I love my neighborhood and the people in it. After a long day of school I get to go to local yoga studios and teach. More often than not class is filled with a sense of togetherness. Sometimes class is tough and I hear collective groans or giggles if I make a joke to ease tension in a challenging moment. Lately, as a massage therapist community has a more intimate meaning. Community is healing. This is new for me. Not gonna lie- I have hermit tendencies. Being alone comes easily to me. But I know I’m not in this thing called life by myself. I find a big smile sliding across my face riding down the street and saying hello to students, clients and friendly faces I know from the yoga classes I take. It takes a village to raise children and to sustain a neighborhood. This is good. This is life. This is love.
Be a good neighbor.
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
― Albert Ellis
I woke up this morning at 6 instead of 5:30. I rushed to do a morning sit. I know- rushing to meditate? Doesn’t bode well. I sat on my block and silently began to chastise myself as soon as the bell rang.
I should’ve gotten up earlier.
I should’ve taken a shower first.
I should’ve turned on the washing machine.
Suddenly I remembered what one of my teachers said during my yoga for cancer training.
‘We need to stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.’
Peace crashed down. Things were as they were supposed to be, because if they were to be different I would have made different choices. I returned to my breathing. My steady in breath and out breath softened the tops of my shoulders. I began to unhook from tension and eased into the morning. I heard birds. Then a truck backing up. Then a passing bus. And always I came back to my breathing.
What started out as a tight morning resulted in the ability to reclaim the moment. And that’s what meditation is about. When I can recognize what is going on and investigate it I allow for a chance to let. it. go. Sometimes this is the yoga. It’s not about asana. In yoga we talk about Ahisma, practicing non-violence. This means being kind to others and the one’s own spirit.
No more shoulding on myself.
During my Therapeutic Yoga Workshop I spoke about the concept of being with whatever is happening in the moment. I think that our society gets caught up in the idea of having to be happy all. of. the. time.
I think that’s ridiculous. Sure, I try to live life peacefully and that can be joyful. However on some days I feel meh. Or tired. Or even depressed. Trying to be one thing consistently isn’t how we work. The one that is constant is our fluid life.
And that’s okay because it’s living authentically. If I relentlessly pursued the notion I should be happy all of the time I’d be setting myself up for a crushing blow. It ain’t happenin’. Life has seasons. Our bodies have rythyms that work to keep us in a state of harmony. I like this. Congruity. Things fit together in a way that is balanced. Can you imagine if your body lived in the pleasure center. All ‘dopamined’ up with no place to go.
So let be. No need to chase a happy dragon. Thich Nhat Hahn says that by following our breathing we invite ours to be in the present where we have an appointment with life. That moment may be full of joy, completely fucked up or blissfully dull. But life is in that moment. Not in the future or behind us in the past.
Happy? Sure, sometimes. But I think I’ll opt for what’s happening all of the time. That’s where my life is.
“Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
On the 4th floor I was met with a ton of empty beds and lethargy. Lots of women had been released and others were at work. None of the regulars were around and it was a hard sell on some unfamiliar faces. I did see one student I knew and she said she was tired and didn’t feel like coming to the mat. Oddly though, no one seemed to want me to leave. I chatted for a little while- but hey I have yoga to peddle. I said my goodbyes and decided to go to the 5th floor.
A group of 15 settled on blocks and bolsters. I led practice off by stating that I would be teaching using the word ‘I’ because I was going to do what made sense for me. In turn, they should do what makes sense for them. It was jazzy.
When presented with the opportunity to choose (anything) we are both liberated and accountable. Our class started to draw onlookers. It might have been with some of the laughing, but I think it also had to do with people moving to their own rhythm. I risk sounding new agey typing this but the vibe surrounding a group of women making choices feels differently than a group of women being told what to do. It just does. By the time meditation rolled around I had a few spectators grab mats.
Typically, I do a guided meditation that uses visualization. But because the room felt solid and safe I opted for a traditional yoga nidra. The CO in the dorm kept things at a dull roar (for which I was grateful). It allowed for a deep state of meditation. Quite a few women hung back after class to chat with each and ask me a few questions. This is usually a good sign. One student told me that she used to go to a studio where I practice in the city. She said when she gets out she’s going to go back.
Maybe that’s what the day was about. Having a student make a choice to go back to her practice. From there, who knows. She’ll choose I guess.