Sometimes someone says something very, very wise, and it is the exact right moment for you to hear it, and the words reverberate within you and around you like a singing bowl.

You are a bell and the words are bells and you bell together.

And then, later, you can re-hear the words or conjure them up in your mind, and it’s as if that bell is still ringing, still sending faint vibrations through the orbit of your life.

Sometimes so much is going on in the moment that you miss the original ringing, but it happens anyway, and then later you remember and you feel that circular hum around you, clearing everything out with quiet steady truth.


Many years ago, in Tel Aviv, I used to trek to Sigal’s house three times a week for yoga. And by “yoga”, I mean intense body-mind-spirit practice. And by “house”, I mean a small falling-apart shack by the sea.

We were a small, devoted group of oddballs, and Sigal was our intense recluse of a teacher. She lived yoga, and we lived to learn.

Occasionally someone would yelp during shavasana when a rat scampered over their leg, and maybe Sigal would yell at us when we weren’t getting a concept, and at times we would all collapse in laughter, but mostly my memories from this time are about the potency of the quiet: internal and external quiet.

It was the quiet that rang in me like a bell.

Sure, things were blowing up (literally and figuratively) in the city and in my life, but these times with Sigal were for deep tranquility, turning inward, softening and releasing.

Her classes would go about two and a half hours, with meditation, and then we’d all kind of pass out on the floor for a while and then gradually we would emerge from this bliss-state into a slightly more functional bliss-state, and then we would sit with her and drink mint tea and be quiet.


Sometimes a new person would show up, and they would either be scared off by the intensity of it all or dive right in. Sometimes they liked to talk, a lot, and you’d wait for the quiet to reach them.

One day this young woman came, and at the end, sitting in a heap, huddled in blankets, steady breath, the steam rising from our tea, she started talking about cellulite, and she wouldn’t stop talking about it.

I wasn’t paying attention at first, because I was too deep in quiet-state, but at some point I looked up and suddenly we were all listening.

She was saying, “I really liked the practice, I liked how physical it was and also all the resting, that was really good, but my main goal right now, like I said, is to work on cellulite since I’m already in pretty good shape. Is this really going to help me with that or should I just stick with pilates?”

Not my area.

We all looked at each other.

Sigal answered, “That’s not my area.” She sounded bored.

“What do you mean? You’re a yoga teacher. How is that not your area?” the girl wanted to know.

Sigal’s eyes flashed. “I deal with cellulite of the mind. Brain-cellulite. But the body kind, that’s not my area, I don’t know about that and I don’t think about it. Not my area.”

That’s not my area. Back to breathing.

This is the phrase that reverberates when my monsters have something critical to say about my almost-forty-year-old body.

Thinking something is wrong with how my body looks, deciding that the container which houses my beautiful soul and allows me to move and breathe is somehow unattractive or not good enough because it doesn’t look like it did twenty years ago or because it doesn’t measure up to the fantasy world of magazine standards, believing all the invented external reasons to feel bad about myself…that’s cellulite of the mind.

Not being impressed by the monster-critique…that’s the real yoga. By which I mean: that’s presence. That’s the ringing bell of presence.

“Oh look, I’m worried about cellulite and other forms of not-truth again. That’s okay. I can let it go. It’s not my area.”

Back to breathing. Back to presence.


Presence is my area. Noticing the internalized self-criticism is my area. Saying thank you to my body for everything it does for me is my area. Legitimacy and permission to feel bad about myself if not liking myself is what’s temporarily true for me in the moment, because hey, we all have this intense cultural conditioning to unravel, that’s my area too.

Everything that falls into the category of “how can I take better care of myself, with as much love as I can manage”, that is my area.

Everything that falls into the category of “oh here’s another bullshit thing that is supposedly wrong with me”, that’s not my area. Unless I want to try to heal what’s behind that, because that takes me back to things which are my area.

If it isn’t truth, it’s not my area.

Last week.

Every once in a while I make the mistake of reading stuff on Facebook, speaking of things that are not my area, and last week I saw that someone I vaguely know, a YOGA TEACHER of all people, had posted something about cellulite.

Specifically, it was a photo of a young, thin, white, tanned, toned, able-bodied woman with flawless skin and a phenomenal body (by current cultural standards), and she was pinching her butt, for no apparent reason, since, in this photoshopped picture, there was nothing for her to even theoretically object to.

The statement on this, from, again, AN ACTUAL YOGA TEACHER, a dude, was this: “Every woman hates to have cellulite! Those hideous looking fat deposits…”

I don’t remember the rest. I asked if his account had been hacked, and added that while not all woman necessarily hate to have cellulite, all the women (aka people) I know hate to be told that something about them is hideous.

He didn’t respond, and I unfollowed, because life is short and I have enough brain-cellulite and internal criticism of my own to explore without needing to see more external reminders of Things That Are Not Truth.

What is my area and what is not my area.

My area:

  • Noticing my thoughts and feelings without letting them define me, without thinking that they are the whole of my existence.
  • Permission and legitimacy to be where I’m at in the moment. This is me, this is my stuff, this is my pain, this is what I am experiencing right now.
  • Cultivating an environment that supports my quiet knowing of truth, my bell state. And if that means removing people/situations/experiences that are not bell-friendly, so be it.
  • Trusting that new people will come into my life who share my mission, it is safe to let people go.
  • A body relationship based on trust, listening, support, caring and love.
  • Breathing.
  • Asking “what is true and what’s also true“.
  • Creating my own culture, surrounding myself with reminders of what how I want to live.
  • Talking things out with my monsters, and coloring together.
  • Remembering that there is a huge difference between what yoga means to me (the gentle art and science of getting quiet enough to hear who I am, what I need, how to take care of myself and meet myself with love), and what yoga means to a lot of other people (pink leotards, a thing someone might do at the gym, handstands, stretching). Apply translation as necessary.

Not my area:

  • Comparison.
  • Trying to “fix” myself.
  • Participating in a surrounding culture which values self-“improvement” and pushing past limits, and devalues listening to my body or trusting internal wisdom.

Words that are like bells.

It’s helpful for me to have these reminders of truth, these words that are like bells:

Not My Area. Now Is Not Then. Nothing Is Wrong. Not My Bus.*

* It’s only my bus if I’m on it, that’s how I know.

If I can’t remember truth, a song will work too.

At Rally (Rally!), we used to sing sea shanties every night.

Singing is calming, steadying. It reverberates. It changes internal space (in your body, in your mind) and external space (in the room).

And sea shanties have a repetitive chorus, which means they work like secret mantras: they replace the things repeating in your head with something that rings at a different vibration, a different frequency.

So if my normal headspace is choppy, jumping from worry-thought to worry-thought in an endless loop: “He said X, and I should have said Y, and oh no what if everyone hates me, and how am I ever going to achieve Z if I don’t take care of A, B, and C, and what if people figure out that I’m no good at anything, and ugh, everything is a disaster…”

Replacing it with something else that is equally repetitive but less zappy — something steadier, a better loop — brings me back to quiet, presence, the ringing bell of truth.

The point of yoga, contrary to popular belief/bikini photos, is chitta vritti nirodha: not generating fluctuations in consciousness. Whatever calms fluctuations and brings me back to ringing truth, this is useful.

Of the mind.

This is what I try to remember each time I get sucked back into things the bigger culture thinks are important.

Things like cellulite or imaginary numbers on scales or defining what I do for a living or business models and deadlines and accomplishments and “get things done” and “do epic shit” (because otherwise if we aren’t doing things — meaningful things — every second we are apparently wasting our lives?) and all the ceaseless pressure that comes along with this.

This is not my area. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. I can choose my area.

And right now I choose being a bell. A reverberating bell of remembering.

Comments! Aka come play with me!

You are invited to share things sparked for you while reading.

Or you can delight in saying NOT MY AREA to anything that is not your area! It’s surprisingly fun. Or ring a bell. That’s fun too.

I’d also love to hear other phrases that work like bells for you, or anything useful you’ve received from this site (concepts, phrases, reminders) which do this for you.

As always, we all have our stuff. We all have stuff and we’re all working on it, at our own time and pace. It’s a process.

We make safe space for this, and for each other, and we support this sweet corner of the internet by not giving each other advice, not analyzing each other, not telling people what they should try or how they should feel. We meet ourselves and each other with warmth and sweetness. We practice.

Love, as always, to the commenters, the Beloved Lurkers, and everyone who reads. And bells.

The Fluent Self