I remember my father stretched out on that burnt orange 60’s couch, my well-worn algebra text in his sturdy hands. Each time I kneeled on the floor by him, he knew precisely where to embark, how to lead without giving away too much, when to halt and let me stumble around on my own. Our relationship was far from easy, but I could always count on his teaching skill. Little did I know that what I was really learning was just that. Teaching, a calling that has manifested in different forms throughout my life.
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
Granted, this is Phil Collin’s line from Son of Man in the Disney flick Tarzan. But here’s the deal…you just never know how wisdom is going to show up. It can come sideways, twist and turn through you, and if it emerges as a teaching, it is rarely through with you. The guidance meanders through your system, creating ever-deepening grooves, never actually coming to completion. I’m right in the middle of a learning/teaching spiral right now.
Six weeks ago I began to identify how this challenging year had created its own identifiable spiral. Difficulties, stresses, the pressure of the unknown begin to build. I notice my mind looping it’s way into knots, my heart walling it’s way into defense and tension finding ways to lodge in my body. When I became conscious of the build, it is up to me to choose some type of physical release. A la Gabrielle Roth:
“Put your body in motion and your psyche will heal itself.”
Dancing, of course, but so much more: a good brisk walk in nature, active rolling/asana on the mat, digging in the dirt, use your imagination…even a few sneezes, a good bout of yawning, a crazy laughing jag, (we’re all adults here) an orgasm. Body in motion = physical release. Physical release invites surrender. Surrender to what? Whatever is happening in the present moment. This sense of just handing it over and trusting what is actually current. Not what happened yesterday, not what is going to happen tomorrow. Trusting now.
This spiral—not trusting/tension building/physical release/surrender/return to trust—became a teaching that helped me learn. Pulling the music together, holding space for this to unfold with a group…it just creates deepening. And when I offered a similar version in San Francisco last week, this time I really felt it in the breath. Take a deep breath in with me here. Hold the inhale as long as you can. While you’re at it, make a fist, tighten your jaw and add a solid butt squeeze. HOLD ON! Exhale. Feel the physical sensation of letting go, of release, of full on surrender. Take a full breath in. Feel the possibility of trust. I have felt this plenty in the past. But by teaching again, I re-discovered the connection with the breath.
And then it was Memorial Day and on a barely conscious level this teaching began to weave it’s way into the meaning of this holiday. I felt how much incredible loss has been incurred in defense of freedom. I became curious about the connection between freedom and loss. This Janis Joplin line from 1969’s Me & Bobby McGee kept internally reverberating and I realized it has been echoing through my entire adult life:
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Decades of learning-teaching-learning has allowed me to deepen into what this means. I thought about the people in the Paradise fire who lost everything they had and, though I am not wishing this calamity on myself or anybody, I tasted the gut-wrenching freedom that is a natural outcome of a loss such as this.
I sat in my hot tub and looked at my house, my studio, all the little gee-gaws in my yard, visions of my children at play in the grass, my beautiful husband….my, my, my. I have so much to lose. And I take a deep breath in. And I hold onto it just as hard as I hang onto everything I’m so attached to. When I finally exhale, when I surrender and let go, when I physically release….there it is, the bodily sensation of freedom.
And so I am in the midst of this teaching/learning cycle about release and surrender and trust, about loss and freedom and breath. And the good news is that I’m up there in that unique place in front of the room, teaching several times this week. So I can just keep on learning.
So thank you for learning with me.
In deep gratitude…..bella