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

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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

Past, Death, Present

Many novels I have read are written in third person, past tense. As if the story has already happened, yet is now of crucial importance. Perhaps the stories that have already passed are even more relevant than what is known as “current affairs”. Maybe folks who often say “the good ol’ days…” in conversation are on to something. This moment, now, and how we qualify it, is intrinsically lacking if not seen through the lens of that which has come before. The stepping stones leading up to where we stand on the path in this moment are keys to understanding where we are, and why we are here at all.

Right now: I dance while I cook my own dinner in the house I pay to live in, decorate, and clean weekly. That is nice, but it isn’t a story. The story came before. The story is that there was once a girl who lived at the end of a dirt road whose mother always cooked the meals & whose father did the 9 to 5 & made demands on the rest of the family at his whim. This girl perceived these whims to be quite, quite, QUITE anti-female, and anti-her best interests (oftentimes laziness, or dislike of being forced into anything). This girl made the decision, there as she pulled weeds in her demanding dad’s garden, or vacuum-hosed out a vehicle, that she would be the boss of her own life, and she would not cook or clean. She would do the “real stuff” (whatever that was…).

Fast forward a handful of years & that girl is independent, for real. She has said “no more” to the strangle-hold family & cultural expectations (& her perceptions of those phenomena) & lives with a woman who kindly opened a guest bedroom to her in the second year of study at a local community college. That young woman stares down a  sauce pan, exhausted of eating eggs over-easy, yet, out of ideas, intimidated by complicated recipes & long grocery lists (& high costs). She eats over-easy eggs again.

Fast forward once again & the girl is back from 5 months spent abroad, a woman now, Not a young woman–a woman woman. She has clinical depression, but does not know it yet. She knows that she fell in Love with a (young) man. She knows his family made her feel comfortable. She knows she is now alone; he is not here, & no matter what anyone does or says, she is the only one who can finish her Bachelor’s Degree. She is the only one who can get her out of bed. She is the only damn one who can cook her dinner. She read that a key to lifting ones’ spirits is to eat well-seasoned, well-cooked food. She started with a shrimp & noodle dish. She wanted to eat something bland and simple like tuna or refried beans on a corn tortilla again. Yet she knew she was the one who could give her body what it deserves at least once a day, if not thrice. So she cooked noodles with clear sauce, and shrimp. Her hackles raised when a co-worker asked smuggly why she was eating something with no sauce but she knew inside, it was an accomplishment. She had gifted herself a good meal, & she considered it a worthy investment. She considered her own self worth a quality meal, even on an average day, even if she did the 9-5 all by her (bad) self.

There. That is the story, written in past tense. It is the story that makes what we see (a woman cooking her dinner) a story rather than a scene. The joy is found in the juxtaposition of where she was with where she is. Who she was bled out & gave rise to who she is in a dance of creation, death, & resurrection,

Perhaps the flesh of human stories exists in the past, in what the conscious mind forgets, & the subconscious remembers.

This whisper leaves my lips: thank you. For who the girl was, who the young woman is, and who I will be.

Creation, death, resurrection. Forever & always the circle of life. May every story–now and in the past–be doused in Divine Light. Amen & amen.

 

Shanti, friends.