Will you look back?


I want to set humanity ablaze with how much spirit is possible for one vessel called the body to contain.

The process of awakening that the system called Ashtanga Yoga facilitates is a system that purifies this vessel; and today, as I re-commit to consistent, daily practice, I am coming to terms with just how dis-engaged and in bondage to self I truly was.

Over the last year, practice became a chore. It weighed on me. I felt only a dull, heavy pain where there once was clarity and joy. I grieved the loss of the only friend who could hold me in my darkest moments and hated myself for losing her grasp as I slipped into the void.

Dread consumed me. The thought of beginning my day at 6 a.m. in Samastihi for the rest of my life overwhelmed me. My practice was a torturous flat line that my thoughts could not bounce back from. Somewhere along the way I fell asleep in despair.

The great paradox that is the human experience is precisely this: Awakening is possible only in our deepest hours of slumber. Inspiration is being churned over in the subconscious mind even when we feel like we are trudging through mud in our conscious state. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is an acknowledgement of a life-current already flowing inside me. This is the grace that I effect a contact with as I begin my morning at the top of my mat. And as I lift my arms above me, ekam, inhale, and fold forward, dve, exhale, I am acknowledging this grace and inviting it to express itself through me. I offer my body as a temple for grace and lift her up on an altar that is the heart consumed with devotion. I merge into Source.

My discontentment with my practice was really my discontentment with a life designed perfectly by my Maker’s hand.

And I don’t want to be discontent any longer. I don’t want to be afraid of the power burning inside me. I don’t want to sleep through the dawn. I don’t want to whisper into an iron cage; I want to fan the edges of an open flame. Or as Pablo Neruda writes,

¨I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,

insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,

going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,

taking in and thinking, eating every day…”

I want to burrow into the Self and untangle her roots from my grasping. I want to seduce her edges to grow deeper and deeper until they touch the un-tilled soil that is the earthy breath not yet dreamt by God.

I want to hold the world’s eye even when it is afraid to look back; I want to coax it into trusting my gaze with the seduction of a spirit rooted in humanity.

I want to carve a looking-glass into my chest and invite the world to stare in.

Do you see past the rugged scars of a girl burning up in her own fire?

Do you not see the crying tides howling out ¨you cannot, you cannot, you cannot¨ part for the one who walks to meet her Maker?

Do you see the girl who built ladders upon the shoulders of lowly men, men who considered dreams of heights to be more terrifying than the monotonous nightmare that is mediocrity?

Do you see her upturned gaze?

Do you see the downtrodden tramp who refused tragedy as her master and accepted greatness as her equal?

Do you see the girl who lifted her humanity up as an offering to her Creator and begged Him to mold it as He saw fit?

Can you see into the gaze that holds these secrets? Will you look back?

The Edge

¨I want to stand as close as I can to the edge without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.¨ -Kurt Vonnegut

Beyond the domain of who we think we are there is an edge; and here, we see the full glory of the self shed of all her trappings.

My edge has not been a vantage point from which I gazed into the depths of raw, limitless potential inside of me, but a jumping-off point from which I lept to escape the pressure of tapping into it. I escaped, taking refuge in seclusion. I allowed my spirit to rot in idle stagnation and championed it as contemplation; I toted the identity of a rishi finding God in a cave when I was really a recluse willing my spirit to die. I sacrificed the risks of joyous leaps of faith to calculated efforts yielding safe results.

Or as Christian author C.S. Lewis writes, I chose Hell:

¨There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell (The Problem of Pain, 121).¨

The last few months I have locked my heart into this casket and cast my desires away.

I lived in isolation because I didn’t trust anyone else to tend to my wounds. I clung to resentment and fear because it was safer than choosing to let go, trust, and have a new experience. I forwent opportunities to expand my knowledge and develop my skills because the outcome was unidentifiable.

 Bondage was predictable; freedom required risk.

Recently I have been catapulted out of my cocoon and forced to fly. The illusion of security has been smashed and I am inviting the creative principle inside me to awaken.

Questions like,

            ¨Who am I if I don’t look good on paper?”

¨What can I rely on if the one thing I’ve been banking on for two years has escaped my grasp?¨

have left me raw, angry, and hurting. I was faced with a tough decision and I chose freedom and empowerment over security. I stopped participating in a movement that held me hostage to the center so I could look out over the edge.

And now, here I stand, howling out into the great void. Here I find my footing without a Plan B or a safety net. I feel but two things; the aching cry of a rebirth and the grief of tearing myself from the center.

Here I offer my wounds to their only rightful attendant, my Maker, as I try to stand by the edge without falling off.