In the great words of Popeye, ” I am what I am.”. This is such a refreshing statement. I feel it should be inside a fortune cookie as a virtuous reminder. By the way, my favorite fortune, which is on my refrigerator, is ‘fate loves the fearless’. With that being said, what I like so much about Popeye’s voice in my head is that it reminds me to be present and not searching or wishing or healing, but to just be.
Recently, I have been reminded by people in my life about September 11, 2001. A babysitter who recently visited the memorial in progress, a stand-up comedian resurrecting some humor about that time, a friend asking about my life in New York City. I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a bit northeast of the Twin Towers. I watched those towers burn from my roof and it was an awing spectacle. As the dust settled, quite literally, there was a city, so vibrant and energetic with a huge hole and of course, a sorrow. “Sorrow is tranquility remembered in emotion”, wrote Dorothy Parker in the Second World War era, but in 2001, for the people of the Big Apple, the pain was palpable.
A beautiful yoga teacher named Jodie Rufty opened a yoga studio south of Union Square called Amrita Yoga. After 9/11, I practiced there regularly in hopes that the studio would get off the ground in the strong pool of yoga that had emerged. It was at Amrita where I first understood the concept of a kula, or a community or assemblage people who practice yoga. I remember listening to a small group of women talk about this painful time, one of us having lost a lover, and then I bowed on my mat. I lengthened and extended, I opened and I closed. Ultimately, the kula was small and the studio closed, but I will always remember those moments of surrendering to the pain that lived inside my body and mind and the feeling of support from those around me doing the exact same thing. I have heard many people say to me that yoga saved their life. I don’t even remember when yoga saved mine. It just became integral to who I am.
It as at Amrita, where I was lead away from poison and toward the nectar. Out of darkness and toward the light. The concept of having all of our actions and emotions come from a place of fear or a place of love really began to surface during this time. And it is all really about love for me. It is such a waste to live with fear being your motivation. So lonely and the opposite of fun, the opposite of ease. This is suffering. I honor those places I have been, the darkest moments and places devoid of truth because they are an important reminder that living your life through love takes intention and attention. It is easy to let fear creep in when your awareness sits idle.
At the end of my seven years in New York, after developing a strong practice, I decided that I could instruct others. There is so much to learn and perhaps this is why I have chosen yoga as my career path. I can only hope that any essence of what came before me will be passed on in some regard of a peace practice. Through asana or meditation, through physical, mental and even spiritual awareness, that is my hope. Where it goes from there is a natural passage of energy.
At the end of every class I teach or instruction session that I lead, I conclude with “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease.” These thoughts are highlighted in loving-kindness mediations, of which I also have a great affinity, but I speak out these hopes on a regular basis because they are instinctual to me. Yoga has allowed me to connect with my innate needs and wants and through this physical and mental process, I find ease and peace.
I mentioned that after 9/11 I bowed on my mat. I began doing this when I started to practice yoga by taking a child’s pose; however, sometime around when my practice became an intrinsic part of me, bowing became something more than just recognition of another or a resting posture, but recognition of myself. Jack Kornfield writes that, “to bow to the fact of our life’s sorrows and betrayals is to accept them and from this deep gesture, we discover that all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds more freedom and compassion than we could imagine.” In this place, you find where you are, who you are and what you are. Namaste.