I woke up Friday morning and felt a pull to get to the Temple.
As Jonny and I rode out to the playa the dust started swirling, not a full white out, but as we got closer to the temple the visibility decreased. You could see but not well, you could ride but with caution.
We kept going.
Then suddenly the dust settled, and there the temple was in all its mystical grandness, a pyramid of human emotion standing majestically before me.
It just seemed to appear out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it so close and it took my breathe away.
We parked our bikes and I walked towards the temple slowly, aware on some level that I was walking towards some kind of experience.
I stepped inside and the first thing that struck me was how the sun dappled through the openings in the wood.
And then I felt pain. There was pain everywhere. Pain and grief and sadness, with a chord of hope and love tying it all together.
The emotion was palpable, inescapable.
It was heavy but uplifting at the same time.
I just stood there and let the fullness of it wash through me. Then I slowly made my way through the temple, walking in the outermost layer, breathing in the collective yearning that people brought there, the anguish and the hope.
I read some of the messages on the walls. Some wrote to loved ones gone, some prayed for healing, some searched for answers. At some point I couldn’t read anymore I could only feel.
I cried on and off, sometimes for my own grief and sometimes for others. I felt raw but not depleted. I was amongst total strangers but I didn’t feel alone.
I was a bit dazed by it all, but somehow found Jonny and we worked our way to the center of the temple, where people were still. Some were meditating, some were crying, some just sat in blankness. A woman with a beautiful voice was chanting softly.
I sat in the dust and felt empty for a while.
Then deep within me I felt a sob escape. Then another. And another. And then I couldn’t stop. My body seemed overtaken by a darkness that had been living in my core for a long long time. I was so used to fighting that darkness, to pushing it back down, but on that day in that place I just let it go. All the grief and the pain and the sadness just poured out. I cried and cried, like a bottomless well of anguish.
I cried for my dad.
I cried for all the things he will never see, the celebrations he will never share, the grandchildren he’ll never meet.
I cried for all the things I never got to say to him.
I cried for the regret in not appreciating him more when he was alive.
I cried for my mother, for her loneliness and pain.
I cried for my kids, they still grapple with the sudden loss of their baba and the empty hole left behind.
I cried for the gentle, loving soul my dad was, for his tenderness and purity, for his goodness in what can be a harsh world.
I cried for all the people around me who were suffering.
I cried for the isolation of the lives we live, for the disconnect we all feel but shouldn’t.
I cried because I felt I finally could.
It all came out, pain I didn’t even know was there. It hung all around me and inside me and I didn’t know how to let it go.
After some time a woman came by and sat down behind me. She wrapped her legs around me and put her hands on my back, gently pressing down. I didn’t know what was happening, but went with it, it felt right.
Her hands were extremely warm, almost uncomfortable. She quietly and gently pressed her palms into my back, starting at the top and slowly making her way down. I couldn’t stop sobbing, trembling. The woman continued pressing gently on my back, her hands getting slowly lower, very slowly, towards my core.
As her hands moved down something bizarre began to happen… She was pressing gently yet I could feel a pulling, like something was coming out. It was as though she was pulling something out from deep within my soul, some kind of dark grief I didn’t even know was there – grief mostly for losing my dad but also pain I had stored and internalized years earlier – it was like she was literally pulling out my pain. Exorcising it from my being.
I felt lighter and lighter.
I felt each muscle relax and unhinge, letting go of some deep emotional toxin.
I breathed deeply and purely over and over again, calming down with each breathe, with the gentle pressure of the woman’s hands.
I felt myself let go.
I felt this huge dark heaviness rise up from out of my being and evaporate around me.
I felt cleansed. I felt free. I felt connected to the person I really am under all the layers of grief and bullshit. I felt awake and in tune in a way I have never experienced.
The woman then just held me gently as I breathed.
We sat that way for a little while.
Then she came around the front, gently pressed her hands along my forehead from the center out. We looked at each other – really looked – deeply and with purity – into each others eyes. I felt incredibly connected to her. And I felt joyful. Peaceful. Balanced.
“Thank you” I said.
She acknowledged me with her eyes, then slowly got up and walked away.
I don’t know her name, I have no idea who she is or why she came to me so spontaneously and openly. That beautiful woman who I don’t know and will never see again gave me the most precious gift. She healed me, released me, made me feel whole again.
Jonny looked at me quizzically; he had watched the whole thing.
“Are you ok?” He asked.
I smiled back at him.
“I feel good baby. I actually feel really really good.”
And I do.
Everything feels different now, more centered, more balanced. There has been a huge shift deep in my core since that woman came to me in the temple that day. It was life altering and beautiful. And I will be forever grateful for her.
As we rode away from the temple back to camp the dust really got going, and became a full blown white out that stopped us in our tracks. It was the only white out I experienced the whole week and that didn’t feel like a coincidence, it felt like an energy in the air, like something greater than us was going on.
As I stood there surrounded, in the midst of nothing and feeling like all other living existence had disappeared, I felt so connected, so grounded yet so light, as if I were standing solidly for the first time. It was breathtaking.
As the dust settled and dissipated we could slowly start to make out shapes and reorient ourselves. We rode back in awed silence, and I felt whole.
by Naomi Jedeikin Starr