Still a Little Broken
Yogafolk v1 | A (new) Moon publication.
This freshly minted publication will land in your inbox each full moon. It will unfurl like a yoga practice, a somatic exploration of the bodies, ecologies and relationships we inhabit.
In practice we use our corporeal selves to access deep knowing, making gestures and shapes in time and in tune with the breath. The body experiences the world sensually; it carries wisdom in its creases and cells; it is the primary instrument in the pursuit of a spiritual life:
शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्
śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharmasādhanam
So when I feel lost or afraid I turn to my body, my home.
A groan wells up inside of me and it is so animal, so carnal, so other-worldly that I giggle at myself. My weirdness. My bodily-ness.
I catch myself bringing my fingers to my face, stroking my skin and wondering: am I alive? Am I real? I reach my hands up to the sky in surrender. I put my fuckin’ hands up reaching for something to touch, to grasp, to believe in.
Is my heart beating?
Life feels surreal and uncertain. I’m full of rage and sadness as any illusion of solidity slips through my fingers. But I am here. We are. And we are pulsing in sync with the heartbeat of the world, and I call that worshipping at the altar of the Universe.
We are all living with a virus that defies escape. We don’t have the ability to walk away from it. But we are not powerless. We have in this last pandemic year, in our own ways, shifted our relationship to dreams, spaces, homes, hopes, institutions, technologies, practices and people. We have individually and collectively lost so much. We are all in multifaceted ways beginning again. And though I’ve been afraid to say the quiet part out loud, there is healing in naming: it is scary and disorienting. So I start with the pile of ash where my feet used to be, and sweep up the silt to see what sifts to the top —
This has been a time of profound truths: despite our human ideas of grandeur, we are not much more than salty water packets; house plants with feelings.
Of grief: the losses we’ve experienced are not synonymous. Much of it will go unnamed, invisible. We are suffering silently; we are suffering differently.
And simple pleasures: gawdess I love oranges.
But also banal realities: there really is no end to the dishes or the laundry.
This transitional moment we’re in is big. Anyone who tells you otherwise is gaslighting. We’re re-membering who we are in relationship. We’re re-storying what matters to us as organisms within a larger ecosystem. We’re re-negotiating how we interact. We’re re-adjusting once again as we retreat back into pandemic malaise.
Feet march in place, heels tap: 1, 2. 1, 2. 1, 2.
What if, even as we’re chugging along toward some semblance of societal functioning. . . I’m still uncertain and afraid? What if I’m still a little broken?
If you give me the space to be a little broken I will give you that grace, too.
We cannot settle our collective nervous system, if our individual ones are still frayed at the edges.
Arms up as we inhale.
This newsletter is my gesture of co-regulation. My aim is to share in a network of communication, creasing pathways that guide each other, feed each other, mirror each other, alert and help one another to feel safe, connected, capable, and maybe broken, too. This, I believe, is one of the purposes community serves: the synchronization and calming of our nervous systems.
This publication is written for practitioners — yoga practitioners and teachers, but also folx embedded in somatic and spiritual practices from capoeira to cooking, music-making to meditation, gardening to writing. Let’s sync up, and together navigate these individual, and collective bodies we inhabit.
What follows are a few of the books and practices supporting me as the summer comes to a close, as well as a few offerings. What’s supporting you in this moment? How are you making meaning and community?
Brokenly, openly yours,
Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich
Outside of yoga practice, the first group activity I did virtually when the pandemic hit was a massive, global dance party. One of the first, most freest things I did once fully vaccinated was dance — outdoors and maskless, sweaty and hopeful. Now that we’re returning to more conservative gathering practices, I find myself dancing in the living room, unabashedly flailing through the choreography of my favorite music videos.
What is it about dance, collective movement, shared rhythms, and beats that is so powerful, so joyful, so communicative when words won’t suffice? Said another way: “what are the neuronal and evolutionary drivers for dance?”
I have been studying with Holly Howard this summer, whose attitudes toward business and social media push me to ask deeper questions about what it means to work creatively in this attention economy. Her book and film suggestions are spot on (I highly recommend her newsletter) and so when she mentioned this book I beelined toward it, and I’m better for it: “What we lose if we underestimate the power of an aesthetic act is not solely talent and freedom of expression, but the avenue to see up and out of failures that we didn’t even know we had…What is the future of how we think about so-called failure, these dubious starts and unlikely transformations?”
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
This book was a gift slipped into the crook of my arm as I headed off for a week of head-clearing hikes and deep friendship in Montana. I gobbled it up in nearly one airplane sitting. It is a touching, instinctually relatable retelling of heartbreak and heart-opening; of finding one’s voice; and choosing to live wildly despite the ten thousand reasons we might find to stay small and squashed: “I am asking for nothing more than a kinship with the atmosphere.”
Luster by Raven Leilani
A viscerally uncomfortable exploration of art, self and sex.
“‘I’m an open book,’ I say, thinking of all the men who have found it illegible. I made mistakes with these men. I dove for their legs as they tried to leave my house. I chased them down the hall with a bottle of Listerine, saying, I can be a beach read, I can get rid of all these clauses, please, I’ll just revise.”
Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes
In the 2015 Steve Jobs documentary, Jobs tells his daughter that he’s going to put music in her pocket. She rolls her eyes but, *wink, wink* we all know that promise came true. That’s not what amazes me most about the tiny computer appendages we’re tethered to, though. Sure, I listen to music on my phone. But I’m a geriatric millennial. So I also listen to the radio, and play vinyl, and on occasion I pop a CD in or *gasp* get my hands on a real live mix tape.
To me, the more remarkable feat of the smart phone is the way it has shifted our relationship to photography, to images. We, each of us, have an incredibly powerful camera in our friggin pockets! We are all amateur photographers. And when I think about the ramifications that has for our sense of self, sense of other, sense of sight, and memory, it honestly blows my mind to bits.
So I’m returning to Barthes, who, writing in the late 1970s, offers a framework for understanding the power of the image, and the role of the spectator.
This Labor Day weekend I’ll be guiding my first and only US retreat of the year.
WHEN: September 3-5 (3 days, 2 nights)
WHERE: Ojai, Valley of the Moon
SCHEDULE: As we emerge from this last year of seismic shifts, we’ll gather together to connect to the ground beneath our feet. We thread the days with yoga practice, hikes, pranayama, seminars and ceremony. We’ll re-inspire our yoga practices, and reaffirm our foundations. We we will leave rooted and supported.
WHERE TO STAY: I am coordinating a shared home for attendees, with options for a private bedroom or camping. You may also find your own accommodations — local hotels are Ojai Rancho Inn, The Capri, and Caravan Outpost; AirBnB is a safe bet in the region; and there are several campsites nearby including Wheeler Gorge and Rose Valley.
Food is available to purchase from the area’s many fabulous restaurants (take-out or outdoor dining) and organic markets. Eat with new friends or enjoy your solace with a mountain view.
PRICE: $325 (does not include room and board).
REGISTER: By sending payment in full through PayPal.
Collective Tarot Pull
There is no justice without reckoning; there is no reckoning without an accounting of where we’ve been; nor without imagining what the future might hold.
The Justice card sits at the center of the Major Arcana: a reflective pause as we move from there to here. Similarly, dandāsana separates the primary series practice, dividing the standing poses from the seated ones. We come to take a seat, but before folding forward or bending our limbs, we simply sit up tall. Palms on the floor, the gaze is soft at the tip of the nose. We pause for five even breaths before we move into the rest of practice. It’s a moment to reconnect to the floor beneath us, to catch our breath and find the stillness and steadiness contained within.
We’re collectively exhausted. Yet we must keep going. Cornel West has said that “justice is what love looks like in public.” How do we love each other out loud even when we’re tired? Even when we’re broken? Even when we’re scared and don’t know how to put one foot in front of the other?
Ritual Recommendations: Long holds in fewer poses. Listen for the sound of your breath throughout the day. Phone a friend and sing a song together over the line. Celebrate and center black mamas. Squish your bare feet into the earth beneath you. Steep yourself naked in the full moon’s glow. Pay attention to the whispers that call you to action. Pray for Burnt Forests.
Til next time, E.