Facing the Earth

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“Loving something with your whole body….bending yourself to the earth…The work of our bodies is beautiful when it brings us to a position of receptivity and readiness to pray and commune. Releasing into the earth is beautiful. Bellies to the ground, forehead to the floor, resting in sacred surrender to that which we love.

We can use our movements to hold conversation with the Divine. That is part of the personal medicine of the body.” ~Gayle Woodul

 

When I saw this photo today, and read Ms. Woodul’s words, a deep part within me opened up. Simply looking at the picture reminded me of the first time I ever bowed…and the joy I feel every time I have bowed since.

As a child in a Christian home, I was taught that bowing to anything except God was a sin. I vividly remember watching other “primitive” people bowing to various things…statues, trees, fire, stars, a witchdoctor…and hearing a variety of teachings flow through my mind: It’s foolishness…It’s an act of futility…Those things are not God…God won’t hear them so long as they practice such abominations…Those people won’t be in Heaven…Don’t go near those people in case you are tempted to join them…and on and on. I was so conflicted as a child because as much as I wanted to please my parents and my parents’ community, I really was quite interested and fascinated by the culture around me. I wanted to understand why these “primitive” people did what they did…for, to be honest, many of their practices seemed to be more true and real than my parents’…because we never bowed to anything…not even to God.

My first season of the Jewish High Holy days was filled with awe and wonder…which is, of course the whole point. Ancient practices from the time of Sinai were followed…ancient melodies, tropes, and blessings were sung, sending chills throughout my entire body. At one point, when the Kohanim gathered up front to bless the people, I traveled back in time…or opened to all time. As they chanted, I heard all the priests from all generations chanting with them…blessing us…as I knew I had been blessed before. Then there was the moment of prostration before G-d. The entire ten days were so filled with sacredness that I didn’t think twice. I gratefully bent to the earth and prostrated myself to the earth…facing Jerusalem…and surrendered in the awe of Divinity.

In that moment, time stood still for me. I connected with everything before me and everything after me. I was suspended…both physically and in time…between the earth and sky…part of nothing, yet part of everything. I felt the flow of All that Is and realized that when I bow this way, I embody the truth of the word humility…from the Latin meaning “on the ground.” In humility, I honored the Divine Spark  that exists in all of creation. I honored the wisdom of surrendering to something greater than my ego self. In return, I received a blessing, which I accepted with gratitude.

That blessing was the realization that I had never fully given myself to anything or anyone. I always held a tiny bit of myself back. And that holding back was an expression of arrogance…because I thought those things or people were never quite good enough for me. I realized that the practice of never bowing, of never prostrating myself even to God, contributed to this attitude of arrogance…of entitlement. As I lay in prostration, I realized I had broken this cycle. By converting to Judaism, I had committed to something wholeheartedly…for the first time in my life. Even though questions and doubts had popped up, the heart conviction that this was the path for me won…the commitment in the face of doubts and fears allowed me to let go…to surrender…to live from a place of my heart’s intuition.

Everything in my life turned a corner in that moment. It wasn’t that life got easier…it wasn’t at all easier. I still struggled to pay my bills and put food on my table. Yet, I was more joy-filled…more love-filled…and it kept increasing…all because my arrogance started to fall away. I let humility in, allowing me to fully see another without judgement…without criticism. I didn’t experience it all the time, but there were definitely moments. And those moments grew longer and longer, and with them I received other blessings.

My faith increased.

My trust grew stronger.

My belief shifted.

All because I bowed.

I surrendered.

And then the love began to flow.