I got my hair cut recently. I feel really different, not quite myself. Well, this wasn’t just a regular little haircut, this was a once-every-few-years epic haircut. I had a whole foot length of hair chopped off. I’m feeling kind of lighter and more buoyant but I’m also a little sad. My hair might be easier to maintain now, but I’m also missing the length, the reassuring weight as it hung down my back. I can’t help feeling a little regret about my haircut, although I had it cut specifically to donate the hair to a charity which makes wigs for people how have lost their hair through illness. My aunt passed away earlier this year and her wig eased some of her suffering and made her feel happier about being out in public. I can’t imagine how this feels. So I can’t stay feeling selfish for long, can I?
At class one of my yoga friends commented on my hair, telling me how wonderful it was, even in hits shorter length: so thick, a beautiful curl, rich colour… She said she always had hair envy with me. I told her, in turn, that I’d spent my whole life wishing I had long, straight, blonde hair rather than brown hair with an irritating curl that was impossible to manage! We always want something other than we have.
I was talking to my teacher today about the difficulties I feel in my yoga practice, how I make it so hard for myself. There’s always the promise of some liberating, buoyant moment when my breath and body will come flowing together and I’ll fly through space and time, fully part of the universe, at one with existence, yet somehow also my own beautiful self, full of glorious uniqueness. Sometimes this is where yoga seems to lead me.
But mostly I get in the way of these promising whispers. I drown them out. I refuse to hear them calling to me. More often than not it feels as though a chasm is opening up beneath me. Not a welcoming space full of light and love and cosmic wonder, more a dark void of unknown horror. I will fall headlong into it and then… who knows what might happen? It could be amazing. Or it could feel like oblivion where I would lose myself and never return. It’s a chance I can’t will myself to take. Instead my body holds back in every posture, a-voiding this headlong place and what it might contain. I recoil from it on a very visceral level.
My teacher told me his own version of this is a brick wall. He’s standing behind it, trying to dismantle it brick by brick, slow, laborious work.
He loves the idea of my void. He could fly into it and be free.
I love the idea of his wall. I could control the dismantling of it, one brick safely at a time.
We always want something other than we have.