Please join Suzanne Marlow and I for Yoga Soup’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Yoga Class tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.. All proceeds benefit Transition House.
Special intoxicating beverages provided. Great way to rub elbows with old friends and meet new ones.
I wish everyone a healthy, joyous holiday full of blood-soaked projectile purging. If you read down to the bottom I’ll explain.
Our first Yoga Soup T-Day Benefit ten years ago was a big success. Felt great to step further and deeper into our community and raise money for a boots-on-the-ground organization.
As the studio emptied that day a grand entrance was made by a woman in a multi-hued and many-tiered petticoat, a mix between an electrified peacock and a court jester as perched atop her head was a four-pronged green felt hat.
“I love it here,” she announced. “It’s so peaceful.”
Looking closely you couldn’t help but also notice the ripped stockings, mismatched shoes and facial wear and tear characteristic of on-the-streets living.
She was brought a cup of tea and plopped herself down in a chair.
“It feels like home,” she said.
I smiled. The point of Yoga Soup from the beginning was to provide a warm, inviting space that felt like home and where, to paraphrase Robert Frost, when you had to go there, they had to take you in.
She closed her eyes, sighed.
And then she peed through the many layers of her dress, on to the chair, and on to the newly laid bamboo floors.
As it happened I thought: Oh God, I can’t do this. I’m not prepared for this.
Jump ahead ten years, this past September. I invite the community to a talk about a revelation I had in the Peruvian jungle.
A couple of minutes before I’m to start some friends approach me.
“This better be good,” one says. “We gave away Ben Harper tickets to be here.”
My big revelation was hardly a revelation. It was:
Stop trying so hard to be okay.
Your efforts are not working.
They never have. They never will.
They will kill you.
Who you are is enough.
I was in the jungle, in silence, drinking plant medicines, eating very little for ten days. I was sufficiently undefended for the simplicity of that message: You’re Okay — to penetrate through years and layers of scar tissue and despair and the determined, inherited belief that I was as far from ok as one can get.
YOU ARE OK, the jungle whispered to every cell of my heart, mind, body, spirit, nose hair and wart.
It’s not like I hadn’t read that message in 3,000 books or heard it in 3,000 lectures or said it myself in 3,000 classes.
Only through experiencing it as I did did I realize I had never truly experienced it.
My talk was a huge, huge mess. I didn’t in front of all those 150 people say: “I discovered in Peru that I was okay and I just wanted to share that with you all. Thank you for coming, now let’s eat.”
That would have been the hospitable, enlightened approach …. but certainly not worth trading in Ben Harper tickets for.
Instead I carted out my mess of a life and tried to make sense of it. I peed over the crowd my many storylines. I strip mined the past, searching for what was true and what wasn’t.
I had to do it. And I had to do it in front of a lot of people.
A friend who happens to be a filmmaker, and who filmed the event hoping he could edit it and bring it around to festivals was infuriated by my “performance.”.
“You wasted my time,” he cried. “You betrayed me.”
He was right. At the level of craft and skill he was accustomed to working with my effort was a total fail. I wasn’t polished. I wasn’t rehearsed. It wasn’t consumer ready. It would be an insult to artists to claim what I did was art.
I wasn’t there to perform.
I was there to be witnessed.
It’s important to have witnesses to our traumas. I was given that gift by the many people there that night.
Thank you. From the bottom of my broken-open heart, Thank you.
My Life demanded I face the sloppy, unattractive events that for many years I was unaware of having even occurred. Imagine that! Not being aware of events that shape you.
A wild ride, this life is.
Life demanded I stop dismissing what had happened to me just to avoid being accused of self-pity.
As I outpoured my stories I could feel my bones free of the historic tug they had on them. Funny thing about all those stories today: they no longer seem like they’re mine. They no longer have power over me.
I wish you a bloody Thanksgiving. I hope the relative who abused you and drinks too much and doesn’t talk about it fesses up to his indiscretions. I hope secrets pour out. Affairs, broken promises, betrayals, unspoken grievances are all given the space to breathe so instead of stuffing faces with a grotestequerie of indulgences some truth can be brought to light and real healing can take place.
And that your favorite football team wins.
Healing the deep wounds, thats my hope for us all. To heal them means to face them means to transcend them.
The truth only kills what’s false about us.
I love you. I love you. Happy Holidays.