First, I must report this as both a very quiet and yet very public victory, one that’s important to celebrate as the summer draws to a close.
Namely, that ever since June 26th, the baseball field has remained unlocked.
Thanks to the spring-time efforts of my kindergarten teacher friend Bonnie and her trusty bolt cutters, both the Parks Department and the Concerned Citizens who applied their own locks seem to have given up.
We’re living in a new reality, one where the field is wide open every morning.
It truly feels like the unofficial Rebel Alliance of Dedicated Dog Owners has won, if not the war, at least this season’s battle.
And that is certainly grounds for serious celebration.
Second, as I was contemplating the theme for September’s Meditation (HERE), I was struck by so many synchronicities pointing me in one distinct direction:
For the thoughtful soul, Identity is an endless inquiry, an eternal investigation.
It’s how we define ourselves on both the deepest spiritual level and also the most superficial and cosmetic.
(Re the latter: Just FYI, I shaved my beard this week).
All the layers of labels––both societal and self-imposed, temporary and permanent––come into play, as do all the relationships in our lives.
Beyond this, exploring our concept of Identity offers a chance to see how much we’ve grown and how much more might be ahead.
Speaking of which….
This spring, I had a delightful––albeit mildly provocative––encounter with an incredibly nice person, a friend of a friend I probably haven’t seen since right after college.
In the sweetest way possible, they opened by asking me if I were still busy being an aerobics instructor in NYC.
I was a bit taken aback since I have never actually done that.
Of course, I have taught yoga for decades (see pic above) even writing books and creating DVDs based on my practice.
Although you might find both yoga and aerobics classes side by side in any fitness center, for me they are galaxies apart.
While I’ve certainly taught more than my share of sweaty flow classes, for me, getting your heartbeat racing was never the point.
Yoga is always about using the movement––mostly slow, but definitely at times quite energetic––as a way of connecting to something deeper inside.
Anyway, I attempted to recover from this opening conversational speed bump, by offering a gentle correction, clarifying that it was actually yoga I had taught, not aerobics.
I added that nowadays I am almost exclusively focused on my writing and online courses, and especially the wellness app and the visual art project I’m launching soon.
(Please stay tuned.)
Alas, I fear I failed to communicate any of this effectively.
After we exchanged a few more pleasantries, their parting words were “It must be so great to have a profession where you get to work out all day.”
All I could do was smile.
Here’s what I took from this encounter.
I realize how much (and what) I’ve invested in my own self-conceptions.
Pretty much ever since kindergarten, I’ve been aware of two things:
1. I excel at taking standardized tests and
2. All I’ve ever wanted to do was get lost in a book.
Thus, the labels of “smart” and “creative” became absolutely central to my identity.
They were how I saw myself and how I assumed the world would see me.
I make sense to myself as a writer and an artist, a creative entrepreneur working on various passion projects.
And while I actually have several good friends who are also truly super-smart and amazingly creative and at the same time also cult-level popular fitness instructors––
and I’m even contacting them all this month
about my upcoming wellness app––
––re-conceiving of myself as an aerobic instructor is more than a little trippy.
(Perhaps though, in a parallel universe, that actually is how I make my living…?)
Anyway, in this world it creates a kind of cognitive dissonance, one that fortunately only makes me smile and shrug.
Finally mildly secure in my own identity, I can––at last––perhaps take myself a little less seriously, not fretting needlessly if someone gets my name tag wrong.
Years ago, when working with a wise-hearted coach, she posed a very intense question in a way that was also strikingly poetic.
Since I was then deeply entangled with a complicated person and a gnarly situation, she challenged me with: “What would it be like to play in a field without ______ in it?”
At the time, with my identity so intertwined with this dilemma, it was almost impossible to answer.
That ongoing drama was the lead story on every network (in my mind), seemingly broadcast 24/7 on every channel of my awareness.
Now, it’s maybe a chapter or two in my future memoir.
In another decade, it might just be a mere footnote.
So often, I find myself thinking of Rumi’s open field, the one where he’s willing to meet us “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.”
It’s a glorious thing to expand and redefine our sense of identity.
Indeed, there are far worse things than being mistaken for an aerobics instructor who works out all day.
Even if this doesn’t align with my own long-established self-definitions, I realize it’s actually a great compliment.
I’m glad that I can take it as such, allowing my sense of identity to be as expansive as Vlad’s open-all-summer-long baseball field.
As we move into autumn, my goal is to hold fast to a vision of both the outdoor space and the inner landscape remaining unlocked and free.
That’s why this month’s meditation HERE is an invitation to allow your own sense of identity to unfold and expand, to let go of old labels and outmoded self-concepts.
Indeed, it’s only on that Open Field of Identity where the greatest play (both cosmic and canine) can truly be found.
Namaste for Now,