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October 27, 2013

Why Letting My Hair Turn Silver is a Radical Act of Self Love. ~ Linda Fenelon

“The result of authenticity is awesomeness.”

– Panache Desai.

This was the nagging dream: somewhere out by the water’s edge is a woman saluting the sunrise. As the twilight expands over the horizon, her hair sparkles, as if from within. I thought the dream was telling me to grab my best yogi girlfriend, the one with the shiny blond hair, and head to the beach.

But then one morning, almost awake but still lingering once again in the dream I heard,

“Your authentic hair shines.”

Whoa! What? That’s me in the dream? Not possible.

I’ve been coloring my dark brown hair for more than 20 years, longer if you count the pre-gray days of playing with red and auburn and once, something called eggplant. Almost every woman I know colors her hair and absolutely every woman I am genetically linked to colors hers. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. The scientific fact that 50 percent of the population over 50 years old is 50 percent gray is not a factor in our world.  And yet, the idea had roots.

As my next touch up appointment approached I started to get curious. What if I stopped? What if I just said No More?

As the goddess of coincidence would have it I found myself the next day sitting with a beautiful regal woman with pure white hair. I admired her hair and admitted to considering the same.

She whispered to me, “The thing is, you can’t buy this. You have to earn it. Beauty comes from within.”

In her case this seemed literally true, her hair practically sparkled as we stepped outside together into the sunlight.

I started envisioning a glorious mane, the likes of which can be spotted sometimes here in my hometown of Nashville on the fabulous Emmy Lou Harris. So I went to the source: Emmy Lou’s stylist and fellow silverback Rique. I admit I hoped he would transform me with foils and potions and spin me into silver glory.

“I’m sorry babygirl,” he said, “But you’re gonna have to ride this bitch out.”

Alas. But before he set to cutting off eight inches of dead dyed hair he laid his hands on my head and asked if he could perform Reiki. He explained that the priority of Reiki is to recover, to heal, to deeply nourish.

He wanted to know, “Did I have anything emotionally attached to the hair?”

And I realized as he held my very long, diminished and abused hair that it was about lack, about somehow not being enough. And so I released it. As he moved his open palms around my crown I let myself attach a new feeling to my hair. Abundance, more than enough. It felt better, expansive, more me.

Armed with a bouncy new cut Rique sent me forth with a new mantra: Be Brave.

The story I chose to step out of is an old one. The use of hair color as status symbol can be traced back to the Egyptians in 1500 BC. The Assyrians, ancient Israelites, Greeks, and the Imperial Romans all used hair dye. Although first century Pope Clemens Romanus declared hair color unlawful lest it “inflame the lust” of citizens the law didn’t stick. The court of Elizabeth I dyed their hair blond. By 1770’s Marie Antoinette’s court touted wigs and Elderberry Black locks. The story goes fast forward with the science of peroxide in the 1950’s and Shirley Polykoff’s famous Miss Clairol tag line, “Does she, or doesn’t she?”

Well. I don’t. Not anymore. And why? Because I’m worth it.

The two and a half hours and $250 every 5 weeks can now be redirected to something that feels expansive: like dinner with my man, flowers for the house, filling up the car three times or writing a check to an organization doing amazing things like Africa Yoga Project.

I wonder, would it be acceptable to naturally go gray if it were an act of social consciousness? Would I even care?

It is socially acceptable to grow a 12 inch ponytail for locks of love. I have done this. Twice. It is acceptable to forego shoes all day for Tom’s Campaign. It is acceptable for the men in my house to grow long and straggly mustaches all of Mo’vember for men’s health awareness.

But gray hair? Now that’s going too far. But I have learned this trick from Gala Darling: focus your love and energy on that part of you that is trying to break free from the narrow bounds of someone else’s version of beauty. Guess what she suggests? “Declare, I am enough.” Hmm. Seems to me when life offers you an expanding condition you have to step into it.

Still, I daily have to whisper to myself “Be Brave,” especially when I see women staring at my ‘ombre’ line as my 13-year-old lovingly calls it. Three principles from yoga have helped me make this leap of faith.

Alignment.

This principle teaches that when we hold back we can feel it in our bodies, but when we can open up and move more fully into our personal blueprint, our alignment, we find spaciousness, honesty and awareness that something much deeper is possible.

Balance.

Also known as Equanimity, where we regard our own truth of what is as valid and worthy. From this place we see everyone else’s truth as valid and worthy as well.

Stillness.

Sometimes called openness, where the question both on and off the mat is: Can I stay? Can I open more? And can I stay even more? This is where we lean into the ‘sharp points’ as the master teachers tell us. The warrior’s sword is made of love and where it cuts, love grows. Which makes Rique a warrior. But he knew that already!

Because the bottom line is, real things cannot be bought, only earned: respect, compassion, radical self acceptance, true love. Each one is a big damn deal.

It turns out I cannot force my way into a full head of sparkly hair. I have to earn it, inch by inch, strand by strand. I must savor the waiting. This makes me vulnerable. But Brene Brown reminds me that the word courage comes from the latin root: cor, or heart.  Although now synonymous with heroics, courage was originally about telling all one’s heart.

“Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.”

She also reminds us that fitting in and belonging are not equal. Fitting in is about doing what needs to be done to be accepted.

“But belonging on the other hand doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to BE who we are.”

I consider my going gray phase an act of daring greatly. In the trenches, guerilla style, self love.

In yoga we say Namaste which translates to: the light in me sees the light in you.

I See You.

What if, at 46, this new white shining hair is my light? Finally visible to the world after all these years. Because the authentic me speaking in my dream wants to be Lit Up.

So here’s an idea—what if Proverbs 16:31 is true? What if every person you see with white hair has earned the right to let their light be seen? A crown of glory. Courageous Radiant and Lit Up.

Namaste.

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Assistant Ed: Kristina Peterson / Ed: Catherine Monkman

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Linda Fenelon