Throw away the key…

One of the unexpected ways that my life has unfolded is that from time to time, I have the honor of assisting presenters at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

In this volunteer capacity, I’ve come to serve as a regular assistant to a few of my favorites, including the author Dani Shapiro whose presence is as lovely as her work…

Quieting.
Clearing.
Soul-quenching.

Though I have assisted this same program of hers a half-dozen times, I never fail to benefit from the practice of writing inside the nourishing container that she creates with her presence to the space between the words.

Sometimes I write from the center of my current writing project, which alas, has been the same project since I began assisting in 2014. Often I write from the center of the present moment, which is quite familiar as a memoirist and as an instructor of yoga.

It’s always a bit of a treasure hunt to see what comes on the page in a room full of others doing the same; and there is often gold at the end, no matter if one is a professional author, an amateur, or someone without any writing practice at all.

A favorite prompt Dani offers comes in response to a poem entitled: It Could Have Happened.

Here’s what I found inside it this past autumn…

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It Could Have Happened…
September 2016
Kripalu

it could have happened that I, like my traveling companions, did not hear the knock at 4 AM

It could have happened that it didn’t stir me or cause me to wonder:

Is someone locked out of the room?
The building?
A Relationship?

Was it a knock on the door?
The window?
The wall?

Should I get up?
Let her in?
See what’s wrong?
Make sure I’m safe?

It could’ve happened that Sting did not begin to sing in my head…

“If you love somebody, go ahead and throw away the key…”

It could’ve happened that he did not continue…

“Free, free. Set them free.”

It could have happened that the singing subsided, and I fell back into a deep sleep

That I didn’t ponder why…

Why me?

Why now?

Why this song?

Who needs freeing?

It could have happened that I didn’t feel the urge to rise and run down the hill toward the labyrinth before dawn…

It could have happened that I didn’t pause with the birdsong and the pale yellow petals and the mountain range as the sun began to rise…

It could have happened that once inside the labyrinth, it didn’t occur to me, that it was…

Me,

I was the one

The

One

who Sting was singing to

The one who needed

To Be

Loved

By me

Without a key
~

(5 months later and I’m still not sure what this means…)

after a weekend with tara brach

photo: October 2016, Kelly Salasin

This morning I woke with a dis-armored heart.
Which wasn’t as frightening or as fabulous as it might sound.
Only noticeably different.
A little achy perhaps.
With a burning sensation.

As Monday morning quickly unfolded–with obstacles–I recognized my availability to–what was–without wishing for something different. This lent a sweet softness to a time that is typically tense.

I realized then that my mind had been so clever.
Not only had it protected me from the depth of my pain and losses;
It kept me from the depth of love & greatest longings.

i’ve got (my) back

10351825_10152504996033746_8547168182269551440_nI hurt my back. In a gentle yoga class. During the first pose.

The irony continues…

I carved out the gift of this single yoga class from a busy week spent at The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

The irony doesn’t end there…

I was at Kripalu to assist at a Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training program–where I danced day and night–without a problem. It was only when I stopped, sat down, and reclined, open-hearted, over a delicious set of cushions, that I was hurt.

This irony suggests an invitation more than an injury, doesn’t it?

But a month later, the invitation is still hurting.

Bending over backwards is the mind/body connection that comes to mind.

But wasn’t I bending for myself?

I made a special request to fit that yoga class into a tight schedule. I rushed to make it happen. I couldn’t wait to surrender to it.  And yet, even after I felt the alarming twinge in my lower back, I refused it.

“This posture is great,” I said to my back. “Come on! Enjoy it.”

And when my back continued to complain?

“What’s the point of taking the cushions out now? You’re already hurt.”

So maybe I wasn’t so much bending over backward–for myself–but bending over backward for… busyness?

Assisting at Kripalu had an alarmingly familiar tempo to previous life incarnations; ones that I consciously left behind: from managing a family of origin to managing a restaurant, to managing a classroom and then a succession of non-profits.

Ironically this new role held none of the responsibilities that once weighed me down, and it also included meditation, hugs and organic food.

So what was wrong with me? Hadn’t I made enough progression? Couldn’t I tolerate a few days of intense scheduling given the obvious benefits?

Apparently, No. I arrived to opening night with an impressive fever blister (my first), and shortly after developed a full-blown migraine.

The most outstanding irony in this entire drama is the fact that I didn’t have to be there; and I couldn’t even blame it on money… I was volunteering.

(Kelly. Kelly. Kelly.)

Once I returned home, that silly, gentle-yoga, first-pose, invitation continued, until I was forced to attend to it with a myriad of practitioners: from chiropractic, to massage, to naturopathic.

It only felt worse.

Finally, I succumbed to bringing it where it belonged: the psychotherapist.

With her guidance, I take myself back to the reclining pose on the soft cushions at Kripalu, and realize that I WANT EVEN MORE SPACE, more than this yoga class, more than this mat, more than this open-hearted pose.

This hunger for space has been a constant throughout my life–as the oldest of 8–parentified by alcoholism–orphaned by divorce–driven to exhaustion at work.

But the truth underneath my desperation for space is that I don’t want to give up on anything else to have it.  I want the joy of assisting, the gift of a family, and the delight of professional pursuits.

What I need to learn how to do is this: Occupy the space I need, ALL the space I need, in the midst of it all.

With this realization, the pain in my back grows louder and louder, until I want to crawl out of my skin and become spineless.

The familiar reclining chair in my therapist’s office becomes so uncomfortable that I am forced to move to the floor while she carefully guides my attention to the story behind the pain:

My grandmother appears. Not the one I adored. But the one I abhorred?  Because she was mean? And fat? (obese really.)

Energy moves from my right side to my left side, and then wraps around my belly where this grandmother’s dark and heavy pain is lodged inside of me.

This is where my doctor placed his hands last week to contrast the muscular differentiation between this and my thighs. “Your weaker abdominal muscles may be contributing to the vulnerability of your lower back,” he suggests.

But here’s what I heard:

“You hurt your back because you are fat and lazy and out of shape.”

(Yet another invitation masked as injury/as insult.)

“I don’t want to connect with the energy of this grandmother,” I say to my therapist; but even as I say the words, and realize how afraid I am of this journey, I know that it is my next frontier.

I pick myself up off the floor and climb back into the chair, reconnecting my heart to my lower back; surprised to find that my spine suddenly feels like a source of support again instead of agony.

10301211_10152601746673746_16322046353505728_nMy mind flashes back to Kripalu, to the ritualistic closing of each demanding or vulnerable or evocative Let Your Yoga Dance training session: We circle up, wrap our arms around the bodies touching ours, and take turns whispering into one another’s ear:

“I’ve got your back.”

I stand to say goodbye to my therapist, and I smile as I walk out her door, whispering to myself:

“I’ve got my back.”

 

Life Hack~7 Years of Dancing: from 43 to 50

7 years ago, I experienced a life-hack that led to the past 7 years of dancing–with hundreds of women (men & children) from Southern Vermont & beyond. I share it now as testimony to risk and vulnerability and community and remembrance:

Me at 8
Me, before I forgot

Spring 2007

This spring my career path was seriously derailed when I found myself training to become a dance teacher.

This is absurd for so many reasons–not the least of which is that I’m 43 and that my genetic package includes gravity defying hamstrings.

Then there’s the family history of being yanked out of ballet class at age 5; and the elementary school performances where it took weeks to learn what others learned in moments; or the highschool musicals, where I was the one who could be seen “counting” out my steps.

What gives?

Well, about a year ago, facing growing children and a deepening drift between myself and my previous incarnation as an elementary teacher, I embarked on a full-scale career search.

Determined to find a new avenue of self-expression and contribution, I read a host of great books on the subject of passion and purpose, taking all kinds of personality tests, and really getting a handle on what makes me tick; But unfortunately never finding a “job” that matched that beat.

In one last act of desperation (and courage), I took a position in the world of business–of strategic plans and bottom lines, hoping to force new growth, if nothing else.

How then did I end up at Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox this April studying something called DansKinetics? I’ve asked myself that same question, regularly, with some choice expletives, especially as I return to “dance boot camp” this month to complete my certification.

All I can say is that I love to move to music. I always have. I just forgot. And at my age, there aren’t enough parties or weddings to go around (and forget bars, they aren’t the best match for the married, financially challenged, and easily hungover.)

The other part is that Kripalu DansKinetics (KDK), despite its complicated name (they’ve since renamed it), is really quite simple, designed for everyBODY, offering an incredible workout that’s fun and easy and most importantly: healing.

My class of teacher trainees range in age from 20 to 60, and they come from all walks of life, hailing as far away as Italy, Japan, and even Wisconsin!

So here I am, “career-less-ly”, offering dance classes to those of us who aren’t “dancers”–just because I’m pretty sure we ALL like to move to music, we just forgot.

Come re-member with me!

(More about YogaDance.)

the apology

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Musuem

Today, I had to craft a paragraph about Hiroshima for an international meeting that will be held in Japan this spring. Though it will be my first time in this country, I’ve long felt a kinship for its people. As I researched the Peace Museum, I felt myself swallowing hard, ashamed despite the fact that I’ve already apologized. Once. To Seiko.

In the spring of 2007, Seiko and I were among 25 students preparing for our YogaDance certification in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

On a steamy June afternoon, she and I strolled down the access road to Kripalu underneath a canopy of leaves, each taking a turn talking and then listening.

On our way back, we paused at a resting spot beside a thickly-trunked tree. As we took a seat on the bench, Seiko turned toward me, and said, shyly:

“Kelly, can I ask you a favor?”

“What is it, Seiko?”

“Will you sing for me?”

I laughed, and looked quizzically at my new friend, and she quickly explained that she wanted to practice her dance prayer but hadn’t been able to find a recording of the song she selected.

“Here?” I said, looking at the grass and the tree.

She nodded.

I wanted to decline, to say that I’d help her find it online, but how could I turn down this young, beautiful woman who was so earnest and kind?

Before I could meet her request, however, I felt something bubbling up inside… something raw and painful and necessary.

“I need to say something to you, first.” I said.

“What is it, Kelly?” Seiko said, sensing my tenderness.

I replied in a trembling voice:

“I want to apologize for dropping the atom bomb…  on your country.”

“What?” Seiko said, confused. “I don’t understand.”

Tears filled my eyes as I repeated those terrible words, and then Seiko, took my hands in hers, and said, “Kelly. You don’t have to apologize for that. You and I weren’t even born.”

“I needed to speak those words to someone from your country,” I explained.

Her response was whispered through her own tears…

“No one has ever apologized to me for this before. Thank you.”

And there, under the arms of that magnificent tree in the soft grass of early June, I began to sing…

Somewhere Over the Rainbow…

and Seiko danced.