I am writing this from London, at the start of my 2 month trip to the UK to visit family and work on the West Coast of Scotland. And – oh joy! – to dance with Oya Moore in Spain for a week.
As well as being a teacher of 5Rhythms, I also have a day job, working as a medical doctor – a GP. My days are spent dishing out cholesterol tablets and giving antibiotics far more often than is needed, but for me the work is never humdrum, never boring because the interest for me lies with the people – this person with high blood pressure is different from the next, is a unique and beautiful human being with their own set of joys and difficulties.
The 5Rhythms provides a map for the consultation. In our 15 minutes we enter into Flowing, with attention on the physical body, how the patient moves, how they hold themselves, how their life has shaped them. Then we move into Staccato: the patients’ story, my questions, the examination, arranging tests. Lots to be done, quick, clear, focused; action and expression.
In Chaos, all possibilities are in play, the potential diagnoses, various courses of action, the patients’ agenda and mine. I am guided through this by my intention: the intention of doing the most good for this patient, within the constraints of time and resources. Then Lyrical, and with grace and good fortune we reach a shared understanding. We may not necessarily agree, but we each understand the others viewpoint, and come to resolution; at best a harmonious melding of our energy and purpose.
Stillness follows, and we might revisit any of the other four rhythms, ripples of Flowing as a patient mentions a new symptom, Staccato as I draw a boundary and explain we will look into that next time, and finally pure Stillness when the patient leaves and I have a moment to reflect and just be, before I greet the next patient.
That’s a lot to happen in 15 minutes, but the Wave is adaptable and has a timescale ranging from seconds to epochs!
There are deeper layers in all of these stages, and these are the levels of work that bring my medical work to life, in an enriching and fulfilling way. This I have learned from the 5Rhythms. Where I make a difference in my work is when I stand as witness, really seeing this person to the best of my ability, becoming aware of things about them that they don’t tell me, allowing the unspoken to be present in the meeting, sensing the person’s courage or sadness, anger or bitterness and just allowing it to be there, just accepting it, without naming it or judging it.
And this is where the magic happens: my acceptance allows more of what is present to become apparent. It allows a softening down for the patient more deeply into their body and allows them to get in touch with feeling: both physical and emotional, that they were not at first aware of. It allows guardedness and barriers to dissolve, stuck-ness or holding to come into movement so that more is present in the consultation.
This magic is what we do for ourselves in flowing; we accept ourselves, accepting the physicality of our bodies, becoming aware of how this muscle is tight, or how that joint twinges, and aware too of our feelings. Feelings are a sensation. This is worth emphasizing, (though it might be obvious to some of the more kinaesthetically inclined among you!) – feelings are not thoughts; our emotions arise in the physicality of our body, feelings are sensations. As we accept ourselves, becoming aware of what is going on for us in that moment, we give permission for more to come into movement, for aspects of ourselves that have been deeply held to come up into expression when we move into Staccato.
In the consultation I act as witness for the patient, and in 5Rhythms, when we dance with a partner we can do this for each other. Dancing with a partner can be a profoundly transformative experience. And sometimes it is just plain fun! And sometimes we find ourselves distracted and bored, or we try so hard to be a good ‘witnesser’ that we are completely beside ourselves. It’s all part of the dance.
Lets look at the possibilities: for example when witnessing in flowing, if we stay grounded in our own flowing dance, aware of our feet on the floor, of the physicality of our own movement, then include awareness of our partner, bringing our attention to them with a soft focus, allowing them to be just as they are. This quality of attention is our acceptance, and by accepting our partner we give permission for whatever is there for that person to come into their awareness and acceptance in Flowing, into expression in Staccatto and be released in Chaos. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t: there is a time and place for these things. The gift that we give to our partner as a witness is to create the possibility for more movement, and movement after all, is change.
With practice, (and 5Rhythms is a practice) we so embody these skills that they become second nature and we can draw on them in any of our interactions with people at work and at home and with people we meet in the street – when appropriate. Not, for example, when there is a mugger running towards you – running away may serve you better! I am reminded of a joke about a Mindfulness Teacher crossing the road: ‘Ah! I see a big red bus coming rapidly towards me. I am aware that my legs feel like jelly, and that my mouth is dry. My heart is beat…. Suddenly I am aware of flying though the air….’ Something I love about 5Rhythms is that it is so practical and so down to earth.
Be gentle with yourselves dear dancers, and with each other. And be strong, joyous, clear, shy, outrageous, sexy, angry, playful, forgiving and anything else that you feel – it’s all there and it can all be danced!
Sending you love from England, the scent of blossom, and some of the funky, full-on, multicultural vibe from this huge, chaotic city.