Gabrielle Roth:” I felt like I had a self to fall back on, which was very important, that I had been feeding and nourishing and developing for 50 years of practice, and that I had practice that helped me. Even though I wasn’t able to dance, life is a dance, and I still was able to see through the perspective of the 5Rhythms and to feel and to be in my body and to be instinctive, which was the most important thing of all. Because you have a lot of people telling you what to do, and they all have on white coats, and you also have information coming in from your cousin, the doorman, and the taxi driver’s great-aunt, and everybody who you meet knows somebody who’s doing something with cancer.
… So there was a tremendous amount of energy coming at one, when we’re first diagnosed with cancer, and I think that for me, I fell back inside of myself and just went very quiet and just paid attention to my body. For example, the first treatments that they felt that I needed to have, radiation and chemotherapy—my whole body recoiled. It was like I was contracting. And I looked, and I just saw myself. The doctor was speaking, and it was like he was speaking to someone else. And I just knew that that wasn’t right for me at that moment. It wasn’t that it isn’t right but that it wasn’t right for me in that moment.
I was exhausted. I had been running all over the world. I’d been teaching full-time, writing, doing everything, and in the irony of spreading a practice that is a healing practice and an artistic practice, and now I was the one who really had to stop, look, and listen, in a very different way, in a personal way. So I actually sat on my beautiful white couch in my loft here in Manhattan and was just with myself, meditating, drinking my green drinks, letting go of sugar, and doing some just very practical things in getting myself together and taking in information that was important.”
Tami Simon:” Now, Gabrielle, a couple things: one, I just want to thank you for just being so vulnerable and heartful and sharing you experience. I know so many people have looked to you now for decades as a pioneer, as a way show-er, and that you’ve done that through your work with dance and music and teaching, and here you are helping us understand through your own experience, something quite difficult. Thank you. You don’t have to be talking to me right now about this. And yet you are. So thank you.
GR: Well, I don’t think that we can “understand it,” but I think we can learn to dance with it and to build the territory in which it is occurring, to keep feeding the healthy heart of oneself and to keep feeding—emotionally, physically, and mentally, to feed ourselves with the nutrients that we need. That’s the thing that we all can do. And, of course, it’s very advisable to have a practice before you ever are given some incredible diagnosis that you have to deal with.
It’s advisable to have a practice because the practice is there to save you in the moment of need. It’s the enduring sense of practice that we have something that we do every day whether we feel good, whether we feel bad or happy or sad. We have a practice that we do that—we learn to move through all these changes and nuances and to keep ourselves fluid and in touch with ourselves. We need a practice that allows us to get to know ourselves in a very deep way and so you know certain things about yourself that you really learned, and you apply them when you actually, really need them, like in matters of life and death.
All the things that I’ve ever taught, or the 5Rhythms, are based in very practical wisdom that comes from the body first, and by being grounded in the body, which most people are really not—being really grounded and comfortable in the body and then learning to be really grounded and comfortable emotionally, and then being really grounded and comfortable mentally.
In other words, to not have a head that is filled with theories, beliefs, fears, anxieties, and all of this, but to actually have an empty mind, a mind that is fluid and capable of making instinctive, intuitive choices that only you can make. The 5Rhythm practice is very personal. It’s a practice that kind of says, “You’re the teacher here.” The 5Rhythms are like the master. They’re this fluid thing that we’ll never really get a grip on, but they are an energy. They are an energetic language that allow us to see ourselves and everything else in motion—and the very few things in life that are fixed as fixed. But that’s very few things.
TS: What are those things that are fixed?
GR: Well, like birth through death, for example. Nobody goes from birth to maturity, then goes back to childhood, dies, and then comes back a teenager, although most people would like that. Life has this organic—the laws of nature, you know—of the rhythms of nature that are predictable. But inside of that, everything else is unpredictable. So it’s predictable that I will be born, or how, or to whom, or where I will be born. Everything else is fluid. So it’s learning to live with that unknown, the unexpected: that is what my practice is about. It’s about learning to dance with the unknown and to be comfortable there. To dance in the chaos.”