January 13, 2017
by Cass Donnelly, Australia as told to Morgan Nichols
Since I began dancing 16 years ago, I have had a vision to bring 5Rhythms into the hairdressing industry where I work. I have been putting the pieces of the puzzle in place ever since.
I experienced high anxiety and depression for years because I had the vision but lacked the traction or the consistency to give clear instructions to people that they could follow. It was only when I really applied myself to the 5Rhythms practice that I became truly effective at grounding my vision into the planet. I’ve done hundreds of workshops in the last 20 years in many aspects of study, and it’s 5Rhythms that’s been the most powerful for me, combined with conscious breathing, which creates an awareness of all the senses, deepening the practice. After studying business at university, running a family-owned hair salon business for over two decades, and teaching thousands of salons to run their business, my business is now booming, and the things that are happening in my life are an absolute outcome of the 5Rhythms practice.
The Leadership Pitfall: Getting Stuck in What Works
In my experience of training in salons and talking to business leaders all over the world, I have found that over time people’s attitudes, beliefs, habit patterns and routines begin to limit their creativity and spontaneous movement. They start getting comfortable and look for predictable decision making and outcomes they can control by taking things in a certain direction. But this is only one, quite rigid way to lead a business, and stems from a subtle fear: “I don’t know the future, so I’m trying to control it.” It means following consistent patterns and shapes, based primarily on the leader’s history and upbringing, the cycles of their life and how they see themselves in the future. As a leader, I’ve found that changing and trying to evolve myself is a much more fulfilling path: bringing more of my heart, changing my shapes.
Flow and Foundation
For business leaders, having trust and the mystery of life as a resource in decision- making and creative action is absolutely the best source of inspiration. Doing the 5Rhythms practice diligently, and practicing the movement of Flow, has been a key part of a foundation of trust that I have in myself, life and the flow that comes through me. Feeling grounded and connected with Mother Earth, trusting each step and moment, being receptive, listening and observing life emerging, and then lovingly bringing organisation/structure direction to this movement (Staccato). With this process comes a simplicity of expression. There’s no need for tension; tension comes from mistrust.
In my business, Flow allows me to give clear, consistent guidelines, boundaries, feedback and instructions with a loving heart, from a place of trust. It means that I can embrace Chaos (the force of new life) and bring gratitude and celebration for the new gifts that are coming. All in a space of timelessness: I have slowed down and become so present in the moment with what I’m doing that it seems like there are millions of moments in the day.
To move from leading from the mind (facts, figures, what we’ve learned) to leading from the body, we have to start with the feet. The first day of the business leadership workshop I run is about feeling and trusting the feet, allowing yourself to be moved through the movement of the feet and bringing the awareness down to the earth: what’s the relationship I have to sacred ground?
I don’t discuss this openly in the workshops: it’s about my body holding the space, not what I am saying. I want to embody this practice and create an atmosphere with these principles, and what comes out of my mouth is secondary to that. I’m not saying “trust”, I am trusting people, and through who I am being, I enable an environment where this is present.
Staccato and Communing with the Womb
In moving through the body parts in 5Rhythms practice, what I’ve seen is that there is an intelligence in the hip, womb and stomach area that goes beyond the mind and the heart. In the relationship and communication I’ve established with that area, there is a spaciousness and a sense of direction and certainty that’s very precise and efficient in its movement. When I come up to the heart, it’s expansive, dynamic, and beautiful, but also more polarised: I can be angry then sad, crying or laughing in minutes. Incredible waves happen which create complexity. My heart space tells me to listen to people, to open my heart and see others, but it is in the stomach/womb that I believe we find the place of leadership. That movement seems to integrate the guidance of earth-based Flow with the heart space, along with a bit of mental logic. The hips – the masculine, sexual area – are connected to organisation and structure, but this is only effective when it’s coming from that place of the divine feminine.
Inspired Leadership through Chaos & Lyrical
Working in a family business with my father has involved very difficult stages of Chaos between the father-son archetypes. When you have two leaders – me and my father – with two different rhythms and patterns and shapes, sometimes you are in sync and it’s good, and other times you’re out of sync and these go all over the place. The polarities I’ve experienced with my mother, father, sister and myself, have been the most challenging and rewarding training I’ve received around Chaos. I’ve had the opportunity to see what wonderful things arise out of Chaos, over and over again, in the form of new ideas in business and for my own maturity. Through my study of 5Rhythms, becoming more confident with this process, I am continually amazed at the gifts that come.
As I’ve become more consistent with expressing my heart, I’m more able to stand my ground, so the waves of Chaos become shorter. But previously, when I was in drama and reaction, it could go on for weeks. It doesn’t affect me like it used to; I just clearly communicate what I need to say with an open heart, changing the vibrational frequency to a heart conversation – Lyrical, playful, laughing, having fun. In some cases, it’s about: “Where is my heart and what is it that I would love to share in this moment that brings more of my love into this relationship?” All of a sudden, I’m able to touch the heart of this person in the Chaotic moment with me.
Then there’s communicating with my staff. For example, if I have a competitor that’s doing things that affect our business, my heart knows what to say without thinking about it. I can say, “Yeah, they’re doing good things. Now, where are we going?” Having a logical fear that’s about a nightmare in the future has changed completely for me because now my moment-to-moment experience is of trust in life, which comes from Flow. If someone breaks the rules, I say “Thanks for bringing Chaos into the company, let’s look at the amazing things that have come out of this, the innovative thinking”. After this awakening of a new idea or creation, there’s Lyrical: gratitude and celebration. Gratitude as a value system in my company anchors the rhythm of Lyrical in our company.
Stillness, Spontaneity, and Solutions
Most creative thinking comes from building relationships with past knowledge: bringing new insights through synthesizing what is already known. But this is limiting because you have to keep learning things. Stillness, however, is a gateway for inspired vision and thinking beyond current knowledge that is unspeakable and arises out of nothingness. As a leader in business, an essential role is to build bridges for the future of the organisation: I am seeing visions that could be hundreds of years away. So Stillness is an essential ingredient as a business leader.
In Stillness, it’s about being really present and listening to that spontaneous moment, being open to it. You need to die to the gratitude of Lyrical: if you attach to the gratitude, you’re not available to the Stillness. It’s a deepening presence beyond words that comes into my work. It’s about ending myself, about birth and death. This is where the most profound, inspired insights and visions originate: creative thinking, solutions, things that come from an intelligence beyond our current knowledge.
Re-Visioning 5Rhythms for Business
Yes, mindfulness has been integrated into the corporate world, but sitting there in mindfulness is easy. The challenge of 5Rhythms is that it’s to do with the body and physical movement. The pathway is always through the heart, which is confrontational for people as it shakes up feelings, requiring us to own and feel the intensity of the polarity of our emotions, to journey through that into the womb and stomach area. Then we become fully integrated with the earth and the heavens.
One of the stumbling blocks people have is the concept of “5Rhythms dancing”. For me, it’s not 5Rhythms dancing, it’s 5Rhythms. We use these Rhythms to awaken the full capacity of the intelligence of our body with life. If business leaders think this is about dancing and having fun, they miss the essence. Those are only minor benefits of 5Rhythms for me, as a leader of my own life and my business. Business leaders need to look beyond the idea of dance and see the Rhythms as a way to access intelligence to effectively create their life beyond what they’ve experienced before – and for this to happen, we need to develop a new language that can appeal to them.