february 24, 11am
sarnath village, india
i woke up this morning with my neck paralysed. it was locked in place and when i tried to move off the pillow it felt like a knifing pain. ah, here it is. it always goes back to this, where do i hold my pain? here it is showing itself to me in my body. no matter how much i have meditated, done yoga, prayed, whirled, chanted and gone to sweat lodges, i still have pain. my body does not lie.
yesterday in the village and the day before i had so much tension. anka made me watch myself from the camer's naked eye. it was difficult to watch myself on film. walking around, looking glamorous and out of place in the village. avoiding conversation and contact even that's what i came here for. i see how i create a wall as a coping mechanism for myself. it is so hard to look into the face of poverty, to look into these big brown eyes all around me. so hard. life is not fair. i have much more than these women and children. i have more opportunity. the fact that i can choose to sit here with them is a choice. i have the money, the means. the women in that room cannot choose to go to America and do service work. it is not fair. yet it is the bare truth. i want to be able to take away their pain and poverty, but i cannot. i must accept my own role. i am also aware that i am projecting how much i think they are suffering, i don't know their lives that well yet.
what am i able to do? what am i not able to do? i see my own choices. i choose to be here halfway around the world telling these women about empowerment. why? because in them i see myself. in their struggle i see my own struggles. i did not grow up in india. but i did have a baby when i was 18 and struggled against seemingly insurmountable social judgements and material difficulties. i know what it is to look at my child and feel naseious with the fear of not knowing where i will get him food, or where we will sleep tonight. and yet somehow that changed for me. i feel i live a life with choices now whereas before i felt like a choiceless victim. i cannot explain exactly how that change happened for me, but it had to do with yoga. something deep inside me changed how i saw myself, god, the world. and then my circumstances began to change too. so i offer yoga back to the world, to these women. i struggle less with life not being fair. i am able to stand in the yard where the school is and look into the faces. here there is no social taboo against staring. stares are long and lingering and intimate. it is as if in the gaze i travel through their eyes to the center of their soul, and they stare back, travelling through my eyes to the center of my soul. we exchange energy. i see suffering and i sustain the gaze as best i can. but still i woke up with paralysing pain in my neck this morning. i am still keeping up a wall to cope with my own pain that is being triggered now. in the past i used to retreat into debilitating depressions, now i am able to withstand more without running away.
i don't have all the answers. i am not a perfect yoga guru who has figured it all out. the pain in my body is from tension i am holding now, today. my body keeps me honest. my body makes me face my pain and where i am holding it. what is at the root of all this desire to change the world? why am i here? i am driven by pain. they say pain is a great teacher. without pain we would be satisfied and not strive to grow and change and sacrifice. and yet, is what is driving me onwards the same thing i am running away from? loss and grief. how much of my life have i spent in grief? for the lost dream of my childhood. for the parents i wish i had. i am here speaking to women in india and yet i have not spoken to my own mother in 10 years. she was a very angry person. she was abused as child. her pain made her abusive to me physically and verbally. i used to think i was doing all this spiritual practice so that i could be some kind of saint. so that if i got the chance to talk to my mother again i would be loving no matter what she said. that even if she said i was a terrible daughter who ruined her life, i would be able to smile and not feel hurt. and not feel emotionally affected at all.
now i think all my spiritual work will just help me to sustain the gaze. to accept what i cannot change. to love even through pain. to not judge myself for being human. these might not be the right enlightened answers, but they feel true to me now. in that acceptance, i feel my world open up. i feel very real and alive, awake and present.