“Meditation is realizing and expanding your inner beauty in every direction.” ― Amit Ray
My bullshit radar was going off. ............... ...... ....We had just finished a weekend-long movement workshop. And it was all the things you want from such an experience. Playful. Visceral. Intense.
Inside of the 2 days where we met, sweat & moved into the spaces where our bodies could temporarily spin the narrative (and let our brains take a much-needed backseat for the moment), there were shifts.
I could sense them. As the teacher invited us all to move out into the space and let our muscles, synapses & limbs do the talking for a bit - It's true. The mind begins to quiet. The stories in our heads begin to settle. We move into another field of possibility. One where - like Rumi said - we exist "out beyond ideas of righting & wrongdoing"... And yet.
At the end of the weekend (after which we had cried, yelled, bounced, gyrated & released some collective baggage, to be sure)... we sat in circle.
We were asked to say something about our impressions and experiences. What we wished to take away. What we wished to leave at the altar, so to speak.
I forget what I said.
But, as the circle came around to the man seated to my left, the tiny warning bells started to summon in my head, inside my spine, prickling somewhere beneath my skin.
From his endorphin-laced smile, he spoke, "You know, when we do this sort of thing... We change the world." ... ...
And as everyone nodded in ascent and recognition, some part of me protested: "Bullshit."
A few weeks later, I brought it to a friend - these little urges of mine. I told her how some inner voice of protest had gone off in me when he spoke these words, and I wondered had she felt the same.
She looked at me with her kind eyes and said, "Well aren't we?"
And in that moment, miraculously, my mind could form the words I needed to speak. And I looked back at her calmly, and began with a simple, "Um, NO."
I went on to use the analogy of parenting (as I am often wont to do.)
"What if my baby is crying?", I asked her.
"What if she's laying on the floor and she's hungry or anxious or needs to be tended or held or fed or changed or simply comforted in some way big or small?
What if, instead of going to her, picking her up, and actively inquiring to and tending to her needs, I stay right where I am?
What if, I continue to listen to her cry - from the other side of the room - where I am stretching on my yoga mat, say, or closing my eyes, attempting to meditate, or praying or journaling or doing any number of the things I have found inside my life that bring me solace and some semblance of resilience and joy?
But I don't get up. I listen, as her cries to continue to mount, and the tears flood her face and slide down her reddening cheeks and throat, and her sobs now mount into a siren wail... but rather than get up and go to her... I stay right where I am. Intent upon my own self-directed ritual. My own self-directed care.
What if, I believe, that sitting right where I am - diligently attending to my own needs, whilst my baby continues to grow ever more desperate and in need of real care - I am somehow tending her, as well? That somehow - by me consciously cleansing and raising my own vibration, my own spirits and my own wellbeing, I am somehow impacting her as well? That, by deeply tending to my own inner peace, I can somehow bring about her's to boot? What would you say to me, if I offered this up as my personal parenting formula? Equating the ephemeral wishes of extending "Love & Light" to the actual work of getting up and out of my comfortable seat and doing what is needed then and there to actively LOVE my ailing child.
I would hope that somewhere your inner Bullsh*t Radar would start clanging (loudly), too.
Fast-forward to this moment in time. Where the words "self-care" has now been seamlessly equated and bound up in expensive beauty regimes, spa treatments, lengthy juice fasts & elaborate food & exercise rituals wrapped up in a semi-spiritual facade.
If I can just spit-shine my own temple, somehow the world around me will be renewed. If I can caretake my own wants & needs, somehow the world beyond myself will be nourished, too.
Where we have been taught to equate Spiritual Inquiry with the stuff of actual Spiritual Work, Service & Leadership.
Where we have gotten deeply sidetracked with the never-ending Inner Work. In favor of attending to the dark & complex Outer work required in this world.
We see it in the yoga space, as well. People showing up, hell-bent on self-improvement. Believing, on some level, that if they can exert mastery upon this tiny, sticky mat - gaining some measure of expertise inside the confines of their own muscles & lungs - that that will effortlessly spill out into the confines of their "regular" life, besides.
Freer hamstrings somehow seamlessly leading to a freer society for all. Expert handstands mythically paving the way toward a balanced and fair culture. My own accumulated self-improvement somehow extending beyond the confines of my mat, and magically enriching the lives of, say, the children in state-sponsored Immigration(Concentration) camps. Or my own inflated self-worth closing the poverty gap, somehow.
I don't mean to be a drag.
I do not mean to disavow the importance of caretaking this body and spirit. In fact, it is our responsibility & privilege, to do so.
Let that be a beginning. A springing board. Not a means into and of itself.
Let the yoga we practice upon the mat be a seed planted toward the greater Practice we do out in the world.
Let your sadhana, your self-care strengthen you in your active, hands-on, real-life... *parenting *partnering *protesting *uproaring *downsizing *pay-it-forwarding *pushing back *& striving forth
In the end, as joyous and lovely and the work we do upon our mats may be... It is just a rehearsal. A start.
So that we may practice showing up more powerfully inside a world that needs us so.
Self-care as a way to learn how to Love.
Love - as in the VERB form of the word. Active. Alive, Out-flowing. With not just our hearts and words involved, but two feet in and hands extended outward, too.