Words as Webs from Jessie Rhines

on December 14, 2020 by Erin Horst
enliven life mountain

Hello beloved Evolutions community!

To all of you I’ve taught in yoga classes, to all of you I’ve joined as a student in any number of other classes, and to all of you I’ve simply seen around the gym: I’ve missed you. Whether I knew you well or not at all, I’ve missed you, because it’s all of us that make up this very special sangha, or sacred community. These several months have  been a stretch for any community like ours, so based in physical togetherness. I’m feeling buoyed to announce that I’ll be in more touch now—at least through writing—as I’ll be exploring our theme each month.

The monthly theme is a long-standing Evolutions tradition, and one that helps us to unify our self-study—or in yogic terms, our svadyaya. This means that—for those of us who choose to partake—we have several weeks at a time to ponder together or grapple with the theme, allowing us the layers of yoga too often missed in mainstream sound byte culture.

We begin with the theme of “Community” in hopes of reminding you that for 19 years, Evolutions has been a place of support, self-study, and transformation. Since joining the team in 2011, I can say in earnest that whether I walked through the doors to take a class, teach a class, or provide yoga therapy sessions, not a day has passed where I didn’t find warmth and inclusivity among staff and members alike. May we remember this interconnected web, and reach out into it as needed over the months ahead.

Below is my most recent post from my own website, jessierhines.com, written with you and our theme of “Community” in mind.

Words as Webs

The Limits of Language

It’s been a long time. While it’s true that I’m someone who prefers fewer, meatier blogposts over more frequent ones in the name of weekly or monthly communications, it’s been quite a stretch of time, even for me. I’ve come to my computer to share with you many times in the last several months, with this story or that metaphor. I have many fragments of writings stored like acorns, and I imagine many of them will turn into offerings for you. I trust they are all seeds for future sharings.

So, where have I been? Well, for one thing, as my yoga and meditation practices continued over the last couple of years, I’ve found it more and more difficult to express much of anything in writing. The more I’ve been able to touch the most nourishing places within myself, the more I realize just how far beneath my tongue these aquifers reside. Any string of words are signposts at best, like arrows tacked to a tree, pointing in this and that direction. Sometimes I can find words that bring an idea near, just as some of the destinations are close to that tree. But you know those signs that read something funny like “Paris: 6,419 miles?” Quite often, that faraway arrow is the very best I can do with words.

I know I’m not alone in this paradox. Any of us teaching matters of the heart are familiar with the sensation of coming up against the limits of language. As poet and writer Mark Nepo describes, “There is only, it seems, the returning glimpse of wholeness in which all is seen and felt, and the frequently muddled aftermath when clarity is gone and all speech fails.” This is in fact, a huge part of why we practice yoga asana, the physical practice: to drop from the head into the body and find our deeper wisdom. To shut up and feel.

The last couple of years have also brought novel challenges, and there are times for each of us when simply “being with what is”—satya—takes up the time and energy we have, and there’s nothing left over for translations to others. And as author, preacher and badass Nadia Bolz-Weber says, “I always try to preach from my scars and not my wounds.” Perspective is often worth waiting for. Through my struggles, silence has become a more trusted friend to me than it already was, providing spaciousness or salve.

My speechlessness only solidified after COVID plunged us all into a different world almost overnight, bringing all sorts of emotions to process and life changes to configure. Then, as the racial justice movement swept our country and beyond, I vowed to deepen my commitment to the study of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ). And more recently, as I decided to homeschool my two sons, the few thin cracks left in my brain quickly filled up with my ongoing study of how to best educate them.

An Invitation…

And yet, I return to you with words, remembering what bridges they can create, or better yet, what webs. Maybe a reeling is slowing just enough to let me find the voice to reconnect this way with you. Maybe a Back-to-School blueprint lives in my psyche, bringing a spark of motivation as my sons work on their homeschool projects in the next room.

In part, I also want to offer an invitation for us to connect throughout the colder months ahead, which tend to pull us inward in all the senses of the word. May we maintain the bonds of sangha with one another even as we allow for the introspective quiet of winter.

As summer turned to fall, I’ve watched our tomato plants—which had unexpectedly grown taller than me—shrink slowly, and their messy vines are now down to the level of my own messy curls, as though we see eye to eye. The cucumber and squash plants ended their production and the basil has flowered and dropped seeds for next year. As things curl slowly back into the earth, I’m wondering if this particular autumn and winter will invite an even deeper internal practice than usual, given that this year has already provided all of us with the opportunity for a heretofore unknown sobriety and humility. For many of us, it’s as though our emotional or spiritual baselines are deeper as we cross the seasonal threshold. Because the pull inside may be stronger than typical, I want to encourage us to shore up our connections first, the way we might tether rope to our trusted belay partner before descending into unexplored caves.

Perhaps the deeper the plunge, the more essential our contact with beloved community. And may we work towards truly authentic connection not just before but amidst our deep, internal work. The yin practice of traveling inside must be supported by the more social yang, and especially after months of physical distancing—a term I find more optimistic than “social distancing”—I encourage us to tend to our sacred connections where they’re running dry. May we be earnest in the brave practice of meeting our selves, and also ascending as needed, reaching out to others for hugs, or to share cups of physically-distanced tea, or—like now—through words.

In an effort to maintain such connection, I’m happy to share that I’ll be writing not only for my own yoga therapy website but for Evolutions as well, so you’ll be hearing more from me, whether I’m plodding through dense yogic texts, or up to my ears in learning how to homeschool my children. Whether my thoughts are half-baked or fully “presentable,” I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the vibrancy of the Evolutions community. Please feel free to reach out with thoughts or feedback at all; I always love hearing from you.

Be well and keep living your studies,

Jessie Rhines, MA, C-IAYT

Certified Yoga Therapist