by Abigail Card
As we begin our practice, I invite you to take a deep, healing breath. Today, we will let go. Today, we will be uncomfortable. “Namaste” means to bow to the divine in you. We say it as a greeting or a goodbye, recognizing inner beauty and strength. Today, we say it to ourselves.
Breathe in deeply and center your palms at your chest. Bow slightly, noticing the tension in your spine. This position may feel uncomfortable at first. Silly, even. But I invite you to try it; to lean into the discomfort of seeking and accepting self-love.
As thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, and release them. As a baby, love was pure and expectations nonexistent. As you got older, the world placed pebbles of expectation on your shoulders: truths that weren’t yours to carry. But you kept still as those pebbles became a mountain, burying you. Let’s travel back in time to face these unsolicited words, embedded in stone.
By forty-five you should be almost ready to retire, with a hefty bank balance and a vacation home somewhere warm where you can easily escape the life you’ve built. You should be more fit than ever. By any means necessary. Are you partnered? Have you reproduced? You shouldn’t need or want help from anyone, and asking for it is weakness. Smile. But not too much, or you’ll wrinkle. Find a way to look happy or you’re a bitch. Keep wearing trendy clothes. But not too trendy. Keep up with your hair, makeup, house, garden, and hobbies, effortlessly. Consider cosmetic surgery. Wrinkle cream won’t smooth your finish anymore. Ignore any aches and pains from decades of work. Maintain the illusion that age is nonexistent.
Pick up that pebble, acknowledge it, and throw it into the sea. Watch as the pebble hits the water, sinking from sight.
It’s gone now.
Let’s keep digging. You’re doing great.
By age thirty, you should be successful and know exactly who you are. Be confident! Never be exhausted, regardless of averaging four hours of sleep a night for the last decade. If you have any wrinkles or gray hairs, be sure to spend lots of money slathering your body with chemicals mined from the Earth by children in faraway lands. Smile. Be thin. If you aren’t, feel ashamed, even if the invisibility extra weight brings is solace. Fat people are selfish and have no control. Eat only healthy foods, unless you’re naturally thin, then garbage food is perfectly fine. Exercise for a minimum of five hours a week. Smile. Are you drinking a gallon of water a day? I hope all of your clothes are made from hemp and linen but are never wrinkled. They should be from a local boutique.
This pebble is a little bigger. That’s okay. Use both hands if you need to. Now lift that ugly rock up, and throw it into the sea.
Notice the satisfying “plunk” sound it makes as it smashes into the water’s surface tension. Watch the ripple smooth the surface as it releases you.
Notice the lightness of your shoulders. Roll them forward and backward. You are starting to resemble a volcano now, energetic and powerful. Go with this feeling. We’re getting closer to you and the divine light glowing at your center, where your palms gently meet.
At twenty, the world is yours because you’re beautiful. But never acknowledge your beauty, or it makes you a bitch. Smile. Don’t enjoy your beauty, that makes you a slut. Be kind to others, but be careful about being kind to men: it’s your fault if they get the wrong idea. Your body placed that idea in their mind, and your smile as they opened the door for you was clearly permission to grab you, even though you’ve never seen them before in your life. Never walk alone. Never go to a party alone. Never accept a drink. Never stop watching. Never. Stop. Being. Aware. When a man a foot taller than you who outweighs you by fifty pounds robs you of your autonomy, no one will believe you were blameless.
Now, you’re going to want to really bend with your knees for this one, spine straight. Remember, you have the strength to hurl this boulder into the sea.
As the waves crash towards you, allow them to wash over your feet. Notice the sand pulling away from your feet as the waves recede, taking even more of your mountain with it. Breathe in.
Do you feel your strength growing? Close your eyes. Notice the surge through your veins and across your synapses. Keep digging.
Fifteen. Don’t be dramatic. Ever. Always smile. No one cares what you have to say. Smile. Be thin. Be thinner. What matters is how you look. Ignore catcalls. Smile. Ignore when someone ‘accidentally’ gropes you in the halls or at your first job. Don’t tell. Your waist isn’t small enough, go run five miles. Smile. Stop eating. If they make you eat, throw up. Smile. How dare you go out with the boy everyone else thought was hot? What a whore. He hurt you? That’s what you get. Smile. Be humble. Never brag about your grades or running time. Try, but not too hard. Smile. You’re popular, so don’t whine about depression. Remember that your friends aren’t your friends. Smile.
This rock may seem too heavy, but it’s not. Launch it like your arms are a catapult.
Now step back a little farther. Hold your strength steady. One more rock, and you’ll be able to step out of the rubble.
Kindergarten is exciting, so don’t be afraid to leave the safety of home. If someone hurts you, don’t tell. The teacher doesn’t have time to mediate. If it’s a boy, it’s because he likes you. Be nice to him. Smile. Don’t answer too many questions or raise your hand too often. Intelligence in little girls is annoying, and it might make the other kids feel self-conscious. Always look cute, that’s what people like. Don’t get dirty. Girls aren’t dirty. Don’t let a boy kiss you. But if he does, don’t hurt his feelings. Don’t fight back, you might mess up your clothes or make a scene. Smile.
Pick up this last rock. Look at it. Acknowledge it. With both hands, lift it above your head.
Now throw it as far as you can. Notice your strong biceps thrusting forward, releasing these expectations into the sea. Watch it glitter. There are no more rocks, only warm sunlight and sparkling water. Step out of the refuse of your past.
Once more, breathe in. And out.
Fill your lungs with salty air.
Bow to your strength.