poly with prayer
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. Nothing was different except me. My attention-shift from guarded, judging, caved-in-heart to goddess incarnate transformed both my perception and what was available to me. My open eyes caught those of a shining being moving free, loving the mystery through his body. His gaze rested on mine and didn't drop. Our movements synchronized slightly, responding in right rhythm across the thick room. For the next portal in time - forty minutes is my best guess - we danced in the direction of each other, gaze fixed, except when I closed my eyes and opened them again to find his holding steady. Step by sweet slow step we inched toward each other, until the pulsing of the bass was audible in each other's breath. We came centimeter-close but still didn't touch. We moved this way for longer than long until gentlest strongest winds of want brought contact - ease and fire. He moved with me at perfect distance and whichever simple places his fingers brushed showed a deep listening to all I'd said without words. The Eros was palpable and I unfurled into it, my highly specific boundaries intact and somehow silently well-met by this being, a stranger to me but clearly not to hot consent.
And then he chose to speak. I remember feeling the sound well up in him before I heard it, and I wanted to stop him but I was too late. I could feel the spell about to break. I didn't need his name, and I didn't want the quality of presence in his voice or speech to throw me out of my experience of being gods together for the moment. And yet, he spoke. The bass was so loud that I had no idea what he said, but I heard the sound come from his chest, and sighed with relief. I had felt the tone of his words and the bubble did not burst. He spoke again more directly into my ear and this time I heard his name. I was grateful that the space was so full of sound that there was no more room for our words. All I wanted was to stay in my fantasy that was reality that was bass all over my body as I was held by a star. The dance remained exquisite. We were some wild combination of barely touching and match to flame.
Eventually, exhausted by the hour, I motioned for him to wander with me outside. He walked me toward my car and I hoped he wouldn't break the spell we'd woven with such care. He said only a few words, asking where I was parked, and the fantasy didn't fade once I actually heard his voice. It was way too cold, and I was too tired to lean on the car talking and so I invited him to sit in the passenger seat under the bright street lights. As I settled into the driver's seat, he turned and looked at me and the first thing he said was, I'm married.
The sigh that left my chest was involuntary and my thinking mind began to click on, a gear shift abrupt and necessary. Before I could say any of the things, he continued - my wife knows I'm here, and when I get home I'll tell her all about our dance and she'll be so happy to hear of it. My eyes widened - dude kept pleasantly surprising me. He started to say more. I slowed him enough to hear only the basics of their agreements, and to know he was well inside of them. I knew my own boundaries and how available I was or wasn't ~ not very ~ and I didn't need his full story. Him leading with clear truth and integrity and ease inside a radically-shaped relationship opened my heart and increased my attraction. I held out my hand. His fingers traced my palm and mine danced with his, and I don't remember exactly what happened other than that an hour later we had only touched hands and forearms - my right, his left - and the car was a steam room I could have stayed in til long past sun up.
The next night, his wife FB friended me and put likes all over my new posts. She was mellow and warm and while we never spoke directly, goodness and appreciation from each of them remained consistent and clear.
This was a healing balm for me, as a year earlier I'd smashed my self against someone's stagnant marriage. Not seeing clearly enough my own part in the compelling pattern, I suggested he tell his wife that he wanted me, and when he did, chaos and searing pain ensued in every direction.
It was healing, too, for me because sovereignty is sexy. I cringe when I ask a person how they are and their response begins with we, rooting in coupledom above self. It's entirely their right, but I experience it as an inavailability to relate directly in the present and in the immediacy of our conversation and connection. Sovereignty is powerful. I want it in the relationships I cultivate - including ones with my friends and my family. The only flavors of full merge that are delicious to me are with divinity and in the realm of eros.
Why is any of this alive in my Rosh Hashanah wee hours? At first, I wondered if it was because of Adrienne Maree Brown's new article on Being a Second about being or having beyond-primary partners, on the periphery but in no way peripheral.
And then I remember into the sweetness of the day. There are books I could write about the deliciousness of Days of Awe davenning so far - deep circle, lush prayer, new and old weavings, ease and right time, astounding beauty, softest touch. And a particular moment when my eyes were closed as we sung in Hebrew and Arabic and I wondered - even though everyone present knew clearly that that is how we roll in Makam Shekhina - if there were any Jews in the room who shut down because of the Arabic pouring from my mouth into their High Holiday. We've prayed this way for some years already, and this year we ramped it up, mostly because it matches the reality of our daily prayer. And it felt like a coming out.
Multireligiosity is real in me, and in many of the ones I weave closely with. As one third of the public face of Kohenet, I track the edges I ride closely, with attention toward tending the goodness of our Hebrew Priestess community. I am aware of what I do where, being myself while bringing what I understand as the most needed, integrous and receivable version of me in each place I land. How that looks is changing less and less and less.
Yesterday Rosh Hashanah, I felt like the man who spoke truth as soon as we sat down in the car. After initial waves of our ecstatic, grounding opening chant, my first spoken words in the day situated us into the reality of the thing - folks had come to pray on a dual holiday - the first of Tishrei and the first of Muharram, and to mark their turning in a space that is poly with prayer.
When I opened my eyes during that moment in the service in which I'd worried someone in the room had slipped out of their prayer because I'd slipped more deeply into mine, what I saw was the same truth my ears and heart had told me. Every single person - except our 91 year old community member who smiled, wide-eyed, mostly silent throughout the day - was singing clearly and loudly in each of the languages we dropped into their mouths.
For me, being poly with prayer, and One with Goddess, is not so much about belief. It is about direct experience of divinity and the most alive and aligned ways we each get there. My practice roots in polyphonous pleasurefull percussive prayer. The Cave of my Heart has multiple chambers, and she still welcomes you.