Reaching Into the Universe

The first thing I was taught in school

artistic rendition of earthI remember one thing from my first day of school: I remember the first thing I was taught.

We started the first day of kindergarten in the largest room in the school—the Multi-Purpose Room they called it. Gathering us around the teacher and her aide, we were instructed to sit. Not just sit, but specifically cross-legged.

"We need you all to sit on your sitting bones," they said. What the heck was a sitting bone? Whatever it was, I knew sitting cross-legged was uncomfortable for me. I raised my hand. "I usually sit on my knees," I stated. I was answered with a repeat of the instructions, emphasis on "all of you," and I gave in.

I don't know why I gave in. More to the point, I don't know why I said what I said when I raised my hand, why I didn't tell them about my physical discomfort. Looking back, I can see that I hadn't been taught by my family to speak my truth or my needs. I certainly wasn't taught to advocate for myself—how many 5-year-olds are?

The first day of school, the first thing I was taught was that here, too, the authority of adults was higher than the authority of my body.

Nearly 20 years later, I would be sitting in another classroom on the first day of class. The instructor would ask us to sit in a particular way. I would be too uncomfortable in my body to do so. And it would be different than my first day of kindergarten in two meaningful ways.

First, there was no expectation to conform. The instructor had said, "If you can sit seiza, that's nice. If not, sit in a way that's comfortable for you." Not, "I need you all to sit this way," but simply "that'd be nice". He didn't desire to control us.

Second, seiza, the traditional Japanese sitting posture, was exactly how I used to sit as a young child. It was there at massage school that I noticed that the ability to sit comfortably in that position had been trained out of me by my kindergarten teacher. Throughout massage class, I had to sit cross-legged.

It's perhaps only a small way, but this is certainly one way that the weft of control that's woven throughout our culture landed in my body. I feel some sadness around each part of these memories and experiences—sadness acknowledging the kind of culture I was born into and that its consequences don't just exist "out there" in environmental disasters or social injustices but also "in here," in my tissues and the history they embody.

Touching into these memories, I feel not just the sadness but also pain as I draw the connections between global and social issues and my own vulnerable little boy self. I see how these ways that we currently enact our human presence on the planet do not meet my very basic needs for physical safety and well being.

So what do I want? I want a culture that's grounded not in our separation and difference but in our interbeing and interconnection. I want a culture that seeks to cooperate rather than control—cooperate with each other, with nature, with life.

I want to be around others who also want that, who are willing to do what it takes to shed their domestication, let go of the need to control, and live from a realization of non-separateness.

Ok, so that's a work in progress. What, I'm curious, do you want?

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