Rainy days in the Holy City no.2 #vscocam #charleston
Wife, most importantly.
Matt: Would this be considered twilight? Me: Yea, I think so. Matt: I like it. @matthewakery #charleston
The music of Tape Waves hurts my heart in a good way.
My hubby and I were able to catch them live at the Tin Roof on Friday night, their performance bathed in blue light. The kids closest to the stage danced with delight and minimalism: foot tapping, simple swaying. I didn’t need ear plugs and could drown in the sweet sound of Kim’s vocals and Jarod’s smooth lead.
A few of their tracks have been on repeat in my iTunes player for a couple weeks now. “Ready Now” is definitely my favorite at the moment. Kim’s voice is vulnerable and delicate, and Jarod’s lead line reflects the feeling of pining for one’s lover. How did they do it?
No, it’s not because I’m pregnant.
I was 23 years old when I received my certificate to teach yoga. As soon as I recovered from the euphoria of training in the desert, I put all of my energy into teaching as much as possible. For a period of about two years, I taught an average of 12-15 classes a week, but sometimes as many as 19. I taught in schools, gyms, and churches. I didn’t have an opportunity to teach in an actual yoga studio and I think that’s mostly because I was very apprehensive of the idea. The culture here in Charleston is borderline devotee and I couldn’t bring myself to commit to any one studio’s methodology.
I was part of a group of women who were certified by the school that I went to and I wanted very much to open up a studio of our own. It’s probably best that it didn’t happen because most of our group consisted of married moms who had tight schedules and other commitments, which would have left me at the helm and I don’t think I was mature enough to take on that responsibility. (Also, I don’t think my husband was willing to go into debt over it.) In the mean time, studios were popping up all over the place and it seemed like everyone I knew (and didn’t know) was getting certified.
Did I mention that I was certified to teach Christian yoga?
That’s basically the equivalent of tightrope walking because I didn’t really fit into the yogi world, but I didn’t quite fit into the Christian framework either. Some yoga teachers considered my training inauthentic, which made for some uncomfortable conversations and moments of self-doubt. Celebrity church leaders deemed yoga blasphemous, idolatrous, and demon worship. Once Charleston churches caught wind of that stance, I started to notice a backlash from the people who were supposed to be “my people.”
So, there I was in my yogic limbo. I tried to carve out opportunities for myself. At one point, I waited for one year to initiate two programs: one for a hospital and another for a community center. Despite what I hope was their best intentions, they left me by the wayside and wished me well. I helped a friend open up a non-profit women’s health center, but the folks with the thickest wallets weren’t willing to donate if yoga had anything to do with it. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of heartache, burnt bridges, and split ways.
I put yoga on the back burner. I got a fulltime job, which exhausted me to the point of not caring if I ever taught again. I pulled away from the group of women who shared my same certification as they continued to pave the way for Christian yoga to have a presence in Charleston. I occasionally went to a yoga class, but always left feeling a little cynical.
I was having an identity crisis.
You see, I enrolled in that Christian certification program because I really thought God wanted me to do it. I had this fantasy of opening up a studio, teaching with my friends, and leading people to worship Jesus on their yoga mats, but the more I pressed into this vision, the more pain I experienced. It was like God had said “maybe” and I just heard him say “yes.” One door after another slammed shut in my face. One friendship after another resulted in miscommunication and separation. Every time I tried to make this yoga thing work, whether Jesus was part of it or not, it hurt.
And I just didn’t want to hurt anymore.
For a long time, I could not get on my yoga mat without weeping. I couldn’t do a sun salutation without grieving what I’d lost because of yoga. I couldn’t rest in savasana without feeling absolutely confused and distraught. There was no peace in my practice, but I kept practicing because nothing else brought me any peace either.
It wasn’t just the yoga aspect of my life that was in tatters. Everything else was falling apart, too. My husband and I left our church kicking and screaming, which led to a long period of isolation and depression as we tried to recover. I found out some traumatic information about my childhood that sent me immediately into months of intense counseling and rocking back and forth in the dark. My closest friends were no longer in the same zip code and I hated my job. I think 2011-2012 was one of the loneliest and saddest years of my entire life.
And then I got pregnant.
My husband and I agreed that it would be best for me to stay at home and focus on taking care of myself. I was in such a fragile state, he wasn’t sure I could handle working while growing a human being. Unexpectedly, I started to heal. It was like my unborn daughter was forcing me to face my guilt and self-hatred. She reignited my sense of purpose and I became happy again. She also got me back on my mat. The bliss I first felt when my yoga practice started over seven years ago is slowly making its way back into my bones.
My friends ask me when I’ll start teaching again. I don’t really know what to say to that. They try to remind me that I’m a great teacher, that they feel so relaxed in my classes. I can say with confidence that I am a good yoga instructor. Every class I taught was done with absolute love and care. I intentionally created an environment that would foster safety and sanctuary. And it didn’t matter to me if I taught in front of a cross or a carved wooden statue of the Buddha.
But it matters to other people.
They want you to pick a side of the fence.
It makes them feel less afraid.
There’s a story about Jesus’ disciples getting mad that a guy who’s not in their group is casting out demons and healing people in Jesus’ name. Of course, Jesus thinks this is silly and says, “Whoever isn’t against us is for us.” I think a lot of Christians forget that story. And a lot of Christians forget that each of our stories are different and won’t always sync up.
I don’t teach yoga (right now) because the doors that I want to walk through are shut and the ones that are open lead to places I don’t want to go.
I don’t teach yoga (right now) because it’s an ego trap. I’ve taken way too many yoga classes full of sycophants who love it when their teacher drops an eff-bomb.
I don’t teach yoga (right now) because I’m an introvert and a highly sensitive person, which a lot of people think don’t make for a great teacher.
And honestly, I don’t teach yoga (right now) because a lot of Christians think that what God wants for them, he wants for everyone. This applies to the Christians who think yoga is evil as well as the Christians who think yoga is good.
Stop making your story someone else’s story.
You’re robbing God and a human being of a unique and beautiful relationship.
Nathan Durfee, a visual artist based in Charleston, S.C., recently completed a collection of paintings and sketches for the City Gallery at Waterfront Park to welcome the 2013 Piccolo Spoleto Festival. On Sunday, he gave an artist lecture to discuss the narrative behind the collection and the central character Bartholomeux the dog.
I did not originally intend to go, but my husband remembered the event around lunchtime and we walked over to the gallery. It was a precious moment when we walked in, Nathan saw my husband, and said, “Awesome, Matt’s here! We can get started now.” Durfee is also gifted with improvisation.
I have not attended many artist lectures in the past, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Despite Nathan’s rising popularity over the past few years, his talk revealed the presence of humility in his character and serious reflection in his work. After only a few minutes, Nathan brought me to tears with a simple statement:
"I don’t need a good idea to start painting."
He was describing what his painting process will look like at times, which sometimes resembles some unplanned brush strokes and imagining what else they could be or become. As an aspiring writer, I was both convicted and compelled by this sentiment. Very often, I will not write because I do not have a good idea, or I’m not sure anyone would find it very interesting. I tend to suffocate my artistic tendencies based upon a false concept of inherent worth. I forget that creation is also experimentation and perfection has nothing to do with the work being “right” or “correct.”
Nathan introduced us to a series of paintings depicting Bartholomeux trying his hand at various musical instruments such as a harp, piano, and trombone. Nathan explained that part of the artist’s journey is discovering her medium. She might not have the inherent ability to use one, or she might be great at another, but her heart isn’t in it. I teared up again when Nathan said that sometimes an artist will commit to a medium mostly because others expect her to or think she should.
Bartholomeux finds that his true instrument is the piccolo. However, he is drowned out by the sound of his brothers who are musicians as well and so Bartholomeux is challenged to find an environment that will appreciate his instrument as well as his passion. Nathan used the example of a violin at a dubstep concert: no matter how good you are, it won’t be appreciated there.
At this point in the lecture, I was a little overwhelmed by how much Nathan’s words were impacting me. I moved to another part of the gallery to reflect on what I heard and how it applies to my life as a writer at this junction. I have been working on a book for quite some time now and hearing Bartholomeux’s story was pressing at my heartstrings. I felt like I was at church - in a good way, that is.
Nathan said he carries a little sketchbook with him everywhere, mainly because he heard it helps him stay on time (sometimes). He also explained that while working on this collection for a period of five months, he committed to only creating work in relation to it. I can only imagine how this level of focus helped him complete the pieces and provided constant fuel to his imagination. These days, it is so easy to become distracted by the many things one can do. To narrow your perspective to one goal and to limit yourself to its completion is extraordinary and inspiring.
A painting reveals Bartholomeux meeting his first fan, a beautiful cardinal. Nathan describes the importance of having someone to give the artist constructive criticism as well as unrelenting support and love for the work. I thought briefly of those people in my life, including Nathan, who have shown me support over the years for my creative endeavors. I thought about whether or not I am supporting my friends in theirs.
One piece illustrates Bartholomeux working on his taxes. Nathan mentioned that he’s not sure about the narrative background for this piece. Did the owners train him to do this? Is he an autonomous dog with amazing capabilities? Nathan went on to say that it’s not important to have all the details fleshed out. If it truly matters, he can always revisit it in the future, and sometimes that compulsion does occur, but he allows it to naturally and without force. Again, as a writer this was a liberating idea. One of the challenges of the book I’m writing is that I feel it is incomplete, that I don’t have all my bases covered. To hear that maybe I don’t have to changed the game completely. It felt like someone just gave me hands.
I am 26 weeks pregnant, so I was getting a little overheated in addition to feeling like I was having a deeply spiritual experience. I made my way over to the other half of the collection before Nathan moved the crowd and sat in front of my favorite piece, “Bartholomeux and Congregation.” It looks like this:
I won’t go into detail about why this piece is so important to me, but I will say that the look on Bartholomeux’s face is so peaceful and the attitudes of the cardinals telling of my experiences with audiences. The majority of the cardinals gaze fondly at the dog, listening with intent and supporting him with their attention. But about three of those cardinals have different expressions. One seems to find the performance odd or unsettling. Another stares blankly off into the distance, as if not paying attention. The third cardinal appears indifferent. And yet Bartholomeux is so engrossed in his creation, in his performance and love for the piccolo, that it doesn’t really matter if the cardinals are listening or not. However, their presence, I’m certain is a great support.
A quick note on the phantom cats: they are characters in this collection that represent the artist’s adversity such as fear and low self-esteem. In one painting, Bartholomeux projects himself from a cannon dressed in a cardinal costume over a tree full of phantom cats. Their symbolism is an obvious struggle in the artist’s life, however I was more moved by the concept of Bartholomeux dressing himself as something else, as something he desired to be or wished to resemble, as a creature that possessed the abilities he needed in order to pursue his passion.
We all come into the world with certain abilities as well as limitations. Sometimes we discover that there are things we simply cannot do because of the limitations imposed upon us from the very beginning. However, there are times when a limitation presents an opportunity to change or evolve. Bartholomeux is a dog who is small, cannot fly, and cannot sing. The cardinal costume does not make him bigger and does not help him fly, but it does provide him with the courage and fortitude to overcome his obstacles in different ways. The piccolo is not his natural voice, but becomes his true voice for self-expression.
Bartholomeux reveals that we do not have to be imprisoned by the circumstances into which we are born, but we are ultimately responsible for our personal growth and happiness. Of course, with the help of a couple good friends and fans along the way.
Come out tonight for some free #yoga at #Charleston County Public Library!
View from a live oak branch. #charleston #trees #happymess
Daily #hangout spot with Molly Bear #dogs #charleston (at Brittlebank Park)