One of my yoga students approached me after class. She wanted to discuss a scene from a book I’d leant her.
“You know how the author is teaching a yoga class, and one of his students breaks down crying and he cradles her head in his hands and acts as her witness? And then he shows her how to be her own witness?”
Sure, I love bad boys. They’re sexy, rebellious, often funny, deliciously scary. But why I really love them? Because they’re honest. Because they know how to suffer. On those days when Facebook is filled with “humble brags” and Pollyanna affirmations, I find myself on the side of those who aren’t afraid to complain.
Fear. We’re in it all the time. The cancer patients I teach, friends on the financial edge, my husband who has nightmares. A disturbing childhood vision--an intruder climbing a ladder to his room but somehow never reaching the sill--means he hates to be alone in the house.
I don’t fear death or burglars, just failure and ferris wheels. But that’s been enough to affect many life choices. I don’t drive or have a career (or enjoy amusement parks). I lead classes and ritual, but both make me sweat. I imagine my friends rolling their eyes as I seek reassurance for something I’ve done a hundred times before.
Folklore is filled with the homeless. There are pilgrims and fugitives, persecuted teachers and those unfortunates fated to wander eternally as punishment or curse. Jesus said “Foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Dionysus fled persecution from Greece to India to the ocean to the underworld. Sara-Kali was a wanderer and patron saint of wanderers, the Rom. Buddha left home in spectacular manner, abandoning wife, child and duty, never to return.
“It’s a joy to be hidden, but a disaster not to be found.” —D.W. Winnicott
As children, we are vulnerable and know it. We hide from bullies, from punishment, from mockery and scorn. No matter how loving our parents, our lives are not in our control, and so we hide to stay safe. But we also hide in order to have our hiddenness acknowledged and respected. I remember running up to my room after some perceived slight, hoping that my mother would notice and worry over my disappearance, but not necessarily that she would find me and force me to talk about my feelings.
Pre-dawn yoga. As we flowed from pose to pose, the teacher’s words emerged from the rhythm of her own movement: “Since we were in the womb…the universe has never stopped… supporting us. That’s why…we are still…alive.”
I knew in my bones it was true. Looking at the moon, wandering the woods, touching the earth, I find that truth again. When I disappoint myself, I know the trees and the sky do not judge. Good or bad, I am held in the web of life and known by an awareness that goes beyond my own.
I accepted long ago that my friend has achieved a higher level of consciousness than I. But, seriously? No crushes?
“But when you were a teenager, surely…”
It turned out the reason was not her high-mindedness, but her feeling that crushing on someone was unsafe, reviving an ancient, powerful fear of rejection.
That threw me. I crush early and often and am always vaguely ashamed of having done so. I certainly enjoy all the pleasures of a good crush, but I’d never considered that my crushes might reveal a belief in my own potential. Yet if a crush allows us to see the beauty in someone else, perhaps it also helps us see our own. At some level when we dream of someone, we also dream of who we can become in their eyes or at their side.