Monday, March 14, 2011

Bodies in motion tend to...revolt!

I have made my way back home to Nashville after a busy weekend of traveling through three time zones. I am still processing my visit to Naropa University, and I was fortunate to be able to spend some time in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, PA with my family for the remainder of the weekend. My whole family was at the Philadelphia airport to pick me up (my mom, my dad, and my sister), and their reactions to the hijab were so overwhelmingly supportive. I had not told them about this ahead of time, partially because I wanted to get their genuine reactions at the airport, but mostly, because I wanted to talk with them in person about the hijab and what it means to me.

I explained that wearing the hijab is mindfulness practice for me, which encourages me to consider how I feel and move in my body. How does my body send me messages about myself and the world around me? What do these messages feel like? I heard Thomas Hanna quoted once from his book Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking that our bodies are where our subconscious is manifest. Yes, my body can tell me a lot about myself if I open myself up to its signals. However, how I dress my subconscious-sensitive body, I am learning, adds a new dimension to things. I think I need an example...

Here we go. Wearing the hijab has encouraged me to look deep within myself, to see how I think about myself and others. I have been placed face to face with my assumptions, and also with my values. I told my family this weekend that when I was growing up, there was a time when I did not feel pretty. I had glasses, and braces, and thick bangs, but gosh darnit, I was smart and I was beautiful inside. And that was enough for me. Somewhere along the way, I know I lost touch with that young girl's confidence, but this experience with the hijab has reconnected me to it again. Is this what Tayyibah meant when she said that wearing the hijab has a "spiritual dimension"? Perhaps so.

I also explained to my family that I wear the hijab as a commitment to solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers, especially in light of recent proposed legislation in Tennessee that would make following sharia law a felony. I hope that my body (and dress) is a body in revolt, lovingly and compassionately protesting the hate and fear that springs from misunderstanding and, not surprisingly, hate and fear.

There is more to say, but this feels like a good place to stop for tonight, so I will warmly greet that feeling, honor it with all that it deserves, and...

Wishing you a deep-down-in-your-bones peace,



  1. You are indeed beautiful and should feel confidence based on the fact that you are a good person with a strong mind - an intellectual texture fit for conversation & unconventional challenge. So proud of the woman you are the gift of watching you blossom from the front row.

  2. Wow, Sarah. Found my way here via JJT's link on fb. This is incredible. I will send you a friend request. I'm eager to follow you on this journey. I don't think we've had the privilege of meeting- I'm Sarah Sanderson-Doughty and am a third year doctoral student in theology at Vandy. This is a beautiful lenten discipline. I deeply value that though you do not identify as a Christian, nor as a muslim, you are embracing an invitation to discipline from each as a journey deeper into your own Buddhist practice. This is so powerful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing the journey.