Mama, take these guns away from me,
I can’t use them anymore.
There’s a long black cloud followin’ me.
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heavens door.
~ Bob Dylan
I forgot my kaftan! What was I going to wear over my costume? After a bit of grumbling, I decided to use the yoga/beach blanket I keep in my van. I had two and a half hours until show time and something had to cover my costume! I had no idea it would evolve into a surreal moment.
A few minutes later, I’m standing out on Prospect Avenue in a purple and pink folkloric belly dance costume shaking the sand out of my beloved pink and white yoga/beach blanket. I was admiring all the bright colors in the window of an empty store front, until I was startled by a strange voice.
“Hello, young lady.” Wow, young lady is flattering when you’re 40 years old. There was an old man who looked liked a repairman surveying me. “What are you? A belly dancer or something?”
“Yes, sir I am!” Why am I 40 years old and still calling people sir?
“Where do you do that? In there?” He pointed to the empty store.
“No over there.” I pointed to White Rabbit Cabaret across the street.
“What is that, a rabbit place?”
“No, it’s a night club.”
He hands me a small piece of paper. “Here read this. It’s a lot better for you than belly dancing.”
Jesus is coming. Are you ready? Those are the words emblazoned on top of this paper.
“Excuse, me sir, but there is nothing wrong with belly dancing.”
“He’s coming!” Then he walked away.
“Jesus loves everybody, even belly dancers!” I’m shaking my fist, screaming and everyone in Fountain Square heard me.
So I was irritated, why did this guy assume I need to get ready for the coming of Jesus? I could say I am a yoga practicing belly dancer who did my sun salutes that morning. However, I’m just another female human being I said my morning prayers. I wasn’t holding just any old blanket, it’s yoga blanket – a sacred object. That blanket has been in my arsenal for 10 years. I’ll keep washing it and it will be a source of comfort to anyone in needs until it’s thread bare.
Upon returning to White Rabbit Cabaret, I proceed to tell anyone who would listen about my surreal encounter. The bartender informed me the piece of paper in my hand was a “tract” and I had been witnessed. Witness to what? Discrimination? Finally, my blood pressure was low enough to do what I do before every show: roll out my yoga mat, step into Tadasana and press my palms together. Every time I do the world instantly becomes a more civil place. I finished my warm-up as always, sitting in Sukasana and chanting the following prayers three times each:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krisha, Krishna Hare, Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Lord Krsna Lord Krnsa
Krsna Krsna Lord Lord
Lord Rama Lord Rama
Rama Rama Lord Lord
Lokaa samastaa sukhino bhavantu
May all worlds be happy.
Oddly enough, the blanket was too small to work as a cover-up for my costume. I just wore a sweater instead. The show went well and once again I was filled with unconditional gratitude. But 24 hours later I was still on Prospect Avenue talking to the guy who looked like a repairman. Why? Because I’ve walked away from my own defense too many times. I have let far too many rude comments about yoga slide. I have practiced silence after far too many sexual innuendos about belly dancing.
Why have I remained silent and walked away? Because of the yogic principles of Ahimsa and Sauca. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence. It includes: “Not speaking that which, even though truthful, could injure others.”
Sauca is cleanliness and includes pure thoughts, “attending to internal cleanliness such as avoiding the impurities of anger and egoism.” Somethings are not worth getting mad about, but I keep walking away from the same battle. So many people thought yoga was just a fad and I would get over it. However, I have been practicing for 20 years and I am not going to stop.
When other people degrade my spiritual practice, it breaks my heart. I respect the religious beliefs of other people. I am not entitled to respect from anyone, but I certainly appreciate it. I collect funny yoga jokes and advertisements that exploit yoga. Belly dance is an art form. Please gentleman, do not broadcast your lack of respect for women. Pretend to have some class and taste and keep your perverted comments in the locker room.
Why did the street evangelist think belly dancing was bad for me? Is he interested in knowing my unborn son and I almost died in a car accident nine years ago? When that happened I already had a serious neck injury, because 11 months prior I had been rear ended in a three car pile-up.
Belly dancing and yoga healed my damaged spine and soothed my soul from the trauma. So no, belly dancing is not bad for me. I know the street evangelist and I agree on one thing, the world needs Jesus. Jesus is always on my guest list, because every day I offer my art to the highest power.
I feel confident saying that I will never forget my kaftan again!