September 20, 2019
“Put the body in motion and the psyche will heal itself”. – Gabrielle Roth
By Chris Boylan, Yorkshire, U.K.
I’m startled, surprised, delighted. Alan has run across the dance floor, taken my hand and pulled me into a clumsy, joyous, foot-kicking, arm-swinging dance.
It’s over two years since I met Alan. He would arrive with a care worker or a friend, make his way to a chair. He spoke little, he moved little. Often he would spend the whole two hours with his coat on. Sometimes he might swing his legs a little, often his movement was no more than shaking his hands.
When Alan was very small, he fell into a water-filled hole on wasteland and wasn’t found for a long time. He nearly died. He suffered serious brain-damage and multiple physical injuries. He wears special shoes. His movement is limited but expanding. These days he speaks little and laughs often. He is both a friend and a teacher.
Every Monday he joins us at The Club, a joyous, truthful, anarchic gathering of volunteers and people who are described as having “learning difficulties”. At The Club, we don’t use labels or descriptions, we are all simply people. When I was first invited, I had been dancing 5Rhythms for 17 tears and teaching for eight years. My first reaction: “This is what we do in 5Rhythms”. We weren’t dancing waves of Flowing-Staccato-Chaos-Lyrical-Stillness but much of it was there: embodiment, expression (lots of expression!!), release, imagination and soulful meeting, a profound sense of interconnection. Above all, acceptance. All is welcome at The Club and all are welcome. Does this sound familiar?
Gabrielle recognised the similar energies of our movement patterns. She identified 5Rhythms, named them and mapped them. She developed a movement practice that brings awareness to the essential dance of being a human and having a body. The movement landscapes of the whole; the body, the heart, the mind, the soul and spirit. These days there are sections in bookshops on “self-improvement” but not on self-acceptance. 5Rhythms is embodied self-acceptance. Powerful medicine! And it doesn’t come with a leaflet listing harmful side-effects, there aren’t any, we can only go where we are ready to go.
Like Alan, when I was small I fell into a hole. A different kind of hole. I fell in love with the parish priest. He was a serial child abuser. He raped me.
My wounds were different. I left my small shaking body along with my memory in an isolated farmhouse in the English Midlands. Christopher went away for a while. A long while. My story was pretty typical of many with similar experiences. Physically numb, violence, booze, drugs, useless with relationships. I adopted new identities with the ease and speed that Madonna changed outfits in a stage show. No judgment – I had some great times and my life had a great soundtrack. I simply wasn’t really there when they were happening and I was hurting.
My return didn’t begin on a 5Rhythms dance floor. It began in disused factories, in forests, in fields, in quarries, the dance floors of the underground rave scene. I would go out on a Friday night and wake under a truck on an abandoned airstrip hundreds of miles away on the Monday morning having danced all weekend. Sure, there were a lot of drugs, there was also a sense of tribe and acceptance. Most importantly I was moving again. My body was already beginning its healing work but much of me was still in the hole.
In 1998 I was called by the serious crime squad and I shattered. In September 1999 I stepped onto a 5Rhythms dance floor and I knew I was home. Wave upon wave upon wave opened my body to allow the whole of myself to return. Heartbeat awakened me to the rich rivers of emotion that I had been avoiding. Cycles allowed me to embody the stories until they became just that, stories. Tales that inform me rather than imprison me. Mirrors awoke me to the tricky shadowlands of my ego, the billion ways I separate. And Mirrors awoke me to the radiance of the soul, mine included.
It was all physical. Everybody has a unique healing path. When I was in my hole, the last thing I needed was to find someone to talk with about it. The only times I shared the details of my experiences were police interviews and during the trial. I needed to get out of the hole. I danced out of it. Not all of us can speak and sometimes speaking can really get in the way.
5Rhythms teachers are simply sharing their own dance. My own experience informs my work with people who have experienced harm similar to mine. We don’t go into the stories, we are not our wounds. It works. I have witnessed dancers stand in their power and reclaim a given name that they haven’t used since childhood. Again and again, I’ve witnessed a rigid spine release or a clenched fist open. Physical subtleties that show that there is a healing going on.
Or maybe somebody will run across the dance floor and take my hand.
My changes are not solely due to 5Rhythms. I’ve had many awesome teachers, not all of them easy and not all of them human. This practice isn’t a healing bubble where we go to get things fixed, wanting to fix things can really get in the way! It is a place where we can move with and be moved by everything in our lives enabling us to be truly here while are here. The human body has evolved to heal wounds of the heart and wounds of the psyche just as efficiently as it heals wounds of the flesh. Our ancestors wouldn’t get very far if they stopped moving when they were hurt. Sure, sometimes we need expert help. Surgery has twice saved my life. But most of the time we are our own best healers.
Photo credit to Harriet (Facebook: Harri-art))
In Gabrielle’s words “Put the body in motion and the psyche will heal itself”.
Alan is his own healer. He loves to dance. He also has some amazing people around him. People who don’t judge him, people who enjoy him for who he is. Shortly before he ran across the space, he had an assessment interview in which he was really seen and really heard. It’s another mirror of our practice. Ultimately it’s all about love and acceptance.
Somewhere in the English Midlands, there was a hole. Today it is a place where flowers grow.
Alan’s name and the name and location of “The Club” have been changed.
Chris in an outfit made by 5Rhythms kids
Chris Boylan is based on the Yorkshire Coast. He is originally a toolmaker by trade. These days, in addition to dancing with his friends at The Club and his class and workshop programme, he offers occasional Healing in Motion events. Healing in Motion is 5Rhythms waves work which introduces people who have experienced long-term wounds as children or adults to the healing power of movement. He has a passionate fascination with our innate capacity to heal the wounds of the psyche when we put our bodies in motion.