Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Now I Become Myself"

One year ago today, I opened Johns Creek Yoga.

It seems almost impossible that I am already celebrating this first anniversary, and yet virtually everything about my life has changed over the course of this year. 

As joyful as that opening day was, when I unlocked that door on February 13, 2012, my life was in ruins. Two months prior, my husband of 20 years and I had separated under paralyzingly painful circumstances, my children were struggling, I was healing from a major surgery, and I had no idea how I would find the strength to support my dream.  All I knew was that I NEEDED this.  A tiny voice had been whispering to me for years saying " need more....there is something more...find it." And when my husband moved out, the voice became a scream. I had no choice but to listen. I was yearning for a community of authentic, introspective people: people who were committed to making the world and themselves better and kinder; people who were thirsty for knowledge about the mysteries of the universe and interested in exploring the depths of their souls for answers. The creation of the studio was an "if you build it, they will come" invitation to people I didn't even know, and as much as I wanted them to show up, I was wracked with fear and doubt and my vision was clouded by the trauma in my life.

In the midst of my despair, I dove into my own yoga practice with a vigor that I never had before. I woke up early to practice and meditate, I took breaks from readying the studio to practice more, I ended each day with Pigeon Pose and more meditation, and I broke into a million pieces in the process. I shed more tears on the mat in those first few months than I knew a body could contain. And I healed. Little by little, day by day I grew stronger.  

What's more, I learned more about the power of Yoga during that time than I had in the whole 12 years I had practiced prior. All of the lovely words and philosophy, the information about the energetic body and how it connected to emotion, suddenly became completely visceral. I KNEW, without any doubt, that there was a completely whole, perfect, calm, strong, capable Self at the center of my being that could sustain me if I could access it.  I knew it because I could access it on the mat.  I found peace there and it began to seep into my life off of the mat. I found strength there, and it began to sustain me off the mat. I found compassion there, and it allowed me to forgive and leave the past behind. 

While I was healing, every day, amazing, inspiring, compassionate people were showing up in my life. Students came trickling in until they became a steady stream of visitors. Most of them had no idea what I was going through on a personal level, but their enthusiasm and willingness to explore the depths of their beautiful multidimensional selves inspired me. The teachers I had hired out of nothing more than gut instinct became dear friends and trusted colleagues.  The friends I had had for many years held me in their arms and carried me through on the days it seemed too much, and something magical happened.  I fell in love.... with yoga and with the beautiful Sangha that was emerging at JCY.

As I look back today, I believe that all I went through was necessary.  Every day is  more joyful than I ever dreamed possible. I feel deeply blessed, and I think that perhaps the losses I suffered then were necessary to clear space for this incredibly rich and full life that has emerged. 

On opening day last year, I copied a poem that inspired me into my journal.  I wrote it there as an intention...a wish...I hoped that at some point I would grow to feel completely aligned with the sentiment and the words.  Miraculously, I can say that today it speaks for exactly what I feel.  I share it with you as a reminder of the power of intention in your life, of the rewards of honoring the cry of your soul, and of the inexhaustible resiliency of the human spirit. 


Now I Become Myself
May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken 
Time, many years and places;

I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Yoga is Love

It's February, and love is being mass-marketed everywhere you look. The internet is full of lists of things to do, meals to prepare, gifts to give, and words to say on Valentine's Day. February 14th is both hailed as a day to show someone you love just how much you care, and scorned as an overly commercialized invention with too much pressure for couples who are in love and too much anxiety for those who are not.

Wherever you land on that spectrum, it seems to me that devoting a day to the glorification of Love is a worthwhile endeavor. In fact, at the studio, I've declared that the entire month is all about Love. There are love songs on our playlists, heart opening poses in our classes, partner focused asanas, and even a workshop on the Heart Chakra. And guess what? You don't have to be "in love" with a single person to be constantly in Love.  In fact, broadening the idea of what constitutes love and how it might show up in our world might just open your heart in ways you never dreamed possible.

To me, Yoga is Love.  

The Greeks differentiated between 3 different types of love:  Eros, the intimate love between a couple, rife with sexual attraction and desire; Philos, the platonic love between two people who are friends or family members, and Agape, unconditional, all-encompassing, selfless, spiritual, even divine, Love.

Most of the love that we encounter in our modern world falls into the first two categories and most of it, even while it nourishes and sustains us, is characterized by need and desire. We crave connection to other people. We need them to provide affirmation, affection, support.  This is the human condition which is why it is so astonishing to encounter Agape.  Agape is reserved for Gods and Saints whose self-less embrace of all of humanity demonstrates a love beyond the ordinary. In our time, Mother Theresa and Ghandi stand out. Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example, but we are all capable of this, and Yoga invites us to it.

At the heart of yoga is the idea that through the eight fold path, the lines between "you" and "I" dissolve. When we dive deep into our own consciousness and connect with our own soul, we also find the connection to divine consciousness, and we learn to recognize the same in every single being we encounter.  As Rumi so elequently puts it:

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. 
I'll meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
each other
doesn't make any sense.

And the beauty of seeing the world through this lens (even if it only comes in glimpses) is that we might be able to live constantly and ecstatically in Love.  If I can remove my neediness and my desires, and understand that you are me, and I am you, then your joy becomes my joy, your happiness my happiness, your achievement my achievement, "every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you" (Song of Myself, Whitman).

There may never be greeting cards devoted to this kind of love, and it's unlikely that many of us will ever be able to completely live this way, but practicing yoga, dissolving the self through the physicality of asana, the stillness of meditation, the adherence to yamas and niyamas, might just give us a moment or two of clarity...and maybe, just maybe, those moment will grow longer and more sustained until they can resist the influences of the "I" culture in which we live. Can you dare to imagine a world where this is the norm?  

Let it begin by making February a meditation on just this kind of self-less Love.  Become like the Sun in the poem below by Hafiz. Love without restraint or expectation,  and let all of creation become your Valentine.

All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

"You owe me."

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.


Happy Valentine"s Day!