This is a picture of me from 6 years ago, attempting to do crow pose in my kitchen. I centered my Manduka equidistant from the stove and butcher block on my right, and the dishwasher and other butcher block on the left. This being the only large enough hard floor in the apartment warranted this madness. I’ve always dreamed of having a huge, barely furnished room in which to practice endless hours of yoga, with a section cordoned off using an antique partition. Behind the screen would be my little meditation nook, complete with zafu, floor cushion, meditation shawl, bells and all the whistles. Just outside the door, a glass tea kettle full of herbal detox tea would await me once I’d completed my indulgent self care session. If my mom was reading this, the side eye would have been steady since line 2.
Growing up as a latch-key kid, television was practically one of my parents. I turned it on the minute I got home from school, since I was usually able to finish my homework by the end of the school day. Cartoons were fine, but my favorites were “made for TV” movies; and the musicals, cut with commercials, that would play during the odd evening hours and on weekends. Television taught me how to imagine; it taught me to see the walls of my life as temporary — that the antidote to doubt was to dream bigger.
Don’t worry y’all! I’m not about to write my life story. Just want to give some context here and there about some of the themes of my inner world. The thought that I might be encouraging someone else to approach their healing by committing to finding my own motivates me to keep writing, keep sharing and keep dreaming (though for way more interesting things than a giant yoga room).
Surprise! I don’t have a yoga dream room. I never tried doing yoga in the kitchen again and I can’t stay in crow pose for more than 15 seconds. I don’t have a regular yoga or meditation practice. I don’t drink tea everyday. I watch a lot less TV these days and have a stack of books with bookmarks along on the spectrum from the introduction to 6 pages to about the author. In my half a life on Earth, I’ve been Christian-lite, Evangelical, a Witch, Buddhist, Agnostic, and Jew-adjacent. Today, I am a Vipassana meditator (in theory). I am studying the Talmud, taking Judaism 101 class at the synagogue where I attend Zoom Shabbat and I learned how to make challah from a pro (and a real mensch <3). Meanwhile I am more likely to ride my Peloton than lay out my yoga mat; though the plan is always to do both.
2020 has been one of the hardest and most transformational years of my life. I hope to use this space to share some of my journey through the wilderness of middle aged self-discovery. As a black queer woman, moving in many diverse spaces, being “palatable” always seemed to be my most precious asset. Even though my desire for connection, deep empathy for all sentient beings, and a willingness to be selfless has never been for show; now I realize that all of this giving has come at a cost. I am understanding now that living into my authenticity requires that I learn how to do what has always been hard for me — I must learn how to receive. And not just receive whatever blows my way, but to trust that discernment and appreciation can coexist. Choosing myself, choosing to receive what fuels me, rather than just “taking what I can get” may be the lesson that takes me several lifetimes to learn.
Why Judaism…well, this dude on YouTube says that the Kabbalah is all about learning to receive. Besides that, over the past 20 years I have hitched many a ride to Shabbat service, gone home with friends for Hanukkah, been a chuppah-holder, attended Passover seder to share in reciting the Haggadah and sobbed violently while attending an event at the Holocaust museum. Plus, I really like the part about arguing with G-d. And for me G-d is a genderless amalgamation of the energetic force of all sentient beings, also totally cool in the schul.
The more I learn about Jewish culture and the long, long, long history of enslavement, exile, persecution, genocide and resilience, the more I wonder why Black people and American Jews aren’t stronger social justice allies. Thanks to Svara, a “radical queer yeshiva”, Sha’ar Zahav’s Judaism 101 course, awesome book suggestions and aleph bet help from a few dear friends, my second half of life is going to be lit! Did I mention the candles?