I went to a 5 Rhythms dance about 2 weeks after sitting a 10 day course. The 5 rhythms is a free form dance style developed by Gabriel Roth which takes dancers through 5 distinct rhythms of flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. These rhythms mirror the rhythms of nature and the seasons. It’s about a 2 hour dance and is likened to a meditation in motion, there is no rigid form to adhere to rather you let your body dance according to how it wants to move. I first got introduced by some meditator friends I was serving with at the Massachusetts Center many years ago. Since, I’ve found a dance close to where I live now.
I have enjoyed these dances, they can be deep and profound in their own right. I’ve approached it from the place of being aware and equanimous as I move and allow whatever sensations, thoughts, and feelings to come and go without getting caught in them. Our bodies need movement and this is a way to move get out of the head and synch the mind with the body. It’s also a nice way to be in community with others. Here in the US many people sit all day at work and then if you practice vipassana you also sit for 2 hours a day, some body centered movement is a good balance I think. Also for someone who has never taken a 10 day course it can be a way inwards.
Dance and music are very stimulating to the mind and is a gross sensory input especially coming from a 10 day course, I usually wait awhile after a course before I’m ready for a dance. It’s obvious why the 7th precept of abstaining from sensual entertainment is there for serious meditation because music and dance greatly stimulate the mind and dissipate the subtly of one pointed Samadhi needed for penetrating wisdom. But once I acclimate back to the world and am more active it’s not as big of a jump.
There’s music to fit every mood and emotion. We resonate with music which connects with our emotions. If we want to know what the conscious or unconscious mind has been generating or moods we are inclined towards music will tell us right away. A challenge with music can be the lure to get completely into emotions without equanimity and get lost and swept away. Let’s say someone is angry and they are drawn to angry music and the music makes them angrier or can make that tendency to react with anger stronger. The difference as a meditator is that we have learned to observe the sensations underlying emotions with equanimity and maintain wisdom about them. Music can also be very inspiring and uplifting, it can foster our feelings of metta, generosity and good will towards others, it can help give context and meaning to our personal experiences, articulate what we may have found hard to articulate, connect us to experience we had found hard to connect to before or to something greater than ourselves. At the same time there’s the wisdom that whatever is arising is impersonal changing phenomenon which does not belong to us but rather are conditions of mind arising and passing away.
When I meditate in the evening after a dance I feel a buzzy flow of energy in the body, there may or may not be emotions that accompany that. The mind isn’t fixated on particular thoughts as much, thought impressions are moving more quickly, one pointedness samadhi is less. It can make meditation less subtle, less still and peaceful. More absorption into the sensual realm and less into the sublime. It is a trade off temporally but it’s also anicca. On the other hand the body is benefited- strength, dexterity and coordination is enhanced. The sitting posture is benefited. The body and mind feel in better communication and there can be a freeing of mental and emotional material and a clearing of the mind.
When we are back in our daily lives in the world we strive to find balance and integration with our meditation practice. For me dance has been one balancing support in this process.