Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: June 2015 (page 1 of 2)

The pause in the middle

One of the tenants of ayurveda is the idea of “the microcosm of the macrocosm.” We see patterns repeated throughout the entire universe, from the grandest scale to the cellular level. Upon hearing this, half of me thought, “well, duh” while the other half exclaimed, “genius!”

Beyond health, wellness and nature, the microcosm of the macrocosm helps to explain not only the world, but my experience in it. (For all my friends who just googled it and prayed for my salvation, I promise you, Jesus was a huge fan of the microcosm of the macrocosm. All those teachings on seeds and death and life and fruit? It wasn’t just a sermon illustration – it was his understanding of the universe.)

In yoga (bless your hearts, my Christian friends), the breath is kind-of-a-big-deal. Not just in the “you’ll pass out if you hold your breath for too long” way, but it’s also a microcosm of the macrocosm. For example, I was just reading about breathing exercises while experiencing anxiety. (Someone may be a tad high strunnnnngggg right now.) The suggestion was to breathe in for a count of four, pause, and exhale for a count of eight. It seems that when anxious, it’s best to take in only what you need and let go of a little more. At the cellular level, our bodies need to pry our white knuckles from control to bring our heart rates back to normal. [*Play punches you in the arm*] I KNOW! Fascinating.

Which, only 3 introductory paragraphs later, brings me to my actual point.

Image via Facebook. Does anyone really own anything on Facebook?

Image via Facebook. Does anyone really own anything on Facebook?

In breathing, we inhale and we exhale. Take in, let out. Climb up, descend. In my own poolside life this summer, I see it with littles who discovered joy when jumping in: run, jump in, get to the ladder, get back out.

So let me tell you a little secret I’m discovering, thanks to the wisdom of my teachers: don’t overlook the pause in the middle. Take note of it. The pause isn’t the breathing – the taking in and letting out. It’s not the climb or the jump. It’s that bit of freefall in between. It’s the moment of transitioning from one to the other. It separates the up from the down.

I’ve been living a pause in the middle for about 2 weeks now, thanks to a vacation interlude and now a week of packing. We’ve wrapped up the school year and jobs and said many of the good-byes, yet we’ve not yet touched down in the water of new beginnings.

The best thing we can do for this middle moment is take in the view. Soak up the last moments with our beloveds here rather than sit idly by in anticipation of the newness of our upcoming life. Notice.

Because that’s what keeps us jumping, isn’t it? The way we feel before we hit the water sends us back to the ladder for more. It may be slightly scary. We brace ourselves to avoid the pain of belly flop. Eventually we get the guts to try a few spins or kicks as we leap to make the most of it.

So, here’s to allowing the pause. May we jump. May we land. And may we notice that place in the middle.

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The Human Race

I know nothing and don’t pretend to be qualified to write on the topics of race or racism. I’ve grown up as a white woman in largely monochromatic communities that resemble me. In college I became friends with people with different skin tones, but I’ve not maintained those relationships as part of my inner circle. The people with whom I spend most of my time, and therefore those who I become most like, look just. like. me. This is not something I’m proud of and it’s not something I know how to remedy.

My experiences are limited. But here are the experiences, often of others, that are shaping the way I absorb what is happening in our society right now.

Growing up in a rural white community, I had only 2 black kids in my entire school. Siblings, both were gifted – academically, musically and athletically. At one point Terry had a bet going with a friend, a chicken fight to see who would finally break down and cut his hair. In the meantime, Terry’s unruly afro took the spotlight on the basketball floor. A neighboring school decided he looked like Rufio (from Hook) and taunted him with the Ruf-i-ooooooo chant throughout entire games. I cannot speak for how Terry internalized it all; I can only speak from my experience. I grew up in a time and place where it was okay for large groups of white people to taunt a person because of how he looked, which was largely related to his race.  No one stopped those students. No administrators, from either school stood up and said, “you know, it’s not okay to taunt someone because he looks different than you.” They simply expected Terry to let it roll off his back. I’d bet the knowing adults thought it would make him more resilient or stronger or something.

Now, looking back, I can understand if it made him angry. It makes me a little angry – and I was there and I did nothing to stop it either.

My friend E is freaking brilliant. If you don’t have a friend like this, you should get one. When she starts talking about race and socioeconomic inequality, I sit down and secretly take notes. Y’all, she and her husband share as a family value the work of becoming anti-racist.

She describes current racism in America as a moving walkway, like what you find in the airports. The current of society is going in a particular direction and a person’s race impacts how they experience the world. You don’t have to be actively walking on that path to be moving in the direction of racism – our society will move you in that direction anyway. She says that what it takes is people making the deliberate decision to turn and walk against the current of culture to become anti-racist.

You don’t have to fly flags, wear white sheets at night or make inappropriate jokes to be racist. Really, all it takes is a denial of the general undercurrent of our society to be moving in the direction of racism.

That’s not a direction I want to be heading with my family. (If you chant loud enough, perhaps we can convince E to guest post the ways in which she and her family try to live out their anti-racist values. *Begin slow clap*)

My friend Kia is a young black woman currently living in Tennessee. Not long ago she shared on Facebook that she had been driving through rural Tennessee, alone, and needed gas. It took driving by at least 2 gas stations to fill up, because both had on the premises a prominent confederate flag.

I’ve had my own sketchy-gas-station experiences, late at night and in unknown parts of town (ahem, Springfield) where I get in the car pretty quickly and lock the door. Unfortunately, this is simply part of the way I experience the world as a woman. Even with limited similarity in experiences, I cannot imagine having to drive on, not because you’re philosophically opposed to such a symbol, but because that symbol conjures actual fear.

That symbol doesn’t represent to Kia the “rich history of the south.” It reminds her that she is not welcome because she is black.

Two of the most dangerous words in our language are “we” and “they.” When those arise in conversation, my warning flags go up. As I’ve attempted race conversations in the past, those words are used. Some people want to point out the way “they” act – violence, rioting and the like. Yet when white cops get violent with young, unarmed black girls, or a white teenager open fires on unarmed black church-goers, we just say “he’s crazy.” We treat it like an isolated event, even when a scroll through the newsfeed of the past 2 years says otherwise. That cop didn’t become crazy in a vacuum. He learned these attitudes and beliefs from somewhere, namely the larger society. I’m guessing he had more people in his life snickering at his racist jokes than telling him that they weren’t appropriate.

I was recently driving to a friend’s house in an upper-class neighborhood. It was a beautiful day and many of her neighbors were out doing yardwork. One of her neighbors was black. I thought to myself, this is what I’ll miss: black neighbors who live similar lives to white neighbors.

Where we are moving, there is very little diversity. My children’s primary experience of black people will be when we leave the community, specifically if we’re in a service role. But I don’t want my children to learn that black people need our help and white people live in the nice houses. When much of our experience of racial differences comes when we visit pockets of people who are different from us in all ways, not just in race, I’m not sure we make any progress.

I want my kids to have black teachers, black doctors and black bankers. I know people balk at affirmative action, but until the highest paid roles in our country represent our racial make-up we need to create space for those opportunities to exist.

Does this mean seeking out black professionals in my own life? Is it wrong or okay if I choose to do business with them because they’re black? Does choosing someone based on race actually take us in the reverse direction? Am I allowed to ask these questions publicly?

I hesitate to post this publicly. It’s a sensitive issue and I’m not known for my sensitivity. I’m positive I’ve said things wrong. I’ve portrayed an unfair picture. I know I will get, “yes, but…” pushback. But I also know that sitting by silently won’t change anything, either. I’ve been reading and following the #saysomething campaign and I see other white, female writers who feel as unqualified as I do to write anything about the black experience in America.

But, as a friend recently told me, it’s better to say jumbled yet well-intentioned words than nothing at all. The willingness to fumble my way through it is my best attempt to do the right thing.  I don’t have answers, but I know silence won’t bring about change when it comes to race issues in America.

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The easy thing to do

Wheels touched down on Dayton soil last night late, thus now it’s time I leave behind my palm trees, fruity drinks and the effort of trying to finish a novel before the end of the trip. Now we hit the ground running. We walked in at 1 am last night to half packed boxes, zero groceries and a list of questions for a realtor the size of my arm. My head hit the pillow as I was thinking, “shit just got REAL.”

We returned to frustration. Stress. Change. Goodbyes and hello-agains. And do you know what the easiest thing to do is? Doubt.

Did we make the right decision? Will we be as happy? Is this what we’re “supposed” to do?

Our culture simply doesn’t embrace the fact that hard things can be good things and walking against that current takes more energy than I imagined possible.

The fact of the matter is, the easiest thing you can do in the world is nothing at all. Of course it’s easier for us to stay than go. Of course it’s easier for us to remain in our house than move to a new one. But by staying the same, we’re never afforded the opportunity for growth that change brings about.

On the cusp of change, bracing for the fall, our minds crave sameness. Homeostasis. Doubt is our mind’s way of returning us to what is known.

Yet we’re not called to live based on what we know, but rather that for which we hope. And not the “gee, it’d be nice” hope. The Hebrew word for hope carries a connotation of “waiting.” Something that is not, yet will be. Yet we will never arrive at hope revealed when we keep returning to what we know – that is a thread in the story of the people of God time after time after time.

Someone much smarter than me said* the opposite of faith is not doubt – it’s certainty. Knowing. The thing that keeps us from walking into our hope-full reality is what we already know to be true and our fear of leaving it. Our fear that this new thing won’t be as good as our current thing.

Perhaps this is why God’s repeated message – over and over and over, beyond any other commandment, warning or promise – is “do not fear.” He knows our limited minds, our troubled hearts and reminds us that living with hope isn’t always knowing, it’s trusting.

It’s easy to doubt. It’s easy to stay. It’s easy to avoid change. But I suppose that if I had to choose between an easy life and a life filled with daily hope in a future that surpasses my understanding, even at the risk of disappointment, I’d choose a life of hopefulness any day.

May we each choose a life of hope over ease today.

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