Since we’ve arrived in South Africa, I’ve been spinning and rocking. Literally, physically rocking, with vertigo. I wondered at first whether this physical symptom was a manifestation of something psychological and perhaps spiritual, and tested out this theory over several days by paying attention to when the rocking occurred. It has taken some time to process through what has been taking shape in and through my body. Although I embarked on this trip with expectations of having my mind and heart blown open, I had no concept of the depth that this work would take me into, nor of my capacity to resource through it. The fact that my own journey began in the physical realm is appropriate, considering the lessons have come in physical forms: in both the body of a rocking child and of a voluptuous South African mama.
As I look into the souls of the beings that I am here to connect into, I see so many aspects of myself reflected in their eyes; some of which, I have not wanted or been willing to see until this moment. At first, these reflections were so overwhelming to me that I unconsciously manifested vertigo in order to cope with what was arising emotionally. On the other side of the world from my home, my world was being rocked. My center, normally maintained by my usual methods of unknowing, of disconnecting, of dissociating, were no longer available to me, and I was spinning in an attempt to regain balance.
On our first day in the field, at Baphumelele orphanage, I saw myself in a small, frail child, rocking herself vigorously and furiously back and forth in a swift motion, a thumb in her mouth, lying supine in a crib, attempting to self-soothe. Witnessing her desperate need for holding caused me to cringe and repel, not from the child, but from myself. By holding her up as a mirror, I came face to face with my warded-off self, the part of me that I heavily and convincingly defend against, the part of my shadow that I have not been in touch with since I, myself, was that age, too young to verbalize my experience. I saw in her desperation my own wish to be rocked, to be held, to be soothed, to be safe. Although I didn’t connect it at that moment, I, too, was rocking.
Three days later, as I once again experienced vertigo upon crossing into the threshold of a room full of libidinal, voluptuous, self-proclaimed “food-loving” African mamas who gathered in the township of Thambo to adopt our group of volunteers for a one night home stay. Immediately upon entering the room, I was overwhelmed by the abundance and bounty of embodied love in the room, symbolized in the physical shape and tender embraces of the many mamas, each eager to take home and nurture a complete stranger. Not yet identifying what was causing such a strong reaction, my eyes filled immediately with tears and I had to reach down deep into my belly for breath to resource. I bee-lined for Suzanne and held onto her hands as I tried to stop the rocking sensation in my body. I realized later that I was time-traveling back to my own childhood and standing in full awareness of my own unmet, but longed for needs to be loved and to be safe. In their welcoming eyes and arms and embodied in their curves, I felt a palpable availability of unconditional love, complete acceptance and total safety.
Although I came here under the auspices of service, I am realizing that in order to truly serve, I must accept that, truthfully and surprisingly, I am here to feed me, to soothe me, to learn to love me. And I am being shown this by experiencing these teachers: the wisdom of the moment, the beauty of the mamas, the vulnerability of the children. Integrating the parts of me that need just as much and have just as much as those I am here to “serve” has been my teaching. I knew this, intellectually, but feeling it at my core is an entirely new, very uncomfortable, and completely rocky experience.
This trip has allowed me to feel fully into my yoga. I am one with the children in need, and I am one with the mamas with so much to offer. I embody and must embrace them both. This is my lesson. This is my yoga, my integration, and my connection. This is my healing from my soul’s apartheid. I am holding both the ability to serve, to love big, to open up to and into situations and people and places that are underserved, disenfranchised, and even helpless, and also to the parts of me that are all of those things. Since realizing this, I’ve come back into balance. Physically, I am no longer rocking and the room is no longer spinning. I am seeing that in my desire to come here to serve, I have been shown my need to heal the parts of me that wished to be held and rocked. And in acknowledging that need, I inherently acknowledge my connection and empathy for those I thought I would be in service to, and who have, instead, ended up serving up invaluable lessons for me. In embracing me fully, the orphaned children and the tender mamas have inspired me to love compassionately and with grace. In seva, I got rocked by love.
by Melody Moore
Melody Moore is a Global Seva Challenge 2010 participant.