Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Moishe House San Diego

The prompt for this month’s blog is to write about the experiences
that have led to my development as a young Jewish leader. I’m not sure
I’m supposed to tell you that straight off, perhaps a more skilled
writer would ever so eloquently weave the theme with grace seamlessly
throughout the remainder of this blog. It’s a topic that’s somewhat
elusive, and while I understand and appreciate the role I signed up
for, assuming the title of “leader” is one I’d prefer not to take for
granted simply because I am fortunate to live in a Moishe House and be
involved with the community, co-hosting, and co-organizing events.
That said, writing about myself makes me squirm a bit and can be an
internally contentious challenge… so it’s a good thing for me that
being a “leader” of Moishe House San Diego is much more about each of
the individuals who comprise our MHSD community than it is about me in
particular.
After each yoga class that I lead at our house, I remind each of the
participants that they are my teachers and express gratitude for their
presence in my life. Each person has shown up on their mat in their
own way, each expressing their unique beauty and light through a
specific structure-- asanas (poses), pranayama (breath control
exercises), partner play and other forms --that I have chosen as the
guide for the evening. These forms are the tangible vocabulary though
which unique expressions are conveyed by the MHSD community members
who show up to practice together.

As the class leader, I talk us through the ‘correct’ positions for
each pose, describing the proper positioning of each respective asana.
If I lay a hand on someone’s trapezius, I smile inside (and out) as
she breathes a bit fuller and creates more space between her shoulders
and ears in response. If for the next person, the same prompt doesn’t
do the trick, I find another way to elicit comfort, ease in the pose.
I am reminded of how different each person’s body is, yet how similar
our feelings and experience of struggle and joy challenge and triumph.

A few class participants have expressed that it’s challenging for them
to do yoga because they feel they are inflexible. The only truth in
this, from where I stand, is if the belief of inflexibility translates
into a belief (and a reality) that they are so inflexible they cannot
grow --- as a yogi, as a person. Regardless of what it looks like---
whether someone is touching their toes and energetically reaching for
Earth’s core, or can barely reach below their knees and is hoping to
someday grab an ankle-- there is an opportunity for growth in many
dimensions. Physically, there may be a greater opportunity for growth
in the person who appears to be struggling the most. This is in no
way a condolence prize; it’s a thing of beauty. When I see the light
of new perspective and stoke flicker on -- a new realization of how to
connect deeper into a pose, or more fluidly with another person-- it
inspires me.
When the class asks for more interactive work, I get particularly
excited. We often integrate various forms of partner play, including
counter balance work and partner yoga. For some, the actions simply
mean stretching and exercise. For others who dive a bit deeper, the
structure of the asanas and other activities create a container and
support for each practitioner to express through, to interact
internally, with one another, to spirit, and beyond.

While I chose to use yoga class (asanas and other activities) as the
playground-- the vocabulary-- for this blog, I could have instead
written about our Shabbat dinners (and the amazing potluck
contributions, conversation etc. that ensue), habitat restoration
events (enjoying and giving back to nature, chatting with one another,
physical activity), or any of the other programs we host to convey the
same sentiments. Everyone who shows up has just been somewhere else
and will be going somewhere after the event. Each person has come to
the event to fulfill something inside. Each person brings with them a
bit of everywhere and everyone who has touched their life. Each
person contributes and shares uniquely, enriching each other’s
experience.

My development as a “leader” has been most contributed to simply by
interacting with those who come together to create our community. As
my awareness of that which engages and inspires each of the
individuals within the MHSD community deepens, my sense of
responsibility and desire to facilitate and perpetuate connections
within the MHSD community and between MHSD and the larger world also
deepens, as does my own sense of connection.

-Natalie

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