About 17 years ago, I realized that there was something not really working with my life; I needed external stimuli to make me happy and suffered from acute anxiety when things did not go my way. I could not tap into this happiness, people speak of, from within. I made a decision to go on a two-year trip through Asia, thinking that I needed to see the world and find a community of like-minded truth seekers. What I needed most was to find myself. I did not know who I was, what motivated me or how this “self” was created.
An acquaintance, who was going through a particularly difficult time, encouraged me to try a meditation retreat in Asia; she claimed meditation cured her mental discomfort. After my first 10-day meditation retreat in Thailand, many stuck patterns of mind were revealed. After some prolonged meditation sessions, I concluded that I did not want a body. It seemed to be a burden. I had to feed it, clothe it, keep it in shape, monitor it, massage it… the list could go on and on. When meditating, my body often disappeared. Within two years of consistent meditation, the “I” had separated itself from the body. This is sometimes referred to as Zen Illness. A friend once stuck a needle in my foot and there was no feeling. I had managed to use meditation to repeat the life long pattern of numbing myself and dis-connecting from the world. I used the cure as a poison. It is easy for us to use tools like breathing meditation, to misguide us on the path to liberation. I took refuge in meditation and isolated myself from everyone I knew. People seemed like too-much-work back then.
In 1999, a healer suggested that I attend a 5Rhythms movement meditation class to get grounded. I realized that I needed a teacher, or a proven teaching. After my first two-hour class I felt physically alive! I could feel my feet, my belly, and the lightness of my elbows. Through movement, music and good ‘ole fashion sweat, my mind and body got stronger and clearer. I started to connect, express and share with a community of people who seemed to understand me and accept me without a reason. We danced and created a non-verbal movement culture that transcended everyday relating. I attended every class twice a week for two years and felt a profound transformation. It actually took great discipline to become a free spirited dancer.
I found myself anticipating every class and, consequently, experienced attachment after every class. Why were joy, bliss, clarity and non-cling awareness so easily cultivated in the class and so challenging afterwards to maintain? Why could this radiant state not be maintained for very long during the week? There was not much wisdom to go with this newfound bliss. Wisdom must be greater than bliss. What does this statement mean? First, lets define wisdom. Wisdom is re-collecting the importance of being present, open, loving and kind in every moment of existence. Imagine owning a sports car without knowing how to drive. Too much bliss can electrocute you, but too much wisdom will not. Wisdom will tell you how to utilize the bliss and while bliss may sometimes guide wisdom, there is a tendency to use bliss as a means of settling for comfort. Wisdom will point out that we are all in this together, keep you moving and tell you how to share the bliss collectively. Wisdom often whispers… Pssstt…. “Hey unravel the blind spots in your being and the joy will be exponential…. Psssstt…. serve others and you will have unfathomable happiness. Bliss would often scream, ” Please don’t take me away!” I realized that excessive bliss was exhausting the physical container that was holding it.
The calming effects of formal sitting meditation and a regular practice of the 5Rhythms dance combined with the investigative approach of Tibetan Buddhism became the holy trinity of mindfulness in my life. I learned to take refuge in the mind that is awake, in the teachings that keep me awake and in any community of people willing to make the effort to stay awake. Wisdom and bliss require effort and speaking for myself here, I need all the help I can get.
Now I meditate regularly at the Dharma Hub in Calgary, live in a conscious community and regularly teach and practice the 5Rhythms. It’s taken a long time to learn how to balance bliss, wisdom, stillness and movement. I have realized that when I am in a good state and feeling connected to the earth, “I” am in community. When I leave my body, numb out from meditation and withdraw, I am out of community. A healthy balanced practice of formal sitting meditation combined with the 5Rhythms empowers me to take my calm mind and express it in the world with wild physical creativity.
The 5Rhythms (Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical & Stillness) are patterns of movement which anyone can do everyday as a grounding spiritual practice. These dance waves returned “me” to “my” body and to “my” community and I am eternally grateful to have discovered their magic.
Evangelos teaches a weekly 5Rhythms class every Tuesday in downtown Calgary 7:30 pm – 9:30pm and meditation classes Saturdays 4pm at the Dharma Hub.