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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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.

Deals With a She-Devil

Deals with a she-devil

 

If a woman must pay her bills

then she must make her choices.

 

If a woman must change her tire

then she must allocate her wealth.

 

If a woman must look beautiful

then she must be the agent of her sexuality.

 

If a woman must kneel

she must do so of her fiery and free volition.

 

If a woman must do things for others

she must do things purely for herself.

 

If a woman must attend church

then she must yell at the gods.

 

If a woman must love deeply

then she must scream at the stars.

 

If a woman must belong to a man–

No. That must never happen. Run, sister. Run until you belong

to yourself, then run for

the joy of that

intoxicating freedom.

 

If a woman must fight to be free

then she must also reap the riches of her destiny.

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

Buried in Books

Buried in books is my natural state, I am hesitant to say it, but without a doubt of the truth. Though extroversion has dominated my personality and habits for the greater part of my young life, it is the navel-gazing, spiritually interested, booky introvert that continually emerges as the prevailing force. Currently I am reading 5 books*, and enjoying them all. I am certain there are droves of introverts out there who have me beat by stacks and piles, but I have weeded through small stacks brought home from the library to come comfortably back to a blend of spiritual and emotionally nourishing titles–radially diverse–that resonate in my Spirit.

All that to say, I need to write about Jesus. As the stresses of mental ill health, a new job, new home, and constant transitions have ebbed, this truer, quieter self has emerged and with it, this question of Jesus. That name, in English or in many other of the worlds’ languages conjures up strong feelings. I do not know exactly what feelings or to what extent, but I do know that people are strongly influenced by it, and thus the name “Jesus” does to the emotional body what food does to a group of hungry creatures: stirs things up.

My mind awoke during my time abroad in unexpected, broadening ways. My heart, however, grew dim & cold–choked out by fear & foreign stimuli. Jesus lived in that heart, the heart that seemed to shrivel & hardly beat for over a year. The idea of Jesus grew distant–has grown distant–as the words I stare at on the well-worn pages of my Bible fail to quench the thirst for intellectual satisfaction that arose in me.

People around me now seem more real than Jesus. I never met Jesus, never even saw him in a vision. He was a powerful historical figure, yes, but not extraordinarily different than any of the other ancient peace-seekers and bringers. My faith was real, the ideas of Jesus had been my Home on Earth for two decades. Was it okay to say “no more”? Was that what I was saying? But I wasn’t saying anything. I was listening to my inner Spirit and seeking to be true to it–as the idea of the Holy Spirit had taught me. And the last, most gut-wrenching question: Don’t I owe Jesus something for the time we spent together? Will Jesus be jealous as I move to a new Guru, to new exploration?

That isn’t Jesus’ nature, dear, my Spirit & Heart harmonize in my Mind. You have read the Bible enough times to know that to exact payment for beauty that springs from Loving Ideals is not of the Divine. Just as Jesus was of the Divine, so is your new Guru. That is why the Spirit within you has led you to these stacks of books in quest for renewed guidance, ready to receive the sharp blade of Truth.

So he is with me, it seems. I do not read the Bible, but there he is, guiding me as a remembrance of the form and nature of Love. Jesus will never not be with me. It is progress, however, to lay prayer and pleas on the altar, to burn them away in the fire of acceptance, of serene surrender to come-what-may.

The idea of Jesus was never meant to bring me guilt. Just as I was never meant to be a social butterfly who reads only magazines on airplanes. Jesus was there, Sri Yukteswar is here, and who knows who, what, or where the future holds?

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity).

 

Lydia Nomad

 

*The Power of Breath, Swami Saradananda

Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda

A Severed Wasp, Madeleine L’Engle (stunning; I will have finished it by this weekend.)

Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart

Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas, Campoy & Flor Ada

(I am blessed to have I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown, and A Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver, in my possession and up next on the reading list!)

What Makes a Good Life?

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?

 

 

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Raw & Real, Earth redeems us by calling our muchness to surface.

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.

 

 

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You, Little One, make this a Good Life.

 

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

Amen. Shanti.

Lydia Nomad

Where is Love in My Life?

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.

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3 beams of light. 1 soft-hearted little boy. 1 ridiculously happy white girl.

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.

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The kitty named Harmony.

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.

yogimadness

Life’s difficulty is its’ richness.

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.

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NyNy, our patron saint of Hope & New Life.

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.

Amen.

Happy Valentine’s Day, beautiful world. I love you.

Lydia Nomad Bush

 

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