Saturday, October 31, 2009

5 Rhythms Dancing in Palma de Mallorca

This week I went 5 Rhythms dancing in Palma at a studio called Earth Yoga, For all of you who don’t have any idea what kind of dancing that is here is a brief explanation. 5 Rhythms dancing was created back in the 60’s by an American woman from New York named Gabrielle Roth. It’s roots originated in a movement class she taught at the Esalen Institute. Gabrielle has been described as an urban shaman and her 5 Rhythms dancing utilizes shamanic and mystical beliefs. It also draws from transpersonal psychology. 5 Rhythms is practiced to move the body in order to release the heart and free the mind. The shamanic belief is that if you do this you can connect more closely to your soul and thereby unlock unlimited potentials in your life. I’ve also heard it described very simply as dancing through your emotions.

So on Thursday night, I made an attempt to do all this freeing up and connecting with the higher self or my soul. I can tell you that you sweat a lot when you do that! I arrived at the studio, my first time there, and was pleased that it looked very inviting and felt very serene, peaceful. The studio has wood floors, the walls are white with nice sayings written on them near the ceiling. There are long flowing white curtains separating the dance floor from another room. There is a small altar with the usual things you find in these places, some religious statues, some stones, a candle, and a Buddha of course. I sort of got lost in reading some of the sayings on the wall which said something like, “beyond right and wrong there is a field, I'll meet you there" and “I honor the God I have inside,” when suddenly the music started.

There were maybe 10-12 people in the room, scattered throughout the dance floor. As the music started everyone began to move very gently at first, with no particular rhythm or special movements, just movements that freed up whatever kinks they happened to have in their bodies, at that moment. Some moved their arms, others their necks while others did sort of stretches on the floor and others started to slide across the dance floor with pseudo-dance like movements. The instructor, a lovely woman from England named Jessica, plays a tape and sort of talks you through different parts of it.

The 5 Rhythms are: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. Jessica encourages everyone to just move without paying any attention to what you might look like. A few years ago I took a three day workshop with Gabrielle in New York. When you are in one of these multiple-day workshops with Gabrielle she talks you through the purpose of each of the rhythms as you’re dancing. She gives you examples of what they mean in your everyday life. Like any art form, in the end everyone takes away whatever they connect with the most.

For me, Flowing is when you gently flow with life, going into the spaces that are open instead of those that are closed or occupied. Staccato is when you move through life stating who you are with purpose and conviction. Chaos is when you completely let go, free the mind, and in the process you can literally shake out of your body any emotions that don’t serve you, sort of like demons that you want to get rid of. Lyrical is when you try to connect with other people around you, you share yourself so to speak and you realize that often others are going through exactly the same things as you are. Stillness is when you just be, just stand there moving ever so slowly and just be. The shamanic belief is that you can connect closer to your soul through each of these states.

Jessica’s class takes you through each one of these rhythms, one at a time, over the course of about 2 hours. Yes, it is non-stop dancing for 2 hours, so whether or not you lose your mind, find your soul or open your heart, it's at least good exercise. I’m not exactly sure how closer I am to my soul but I felt really good after finishing the class and the notion of unlocking unlimited potentials in my life is certainly appealing! So if you ever have the chance to try a 5 Rhythms dance class and you’re not afraid to sweat a little, venture out there and do some gliding across the dance floor.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This story is about my recent experience with a Spanish family and an airedale terrier named Brandy.

Anyone who has ever had an airedale will completely understand. Before I decided to adopt Brandy I remember reading “airedales have a mind of their own and are not for the faint of heart.” At the time I was intrigued by what that meant and I felt a little concerned. Now that I’ve had Brandy for 3 ½ years I can look back on that moment and say with certainty that I should have been a LOT concerned.

Of course what makes airedales so endearing is that they are full of spunk and character and they are mischievous till the last drop. I’ve also read that airedales have heighted senses, meaning that they see, hear, taste and smell everything far quicker and more intensely than other breeds. This is why they can appear to be so hyper and spastic. They are really very intensely curious and very smart. Of course they are also stubborn and therefore difficult to train.

I brought Brandy and Whisky, a standard poodle, with me from the US to live in Deia, Mallorca. I’m renting a lovely house on a cliff with a very large yard, which is great for the dogs. The first day I was there I noticed that there was a hole in the fence, in front of a pretty dense bunch of bushes and knew that Brandy would eventually discover it and try to go for a little walk on her own. I made a note to cover that hole as soon as I could find the right materials and tools.

I left the dogs in the yard on several occasions for outings to the store, running errands, etc. Each time I was gone for periods of time of anywhere from one to five hours. For the first few days nothing unusual happened and the dogs were right there at the gate, wagging their tales and ready to greet me enthusiastically as soon as I walked through the entrance.

Then on one Saturday, I came home at around five in the evening, after being gone for a few hours. Whisky was at the gate and was behaving a little more excited than normal, and Brandy was not there. I walked through the gate and looked everywhere for Brandy and no Brandy, anywhere. I quickly figured out she had escaped through the hole in the fence and took Whisky with me out on the trails in front of the house looking for her. My hope was that she went out for a little wonder and that I would find her quickly. The search went on for about 2 hours and there was no Brandy around. I went looking for her in the car, through the neighborhood and in the village, and still no Brandy. By then it was dark so I decided to go home.

Later that night I was lying in bed worried about her and resigned to do nothing until the morning. My biggest worry was that she would be out there hurt and with no one to take care of her. I wondered if she had fallen off a cliff or had been run over by a car. I hoped that if anyone decided to “adopt” her that it would at least be a nice family who would take care of her. Then suddenly I remembered that her collar tags have my US phone number on them and that if someone found her they might try to call that number. I checked for missed calls on my US phone and sure enough there was a missed call from a Spanish number.

I called the number right away and it was a family who had found her on the main road going into the next town of Soller, about three miles from the house. Mom and dad were in the car with their three kids going for a Saturday afternoon drive into Soller. They saw Brandy strolling back and forth across the road and slowed down when they saw her. My friendly Brandy went right up to the car to greet them, wagging her tail and looking at them with her teddy bear eyes. At first the family thought she might be with the hikers who were also on the road. They drove off and later decided to turn around and go back because they wondered if she was really with the hikers, or all alone.

When they reached the hikers they slowed down and asked them if Brandy was with them and they said no. The family decided to take Brandy into the car and take her home to figure out what to do with her because she was obviously lost and in danger, zigzagging all alone on the main road with lots of traffic on a Saturday afternoon. They said she was shaking and afraid when they put her in the car. She quickly warmed up to the kids in the back seat and they instantly fell in love with her.

So that is how Brandy ended up in the home of Tony and Ana and their three kids, Ana, Alvaro and Irene, 12, 10 and 5 years old. Tony went to the police station in town to report that he had found Brandy in case her owner would show up there looking for her. When he got home he called the number on her tag. Tony also saw that she had a tag for a microchip from a company called Home Again. He looked up the company on the Internet and sent them an email message. They fed her and later commented on how much she loves to eat chicken and rice!

This nice Spanish family not only took great care of Brandy by bringing her into their home and feeding her but they also went through great lengths to try to find her owner, and luckily with success. We have since become friends and they have even helped me to take care of both Whisky and Brandy when I had to go out of town for a couple of days.

There are very kind people in Spain!!! I feel the warmth of the people and I'm really enjoying my time here.

I don’t regret having an airedale and I love Brandy but it is definitely true that airedales are NOT for the faint of heart. Oh, and yes, I covered the hole in the fence.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


When you travel abroad you realize that America is truly the land of plenty and that not everywhere is the same. I know that this is not the case for the entire population but in general people in America have access to much more variety and quantity of items than in many other countries.

A lot of Americans are making the effort to live with less, out of their own choice, to simply their lives, and many have to live with less due to economic constraints, especially in today’s economic climate.

Traveling to far away lands can teach you many things and one of them is the notion of living with less and being happy with it.

When you rent and live in an average house in Spain you quickly realize that the average Spanish household does live with less, and they are perfectly happy with that. I mean, it’s not as though they feel they’re missing something or even less suffering in any way, they’re happy! They live with less in terms of items, stuff, less variety of stuff, and smaller sizes of stuff.

Most houses do not have a dishwasher, no garbage disposal, no dryer for their clothes. They save not only on the cost of these appliances but also on the electricity to run them. Sinks in the kitchen are small, kitchens are small and bathrooms are small. Come to think of it, the entire house or flat is small. In general they live in less square feet and are happy.

Imported items are very expensive and hard to find. Many locals don’t buy imported items, they only buy local. They strengthen their economy by supporting their local producers. I brought my two dogs with me from the US. I used to spend about $120 per month on food for both of them, for a very high quality but expensive dog food. Here the dog food I’m buying is the US brand Royal Canin, and it is costing me close to double what I used to pay, or about $225 per month. As far as I can determine it is close to equivalent, but not as good as what I used to give them at home. I’m looking for an alternative. Of course the weakness of the dollar and the exchange rate with the Euro is not helping matters.

When you go to the stores, at least in this part of the island of Mallorca, you realize that instead of 10 brands of something there are only 2-3. Wall-Marts don’t’ exist here and much less Costco’s, Sam’s Clubs or Nordstroms. There is an Ikea in Palma and since they are virtually the only such type of store I imagine they do quite a good business. Supermarkets are limited in what they carry and most don’t have the variety of non-food items we have in almost every supermarket in America.

I have to admit I was a pretty healthy shopper when I was living in the US, frequenting all of the above stores and more, and researching and often buying the multiple brands of many items. However, being in Spain I’ve learned that not having so much to choose from saves you a lot of time, effort and money! You simply don’t buy certain things because they’re not available and guess what you can live without them in most cases and be perfectly happy. You save money by not buying, you save effort by not having to understand the use of so many products and compare so many brands, and you save time by not going to the various stores and doing all the shopping.

Another positive side of all of this is that you appreciate everything you have and everything you buy so much more! When I go shopping I hold the 2 tomatoes I’m buying in my hand with care and carefully place them in my fridge so that nothing happens to them before I have the pleasure of eating them. I’m careful not to overbuy, not because of the cost or because I have to carry them up 40 flights of stairs after I park the car but because too much will not fit in my tiny little fridge! Every item of food and every item in general that makes it up my 40 stairs is precious and appreciated so much more!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cliff Driving

I am an American and I don't speak Mallorquine. I do have to admit I have the tremendous advantage of speaking Spanish, all be it South American Spanish and not Castilian, Spain, Spanish but, it's still a big help.

I arrived in Deia, Mallorca 3 weeks ago and have created this blog as a way to record my experiences here in this beautiful land.

I will cover topics about daily life, challenges you encounter, things to do, the people who live here, the people who visit here, the incredible hiking trails and anything and everything else I find interesting from the perspective of an American for all those wanting to come to Deia for a long or short stay.

My first topic will be the roads. First of all, they are tiny, very very tiny. On the MA-10, the road from Deia to Soller, a small car fills up the entire lane and there are only two lanes, one each way. Beyond the lane there are parts where if you move more than a foot over to the side, you can plunge to your death or near death down the cliff. So, if you have fear of heights you must take this into consideration before coming here. On the positive side, everyone drives relatively slow. I guess they all really want to live. There are many hikers and cyclists on the road because the scenery is so, amazingly breathtaking with the Mediterranean sea, the cliffs, the greenery growing from the rocks and the waves crashing against it all. Since most of the time I'm driving I have not had the chance to fully take in this scenery and have only had glimpses of it when I dare to look away from the road, if only for a second or two. The first time I drove into the nearby town of Soller I wondered if I was really on the road because it seemed more like a wide sidewalk or an alley for one car. No, it was really the road. You navigate through it very carefully so as not to hit your rearview mirrors on the side of the stone buildings, yes, its that narrow! So, needless to say you better make sure you are not going down the wrong way on a one way street because turning around is a major problem. Of course, these narrow stone streets and the stone houses around them are what give these old Mallorquine towns their unique charm. Oh and you do need a car to get around. So do whatever you need to do, take a pill, take a deep breathe if you need to but do take a drive on these roads because it's worth it, despite the obvious dangers.