This morning, I found myself with a group of women, sitting in a circle on a beautiful rug atop a cold, stone floor. In the center of the rug was a mat with a large, round, black bowl in the center. Different sized small bottles were laid around the bowl. Smaller bowls were placed side by side to one side of the large bowl. A wooden brush with bristles on one side and small, rounded bumps on the other was laid on the opposite side.
Together, we breathed in through our nose and exhaled deeply through our mouths.
Tones and vibration filled the air. Ommmmmmmm.
We repeated words in Sanksrit as we heard them from our teacher, and I was instantly transported to another time in my life, now equally foreign.
I could see myself seated on a bench, chanting Hebrew words in tandem with the people around me. A man stood at the front of the room at a podium with a large scroll. I heard melancholy, minor notes echo in the minor notes flowing from my lips in this circle in the desert.
Why was I chanting Sanskrit when I had been avoiding chanting the words of my ancestors all of these years?
What would my Jewish relatives think if they could see me sitting here?
Would they call me a heretic? Would they think I was wasting my time on a lost language and a strange, cultish practice?
Or would they understand my search for meaning from within? There is a long history of questioning and a search for knowledge among those who bow to the Jewish faith.
At a young age, I felt inhibited by this faith and have moved far from any kind of religious practice ever since.
My religion has been found in the smell of the Black Cottonwood trees in spring, the silent flight of a barred owl overhead in the forest at dusk.
My spirit seeks calm and quiet in the midst of a reality hell bent on entropy, a way to cope with the carpets I cannot keep free of cat litter, the softening curve of my stomach, the tired circles beneath my eyes, the tightness in my chest.
I stood on a mat this afternoon, my feet firmly anchored to the earth. I looked down at my toes, straightened my knees beneath my hips, and placed my fingertips on solid wood.
“It all comes back to Tadasana, foundation, foundation, foundation,” my teacher told us. “Your feet and your hands. What connects you to the earth.”
With my feet beneath me, I was supporting my entire being and presenting my self to the world.
And in that moment, I felt thousands of years of feet on the ground before me, standing silently, affirming their own way through their own chaos to a place of calm and understanding within.