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philosophy

To the Bone

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To the Bone

Have you ever felt something, “to the bone”?

Henry David Thoreau said, Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.”

If there is one thing I’ve observed in being human it’s that we all grapple with our “bones”. It’s difficult to live fully exposed. It’s difficult to believe we are deserving of a deeply meaningful life, that the purpose we feel underneath it all is something worth sharing, yet our bones remain the scaffolding of our physical existence. I’m reflecting on all of this with a revived appreciation for the jazz genre thanks in part to, A Night in Tunisia. Listening to Dizzy Gillespie on the trumpet you know jazz music is not just in his fingers and his breath–it’s in his bones. As natural as it was for Dizzy to pioneer the Bebop Era, you and I are pioneers of something natural and meaningful. What’s in your bones?

While structure is essential, it can’t move without muscle. So much of our strength goes to the gnawing and burying and unearthing and gnawing again. Mindfulness practices help us penetrate through the layers of doubts, fears, torpor, cravings, and aversions dominating our energy.

Lately I’ve been going toe-to-toe with torpor. Such a thick layer of slug I feel like I’m buried under! I’ve blamed my kaphic dosha and my baby and my job(s) and the enigma that is time, but often it really boils down to me hiding behind my lethargy. There are many days I’d way rather be in my bed than on my mat, and in Child’s Pose if I make it. This week I had one of those days. I show up to class, defying the repetitive thoughts in my head tired, lazy, lazy, tired. “Breathe” she says. “Listen to your breath. The point is to give yourself a break from the constant thoughts that repeat themselves over and over again.”

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali mentions obstacles are a natural part of the process, as well as their consequences. Sutra 1.32 goes on to say:

One-pointed focus is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.

Many of the muscles we strengthen through conscious practices are unseen. Muscles like awareness, focus, self-compassion, and non-reactivity help us generate stillness and get back to the bone.

No matter how many times we bury them there is good news: bones are stronger than mild steel and alive, comprised of living cells and nerves and blood vessels that allow them to continue growing and repairing themselves. The other news flash? Every human framework is unique. Get to know your own skeletal variation. When the water is still, you can see the ocean floor. By creating stillness we can navigate through the natural obstacles that are generating waves in our lives. Whatever obstacles you’re up against, find your one-pointed focus and feel again, to the bone.

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The Dance

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The Dance

Dance when you’re broken open. 

Dance when you’ve torn the bandage off. 

Dance in the middle of fighting. 

Dance in your blood. 

Dance when you’re perfectly free. 

(Rumi)

Picture this: your working overtime just to break even, you can’t remember the last time you slept more than 5 hours straight, most of your clothes remain soaked in baby saliva and crusty spit-up, your full fledge in the circus of life feeling under par in your juggling skills with all the balls being thrown your way, your body is recovering well–minus the twisted knee, your passions are screaming for more attention. And you’re supposed to be dancing?

Word to the wise, yes. As Rumi and so many artists have encouraged in times that have past, now, when things feel lost, and broken, and tired, and confusing, and painful, dancing–expressing your self as you are, as vulnerably as you can–is a must.  

Dance is as unique as the life form itself. Since the earliest of civilizations it has been used as a form of ritual, ceremony, celebration, communication, entertainment, and healing. 

The Waggle dance is a term used to describe a trademark figure-eight dance the honey bee uses to share foraging details with other members of their colony. 

Whirling dervishes have been spinning around in circles for hundreds of years as a form of meditative dance towards connecting with the divine. 

Shiva, the archetypal God, the pure one, the force of destruction and transformation according to mythos, is responsible for the dissolution of disillusionment. Shiva is often depicted as Shiva Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, the pure King of Dance, performing the iconic Anandatandava dance of destruction within a burning ring of fire. This ring of fire known as the prabhamandala is symbolic of the impermanent reality of existence, the energy of wisdom, the transcendental light of truth. Believing that destruction is a necessary precursor to creation, Shiva dances in the fire with “ananda”—happiness. 

The most natural dancer I know is my infant daughter. When she laughs she expresses so much joy that her entire 25 inch body vibrates. Her smile outshines the sun in any desert. Her dance of distraught is equally beautiful. One day this past week her evocative wailing began.

“Baby!” I said, “No crying!” 

I caught myself in the moment; that particular point in time when the truth of the words coming out of your own buccal cavity comes into question. Wait a minute. Yes crying! Cry baby, cry away, cry it all out, be free in your crying! 

At what point did we stop dancing? 

Not the awkward side-to-side sway we did with our crush in middle school, or even the choreographed steps learned in ballet class. The dance that is in our bones, that is uninhibited, the authentic expression of self that connects us with something real and greater, the movement that speaks feelings, the healing practice that embodies transcendence through whatever is rising and falling away. We are born into freedom of expression as the baby, indulging in laughter, crying unapologetically, moving and shaking and rolling and communicating through every emotion as it comes as a way of being understood. Then we mature into fear of expression as the adult, foreboding joy, mistaking tears for weakness, and attempting every other obstacle imaginable to keep from having to feel vulnerable. 

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” 

Life is full of chaos.

Unexpected ups and downs and all-arounds that strip us down and bare a little bit more of our being until finally we throw our hands up and say, this is me. This is the unadulterated me who is perfectly imperfect regardless of where I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, how I feel, what I have, what I’ve done. It is in that vulnerable expression of self that our light is free to move, and our brightness comes alive.

Struck, the dancer hears a tambourine inside her, 

like a wave that crests into foam at the very top, 

Begins. 

Maybe you don’t hear that tambourine, 

or the tree leaves clapping time. 

Close the ears on your head, 

that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes. 

There are other things to see, and hear. 

Music. Dance. 

A brilliant city inside your soul! 

(Rumi)

 

You too have your own picture that makes it hard to move yet all the more reason to dance. Lean in to vulnerability. Express your self freely through the rhythm of your life. When we waggle and spin and dance through the fire we awaken our light. Share your soul’s brilliance, rock out in your radiance, let your good juju jiggle. Through the chaos of it all be born again as the star that you already are.  

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Everything is Sacred

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Everything is Sacred

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”

Sacred: Connected with the divine; dedicated to a higher power. The familiar words of Joseph Campbell came to mind as I rested in Child’s Pose, reaching within for that part of me that feels bigger.

As I turned inward I confronted the shrinking truth: I’m a new parent, with an expired maternity leave, on a foreign island known as, “this postpartum body”. 

That’s not one–but THREE–full-time jobs.

Why now, where did the time go, how do I get back in? Do I even want to be in there?! 

Forehead on the ground, balled up like my 3 month old baby in my own puddle of sweat, the door opened and my being warped into a kaleidoscopic eruption of colors and shapes. From the fiery, passionate, crimson red of distant desires to the irregular quadrilaterals of life’s circumstances that I wish were perfectly symmetrical, there it was, an explosion of WTF that made my throat burn. I wanted to scream. Instead, I breathed.

Breath by breath a space grew, and as the overwhelming close-up became more panoramic I began to observe the breath, this body, this season, this life in all of its changing colors and shapes–and shapelessness–and recognized that it is indeed divine. 

From the seat of observation the chaos of being becomes a sacred geometry of its own. Like any religious structure the body is a worthy place of reverence, a sanctuary of perfect imperfections, an incubator for the unborn to be revealed. 

All of the fluctuations if nothing more are an opportunity for growth, and what is growth if not a visceral reminder that we are in fact living? And life is sacred. And all of this is life. And that means all of this is sacred. 

There is a sloka in the Isha Upanishad, “That is full; this is full. This fullness has manifested from that fullness. When this fullness merges into that fullness, all that remains is fullness.”

That is the sacred, and this is the the part of you that is in me, and all beings, unadulterated amid the ceaselessness of change and life’s attempted dilution. This is also the infinite change itself that we endure helping us evolve into something greater. This is even the dilution that breaks us down so that we can rebuild with a deeper sense of humility and gratitude and wisdom and meaning. 

Everything is sacred. 

The challenge is in creating and maintaining the space. Therein, sure enough we find ourselves, again, and again. In those moments of self-discovery–and recovery–it becomes apparent that the timing, the circumstances, the unknowns, are all part of the whole. In the acceptance of life completely, just as it is, fullness expands. 

Be full, in this breath.

Be full, in this body.

Be full, in your life, as it is.

There is no greater fulfillment than being, fully. 

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