fully and completely. And the funny part is, once the head is out of the way, the movement itself is fascinating, if not beautiful!
The fastest, cleanest, most joyful way to break out of your own box is by dancing. I’m not talking about doing the stand-and-sway. I’m talking about dancing so deep, so hard, so full of the beat that you are nothing but the dance and the beat and the sweat and the heat. -Gabrielle Roth
We humans are conduits on this earth, and what we focus on is what we bring to the planet. If we’re constantly practicing holding back and editing the way things look, then we’re training ourselves to be tense. Is that what we want? Absolutely not!
Put your body in motion and your psyche will heal itself. -Gabrielle Roth
Once I meditated for five hours on my five-year plan, as prescribed by my shaman of a mother. In the fifth hour, with my eyes closed and seeing all black, my mind completely blank, I received a vision of the 5Rhythms logo. It felt like it flew in on wings and hit me over the head. Boom! I came out of that meditation and researched 5Rhythms classes in the area. I found three things: 1) Santa Barbara had no regular Waves classes 2) Gabrielle Roth, creator of 5Rhythms, had just died a month before, and 3) for the first time ever, Lucia Horan was coming to SB to teach a 5Rhythms workshop, just a month away. I signed up with the knowledge that I was going there to see if I wanted to teach this modality of movement.
A month later after dancing a full Wave, a group of us were gathered on the floor while Lucia demonstrated the 5Rhythms. I watched this woman who I’d never met till now move and breathe with fullness, dripping with sweat and beauty, completely offering herself to the dance. She didn’t have one move; she wasn’t trying to look a certain way; she was simply allowing energy to move with and through her.
To sweat is to pray, to make an offering of your innermost self. Sweat is holy water, prayer beads, pearls of liquid that release your past. The more you dance… the more you sweat, the more you pray. The more you pray, the closer you are to ecstasy. -Gabrielle Roth
I was brought to tears. I had found a meditation practice that I’d been doing my whole life. Feeling for the first time since adolescence that there were more people out there like me who had to dance — no training necessary — who were calling in presence and authenticity. I was in. I committed to begin my journey to teach the 5Rhythms.
5Rhythms is not a linear practice, so the first order of business was to learn what the 5Rhythms were and what it felt like in my own body. We were not taught with books (although Gabrielle did write three very inspiring books that I highly recommend), and any note-taking happened after we left the floor. We were taught that the information we needed would stay with us and the rest would come in when we were ready.
I spent over three years in continual three-day, five-day, and ten-day workshops all around the world learning embodiment practices. It is through having a solid practice and relationship with the 5Rhythms body of work that I became a teacher. I came alive in ways that I had thought were impossible.
Your body is the ground metaphor of your life, the expression of your existence… So many of us are not in our bodies, really at home and vibrantly present there. Nor are we in touch with the basic rhythms that constitute our bodily life. We live outside ourselves — in our heads, our memories, our longings — absentee landlords of our own estate. My way back into life was ecstatic dance. I reentered my body by learning to move my self, to dance my own dance from the inside out, not the outside in. -Gabrielle Roth
A big part of my growth was in being witnessed by the 5Rhythms tribe, my
teachers and my peers. I was pushed to connect to myself more deeply and to others in ways that were foreign to me. I was utterly uncomfortable in connection because of my empathic sensitivities, and it was all very healing because of my loneliness and loss. I learned to see others and allow myself to be seen. I learned to speak about insights my body gave me, not my head. And, after 31 years of knowing I was “weird” to just about everyone I met because I never really fit in, I learned I have a place where I am welcomed just as I am.
Don’t be afraid to show your light. If it ends up being too much for people, tell them to wear sunglasses! -Gabrielle Roth
In the 5Rhythms practice, which integrates five different elements, my teachers encouraged me to find grounded movement that had been evading me my whole life through Flowing. I found edges and boundaries that up until then I could never uphold. My body was able to make shapes clearly through the rhythm of Staccato. Chaos was never hard for me to find; in that stage I surrendered thoughts, let go of judgment, and allowed myself to be danced. And because I could feel my feet on the ground, I stayed more present during the intensity of this rhythm.
After emptying out anything that held me back — after sweating out the toxins, thoughts, and tensions — there was a sense of spaciousness. I was lighter, softer, and more clear. It’s here in the rhythm of Lyrical that I find it most easy to engage in “no mind” dancing. This is the place to dive into transformation, shape shifting, and real change. From there comes Stillness, the 5th rhythm in the Wave. This rhythm is a teacher beyond all others. It contains ALL the rhythms, and if you can do it slowly then it is deeply integrated, as in any movement practice.
After years of practicing with the 5Rhythms tribe and while at my second module of the Waves Teacher Training in Croatia, I realized that I had consistently been approaching Stillness from a numbed point of view. This shocked me, and was a humbling and inspiring gift. A senior teacher, Silvija Tomcik, taught me to explore stillness from the vantage point of being completely warmed up. So, now when my whole body has done every rhythm, I get to sense vitality and feel the sensations of connection within the web of my own fascia and the spaces between the muscles, organs, and bones. This space is replicated in the ether, the spaces between people, cities, countries, planets. Stillness weaves us all together into one. This 5Rhythms dance has become something I crave — a nurturing, sensual heat that engages my whole being, a deep teacher.
Your soul is a seeker, lover and artist; shape-shifting through archetypal energy, between your darkness and fields of light, your body and spirit, your heaven and hell, until you land in the moment of sweet surrender; when you, as a dancer, disappear into the dance. -Gabrielle Roth
This thing of being human remains mysterious. What my 5Rhythms meditation practice does for me is to connect me to the essence of my soul, to ground my soul into my body, and to encourage me to show up for what life wants to teach me. The dance is my medicine, my prayer, my internal shower and my eternal spirit journeying in this body right now.