One Foot Forward

 

long roadI’ve moved many times; almost too many to count. I like to think I’ve developed a few reasonable tools: the art of getting lost, the dexterity of being alone, the talent of turning bread-buying into daylong adventures, and the okayness of feeling isolated, sad, confused. This last set of skills is doubtlessly the most important.

Today is the last day in this city. Today is the last day in this community, in this part of the country. Today is the last chance to pack boxes, to whisper secrets into the walls of this old house, to run fingers along the mortar and the windowsills, to plant feet into the dirt of this particular yard. Tomorrow morning we’ll wake early. We’ll strip the bed, walk down the stairs, let the fur-kids out and make a final cup of coffee. Men will come with a truck to take our things – furniture and plates and shoes, memories and stories and truths. We’ll walk through our empty home, vacuuming the dusty corners as though gathering our tattered ends, tidying up the technicolour residue of our joys and of our tears. We’ll leave behind a beautiful and nameless edifice, ready for someone else to know love in. They’ll hang frames and find hiding places for their most private hurts and pleasures.

I’ve moved many times; almost too many to count. This time feels different. Momentous. All of the regulars have shown up, as if on cue: doubt, anxiety, excitement, uncertainty, willingness, readiness and unreadiness. There is a bubbling cauldron of magic too, a witch stirring in strands of hair, dirt, and possibilities. I can see her in the corner of my eye. She’s playful and coy and testing. If I try to look at her directly, she disappears; she is building my trust and my confidence. She is measuring my tenacity. She is teaching me a dance. It doesn’t start with fear or attachment. There is a pause as the music begins, and I move one step back on the second beat, grounding the left foot, then the right. There are a few quicker, harder to master steps moving into joy, a swing of the hips to shake off the ashes of who I used to be, a mammoth jump, and the promise of sweet release on the landing.

I’ve moved many times; almost too many to count. I’m at a fork in the road and this time I know which path to take. If you hold my hand, I will hold your heart.

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(both photos found on tumblr.com)

Inhale, exhale

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Inhalation, exhalation.
Bridges and rubble. Tall spiraling staircases and the after-math of bombings. Light so bright it hurts my eyes and dark, moldy, terrifying corners.

Transformation. Death and birth and death and birth and birth and death again. The full moon is in Taurus. Remember to remember, they say. Let that shit go, they say.
It’s the last super-moon of the year. Harness that creativity, they say.

Tap in or tap out. And it feels like chaos.
Inspiration, expiration.
Inhale, exhale.

It’s a whirlwind of destruction. It’s a fertilizing, a readying for the planting, a preparing to receive. Brush the dry skin off. There is beauty in the particles floating in the sunlight…and it is skin – old, dry, decomposing debris. I’ve got one foot (and perhaps half of the other) out the door. I’ve got two hands hanging onto the windowsill, trying to pull myself back in. I can hear the pitter-patter, I can hear the thump-thump-thumping, I can hear the unbridled-almost-ferocious-roaring of my heart.

Inspire, expire.
Space and sweetness. And gasping too. And just a hint of fear. Fear is good, they say. It keeps you moving forward. Fear is bad, they say. It freezes you in your tracks.

And then there are the trees, breathing and reaching, simultaneously shedding and quieting and getting ready to sleep. Earth and metal. Salts and ores and quiet streams. Water so powerful it’s about to break the dam.

Don’t you dare hold back, they say. Be wild and true. Create a container, they say. It’s not polite to be who you are.
Inhalation, exhalation.
Inspiration, expiration.
This room is too cramped. The walls are too tall.
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(top photo by Christopher McKenney, bottom one here)

It’s not always light and love…

(This post was spurred by an intelligent and thoughtful discussion with a fellow yogini and friend following the unbearable news about what happened in Charleston and why/how it’s important to talk about it. What follows has been modified from my response to her)

There is a lack of conversation in the yoga community (and elsewhere) about the racism and discrimination we are experiencing in North America. I believe is it linked to the distorted (and, if we are being transparent here, appropriated) culture of yoga, guided by the beautiful wishes to always be inclusive, to move toward oneness, to continue to walk in (seemingly) constant peace and love – or at the very least to project that image. It is misguided, unfortunately, and based in fear of being rejected or labeled as being too harsh, too abrasive or non-inclusive. It is a product of a culture that, at least in the parts of Canada and the United States I have witnessed, is dominated mostly by white people (and, lets be honest here: it is, in my experience, still dominated more accurately by white men – though I admit this is changing. Slowly).

In the last few years, I have been working with what it means to be authentic – truly authentic. The yoga world is a very easy place to hide behind one-love-paradigms, too-sweet-too-accepting facades that, as practitioners and warriors of love, we end up believing are true, even when they are not. I have seen myself convinced (truly believing – not in denial, but honestly convinced) that I wasn’t stress, wasn’t hurt, wasn’t frustrated/angry/lonely/insert-whatever-‘challenging’-emotion-here because I was (and still am, though working on it) so practiced in gracefully being yogic, knowing the “appropriate” way to act or to respond. Instead, after years of hiding behind the yoga mask, I am allowing myself to speak in honour of my true voice, my true feelings, my true thoughts.  And I am also learning to speak in honour of the truth of the world as it is right now.

Everything is not light and love. Some of it is, yes. And if we want to walk truthfully and authentically into light and love, we have to openly, loudly, fearlessly denounce darkness and hatred.

AND we have to own our part of the responsibility.
I think that, right there, is the hardest (because it’s fucking hard) part…

I have no idea what it means to be African-American living in the States right now (or even to have black skin in most parts of the world for that matter), and I’m not going to pretend I ever could understand what that means. But I do know, from my own sheltered experience, that it is hard to have a ‘different’ last name and to be discriminated against because of it… I do know that it feels pretty shitty that 95% of the time i walk into a yoga class (as a teacher or as a student), I am the only non-white body in the room…. I do know how awful it is to feel restricted or judged or singled out or called a terrorist (!!) because of my appearance or because of the letters that form the words that were given to me, meant to define me as ‘who I am’… I do know what if feels like to be in a place where I feel unsafe because of the colour of my skin… (and i’m not even talking here about being in a homosexual relationship or simply about being a woman)

But here’s the thing. I have lived, for the most part, a privileged life in which I have been loved and cared for and provided for and accepted. So my experience cannot even begin to be compared to what millions of people are suffering now because of the colour of their skin or because of where they were born. And so it is not only my choice, but my obligation (and i believe it is also the obligations of all privileged people – especially yogis and even more so, white yogis) to acknowledge and speak out about what is going on in the world. It is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness for our mistakes, and with humility, to ask what, precisely, is needed to even begin to heal the deep wounds (and then to respect what is offered to us as guidance and answers, without trying to take the stage).

So. Thank you, each of you who have chosen to, or are choosing to step in. Thank you for the courage it takes to tell the truth of where you are at. Thank you for not shying away, for not hiding behind false pretences (like the hashtag ‘alllivesmatter’ – read more here), for acknowledging your capacity – whatever it currently is at this point, and for the strength it takes to show up and to learn and to move forward. #blacklivesmatter

photo by Blair Ryan Photography(photo by Blair Ryan photography)

In Memory of Utah

11392876_10152872908176860_3668522950837520774_nOne of my friends once said that losing a dog was, in some way, harder than losing a loved one. Our dogs love us unconditionally, every day. Our dogs shower us with kisses and tenderness whenever we (or they) need it. They ask for nothing in return, they teach us the gratitude of every moment, the joys of the mundane: sticks and rivers, food and water, warmth and hugs. Most importantly, they teach us to love openly, to give love and to receive it. And even once they’ve left us, they continue to show us how to grow, to move, one tentative puppy step at a time, through the mourning and the grief, through the mud and murky waters, into the clear calmness of remembering and of re-membering. There is an opening that can’t be closed, a widening of the heart that can never be narrowed, a depth of sensitivity and a new understanding. There is an ability to communicate without the burden of words.

22516_10152872908126860_6684168451912576704_nDogs show us how to follow our instincts, trust ourselves, step into our own beauty, and not worry about what others may say. They show us that for every person that doesn’t want to play, there are three others just waiting to share their joy with us. They train us to explore all of our unknowns, to tumble and fall and get right back up again, bruises and all. They show us how to enjoy what we have, to trust the abundance, to find the loveliness that is everywhere, if only we can learn how to see it, smell it, taste it and celebrate it.

So when we say goodbye to our friend, our number one secret-keeper, our protector, our calm, tender, wise boy – it hurts. Badly. And we are reminded that as the pain begins to subside (and it will), we will find solace in the memories, and even more gratitude in the gift of each day.11011011_10152872908296860_8587589940910800863_n

“There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.” ~Suzanne Clothier

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Meet Me Where the Light Rushes In

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Hide yourself from the world.
Wade for a time in the
Murkiest corners of your soul.
Sit in the squalor of your own disgrace.
Know what it is to embody voracious
Greed, ignorance, intolerance.
See yourself reflected in
The eyes of a murderer,
In the hands of a pedophile,
In the mind of a terrorist.

Trust deeply that it is from the
Dregs of your own decay
That the blossom is born.
Accept that,
For you to be only love,
In the heart of your heart,
You must also have tasted disgust.
Acknowledge that wisdom
Can only be birthed out of sadness.
Believe that, within you,
There is a harmony
Of light and dark,
A symphony of sentiments
That allow you to feel fully,
To live with fervor,
To be.

And know.
Fully understand.
Your love is the heart of the universe.
Your fire is the soul of the world.
Your truth is a reflection of the cosmos.
Your muck and your beauty,
A mirror of us all.

Sit with me in the dark of the dark
Meet me where the light rushes in.

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the art of getting lost

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the last few months have been a rollercoaster ride, a series of ups and downs, hair-raising turns at breakneck speeds. she gave me a few moment of quiet but i couldn’t fully trust them.
it started to settle. it always does. it’s a cliché, but time takes care of it all. we should trust that more.
the ride left me worn and a little disheveled, windblown hair and a few tears in my jeans.
just when I thought I had landed safely, she picked me up one last time and threw me around.
perhaps she thought it was fun?
or maybe she was testing me?

i found myself driving home toward something i knew would be beautiful. a celebration of the heart. i caught my reflection in the rearview mirror. my face told the tale of the day: one moment a sparkle in my eye and a flash of pearly whites; the next, floods on my cheeks akin to the rising banks of the mississipi. (ben howard makes a great soundtrack for emotional drives on the highway, just so you know.)

it isn’t quite over yet, this i know.
i’ve come to learn how she works. i’m a little more prepared for the next change in direction. it takes practice. i wasn’t planning on it, but i’ve been getting a fair bit of it.

stepping out of the car felt good.
once i trusted my feet, the ground gave me some steadiness.
i touched the earth, admired the tulips on my short walk to the front door.
the wind chimes welcomed me home with their sweet song.
i willed myself to shake it off. there was nothing I could do about it, not for a while in any case. i needed to put on a happy face, we had guests coming after all!

and so we celebrated. i marveled at how smoothly i transitioned from the dark to the light. little babies in cute dresses and glasses of bubbly certainly help.

Another transition still, the bottle now empty and the baby fast asleep next door. we packed our bags, ready for the early morning flight.
there is something magical about going to the airport, regardless of the nature of the trip.

“Playing games with the faces.
She said the man in the gabardine suite was a spy.
I said ‘be careful his bowtie is really a camera’.”

as we boarded our flight, i had already landed. i felt right at home, immersed in anonymity and the smiles of strangers. the sudoku puzzles are always more entertaining when you’re 10 km above ground, sipping on salty tomato juice, trying to touch the clouds.

lostincrowdand then the humidity wrapped its damp arms around me like a clammy hug as my curls retracted by a few inches. we wandered the streets, perfectly organized in that checkered-shirt kind of way. we walked hand in hand, we wore each other’s clothes and admired our freshly painted toes.

at other times i wandered the streets on my own. they asked me for direction, mistaking me for a local until they heard the missing southern drawl. i was as confused as they were, the only difference is that i welcomed it.

wrought-iron balconies and narrow streets led me to the dark room where i held a snake for the first time. She curled up in my hands, warm and silky smooth in her brand new skin.
she woke up the sorceress in me.
i wrote my name on a piece of paper, wrapped it around a quarter and dropped it in the old trunk of the cypress.
i knocked on the wood nine times. 1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3.
i saw myself standing over a swirling cauldron. i prayed to the gods of rain and thunder.
i walked out a little more alive.
i held my old secrets, and new ones too.photo (5)

Sometimes the best thing you can do is get a little lost.

i know we are magic – all of us. we are the universe gift-wrapped and neatly packaged in bones and sinew.
we don’t need gris-gris bags or voodoo spells.
we can choose to let the heartache break us open.
we can choose to feel the ragged surface of the tree bark and take in the musty smell of the mud.
we simply need to remember to kneel down and kiss the earth, to look into the infinite expanse of a stranger’s eyes and trust that we still know how to love.

“there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground,
there are a thousand ways to go home again.” – Rumi