The only time I ever welled up in front of a class as a yoga teacher was when I shared a story about a 98 year-old woman who survived the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy in 2009. It’s a city near Abruzzo which hadn’t experienced an earthquake in 300 years and this particular quake expressed itself in this small town like an Armageddon.
The survivor’s name was Maria D'Antuono and it took rescuers 30 hours to find her beneath the rubble. What choked me back with tears, and still does, each time I think of Maria, is that when she rescued by the firefighters, she was found knitting.
I find this astonishing because when you listen to people here in America going about their daily lives at Starbucks, for example, not only are they begrudging about how LONG the line is, how slow the internet connection is, or how long it is taking for them to get their fancy coffee drinks, but they are also speaking words which I just cannot line up with. Don’t think these words go nowhere people! They carry powerful and weighty energy. And I believe, reap responses.
When I think about Maria, I am moved to tears. Ninety-eight years old, not knowing if she would live or die, and she decided to be at the CAUSE of her life, rather than the effect of it. What gets me on an even deeper level is that I think about the legacy Maria will leave behind in the creation she was knitting. The story which will be told for generations and generations, held in honor and love and valiance.
When I think of Maria, I ask another question: how are you spending the time of your life? Are you standing in line muttering under your breath each day and are you complacent with that? Are you driving from place to place and cursing at other cars?
Are you holding doors for people? Giving up your seat on the subway? Offering a prayer for someone who is fighting for his life due to the big “C?” Are you standing up for your beliefs and donating the proceeds to help fight the big “C” or AIDS or taking a stand against abuse?
How are you spending the time of your life?
What is it that you line up with?
What I know about myself is that I am deeply anchored in love.
I am anchored in a relentless search for the truth.
And I committed to speaking it no matter how difficult, sweat-inducing, frightening or shameful it may be to say.
I am anchored in a desire for progress no matter how slow, and no matter how much digging in it may take on my part.
During my second Yoga Teacher training, I was seven months post first surgery and I was far away from home. The Training was at Yoga Oasis with Christina and Darren and the amazing, inimitable Yoga Oasis kula. I chose to stay at the Hari Krishna house. I was, as I often am, quite an anomaly there. Pushy Jew from New York staying at the Hari Krishna house for two weeks. OY *&^%^&*?><*^%^&* VEY!!
One morning on my way to training, a devotee stopped me and asked me: “What is Yoga?”
I said, “Gee, I would love to have this conversation with you, but I have to get to my training and it takes me about twenty minutes to get there. How about if we discuss this tonight during dinner?”
“NO!” She pressed, (I thought I was pushy) “Tell me, what is yoga!”
“Well,” I said, “as far as I’m concerned, I could answer this question for days. But what I know to be true for myself is this: YOGA IS HOW YOU TREAT PEOPLE. And I will stand by that no matter what anyone asks me or tells me or attempts to teach me.”
“NO! That is NOT YOGA. WHAT ABOUT GOD? What about God?” she asked.
At that point, I knew continuing was not in good alignment for me and I exercised good boundaries and told her I needed to get to my training and wished her a blessed day.
I knew this woman wanted me to express her belief system only (I knew precisely what that belief system was although I’m not terribly interested in describing it here) and I knew that there was no way that I would do that. Not only am I far too rebellious in my nature, I am not a Hari Krishna, I don’t believe what she believes, I bless and give her the freedom to believe what she believes, but her beliefs are not my truths and I cannot and will not line up with truths which are not inherently my own.
My walk to the yoga studio that day was challenging for me because it was about 100 degrees and I melt in the heat (even though my “people” spent 40 years crossing the desert) but also because at that point, I wasn’t great at walking yet. I didn’t know this at the time, but my first hip surgery did my hip an enormous disservice and those walks were agony for me. Worth mentioning because as soon I asked for some help from Rachel, the manager, she roused the kula and not long after, I was driven to the studio each day.
This small offering from my fellow yogins who were driving me and my kindred Hari Krishna spirit, also in the YO training, was ENORMOUS to me even though the HK house was on their way to and from their domiciles.
Yoga is how you treat people.
One year later, and just two weeks before my third hip surgery, I sat amongst three hundred plus yogins for several days. I saw all of the people who knew me well, who had said they had loved me for years, yet had never once asked me how I was doing with my recovery. And I sat for days in the reality of that. It was a big reality I had been feeling through my second recovery and now I was being asked to SEE IT and far more importantly, to surrender it.
Don Miguel Ruiz’ Agreement #2
DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY.
But I cannot line up with that behavior.
Because for me YOGA IS HOW YOU TREAT PEOPLE.
I wasn’t angry with any of them.
As spoken in one of my earlier posts, many people have left my life and hurt my heart and a very sincere and core response in me was to say “thank you” for telling me the truth.
Seven months ago my best friend walked away from my life. Someone who brought me into her family. Someone who allowed me to see her at her most vulnerable and at her most powerful. We spoke every day and then without explanation, she walked away.
I am a deeply awake person (so awake, even drugs don’t work on me very well, so awake, I come tearing out of anesthesia like nobody’s business because I don’t want to be drug-induced), I try not to tell stories to myself, but I asked for closure, I told her how painful not affording me such was, but she told me plain and simple “I owe you nothing.”
It took me months to grieve all the love I had poured in as well as all that had been pulled away. Because my deep and truest nature is to love and love big (ask my fellow yogin Madge. Whenever I see her, I open my arms so wide, and laugh so big, she nearly has to shut her eyes and cover her ears.) But I knew that what I struggled with most were the judgments I held around the unconscionable nature of not being afforded whatever truth was held beneath. Because that, for me, would have been love. So I wondered what was actually there beneath the surface of the friendship. And how I could have not seen what was meant to be seen all along?
The greatest gift we can offer one another is our truth whether we stand with each other or not. You play for this team I play for that one. But here it is, it may not be pretty, but if you want to hear it, I am ready to share it with you.
I have no problem disagreeing with anyone. I just know that my task is to stay on my right path and to be vigilant about what that is every day, moment to moment. And to always choose right alignment.
People are afraid.
They are afraid to look at disability. Weakness. Brokenness. Illness.
But know what you line up with and where you want to place and pour your love and attention.
Yoga is how you treat people.
And in so doing, commit yourself to knowing how. And to being vigilant about how you want others to treat you. Teach them. And teach them well.
I don’t WANT anything from anyone except the truth. For me to sit in the WHY of what has happened is not a healthy place for me to reside. It flirts with staying stuck and I don’t ever wish to be stuck because I love and crave PROGRESS far too much.
So for now I will ask just this:
How do you wish to spend the time of your life?
What do you want to line up with?
How do you wish to be treated?
How do you wish to treat others? And how will you?
Can you stay congruent with all of these things?
When incongruity takes front and center stage, can you start over and have compassion for yourself?
And lastly, can you open your heart towards forgiveness?
How about if we all get cracking?