Sunday, June 21, 2015

Long time sun

Long time sun
Originally published on June 17, 2013

As the days grow longer and the sun wakes me earlier each morning, I'm reminded that this weekend is the summer solstice.  In 2011, I began a seven part yoga series in which my students and I focus on one energy center, or chakra, of the body for twelve months.  Each year builds on what came before, integrating the lessons of each chakra and allowing that energy to expand throughout the whole of our being.  In 2011, we started with our roots, then last year, integrated the experience of the pelvis, low back and hips.  This year, we're focusing on the solar plexus, the home of our "inner sun."  
The solar plexus focuses on courage, self-worth, healthy personal boundaries, and individuation.  In my experience, this is perhaps the most challenging energy center to heal in the human experience, for entering the fire of the ego can be terrifying, but it's through this very profound burning that we can rise from the ashes, reborn and newly whole.
           
I've made some very radical choices in my lifetime and was often called "courageous" while in the midst of intangible transitions.  I didn't think so at the time.  To me, starting over again was easier than staying in a situation that was arduous and exhausting.  When I left Washington Local Schools, the human resources manager asked what I planned to do next.
"I honestly don't know," I replied. 
He lifted his brows.  "Aren't you afraid?"
I gave him a sad smile.  "I'm more afraid of what will happen if I stay."
That wasn't the first time I'd made a choice with little to no safety net, (and it certainly wouldn't be the last) but through it all, I discovered that I am indeed one brave lady.

Five years ago, I put my house on the market and drove west to start a new life in Big Sur.  What I remember most about that time now is not my time in California, but the trips to and from a place that would indomitably show me what I'm made of.   I drove by myself from Toledo across 80-90 in a little tin can that, in the seven years I'd owned it, made only a three hour road trip.  Now I had only five days to drive nearly 2,000 miles across desolate plains and through winding mountains, often with no cell service.  I had flown to California before, but had never driven further west than Indiana, and wasn't prepared for the paralyzing fear that gripped me every morning as I sat in ramshackle motel rooms willing myself to get out of bed. 
On the second day of my trip, I awoke in Wyoming to an April morning filled with grey clouds and a light snowfall.  I lay beneath the stiff white sheets and cried, terrified to get out of bed.  What if I got lost?  What if one of my tires blows?  What if the engine overheats because I've over-packed the car?   What if I've made the wrong decision and I'm totally screwing up my life?  But somewhere in the fog of anxiety, a clearer voice rang through, "Get up, Kate.  You can't go back now...so just get going."
And so I did.
As I packed the car, the sun rose over the horizon.  A woman came out of the motel room next to mine, hauling a heavy suitcase.  We said "hello" to each other and our breath hovered in the chilly air.  As she turned her face to mine, I noticed one of her eyes was blackened and her jaw was purple and swollen.
"Are you alright?" I asked
She nodded. 
"Do you need help?"
She shook her head. "I'm fine, darlin.'  Just heading to my daughter's house.  I'll be safe there."
"Are you alone?" I asked, glancing toward her room.
"Yes."  She explained that she'd just left her husband the day before and this time, for good.  "I can do it now.  I'll be fine...thank you for asking."
 As I drove onto the highway, she was ahead of me for a while, then disappeared around a bend.  It was then that I began to understand the different kinds of courage we all must manifest to create changes.  Heaven knows what that woman would experience in the days and weeks to come and I prayed she'd continue to rely on the strength that had at least gotten her that far.
           
 One my friends from Esalen, a wise woman named Chie, taught me many things while we weeded the gardens and harvested herbs.  Chie was fierce in her insistence that I ignore the drama around me and continue to move forward in my own way.  Before she left to go back to Japan, her last words to me were, "You be you...you keep going."    
A simple, yet profound statement, and one I continue to explore on my yoga mat, in relationships, and through the very complicated journey of writing a memoir.  How to be authentically myself and keep going in a world that often baffles me?  It takes stamina and faith that, while I may not know what's around the corner, I can stand on my own two feet and meet whatever comes with clarity.
Like anything, building courage is a lifelong process.  Once we meet what we're afraid of, we find out what we're made of...until the next lesson comes along and tests us some more.  While I no longer take blind leaps of faith, I have been known to strap on a parachute and do some sky diving now and then.  I've learned that time and experience are beautiful things, especially when they light the way onward.

This summer solstice, I hope you discover the "long time sun" within each one of you.  May all love surround you and may the pure light within you guide your way on.

Listen to Snatum Kaur sing "Long time sun"