Saturday, March 17, 2018

Like a Warm Sweater.

A slow, steady walk on the sunny, sacred ground of a Costa Rican mountain town called Alajuela.

My movement is nearly silent, like a deer blending into the quiet of the night.
Every step intentional, moving with the earth, alongside her, in tune with her presence resting on my back like a warm sweater.

My arms are heavy and relaxed.
Fluid, like water.
A peaceful walk on this peaceful, quiet day.
Never in a hurry.
Never spending wasted energy on stress or schedule, leaving me depleted, empty.
Never feeling my shoulders creep up out of apprehension or defense, a shield I hold up when I feel unsafe, when I don't know what's coming.

Here I move effortlessly, I glide on ice. 
My feet brush along the walkway like a paintbrush of silk to a blank canvas.

My breath is deep, full.
It  fills me up like a channel of love, warming my chest and then releasing again into my belly.
A full day’s breath.
A full day’s prayer, like a finished thought, uninterrupted by noise and chatter: the usual backdrop of Nashville traffic, racing thoughts, fears of letting people down, letting myself down, fears of failing or forgetting something important.

Heat like summer touches my skin and I smile.
Gazing lovingly to my right, just beneath the wings of the nearby Mother Palm Tree, I see the city of San Jose, a magnetic sea of tiny dots, like a speckled quilt of various colors and stories all blended together.

I don’t remember the last time I was this relaxed.
I don’t remember the last time I slowed down, like this.
Completely unattached to plans.
Completely unattached to people.

Temporarily released from that dazed look I give when I don’t know quite what to say because I don’t know quite what I want.
Out of tune with my Center, my inner Truth.

I am unattached and present.

Unattached and alive and free: walking, moving, breathing with the earth as she warms my back and carries my weight on her lap.

That Ugly Word

Like a nasty, sneaky tick found in the Alabama forest in the middle of July.
The kind you never quite notice until the end of a busy day, the kind that takes a team of committed friends to pick off, all with wide eyes, a collective stubborn will, refusing to let nature win this one.

The name that is more often given to women than men when perhaps, there is another side of the story called “Fear of Real Love” or, “Resistance to Authentic Intimacy”, a block that starts in your chest and grows bigger every time your heart gets stepped on.

Like a contagious disease you didn’t know you had, the kind that keeps kids away from you at the playground.
The kind that gives you the side eye in a crowded room. 
Two steps toward the door, a quick escape.

Now I have only been called this word once or twice in my life, once probably given from myself, but, what is it with that word?

For the month of March, I have tried to create a sense of space in my life.
A space for healing.
For questions.
A space to come back to my creative center.
A space for silence.

And as I sit myself down for an interview and I ask that one uncomfortable question that Emily Siner from the local NPR station encourages every interviewer to do, I feel my eyes wander or my phone calling my name or anything to distract myself from releasing these terrifying, heart-probing words out of my zip-tight lips.

The question is this: 
What are you clinging to in your life in order to distract yourself from reality?

Two things: 
1- We are all clingy. Own it.
2- I am the expert at distracting myself and I cling to an overcrowded schedule.

Also, there's this: I love hard.
I bend over backward for people at the cost of my own personal growth.
I do more than I need to for my students, and because of this, I get taken advantage of by 15 year olds all across this city.

And I cling, hard.
I cling to what’s comfortable, what’s familiar, predictable, safe.
And I don’t know what that means for Future Me.
But we all start somewhere, right?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Camp Life.

These long strips of wooden benches remind me of summer camp in Alabama.

Riverview Camp for Girls.
Camp McDowell.
I was quite the camper.

The Troopers at Skyline met on the basketball court just beside the Dining Hall.
Our club color was green.

Green like the shady, soft grass near the gym, where the boys were dropped off in a yellow school bus for our camp dance.
So much cologne.
Spiky gelled hair.
Pre-teen sweat.
I just tried not to get stuck in the middle of the gym: Every smart girl knew to hang the perimeter.

Our club color was green, like the sun-kissed patch of grass just below the zipline.
The zipline that I almost didn’t go off of at age 7.
My legs dangled off the sturdy wooden platform like wet ropes in the water. 
My belly was bottomless.
My head spun wildly.
I was so scared I couldn’t think. 
But after some very kind and patient coaching from someone up there in that tall tree, I finally inched my way off the ledge, like a baby bird leaving her safe, warm nest for the first time.
And when I climbed down the ladder after the zipline ran its course, my heart still racing, I remember feeling proud of myself, that I could do something hard like that.

I liked to watch the older girls at camp, wanting to be just like them when I grew up.
They wore overalls, no makeup, and high ponytails.
Their voices were hoarse by the end of the week from all the camp cheers.
Veins bulging out of their necks with every word they yelled.
Hands clapping fiercely like there’s no tomorrow.
I learned the first day of camp that the louder you yelled, the more respectable you were.
Cheers were to be taken very seriously at camp, and to shout in reckless abandon meant you were a warrior for your club, your tribe, your people.

Somehow I still feel like that little girl.
Just watching the big girls yell with passion and courage.
They do it so well, so effortlessly, like warriors.
And I still want to be just like them when I grow up.

The camp life has its sneaky little way of revealing hidden truths.
Like, You don’t have to wear makeup to be seen.
Or, You don’t have to be quiet and timid as a female- You can actually be a warrior for your tribe, proud and fearless.
The camp life tells you that you can inch your way off ziplines and say no to sweaty boys who don’t know what they want.

At camp, I felt strong.
I felt free, alive and worthy.
And that little girl is always in me, telling me to go for it- that maybe I will climb down the ladder after all this is over and say,

I’m proud of myself, that I can do something hard like that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To Share the Light Like Dinner.

Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe the next day.
Maybe some day soon.

I will tiptoe out of the water and onto the land.
I will no longer be afraid to be seen in the light.
I will wake up and not be afraid of the world.

Maybe, just maybe, I will see that still, small beam of light as my only option in this busy world.
That light- she is soft and smooth in color, easy to the eyes, soft to the touch- like a baby’s cheek at the backside of your finger.
She is quiet, calm, and subtle- like the barely noticeable whisper of the human voice at the top of a song.

That light- she is the sultry, thin mist steaming off the morning water.
A spider web rising off the skin in feathery layer beyond layer.

I have been thinking a lot about light and dark lately.
Two opposites.
They compliment each other so beautifully, though.
Without one, you can’t have the other.

What is my light?
What is my darkness?

It changes by the day, really.

Tonight, quite literally, my light is a lamp.
My darkness is the wilderness outside of a window in Ashland, Tennessee.
A beautiful and reluctant green moth is glued to the window.
Her feet stick like honey to the glass as she watches my every breath and we share the light like dinner.

Some days my light is my creative energy, my yes, that forces me forward when I want to say no.
And my darkness can be my no- keeping me hidden underneath the dark water, keeping me afraid to rise up to my neck and be seen by the light. Exposed and worthy.

Some days my darkness is all the metal outside and the interstate noises and the polluted air.

Sometimes my light and my darkness crash in my dreams.
Like the heavy chunks of metal on the interstates.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I need more light.
More light to my darkness.
To share like dinner with a moth against glass.

Here’s to the light.
Here’s to the quiet kiss of light and darkness.

Here’s to growth.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

High Maintenance Yoga.

“I don’t like the music,” she croaked.

People are so funny about their yoga. 
So many demands, so many opinions. 
And I can't blame them.
I am the exact same way. 

It's like once we know what we like, we want every single class to meet our pretty little laced-up standards- nothing more, nothing less. We create formulas around this stuff and base our teacher/studio score card accordingly. This much stretching, this much talking, this much alignment correction, this much background music played at this particular time and only this kind of music and at this exact volume level. Oh, and I want a cool lavender towel at the end, please. 

Multiply this by 20 and that's a yoga class for you. 
Welcome to teaching yoga in America.

But none of these high standards are said out loud, most of the time. So I couldn't help but laugh a little bit in my head when this woman expressed her yoga rules to me. I don't know, I felt an odd connection to her in a way, because of her honesty about it all. The rules no one else says but everyone thinks in class, especially when they are regulars.

Our expectations are heavy.

And I think there is an underlying fear beneath some of that.
That no one will ever quite please us in the way we want.
That we will never be received in the way we want to be received.
Never fully understood.

What is that?

I think more than anything, it speaks to this deep human need: the need to be heard, seen, and even experienced in all the right ways.

It's an instinctive cry to the deepest canyons of the earth. "SEE ME! I AM HERE. And I DESERVE to be seen." Therefore, I have standards- in how you teach me, look at me, talk to me, notice me, listen to me, and even think about me.

So maybe other teachers might have called this woman high-maintenance, but I understood her. 
And I could relate.

I walked in to the studio room a few minutes before class to check the heat and the status of the room and she was whispering to another student about my teaching practices, to make sure I was the right fit.

"I am picky about my teachers," she smiled back at me when I accidentally walked into their conversation. (But really, they stood right by the door, in the perfect space to be interrupted, so I didn't apologize). 
 “You should be picky about your teacher,” I encouraged her. “That’s how I am when I practice.” 

And I was serious. Sometimes I am too picky about those things. When it really is just yoga and I really am just a human on my mat, seeking authentic connection with my breath.

Even in the simple things, we have such high expectations.

This woman's eyes are a deep hazel brown. Whisker-like wrinkles outline the outside of her eyes, the kind that invite you in with caution, once she liked you, of course. And that took time, I could tell.

I watched the woman lay down her mat with meticulous care, in a protective way, like a mother setting her newborn baby down in her crib. I could tell this woman wanted to trust me. But she hadn't quite figured me out yet, and she didn't know how to, really.

I could feel the questions swirling around her, almost bumping into each other, like bumper cars at the county fair.
Is she safe? 
Is she correct? 
Is she modern?
And at what level?
Where did she get her training? 
And what kind of training?
Is she going to force me to do something I don't want to?
How strict is she?

After class, I spoke with her a bit more and she smiled at me and her eyes smiled too. And I heard an accent in her voice, one that I couldn’t quite name but was drawn to.

"I had to skip some of the postures and lie down, but that's good too, right?" she asked, already knowing the answer, almost testing me, it seemed. But she seemed at ease, more comfortable with me now.

"Yes, definitely," I said back with a bit of caution, but this time, knowing she liked me too, at least a little. And I felt my shoulders sit a little deeper instead of hunching near my ears where they don't belong but where they sneakily climb to when I am uncomfortable. With the same happy eyes, thankful for this closer connection to this beautiful, wise teacher, I affirmed. "Yes, you needed that."

And her smile got bigger, her eyes more glittery.
She left with her shoes in her hand and the light followed her out.

What a sweet woman.
Life's greatest teacher.
My teacher.

Opinions and all.