The grain of the dirt road crunched under the thin rubber soles of my shoes as the soft morning light lay gently upon my head, slowly warming me. Waves of stillness and calm washed over me with each step: the warming of my skin, the joyful songs of birds, a breeze carrying the familiar brine of the sea. As I moved through the paradise I had woken to – a place endlessly endeavoring to soothe – my mind was ruminating about my appearance.
Night on Orcas Island had been damp, and I woke with a chill in my head. Without a hat, I improvised by piling my long hair on top of my head and wrapping it with a colorful scarf, like a turban. Covering my body was a boxy, ankle-length batik fabric dress, very commonly known as a mu-mu. And on my feet, a pair of Feiyue martial arts sneakers. This was very unlike my usual garb and, at that time, I very much disliked drawing attention to myself.
While my body walked through the fresh morning, my mind surveyed my clothing and the environment. My internal dialogue went something like this:
“Yes, you look weird right now. But, it’s okay, you need to keep your head warm.”
“And besides, you’re at a hippy resort on Orcas Island. No one here knows you and you’ll never see any of these people ever again.”
“For all these people know, this isn’t weird and you dress like this all the time….”
The sunlight was shining into my head now and my mind rose up and spread out to become the clouds and the breeze and the sea and that very light, instantly and constantly, a soaring that could continue infinitely, but for this realization:
All this time, it is only I that has limited myself. Nothing else.
The lightness of my dissipating mind whooshed back into my body, consolidating in the feeling of solidity beneath my feet, my rib cage expanding and contracting as warmth pulsed throughout my body. The song of the birds drifted back into my ears and a soft smile spread over my lips.
I had been suffering in ways I came to believe defined me. All of the sorrows of human experience I had been searching for myself in – sickness, death, loss, fear – were like this turban around my head. Keeping me simultaneously comfortable and deeply uncomfortable.
And likewise, were all of the exhilarating joys – those moments of dancing or laughing until there is nothing left – that also left me lost in a container of running toward or away from myself.
Years before this moment of standing in an unconstrained self on Orcas Island, I was reclining on a yoga bolster after a very vigorous practice, feeling the coolness of the circulating air in the studio meet my glistening skin and my rib cage expand and contract, expand and contract, letting my mind simply float away in the repetition.
A moment, or maybe even a lifetime later, I heard a voice in the room: “It’s time to come back to your body.”
Slowly and gently, my mind turned back…
I have a body?! I wonder what it’s like.
My eyes opened with the same soft smile – the peace of losing myself.