Thursday, September 29, 2011

Preface: Where Babies Come From

five days old, millions of years in the making.
Our story, yours and mine, begins as so many stories do, with a girl and a boy. Not just one set of girl and boy, though, but with hundreds of couples who came together to make new life, reaching through time and space back to an ancient place, oh-so-long ago. We are the outcome of an infinite number of other people's choices and a whole lot of grace. Allow your mind to wander back through the generations, tracing your way through the delicate, intricate path that brought your being into the world, and then you try to tell me that the things that people do don't matter. Our decisions matter precious much, not just to those alive today, but to all those who are to come. The ripples we ripple reach farther than we can see. Never doubt your importance in the grand scheme of things.

In love or indifference, in lust or intoxicated, in the traditional bed or the back of a car, our parents got down and we sprung into being. Our bodies began as two distinctly different pieces of organic matter, each vibrating with millions of years of intelligence and information. We were all born of an ovum that was grown inside our mother when she was growing inside our grandmother, and so on and so forth. The ovum that became us called forth the most worthy contribution from our fathers, our two original pieces fusing and immediately beginning to multiply. The intelligence inherent in our tiny early beings unfolded, each bone and muscle, organ and nerve forming from clusters of cells each containing a blueprint to build our perfect bodies. Considering all the things that could go wrong in the process of our development, it's incredible that the human body is so uniform and that we end up here at all. There's a reason it's called "the miracle of life." You are a part of that.

There is nothing "ordinary" about you. For all our incredible uniformity, every human being really is a unique snowflake. Even identical twins have different fingerprints. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you can beam with pride at the fact that you are the only you that ever was and will be. The ripples rippled by ancient ancestors reached out across unfathomable distance to create you, and the ripples you ripple with every heartbeat and breath are creating the future.

That's how babies are made- not by "accident," although it may seem like it at the time. Babies are the product of infinite choices across lifetimes. There is nothing accidental about any of us. You really are quite special. You are a miracle.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your Body is Beautiful.

My mother bought me my first bra at 9 years old out of necessity. Unaccustomed to such accoutrements, I almost always forgot to wear it and would panic when I remembered my new, missing article of clothing. My breasts arrived amply and without warning, becoming the source of a good deal of embarrassment and shame. I got into the habit of wearing baggy, ill-fitting clothes to hide what I didn't realize were lovely curves, and began to identify as a "big girl." I have never really been overweight, but I didn't look like the models in Seventeen and YM, and to me that equated to being fat. So I hid my body under my big clothes and hoped that no one would notice me and my feared, resented breasts.

Then I went to college and started taking ballet three mornings a week and practicing on my days off. This physical activity combined with shifting hormones led to loss of baby fat and my favorite high school teacher questioning my eating habits when I went to visit her over my winter break. Even still, I continued to compare myself to the models and actresses populating the popular culture I consumed, and in my mind I never measured up because I still didn't look like them.

curvacious cutiepie
Then Hollywood gave me a role model in the form of Scarlett Johansson, the reviver of a modern day hourglass figure. There's a scene in He's Just Not That Into You where she looks positively bodacious and I remember seeing her and thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, I kind of look like her!" Finally! A woman in entertainment within my generation that looks like, well, a woman. The industry has been dominated by the flat chested, no hipped Kate Moss aesthetic for the whole of my formative experience and it was deeply empowering to see ScarJo on the screen in all her busty, hippy glory.

Shows like the enlightened, inspiring (and hilarious) How to Look Good Naked are encouraging women to stop comparing themselves to airbrushed, unrealistic images in magazines and movies, and start loving and working their bodies just as they are. The aforementioned show uses an interesting exercise in which the host asks the woman being body image reprogrammed to place herself in a line up of other women based on size. The woman inevitably always thinks she's three to four sizes bigger than she actually is and it's obvious looking at her in the line up. She cannot see what I see.

And yet, it's taken me ages to begin to see my own body clearly and learn how to appreciate and make the most out of my shape, instead of hiding it under over sized, shapeless garments. I still find myself in front of the bathroom mirror turning around, scrutinizing every inch and frowning at the areas that I find dissatisfactory. I possess a growing consciousness that every time I pass this sort of judgement on myself, it hurts me a little more. With every scornful look, I am missing out on an opportunity to affirm my worth and appreciate my amazing body for everything that it is, instead of furrowing my brow over what it is not.

Ultimately this is what we lose when we get lost in comparisons: the ability to appreciate what is. There is a beautiful Osho card that addresses this, Comparison:
"Who ever told you that the bamboo is more beautiful than the oak, or the oak more valuable than the bamboo? Do you think the oak wishes it had a hollow trunk like this bamboo? Does the bamboo feel jealous of the oak because it is bigger and its leaves change color in the fall? The very idea of the two trees comparing themselves to each other seems ridiculous, but we humans seem to find this habit very hard to break. Let's face it, there is always going to be somebody who is more beautiful, more talented, stronger, more intelligent, or apparently happier than you are. And conversely, there will always be those who are less than you in all these ways. The way to find out who you are is not by comparing yourself with others, but by looking to see whether you are fulfilling your own potential in the best way you know how."

This comparison habit can extend beyond our own self-image into our relationships with others with the same result. When we compare our partner or child or friend to another, focusing on what the other has that they do not, we are missing the wonderful things that they do have. This can also apply to moments in life that we find unpleasant. By demanding that someone or something be like something else, we are losing its reality and what it has to offer. I am attempting an internal shift in which I opt not to compare myself or another person or moment to anything or anyone else. With grace and neutrality, I hope to begin to open to the reality of everything, celebrating with every breath the beauty on offer in every person, in every moment.

As with most transformational journeys, once again, the path begins within, with your next glance in the mirror. Will you ask yourself to change and withhold your love until you do? Or will you look yourself in the eye and pour your love out without condition or comparison?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Honestly!

There is nothing that irritates the shit out of me more than being lied to. When I ask a question, especially a specific, direct one, I expect an honest answer. If I didn't want to know, I wouldn't ask. Believe me, I know that telling the truth can be really tricky. I have not always been perfectly honest. I've been known to exaggerate, bend the truth or omit things altogether. We've all been in situations where telling the truth seems absolutely unthinkable, the confrontation simply too much to bear. Confrontation used to terrify me- even small, silly things like calling the phone company. It's been one of my greatest learning curves, one that I still work on daily, to gracefully navigate confrontation and speak my truth.

Practicing doing so and becoming more confident has not necessarily made it any less complicated, though. Yogi Bhajan said about communication: "Let your words be straight, simple and with a smile," but it can be awfully difficult to find a way to say the things we need to say in a way that won't elicit this kind of a response: "But dear ones, do you see your words? They are so fucking ugly." It's graceful, simple directness that I've been working on lately. I think to myself, "How can I communicate this in a way that will, as Yogi Bhajan also suggested, not wreck today but create a better tomorrow?"

It helps to understand that we communicate in order to get our needs met. There's an acronym about communication that I love: WAIT! Why Am I Talking? It's useful to be able to identify what you are hoping to achieve in your communications in order to help get your needs met, and then be as direct as possible. The real challenge is that we have to be honest with ourselves first, and that requires enormous courage. Ever told someone (and yourself) that "it wasn't a big deal" but it really was and you just keep repeating that and brushing it off until you almost believe it? There is always something unsettled there, though, a lingering resentment towards the other person and ourselves for not allowing it to be the big deal it really was for us. We have to be brave enough to speak our truth and ask for what we need, and confident enough to believe that we deserve it.

We all know that telling the truth can be harrowing, but it can also be wonderful. Here is my case for honesty:
1. Hope to get your needs met. Do you know any psychics? I had an eerily accurate $5 palm reading once over a frozen yogurt shop in DC by a psychic named Miss Tina. She is extremely gifted. Other than that? Nope. Point being, you cannot ever hope to get your needs met unless you open your pretty mouth and ask. Set boundaries. Ask for what you're owed (because you deserve it!). Advocate for yourself. Otherwise, no one will know and you cannot blame them for it (except Miss Tina- she knows all).
2. Help the people you love. Help them help you by filling them in on what would support your happiness (if they're worth your time they'll want to know!). Help them become better and brighter by sharing your concerns or observations about them (with compassion and tact...remember, we're communicating for a better tomorrow). Good communicators make good lovers.
3. Destroy assumptions. You know what they say about assumptions? They make an ass out of you and me. Shine a light in the dark with your honest words and get rid of ambiguity and gray areas. So many problems in life arise because we have not communicated clearly. You don't know until you know.
4. Show some respect. Lying is disrespectful. Period. Yes yes yes, I've done it before. And I came out the other side seeing how badly it can hurt people, how it can destroy friendships and make an enormous, unnecessarily painful mess. You owe it to people to be honest, especially in matters of health and safety. Sometimes being honest hurts people, too, but it's better to hurt them now with the truth than put it off and hurt them later with the truth and months worth of lying. Grow up, grow a pair and get it over with.
5. Live free. Imagine how easy and free you can live in a life without lies! Imagine all the brain power you'll have freed up not having to keep track! You could finally learn to knit or play chess!

Honestly, we have to steel ourselves for the possibility that the outcomes of our honesty may be disappointing. Sometimes we state our needs and no one responds or we are flat out denied. Sometimes we share a concern with a friend and they respond defensively. Sometimes the people that we speak to do not actually hear us at all. Nonetheless, it is so completely, vitally important to speak truthfully, with compassion and grace and clarity and tact whenever possible. That last part can be hard but becomes easier with practice.

Love is impossible without trust and trust is impossible without honesty. Our honesty is the best thing we have to offer one another. Like most transformational journeys, the path of the impeccable word begins within. Honestly acknowledge what it is that you need and muster the courage to ask. Your voice deserves to be heard, honeylove. The world needs your honesty and the people who really love you want to hear it. I certainly do.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Anchors Within!

The tattoo spanning the upper middle part of my back is an anchor. Inscribed on said anchor is the first part of this Sanskrit quote: "As the Mind, so the Man./ Bondage or Liberation are in your own Mind."
My life is grounded in this philosophy. It is the essence of Raja Yoga, the royal yoga of the mind, from which all yogic forms were derived. The second Yoga Sutra states that "the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga." Plainly spoken, the entire goal of yoga is to control the mind. If we have control over our mind we cannot be bound by anything outside of ourselves. It means becoming unfailingly neutral: being able to perceive the happenings of the world without allowing our experiences to create ripples in the pond or making decisions about how things are. It means approaching every moment with curiosity instead of judgement: "Oh hello! What is this? How interesting!"

This is not meant to be an exposition on the Sutras, though. Ten months ago I pulled up my anchor and set sail. It wasn't until I had given up my independent adult identity defined by job and apartment that I realized how heavily I had come to rely on it for stabilization and security. I could wander far, knowing that I had a key that fit a lock on a door behind which my private life quietly hummed. Pots and pans, books and photographs, a bathmat...all arranged just so. Since trading it all in for some gypsy bells, my answer to the question, "Where do you live?" has become "Everywhere!" And then I laugh.

Behind the laughter is ten months worth of not-always-but-mostly arduous aimless wandering. Don't get me wrong- the first two weeks of being totally untethered were exhilarating. Maybe some people would've enjoyed it for longer; I am not one of those people. Besides my friends, you know what I always loved most about summer camp? The consistent, predictable daily schedule. Outside of normal structure and with my identity being de- and reconstructed, I was lost. Every day I would beg the universe to tell me what to do with my life. Every day (for a while...) I pulled Osho cards looking for guidance, and almost every card I pulled told me that I would find the truth within. And so every day I meditated with great discipline, visualizing everything I could manifest that would help me feel secure again, seeking and grasping desperately...and totally missing the point.

Being someone else's anchor is a heavy weight and when it became apparent that no one was going to rise to the occasion (rightfully so...), I began making choices to restabilize my life and give it some structure. I filled my empty days with teaching, learning and all kinds of creativity. Becoming self-contained and driven reminds me of the tortoise, which reminds me of an Osho card that I'm particularly fond of, Slowing Down:
The Knight of Rainbows is a reminder that, just like this tortoise, we carry our home with us wherever we go. There is no need to hurry, no need to seek shelter elsewhere. Even as we move into the depths of the emotional waters, we can remain self-contained and free from attachments. 

As imperceptible as it may be to me after the struggles of the last year, it would seem that I have chosen this for myself. Outside of extreme circumstances, we do what we want all the time, and apparently what I wanted (and needed) was to embrace what I had been avoiding for so long: the ability to be my own anchor, my own source of stability and security. And so I set about to create a situation in which I had no structure and would have to fill in the blanks.

There is a little child part of myself that is determined to wait miserably for as long as it takes for a "grown up" to provide this. My message to her is that she will be waiting miserably forever because there is nothing and no one outside of ourselves that can provide what we really need: internal, abiding, consistent stability and security. Sometimes it's nice to receive outside support from friends or one's spiritual practice, but ultimately, as our only real life long partners, we have to learn to provide this for ourselves. And because I am a very capable, care taking grown up, I can confidently assure my little self that I am the one she's been waiting for.

The Osho cards are right: the truth is within. Everything is within: all the answers, all the love, all the reassurance, all the stability. There are no knights in shining armor. I am empowering myself to create and recreate my life, imbuing every day with purpose and meaning, with grace and gratitude. It's a matter of deciding that there is something worth living for and determining what that is.

Sometimes I still wake up foggy without consciousness of how precious that waking breath is. Sometimes I forget my passions and look for them in other people and places. It's a whole practice in and of itself to stay internally anchored, to stay hungry, driven and dedicated to one's own beautiful vision without continuous approval and support from others. Nevertheless, it is important work that helps us to ultimately see our vision through to fruition. Therefore, begin every search within. You may be surprised how many questions you are already capable of answering and how much you already contain. You are the one you've been waiting for.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mama Knows Best

Ben Folds has a song about a couple on the verge of breaking up that I hold in mind when I start to get self-righteous about someone I feel I've "helped." It's this particular part that humbles me every time:
She said, "You've been pushing me like I was a sore tooth.
You can't respect me 'cause I've done so much for you."
He said, "Well I hate that it's come to this
But baby I was doing fine. How do you think
That I survived the other 25 before you?"


Note the difference between this...
On Monday night my cousin took me to a talk at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, where we heard Kavita Ramdas speak about the value of investing in women and so-called "women's issues" that really concern the whole population (trivial things like education and health care, pfft). She challenged the very word "developing," asking us to consider what these countries were supposed to be developing into, exactly. Considering the current economic climate in the "developed" countries of the West, they may not present a healthy, successful model for other countries to follow. She went on to site five diverse examples from around the world of local women solving very specific local issues within their communities, and asked us to consider that the scale of impact of a project does not necessarily dictate its value. At the end, I commented on my increasing discomfort with all the various "Save Africa" campaigns and asked how she would defend the specific, local work being done by great organizations like RAWA and Project Air to people who place high value on projects of a large, general scale.

...and this

Much to my delight, she flew into a beautifully eloquent tirade about the arrogance of "saving" anyone. As the former president and CEO of the grant making organization Global Fund for Women, she found that the amount of money poured into a project had very little to do with its success. What was the biggest factor? The commitment and investment of the community. She asserted that in order to really, truly be helpful, one would need to examine their own underlying assumptions about the people they might seek to help.

For example...These days the general public seems to view Africa as a single country filled with nothing but emaciated AIDS babies, violent conflict and desperate poverty. Do those things exist on the African continent? Awfully, yes, and they are causes worth shedding light on. But this is not Africa's only story. Africa is an enormous, richly diverse land mass with some countries and people that don't need saving at all. Many of the problems that exist in some of the places in Africa are a direct result of the influences and aftermath of colonization, and the continued influence of foreign business interests intent on squeezing every drop of oil, every diamond, every precious metal out of the soil. Africa doesn't need to be saved. For the first time in far too long, it needs to be left well enough alone.

Which is not to say that I am opposed to providing help to the places and people that require it. However, I think it's important to make sure that the help you seek to provide is actually relevant and necessary. How does one go about determining if someone needs help? You ask them- "Do you need help? What sort of help do you need?" For who will have a better sense of priorities than the people who might need help? To decide that you already know what is best is to fall back on your underlying assumptions, which may or may not be correct. How will you know if you don't ask?

As another example...Perhaps you are concerned about the plight of oppressively veiled Afghan women. If you were to ask the feminist political and social organization RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women in Afghanistan) what they needed, they wouldn't beg you to save them from the veil. They would implore you to send them more small digital cameras so they can continue documenting human rights abuses through holes they cut in their burqas. They would tell you how the burqa has become a shield, allowing them anonymity in their efforts to subvert the very people who seek to oppress them. They would ask you to send school supplies so they can continue to educate women and children, and medical supplies so they can continue to treat people in refugee camps. This powerful Afghan women's group is saving Afghanistan from the inside, and they have the intelligence and where with all to do it.

Personally, I came to understand the vital necessity of self-salvation during my time volunteering on a suicide crisis line. I could say all kinds of things to callers to soothe or distract, but ultimately they had to decide to save their own lives. The line is designed to be supportive, but moreover, empowering. I was there to empower callers to do something about making their lives move livable, operating under the idea that they had the ability and, more importantly, the right to make their own informed choices. Some people needed more help than others, but everyone still had the power of choice. When they chose to keep living it was them that were the saviors, not me.

People are capable of doing all kinds of extraordinary things. Sometimes people make harmful choices for themselves, but those are their choices to make. Sometimes people are stubborn and will refuse help when they actually need it. Except in the cases of emergency surgery or being pulled from a burning building, we are the ones who save ourselves. We leave relationships that aren't working. We get (and use) a gym membership. We liberally apply sunscreen. We recognize a need in our community (or country) and find ways to address that need. We are the ones we've been waiting for.

When offering assistance to another, make sure they need it. If they need assistance, make sure you know exactly what kind. Never presume to know what they need and, unless you're the firefighter on the tall ladder, never posture as their savior. Throw your support to community organizations that are doing the work you didn't even know needed to be done until you found them. Humble yourself before heartbreaking issues that seem utterly insurmountable by asking what needs to be done and if there is anything you can do to help.

It's time that we move past the gross, patronizing, imperialistic idea that "Africans" (or any other people of "developing" nations) are godless heathens that need saving. It's time that we let go of the insecurity that propels us to assert that our way is the only way. It's time to grow up, get real humble and ask:
How may I serve? What may I share?

There is so much we don't know and can't ever hope to know if we don't ask.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Curse of Too Much, Not Enough

"Am I okay? Am I okay? Am I okay?" I am plagued by this question. Every moment of every day it rolls around in the depths of my subconscious, seeking an answer in everyone else's words and actions. When I look in your eyes, no matter what I ask aloud, I am really asking you if I am okay.

"Am I okay?"

The implication in asking is that I do not believe that I am okay. For reasons obvious and still opaque, I have come to this point in my life thinking that there is some terrible flaw in my very make up- something about me that makes me unworthy of respect and adoration. It is the curse of too much and not enough. I find myself privately, quietly lamenting how if only I was a little more and a little less then I would be "perfect" and "worthy" of love. If I was enough and not quite so much, then I could fix it. There is something wrong with me and it is ruining everything.

This is not true. This is the ego speak of a little child who is self-centered enough to really believe that they have the power to single handedly ruin everything. As an adult, I can laugh at this part of myself with compassion- "Oh dear me, how misguided." I can see that it's ego centric. I can see that it's a small person's attempt at exerting control and influence over their environment. I can understand it with my intellect, examine the roots of this internal question and clearly articulate my feelings about it. But thus far nothing has succeeded in helping me to change the question- "Am I okay?" echoes in every heart beat.

In the book The Four Agreements, the author talks about how we make all kinds of agreements throughout our lives, from subtle to obvious, that create the version of ourselves that we know. At some point, I got the idea that I was not okay and I agreed with it. Since then, I have sought reinforcement of this idea and agreed with it over and over again. Every time I reach out to someone who has been unkind to me I answer my own internal question: "Am I okay?" "Nope. You're not good enough to protect from other people's cruelty. I'm going to keep exposing you to it. If you were good enough, you could help them. Try harder. Try to be more and less than what you are. If you're good enough you can fix it."

What a ridiculous, oppressive trap. The one and only way out is to begin to answer the question differently. We do this not with words but with powerful, meaningful, supportive actions to show ourselves that we are worth taking care of, worth respecting, worth adoring. We have to, as Sugar suggests, fill our own empty bowl.

Of course, the act of self-support is difficult to achieve when you're still not sure if you're okay. It's just one of those "fake it til you make it" things, honeyloves. Practice being nice to yourself in big and small ways, every day, until you confidently believe you deserve it. In the meantime, align yourself with the people who love you outrageously much. Unless you are a truly horrendous person (and, let's be real, you're not) there are far more people out there who respect and adore you than people who do not. Stick with your fans and take every opportunity, every glance in the mirror to affirm your worth. A friend of mine taught me to say, "Thank you, that's true" when someone gives me a compliment. It felt a little funny at first, but it's a good place to start in making new agreements about yourself.

Hopefully someday my internal question will change with a conversation that begins like this:
"Am I okay?"
"Yes, my dear. You are okay."
"Thank you, that's true...I am okay!"

What is your internal question? How does it inform and/or impact your vision of yourself and the way you live your life? Does it, perhaps, need to change?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Year in the After Burn

group.hug.man.burn.dust.storm.dance.party!
A little while ago, Facebook began reminding me of my statuses from years past. Today, it reminded me that I came home from my first trip to Black Rock City exactly a year ago. The actual status was:
"speechless. so tired. so happy! and grateful! i'm a rocketship, zoom...!"

My experience of Burning Man was a refreshing reset button, helping me to move on from a relationship far past its usefulness and gain a stronger sense of myself as a powerful, whole, goddess of a woman. It is still my favorite vacation ever. It was what happened when I arrived home from the desert that made all the difference, though.

The day I left for BRC, as I sat in the lobby of my building wearing a hula hoop and waiting for the lovely Sarah to collect me, I met the cute, young couple that was moving into the apartment next to mine. We exchanged casual conversation before I left and I promptly forgot all about them until the night I arrived home late to heavy bass music shaking the building. And then there were the disturbingly violent emotional and physical abuse heard through the walls, the emergency calls to police and the fear of retaliation from the guy who seemed so nice in the lobby a couple of weeks prior. Suddenly, my little safe haven wasn't feeling so safe.

Two weeks after the burn, I got word that the rent on my massage space was going up. It was not entirely unexpected but the timing was earlier than anticipated and I was left with a choice: work that much harder to sustain my business, or let it go. Having just stolen Reg's Osho cards while packing up our tent, I consulted the deck and I pulled Letting Go...bahaha!:
To choose this card is a recognition that something is finished, something is completing. Whatever it is--a job, a relationship, a home you have loved, anything that might have helped you to define who you are--it is time to let go of it, allowing any sadness but not trying to hold on. Something greater is awaiting you, new dimensions are there to be discovered. You are past the point of no return now, and gravity is doing its work. Go with it--it represents liberation.

Wow...yikes! It's not common to receive such a direct answer to a question and Reg had made it clear that while you are welcome to ignore this card, its arrival signals a very definite end. And so I wrote the most hippie resignation letter ever, referencing the above quote and talking at length about my feelings.

As I wrapped up my time in my massage space, my home environment continued to get more uncomfortable. The kids upstairs got a drum kit which they played randomly throughout the day and it became clear that I wouldn't be able to live there anymore. My dearheart lovebug Siri Shakti shacked up with me for a while and ended up being the biggest help in my transition out of my apartment and my city life. During this time of abundant change, I also met a guy who (figuratively) set me on fire. I am still recovering.

The day of the move came and I awoke with Florence + The Machine ringing in my ears. The dog days of life in a beautiful, chaotic, putrid, vibrant ghetto were over, to be replaced by a wandering, winding, sometimes dark and painful, sometimes ecstatic, path into the depths of my own heart. It's been the greatest gift of my life thus far to be torn apart and put back together in this way. It is a very good God who will deny me what I think I want in order to give me what I really need.

On Sunday night, I pulled the Letting Go card as my insight for the week. This has been the reoccurring theme of my journey over the past year. Let Go: of control, of expectations, of conditioning, of Ego, of assumptions, of projections, of outdated relationships, of outdated anything. Let go let go go on...in big and small ways, every day, let go. This surrender is the path to freedom. The build up to surrendering is a bitter, brutal battle but the act of surrender is a non-doing. It is a gentle sigh.

And then? There is nothing. There is no struggle, no grasping, no fear. There is only the peace of being in the flow of life, open and ready to serve the will of the "breath inside the breath," as Kabir put it. I have control over nothing, nor the right to control anything, but my own experience of life. That is all. And so I breathe and chant and stretch and listen very carefully, awaiting the tiniest whisper in my ear, awaiting the revelation of the next path in this beautiful, mysterious life.

As my tribe flows back into the Bay, and I am reminded of my own joyous homecoming last year, my heart stings a little to have been physically absent from the burn. But when I consider it, I see that this entire year has been a Rite of Passage- from the moment Letty's tires turned back onto the highway off of the playa to the moment I stayed home and embraced my adult challenges with grace and discipline. It's a passage I didn't even know existed, but here I am, growing up and into myself in real, meaningful ways. I am grateful for these milestone reminders and the time and space to consider the passage of time and how these passages create us.