April 6, 2017
by Tamaki Okuda, Japan
Tamaki is a dancer in Japan who has 4 children, 2 of whom have developmental disorders. Before becoming a mother, Tamaki worked for 15 years as a social welfare worker at a disability hospital, specifically with intellectual disability. During her time at the hospital, she often saw medication used to calm patients who displayed difficult behaviour. But now she finds hope and possibility in using the 5Rhythms experience with her 11-year-old daughter May, who has a severe developmental disorder and learning disability.
Although May is 11 years old, her intellectual ability is that of an 18-month-old. Her spoken sentences contain 2 words at the most. For May, all colours are yellow, and she cannot yet go to the toilet by herself. Although she can now walk, her sensory disability gives her a tendency to fall easily. When she encounters something she doesn’t like, her behaviour can become out of control, throwing everything around her or hitting and pushing other people. Afterwards, she notices that she has done something bad, and may then start to punish herself, for example, hitting her own head.
When she is in her own rhythm, which is 6-7 times slower than most people, she is able to feel safe and okay. However, when she has to be hurried to move at the same speed as others, she becomes panicky and is only able to do what she wants to do.
When May was little, it was much easier for her mother to carry her, but as she has grown, this has become more difficult. Until recently, the biggest challenge for her parents was giving her a bath or shower: she does not like to be touched above her shoulders, so having her hair washed was her least favourite experience. When she got angry, she would become very challenging to handle, and even when calm again, her slow rhythms meant that sometimes her baths would last as long as an hour which was very tiring for her mother. Sometimes, Tamaki would have to bring an end to the bath by turning off the light or the water, which would make May cry a lot.
This is Tamaki’s story:
The first time that I attended a 5Rhythms workshop, my teacher, Masayo, shared Gabrielle’s teaching that “5Rhythms is everywhere”. I wondered if it was true – and then I got the idea to try using 5Rhythms in the bath with May.
In the bathtub, I made a circle with my hands and arms and told her: “Look at this circle – so beautiful! This is called FLOWING!” May’s face lit up with happiness and curiosity. We played Flowing in the bath tub for a while.
When I thought that was enough Flow, I used my arms to make a Samurai sword and cut the water with a big splashing sound. “May-chan, now get out from tub time! Staccato time!” I used staccato rhythms, making shapes, and walked out of the bathroom like a robot marching. May followed me out of the tub!
Then it was time for Chaos. “Shake shake shake! Chaos shampoo time!” May was laughing all the time and shaking her head. She was having so much fun. It was the first time we had experienced an easy shampoo moment in years!
With the towel, I said to her, “So gentle, so sweet, so beautiful, this is your Lyrical time!“ The towel drying was super easy and May went to bed in Stillness.
Bringing 5Rhythms into May’s bath time allowed me to have fun and relax too. May was able to surrender with me. May feels everything and I think she needs a safe container. I have noticed when I am too serious, that my daughter will not move or shift. When I am having fun myself, along with some humor, I know that she absolutely feels my energy and benefits from it.
I thought that the bath experience was remarkable for our family and wanted to explore using the Rhythms in every day life further. I asked for some music suggestions for my daughter and Masayo gave me some Youtube links. The first Flowing track was a Cherokee Morning song. I played the song in the kitchen and May came up to me and started to dance with circling arms, circling her body and her head. She began to sing the Cherokee song. When the music had finished, she asked me for “More!!”
So I played some suggested Staccato music. I was surprised to see May doing a perfect Staccato dance: staccato hips, arms and even fingers! She made shapes and sharp lines. It was a really cool dance!
During the Chaos, I told her. “May-chan! you must be so frustrated when people don’t understand you, aren’t you? Why don’t you let go of that feeling? Anyway, let’s shake it off together! Shake shake shake!”
May was shaking her body with pure joy. I believe that the Chaos dance can be very helpful for the self-injuring behaviour of people like my daughter, who have mental or intellectual disabilities. But then I, as her mother, started to cry and could not stop crying. I was really frustrated. I realised that this anger was mine – not my daughter’s! This Chaos was not for my daughter – I needed it more than her.
This was a great realisation for me. I learned from this that, as mothers, we need to heal ourselves first, even though our kids need something from us. This was something that I had to accept.
Then Lyrical: May knew the essence of Lyrical and danced lightly and playfully. I was enchanted.
During Stillness, she said “Shhh!” with her index finger on her lips.
Nowadays, May asks me to dance every day and we do a short Wave with the same songs in our kitchen together. She loves to dance so much. I didn’t tell her how to dance – her body already knew how to do it. Also, my parrot is starting to remember the Cherokee morning song now!
If everything contains the Rhythms, as my teacher Masayo said, I wonder if I can make simple things fit into the 5Rhythms map. I wonder if 5 steps to wearing clothes, 5 steps for wearing shoes, could work. Teaching basic stuff with the Rhythms would open up huge possibilities for disabled kids. If everything May learns is through the Rhythms with Mom, and she remembers that, this will become her ability and her strength forever.
I feel like I have found the light of hope now.