Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: new to town (page 1 of 3)

Every 7 Years

When I was pregnant for the youngest and miserably waiting to go into labor and life was hard and my facebook friends were tired of hearing how I STILL had not gone into labor, one of the hardest days was the one in which I dropped a bowl on my big toe. At that point, I plead with God to induce me, fully believing that I would never feel the first pang of labor because my toe hurt so badly. (This never happened. Although it did for a cousin, which I found to be a phenomenal story.)

Months later, I noticed the gash of black and blue left by the bowl had crept all the way up my toenail. That dead spot, complete with unique curvature, didn’t stay put. Then, it was gone. My toe recovered. If you look at the nail now, you would have no idea I had ever cursed a bowl. This was both exciting (no gimpy toe) and also, sad. As if a part of my physical self that had been present for my final birth story was now gone, forever.

I’ve read/heard from multiple sources recently that your physical body is a different one from seven years ago. Our personal collection of flesh and bone contains a rhythmic dying and rebirthing cycle in individual cells, tissues and thus organs. It’s not like your entire spleen died off at once and got a newer, younger version – only that none of the cells that were functioning there seven years ago are still alive and working today. It’s the same, but completely different.

At the cellular level, we are different people than we were 7 years ago. In full truth, we’re different people than we were yesterday, as some of that life/death rhythm happened in the past 24 hours. But in totality, we’re different bodies. I can tell you, as a mother, it’s quite obvious that my body is different from 7 years ago when I started the birthing process. But it’s not about my midsection. I find this bit of information quite freeing, to know that my body matches my mind and my heart and all the rest of me in being different than it/I was 7 years ago.

If you start looking through the world with eyes for the 7 years, you see it everywhere. The Waldorf philosophy (of education) takes this 7-year cycle of change within the same human being pretty seriously. My MIL’s pastor says that we must recreate ourselves professionally about every 7 years.  Marriage gurus speak of the “7 year itch” which makes sense – we’re sharing space and days with someone who is, quite literally, a different person than you married. But the same person. What do you do with these changes in the midst of the consistencies?

The 7 year switch becomes the queen of spades when returning to the town where I emerged into adulthood. We left 7 years ago, barely pregnant with the firstborn, with different jobs, beliefs, tastes in books and ways in which we spent our time, energy and money (all of which – we had no idea – we had so much, in comparison to the present). We were different people. And everyone who remained in the 419, to whom we now return and look forward to spending time with – they’re entirely new people, too. The same. But different.

The same, yet different. Now, I wonder what happens next, when we all give space to one another to be the same, yet different. It’s not just that I don’t eat the same foods or that a friend doesn’t live in the same house or have the same job. Those realities simply mark time in the continual process of becoming different, yet the same. Others might call that growing up, but that comes with a connotation that 7 years ago I wasn’t quite there. Not yet enough. Only a part of the whole – and that’s simply not true.

I was fully myself 7 years ago, when I lived in this town the first time. And I am fully myself today. The brown parts of my eyes look the same but the tiniest pieces that make them up are new and different. My heart does the same work of pumping blood to the rest of my body, but the tissues that come together to do this work weren’t around when I drove a silver Accord. The minivan scene is all they’ve known. Yet my Odyssey is something that no one in my new/old town ever knew of me.

Perhaps, then, the greatest work we can do is be present to our realities of today. The past 7 years have formed us, but it is not our make up. That will change in the next 7. We can take comfort in the fact it’s supposed to be that way. To try to remain something we once were becomes a futile effort, filled with expensive beauty treatments and riddled with disappointment. We cannot – nay, I say, should not – be what we were. We should be what we are, and give everyone around us the gift of that freedom.

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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 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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