Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Lovely Day

Mmmmm.... what a lovely day. After weeks of AT&T phone robots, technical support, and terrible "can you please hold" music, I am finally connected to the internet at home. Connected to the world (wide-web)! Lame, I know... but it feels really good to be connected, and I plan to update the blog more frequently now. So much has transpired these past few months that it almost seems ridiculous to squeeze it into a single blog post, so i'll just continue with my lovely day...

After my AT&T karma was settled... i made it just in time for Paula's Advanced Hatha Yoga class at noon. It was such a yummy class: We started off with a sweet meditation, imagining the Higher Self, as a separate entity, standing before us, with Truth and open arms. Am I ready to receive? If Truth knocked on the door, would we know it?... We moved into a great asana practice with lots of shoulder and hip opening, and did some partner work playing with pincha mayurasana and rabbit pose, ending in a nice long juicy savasana. Mmmmmm. Thank you Paula. Namaste.

Next on the agenda was Religion in America. Today we moved through the timeline to African American religious traditions, and a classmate gave a powerful presentation from within the tradition. It was a great presentation, passionate, and inspired, but it was heavy and very controversial. Without getting into too much detail... the title of the presentation was, "Are we Africans or The Lost Identity of Ancient Hebrews, the Untold Truth" As the title says, the student's presentation was to reveal the "untold truth" of the ancient Hebrew people. Using the Bible as guide, he revealed scriptures (mostly Deuteronomy and Leviticus) which point to a very different story then the one many of us grew up with. The ancient Hebrews, the people of the Tribes of Israel, he claims, are not the Jews of modern Europe/America. The real Hebrews of the Book, are of African descent. After Moses freed his people, they migrated south to Africa, spreading the tradition of Abraham. Eventually in the 1600's, with the Atlantic-Slave trade routes, these captured Hebrews were taken on ship to the New World, to the Americas, bringing us to today. He used Biblical references of plagues and prophecies depicting the real Hebrews. Explaining how the European translation of the image of Jesus, became a blonde haired Caucasian, while scripture describes him as dark-skinned with "woolly" hair.

What I found personally most controversial about the presentation, was the underlying argument that the Jews of Eastern Europe, the Ashkenazi Jews (my direct ancestors) were not the Hebrews of the Book we have believed - they have stolen the identity and tradition of the ancient African Hebrews. Whoa, hold on. So the 6 million Jews which were slaughtered during the Nazi Holocaust of WWII, were not the Hebrews of the Bible? Have they mistaken their own identity as the "chosen people" of God? Are they not the same peoples who have been persecuted and oppressed time and time again for the last few thousand years? Okay, I'll stop myself right here, because clearly I don't know enough of the history, nor have I studied the Hebrew Bible enough to fully understand. But this raises a lot of red flags and I encourage all who are interested, to join me in investigating this further...

This hypotheses stirred up a lot for me, especially as I try and understand my own cultural identity, being born to both Jewish parents, and with grandparents and extended family from Eastern Europe (Ashkenazi Jews). This created a nice bridge to my Geography 304 class, studying ethnicity, race, and human migration. People today ask, what are you? What they really mean, I think, is why does your face look like that? Where does your face come from? What ethnic backgrounds comprise your facial composition? lol...Well... I'm a Polish/Lithuanian/Jew...although I don't know a single Pole or Lithuanian, and I don't go to Temple.... Identity is a strange thing, living in the United States in 2009. I feel I'm striving to find this balance between understanding the past, knowing where I came from, while at the same time not allowing "my" story to draw lines, to divide and separate me from the rest of humanity. Maybe, being proud without having pride. Honoring my ancestors and our roots, honoring tradition, yet not being stuck or bound by it. Finding new ways of expression, creating tradition which is inclusive to all, universally sacred. Jew? Hebrew? Human? Sometimes I just don't know... At the moment I feel like a Jew-Bu-Sufi-Yogi.

I ended the day, teaching Community Yoga at Om Shala. It was one of the best classes I've taught yet, twelve students showed up and the energy was amazing. The almost full moon was shining down, illuminating Chandra room as we breathed and flowed through a beautiful practice. We ended class with 3 deep continuous AUM's, which were so loud they woke up Peacock who was resting on the massage table next door! I have to say, I am fully enjoying this new turning as a yoga instructor - it is the most incredible "job" I've ever had! It's such a pleasure to be able to create sacred space for people to connect to their bodies, connect to their breath - to be an instrument of guidance and to share this special practice of Yoga. I feel so tremendously blessed and honored to be of service, and am so excited as this journey continues to grow and unfold. I am learning and growing more each day than ever before. One student said to me after class a few weeks ago, "Ya know, you're probably half my age... but I'll tell you what, there's not one person on this Earth I can't teach something to, and there's not one person on this Earth who can't teach me something. Thank you." If we can keep this humble attitude, this open-heartedness towards each other throughout the day, I think life becomes a bit lighter, our smiles a bit brighter. Breathing in Ya Shakur, the attitude of gratitude. And exhaling ahhhhhh, melting into stillness.

Aum. Shanti. Shalom. Peace.