“You’re doing it wrong.”
“You’re not doing it enough.”
“You’re actually not doing it at all.”
This was my internal monologue as I sat down to reflect on three weeks of practicing the “Go” portion of the Way of Love. I was looking for the kind of Go that would call me into a deeply unfamiliar place that might cause a sense of precariousness due to a reassessment of my own values or role – a Moses Go. This happened when I got the call to move to Minnesota and become the Principal of the Perpich Center, both a high school and a state agency. Or, the kind of Go that involves discerning a call to do something I really don’t want to do, but can see that it is the right thing – a Jonah Go. For me, ending a long marriage that was clearly over but had become comfortable in ways that hampered both our growth was like that. In my life I have experienced both of those. But much more often, the kind of Go that arises for me is the one where God puts something in my pathway that I might attend to – a Good Samaritan Go. In this kind of Go, there’s a choice to show up, or not: to show up in new places, or show up in the same old place but with fresh eyes and ears, or maybe a fresh attitude and intention. I didn’t feel like any of this had happened for me this month. But on reflection, I participated in multiple, less-dramatic Go’s. Here’s a small one that turned out to have a bigger impact than I expected.
I had been getting nudges from the Spirit for months about publicly following my curiosity and my deep desire to explore the intersection of anti-racism work and physical movement. I had realized that the way most of us live our days as though our heads are separate from our bodies is not only unhealthy on a personal level, but limits our capacity for compassion – after all, if I can’t feel my feelings, why would I notice yours? If I don’t acknowledge my limits and needs, why would I respect those of my staff? And, if I don’t recognize my own gifts and capacities, how would I be able to lift others to live theirs? I was moving into a practice of deep listening to my own body in order to listen more deeply to others.
This understanding didn’t feel like a Go. But, as I was getting ready to go to New Orleans as part of the operations team for the National Summit for Courageous Conversation About Race, the staff members were asked to write an intention for ourselves during the event. After writing something more innocuous, I took the risk of writing my actual intention to reconnect my body and mind and to help others do so. These intentions were shared with the rest of the staff. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this during the event, where I am always fully engulfed in registration details. In hindsight, this intention moved the situation into more of a Mary-Gabriel Go, one where a possibility is glimpsed, and an intention is stated: “Thy will be done.” Mary said it out loud, to herself, Gabriel and God and in doing so, she opened her attitude to be different in the same place.
The way it played out was that, in following my own curiosity and looking to care for my needs, I found the only Black-owned yoga studio in New Orleans, and connected with the owner, Ajax Jackson. After the connection I had to do a lot of requesting, coordinating, recruiting, problem-solving and persisting, but in the end, she came to our hotel and provided a restorative class for staff on the evening we arrived. Those who were able to come told me how grounded physically and mentally they had felt during the entire event due to taking time to be nurtured on the first evening – and this despite the event attracting over 1,000 participants for the first time ever! I knew I was advocating for my own needs; and as it turned out I was caring for my coworkers as well.
On an even deeper level, I reconnected with Ajax later in the week. Her studio was only two blocks from the hotel that collapsed in New Orleans while we were there, and her staff and students had felt the impact physically and spiritually. In fact, she had had to close the studio for two days during the cleanup effort. On an impulse, I invited her to come to the Summit and have a quick tour. The energy of the large, multi-racial group, leaning in to conversations in numerous rooms on multiple floors was uplifting, and Ajax began to feel hopeful and energized. She told me about a project she had in the works to create a body-mind health center for veterans in a historically black neighborhood, as well as her pipe-dream to find a yoga studio in Ghana and build a relationship. I was able to connect her with colleagues that run foundations that could help her, and others that were taking a pilgrimage to Ghana for the “year of return” and might be able to find her a connection on the continent. I never expected that my Going would circle around and benefit the teacher who had cared for us; nor did I expect to find such a kindred spirit. But, as she wrote in a thank-you note, she had been praying about her next steps as well.
And that’s the thing about Going. You don’t end up Going it alone – the same Spirit that is moving in you is also moving in the people where you are sent. You don’t need to try to control your Go practice, in fact it’s probably futile. I thought I would pick a Go, make some calls and arrange it, then proceed. In actuality, in my life, Go’s pick me. My part is trusting the Holy Spirit and saying yes to them, then following where they take me and staying open for the next Go.
Rie Algeo Gilsdorf