Can you live life in Bras Bas?
My new home doesn’t meet. The cabinets don’t meet the walls. The walls don’t meet the floor. The floor doesn’t meet the foundation. The locks on the doors don’t meet the spaces in the door frames. Like everything in Virginia, it’s old, which is part of its charm. But its shifting and settling has left narrow, disconcerting margins of air at the edges of every room.
I look down at the molding that hovers slightly above the wooden planks, and I get uneasy. I feel exposed, slightly out of control. What will it let in? Isn’t its job to protect me? Keep me safe from ants and spiders, stink bugs and mice and, oh my god, a word I can’t even type… sn@$es!?
I am falling in love with my little Virginia cottage. Yet when I talk about its charm, I feel the need to add that the water goes completely off for 12 seconds every eight minutes, that I can only unlock my front door if the weather is warm, and the whole house rattles ever so slightly when a train passes down the hill. Why can’t I just say I love you, and leave it at that.
This morning while brewing lemongrass tea in my kitchen where the stove misses the cabinets, I was mulling over my discomfort when Cake’s words belted out of the living room like a saucy ultimatum from my house.
I still feel oddly off balance. I want Mike Holmes to show up with all his Holmes on Homes bravado and a fleet from Home Depot to mend my open spaces and make everything alright. I want to wrap up my house in a tidy little raffia knot so I can rest easily on my couch, undisturbed by the unexpected.
How many things have we held at arm’s length because they didn’t fit? People we rejected, opportunities we let slip past, even small daily gestures of kindness we didn’t accept? How many things never got started because we couldn’t commit to the discomfort of the open space?
When I was in the desert trying to make sense of my life, I came up with a theory about this, based on a few years of childhood ballet.
Bras Bas technically means “arms low” and is the dancer’s ready stance. When you stand in Bras Bas, your arms are poised yet relaxed, curving low against your hips, fingers not quite touching. Bras Bas is a ready resting.
I left for my desert odyssey with a question in my pocket: What does feminine strength look like? Bras Bas offered me an answer. It is strong and soft, gently curving, inclusive. Its arms encircle us, leaving an opening to move through. It stands comfortably empty, receptive to what will come. When I stand in Bras Bas, my body understands what took years for my mind to find: to be whole, I must honor the part of me that receives and that can shift with grace when the unknown enters.
We live in a culture centered around “do-ing”, and we’ve grossly undervalued “be-ing”. Being is a receptive state, it is the ability to relinquish control, to let life be exactly as it is. We can’t ‘do’ ‘be-ing.’
We’ve built walls of fear around us in anticipation of a life of war. But there is another way: intentional surrender. Soften into being. Have strong arms but let them rest next to you, at the ready. Empty yourself to receive. And leave room for the gifts of your life to bloom through the open spaces.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. My teacher showed up as a charming little cottage in Virginia, resting in Bras Bas, strong and relaxed against the garden. Its edges do not meet.
I have a lot to learn.