Hairdresser on fire

red roses

Birthday Roses

You plan a haircut or some other decadent, restorative salon visit during your birthday week. You do this because you want to feel beautiful, the cut is overdue, and because the visit has been encouraged by a girlfriend. You look forward to it, anticipating the hour or so of sitting still and letting someone’s skilled hands move over you, making healing things happen to your body and mind.

But then: drama. Because it’s a salon. Because of the above and because the whole experience involves at least two humans, possibly more if it’s a busy salon or if you’ve planned on treating more than one of your parts (hair, skin, nails, tight shoulders, weary feet, et cetera).

The drama results from conflicting intentions or missed communications, between the people present. If only by your  presence, you will be a participant. You are not that bottle of shampoo.

More likely than not, you will leave smiling and bold, sometimes with a spicy story to share with your supportive, sometimes concerned spouse. Sometimes, even on days you leave pleased with the outcome, that hour gets filled with a week’s worth of fretting, fear, anger, doubt, and/or, briefly, mistrust.

short haircut

And so we meet again

Spouse wonders why you continue to go to this place, when it clearly takes away from some of your up energy, for part of a day or longer. You may wonder about this, too. You may manage to tuck that wondering away, eventually, because you are vain, because your stylist is a lovely, loving magician of allure, and because there are more important things toward which you must direct your attention, for the rest of the day.

You realize that you have definitely contributed to the drama. The finger points to someone else, then back at yourself, then the hand drops. We’re all part of this struggle, this energy, this reality, this … arrangement.

This second-person narrative adventure has been brought to you by … my meditation practice.

I got a haircut yesterday. It ended up shorter than I had envisioned when I walked in, but it looks great. The evening appointment was a lesson in surrender: not just to the scissors, but also of general attachment. I briefly considered that it could have been a moment to stand up for myself, but sharp objects and an experienced hair stylist were involved, and this was one of those times to trust the very skillful and thoughtful professional of the hour. But man, that hour was exhausting! Contributing factors to the stress may have been other things going on in the room, and a stressful season for me in general. I brought more things to the salon than just a need for a trim.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had an experience that illuminated any specific part of my yoga reading. A compassion lesson isn’t hard to find on any day: I tend to be pretty hard on myself, and conflict often draws my attention to the possibility that the other person has way more going on that what appears. We all need a little love.

However, the lesson I’m drawing from The Salon Visit is more about modesty and humility: realizing that while my inner world is the most immediately familiar –and often the most loud– one, but it’s not the only one. It is one of many that make up a whole. It’s relevant and operates in concert with many others. Everything is connected.

birthday cake

It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday

One of the Yoga Sutras’ 10 guidelines for living a fulfilled life is Ishvara Pranidhana. It describes self-surrender to a bigger, stronger power. Sometimes it may be about positioning yourself in front of an altar, a breathtaking panorama, or a sparkling moment and finding a way to say “Hello, God or Gods. I’m not in control. Well, not of as much as I’d like to be. And I know my role means something. I am going to do my best, and roll with this. Thank you.”

However, that’s a more formal way of addressing it. The real trick, the way to do it is to notice that relationship dynamic in your daily life. Part of it is being able to step back and see a bigger picture; part of it is taking an action (which sometimes may be inaction) with that bigger picture in mind.

That may seem like a tall order, but it doesn’t have to mean taking an exhausting inventory of the situation, which would probably be impossible. It can just mean stepping a little bit back from your immediate emotional reaction, to look for, and work with, the next layer of items in the picture. I sent a hint to the stylist, via a little melodrama in my movements in the chair, and we talked it through. Done. Smiles all around. Then off to the climbing gym.

Man, sometimes I think I’ve got this not-letting- emotions-run- the-show skill down pat. And then I freak out a little at the hairdresser, momentarily. Guess I’m not as grown-up/old as I thought. Happy birthday to me!