This morning every time I was upside down or arching back, I saw a pair of golden legs that I had never seen before. They were golden smooth muscular legs that soothed my gaze and entreated me to hug them tight to me. As I moved into down dog, then bridge, then plow, I hoped to see his golden face, but I could only see his legs in shoulder stand, shavasana, then…gone.
Is he still a stranger to me, considering we had no recognition or acknowledgement of each other? I have been practicing Mysore for over a year, breathing and looking at many of the same people over time. We create the sounds of the ocean in a room that heats up with our collective warmth. That feels intimate to me.
Yesterday my yoga teacher spoke about tantra – not in the way people generally associate it with – not tantric sex. The way he described it, it was about being present with the energy and support of other people. Being together.
I have a lot to learn about this. I found myself moving away from people this week. On Tuesday, a stranger asked me to get a hamburger with him at Shake Shack on 86th Street. His name was Peter. He was a photographer. He wore a hat. We started talking on the Barnes and Noble escalator after attending a mildly contentious book discussion on “The Profitable Artist”, by the New York Foundation for the Arts. There were some angry artists in the room. Pete and I were not angry; it’s not our style. He told me about his work. I told him about my creative projects, but I did not want to get into the details. I declined the hamburger. I have never eaten a hamburger; they don’t intrigue me. Also, I did not have the energy to talk to him. Furthermore, buns are unmentionables to me – that morning I had been diagnosed with Celiac.
That brings me to another stranger – my gastroenterologist. He was referred to me by my sister, who was diagnosed with Celiac a month before I was diagnosed. He is my age. He has a pleasant, low key, demeanor. I don’t know if he’s Jewish – but he looks like a guy I could have gone to Hebrew School with – good guy, nice, diligent, smart, familiar. A few days after my endoscopy (anesthesia, tube down throat, biopsy of intestines) my sister asked if I felt comfortable with him. While I would prefer to sing the Shehecheyanu with him rather having him put a tube down my throat, in the grand scope of things, I did feel comfortable with him. Like golden legs, and like Pete, he had a low key, mellow, easy going demeanor and I felt like he was someone who pays attention and does not rush. On the other hand, I am not so comfortable with him that I would want him to biopsy me from the other end.
Three strangers: a pair of legs, a hamburger-eating photographer, and a gastroenterologist who I imagine to be Jewish. What are these three people teaching me about connecting to others – and to myself? I don’t want to project too far into the future, but I’m fairly certain I will never feel comfortable wrapping my arms tightly around someone’s legs without having seen their face. I’d also like to rule out cuddle parties. If I’m not willing to cuddle with strangers, how comfortable am I to hug a friend’s legs? When am I comfortable and energized enough to tell a stranger about myself, and to listen to them? Sometimes I don’t feel like it, and that’s ok. But will I ever be open and willing to have an impromptu meal with a stranger on 86th Street between 3rd and Lex? Will I ever allow a mellow doctor who I fantasize about going to Hebrew School with give me a colonoscopy?
I am aware that the answers to these hypothetical thinking questions do not actually matter. What matters is being loving and squeezable with people I already love today.