Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reuniting with the Secret Self: Lessons from Yoga (and Spock)

"Yoga" is usually translated "union," but, Steven reminded us at YogaGlo last night, it's more a reunion, reuniting with something that is always there.  He asked us to think of it like our breath.  Breathing is always there, whether we are conscious of it or not, but we reunite with that presence when we remember to be conscious of our breath.  And, bringing our hands together in the prayer position at our heart center, we reunite light and dark, male and female, our conscious and unconscious selves.

It brought to mind the idea of searching for your other half, an idea that conceptual artist Leonard Nimoy (a.k.a. Spock) explored in his photography exhibit Secret Selves.  "According to Greek mythology, humans were once four legged and four armed. When they became too arrogant and powerful Zeus split them in two. Since then mankind is in constant search for our other half in order to feel complete." (R. Michelson Galleries)

Sitting in the overflow room of a packed event at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, we watched a short film that went behind the scenes of Nimoy's shoot. We watched him set up shop in Northhampton, Mass, where he invited everyday people to arrive wearing something (or often, nothing) that gave a glimpse into a part of their life that may not be evident to all, even to oneself. A secret self.

Many were whimsical and lovely, such as Paul, a writer whose "inner self is a classical violinist, though I am not classical and I don’t play an instrument," or a man who wanted to retire as a mad scientist and brought along a bag of his crazy creations.

James — Newspaper Arts Editor
I plan to retire into a career as a mad scientist. I believe it is only madness of purpose that will serve me well.

Many were poignant and empowering.  Hands in prayer position at the heart, bringing together light and dark.

Dawn — former Junior League President
I was physically, emotionally and psychologically abused…I was outed by my husband…
I am a fighter — been stripped bare but I keep on swinging.

Hands in prayer position at the heart, bringing together male and female.

"I like being a girl…no one knows I am a woman, let alone a lesbian. My beard is natural, there is no imbalance." ~ Aimee
Aimee talked to Nimoy about how a beard is a cultural indicator, defining one's sexuality.  Most women pluck unwanted hair, and her beard is completely natural, she said, she doesn't have a hormonal imbalance.  Because she's overweight, most people don't notice her double Ds. She doesn't interact much with people at work, she usually gets jobs "in the back," washing dishes, so they assume she's a man.

"We're not here to judge, we're here to learn and observe," Nimoy explained when he discussed his process. Another great lesson of yoga practice and most great spiritual teachers.

What is your secret self?  my friend asked me as we left. I'm still not sure. I don't know how I would have arrived to meet with Nimoy, what I would wear, what I would reveal. Maybe I'm afraid of the dark, what / who might be lurking there.  But in yoga (union), as I sit and come back to awareness of body and breath, reuniting with what IS, joining my hands to symbolize bringing together the yin and the yang, I feel a little more centered, and more open to whatever that secret self might be.

(Photos from R. Michelson Galleries - see more from the series here.)

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