hyper-focused grading the last midterm paper. my housemate starts belting out a song - in deepest, fierce bellow - right outside my open door. my laser focus becomes soft, my belly reacts, i breathe deep to avoid getting triggered and asking her to stop. then i actually listen to the words she is singing.
This is the sea that is here with me this week. She is salty sweet on my tongue and fierce serene in my breath. I wonder into the particular medicines she gifts those who live with her, and I feel into the gifts of the land that welcomes me home, the place that offers to me most deeply and on the regular. Of the myriad reasons I live in and love the Bay Area, in the top five is that the climate and culture have space for my bare feet. Moving with my feet kissed by earth changes my life.
Really what I am remembering on this walk is that I even though my body moves more freely, I need slow as much as I ever did. I feel how much the earth wants to be kissed by my feet. How much my fascia need to feel the soil give for me to feel at home here. My feet love direct conversation with the core of the earth, particularly when I uncover them and let them listen. My body moves with ease now in most directions except straight forward. She is slow, she is undulating, she is sometimes upright, she is always snakelike. She is meeting and met by this magical far away land and the waters here with such delight. But something hasn't let me take off my shoes here. My feet want familiar. They are so ready to be caressed by the warm-ish earth, and even the familiar concrete, of home.
An elder student of mine told me the other day that she thought I started the Metoo movement. (??????) . In part because of a Metoo exercise I have been leading in Kohenet for years. And that her daughter posted a Metoo and she wondered how we had met. Not me. The movement comes from Tarana Burke, bless her. This student also - after expressing much profuse gratitude for Kohehet - expressed concern we aren't delving into sexual priestessing anywhere near enough. I breathed deeply, stayed quiet and heard her. I heard, too, the student who'd called me less than 48 hours before that to express concern that we are too sexually open as a community. The truth from where I sit lands somewhere simply and complexly in the middle, in the bodies and boundaries and pleasures of each of those who weave our community, as well as we who build the loom.
I am aware that because I am in some ways a public person - in my teaching, the albums, books and the movement I co-built and tend - people often assume they know way more about me than they do.
Yes, I share in personal ways here, and to a greater degree, in my class settings. Offering from experience is at the crux of how I teach. If you read or listen to me, assume there is much you do actually know about me and how I move in my life. And assume that there is so much you don't know. And that I prefer it that way. My favorite concert moment ever was Sade's entrance - behind a screen, silhouette slinking slightly with each vocalization. Twenty thousand of us entranced by, hanging on, the shadowed shape of her hip. The dance of so much visible & so much behind the veil is one I slide into with ease.
My dad called last night. When I asked about his weekend, he spoke of going to the funeral of the grandpa of family friends of mine growing up. Sammy was honey-sweet ~ warm-heart, raspy voice, always with a kind word, and with loving flirtations toward his equally warm tho often anxious wife. My dad mentioned that the rabbi who led the funeral is someone he thinks I know. Indeed, it was someone I know so well, who I worked for for two years, and who, as difficult as I sometimes found him, actively helped me get jobs which were formative in my development as clergy during my time in DC. The man he mentioned is someone I have gratitude for, who I learned so much from, and who triggered me plenty. Before I could tell my dad I knew exactly who he meant, he said, I really didn't like what that guy did.
My dad isn't one to critique a funeral, he tends to look for the good in a thing rather than what's lacking. But he was clearly upset about what had happened. The rabbi, he said, brought too much levity in. He didn't let us feel sad. He wanted us to be happy, when this wasn't actually the moment for that. After the service was over, he even sung dreidl dreidl dreidl on guitar. It was not what anyone needed. Let us grieve please.
i have nothing to say. that was my response to the friend who just wrote me, asking me to make one of my "long flowing posts," because he says my voice is needed now. if you know me closely, you may know that i sometimes give a fast no before finding a real yes. my knee-jerk response to him explained that i am so relieved to be far away from home and from Facebook, i got so smoked out by the firestorm in my newsfeed, the intensity of me too's and certain responses to them. i have nothing to say. i told him so loud and clear. and then found myself, as if compelled, logging onto here.
right in that moment, the love I'm here with stepped away from the NFL and toward where i had been getting work done. whatcha doing, he joked, posting on Facebook? he doesn't play in social media, and finds amusement in my semi-addiction. yes, i blushed, i'm thinking about it, but i have nothing to say. he replied, "that's never true."
As one who tends trauma healing as a vocation, the last thing I expected was to step into the collective trauma vortex of metoo when I woke up Monday morning. My experience is that trauma is most effectively healed by rooting in positive resource, by tending specific wellness - in body, in bloodlines. By telling story only in slow motion or at metabolizable pace. With depth of witness and holding. With attention to meeting any possibility of overwhelm with nourishing care. None of this is readily available on social media. None of this is a thing I've seen or experienced online in recent days.
Facebook is fast. Fast breeds trauma. Sympathetic nervous system activation is hardwired into this newsfeed - yours and mine.
While I might have stepped in because the trauma vortex was that magnetic, my sense is I stepped in more because I felt in my own system enough positive resource to navigate this particular tide with relative grace. I chose to offer parts of my story because I could without significant repercussion, in a way I hoped might be an anchor for those who felt the metoo sea too strong or sweeping away.
our conversation while walking under starlight skies, amidst towering cedars, spirits soft from lush hot springs is about where the fk we can go tomorrow to be able to breathe without being sick, and if there is any way we can show up for work and school in coming days. it is majestic where we are, and we are here because we fled smoke and dizziness and nausea. she after doing healing work in a shelter near the fires and me after being in my bed at home, struggling to breathe and to think - many miles from the fires but not far enough to breathe safely even indoors. we drove for four hours to find clear air, but this weekend the rooms anywhere near here have filled up from those fleeing, and camping is below freezing at night. brainstorming possibilities of where next, we are grateful to have resources to get us to the best option that emerges. the only thing we know is that we can't breathe well enough to go home.
This is not a woe-is-me message - I imagine returning to my rented home when the toxic air is no longer everywhere. Being able to leave, and still having a home to return to, both feel like luxury.
Many of my people in the Bay Area seem to be in this paradox of grateful to be untouched by the fires and not untouched at all. Confused by the expectation of life as normal when the air we breathe is anything but. Relieved by conversations in which people are not acting like this is business as usual, as if we need permission to name the impact of what is and to acknowledge the toxicity. Those beyond the Bay keep asking if we are safe. For many of us answer is yes and is also no. Time for a more nuanced question.
There’s a teacher thing that happens for me that no one talks about. Partway through each semester, I fall in love with my class. Not a particular student and not because of a particular thing. But in some moment that builds on all the ones before it, the intimacy and the vulnerability in our shared creation opens my heart. Fully, deliciously, poignantly, in a way that I don’t want to end.
It happens in response to the brilliant things students say, but more it happens when I experience them stretching, being willing to not know or to unlearn, and to fully show up with each other. It happens when the class is bubbling and pulsing so much that even when we are done no one wants to leave.
One night seven years ago I needed to dance. Around midnight, I took myself to a club in Baltimore that I'd been hopeful about but which fell flat. It wasn't that the crowd was younger and whiter than I usually placed myself in, which it was, but that it was full of so much beer and bright lights and talking, and such little groove. I needed to sweat, and felt frustrated and disappointed that I'd trekked all this way for nothing. I don't remember why I felt so vulnerable, but I started to cry.
Something in my tears freed me up to feel the deep bass that had been thumping beneath the conversations all along. I closed my eyes and opened my spine and let my body become the serpent she is. I moved with abandon, unwilling to open my eyes to be reminded of the boredom in the room, losing myself in the mystery of my own body loved up by this rhythm.
In time I became so entranced that I forgot to keep my eyes closed, and when I opened them the room had transformed.
I don't write sermons. I never did, even during my decade pulpit of many hundreds of people for the High Holidays. The way I am leading this year is not that - we expect to pray exactly as we would be if no one else where here, except we've welcomed those who are drawn to be amidst it all. It's taken me three years outside of a congregational job to begin to erase the notion of High Holidays as main money-maker from my being. It was real - between a quarter to half of my salary for the year was paid by funds from that ten day period. I loved so much of the work, and the heartfelt goodness of the people, but I came to commodify and pressurize my time during the Days of Awe. The stress of this period in which we we say the Book of Life is written and sealed - URGENT, repent, get it all together and fixed up, right now - is dramatic and intense and perhaps good for those of us who pay no particular attention to holiness otherwise or who need to be shook to tend things well. But I don't place myself around people who pay no attention. I live in a circle where we kiss the ground and hold each other and do our best to love ourselves and to show up to transform what is broken. We place ourselves in front of our altars and chant the Names, listen for new hymns, serenade the Beloved and cultivate our capacity to tend presence as prayer at least as often as we do anything else. My goal in the realm of Holy Days is to live alive enough during the year that these ones really do become just another amazing day.