“Kiss me on my eyelids, make bad things go away. Kiss me on my forehead, make everything okay.”
~ Kissalude, Basement Jaxx
When I was little, I didn’t really have a forehead.
I had a keppe instead.
Keppe is the Yiddish word for forehead. As a child, I was always kissed on the keppe, and I was tucked in at night with instructions to put my keppe in the pillow. If I was ever hurt, a kiss on the keppe would always make things better.
Of course, my children grew up with kisses on their keppes, too, and I’d tuck them in at night with a game, a kind of Goodnight Moon for the senses.
I’d call out and point to the parts of their faces, starting with their noses, followed by a light tap on each. I’d say eye and other eye, and they’d turn their faces toward mine and close their lids for another tap; then, one cheek and next the other, then their ears, their mouths and chins.
And finally, the keppe, and they’d let me put my hand on their brows and rock them goodnight on their pillows.
It was a game of acknowledgement, and they never tired of it. In a few moments with just these parts, we named and recognized all that was them.
To this day, any reference to the keppe conjures notions of nurturing, and I was more than surprised to hear about it at yoga.
Early on, I was in class, building some courage for Crow. Lots of us were new, and we were doing our best to balance on our hands with our knees on the backs of our arms.
And as in my children’s game, the instructor called out parts of us to recognize, but for this it was our knees, our elbows, our bellies and more. We were encouraged to find a teeter point, and I tucked in my knees and lifted my feet ever so slightly off the ground before tipping back to safety in my squat.
From there, I remember looking around and fearing a face plant for us all. But I wanted to stay in the game, and so I continued the effort with the others, and that’s when I heard what I’ll never forget:
Be careful of your keppes!
The instructor had called out our keppes! I couldn’t believe it. There on the mat, I was little again, and the words came at me in a wave of kindness that I doubt he even knew he expressed.
I don’t know why I was so touched. No one else seemed to be.
In yoga, there’s talk about energy centers in our bodies. These energy centers are called chakras, and they exist in the subtle body, the non-physical body. The chakras are the meeting places of the channels through which our bodies’ energy moves. We can’t point them out, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
The Sixth Chakra is the Third Eye, and it’s located at the center of our foreheads, right above the eyebrows. It’s the point of intuition; the place of perception. It’s the part of us that senses beyond our five senses. It’s what we use to make sense of what we can’t name.
It’s the keppe!
To see through the Third Eye is to see the truth, whatever that is. This is the kind of sight we see when we turn our faces and close each lid for the clearest visions we’ve ever known.
And now the goodnight game from long ago makes so much more sense. A final goodnight has to be granted to even the keppe, so this eye can close for a deep and true rest.
It seems I’ve grown cautious of my keppe without even realizing it. It doesn’t escape me that my forehead is never really on display. In fact, the most important part of my visit to the hairdresser is our continuing discussion about my bangs, as if we’re forever designing a curtain over my Third Eye.
But yoga is the one place where I pin back my bangs, where I see myself and let myself be seen.
So it’s no wonder why it’s a bit of a big deal for me when an instructor places a hand on my forehead during Savasana, or final resting pose. These adjustments are not out of the ordinary, but to me, they are anything but.
A hand on my forehead is for me as it was for my children. It’s as if I am being wholly named and recognized without anyone necessarily knowing me.
And, most important, I am putting myself in a position for this to happen. For that brief moment at the end of practice, I allow myself to feel cared for in a way I usually don’t, and I think that’s a good thing for me to practice, too.
The other day, I was at the dentist, a place I used to dread. But, these days, I adore my dentist and everyone in his office, and nothing ever really hurts. The visits are always more than okay.
This time, though, I needed Novocain, and there was going to be some drilling. I spent the day prior calling out the tasks that I knew would help me relax, so that I could arrive at my teeter point without any fear of a face plant.
I was proud to make it through the appointment. After, I lay in the chair feeling like I do in Savasana, rested and with a sense of accomplishment.
Then, right before I turned to get up, I felt someone lean over my head and plant a kiss atop my bangs.
You did a really good job, Anne.
It was the dentist, sending me off with a kiss on the keppe.
Author: Anne Samit
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: János Csongor Kerekes