Thank You — From the Bottom of My Heart

I went to a kirtan Saturday night. A kirtan is a call and response style of devotional chanting from Indian traditions. The musicians sing out a line, usually one of the many names of God, in a simple and beautiful melody, and everyone repeats the line back. It’s amazing how the repetition of simple lines can generate such energy and variety. Krishna Das, the perfect blend of storyteller, tenor, and human being, and probably the most well known kirtankar, guided the packed auditorium at the Irish Heritage Center, along with a violinist, two drummers and a bass player wearing Rastafarian style braids

Okay, I love the incongruity of a nice Jewish boy from Long Island chanting Hindu devotional tunes (a Hind-Jew) at the Irish Heritage Center. Tickling me more was how he revved up the crowd for the old gospel tune “I’ve got a main line to Jesus. Tell him what you want…”

I spent most of the event with my eyes closed and my heart open. I heard the man directly behind me clapping his hands to the beat. I heard women a few rows back exchanging recipes. If I caught the same conversation at a movie theater, I may have “hymph”ed my displeasure under my breath. But I wasn’t bothered. I heard my own voice, imperfect in pitch, stumbling over many Sanskrit phrases, and I didn’t care. I sang louder. This level of self-forgiveness was rare indeed. I can apologize to friends for the bad weather at a baseball game I bought tickets for. Imagine me, singing out loud like this.

How did I get here? This place of compassion?

Krishna Das sings as a form of service. It is liberating to be with people who offer their service so lovingly. And there must be something about making music too, about making sound; to know I can be heard outside of my own internal dialogue. By singing, I declared myself ready to participate, ready to make noise, make mistakes, be touched, be affected.

After the concert, I approached the stage. I don’t know why exactly. I saw a barefoot man with slightly graying hair, wearing brown pants and a brown knit tee. I hugged him. I had nothing to say that he didn’t already know.

Thanking someone from such a deep place is no small thing.

Your Shoe Laces Are Untied

Yesterday, as I stood in the check-out lane at the local “Whole Foods,” eager to put my small basketful of organics onto the conveyor belt, someone from the next line called out to me good-naturedly, “Your shoe laces are untied.” Their eyes, as if laser beams, pointed directly to my left foot. I smiled, nodded recognition. Maybe I even said thanks.

I didn’t bend over right away to tie my laces.

I finished unloading my basket and quickly tried to calculate the damages, i.e., my bill. I started making the cash or credit decision and handed the bagger my reusable tote bag, keen to not use another unnecessary petroleum product or kill another tree. What route would I take walking home? My brain kept on humming with the next, and then the next, and then the next decision I anticipated having to make.

Why didn’t I just tie my shoe? Did I want to avoid holding up the line? Was I embarrassed by the thought of making other people wait for me? Was I too lazy to bend over? Was I just plain annoyed that my safety needs were inconvenient?

I may have felt the shoe lace on my left shoe loosening up a little around aisle three, but I spend so little time really noticing how my body feels at any given time, any impression this sensation may have made lost my attention pretty quickly. How do my clothes feel right now? Tight, scratchy, soothing, warm? The chair I’m sitting on — do I feel supported? Are my feet touching the ground? How often do I ask myself, “What can I do right now to be more comfortable – in my body?”

After I paid for my groceries, sure to stay a few steps clear of the exit, I placed my bag down and tied both my shoes.

There’s a part of me, like most people I suspect, that needs to be forced into action. I also have over fifty years experience of living in my head and not thinking about my body much (except for those undeniably in-the-body events: great sex, a big meal, sunburn).

I want to feel that my mind and body are more fully integrated. Standing safe and sure in the world can help me feel similarly about how I make decisions. Tying my shoes is no small thing.