(A list inside of a list) The books I have read during the last revolution around the sun, that have shown new light on my spirit: The City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, When They Call you a Terrorist by Patrisee Khan-Cullors, Rumbo Hacia el Norte por Luis Alberto Urrea, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.
The cool humidity that seeps under the windows into my apartment on rainy fall days.
Remembering (for the thousandth time) that what other people think about what I do doesn’t matter one iota.
The sound of my pencil scratching across the page as I pour thoughts and feelings onto the page, and slowly some painful knot inside of me is undone.
Movement & the way my breath changes when I ride a stationary bicycle, walk, do a yoga practice, or swim laps. The way my muscles tighten and slacken consistently, on the pendulum of physical action or inaction.
The bold disregard of children–they don’t care if their words make sense, if they have been said before, or if they’re sharing horribly ignorant ideas. They just speak. They speak because they have a voice and they’re practicing the use of it!
The circle of colored light that the Christmas lights strung over my bedroom window cast onto the wall behind them.
The circle of Love that I enjoy; my intimacy partner, my cat, myself, wrapped around one another on rainy or sunny days. We whisper love to one another. We breath together in the kitchen after, before work. We trip over one another’s feet, paws, and feelings, We do nice things to make the home more homely for the three of us, we eat together, we cry as one, we sigh when it is already Monday again. We ride the waves of beauty and struggle that life washes our way, together. No wonder the Holy Trinity is three: father, son, spirit, all hung together in unity, harmony, teaching us to exchange Love relentlessly.
Fair compensation laid in my hand after I provide quality instruction, be it yoga, meditation, English, Spanish, or otherwise. I will never stop working because so far it has not ceased to give me a sense of dignity and a place in this world. I love when people tell me that my work was good, because it confirms what I already know, what I have worked so hard to bring into the world.
Friends who laugh at the same things as I do, even from afar. Friends who I dream of going on adventures with, waking and sleeping. Friends whose messages bring light to my spirit. Friends whom I hold loosely in my hands, grateful for their existence, trusting the Universe to bring them to me in person, in Her own sweet time.
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.
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.
Breathing, sitting, meditating, taking long Saturday naps. These are hazardous exercises, my friends. How so? Well, participate in this rebellion and one finds oneself asking alarming questions such as, Do I Like My Job?, Do The People In My Life Encourage Me?, Am I Working Too Hard?, How Long Has It Been Since I Sat Down to a Good Meal With Friends, or What Makes a Good Life?
The last question is delicious: What Makes a Good Life? What. Makes. A. Good. Life. It is a question that comes from deep in the girdle of ones being. Try and prescribe what the thinking mind calls “good” for life without consulting the body, mind, heart, and spirit, and end up with a schedule bursting at the seams, and yourself in the role of consumer. A prescription is unnecessary. Just listen. The travails and dead ends of every day are speaking into what makes and does not make your life good.
I write these words because My Life and I have been discussing this Good Life topic lately. Now in a full time position, but still working out part time commitments, and cultivating ethical habits at home (gardening/composting/recycling/actually cleaning stuff), I say to you, LIFE IS REAL BRUH. It is taxing, exhausting, and calling me to live from that girdle of being, and not settle for anything short of my Sat Nam (true self). Settling or compromising part of myself leads–as yet without fail–to frustration, internal conflict, and eventual disconnection from one or more of my core values (for help to identify your core values, click here). Those frustrations are redemption disguised for they catalyze this holy question: What Makes a Good Life?
Friends, I say. Friends faces around a bonfire or dinner table, simultaneously remembering and creating. Hours on the couch with a kitten or cat, I declare, make a life gooooood. Legs curled under me and a soft blanket with a Madeleine L’Engle novel in hand. The smell of incense and the sensation of fingertips pressed into a sticky mat, hips rising in Adho Muka Svanasana. Meditation makes a Good Life, and the practice of Pranayama (channeling the inherent inner Life Force via breathing exercises). Vegan food, bought from ethical sources. Long conversations or silent walks around a lake. Toes on dirt, shovel playing with the layered compost pile. Throwing dry leaves into the air and watching them fall like glitter. Travel travel travel. Live music or listening to a song on Spotify that makes me weep as I hold my phone against my chest before I fall asleep. Exploration of the natural world is undoubtedly a pillar of a Good Life. Taking time to greet my own wide smile in the mirror before and after the day. Talking to young people about their authentic feelings and perceptions. Touching the skin of people who are old enough to wear it like soft cloth. Looking at baby hands and feet as they kick and learn to grab.
Sometimes not doing an activity, not making a commitment, or even cancelling one that is already made, is the path to a Good Life. Turning off the television or current video playing on your phone ALWAYS leads to better life. These practices and experiences, sacred and most often simple, in addition to removal of that which lowers the quality of my life’s essence (TV, videos, too much work, “obligatory” social events), I have found to make A Good Life.
Ask and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. ~Jesus, our precious Jesus
This Valentine’s Day mornin’ I awoke with a headache and sore throat–the very reason I was still in bed at 9:45 AM, rather than at work. I felt this settled longing in me to talk about LOVE. About Gabriel, the Chilean boy who captured my heart in Coyhaique. About 3 girls whose elementary school uniforms hung over bony shoulders while we fell in Love, at the park, at McDonald’s, at the library, in my car. About a small black kitten who crawled into my little brother John’s arms the morning after my friend Meghan gave me a medallion that read “Harmony”. About the story of Black Liberation in my country, the leaders who have lived and fought, inspiring me to love more fervently every season of life. About the four strange white people with whom I spent the first 20 years of my life; my redeemed ones, my family that will never give up on itself. About my Spirit, the mysterious animating force that keeps saying “no” to what stifles me, regardless of the cost, and leads me toward growth, more every day.
Since I felt that inclination to write about Love, I decided to do it. One Insta photo just wouldn’t be enough, so I decided to write a love letter here, a grocery list of all that I love. These are the parts of life that give me yummy sensations, that tell my heart, “it is well,” despite the anxiety and depression that plagues my days, and haunts my nights.
Gabriel Rebolledo Castro is pictured above with that sheepish smile I’m not sure I have ever seen on him before. I fell in Love with him when I heard him speak of, long for, and tell stories of his faithful love for a place called, Coyhaique. I thought I was the only one who loved like that. Nope, he is my match, mi luna, my home, the telegram from Heaven telling me: YOU BELONG HERE. Happy Valentine’s Day, mi amor. I know you are reading this, because you check my blog even when I haven’t posted in months. (TE AMO!)
(From Left) Kiyah, Aaliyah, Demetria….I always say their names in a row as if they could ever be put into one category. The differences between them: personalities, preferences, perspectives, are broad, yet they share this aura, this divine essence, that I inhale every time I smooth back the hair from their foreheads. I am in love with their laughter and their insecurities, their jokes, and the way they perceive the world. Sometimes I get caught up in my hopes for them that I forget to breath them in. May the next 7 years of our lives together be as beautiful as the last 7. I love you with every breathe I breath. On days when I feel inadequate and out of motivation, I think of you three, and stay on my well-trod path of creating a better world.
For the first time, this Lydia Nomad has a home. A house I rent, a back yard where I am building a compost pile in hopes of having a successful garden this Spring. I bought furniture (yay used furniture!), hung art pieces, conjured up a nest for myself. In a way, I am settling down for a season, and my tired, tired heart, is ‘CITED ‘BOUT IT. I sleep in the same place every night and IMO, that place needs a cuddle buddy. BOOM. Just as I was considering pet adoption, a flea-infested little black kitty-boy came to the front stoop and I knew he would never leave me. Harmony. I am in Love with the way he curls up by my neck when I am resting. I am in Love with his stubby nose and how his hair feels when I rub it the wrong way. I am in Love with his presence in my life, always prioritizing comfort and connection. Thanks for helping me evolve, baby boy.
I am in Love anew with reading. Books. Books. Books. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the rustling of pages and what happens in my mind as I fly through chapter after chapter of adventure and wisdom. I love imagining these authors, melted into a blanket with a warm cup of tea while they write, just like me, while I read their words. I adore sharing ideas. It delights me to make connections between philosophies, regions, people groups. The world in my mind is more alive right now than the world around me, and I hope it stays that way for a long time. I am in Love with the materials I am consuming as a part of my Sage Yoga School training. Crafting a class unique to my experience reminds me continually of the constellation-shape this life really takes, despite the way Western intellect seeks to slice it up, to neatly categorize each decade. Thank you, lovers of literature, who dared to write without knowing if anyone would read. Thank you for saying what my heart did not have words to express. I am enamored with you all.
Finally, I love this tiny lady. She is our ray of Hope and Light. When I had nothing to give to my girls, she showed up, and crying, tottering, smiling, laughing, she provided what they needed. She reminds me of how brief & sacred the times we have together are. One day I will tell her about her childhood. I will tell her about what she gave us, about how utterly good she is, about her laughter, and about how she inspired me to live whole-heartedly, though it cost me much suffering. You remind me how very worth-living this life is. NyNy, I am here to tell you of your belovedness.
I am here to discover Love.
Happy Valentine’s Day, beautiful world. I love you.
Yesterday there was a 4th of July party at my parents house. I walked in the door, hugged my mom, and willingly exiled myself to the kids room. The kids table, outside with the kids after dinner, the whole deal.
I am 23 and I have been working with kids for 7 years.
When I was in Chile, who did I miss? Right: kids.
I do not have my own kids and I do not want my own kids.
However, it is clear that I like kids. I want to be around them. I do not like them because they are small and say random things and I can boss them around and sound smart while telling them historic or scientific facts that everyone who has any sort of middle school education knows. No, actually, I like them because I respect them. I feel that by being the only ones here brave enough to be vulnerable and ignorant and small, they earn my respect. When I am in a room with adults my interior screams: WHY DONT WE ALL STOP FAKING IT. When I am with kids, well, it gets quieter.
The most shocking cultural behavior that has impacted me this year during my re-entry has undeniably been the way people in the U.S.A. treat their children. White kids, in particular, get my attention because I have only ever been one, and I know exactly how it feels to be a sensitive creature at the other end of that repremand, that painted smile, that flippant laugh.
Interactions in restaurants, at the gym, in the neighborhood–anywhere!–have exposed me anew to the egoistical disrespect with which children are treated. We have got to stop! If we do not acknowledge our children as humans, and being a human as intrinsically good, how will we love this world back to life?
The lie of badness is daily hammered into children, in all spheres of our culture. Home. School. Play. Good Lord, no wonder we are killing each other! I almost do not blame us. Except for all of the goodness I have seen, and have learned to see. There is so much goodness & we are truly all intrinsically good, accepted, loved, and valued. This darkness cannot last long. Our souls were made to be free, if not as children, then as adults.
I wrote the following piece after witnessing a particularly harrowing parenting episode in a restaurant. Parenting truly must be difficult, but I know it is not impossible to hear the cry of our children. I know it is possible for each adult in the U.S.A. to welcome their the truth of their goodness home into their deepest selves that they may pass it on. That the cry for love may be heard, and may heal the generations to come.
The Cry of the White Kid is a cry for respect & love. May we, as adults, receive the love and respect that is freely poured out on us from the Divine, and may our children absorb it and thrive.
The Cry of the White Kid
Please don‘t look me in the face and tell me that I am bad.
Please don‘t teach me to see the patterns of my shadows–I need you to teach me to see the light that will lead me into and through that darkness.
Please don‘t smile at your friends and tell them how bad I am while I have tears streaming down my face.
Please don‘t laugh at the way I swim or only point out my weaknesses.
Please assume that I am right where I should be, instead of stressing constantly that I am behind the others.
Please don‘t use me to puff up your ego or make your decisions or shield you from your emotions.
Please don‘t always point out my imperfections–I already see them in full color. I need you to show me my perfection. No one else ever will.
I find myself back in the United States, far north of Chile, and feeling closer to the North Star, my Jesus, my Guide to freedom. Home but not really home (I am a nomad, you see, a life time wanderer).
Below are three poems and 4 passages of Holy Scripture. Please embrace the figurative language of my pieces. I do not make attacks or write with intention of polarizing, I tell my story.
May you find your story in mine.
Jesus: Does no one condemn you?
Jesus: Neither do I. Go on your way. From now on, don‘t sin.
My Experience of Being White
To be white is to be told you are bad
to believe you are bad
to know you are bad
to protect your badness
to project your badness.
To be white is to bleed the same color as the sunset
to die like leaves in autumn
to be crushed and ground into the earth
to provide nourishment for new life.
To be white is to live again though you have died.
Lord, if you will, make me clean.
Jesus: I will; be clean.
My life is short
but I am very good
so it‘s okay.
Jesus: Your sins are forgiven you. Rise and walk.
“Your sins are forgiven” is enough to be Gospel
when it‘s the closest you‘ve come to “You are good”.
Then God looked over all (S)he had made, and (S)he saw that it was very good!