So I got in a car wreck yesterday.

As I sped toward catastrophe, completely unable to prevent the collision, I didn’t have any major breakthroughs. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I didn’t meet God. My thoughts were oh shit, oh shit, and oh shit, and it wasn’t until I had pulled off the road into a parking lot that I even took stock of the damage– the fate of the possibly injured other driver and the state of my own crumpled car (which will cost more to repair than it’s even worth).

I didn’t cry and I didn’t tremble. The other driver called the cops, I called my insurance and my dad. And then I got out and leaned against my car and I felt the afternoon. I felt the sun on my face and the asphalt beneath my feet and the tree branches waving in the breeze like they were my own arms. I stared through the hedgerow beside me at the busy street. I didn’t process anything other than the fact that the world was moving, full of sound and energy and soft yellow light.

Can panic and peace coexist? Maybe so.

Then the cop came, and by the grace of God he was one of the nicest men I’ve ever encountered. In a place where I was at fault and feeling unmoored, I was met with a kindness so deep I am certain I didn’t deserve it.

My head still hurts a little and I spent a lot of today resting. It kind of shocks you, to realize that sometimes you just can’t react fast enough to prevent something that was already set in motion. In that moment, I lost everything I could control. I lost every ounce of power over what was about to happen to me. I didn’t even remember to pray until after it happened.

But I am fine. Repeat: I lost any and all control over my life for a few eternal moments, and I am fine.

I don’t know why I was protected that day, when so many other people have lost their lives in almost identical situations. It’s a question I can’t answer. But I do know, now more than ever, that my life does not belong to me. It’s a wild and beautiful vitality born long before me, already spinning into a far distant future I will never see.

An Icelandic artist named Bjork once said that all is full of love. She said that we’ll be taken care of, that it might not come from the sources we would expect, but that we have to trust it all the same.

It’s been my experience that I am pretty damn limited in my ability to see and understand these sources. I know several people who don’t feel able to see or believe in them at all. I don’t think it changes the fact that all is full of love. We will be taken care of.

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Say Yes to Yoga

I do yoga almost every day.

I’m convinced that these 50 minutes of Zen prevent panic attacks, muscle stiffness, irritability and other symptoms I generally associate with family reunions. Something about communicating with my body and pushing myself without pain makes me feel like life may not actually be so hard.

Thanks to the lovely folks at Forbes, I now have the science to understand why. Yoga has virtually infinite impact on a practitioner’s physiology. It impacts the body’s regulation of cortisol, endorphins and serotonin—all those nifty chemicals in your brain that can either make you happy or screw you over completely.

I’m for the first option. Practicing yoga regularly changes the body’s sympathetic nervous system  (this is the system in charge of our stress response). Because of whacked out modern schedules that often tamper with our bodies’ natural rhythms, the stress response can stay in the “on” position for hours at a time. Yoga helps your body realizes that there is still peace to be found. It can also keep the parasympathetic nervous system in tip-top shape, which means that your body will absorb nutrients better, eliminate more toxins and improve circulation.

And thus Western science proves what Eastern medicine has known for thousands of years. Do yourself a favor. Do some yoga.

If you are so inspired, consider running a free yoga clinic for battered women and children in your area. I did this several years ago and the results were life-changing for me as well as the participants. For people who have experienced far too much stress and pain to even comprehend, yoga can provide a physical, mental and emotional healing unsurpassed even by medicine and counseling. Give peace by putting the restorative power of yoga in someone’s own hands.

EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2011/06/16/penetrating-postures-the-science-of-yoga/

The Night Walk

There are a few things you learn during a walk in the nighttime. You learn that living among the clouds isn’t a fairytale, and you’re not a princess, and there isn’t a castle. It’s actually just fog. And it swirls around and curls your hair with the humid disappointment of just-missed desire.

Orange, usually, as the steam thwarts streetlights with thick vapor determined to undo identity. Even a known name as basic as color is too much, too nice, too today…it belongs to the sun world where shadow people sleep and bide awhile, waiting, for the fog that removes both why you walked and where you are going.

It might be different if you didn’t walk alone. But you’ll never know, because if you had a companion you wouldn’t be seeking the night walk in the first place. You wouldn’t be trying to find the point, the corner, the exact number of steps at which your missed ship becomes just another droplet in the hanging vapor, where the ship that never came in blends into the millions of molecules sent to earth for the night as punishment. Solitary confinement for clouds.

You learn to keep company with the misbehaved cumulonimbus forced to listen to gravity in the same way that you’ll never free your feet from the ground. You may fly for awhile, in a plane, or in a man’s arms, if you’re lucky, but eventually you’ll realize you won’t find the way to stay afloat. At least not now, and especially not on the night walk.

When you return, which you will have to do, you may face any number of things.  Sorrow, or someone saying sorry. And all of a sudden your resolution will be gone. You will feel the moment of resistance tantalize you for a heartbeat, maybe two, before it passes you by, on the way to rejoin its stronger-willed brothers in the march toward dawn.

An apology is like a paycheck. A dividend, a refund for wrongs, even if the crime wasn’t financial and the damage is actually a deep, deep crevice in the rock face where your spirit hides when it stops trying to climb. Sorry tumbles down the side of a cliff.

Maybe it’s the human condition, maybe it’s money. But you are conditioned to accept cash or check and you will. Even if it’s trading love for a line of bad credit, apologetic.

A walk in the nighttime doesn’t bring you what you want or what you needed. And yet some small part of your pain gets stolen by the fog.

It dissipates, just like rain.

Drink Deep, and Don’t Stop Dreaming

There is probably little to no prior record of an all-nighter spent in a campus library producing goodwill toward anyone or anything. But this morning, as November brings a chill to even the Florida sunrise, there is hope.

Below is a list of things I have experienced that remind me what life is actually for. It’s for you, too: an exhortation to shake yourself out of your exhaustion and your disillusionment and thank today for coming to greet you.

Today, you have the chance:

To walk into the night under a foreign sky with familiar stars

To jump off a cliff head first and feel the world rush up to meet you

To know a name on every continent and “friend” in fifteen languages

To work hard and feel the realized ambition raise you up

To leave behind lovers, and friends, and family, who never really leave you at all

But surround you in the cocoon of a phone call

To sit on evening porches and talk about life and philosophy and thought and all the ideas

And dreamers who went before you

To see that we dream the same dreams and that they can still

Take you places

To laugh in the face of fear when

You don’t understand at all, what the hell is going on here

To smile and shout from a thousand feet up

To feel the pressure of the ocean when you swim deep below

To be swept away in a passion so exquisite and painful it leaves you at the precipice of

Finality and contentment

To feel the chasm of grief and loss and hang on to belief and be

Free.

To look back on your life and see that it was all poetry

And there will always be another human being, a God to understand

This elusive “me”

To jump from planes and sit in strange cafes and alleyways and see

Your soul in a painting made by a man years before you breathed

To cry in anguish into the night and then watch the sun rise

To shine like light itself when a child reaches up to your face

To know what it took to get you here

To remember and hold the universe inside your heart

To cherish every quiet shrieking resounding wavering solid yes and no

To hold and let go

To be left breathless.

Drink deep.

20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words From Around the World

Read Me: 20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world | Matador Network.

life and language

It’s been awhile, but CLASH is back in action for the spring semester. I thought we’d kick things off with an exploration of language, which is, in its purest manifestation, an expression of what it means to be human and to desire connection with one another.

I remember my first experience with new words in Spanish. As native English speakers, we’re used to one word meaning one thing, and to words that (usually) maintain quite literal meanings in context. In Spanish, language doesn’t work this way. My favorite of all Spanish words is “desahogarse.” In reality, it means to tell a friend about all your problems, to share your struggles and your triumphs with somebody else…an unburdening, if you will.

But literally? “Desahogarse” means ‘to undrown oneself.’ Because that’s really what language does. It allows us to invite other people into our existence, into the poignancy of pain and beauty that lets us know we are truly alive. When we share our stories, we start swimming toward the surface of our silent, solitary sea.

These words have been classified as untranslatable. Some are funny, some are sad. But all of them rang true for me in their emotional and situational sincerity. My guess is that they’ll ring true for you, too, regardless of where you’re from or what language you speak.

To me, that is the ultimate translation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

LEARN a new language

TRAVEL around the world

TALK to people from other countries

RESEARCH current events and crises

READ translations from other languages

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