I spend a lot of time working on owning my emotions and declining invitations from my small self to her pity party, which is tough because my small self is a great party host. Her parties go on forever and she buys really good chips.
I spend a lot of time doing the messy work of digging into how I feel to find the root and then creating space for that root and then finding ways to acknowledge that root verbally without a bunch of passive aggressive side stepping, blaming or shaming.
To excavate what's below the surface of my reactions - it's fruitful labor. I emerge with the same understanding again and again.
All my reactions come from my own pain and the story I create about my pain.
The small things that perturb me are wildly relative in the scheme of what is happening on this planet.
Being human is a tender, vulnerable feat.
Growing love is the real work, the freeing work, the holy work.
I believe this in my core.
Sometimes I just really want to project all my bullshit onto someone or something else.
Sometimes I just really want to sidestep emotional responsibility and abandon clear communication.
I've discovered a great way to do this and I'd like to share it with you now.
For those moments when you need to be unaccountable - project your feelings onto your cat.
My cat's name is Dublin. He's intensely handsome. He's equal parts frisky and elegant, sassy and sophisticated. He gets pissed off when we remove him from the counter top or kick him out of our room if he bites our feet in the middle of the night. But none of this matters. Because when you're projecting your feelings onto your cat, his feelings are unimportant.
It goes like this:
You say to your husband,
"Darling, Dublin is super agitated this morning."
"Oh really?" your husband asks, concerned. "What happened?"
"When the child came into our bedroom four times last night to ask for a foot rub, it woke Dublin up and you know how he gets about sleep."
"That's too bad," your husband says and then he walks over to Dublin, who is napping deeply on top of his kitty palace.
"Also," you add, "When your ex-wife texted you that really rude text yesterday - Dublin got extremely worked up. Because you know how much your ex-wife and her rude texts infuriate Dublin."
"I do," your husband nods, while the cat rolls over to let his belly show.
"Lastly," you continue, "Dublin was bitching to me this morning about the dining room table and how you always leave your mail spread out across the entire surface. When it's time for breakfast, Dublin looks at the surface of the table and then he looks at the surface of your desk and he wonders why you don't just put your fucking mail on your fucking desk. His words. Not mine."
Your husband lifts Dublin up from his resting perch and they both fix you with a piercing gaze.
"I'm sorry, Dubs," you say under your breath when your husband has left the room. Your cat blinks. You take this as a sign that it is okay to do this occasionally.
Then you return to the brave work of mining your complicated, beautiful, emotional underworld.
Photo / photostock editor
Tea steeped. Cat body curled. Music tuned to Trevor Hall. He's singing, "I'm still learning how to walk in my fire."
Brain bouncing. Eyes tired. Heart contracting.
A book is open on my lap. Naomi Shihab Nye says:
a calm musical note arrives.
You balance it on your tongue,
a single ripe grape,
till your whole body glistens.
In the space between breaths
you apply it to any wound
and the wound heals.
I step outside to put my bare feet on the earth.
Back inside I sit down and stare at my computer.
A great panic climbs my lungs.
I am afraid of humanity. I am afraid of our tremendous destructive capacity.
How do we find the next true thing, every day?
What are all the one-steps that lead to the many-steps that lead to liberation?
On facebook, Samyak Yamauchi posts her painting - a long haired woman walking through pathways of stars wearing felines for feet.
She writes, "Falling vibes is part of the game, so here is my move - a painting to raise the vibes."
Trevor Hall sings, "The fruitful darkness is all around us."
Naomi Shihab Nye's poem continues,
Soon nights will lengthen,
you will lean into the year
humming like a saw.
You will fill the lamps with kerosene,
knowing somewhere a line breaks,
a city goes black,
people dig for candles in the bottom drawer.
You will be ready. You wil use the song like a match.
It will fill your rooms
opening rooms of its own
so you sing, I did not know
my house was this large.
It is like all three of them are working together to reach me.
I am unceasingly grateful for the artists and their breadcrumb trail.
It is so easy to lose our way.
I return to my keyboard and the tapping out of words. The only answer I ever have is delivered again and again through the prophecy of artists who tend the garden of truth using many coded languages.
A luminous map is woven together from the threads of creative expression.
We begin each day here.
We make space in the heart so the heart can sing our whole self into action.
We raise the vibes.
Bless all the brave and tender artists who help me rise and light my fear on fire.
We will generate countless ashes, because we must.
The phoenix is returning.
*Trevor Hall quotes taken from the songs, Sagittarius and The Fruitful Darkness.
*Naomi Shihab Nye words taken from the poem, The Song, from Words Under Words.
Photo / Guillaume Lorain
Babies cry. Flowers stretch. Kettles sing.
The shadows on the wall at sunset grow.
Guns fire. Breath runs out. Grief rises. Fear grips.
I whisper three words as my body vibrates panic:
Love lives here.
The earth shakes, she crumbles, she steadies.
We wake up and the news flashes.
Light and darkness - they trade places.
The clock ticks fake time and I whisper again:
Love lives here.
I follow these syllables one by one. They are my japa mala and I’m searching for the center of my heart in times of instability and crisis.
I touch my lips to each word and listen for the secret of impermanence.
In the hungry hush of groundless being, we have one anchor and it is the practice of loving. This practice involves a seemingly simple core truth, yet it has proven to be humanity’s greatest stumbling block.
Everyone deserves to be loved.
Light melts. Animals sound. Bodies rest.
Alarms wail. Trees bow. Tides rush in.
How do we find love when there is anger, terror, devastation or grief between us and the love that weaves us?
We hold a council in our heart for the meeting of everything. We sit tenderly beside the judgement and the pain. We call out to love when we can’t feel her presence. We name what we seek to remember.
This human thing we are doing - it is a mysterious skydive. To love in the face of impermanence is astoundingly courageous and it contains the code of eternity.
So beautiful songbirds, be patient. We are recalling something as we fall.
We are the gasp between two places and love is a tunnel.
We are time travelers, but time is false, connections are real and they are leading us beyond death and life, into a brave beginning.
Doors open. Knowledge dissolves. Memories surface.
The spacious moment curves its finger.
We are dreaming a deep dream.
We are the circle circling.
We are home and I promise, we are ready.
Love lives here.
Photo / Tom Holmes
There are days when I wake up and think,
"I don't want to write. I have nothing valuable to say. Everything I produce is shit. What am I doing to make things better in the world? What am I doing?"
The air gets sucked out of my lungs and I can't find a spacious channel between truth and action. Even as I write these very words, I'm sitting beside my noisy critic, trying to breathe through her banter.
A moment ago, a fat, gray bird smacked into the window with a dramatic thwap and scared the crap out of me. It swerved and then flew steadfastly in the opposite direction. Like that bird, (bless its startled, feathered body), when I hit a wall, I often fly in the opposite direction while I wait out my fear.
But the wall doesn't want me to back up.
It doesn't want me to wait out my fear. It wants me to get closer, (at a slow speed so as not to fall unconscious), and befriend my fear like a lonely neighbor.
Fear is so lonely. Nobody likes it. Everyone avoids it. Fear just wants to be included. The wall and the critic - they want me to lean in and say,
"Good morning fear. I see you. I won't ignore you and I won't stop moving forward. Let's go."
When I write, I carve a trail through the world. The trail leads me from truth to truth. The critic and the wall, they are steep parts of the trail - places where I can deepen my relationship to perseverance - areas where I can remove debris and widen the path.
They are wonderful messengers.
When I run from them, when I take their appearance as a sign that I'm fucking up, I miss out on an opportunity for expansion.
Do the work you are doing. Know it is not about good or bad. It is about deepening.
When a wall smacks you in the face, melt and listen. Inhale, exhale and stay with it.
As we build new paradigms of peace on the planet, we must persistently tend to our trail.
All these paths are leading to a great meeting point. Move one foot in front of the other. Welcome your resistance with a curious, patient, persistent willingness.
Don't turn back.
We can do this.
Swimming in cerulean crystal waves, I was recently reminded of my freedom. The saltwater quieted my mind and shifted the rigid metronome of my sometimes shallow breath.
I’ve been getting calmer and clearer.
I’ve been getting more spacious.
For the past two years, I have been consciously working with my fear patterns. I relate to them like muscles I’ve become accustomed to contracting. It takes the attention of both my body and my mind to loosen instead of seize up. It takes the subtle mediation of my heart, who must stand guard as a loving witness while I stumble through the tedious construction of a new internal architecture.
I am building a home inside where I can rest, all the time, no matter what.
In this process, I am learning to be more honest with myself about the expectations I have for others and the countless micro-judgments I pass daily. If I follow them like breadcrumbs, I believe they’ll lead me to my deepest wound — to the place where I am still unforgiving towards my most tender human tendencies. To the place where I expect myself to be perfect.
This is where I want to unleash love like a hungry wolf. This is the place I want love to devour.
As I circled round the ocean’s patient rhythm, I prayed to her sacred example — to the rise and fall of everything, to the leaving and returning, to the pearl crest of promise and the empty radiance of surrender.
I felt my body unravel in her current.
I rose up for air and waved gleefully to the shiny, golden figure of my dark-haired husband, grinning on the sand.
I recently got married, and the illumined waters I’m communing with make up Kauai’s wild coastline. I’m on my honeymoon with my husband, for whom bouts of anxiety are not commonplace. This isn’t to say he doesn’t struggle with the vulnerability of being human, just that struggle looks different on him. It certainly looks less anxious.
It’s one of the great teachings he’s been offering me by example — his genuine ability to let things go, in both his body and his heart.
In the ocean I feel the deep hush-hum of a liquid universe — a world based on letting go. The principle of water says, what is soft is also strong.
At our wedding ceremony, I vowed to learn to land in my heart, even when all my tiny selves are crying and stomping and pouting. I vowed to break through again and again — through the stuck places and the limiting beliefs, into the magic and infinitude of the ultimate reality.
I vowed to seek mystic mischief by my husband’s side, the kind that liberates love and bathes all beings in deep peace, because I believe we need this type of mayhem. I believe it will take a rowdy courage and an inexhaustible playfulness to reacquaint the heart of humanity with the tides of surrender.
I believe it is through our relationships that we learn to love the world. I believe that all the cliches are true, that the Beatles really got it — that All You Need Is Love.
Love is the most potent medicine, the simplest mystery, the most awe-inspiring acceptance, the endless path. Love cannot be argued with divisive thought patterns. Love doesn’t work in limitations. Love isn’t all or nothing.
Love is all. Always. All ways.
The human mind shudders at the vastness of this. It gasps, terrified.
Then what am I working so hard at? It cries. What am I trying to be good for?
If love is unconditional, if it is a cosmic intelligence that runs through the universe and does not take sides, if it wants everyone’s ultimate well-being and chooses no enemy, then what is our identity? If there are no bad guys, then how can we be the good guys? If we are not the good guys, then who are we? If being good isn’t even the point, if the point is so much deeper than that, if the only way out is in, if our identity is not based upon division, if it is not bolstered by competition, if it is not fortified by comparison, then what is it?
I emerge from the waves and join my husband on our blanket. He vowed to love my body, mind and heart as he loves his own.
I breathe long and slow and deep.
I rest my head on his chest.
The water makes the music of hushes and purrs. I bring my attention to my heart and ask love to braid my wholeness into being. I ask love to be my name, my sound, my vow. I ask love to teach me until there are no more words.
Until there is only fullness and emptiness — the same secret. Until there is only water, retreating and returning.
Photo / Cristian Newman
I once lived in a small apartment cradled between a bay and some tall, green trees. Taped to one of its walls was a poem by Mary Oliver. I caught sight of it each time I walked from my bedroom to the kitchen.
One line of the poem took residence in my body and refused to leave me alone. I turned it within me for years, like a key.
Life moved onward past that small apartment, but every time I went on an adventure, in moments of sadness or in moments of insight, I recalled the line from that poem on the wall and marveled:
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
The concept rocked me.
To just let the true, soft, intuitive, vulnerable nature of my being love what it loved.
Through many rounds of trial and error, I have learned that a human and the world are like two magnets.
The more I trust what softens me toward joy, the more I become attuned to the interplay between my magnet and the magnet of the world. I find that what I am seeking, as the great Rumi says, is also seeking me.
Conversely, the more I resist what softens me toward joy and ignore the pull, the more often the magnets - out of sync with each other - alter and trip up the frequency of my life.
Following the call of what we love can be challenging. Joy-judgment runs rampant, as well as the perception that ease and fluidity equals laziness.
We are told, in subtle and non-subtle ways, that if we're not stressing out about shit all the time, then we are not working hard enough.
Life can indeed be stressful. For so many people living in poverty and various other kinds of hostile circumstances - it is a constant fight to survive.
When those of us who are not battling daily to simply stay alive, become less attached to the perceived clout of struggle, and more attuned with our magnet, we begin moving with the force of heart aligned power. To have heart aligned power behind our actions - that is what the world is crying for. The world is crying for both the softening and the rising. The collective consciousness needs creatures who are activated by joy and by love.
For the rest of the week, for today, for the moment, this is what I recommend:
Notice the small things that you are drawn to.
Close your eyes and ask yourself what you would do with an entire day assigned to simply following your magnet.
Notice what pulls you. What are you lit on fire about, and how can you create a life that revolves around the fire instead of a life that keeps the fire at your periphery?
I am discovering how to live, day by day, in a way that works with the magnet instead of against it. I have to constantly remind myself to take off my armor so the pull can be felt. I have to break the barriers I have forged to protect myself. I have to dissolve the pretense of self-sacrifice I’ve used to fit into a society that finds God in martyrdom.
I have to melt it all into breath.
I have to remember that the frequency of joy feeds a collective sound and that sound is space.
The world needs this kind of noise. The world needs this kind of space.
It's one turn of the key away. Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Photo / Annie Spratt
The totality of spring is upon me. Morning calls in flashes of purple iris light, rain hymns, and dew drops. I walk outside with a cup of tea and lose my sense of time as steam spirals toward a cyan sky. I listen to the bird’s trill and to the exhalation of grass. I press bare feet on wet, silken blades.
Night was good to the earth.
May invites renewal – the kind of stretching, yawning return granted after months resting in a cradle of darkness. It is easy to neglect this precious transition. It is easy to disconnect from the mystic instructions encoded in the sway of seasons. We have a million devices to keep track of and numerous accounts to check in on. We have the imposed structure of hours rushing by and the concrete vision of cities. Modern life has disavowed slowness. Modern life has crafted a stealthy concoction of covert judgments and used them to dissuade humans from reconnecting with the rhythm of nature. Over-productivity is a consciousness we subscribe to. Accomplishment is a myth and it needs to be rewritten.
We knew a secret once and the secret said:
Fresh air deepens breath, revelation rides the petal edge of flowers, mother earth is our most vital wisdom keeper, accomplishment is healing and healing is here. Healing is now.
So how do we calm the hyperdrive of our to-do mentality and release our screen-obsessed tendencies?
How do we discover a sense of connection unrelated to statuses and checklists?
How do we find slowness when basic survival may or may not demand an inherent level of busyness?
We remember breath.
Then when that little voice inside our mind scoffs and says,
“Oh that’s original, just remember your breath, have fun with that…”, we breathe anyway.
We disobey the cynic. We put faith in a deeper directive. We believe that truly profound potential gestates in seemingly simple solutions. That is the true code of nature. Her depth is revealed in her attention, her grandeur transmitted through her grace. Nature takes all the time she needs because she knows that time is space and space is spacious.
On the path towards wider listening, here is our call to action:
Choose a moment in your day when you give all of your attention to your breath, be it for 15 minutes or 15 seconds.
Choose a moment in your day when you turn off your devices and remain present with the tactile world around you.
Choose a moment in your day when you go outside without socks or shoes and wiggle your toes in the umber soil.
Notice the scent of seasons.
There is a shift and it is summoning our full participation.
It is not asking for a bucking up or a pushing out. It is a blueprint for surrender. It is an ancient map and we are long time voyagers. This dissolution is a celebration.
The flowers are waking up.
The first time I landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was 22-years-old and I was wide eyed and wonder-filled. Out the window, decisive crests of earth swelled up below a thin veil of clouds. Like water, the land had a rippling motion. I remember pressing my face against the airplane glass. I couldn't get close enough to that shock of jungle. The mountains made declarations. They were proud guardians of a crystal bay. They were emerald, amber superheroes.
Rio quickly grew my hunger for heart-centered living. Rio drew me into my animal body. Rio scoffed at my inclination toward shame and demanded that I stop shying away from desire.
Of course, like anything real and full and whole, Rio wasn't perfect. No place should be. No culture has it all figured out. No human is a master.
This city challenged my boundaries, overwhelmed my senses and asked me to refine my understanding of what it means to 'go with the flow'.
Rio for me was, and continues to be, the catalyst for soul-led activation.
Here, I've walked through my most necessary rites of passage.
I've been a girl in love, an amateur filmmaker, a thirsty dance student, a bumbling linguist,
a 33-year-old woman, a professional director, a grounded teacher and a fluent conversationalist.
Rio cradles the monumental shifts of more than a decade of my life.
As I my plane touched down two days ago, and I arrived in Rio for the sixth time, I felt swaddled in gratitude.
I was grateful to wrap my arms around Val and remember that dance class so long ago when we found a way to say - in our broken understanding of each other's native tongue,
"I remember you from a time outside of time."
I was grateful to walk down the street beside Feijao's strong, protective presence and remember the skinny 19-year-old he was when I met him at a cipher in a city park and he first offered to walk me home and keep me safe.
I was grateful to wake up to the scent of jungle and city loving and hating each other - something raw and floral - wet and loud.
Returning used to be riddled with anxiety and longing. I fretted about how to arrive and how to say goodbye. I worried intensely about the space between the United States and Brazil and the way I felt divided by two completely different experiences of living.
Returning has grown into an act of prayerful presence.
I no longer feel the need to categorize or divide any part of any world in which I live.
Everything is everything.
I know so much and I know so little.
This wise universe is made to embrace multiple realities.
And the places we love - they carry a magnetic kind of music. They call to us over and over and summon our integration. They remind us how multi-faceted the human condition is. They help us offer our name up as a blessing. They invite us to claim our part in the big, wide, wonder-filled world.
Photo / Ian Scheider
The color of my partner’s eyes is somewhere between amber and obsidian. While I try to keep myself present, while I ponder the question, to pretend or not to pretend, I focus on the ashy lightning of his gaze. If I was a tree in the desert, I’d surely be struck down.
He has a tendency to stare at me with no time limit and no agenda other than truth. It’s overwhelming to be held accountable for my own wholeness. Being whole requires courage. It requires transparency. It requires trust.
I don’t want to answer the question he’s posed, so I grin a toothy grin and blink.
“I don’t know,” I say. And then I laugh a little to emphasize how light and unencumbered I am by the heavy vulnerability of humanness.
His dimples rise to the surface of his skin. His eyebrow arcs. “I know that grin,” he states. “It’s your fake smile. Don’t bullshit me.”
The question posed was, “What are you afraid of?”
The context is, my partner and I are wildly, soul shakingly in love and I left a happy marriage to a wonderful human to be with him. The context is, my partner has been in the middle of his own divorce proceedings since before he met me and it’s more complicated than mine because he has two children. The context is, many people I care about have grown silent since I committed the taboo act of ending things with someone truly awesome. The context is, everything about all of this is complex and challenging except the truth at the center:
We love each other wholly and intensely. Our relationship inspires our personal growth daily. There’s nothing we don’t want to witness in each other and although I thought I’d be partnered for life when I married my former husband, things changed. Change happens. The heart can love deeply and profoundly and yet sometimes the soul will still need to open her palm and let it go.
I’m shattering a cultural myth I’ve unconsciously subscribed to for years. I call it thehappily ever after story. It tells us that the ultimate goal is to partner in a for-life kind of way, so that the ‘work’ will finally end. Happily will become the status quo. The pain and loneliness of searching will cease. We will be complete and we can finally chill out. The quest can end.
The revelation I’m having, as I sit with the phrase, what are you afraid of, is that the work of embodying our humanness is never over. Intimacy, whether romantic or other, invites us to look at all our fears and our projections. It invites us to own the truth if we want to deepen the connection. It invites us to figure out what the hell the truth is in the first place. It invites us to be shamelessly imperfect.
No. easy. Feat.
My partner interrupts my silence when he says, “Jocelyn, if I wasn’t down for all of you, if I couldn’t hold space for all of your emotions, then you should seriously be questioning if you want to be with me.”
I feel shaky. I feel the resonance of a fear that rubs up against the prospect of acceptance and it goes something like this: Maybe he thinks he means that, but just wait. Just wait until he sees a part of me he doesn’t like and bails.
In other relationships this fear has played out. We human creatures are not always capable of holding space for each other. I’ve been on various sides of the equation. I’ve been unable to witness my partner’s vulnerability because it brought my own issues to light and I’ve had partners who were unable to witness my vulnerability because it highlighted theirs. I’ve damaged relationships by expecting a partner take responsibility for my own co-dependent or wound-driven needs and I’ve taken on a partner’s issue as my own, until it suffocated me with resentment.
So how do we feel the fear and do it anyway? How do we stick with this brave thing called intimacy? I left a very actualized man who was absolutely down to do the work with me. Intimacy is not a simple noun. It’s complex to say the least. Love is the electric code of nature destroying and creating itself and the older I get the more awe I feel. Love is not some perfect happiness. It is a continuous dance with birth and death. The width and the depth of connection calls on the width and the depth within us and it can be tempting to shut down. It’s easier to repeat known patterns than to create new ones. But it’s the new patterns that lead to evolution and I believe evolution is the point.
I am lucky to have a very wise model of a man in my father. My father has always said that growth is about inclusion, not amputation. I reflect on his words before I take a breath. Before I dissolve my fake smile like butter inside a frying pan. Before I let my face melt into sadness. And then I bare everything. The entire messy wholeness.
“I’m afraid that I’ll never, ever get over the grief of leaving my best friend to be with you.
I’m afraid that your divorce will take years and you and I will live a half life together in a hellish limbo.
I’m afraid that after months of being with me and noticing that I am a human inclined toward emotional highs and lows, you will throw your hands up and say, Enough!
I’m afraid you won’t be attracted to me if I stop waxing my upper lip.
I’m afraid we will forever be excluded from social circles we used to frequent because our partnership is so triggering for others.
I’m afraid my ex-husband will read my writing and question the truly profound depth of love I’ve felt for him since the beginning and feel for him, still.
I’m afraid of moving too fast and too slow.
I’m afraid of running into my former sister-in-law at a coffee shop and getting a latte thrown in my face.
I’m afraid of not showing you that I love you enough.
I’m afraid of showing you that I love you too much.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.”
He is silent. My words hang in the thick evening heat and I shudder in the wake of their emergence. Then he offers me the kind of smile you offer a baby who has yet to do anything the world considers wrong.
And he says,
“I’m afraid you’ll abandon me if the legal process of my divorce takes too long.
I’m afraid you’ll resent me for the pain you feel about leaving your ex-husband.
I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak for staying in my marriage for so many years when my marriage wasn’t working.
I’m afraid that someday, when we have a baby, you won’t be attracted to me because I’ll no longer be of use to you.
I’m afraid I tell you I love you too much and it annoys you.
I’m afraid I lose my wallet and my keys too much and it annoys you.
I’m afraid of fucking up.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.”
I will now echo this refrain - it is easier to repeat known patterns than to create new ones, but it’s the new patterns that lead to evolution. Truth telling is the first step toward creating new patterns. With every revolution around the sun, I come to the startling conclusion that I know much less than I imagined I did when I was fifteen. However, in the presence of our naked confessions, I know this:
Transparency is where intimacy dances.
To voice our fears with vulnerability rather than disguise them with defense, is how we grow love.
Being met with compassion, curiosity and grace is always, always what we deserve.
Meeting others with compassion, curiosity and grace is always, always worth the effort.
And all the unknown - the fucking mystery of loving - it is a primal, sacred storm.
So I say, let me be a tree in that holy desert.
I am rooted, I am ready.
Teach me how to be tender and how to be bold.
Conduct your prayerful power through me.
Let my love strike truth with the blazing grace of lightning.
Photo / Dan Watson
I do this strange thing in public restrooms.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to do strange things in a public restroom.
Probably not even the first person to blog about it - though that's not a rabbit hole I'm super interested in exploring.
It happens like so:
I am in a restaurant, a bar, a cafe or any communal area, (library, bank, museum, airport, hotel), where lots of humans share space and follow prescribed rules for how they express themselves in said space - and I excuse myself to go use the restroom.
Whether or not I actually have to pee is irrelevant. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
A one-person, private bathroom is ideal. A multiple-person bathroom with individual stalls makes what I'm about to detail more difficult to accomplish privately.
I walk into that tiny little room, I lock that sticky little lock, I take a long, deep breath, I look at myself in the mirror and I start to dance.
I start to shake and make weird noises and flail about.
Now let me be explicit about something - although I happen to be a dance teacher - the movement that takes place in my private restroom session is not graceful or sharp or precise or high caliber. I would love to imagine that it's quirky, inspired genius - like Margaret Qualley in that bad ass Kenzo perfume commercial.
But the truth is less that and more this:
I look like a bobble head doll with glitching robot legs and a popcorn popper for a pelvis. What I'm saying is, I totally freak the fuck out.
Because after I bobble-popcorn-glitch, I can handle moving around in a public setting where appropriate expression is highly monitored. I can handle sitting in the midst of so many beings with so many feelings and so many words that hide so many feelings.
As an empathic, kinesthetic creature, my instinct is to translate perceptions through my body. And though I've just revealed something that will make everyone I know imagine my bobble-head absurdity whenever I excuse myself to use a restroom from now on, I'm certain I am not alone.
I believe we all have empathic, kinesthetic inclinations. I believe it is the disavowment of these inclinations and the shaming of our body and its expressive prowess, that creates so much sickness and disproportionate violence in society.
I believe we are desperate to translate the world and express our translations out loud.
Children translate until we teach them not to.
Have you ever seen a kid start shimmying and flapping, all of the sudden, in a grocery store?
The synthetic and the wilderness - the truth and the untruth - the human and the spirit - it's A LOT to process. And this sacred physical tool? It is meant to digest our humanness. It's not meant to be shackled in shame - it's not meant to become smaller and quieter and less noticeable. It's meant to change and grow and age and strengthen and fall apart and be messy and be ugly and be gorgeous and heal and learn and nurture and tell the story of being alive.
The story of being alive is not harnessed and expressed solely through dance or sports or yoga - although these are each fantastic outlets.
The story is channeled through our tender and attentive presence with our own physicality. The story is honored when we stand up to the myth of physical sin and fully inhabit the wise and patient vessels we were born into.
If you are at this point in my public restroom confession, it means you did not dismiss me, so I dare to ask the following questions. The label warns that uncomfortable soul searching may occur if questions are fully ingested.
Do you find yourself feeling half-spoken, half-heard or half-moved?
In what ways do unexpressed perceptions, translations and stories get locked in your body and become weights that burden your joy-making?
In what ways are you authentically drawn to tell the story of being alive through your limbs and bones and muscles?
If you're not ready to tell this story to an audience, where are all the best one-person public restrooms in your area?
How can you listen as deeply to your body as you do to your mind?
How can we support each other to move the energy through us, in ways that make us more whole and less divided?
As we forage for the answers, I offer up this final prayer:
May we cleanse the poison of repression and write new narratives where violence is not the desperate outcome.
May we design more sacred pathways for deep elucidation.
May we honor the unique creature inside of us and within the other.
May we lock ourselves up less and grow community more.
May we open all the doors to our crazy, perfect dancing.