I am walking on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Port Rome, Civitavecchia, the ancient town, the old port. It is just after 5pm and the warm afternoon sun is helping me to relax. The sea breezes are coaxing me to say what has been stuck, lodged in my body somewhere between my gut and my head. I am far away from the people I love. I am here with myself.
There is the ancient and the new here. They sit side by side. They are built into one another. One sees this more in Europe than in America. I like the perspective it brings. It feels like time passing. It feels like change.
The wind is blowing through me as I find the perfect place to sit and write this. I type on my iPhone. I use only my right index finger. Young people don’t do this. That’s okay, I tell myself. I did not grow up using my thumbs as young people now do. This slows me down anyway and I notice where I am—which is here, on this smooth stone with the wind and the sun on my back, with the sounds of sailboats and water. The wind feels good, its gentle movement a reminder that all is change, all is moving. It is all okay. Typing on your iPhone with your index finger is okay.
My heart is beating, I am breathing, using my index finger to type on my iPhone and life goes on. I say yes to all of this. To the old and the new. I say yes to feeling the feeling of that which is unsaid, unexpressed—at least outwardly. I know I do not need to ‘cleanse’ myself of these feelings. I need to let myself have them. I know that I want to communicate them. Maybe communication is its own type of cleansing. Maybe it will bring connection. Can it connect the space between death and me, and you?
The sailboats before me are white and worn, as is the pale gray rock I sit upon. Fresh water, old stone, the white painted wood of the moored sailboats, and then there is sunlight, the ever-renewing sunlight. Here is possibility. This is why I love change even though it terrifies me.
My life feels so fluid at present. My mother is fighting her fight (in her unique way) in a place far away from me. I don’t think she would call it a fight, but she did say that she was determined not to let that damn pneumonia get the best of her—so maybe it is a fight. She has thus far defied the predictions of imminent death given by her doctors and nurses. Yes she is old, and yes her body is tired. Yet somehow she has found the tenacity to keep on going. She ate 3/4 of a Texas-sized blueberry donut and a cruller donut yesterday, along with two cups of coffee. She said she wants my brother to bring her a cream horn from Pastian's Bakery. She is feeling better and I smile at this. And I feel sad too. I love her deep heartiness, her feistiness. This is the woman who raised me. She is prairie stock. A force of nature. Just ask her nurses.
I say yes to my love of her as much as it hurts. I say yes to my work (which I love) and which takes me away from those I love more than I would like. I say yes to my life, which is moving in new directions. It is both thrilling and terrifying.
I want to be a bridge builder, to connect things. I want to be one who works to connect things that are old with things that are new (or feel new). I want to connect different perspectives and ways of doing things. I think there is something to this. Seeing connection, making connections is a form of creativity. There are many way to connect. Even at a distance. Space is a part of that. So is what we do.
Why is being a bridge builder scary? Because some people do not want bridges of connection. They are afraid of them. They want to stay on their island and keep others off of it lest they corrupt it, or change it someway. I understand the desire to protect the old ways, to keep things as they are, or were, or appear to be. But then there is time. And then there is change.
There is a meeting place; this is where the magic happens. Harold Pinter once wrote:
I know the place.
It is true.
Everything we do
Corrects the space between death and me
All is change. We have this in common. This is why I find bridges thrilling. They cross water and space and canyons. They can bring us together. They can span worlds.
In yoga, as in the rest of my life, I want to build bridges of connection with those both on AND off my island. I want to be in that place, that space. In a sense I already am. Yet I know I could go further, much further. I want to go further. And yet it is hard, really hard when you have been trained in the type of yoga community that I have been trained in. In some ways it is like an island—an island culture of protectionism and exclusivity. There is (among many) a fear of stepping off the island and out of the box as great as that particular island or box might be.
I have never been very good at staying in boxes, and I get restless on islands. And yet I think I too am afraid sometimes. I am not afraid of stepping out of the box or off the island. I am afraid of not belonging. I think I have always had this fear. I think it is a very human fear.
I wonder: can we help build bridges of connection by saying yes to change and to each other, to tradition and innovation, to discipline and playfulness? To life and to death? Can we honor the island and step off of it at the same time? Can we say yes? I say we can.
"Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to be the person they're meant to be." —BKS Iyengar.