Thursday, February 16, 2012

Peace & Roaches

I've been working lately to integrate the internal with the external.

Our interior world is deeply connected to the outer world,
Contemplation leads to action,
Self-knowledge and awareness leads to a greater sense of world-justice and connectedness.

In this exploration I've been reading Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle, written in the sixteenth century. This beautiful book explores a mystical metaphor of the soul as a castle to be entered through prayer and meditation. St. Teresa speaks of seven chambers each representing different stages in the development of the soul. Entering the castle requires persistence, dedication and humility as we move through suffering, detachment, and pain to seek self-knowledge and connection to God.

In the outer rooms of the mansion we are absorbed in "worldly affairs, engulfed in worldly pleasure, and puffed up with worldly honors and ambition". In this space plagued by reptiles, venomous snakes and creepy, crawly creatures. As we strive to throw off these creatures, to move toward self-knowlege, love of God and connection and mutuality with neighbors, we continually battle our own demons.

My pastor Jeff calls these demons, this little voice of doubt: 'The Judge'.

My yoga teacher calls this streaming, spewing tape of insecurity and sabotage: 'The Little Bastard'.

Centuries of people have called this power 'the Devil' or 'Evil' or 'Satan'.

Recent times have brought denial of this power. My generation rejects the notion of a little red creature with horns and a pitch fork luring us toward Hell.

I understand the reservations about this imagery!

However... I don't wan't to discount the reality of this source of brokenness, pain, addiction... evil... that creeps first into our heads, and manifests in our actions, and impacts entire systems of oppression and violence. This power surfaces in big and small ways in our lives, and in political and social structures- today and throughout time.

This morning, when I woke up at 5 am to begin my morning yoga practice, 'the judge', 'the creepy crawlies', 'the little bastard' was alive and well inside my head.

As I looked in the mirror I noticed how especially terrible I looked this morning. As I slipped on my yoga clothes I made a few internal comments about how especially chunky I was feeling.

I made my way to the mat.

As I worked through my practice I could feel the interior dialogue beginning to stream. Fear and insecurity slipped in and I entered the battle- as I often do on the Holy space of my yoga mat.

As I moved through my practice I noticed the struggle. Not yet trapped in it, just noticing.

As I moved into my last pose, sitting on the ground, I reached forward and gently opened my eyes--

As I looked up I noticed I had company on the mat....

A cockroach was crawling from the wood floor of my kitchen onto my yoga mat!

My first reaction was to burst out in laughter. My second was to jump up and grab a paper towel.

I scooped up the little guy (thank God he was little...),

Carried him to the back door, and out to the middle of the yard.

You are not welcome here little cockroach.

You are not welcome here on my yoga mat, or in my kitchen, or in my head.

You are not welcome here in my soul; creeping feelings of doubt, fear, addiction, and ambition- you are not welcome here.

Not today.

I'm sure we can battle again tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Feet, Your Feet

Propped on a wood-plank camp cabin wall, someone said, “Wow, your toes are long.”

Yes. They sure are. These feet of mine are lanky and bony. My wryly toes do not follow rank- the second stands too tall, pushing past its supposed place.

For years I hid them and masked them- no flip-flops or open-toed shoes...

Until, passing through youthful insecurity, I embraced them, useful as they are. After all, I can pick up a toy, open a door, or unscrew a lid with my hands still free; I have to say, this is a useful skill for a mother of three.

They have carried me miles and miles crammed in shoes for running, they have gripped balance beams and yoga mats and pushed me through the water

(no fins necessary).

My feet encounter love tangled at the bottom of the sheets. Sometimes my feet are cold, sometimes his feet are scaly. But each night they again brush together, reuniting and familiar.

My feet meet the little feet of my children as they stand side by side. The feet that once poked and kicked the lining of my womb, now explore their own unique ground. These little feet that once fit in the palm of my hand, now grow and change as they discover a life of their own.

I remember feet. They tell a person’s story. My Grandmothers feet were swollen and over-worked, my Mother’s beautiful, shapely, and often bare. My Father’s- always dry, and one in his hand, as he sits cross-legged on the floor. I can see my sister’s feet and mine sole to sole- playing on the couch- hers blistered from dancing, yet still similar to mine.

These feet are each my feet- our stories are shared.

Yes, my toes are long and my feet lanky.

But where I once saw shame, I now see beauty.