The other day I was driving with the kids back from the beach. Rush hour. We took the small streets, trying to avoid big traffic. The light was turning golden, and the way that it moved through the branches of the Jacaranda trees was spectacular. Still some purple woven through them. Dance in their stance.
I reached for my water bottle and took a sip. Sand. Sand in my teeth. You’re gonna maybe think I’m weird, but in that moment I kinda liked it. I took another sip, and it took me right into my childhood. My dad, my sister, and I on the beach in Tel-Aviv. Hot sun. Warm Mediterranean Sea. Salty hair. Lots of new freckles. Yellow sand. Handstands in the water. The guy with the ice cream going back and forth. Sweet and sandy grapes. A sip of warm Coca-Cola. Sand in my teeth.
Sand in my teeth feels like Summer.
Kids singing in the back.
“This is the life!” I thought as a purple Jacaranda flower landed on my windshield. You know those moments when you are overwhelmed by the beauty of your life?
There’s something about Summer. It makes me feel free. Much more connected to how I want to live, and to who I want to be. It makes me feel like ME. Spending Summers with my kids is the jewel of my life.
Inside my shell – my domesticated life – I battle with the agitation of the grain of sand that is routinized existence. The fucking school year. Being under the pressure of a schedule made by The System. Racing the clock to bedtime every day. Always having to be home early. Kitchen slave. Laundry maid. Vacuum cleaner. Floor wiper. Cleaning lady. Making sure everyone is eating on time and sleeping enough and ready for the next day to do the same fucking thing over again.
Then comes the Summer. And the pearl emerges.
“How many grains of sand are there?” A friend of my daughter’s asked the other day.
As many as the blessings in my life.
Not everyone in the world gets to have even a fraction of the freedom and joy that I get to experience. I cannot not think about the children at the border. I cannot ignore the pain of those parents. I cannot not imagine what it’s like to be them – separated form their children. I cannot stop thinking about the little ones taking care of the ones even more little than them. The conditions they are in. The fear. The pain. The trauma. And I cannot be immersed in my freedom without the weight of those who are imprisoned because they’re running for their lives.
While I tell my girl: “Not so deep, my love! Stay close to shore!” other mamas watch their baby girls drown along with their drowning dads.
This is America. The Land Of The Free.
Different schools of yoga philosophy will tell different stories about freedom. In most, freedom is a goal. In some, freedom is the starting point. (Tantric philosophy in particular sees freedom as our source). You are free, they say. Free to bring yourself into the world however you want to. Free to create the life you wish to live. Free to do wonderful things. Free to be the person that you are, and to become the person that you want to be. So free, that you can choose to do horrible things too.
So who do you want to be?
One of the words for freedom in Sanskrit is Svatantriya. When you break it down it means: Self Looming.
Freedom is the process of weaving ourselves into being. We get to create who we are. We have the capacity to be intentional and keep becoming who we want to be. By doing so, we draw lines, and grow borders. To express our freedom, we must establish clear boundaries.
But boundaries should not be rigid. If we seek stability, we must, actually, keep them fluid. Our definitions are more powerful when they have flex. Our relationships grow deeper when we are clear, but not too certain, flexible, but not push-overs, anchored, but not immovable, in the flow, but not shapeless, protective, but not selfish. Open and discerning. Vulnerable and strong. Solid and not stuck. Spacious and grounded.
Because here is the deal; we don’t only loom the tapestry of who WE are. We actually weave ourselves into the great fabric of ALL that exists.
Our independence is not without interconnectedness. We are in charge of ourselves. And we belong to everything and everyone else around us.
We are created by the world – by sun and moon and the times we live in, by where we grew up and by where we live now, by who we are surrounded by and by the whole of humanity.
And as we create ourselves, we create the world.
What we do, what we say, what we ignore, who we disregard, how we handle things, or how we disengage – it all has impact. We affect our environment.
We are free to choose what to do with the circumstances we find ourselves in. Free to make something more with what we have been given.
And with this great freedom comes you know what.
Yes, the only one you have the power to shape and transform is your own self. Yes, you need to protect yourself and take care of yourself. But you are not only responsible for your own self. We have responsibility for the world around us. Because what we do, and what we don’t do, affects the ecosystem of which we are a part. Our families. Our friends. Our communities. The animals. The plants. The planet. The Solar system. The galaxy. The universe.
We cannot just close our borders and take care of only ourselves. We must keep our hearts open and show up for each other as well.
Without openness, without accountability, without giving, without receiving, without participating, without lubricating and keeping the boundaries fluid, we end up with a fort – protected and “safe,” and seemingly untouched by the messiness of the world. Without taking care of each other, and taking responsibility for our parts, and risking the vulnerability of interaction with what triggers us, we become cold and rigid.
When our boundaries are so strong and so selfish, that we can’t let a grain of sand in, we not only miss out on the opportunity to make a pearl, but we end up with a freedom that is much more like aloneness than independence.