Off the Mat: The Rainbow Within

The Rainbow Within

When I was growing up, church was the center of my family’s social network. Sundays were music, crafts, and familiar stories, potlucks, and community. We sang Morning Has Broken alongside How Great Thou Art – it was the 70s, after all.

Beyond church, my parents helped host Christian encounter retreats a few times each year. These weekends were adults only, but the closing worship services were open to everyone, including kids. For my single-digit self, these services were late and long and often hot, but I enjoyed them. Even now, I can close my eyes and be resting my head in my mom’s lap in the pew of some church for some closing celebration, sensing the warm glow of the light and the love and the music. Lots of music. Lots of rainbows.

Rainbows became my thing. I decorated my new room in a new town with a rainbow bedspread and sheets and the two pillowcases that, if propped just right, made the full arch of the rainbow. (Want a visual for this trip down memory lane? Google “tomorrow’s rainbow pillowcases.”) Rainbows symbolized hope and spiritual connection that carried me through the storm clouds of adolescence.

A decade later, the first bumper sticker I put on my first car was a rainbow. Only now my bows were flag shaped. Junior year in college, I sat in a therapist’s comfy chair for the first time. Asked why I’d come, my answer was direct; “I think I’m bisexual and I come from a pretty traditional Christian family, and I don’t know how to deal.”

I was coming out during a time of burgeoning LGB visibility on my NE college campus. (We didn’t yet acknowledge T- much less X – then. In the late 80s, getting the B on the list was still significant.) Pink triangles – a Nazi symbol of oppression – tagged identity. I wore a black t-shirt with a pink triangle to my first Pride parade, the summer of ‘91. I roasted. Surely I didn’t hydrate well and had an awful headache that night, compounded by the genuine yet cluelessly homophobic commentary from my summer housemates who’d gone to Pride as a cultural exploration, not a step of self-identity.

That summer, I also found a church, one that flew a rainbow flag. That not only allowed everyone but welcomed them, witnessing to the inclusive love of God. A place where my particular difference wasn’t unusual. Where others understood the pain of my father’s rejection and bore witness to alternatives, just by living their lives. Here was my rainbow again.

I plugged in as a 20-something, working with the children and teens. One Christmas pageant, I was tasked with a contingent of pre-school angels. At rehearsal, as we tried on glittery cardboard wings and practiced where to stand, one mama of an unusually quiet little girl asked: “what color do angels wear?”

I don’t know if she expected instructions for white nightgowns as I remember from childhood. I answered differently. “Angels come in all colors of the rainbow.” Immediately, I saw her child’s eyes light up as some spark within her caught – my words blowing just enough oxygen to ignite a flame deep within. Sunday morning dawned with the brightest bunch of rainbow angels you’ve ever seen.

Rainbows are nature’s symbol for inclusion and diversity, revealing the full spectrum of color contained within light.

In my 30s, yoga introduced me to the chakra system. Yoga philosophy presents chakras as centers of consciousness along the central axis of our bodies. Modern physiology reveals corresponding nerve ganglia adjacent to our spinal columns. These nerve centers serve as energetic traffic rotaries, helping information flow within the highways and byways of the human body.

Seven wheels of energy – chakra literally translates as “wheel” – each integrating a major aspect of our physical, mental, and spiritual selves. Each chakra represented by its own corresponding color: ROY G BIV from seat to crown. The rainbow within us.

The first limbs of yoga philosophy, the yamas and niyamas, describe how to treat ourselves and others. Different from my childhood traditions, these ten tenets are not about how to get into heaven and avoid hell but provide reference points for how to live a content and connected life. And, I hope, to live by example, so our children learn to do the same and perhaps have less to unlearn in the therapists’ comfy chairs of their future. The list of tenets begins with Ahimsa, nonviolence, and ends with Isvara Pranidhara, humility, and faith, dedication and devotion to the Divine. Becoming one with Spirit.

God and angels. Protest and praise. Color-full community. The physics of light and neurons. My context has changed over the decades, yet the colors remain constant. Rainbows remind me that there is more to me than flesh and bone.



Ginny Hamilton

Pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner Ginny Hamilton teaches simple & proven techniques to release pain & restore energy in the workplace, group classes & private sessions. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

[Photo credits: (cc) torbakhopper]

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