I've always tiptoed around hippies and their "woo-woo" ways of life.
I love being around them, their music, their flowing clothing, easy smiles, their focus on passion, love, feelings and self-awareness.
But they're often scary.
As a group, they tend to trust wholeheartedly and observe life rather than attempt to direct it. Since I am Type A and a planner, constantly striving to improve (and compare) myself to not only my former self but the selves of others around me, I found myself juxtaposed when facing a hippie lifestyle, unable to embrace it. I run a business, use deodorant, arrive on time, eat meat, and I am meticulous about organization and scheduling. On paper, I am the anti-hippie.
But I have forever been drawn to them, skittishly attending jam sessions and singing circles at the edges, desperate to join but unable to let go, too self conscious to admit that I need them. That I crave water from their pool. That in some small way, I identify with them but am also profoundly jealous.
I simultaneously admire and envy their ability to scrutinize themselves and their place and purpose in the world, the unique skill they seem to possess in losing themselves in feeling, in movement, in song, in each other, and some in God, worship, or meditation.
They let go, they embrace the unknown, they relinquish control.
I came upon yoga by accident. After four emergency cesareans, my abdominal muscles were so weak that when I began running, I kept getting injured. Every time I approached the 10 kilometer milestone, I got hurt and ended up in physical therapy. The therapist, a painfully thin, near-silent man who runs a private clinic in Jerusalem, insisted that my injuries stemmed from an insufficient core and instead of treating the injuries as they occurred, it was more far-sighted to strengthen my weakness and prevent them. Thus, I found myself in pilates class, once a week, for five years. I slowed down the runs to a brisk walking/hiking pace and resumed my daily forest treks, but never regained the drive to run long distance.
Instead, I began focusing on physical control, strength, flexibility, relaxation and a clear mind.
As our Big Trip approached, I searched feverishly for pilates classes in the part of the world we intended to visit.
Google laughed at me.
India is the birthplace of yoga, and thus, my yoga journey began in an airless room, in 100 degree heat, with an unnamed teacher who spoke so slowly and with such a measured cadence that I wondered if there was something wrong with him.
Nevertheless, I attempted to move my body according to his instructions, and while I failed miserably, I continued to try. At the end of the session, we relaxed in shavasana (corpse pose - I know it sounds creepy but in fact it's kind of wonderful) where you do nothing but breathe deeply and relax.
And I began to see colors.
I have always been drawn to and motivated by color. My home is full of bright patchwork hues and patterns, I almost never wear black, my logo and my website is bursting with brights, and I was convinced that the pigment of my soul was fuschia.
But colors like this I have never experienced.
Since the best way I know how to embrace something is to describe it, I've been struggling for weeks to put a name and some adjectives to these colors, but words for them continuously evade me.
That first time I took a yoga lesson, the colors and the end of the session washed over me. I was suddenly bathed in color that was breathing, morphing into paisleys and shapes and forms and bleeding into each other like water and oil dancing in a puddle.
In the late 1990's, I lived in San Francisco and like any young city-dweller in the late 20th century technology boom, I was making money faster than I could spend it. I dabbled with clubs and for the first time (with the assistance of chemical enhancement) understood why there are giant screens full of moving color to accompany the heavy techno music. Under the influence, I could breathe the music and embody the color, becoming one with the experience.
Yoga empowers me to replicate this experience, sober and present.
I can lose myself in what I have now learned is called the Blue Pearl - a color which I have never observed in nature, conjured after a rigorous session. It is indigo/midnight blue and so intense that curiosity and fright battle within me, but I am drawn to this color in a way that almost feels frantic. I would claw my way through a tunnel to experience this color.
Perhaps the Blue Pearl is my entrance ticket to the hippie world. Perhaps it will unleash the trepidation I feel when I find myself at a festival, wanting. In an attempt to relinquish control, I won't seek an answer.
But I will keep doing yoga.