The Story of a Practice
The Story of a Practice Part One (Conception):
1. When I was 11 years old I had to write my first research paper, because the tiny Christian middle school my mother sent me to fancied itself academically stringent/progressive. In truth it was a repressed space led by two headmistresses who lived in a pastor’s attic and used wooden paddles on the boys. They wore knee socks and corduroy skirts; they were chaste, unapproachable. Our education was dominated by European history and each year we’d put on a play about the Protestant Reformation because that was Miss Dey’s area of expertise. School was weird, home was violent, and I chose for my topic, the Holocaust, because I needed those survivor stories and I needed to be heartbroken about something outside of myself. The ones who lived to tell their tales were fierce, their stories made my suffering seem more bearable, less useless.
2. By college my relationship with self was deeply fraught and my body was a thing to experiment with: substances, shit-food, sex, lack of sleep. I dissociated from it almost entirely except for using it as a means of altering my brain. I smoked a lot and dropped a lot of acid and tried all the drugs I could find and made art because all I cared about was touching outer limits. Body was a thing to transcend. Or run from, or ignore or numb.
3. Enter yoga, introduced by my beautiful dansko-clad Argentine neighbor Ale (who had luminous skin and drank Yerba mate) shortly after 9/11, at a familiar crossroads, because isn’t that where all growth happens? I could keep anesthetizing painful feelings or I could try a pursuit that offered a distraction in the best possible way from looping negative thoughts. For a couple of blessed hours I could focus on the bead of sweat dripping down the small of my back and feel the edge of my foot pressing against the floor. I learned to down-regulate. I learned how to control the volume, at least some of the time.