"The first creative task is to free the body to experience the power of being. It is first in that it is both where we must begin and what is most fundamental. Your body is the ground metaphor of your life, the expression of your existence. It is your Bible, your encyclopedia, your life story. Everything that happens to you is stored and reflected in your body. Your body knows; your body tells. The relationship of your self to your body is indivisible, inescapable, unavoidable. In the marriage of flesh and spirit, divorce is impossible, but that doesn't mean that the marriage is necessarily happy or successful.

"So the body is where the dancing path to wholeness must begin. Only when you truly inhabit your body can you begin the healing journey. So many of us are not in our bodies, really at home and vibrantly present there. Nor are we in touch with the basic rhythms that constitute our bodily life. We live outside ourselves — in our heads, our memories, our longings — absentee landlords of our own estate. A brochure I saw at a chiropractor's office says; 'If you wear out your body, where are you going to live?'

"One incident in my search always sticks out for me: I ran into a rabbi in a shopping mall. We got to talking and I asked, 'Do Jews hate their bodies as much as Catholics?' He started to laugh in mock shock, but then gave me a more quizzical look. It seemed I'd hit on something close to him. He told me that he'd just buried his father, who was also a rabbi. He'd asked his father on his deathbed, 'What was the most important thing in your life, the Torah?' And the old man had answered, 'My body.' 'I was stunned,' his son now told me. He stared past me in awkward silence and finally said, 'I always thought my body was just a vehicle for my mind; feed it, clothe it, send it to Harvard.'

"Being — existence, energy, vitality — means that our spirit fills our body. Our full self is embodied. But when we look in the mirror, what do we see? A dull, vacant stare? A sunken chest? A phony smile? Go take a look. What do you see? If it isn't a vibrant self brimming with energy and presence, then you're shortchanging yourself on the gift of life. I know. I've been there. I've seen thousands of absentee selves, and you have too — on the subway, in rush-hour traffic, in the supermarket, profiled in the eerie evening glow of the tube — and you know, all too often, you're one of them.

"For many of us, the body is a feared enemy whose instincts, impulses, hungers are to be conquered, tamed, trained for service, beaten into submission.

"Ironically, that's what I did as a 'dancer' — I learned to ignore, deny, control, misuse, and abuse my body. I could make it do fancy steps, rev it up with one drug and knock it out with another, starve it and adorn it, but I didn't trust my body, I didn't like it. No wonder I didn't live in my body, or seldom let my breath move below my neck. Mine became a body disconnected from the waves, the rhythms, the cycles that comprised the ocean of my being. I could dance, but I'd forgotten how to really move or be moved.

"My way back into life was ecstatic dance. I reentered my body by learning to move my self, to dance my own dance from the inside out, not the outside in. And over the years, I discovered — in observing my own body and thousands of others — the five sacred rhythms that are the essence of the body in motion, the body alive: Flowing . . . Staccato . . . Chaos . . . Lyrical . . . Stillness.

The Five Rhythms

The rhythm is below me
The rhythm of the heat
The rhythm is around me
The rhythm has control
The rhythm is inside me
The rhythm has my soul.

— Peter Gabriel
"The Rhythm of the Heart" from Security