Pussyhats and rabbit poses

Originally written as a Lenten devotional for San Francisco Theological Seminary, a reflection on Ephesians 3:14-21:

Right away I cringe at this text. “I bow my knees before the Father,” the writer says, and my third-wave feminist mind conjures images of submission, passivity, and docility. This is not the posture of a woman who makes sure she always has a seat at the conference table during meetings, who changes the lyrics of hymns to call God “mother,” who crochets pussyhats for the Women’s March on Washington. My image of serving Christ is usually more like standing up and shouting before “She-Who-Is.” This is an image I’ve worked hard to integrate into my being, working against societal norms of polite silence for women.

At a yoga class during this Lent, I tried a pose that was new to me. The teacher called it “rabbit” pose or sasakasana. I was on my knees, with my head to the floor, and my hands reaching behind me to grab my heels. This passage from Ephesians flashed through my mind, and it occurred to me that there is no more possible bowing my body could do. I was completely doubled over. The instructor encouraged us to breathe in and out, and as we breathed, to deepen our bends, and to feel the grounding of our bodies. “Thank your body for getting out of your own way,” she said.

I’m not so sure my chubby body was really doing such a good job of getting out of my way as I lay there with my knees pressing my bosom and my sweaty face stuck to my yoga mat. Nevertheless, I thanked my body, my imperfect female body, for bowing its knees, for taking in breath, for helping me to be me.

I thought of all the other kinds of bowing I have done during this Lent: kneeling on the floor to play with a coworker’s 5-year-old son, bending to whisper prayers for a hospice patient who is journeying towards death, kneeling beside the bereaved during a funeral rosary. This rabbit pose and numerous others during my yoga class.

All of this bowing, letting my body get out of my own way, helped me realize that in Christ, and in my bowing, I can also be “rooted and grounded in love.”

 

Advertisements

A song of ascents by the migrant laborer

an Advent devotion based on Psalm 126

When we had the good fortune to cross safely into this land, O God, we became dreamers. We laughed with relief, with optimism, and ironically with fear, knowing that the wrong word upon our tongues could end in deportation and undoing.

Those in other nations looked upon us with envy, believing us to be saved, but suddenly we knew in our flesh that it was not yet true. Some of us are still missing. We dream of our grandmothers, sons, nephews, sisters, husbands, grandbabies, back in the land where we were born but don’t belong.

We rejoice because we may now remit and save and feed the flesh of our torn flesh, the bone of our broken bones.  We praise God for our safety. And we plead for theirs.

Restore us, O God. Make us a whole family. Be like the waters of the Rio Grande, so long absent, suddenly bursting forth, washing away the sins and the hurts and the fences, and soaking the soil and renewing life.

May we who sow their fields with our tears then reap with shouts of joy.

May all families who go out weeping, bearing the seeds of dreams, return home with shouts of joy, carrying their own babies, feeding their own families, kissing their own lovers, embracing their own flesh.

Relieved hostess

Renting my body
Shall I be joyfully debilitated?
I am the house, not the guest
The faith is in joy

Shall I be joyfully debilitated?
Each has been sent as a guide from beyond
The faith is in joy
Turning away my depression

Each has been sent as a guide from beyond
I am the house, not the guest
Turning away my depression
Renting my body

Written at a Companions on the Inner Way retreat, this is a response to Rumi’s “The Guest House” using French pantoum technique from “The Artist’s Rule” by Christine Valters Paintner.

I’m usually goo-goo for Gaga, but …

I’m mulling these lyrics from Lady Gaga’s new album, Artpop, and trying to decide how upset I should be. I usually appreciate the Lady’s message about ownership of our identity and our bodies, and her own love-hate relationship with fame. This song, Do What U Want, opens with an indictment of the press for its attitude of ownership of stars.

And in the chorus, Gaga sings:

“You can’t have my heart
And you won’t use my mind but
Do what you want (with my body)
Do what you want with my body
You can’t stop my voice cause
You don’t own my life but
Do what you want (with my body)
Do what you want (with my body)”

I appreciate the ownership of mind, heart and voice that Gaga is celebrating, but I disagree that our bodies, women’s bodies, can be sacrificed with no consequences to psyche or emotional well-being. I think women must claim as much ownership of our bodies as we do of our minds and hearts. The one is as valuable as the others.

Will the message of the song be received in the “F-U” spirit is is given, or will the chorus be sung over and over with no sense of irony and attitude that is usually evident in Gaga offerings? I’m not sure. If her performance on Saturday Night Live with duet partner R. Kelly is any indication, Gaga is morphing the line between public and private life, and public and private bodily behavior. That conversation is one that needs to happen more often. I hope that women are encouraged to strive for harmony and not damaging disconnection between body and psyche.