Reflections for the month of Av - Gezunt
Each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived. –James Hillman
I bought a bracelet from a frail, elderly lady at a town sidewalk sale the other day. As she wrapped it up for me, she chattered about how great the bracelet was and how I was going to enjoy it very much. When she was finished, she came out from behind her table and handed me the package. She looked into my eyes and said, “You should be gezunt (healthy and well); life is very short and we should do the things we want to do!” Goose bumps formed on my elbows and knees.
Later that night at the Shabbat table, a friend inquired about my forthcoming trip to India, “and how will you manage your food when you are there?” For me this is an uncomfortable question. I could start to sink into feeling separate and alone from these friends with whom I sit and share the blessings of wine and bread. I could lose what I know to be my own personal truth and fall into a crumbling inner state, structures crashing to the ground. I could start to blame and judge everyone at that table for not letting me just be who I am… The friend continued, “You are not really practicing a religion, are you? It is really just a healthy form of exercise, isn’t it?”
Earlier that day, I was dying my hair and preparing for being away from my colorist for a month(!). As I sat in the chair, I clicked on a video that arrived in my email box. It was about a woman dancer living in an orthodox community in New York. The video showed her dancing, with her own voice declaring, “Being an artist, a dancing artist in the Orthodox community is a very odd thing. You are not allowed to express your body, its not modest! A woman is supposed to be covered, humble.” She goes on to say “ If you believe very strongly that you are doing the right thing, nobody’s comments and nobody’s punishments will change that.” It ends with her expressing herself through dance unapologetically and living her life in a way that she wants to, within the orthodox community.
Wow, self-actualization, in whatever form it takes is tough. Life offers it and there really isn’t much choice. “Would you like some more, honey?” It is already being heaped up on my plate. I am going to keep going, with the same kinds of experiences until I finally start getting better, ya, groundhog day.
I have been at this a long time, oh my God, why aren’t I anywhere near enlightenment yet?! I’d like to think that all negative experiences from my past and all of my go-to-defenses are getting much better but one question of “ and how will you handle your food, while your in India?” can set off a bomb inside me. I am getting better at being able to hold the reactions, and by this I don’t mean that I am getting better at squeezing myself, and trying to make my reactions die. I am getting better at becoming a container for my reactions. Staying right there, breathing as the feelings start to amplify. I have learned this way of being in experiences from practicing yoga.
From early on, I experienced my life from a visceral, body connected place. My dad bought me a couple of horses and I spent a lot of time with them. I would ride for hours, either alone or with my friend Shanti who had her own. Racing our horses down the shoreline of Lake Sacajawea, bareback, naked, and screaming in our pre-pubescent bodies, is one of my favorite childhood memories. The feeling it conjures is unmistakable and so liberating.
Along with the horses, I was a dancer. I loved expressing my body through dance. I loved how it felt to move my body according to the sounds. I felt very connected. When yoga crossed my path, about 15 years ago, it was like remembering something or returning to a familiar place. This beginning, or this return, has been very powerful and healing for me. Is it a religion, an exercise?
For me, yoga is a practice, a language and an art. It is a powerful tool for creating stability and I am so grateful for what it offers. Life is short and if we can, we should do the things we want to do, and we should be well, like the lady at the side walk sale said.
Tomorrow I return to my yoga school in India. I will be taking a month long course. I am bringing coffee. I am taking boxes of protein bars, nuts, raisins, powdered greens, electrolyte powder, and lots of chocolate. I am taking antibiotics and wipes for the bathroom, just in case. I am preparing in ways that I am able, packing comforts for the way, but also leaving some extra room in my ‘container’ for the possibility of growth, self-actualization, and space to return to my body, my temple, my sacred home.
This article was originally published in New Moon Project blog http://newmoonproject.org/gezunt/