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Dancing with Awareness

What is somatic meditation? What makes it different from a seated meditation in yoga class?

What is self-awareness? What is the difference between conceptual and embodied self-awareness? 

In this article, learn how to cultivate a movement-based meditation practice and about the many benefits it can have for you — including your mental and emotional health and well-being. 

By Bettina Rothe, leader of two 5Rhythms® Movement and Embodiment programs at The Haven.

We live in a culture of multi-tasking, of divided attention and distraction.Cultivating a practice of awareness is a radical act to train the mind and direct our attention consciously. My path of training has been through a body-based movement meditation practice, the 5Rhythms, founded by American dancer and urban shaman Gabrielle Roth.

In the 5Rhythms movement practice we use body-based concentrations, called ‘somatic anchors’, to focus the mind and bring attention into certain parts of our body. Being aware of the body as a whole can be overwhelming, so we choose one somatic anchor, for example our feet. When we open our awareness to the sensation of our moving feet, we become present to the moment and every step we take. Awareness allows us to consciously choose how we want to move in the world.

Whatever we direct our intention to, we pay attention to  – and whatever we pay attention to, becomes the direction in which we develop awareness. Research shows that through focused awareness practice, we can change and grow our neurological wiring.

The approach of a somatic meditation like the 5Rhythms looks at the body from the inside, a process called “interoception” in Neuropsychology. We pay attention to sensations, feelings, visceral intuitions, a felt sense of the body and the flow of our energy.

It is important to differentiate between conceptual self-awareness which is the thinking/ reflecting based in language and symbols, and embodied self-awareness, in which we experience our own self through sensing and feeling in the present moment.

The 5Rhythms meditation is an awareness practice in motion in which we not only pay attention to ourselves, but we actively engage with others and the environment we are in as we are sharing our dances with each other.

According to Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center, developing a practice to focus attention, open awareness, and cultivate kind intention can literally help you grow a healthier brain and reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in your life.


The Practice

Here is a simple body based awareness practice I would like to share with you. It can be done anywhere — at home or at work, even at the bus stop. Just a few minutes of shifting your attention can make a difference in how present and connected you feel.

This walking meditation is a somatic engagement of mind, feet and earth. Our usual sense is that the mind is in the head. In the 5Rhythms practice we explore the idea that the mind is in the feet.


If you are able to please remove your shoes and socks and feel the earth underneath you as you stand. Spread your feet and toes wide and sink into your roots. Allow your mind to quiet and open your awareness to the sensations in your feet and the experience of gravity. When you feel ready, slowly lift one foot and step forward. Slowly plant the foot, take a deep breath. Land, settle before you lift the other foot. Notice if your mind jumps into the future or hangs out in the past. Bring yourself back into the present moment as you slowly move, step by step, breath by breath. Your feet can walk forward, sideways, in circles and even backward. Let them lead. Be curious about your rhythm, tempo and style of walking. It will be different every time.

The walking meditation is one of the basic practices in the 5Rhythms, a foundation on which the dance builds. The feet can be a gateway into the present moment connecting us to our instinct, intuition and conscious choosing of which step we wish to take next.


Bettina Rothe is offering two 5Rhythms® Movement and Embodiment retreats at the Haven in 2019:

Healing through Movement: February 28 – March 3 


Body, Breath & Beat: August 15-18 


Bettina Rothe is a licensed 5Rhythms® teacher and somatic leadership coach who teachers in North America and Europe. She creates a safe and playful environment for the exploration of creativity and personal growth.

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