So here I sit, propped up in my bed on the 13th floor of our hotel in downtown Abu Dhabi, in a kind of jet-lagged fever dream, bleeding and seething with emotion while simultaneously feeling bottled up and hidden. It’s 7:45pm local time, and it must be some kind of morning hour on the West Coast. It doesn’t feel like either time to me. I got my period while in flight and today is the first day of real bleeding.
Women in burqas and long black abayas walk the street. Do they like being in there? Does it somehow feel comforting? Protective? Or is it stifling? Does it hold them in? Or keep life out?
Our hosts took us to a shiny, air conditioned mall today. Two malls, actually. One of them had an ice skating rink inside and a tall spire with a rotating restaurant on top. Starbucks. Krispy Kreme. Techno music. More women in burqas and hijab. Men in thawb, the traditional long white robe-like tunic. Men in suits. Men in shorts and t-shirts. Women in Lady Gaga-style platform heels, leggings, miniskirts. Subway. Baskin Robbins. Chik Fil A.
This afternoon we visited a hotel whose rooms cost $5,000 a night, just to wander the lobby and admire the gold-gilded rotunda, enormous paintings of the Shaikh hung prominently on the wall. Missy Elliott and her entourage were in the lobby, on their way to her concert tonight. She’s in town as the headliner for the after-party of the huge Formula One auto race that has drawn thousands of race enthusiasts from all over the world to Abu Dhabi this week.
I lay here in bed, half awake and half asleep, floating in the liminal space between time zones and cultures, my mind skipping along the surface of a swirling sea of thoughts, images, impressions. I focus my attention inward with gentle but intent curiosity for a few moments. What IS this feeling I am having? Can I name it? The vibration is low and sorrowful, like a slow cello with a soft but foreboding drum beat in the background. Like a drawn-out art house suspense thriller film where the impending dread stretches on and on: beautifully rendered and painful to experience.
I feel guilty. For what? Is this my feeling? Or is it ambient? Is it the jetlag? Is it Islam? The oil business? I also feel that something terrible is about to happen and that I am guilty, impossibly blackened, unredeemable.
This river of psychic-emotional information arising within me commands my full presence. When I am distracted from it in the least, when my attention bobs to the surface and begins to analyze, fix or wander, I am left feeling ambiguously irritated, listless, helpless and somewhat vacant. Then, dropping the anchor of my attention back down into the darker waters, I focus my still and curious awareness on my spine, my belly, and my womb itself. There must be a better word for this than the amorphous and ubiquitous term “energy.”
Now I begin to perceive directly the pulsation that I’ll resort to calling energy that is moving, always moving, from tailbone to skull. When I do, an orgasmic wave of sensation ripples through my body. My shoulders shake; these orgasmic waves often get stuck at the back of my throat and everything bottlenecks in the levee of silence I have either created or inherited there, resulting in a cascading series of jolting little quakes as the energy diverts course and finds alternate passage. This is where I hold myself in apparently, creating a dam in my the river of my energetic body. My shoulders are the detour. But the condition of my body’s locks and dams are good enough; these waves of sensation can still get through despite the apparent barricades.
This is what my body is meant to do. I am a woman, built for life to flow in and out of me in its entirety, designed to receive all that is happening within and around me as an unbroken flow of information that passes through me, the energy itself transformed by its journey through my inner space. I know, not in my mind but in my cells, how to take the electrical charge in my ambient environment into the converter station of my body and then deeper, through the electrical transformer of my heart.
When I am in the Red Tent, even this red tent here on the 13th floor of the Sheraton in downtown Abu Dhabi, my task, my desire, and my service is to receive. I open my body, turning my attention inward, feeling what is there, and then arching my spine in response to the gravity of this force that wants only to flow through the river of me and back into the ocean of us.
Receive (verb): to accept delivery of something.
I am in a Persian Gulf port town tonight, and I am receiving.