“Jump into experience while you are alive.” —Kabir
On Valentine’s Day I awakened wanting to give myself love, but I wasn’t sure how. A yoga class would be a great start, I thought. I chose a restorative class since life has been hectic, and halfway through the class I relaxed so deeply that I felt like a different person. Why is it so hard to slow down? I wondered. My life is filled with doing. I don’t give myself enough time to just be. My mind’s default setting clings to the past or races ahead to the future. It does not often enough dwell upon or delight in the present moment, where opportunities for love and joy are most readily available.
After yoga I went to Whole Foods for groceries and green juice. Then I headed to a bookstore to pick up a poetry book. Leaving the store, I heard violin music coming from the adjacent alley. I had to walk through that alley to get to my car. I stopped to listen to the musician. He was accomplished. I dug out a dollar and dropped it into his case.
“Wow,” I said, when he stopped playing, “The acoustics are great!”
“I know,” he said. “I love playing here.”
“Do you get many people walking by?” I asked.
“Some,” he said, “but I do it mostly for the acoustics.”
“Here, listen,” he said, and resumed playing.
The music made me want to move, but I worried about making a spectacle of myself by dancing in the street. I live here. I’m a mother. A respectable citizen. Respectable citizens don’t dance in the street for no reason.
But wait. I had a reason. It was Valentine’s Day and I’d awakened that morning wanting to give myself love. Wouldn’t dancing honor my Spirit? Wouldn’t that be a form of love? Hadn’t it been great slowing down and getting really present in yoga class? Wouldn’t dancing here now allow me to be fully present in this moment? And didn’t it seem like it would be a blissful moment? Yes!
I looked around. Not many people, I thought. I can keep my movements small. I began swaying, then moving my arms. Then my feet. A man and women entered the alley. I stopped dancing and smiled at them. They walked by, and I resumed dancing, tentatively, looking around. The musician’s eyes were closed. He was deep into the music and that’s where I longed to be. No people. I’m going for it. I let the music take me. When people showed up, I gravitated toward one of the alley walls to make space for them to walk, but kept dancing—against the wall. People dropped money into the violin case and I wondered if they thought I was part of the act. Nobody looked at me like I was weird or crazy—or perhaps I didn’t notice. If invisibility had been an option, I would have chosen it. I didn’t want to perform. I wanted to play and explore. I wanted to experience the music. I wanted to dance.
The musician opened his eyes, saw me dancing, and smiled.
“I listen with my body,” I said.
“I see that,” he said, grinning.
I told him I’d studied at Juilliard.
“Classical dance?” he asked.
“Do you dance with a company?”
“Oh no, that was a long time ago. I don’t dance anymore,” I said. But then added, “Well, I dance when I get the chance, which isn’t often enough.”
“What would you like me to play?” he asked.
“Whatever you like,” I said.
He played a haunting contemporary melody I’d never heard before and I danced with abandon, impervious to passersby. It wasn’t until I let go and gave into the movement completely that I realized the day was sunny and warm—a Southern California miracle. Two stately palm trees fanned across the blue sky, under which I danced my Valentine’s Day heart out.
When the music stopped I said, “Thanks, that was great. Happy Valentine’s Day. This has been a wonderful interlude in my day.”
“Me too,” the musician said.
I dug into my wallet, pulled out a twenty, and dropped it into his case. Then I gave him my business card. I wanted to keep in touch with this guy. Not only because I thought it might be nice to have him play at one of my literary salons, but because I wanted to remember this man whose music pulled me out of my shell, this musician whose music not only reminded me, but inspired me, to stop and take advantage of a moment I might have missed if I’d held back. Heck, why not dance in the street? Why not engage often in the things we love?
What do you love and when was the last time you experienced it?
Last week a beloved writing client, Patty, sent me a photo of a statue sculpted in 1941 by Gerhard Marcks. The statue resides in the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden on the UCLA campus. Her name is Maja. According to Wikipedia, a “maja” can refer to a main-belt asteroid, a boa constrictor, a crab, a mountain peak in Kosovo, a feminine given name, a river in Romania, or a traditional Spanish woman. This last reference is what I see most in Marck’s Maja—a traditional Spanish woman. Well, maybe not traditional. And perhaps not necessarily Spanish, but a hot, spicy, self-assured woman willing to stand in her glory—a woman, who like the jacaranda behind her, is in full bloom.
The name “Maja” also reminds me of the prefix, “Maha,” in my chosen middle name, which means great. When I look at this picture I am inspired to flower, to grow and expand into my largest Self. It makes me want to live a fully realized life.
I’ve been reading Neal Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God and am struck by this quote: “The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore, not to find out Who You Are, seek to determine Who You Want to Be.
I want to be like Maja, radiant and self-assured. I want her pedestal, as well as the rays of sun that shine down upon her. I wouldn’t mind whatever rain drenches her; it has nourished the jacaranda. I want to be like this tree with its deep roots, wide branches, and gorgeous blooms. I want to be silk—and purple.
Purple is the color of the crown chakra. It is the color of royalty as well as divinity. Knowing I reside in God’s kingdom right here on earth; understanding that I need not learn what I need to know, but simply remember it; connecting with inner wisdom daily; trusting myself deeply; practicing compassion and love; having faith—these things make me bloom. They are the purple flowers and finely chiseled statues of my life. Here is where I most wish to stand: luxuriating under this tree with Maja, the beautiful; Maja, the great. I am statue, tree, sky, earth, and God—and they are me—though I forget. Thank you, Patty, for sending me this picture, which helps me not only remember who I am, but who I long to be.
Who do you long to be? I’d love to hear about it.