Temptation lurches inside my chest, aiming to break through my sternum with its fist. But as my thoughts riot within the walls of my skull, logic chases after them. “Listen to me,” he begs. Logic is a feeble opponent, as his rational explanations are drowned out by the adrenaline that fuels the parts of me that are infuriatingly human. Temptation. Lust. Desire. We are ridiculed for accepting these innate aspects of ourselves. But it’s completely appropriate to honor our sexuality. The difficult part about doing so is determining healthy outlets to express it. In this venture to determine such outlets, our desires clash with the moral compass. As I manage my instincts, my thoughts are in a frenzy. Fueled by euphoria, they catalyze the flow of blood that pulsates through my neck and convinces me that I’m nervous. Can we call it “nervous”? Call it repressed. Call it controlled. Call it a battle between logic and emotion. But my only goal is to embrace these human aspects of myself, lust, and desire and all. All the while, we must keep in mind that logic always has the last word… despite chasing after emotion like a mother does her child. Logic tries to hush emotion, until emotion collapses from the fading adrenaline high. He lays on the floor of my mind, like a fish gasping for oxygen on a dock. We cannot berate ourselves for experiencing a diverse spectrum of emotions that are unique to the human experience. Rather, we can implement healthy modes of self-expression in such a way that integrates morality and self-awareness into our being.
Writer’s Note: This poem captures the experience of my nighttime yoga session yesterday. In writing this piece, I consciously acknowledge my personal and innate characteristics. But what is more valuable to me is to tap into my subconscious mind and embrace the aspects of me that make me human. During my early teen years, I always felt the need to berate myself for experiencing emotions that I presumed were shameful for a woman to have, such as lust and desire. But in this poem, I encourage myself to accept that these are emotions that are an inherent aspect of the human experience. I hope to convey a theme of self-awareness, acceptance, and unabashed self-love. Thank you so much for reading. -Naima
I drag my pointed toes in front of my body,
as I walk
Poised to dance,
I slide into frog pose.
The eyes close as music fuels euphoria.
I am human.
I am embracing myself.
Open up the chest.
Push the shoulders back.
Every part of me– lust, desire, and all.
Open the rib cage.
Arch the back.
This is me.
I am infuriatingly, yet beautifully, human.
This is me– accepting and celebrating myself.
Arms outstretched upon landing.
I am emotion and logic.
I am temptation and controlled desire.
I am human.
Writer’s Note: This poem recounts the experience of doing outdoor yoga on the campus of George Mason University. The experience focuses on the mind’s activity as I make the campus my yoga studio, which conveys a theme of timelessness and mental wellness. Enjoy! -Naima
I kicked my right leg behind me,
Shifting my body-weight into a handstand.
Upside down, I listened to the gentle whoosh
of blood travelling from the pulse in my neck
to the temples.
As the heads of passersby turned to observe
this quiet outdoor adventure,
I stepped into their shoes.
From the outside looking in,
I am a yogi,
gently drawing the attention of college students
who are rushing to class.
I am a contortion,
an upside-down figure
a transformative shape.
But this activity is not about aesthetics.
Do we dare sacrifice mindfulness for physical appeal?
In this moment,
my lungs blossom.
Oxygen fills the space between each rib.
The eyes close
for just a moment.
I feel the sun rays
I feel the wind
crawl through the fibers of my clothing.
Sound is a coalescence of birdsong and jubilant teenage chatter.
While my photographer captures the image
in physical equilibrium,
How amazing would it be to capture the mind’s activity
in a photo?
Perhaps it would be more beautiful than this graceful pose,
or these pointed toes.
But from now and into infinity,
I stay present.
If I may separate myself from thoughts of worry
then I enable myself to gain a rational perspective,
a well-balanced mind achieved only through a well-balanced lifestyle.
So let me be a contortion,
a space in time.
Regardless of what you perceive
I’m glad I lived in infinite forms.
I may live in the memories of loved ones,
friends, family, and community members,
or in the eye of a camera.
Perhaps this perception explains why the word “home” seems subjective.
Here, on these steps where I hold a handstand,
I create a home.
In mindfulness and equilibrium of mind and body,
And in this space,
my community members contributed to its positive atmosphere.
My lungs have fully blossomed,
and are freshly supplied with oxygen.
The photographer takes one last snapshot
of my elegant shapes,
albeit unbalanced at times,