Essence After Death

 

I remember the physical presence of my friend from childhood, who played on my basketball team, and was a romantic at heart. She passed away too young, like the most beautiful souls seem to do.

My last job was at a school for children with special needs. A little girl named Abby stood close to me not long after I started to work there. She looked up at me with blue eyes, clear as the sky is when the sun comes up after a snow, and asked, “is it okay if I give you a hug?”

There were endearing distances between each of her teeth and it nudged a memory in me. When I said yes, a smile lit up her face. Her mouth becaume unbelievably wide–gorgeous. It was when she wrapped thin arms around my waist that I realized what the memory was. The friend from childhood, who passed away over five years ago.

Her essence was there in my slender new student.

Memories from the earliest part of my life elude me completely. I have theories as to why: trauma, anxiety, hyperactivity. I only remember photos of my friend when she was the age of my student, one specific photo comes to mind of her dressed in a Wal-Mart princess costume with a silver tiara.

God, I miss her.

Abby, my former student, has labels placed on her: cognitively disabled, socially impaired, disgraphic, among clinical diagnoses that I didn’t have time to read up on. Inside of the school, her reality is good. Hovering teachers police social interactions, diffuse potential bullying.

I wonder if my friend’s reality would have been good. She was cognitively and socially impaired, I know that much. That was part of why I loved her, and chose to be as loyal a friend as I could be (loyalty definitely isn’t one of my core values. I work at it.). I have always felt freer, more at peace and enlightened in the company of “disabled” (but not really disabled) people, particularly children. Were she still alive I would be able to analyze her, apply words in my head that make sense of her. Yet she is dead, which  makes no sense at all.

Having loved disabled students (really loved them, mind you. Not just-for-a-paycheck love) doesn’t mean I am, was or ever will be exempt from ableism, just as having loved a man does not exempt me from sexism, nor does having loved people of color exempt me from racism (Ableism: . Urban Dictionary ). In fact, I identified ableism within myself more for the time I spent at that school. Hopefully, I will continue to identify this and move away from it.

I wish my friend was still here, not just so I could feel her arms wrap around me in a gangly hug like that from my student. I wish she was here so I could feel her essence, that bubbly uniqueness that challenged me to release my hold on society’s hierarchical view of humanity. Everyone had a fair chance on the playing field of her mind, which is rare to find! Most of all I wish I had extra opportunities to speak up on her behalf. I wish I had 1,000 chances more to defend her, claim her, stand by her side.

I try my best to do this every day. It’s selfish, really. It makes me feel alive to speak for those who can’t engage with the world on its’ rat-race level. Advocating for those marginalized by physical and/or cognitive differences brings a level of liveliness to my life. Society’s structures, biases, prejudices make me want to float away. Those who see things clearly (and more creatively!), ground me.

Abby’s hug, her itch for attention, physical stimuli, or whatever prompted her to request a hug, was a gift from the one already gone. I squeezed her meaningfully in return. For who she is, and who my friend was, I embraced her, and kissed the top of her head, crowned with golden hair.

 

 

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Why Yoga?

Yoga matters to me, especially right now, not because it is something better than the other somethings. It is not the hobby to put all hobbies out of business. It is not the one true religion.

Yoga matters to me because it is what I have right now. In days past, I had Jesus. I had the words of Jesus, my sweet tattered Bible, and the Christian community (a tad unreliably but nonetheless,) surrounding me. Those days were imperfect but that study, the weekly and daily rituals (praying before meals, attending a service weekly, eventually spending hours in prayer and meditation), blessed me, and kept me from spinning my wheels in the mud of meaningless suffering. Now (praise ye the gods!), amidst hard financial and emotional times, I have the practice and study of Yoga.

I didn’t realize how much it has come to mean to me, and how much this ancient study/practice has blessed me until I was at a workshop in a neighboring town (holla at ya, Conway) yesterday, and heard a teacher talking about why she sticks to the more pure forms of yoga (the closer to Krishnamacharya–the better! was her angle). The impact it has on the mind. The connection to the Divine as the motivation behind it. The beautiful (albeit fundamentalist ;)) chants before and after each two-hour-long practice.

I realized as she spoke that if I did not have yoga right now, my little hands would feel awful empty. The presence of something on my palms–be it yoga or religion, study, or exercise–actually helps me open up to receive and release. Yoga, like the words of Jesus, draws out the Divine in me. These ancient prescriptions conjure up spells of light, love, and hope, and without spells, my days would be much darker. I shudder to think where I would have been without the words of Jesus nurturing my soul. This year, I have been to some dark places, and it is yoga that is helping me emerge.

At a Vinyasa (movement with the breath) class today, my Yoga teacher, Sherri, guided us through breath retention and some hella-difficult classes. After a brief savasana (corpse/resting pose), we engaged with her in listening to a song with repetitive lyrics in Sanksrit (holy language of ancient India/the yogis/inis). Singing along, I felt movement rise from my hips to my head and, in spirit as in body, I was at church again. Moving with the beautiful sound, we were alive together, plugged into source like blue Omaticaya Avatars seated, entranced, around Home Tree. Tears soaked my face as the words resonated with a magically unidentifiable part of my being:

Oh, my beloved
Kindness of the heart
Breath of life
I bow to you

And I’m coming home

Ong namo guru dev namo

Divine teacher
Beloved friend
I bow to you
Again and again

Lotus sitting on the water 
Beyond time and space 
This is your way 
This is your grace

Ong namo guru dev namo

Guru dev, guru dev namo

This is your way
This is your way
This is your way

(Bryan Kearney / Snatam Kaur / Thomas Barkawitz)

 

That is why yoga, for now. I am grateful for the teachers, preachers, and friends who create space that is safe and holy enough for the scared and lost parts of us to come home. Spaces that are big enough for tough emotions, and small enough for Love to fill, are resting places on the journey.

Praise be to Ganesh, remover of obstacles, praise be to Lord Shiva, inspiration of many asanas (yogic postures), praise be to Buddha, for being the Awakened One, and always, ever always, praise be to Jesus, for loving me first.

I’m coming home.

 

Grace & Peace,

 

Lydia Nomad Bush

Untitled Poem

 

Sometimes a woman must go

with herself

to a place

where she can be alive to the dark, unfriendly, & inhospitable

emotions that stir

beneath the white lie

of her smile.

 

She does this because her emotions put

her mind back into her body, where

she can breath,

create,

slither out of the snares

she walks into: naked doe dissected

day after day.

 

Every month she bleeds but it isn’t the blood that

costs her  

dignity.

It isn’t the blood that threatens her, nor is it the emotions.

The threat is the short list of predators:

ego, fear, and

denial of herself as the doe, of life

in this barren land

as the scalpel.

 

Sometimes a woman must go

with herself

to a place

where she can smile

in the dark.

Tapa(s) That Mountain

 

Climbing Pinnacle Mountain today was difficult. Stomach problems made it painful internally but it was not even an *Arkansas* hot day. There was a breeze that accompanied me as I wheezed, heaved, & groaned my way up the East Summit.

Damn, I love that mountain.

Every bit of the experience was familiar to me (though I did not used to be this challenged on the way up…). The contours on boulders smoothed by hundreds of feet scaling them each week, the canopy of leaves overhead, the friendly faces who greet & cheer you on as you ascend & they descend the steep trail. I adore the crags on either side of the worn path. I love the coolness afforded by the vines and greenery all around. I love the feeling of my chest rising & falling at the summit as I gaze for miles & miles, soaking in the sherbet sunrise. I hear firecrackers, set off not far away & roll my eyes.

God, I love this place.

This walk triggers a plethora of memories. When I was a child the mountain seemed so long, the trek lest arduous but definitely more lengthy. During high school for a time I climbed the mountain weekly with a fierce group of young women. We explored the crags & swung off tree branches. It got easier for us every week, but never lost its’ lustrous challenge, it never stopped reminding us of the warrior-women within. None of us spoke out loud of how powerful it showed us to be, this weekly strength practice–we were taught to be docile & dainty–but I know we all felt it. And secretly shared it. If the other girls do not remember, then I will be guardian and remember-er, and secret keeper of these memories.

In yogic philosophy  there is an idea called “tapas”. According to Deborah Adele, Tapas is the fiery determined effort we can make to offer ourselves up to transformation, by way of strength training, meditation, or any other focused practice. Tapas is discipline, it is taking the difficult action because in your gut you know it is the right action. Tapas is the courage to step into the fire for the sake of being purified.

Pinnacle Mountain has been a place where I have cultivated Tapas. That summit has been & was again tonight the altar where I offer myself to God, to transformation, to my higher, truer, better self.

I love it. Oh, I love it very much.

Here’s to more cardio & less carbs.

Feel the holy burn, friends!

 

Lydia Nomad