The yoga retreat in Clil with Sandra Sabatini enlivened not only the spine, but also the ears. Sink-a your foot-a into the ground-a, sang the Italian white-haired woman. Her song erased any strain on the coccyx, my spine straight as a cedar overlooking the Mediterranean forest, sea and sky.
At Sandra’s instruction, I massaged the back of a woman who told me she was from Beit Lechem. Since we were in the Galilee, I assumed she was from Beit Lechem Haglilit. But no, Nahed was from the original Bethlehem. This made everything Sandra said about the ground more meaningful. In yoga, the ground has no borders; it is neither holy nor profane, Jewish nor Arab. Rather, the ground is the place where we meet gravity, that invisible force that pulls us to earth. Gravity behaves equally towards all humans, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.
Nahed, it turns out, like most of the other participants in the yoga retreat, was a yoga instructor. My daughter and I were beginners, but because we both have two feet planted firmly on the common ground, we did not feel inept. Gravity loves beginners as well as the advanced.
I offered Nahed a ride back to Jerusalem after the retreat. During our three hour drive we decided how to end the occupation: through yoga and creative writing.
On the following day I floated into Bar-Ilan University for the opening of the conference I had organized: Tsuris and Other Literary Pleasures. I stood solidly as a cypress, never once fearing I might fly away. Nothing swayed me left or right – not an angry cabbie, lost key, dirty carpet or broken mike. I was so cool people thought I was stoned.
It’s my spine, I explained. It’s holding me up. Those who didn’t understand got the following explanation: Gravity is pulling me down, so my head can soar upwards. Quite miraculous, no? When the caterer tried to push me over, I breathed in through my stomach, held the air for a second at the top of my head and blew out into his face, cleansing my body. He turned to jello.
The conference was an enormous success. Everyone commented how smoothly it went. I didn’t tell them it was because-a I was sinking my feet-a into the ground-a.