You Are Free; Flirt with a flower, Buzz with a Bee

April 18, 2024

by Hagar Harpak

There’s something about this season that whispers in my ear; “You are free.” Each day brings more blossoms to the yards around the city. Each day ushers more green leaves on the Sycamore trees in our neighborhood. And even as freedom’s meaning has woven into a more complex tapestry, as the air warms up, and daylight stretches longer, my hair wants to dance wildly in the wind, and my hips to shake it like a polaroid picture taken on the beach twenty years ago. 

I can hear Summer singing from not so far away. There are not many weeks before the school year will make way for beach days with my kids. And not so many years before they are no longer interested in spending their Summer with me. Each year, mid Spring reminds me of the passage of time. 

Kesem, my fifth grader, has been in Yosemite with her school the whole week. She’s coming back today and I cannot wait! I miss her so much, my body aches. And I’m simultaneously excited for her independence. Worried about her and happy for her, curious to know what she’s up to every moment of the day, and smiling to myself knowing there are secrets I will never know, and that is how nature flows. A mother is never free. And it’s the intensity of this love that binds me and breaks me and bends me into new shapes.

Shefa, my first grader, turned seven on Wednesday, and the arrow of time penetrates my heart. I’m ecstatic to see this kid, who was born seven weeks early and had to spend three and a half weeks in the NICU, riding his new red and badass bicycle at the park with his friends. And I’m sad to say goodbye to the smaller, older bike. A mother is never free from the tenderness of grief. And it’s this grief that tells the story of the depth of love. Loss is intertwined with the very roots of being a parent. Loss is embedded in the reality of being a person. 

Flowers are exploding into colorful splashes of scent and beauty, and the natural world looks like an expressive unfoldment of ideas and possibilities, a vision of wonder and a creative outburst of a grand artist in the frenzy of the shaping of a masterpiece. 

I remind myself that life is art. Especially on days when it feels like it’s just slipping away. Especially in moments when I get frustrated with unmet goals, and with unfulfilled parts of myself. Especially when I come face to face with how much harder it is to actually make anything happen once you are a parent. More than eleven years into this, and I am finally realizing that many of the things I thought I’d create in this life may never come to fruition, or might have to take on very different forms. And it’s ok to be sad. And it’s ok to shift gears. And it’s ok to love exactly where I am. And to be heartbroken about it at the same time. And it’s ok that frustration is part of the poetry of parenthood. 

Then the guilt flows in… who am I to even be sad about my own unfulfilled parts, when there is so much suffering in the world? Who am I to worry about unmet goals when Palestinian people in Gaza are being bombed and starved, when Israeli hostages are being held there under the arms of unimaginable cruelty? Who am I to feel frustrated about not owning a house yet, when Iranian women are held under the oppressive, violent hands of the Islamic Republic? 

Life is art, I remind myself. We can make room for a conversation steeped in guilt, laced with shame, and flavored with any other shadowy quality, breathe into the feeling of being suffocated by it, and bring it into relationship with other parts, infuse it with more nourishing aspects of our being. We cannot let the shadow drive the ship, but we don’t need to try to transcend it either. We can spin it into a thread that weaves another color, another texture, into the tapestry of the life we are creating. Unlike the woman in Iran right now, or the Palestinian child in Gaza, or the Israeli hostage, I have a choice in how I live, in how I weave, in how I integrate. I let the guilt commingle with gratitude. 

The yoga tradition has spun around the concept of freedom. Moksha – Sanskrit for liberation – has been at the core of yogic practices and teachings for a long time (not always, by the way. If we go back to the Vedas, we find a different way of thinking about yoga. But that’s a different story for another time). Embodied existence has been problematic in the eyes of most yogis, and the goal of the majority of yoga traditions, in a nutshell, has been to liberate one from the confines of a material world into the freedom of spirit. As yoga made its way into our western minds and bodies, it has commingled with capitalistic ways of thinking. Freedom has a different resonance in the west, particularly in the US. And that too is a different story for a different time. 

Passover – a Jewish holiday that celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from being enslaved – is in a few days, and I think this year, for many Jews, it is taking on a heavy, somber tone. 

I think many Jewish people around the world this year feel the heaviness of what happened on October 7th, the tragic intertwined fate of Israelis and Palestinians, the argument of indigenous belonging to the land of Judea, the weight of grappling with different faces, sides, and expression of oppression, the intense wave of antisemitism, and guilt that simmers in the Seder soup along with matzo balls. Liberation and loss linger together on the palate. Grief is never far from the Jewish heart, but this year, it takes center plate.  

The story goes that the Israelites, led by Mozes, were able to escape Egypt, but god made them wander in the desert for forty years before making it back to their previous home in the land of Canaan. Forty years, because god didn’t want the older generation that experienced enslavement to bring the experience of being enslaved into the making of a new home on the old grounds. Little did this god know that trauma is passed down generations, and that our genes carry the experiences of our ancestors. 

So how much choice do we have? How much free will do we have? If we carry ancestral trauma in our bodies, how much of our behavior are we really in control of? Experts argue about it.

Another Sanskrit word for freedom is: Svatantrya, which translates as “self looming.” To weave is to create, which implies freedom, and to weave is also to connect, to engage, to bring one thing into relationship with another. Relationships require commitment, care, and consistency. So weaving also suggests bonding, and binding. 

Self looming is the process of creating who we are, and that is an empowering invitation. We have some say in how we view things, in how we look at a situation, and in how we respond. Our freedom to choose who we are becoming is not absolute. It is always in relationship to more than ourselves. Our freedom to become who we want to be is never without the responsibility and the consequences of our choices. 

Self looming is the weaving of oneself into the collective, into the culture, into the environment. To be free is never without the responsibility that we have toward family, community, and other creatures we share this world with. We’re not free to do whatever the fuck we want. To loom ourselves is to be in conversation with the forces of nature, with the lessons of history, with the people we share values with, with the ones we disagree with. To create who we are is to collaborate with a world that creates us. To create ourselves is to create the world. The freedom to become the expression of our heart’s desire is only as real as the relationships we’re cultivating. 

We all have thoughts, habits, patterns, and tendencies. Some are inherited. Some we are aware of and are working on, some are hidden from us in the tangled roots within the soil of our unconscious, some are sticky, some are tricky, and some are heavy. To free ourselves from certain ways of being, requires vision and capacity for change, a shift in how we see ourselves and the world, a willingness to look at things from different perspectives, a deep look into the web of our families, and a deep dive into relationality, conversations, time in silence, time together with people, time away from humans in nature, rituals, practices, and a the willingness to hold space for the process to take shape so differently from how we thought it would be. 

Sometimes freedom is a shift in perspective. A word that you say to your friend can help lift a veil. The soft breeze moving through the trees in the forest can help clear the path for new ways of being. Sitting on a large boulder in the desert for an hour in the early morning with a cup of coffee can carve a path of liberation. Sitting at a concert hall, an orchestra can carry you into a new way of being you. 

Freedom is a pulse we move in and out of. It’s a dance. It’s a song. It’s a story. We are in it. Are we held captive in the cycles of life? Or is surrendering to its embrace where freedom is found? 

As Spring unfolds through blooms, as we consider ways to self loom, we roll toward the threshold of mid-season, when its flavor begins to mature from nectar into honey. The gateway of this moment that moves us from bud to blossom, from emergence into embodiment, from birth into life’s fullness, is an invitation into the heat of creative power. In the Celtic tradition, mid-Spring is celebrated as Beltane. 

Beltane was a super sexy fire festival that marked a shift in the earth’s energy from flirty to fertile. This is the time of Aphrodite’s power. If you were to ever turn into a bee, this would be your time to plunge into the core of a rose – full body in the folds of the petals of this erotic flower. 

Not to ruin the fun here, but the bee is free to drink nectar from many flowers, and at the end of the day, it’s the hive that makes the honey. There’s collective responsibility in the buzz. And there’s a contract signed (in pollen) between flower and pollinator. This blooming is a looming of relationships. Free to spread seed, free to fly around, and never without the commitment to a shared reality. 

If you are still reading, you must be interested. And if you are, you’re gonna love the Beltane Somatic Ceremony. It’s a deep dive into inspiring themes to infuse your life with meaning. It’s a wild ride through stories and practices that will inspire you, and help you access a profound connection with your creativity. You will be supported through the next phase of the season with prompts to spark conversations – within you and with others. And you’ll create a sacred space for yourself to nourish your life with contemplation, embodied ritual, and deep breath.

Ready to sign up for the Beltane Somatic Ceremony? Need more details? Click here and find out more. And if you have any questions, reply to this email. I’ll be happy to answer. 

Sending love,

Hagar

May 23, 2024

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