Sometimes I think it could be the top of the Howe Street Stairs or the top of the Himalayas and the feeling would be the same. Walking up step by step: lung grabbing breaths, firing hamstrings, sweat rolling down my back. The earth beneath each footfall, the sky above with each inhale, mind quiet, heart open to that sense of connection to whatever it is we are connected to. Sometimes I think all I ever need, will ever need, is my body and my breath and the vast library of sensations within.
On my route today I remembered the first time I encountered myself in this way. Before that moment, I had no real sense of myself at all. It was a rugged early childhood-the type that engenders no sense of worthiness. It was no one's fault. Who can be blamed for generational incompetence anyway? How far back can we go? And still, wandering in that soup of alienation is no one's idea of a good time.
In the early 1960s the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports initiated many of us young people into the world of breath and sweat. As for me, I remember loving those push ups and sit ups. I felt competitive. I broke time records. My schoolmates groaned and moaned at the requirements but I loved them. Pushing myself and feeling my blood course through my small frame was the first time I felt connected not just to my body but to my sense of worthiness. It was all mine and no one could take it away. My life's course must have been set at that moment.
It's been a shitty few months in my life. Tragedies, surgeries, near deaths and real ones. Good friends moving - the ones that affirm your sense of worth in ways you don't realize until one day you turn to them and their place in your space is a hole you sort of fall into, their laugh, their look, their constancy no longer there to hold you up. And to say nothing of the social riptides degrading and eroding and shattering the landscape at our shore's edge. I said to a friend I feel my own worth was once again at stake.
I signed up for a $59.95 e-course on Soulful Aging. Our first assignment was to remember a time when we were young and happy. I wished for my money back. But I thought about it all day today and then on my stairs route I remembered JFK and the President's Council on Physical Fitness. I remembered encountering my muscles, my bones and my breath for the first time then. I don't really remember many times of youthful glee but I do remember going to my body in its absence. And there I felt something. I felt worthy. I felt connected. My life's course must have been initiated then.