Yesterday I celebrated MLK day by doing exactly what I wanted and being keenly aware that the freedom to do exactly what I want, how I want, when I want is in large part because of the man whose day it was.
I woke up, turned on my phone, and did Yoga Nidra for 30 minutes from a recording by my spiritual teacher Rod Stryker. Afterward, feeling energized and happy, I marveled at the fact that I have been able to fly all over the country to study with Yogarupa, that I have the luxury of a life comfortable enough, with my needs met so completely, that I can spend my free time studying Tantra yoga and pondering the deeper questions of life.
I played “Remember this song?” with the man I’m dating and while we were cracking up and reminiscing, there was a moment when he mentioned Living Colour and what it felt like to rock out so hard to these guys and the how great it felt to hear them and think, yeah, we make this kind of music too. I remembered that feeling also, the feeling of pride that came from there being someone who looked like me in the genre of music that I liked the most. Inside I appreciated their trailblazing spirits, and also how, if not for Dr. King, who knows if they would’ve had that opportunity.
We went to breakfast, and it was perfect and delicious and the restaurant was full of people from every race and ethnicity, and there were tables with, same sex couples, and tables where people were the same race, and tables where four different ethnicities were represented. I took a moment to feel gratitude that this was possible, as it would’ve been an entirely different scene if it had been 1955 instead of 2015.
Next up was the Philadelphia orchestra’s annual MLK concert. It was held at Girard College’s breathtakingly beautiful chapel. I saw an older black man with an MLK day of service TShirt on. He had an energy that made me notice him, and I smiled when he saw his friends and hugged them all and did a little dance of joy. He seemed completely unselfconscious and happy, in a way that most people aren’t, like he had given himself the freedom to be who he was under any and all circumstances. Everyone else had their orchestra face on, sitting still and speaking quietly, and here was this dude dancing in the aisles. Love it! I took a moment to appreciate inner freedom, the choices we make moment by moment to be who we are or who we think we are supposed to be. It made me feel even more grateful for those who paved the way for external freedom.
It was a beautiful, unforgettable moment when the orchestra’s conductor, Yannick, invited the composer of the next piece up to the stage, and that same energetic, joyful man I’d noticed earlier popped up out of his seat and ran up to the stage. Boom! Live your purpose and the resulting joy is evident!
His name was Hannibal and he said he’d gone to forest to write the piece and asked the ancestors to give him the music the people needed to hear. He said they told him to remind people of their inner divinity and to create something that would be a balm for their soul.
My eyes welled up with tears at the beauty of the intent behind his offering, the humble way that he spoke, and the recognition of a kindred spirit, with whom I shared the same mission in life, just expressed differently.
We were lucky because this was the premier of “Veil One: One Land,” which was part of a larger piece called “One Land, One River, One People.”
There was a violinist who made her instrument sing in a way that I have never heard before and likely won’t again. She inspired awe in all of us, and received a standing ovation in the middle of the piece. There was a soprano and a tenor that sang from a place so deep within that it shattered any last remnants of armor between my heart and the music, so that each note felt like it blasted through my entire being. My experience of the music was that it gave voice to the totality of human experience, and fully captured the ecstasy of living.
Wow. A balm for the soul indeed, to be reminded of that ecstasy that resides at the core of our existence.
I ended the day teaching yoga and pranayama to some amazing souls, with the theme of freedom, and spoke of how the path of yoga helps us to disidentify with the changeable and experience and rest in the part of us that is changeless.
It was a beautiful day and a reminder that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Nothing that we do today would be possible if not for those who came before us, and the blood, sweat and tears they shed to create the conditions that gave rise to the world we live in now. Whether it’s Dr. King, or your trailblazing ancestors, or the sages of your spiritual lineage, or your most transformative teachers, or the loved one right next to you, or the divine Herself, somebody somewhere has supported you in being where you are today.
Acknowledging that, feeling gratitude, and finding ways to pay it forward is part of our birthright as humans.
You are in this body with a unique set of skills that all of the obstacles and joys of your life have prepared you to live into. Find out what that is, and do it, do the hell out of it, do it as boldly and brightly and deeply as you can because it is your shoulders that the next generation stands on. It is your strength that the person near you draws on, and it’s your acceptance of yourself even when you feel weak that teaches those who are watching that they can love all of their aspects too. Your deep, full out living of your best life is of service to you and everyone around you.