Hafiz, hula, and surrender

| September 18, 2013 | 14 Replies

So I’ve been teaching this yoga class. My beloved friend Jennie bequeathed it to me shortly after I met her, which was shortly after we moved to Wichita. (I showed up at her yoga studio, two hours later she came over for tea, I gave her granola, we went for a swim in the pool, we announced ourselves New Best Friends.)

Jennie!!

The yoga class I’m teaching is out east at the Wichita Country Club, 6:00 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. The first time Jennie drove me there, she turned to me in the parking lot. “Hey, wanna teach today?” A goofy grin slathered itself over my face. I’d never taught yoga before, but I’d been planning to. If I dove in without the option of preparation, how could I possibly be nervous?

It was fun. It was a little scary. It was a (thankfully) small class.

The second time I prepared, of course. I pored studiously over the notes Willa sent me. I typed up my sequence for class. I memorized it. Teaching that class was fun, too.

It was less fun arriving home afterward, because David likes to leave for work by 7:00. (We’re a single car couple. Usually it works.) Leaving at 7:33 caused all sorts of stress for him. He barely arrived in time, had to deal with buses in the parking lot, and started his day feeling behind.

So yesterday morning I had a Clever Plan. Ride my bike to Jennie’s. Borrow her car. (What are New Best Friends for, right?) Jennie would ride my bike to teach her 7:30 class at Urban Oasis. I’d drive back to Urban Oasis to meet her and retrieve my bike.

Urban Oasis

My Clever Plan didn’t work precisely the way I expected it to.

It started with a wrong turn on the way to Jennie’s. It was 5:20 a.m., dark, and I was riding a new route. (Riding the river walk early in the morning seemed like a Questionable Plan. You’d agree if you saw the underbellies of the bridges along the river.)

I would have called David to look up the route for me, but my phone charger died two nights ago, and with it my phone. (I ordered a new charger. I didn’t pay for expedited shipping. I’m cheap like that.)

dead charger

I stopped in the middle of a (mostly) deserted street and realized I was pointed the wrong direction. I touched base with a tough-looking guy who happened to be the only other person nearby. (Usually I’d feel nervous about talking to a tough-looking guy at 5:20 a.m. in the dark on a (mostly) deserted street. But what’s a girl to do? My primal urge to Not Be Late overpowered my usual sensibilities. I have an incredibly powerful primal urge to Not Be Late.) The tough-looking guy was friendly. He agreed I should turn around.

Back on track, I zoomed along dimly lit roads, the beacons on my bike blinking me forward like a large, caffeinated firefly. Then I hit a hefty bump, and my bike started making a Terrible Noise. I pulled over. What had happened? My bike rack seemed less stable than before. Perhaps a screw had fallen off? Perhaps. But the chain wasn’t clicking into place properly. I couldn’t see what had happened. It was dark. (Have I mentioned this?)

I rode on. I stopped a few more times along the way to peer at the shadowed machinery of my bicycle. (Even in broad daylight, comprehending machinery isn’t my strong suit.)

Meanwhile, my mind raced. I’m probably waking up people in every house I pass. (It truly was a Terrible Noise.) Will Jennie be able to ride this bike to her studio? Am I a despicable New Best Friend for leaving her a Terrible Noise-Making Bike? What time is it? Why don’t I wear a watch? (Because I usually have my cell phone.) Why is my cell phone dead on this oh-so-rare occasion when I need it to call David for help? Why didn’t I pay for expedited shipping? Why are we a single car couple? What if I’m LATE?

At Jennie’s, there was a little more light. I tucked my yoga towel underneath the rack, and the bike made less of its Terrible Noise. I locked my bike to the tree and found her key in its hiding place. I got in the car and drove.

In the car, I remembered a favorite Hafiz poem.

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

Repeating this poem in my head helped at the red lights. It helped along the section of 13th Street that is almost entirely orange spiky cones. (I took this picture weeks ago. The cones seemed both confining and significant then, too.)

orange spiky cones

Let me be clear. The Hafiz poem helped. It did not fix the problem. I was neither Tripping over Joy nor bursting out in Laughter. I just suspected that I would be. Eventually.

After a few minutes of poem-remembering, I began praying to the clock on Jennie’s dashboard. Please be five minutes fast. Please be five minutes fast.

At 6:02, when I arrived at the Country Club, my prayer was not just answered but surpassed. I was so agitated that I almost walked into a window instead of the main entrance, but I got into the yoga room at 5:57. Jennie’s dashboard had been seven minutes fast.

I was relieved, of course, but the class was significantly larger than before, and I taught in a semi-frazzled state. It didn’t help that I hadn’t prepared much. I had a beautiful playlist and led what might have been perceived as a lovely class, but beneath it all a cruel voice was murmuring in my head, You are a fraud. A fraudy fraud fraud fraught with fraudulence.

Back at Urban Oasis, I joined the second half of Jennie’s 7:30 class. We breathed and moved and I thought about Hafiz. If only surrender would make its way from my brain into my body.

After class, I examined my bicycle. The problem was obvious in sunlight. A screw had fallen off, and the dislodged rack was scraping against the chain. No big deal.

missing screw

scraping the chain (and yes, I need a new chain)

It was only 8:30, but it had already been a long day. I gave my New Best Friend a hug and headed home. In the parking lot of my apartment building, I realized that I hadn’t returned her car key.

Jennie's key

At this point, I was on the brink of tripping over joy. I was almost ready to burst out in laughter. I turned my bike around, thankful that it’s a short ride to Urban Oasis.

I believe life often offers perfect outward metaphors for our inward condition. Remember when Stoneridge was going through its difficult merger to the tune of construction noise?

My current reality is a Clever Plan undergoing a series of moderately distressing hitches. Wrong turns, Terrible Noises, dim lighting, orange spiky cones. Except these particular hitches are all in my head. Do you really think you’ll ever make money writing? How do you expect to pay for this yoga teacher training? Why not find a normal job already? You get the idea. You are a fraud. A fraudy fraud fraud fraught with fraudulence.

In Hafiz’s infinitely more eloquent words, I still think I have a thousand serious moves.

On the second ride home from Urban Oasis, I took a picture of a church marquis. “Home in the Heart of the City.” The surrender was seeping in at this point. It’s true, I thought. I might be scared and clueless, but I am home.

home

I gave up on making serious moves, at least for the day. I began to savor small things, like the warmth of clean laundry on my hip.

warm laundry bag

I sat down at last with Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, a gift from my friend Andrew. The first pages were so luscious that I took out a pencil to start underlining.

luscious prose

I made David’s favorite blueberry coffee cake while listening to a podcast that made me weep with hope for the Christian church.

blueberry coffee cake

Hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber reminded me of grace. She reminded me that the voice saying fraudy fraud fraud has a good point, and that’s where God comes in.

Speaking of God, could there be ecstasy more pure than the ecstasy of a cat receiving a hearty brushing? Sometimes I don’t need my questions answered. Sometimes I just need Gus to purr like the cosmic engine he is.

Gus

cosmic engine

heaven

Late in the afternoon, I gave my bicycle a temporary fix, just in time to ride to my first hula class.

temporary fix

That’s right. Hula.

note for David

Last week I met a woman at Urban Oasis who’s in a hula troupe. They rehearse at a studio a mile down the street.

my new dance studio

Elisa, the teacher, has never been to Hawaii. “Thank God for Youtube,” she said. I grew up taking hula in Kailua-Kona, and you’d never know Elisa hadn’t done the same.

Elisa

It’s been 16 years since I rehearsed ‘ami and hela and kahele, but my hips remembered it all. If you know what my hips have been through in the past year, you’ll understand why I was grinning like a buffoon the whole bike ride home.

The day started with a Clever Plan. It ended with a homecoming. Somewhere between the wrong turn and hula class, I surrendered.

Nice chess game, God.

Category: beauty, body, creating, journey, love, performing, remaining calm, teaching, yoga

Hannah Lynn Mell

About the Author ()

Hannah Lynn Mell grew up a missionary kid in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Now she lives in Rowley, Massachusetts with her exquisitely kind husband David and their charming three-legged cat, Thomas. She's worked with singers since 1998 and loves to help people of all ages free their voices.

Comments (14)

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  1. Catherine says:

    “You are a fraud. A fraudy fraud fraud fraught with fraudulence.”

    Yep. That pretty much sums up how I feel when I’m in the same position.

    I love that poem you shared. So beautiful.

  2. lauren says:

    Yeah, I don’t think you can get more articulate OR accurate than “You are a fraud. A fraudy fraud fraud fraught with fraudulence” for that feeling. 🙂 And it’s funny how the hitches and glitches in the Clever Plans always turn up when your phone is dead and there’s nothing you can do about it. Murphy’s Law of Cellphones, I think.

    Aww, happy Gus! <3

    I definitely want to see you hula sometime! 😀

  3. Rebecca says:

    Sitting in class at All-Powerful and Completely Intimidating Harvard with students more than half my age sharing their brilliant insights about school reform, the effects of poverty on children in public school, and the complexities of inclusive education, I wonder “what am I doing here?” I’m a fraud, fraud, fraudulent fraud. And then, I remember–my experience is different, but I’m here–at Harvard, and more important even, here on this earth, to learn.

    Thank you for reminding me that we all share a journey. XXOO Reb

  4. Claudia says:

    My dear girl! You are a light in my life. I’m so grateful that we worked together, played together (not enough!) and shared the lives of our students. Indeed, I am a sister fraudy fraud but add to that, I am a whore. A musical whore! I make money performing music which requires me to please the ‘customer.’ I have become so used to this that I get more pleasure from pleasing the customer than I do in making the music. Perhaps I will add heretic to my list of flaws as I do all this musical whoring in church.
    So life is good for me! I am blessed beyond all reason and my only real work is not to attach to my great personal happiness. I sit here with a cup of coffee made by a man who loves me and watch the ocean looking as still as a lake. This definitely is not Kansas!

    Peace and love,
    Claudia

    • CLAUDIA!! So good to hear from you!Thrilled beyond all reason that you are watching the ocean this morning. I am watching the river flow toward the sea . . . water connects us all. I love you and miss you. One of these days our paths will cross again. (If you ever want to visit the Midwest . . .)

  5. Samantha Horton says:

    Your words ring truer than true for me as well. I know we just met but whenever I have an awesome (more-experienced) yogi in class I have those same “fraud-like” thoughts. I try and remember what my teachers told me about how that’s not important and yogis will go to whatever level they want to go to. They said, “You’re just there to guide them through their own unique practice.” It’s easy to let the noise in my head drown out more rational thoughts like that though.

    I think you’d make an excellent yoga teacher and I hope to be able to take some time and learn from you!
    Hula sounds awesome too! Glad to have met you Hannah =)

  6. Anne Marie says:

    Thank you for this, dear Hannah. I needed a reminder about those Thousand Serious Moves that my own mind tells me are upcoming! Bless you. I receive such inner rest and sweetness from your writing.

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