Seva Unity Fund

In honor of the four young people who I have mentored for nearly ten years, I have created a Pay Pal money pool into which I will put 10% of the profit that I earn for giving yoga classes. Class attendees are also welcome to donate to the money pool at any time. Two of the young people that I have been mentoring for years are approaching college age. I remember the struggles that I had as a college student with little-to-no family support. Car problems and small expenses could have become major setbacks for me if it weren’t for the community of generous people who surrounded and supported me at that time. Ginger, my employer when I started college, gave me a used laptop that worked until I graduated from college. Lisa let me live with her for an entire semester of college and I stayed (rent-free also) in Kristin’s spare bedroom for almost three full semesters. Not to mention that my (financially stable) parents paid my phone bill throughout that time, despite the status of our broken relationship. The point is, I had a community of privileged people who were the safety net that I couldn’t have graduated college without. 

Not everyone has the luxury of such a community. Very few people are given a free laptop. Many people’s parents cannot afford to keep their grown children on their Verizon Family Plan for four extra years.

Small expenses and inconveniences can become complete roadblocks when a young person doesn’t have financial support to fall back on. It costs over $60 to take the ACT, a price that could keep someone from being able to take it once, much less take it multiple times in an attempt to score high enough to earn an academic scholarship. Good laptops cost $500 or more. That is just a couple of expenses that can make it nearly impossible for young people from low-income homes to get accepted to and find success in college.

Both of the students that I mentor come from single, working parent homes.

They come from homes with multiple siblings.

They are people of color in a racist world.

One of them comes from a family ridden with untreated mental health problems and addiction.

Both of these students have so much to give. I have known them since they were vivacious little kiddos! They have unique talents and ideas, as well as great work ethics.

They deserve the chance to excel in college and not be held back by what should be minor concerns.

The money we are going to start gathering in the Seva Unity Fund will allow me to step in when these two students face a financial setback. It will allow them to take the ACT without being stopped by the cost. Hopefully, it will allow them to purchase functional laptops that they can use throughout their college education (and beyond)!

This fund is Love Yoga’s way of giving back. Seva is the yogic ideal of selfless service. This is our Seva. It will connect the practices that we share every week here in Little Rock to a purpose greater than ourselves. We are beings capable of moving for our own sake and for the sake of others. We practice, we share, we exist as one.

 

Namaste!

 

https://paypal.me/pools/c/8pcxnA9wKp

I had Forgotten

Life is cyclical in many ways. I experience something, move to the heart of it, through it, and continue on until I return to the same or a similar experience. I face something and it brings so many torturous feelings over me that I look away. When I encounter that something again I am able to stave off the looking away for longer this time. Something small angers me. The next time that something small arises, I am able to notice my anger and have more agency over my response. I experience a beautiful setting, feeling, relationship, and then I forget. I experience it again, and I remember. I forget, I experience, I remember. I forget, I remember. Forget. Remember.

Quarantine–the word that’s shaping daily existence around the world right now–is reminding me of what I have forgotten. Ten years ago I knew the importance of being outdoors, be it blazingly hot, or bone-chillingly cold. I knew that I had to keep moving, no matter what. I knew how important it was to pay close attention to the books I read from start to finish. I knew that my friends were the most important people alive, I knew that I needed them and their hugs to survive. I couldn’t have explained to you why those were all important, nor how I knew. But I remember The Knowing, and I acted on that Knowing; it shaped how I spent my time. Five years ago, The Knowing was so strong that I spent entire weekends on the untamed riverside property between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The wildness of that space nurtured places in my soul that I had never before been aware of. During that time I safeguarded my solitude like a nun under a vow of silence. I held my beloved friends and the memories we shared closer to my heart than even the blood that surges there. I allowed myself hours–even days–with my cell phone turned off and that, in turn, allowed my mind and spirit to unwind. That time was an unfurling. I couldn’t have explained to you why those things benefited me, nor why in that moment I was able to prioritize them so (a fair dollop of privilege, yes, singleness, and no children, also), other than because I was tired of the way I had been in the world up until then. Other than I knew I had to find a different way to be in the world or my life would become toxic.

My life would become toxic. My life had become toxic again. This time, I didn’t have the privilege of time to spend away from the world. This time, I had bills and a husband and a salaried position, and a sense of importance in the world that existed side-by-side with a fear of being irrelevant and getting left behind professionally. Just a few weeks ago, those were the barriers between myself and all that I had forgotten. The responsibilities and fears stood between myself and The Knowing. Until the barrier fell. Until a literal government mandate took what I held to so tightly and made it more than irrelevant–made it off-limits. Until the barrier fell, I had forgotten. Actually, until the barrier fell, and I fought the new way of being for a week–give or take a few days. I fought it because I had traveled far from The Knowing. I fought it because the forgetfulness had overcome the memory of the way my soul unfurls when it gets what it needs.

I am remembering now the nourishment that leaves hold for my spirit: their veins and vibrancy carrying a story that speaks past my mind into my psyche. Leaves that wave under the sun, blinking and winking at whoever is or is not beneath them. Leaves that float downward without struggle, and ride the stream’s current wherever it takes them. Leaves that are green like the grass under my feet, ever regenerative and pure.

I am remembering now the essential nature of every human touch. Be it a hug, the brush of an elbow or the touch of your hand to someone else’s when they loan you a pen or a piece of gum. Be it love-making, hair-brushing, or the gentle holding between your hands the impressionable, expressive face of a little one.

It is coming back to me how close I feel to myself and everyone else when I spend those quiet, solitary hours, allowing my hands to release their desperate hold on the false security of busyness and control. I am unfurling again because life’s cycle led me back to this place where the barrier between myself and The Knowing has fallen against my volition.

I am given no choice but to remember, and the memory is sweet. Didn’t an author once say “every bitter thing is sweet”? Well, they were right.

I had forgotten, until I remembered.

 

 

 

Would Love Actually Drown Us?

My life was one thing, now it is a completely different thing. My life was a man and a cat in an apartment downtown. There were beautiful things about that life, but I see (as I saw then, though then it was looking through a fogged glass) that I was emotionally disconnected, alone. The apartment had toilet paper, clean dishes, napkins, all the necessities except for the oxygen my heart needs to breath: showing up for each other emotionally. He wouldn’t (perhaps couldn’t) meet me on that level. Our life together didn’t expand to include the tossing waters of emotion and growth that we both contained within our individual selves. The emotion expanded, the space between us didn’t.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I know now that I would have felt so alone, continuously, had I stayed. My best friends saw it. I couldn’t stay without continually forfeiting the parts of me that I have worked so hard to resurrect. I couldn’t stay and let emotional abandonment have the last word in my life. I had to go in order to undo that narrative.

I just wonder if it would have been more beautiful had I stuck it out until things were better. (Was there ever going to be a better, like he promised me there would be, so many times?) I hear that fear in the voices of some friends–behind their words they whisper (or I project): What if you had loved better? What if your love had been stronger, more healing? What if you could have shown a better sort of love, a love that would over shadow your needs? (That sounds like drowning). But where is your nobility, Lydia? Where is your faith in human togetherness? It was there when you signed the page in the presence of the judge called last minute to say the words. Where is that faith? Where is the God within? Why couldn’t you have tried harder, have saved the relationship? Wy couldn’t you save him?

Because he needed me to save him. Or, more accurately, he thought he did. That was the hand pushing me down into the river. That was the force that would have drowned me.

Why weren’t you enough?

Because it wasn’t meant to be.

Because the beauty of the relationship and all it was meant to be had run its’ course. Perhaps it was never meant to last longer than those three and a half years full of invaluable lessons. Lessons you couldn’t have gotten any other way.

I didn’t die for something that refused to be saved. I walked away to save myself (and him too, I hope).

My love wasn’t big enough to save him, or to save the relationship, but it was big enough to save me, to propel me away from the water and the hand pushing me down into it. My love was big enough to save me, and that’s actually enough.

I’m still here. That’s enough. That’s love.

 

The Power of an Education

I recently read (read=consumed) Educated by Tara Westover. Several elements of the story she recounts in this award-winning memoir are familiar to me: a secluded childhood, a paranoid father, & fundamentalist religion. However, Westover’s education did not start until she began, as a teenager, to self-teach in order to take the ACT & be admitted to Brigham Young University. This is where my story drastically differs from hers.

My mother spent 14 years curating, delivering, & facilitating an enthralling education for myself & my two sisters. She bought entire curriculum sets with my father’s hearty approval (which I am certain were expensive) that we followed devotedly. As I recall, the middle school & junior high curriculum was heavy with historical fiction that brought Native American customs, the U.S.A. before, during & after the Civil War, & the World War-era to life via narratives about children my age. I peeled through chapters nearly every day, moving freely from my bed, to my desk, to sitting against the wall (this is an important detail as I am a kinesthetic person–sitting still is extremely difficult for me– now teaching children in an environment that offers only tables & hard chairs for 8+ hours a day), as my mind lit up with imagination.

In high school, the curriculum shifted to a classical program that was steeped in WASP ideology (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) & theology. Still, it emphasized reading entire books & I read The Social Contract, The Communist Manifesto, The Last Days of Socrates, & an entire book by Frederick Douglass (I do not remember which it was), among many others. I distinctly remember walking up & down our driveway as I read the entire Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin in one day. Despite the stimulating challenge of deciphering these texts, I rebelled against this curriculum primarily because I found it boring, lacking in diversity, & biased. I like to think that my arguments against it were well put together. The ability to put an argument together well: that came from my education.

Tara Westover’s book ends with a powerful & succinct attribution of all the changes she underwent, that wrought freedom in her life, to an education. That resonates profoundly with me because regardless of the content of the books I read, in reading entire works of classic literature, I learned to see a viewpoint through to its end, to follow lines of reasoning to logical conclusions, among other important skills.

Most of all, the thorough education that my mother brokered (& my father sponsored) for me prepared me for college, where I learned to trust my intellect over backward religious ideas, & to believe in the capability of knowledge to liberate & empower anyone–regardless of their social standing.

To this day, I love to read, to think, to argue. Those are gifts I attribute to my education. I believe every child deserves such an education. This belief is a big part of why I go to work every day. I am a teacher now, of various subjects, & passing on what I have learned–and continue to learn–gives me a sense of purpose. I hope that what I do empowers a new generation to harness their intellect for the sake of true freedom.

Reproductive Paradoxes

The article is titled: “New York passes Reproductive Health Act, updating Abortion Law.” Two days ago, legislation passed in New York to update abortion laws. The webpage shows politicians smiling as the Act is signed. It allows mothers to get abortions if the baby may not survive or if her own health is in danger.

I support it completely and would vote  “aye” were it to surface in my state (Arkansas–yeah right!). Yet it does not seem right that they smile. This is nothing to celebrate. This is legislation sopping up the blood of the deepest wounds of our country, our species. Commentary that I see from friends and family on social media about this new act, chills my blood, pricks my tear ducts. I feel us sink deeper into moral mire.

By my personal ethical code, it is not necessary that I agree with someone’s actions in order to believe that action should be legalized. (i.e. if you go to a strip club, I am in no rush to join you, but neither do I think it should be illegal to do so.)

 

I have been working with children in teaching, nurturing, and caregiving roles since my career began (more often than not the three roles are rolled into one position and hourly wage). I developed patience in the pool with board-stiff students holding their nose high above the water for fear. Trial and error as a substitute teacher in a handful of charter schools has taught me the importance of never yelling, always speaking clearly. Drinks spilled, crackers crushed are constant reminders to say, “be careful”, every chance I get.

Sensitive reactions to slight reprimands teach me the importance of wisely chosen words, and challenge me to remember how raw one feels as a teenager.

 

Ever since I began working with children I have been underpaid, stretched daily, blessed by the under aged. This abortion bill and the subsequent social fallout digs claws into my heart. I do not want to argue.

Actually, I want to sit alone and grieve.

 

You don’t want your children?

My bright students.

Joke-telling, snack-eating wonders.

These friends who bring laughter from within me on the worst days.

(Sometimes I leave my car crying, I never return to my car with tears in my eyes. Time with my students heals me.)

 

Awkward misspoken words (orgasm instead of organism). Untied shoes. Declarations of foosball war. Curls clinging to cheeks. Three day long crushes, recess chaos, and incessant petitions for cough drops during class. Bright eyes behind fogged-up glasses. Boys with long hair who are outraged at the suggestion of wearing a ponytail. Full belly laughter.

 

You don’t want them?

 

I see daily what is written on our children’s faces. (Yes, they are our children. I claim them. They need the secure stamp of approval and belonging. They are ours and we are theirs.) They are disheveled and hungry. They are sexually overstimulated and without guidance. They starve for one-on-one time. They are dying to be handed an honest belief system and are handed iPads and Netflix passwords instead. Some of our children die in the streets, or pimp themselves for food. Some of our children pass away while on long waiting lists for simple surgeries.

If we cannot care for the ones we have, why does God keep allowing us to have more? (Grace.)

What have we done to deserve them? (Nothing.)

Is a woman punished for doing with her body as she sees best? (God gave her the body–is God not trustworthy?)

 

You don’t want them?

 

(Then again, I do not want children of my own, and use 99.9% reliable methods to prevent it. If I were to get pregnant on that .9%, I don’t know what I would do. )

 

Yet every day, my professional life screams, “Give them to me!”

 

Mother Teresa said, “If you don’t want your children, give them to me!” And I love that…but I am not prepared to act on it–not outside of my 40-50 hour work week & the young folks that I mentor.

I feel these paradoxes in the marrow of my bones: Give me our children….do what one wants with ones’ body. Criticize not our neighbors….we are mutually responsible.

It amplifies my achy confusion; my heart echoes humanity´s mournful cries. The human family groans together with the earth as it carries the heaviness of our violence, our ego, the footsteps of our many children, our single-use plastic cutlery.

I have no opinion on the Reproductive Health Act that passed in New York. Perhaps neither popular opinion is preferable. I swim in the recondite depths of human pain.

Pain is ideal soil for Love, and through Love, we may progress. Without it, we perish. May we progress in Love.

Amen.

childrenareflowers

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

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

An Orange and Grief, A Poem

I ate an orange

on the way to my parents house

last weekend; I placed the

peel on the rubber mat at my feet.

When I arrived, I asked:

“Where is the compost pile?”

Which is to say, I asked:

“Where does this peel go to be sewn

into the Mother?” (Having served

its nutritive purpose.) Is that what the

tornado asked when it picked her up and carried

her?

Did it know where she would be

sewn back into the Earth? It did so

violently.

I punctured the orange peel, but with

a gentle thumbnail.

Ahimsa & My Ego

Heart ablaze again, guide me. You I consult in times of humility. You I live by, you my internal North Star. The Jesus before and after they spoke to me of him. You, preservation of my relationships, hope of my days. 

This week I said the most powerful and dreaded word in the English language. Never expected that from myself, consciously or by accident. As a believer (believer in Spirit, that is, the world inside our world, always conspiring to make itself known to the physical beings), a mistake of this kind leads to deep introspection. In fact, since getting suspended from my job, I have passed days almost entirely alone and in deep reflection. How did I get so out of touch with my heart that a word contrary to who I have worked to become, slipped, like any other word, across my lips? That is Spirit. That is Spirit asking for attention. True sign of my need to pay attention. To get woke anew already.

You see, waking up to the pain of those around us isn’t a one time thing. It is an evolutionary (gradual; see Everything is Spiritual for a deeper explanation of this idea) process. I cannot one day decide that I will abide by the revolutionary ideals of Jesus and stand against the system of domination and expect myself to….abide there from that day forward. That is uncomfortable territory. That is asking the ego to bow. That is tough shit.

Violence happens to humans everyday in the form of unkind or careless words and actions: all the grub and grime of a groaning and restless world. Our fears are the first application process, so to speak, through which that daily violent input must pass. Fear we encounter on the daily  is a disruption which can become either ego fodder or transformation fuel. Author Deborah Adele says that there are two kinds of fear: instinctual fear, for the sake of survival, and fear of the unfamiliar (The Yamas and Niyamas, 2009). Those of us who exist on the more posh side of life (a place to live, some food to eat, very few–if any–daily threats to security, health, and freedom) are prone to over-entertainment of the second kind of fear. (It goes all the way back to the Old Testament IMO, when they scaped those poor goats all the way to the wilderness with everybody’s adultery and disrespect and masturbation tied on its’ back; A live metaphor for the weight of human sin.) When humans have time and/or security, they seem to begin to react to fears (real or unreal, rational or irrational–ego food all the same), and inevitably accumulate guilt. Well….who is around to interrupt this fear and guilt cycle? Who trips us up when we walk in the pride caused by this treacherous consumption of fear? Them. People (especially those at or near the top of the food chain) like to pin guilt on them. The ones without fear. The ones who face fear number one and still have the nerve to stand on street corners asking for money. The ones who do the-thing-I-never-would and dare to continue living instead of melting into the dehumanizing guilt-puddle we expect. It’s yuck, but it’s human. Or, tragically, entire people groups scapegoat other entire people groups because of the truth they tell about history (see: Black Experience in America). Humans do this, and then the ego, if unaddressed by empathy (or equal parts suffering), laps that stuff up like a thirsty puppy, and, like a puppy, it grows. Then, perhaps, it bites.

The same day I am dismissed from work, I reach up to grab a book or two off the Black History Month shelf at Terry library, and for the first time, insecurity chases my hand back into my pocket. Racist, I hear the voice of accusation inside my head. What are you trying to cover up? 

The ego growls and I snarl to myself: the injustice of it! That my innocent action should be inhibited by a single misunderstanding. One accusation.

One accusation, not even voiced outright had me suspended in inaction and egoism.

Violence to fear. Violence reaps fear. If I refuse to scapegoat this insecurity grounded in fear, where does it go?

Transformation fuel. To quote Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul.), “…we are held responsible for our every action, thought and feeling, which is to say, for our every intention.” Pay by what you outsource to others, or pay by running your own transformation race. The choice is always ours.

I have found that my ego’s kryptonite is understanding. When I take the time to understand, I overcome violence in myself, and in my interactions with others by the power of peace and by lofty aspirations of Love. Understanding often leads me to tears; this time I can’t help reflect on how hurtful this me-centered attitude must have been over the course of these callous months, culminating in my utterance of that unfit word, to my minority friends, or friends living on the corner of gender and racial discrimination* in this often hateful society. I acted contrary to the magnificent Eastern value of Ahimsa; nonviolence, and thus, contrary to my deepest self. I can do better. We can do better.

One accusation, result of my mistake, shaved ounces off my ego. No wonder the African American community has offered the world countless humble artists, truth-tellers, and thundering prophets. How many accusations do they hear in a day, my brothers and sisters next door, yet so far away from me? Drunk. Lazy. Racist. Dumb. Inadequate. Inferior. The list goes on, for them and for our Native American kindred. May my white ego stop short, as those of my friends are forced to every time they leave their homes.

So much to learn, so much loving left to do.

Gratitude & Hope for Ahimsa,

Lydia Nomad

 

*For more on this idea of Intersectionality visit The Liturgists