Our teacher’s mom died. He tells us this in his usual upbeat way. I so admire this about him. Always putting on a happy face. He shares with us a little bit of who she was telling this story: One Christmas Eve when he was about 17 he and his parents headed off to church and when they got there they were greeted at the entrance by a homeless man asking for money. His mom invited this man on the street in to sit with them. After church the man looked expectedly at his mom like, Ok now can I have that money? She said no as he and his father held their breath and waited uneasily to see what would happen next (Ya’ll know that he wanted to get his Christmas Cheer!) So his mom says to the guy I am not going to give you money but I will buy you a meal and get you a hotel room. Now the guy was the one who was uneasy but he did get in the car with them and they headed for that meal and the hotel. Our teacher tells us that the biggest gift was her being present with him the whole night. He had her attention. This is what she offered that was most valuable. I got it. I get it. I really do and what I get most is she was as much of a yoga teacher in her lifetime as her son is now.
So I tell my friend Sarah this as we sit on our paddleboards talking and then she tells me her own story. That of her pastor and how he told them one day that years before he had dressed up as a homeless person (it may or may not have been Christmas time) and he sat outside of church. He had a pan for donations but most people passed him by without looking at him dressed in his disguise as they headed in the door to worship. Once they had all congregated inside he headed in and during the homily put back on his homeless garb to their uncomfortable gasps.
I couldn’t help but think that our teacher's mom wouldn’t have passed this guy up. She’d have invited him in and then he probably would have invited her up to the altar afterwards.
The light of Christ resides in all of us if we just look a little closer. Street guy, Yogi or Christian what difference does it make?
It may have been 2005 I don’t remember exactly when but do remember heading to Dhyana yoga in Philadelphia for a Kundalini class mat in hand. As I headed for the door, I was approached by a homeless man. I wanted to help him but didn’t want to look at him. He asked me for money and I told him that I’d buy him a sandwich, which I did before quickly entering the building with an exhale.
Later during the class I felt empty and not good about the interaction with him. I hadn’t really helped him at all. I was willing to give to him but not of my presence. I examined why I didn’t want to engage and the answer wasn’t immediately clear. Little by little over the years though I have opened to letting in all people especially those who might turn me off or make me uncomfortable or just make me feel sad and vulnerable. I don’t do this everyday but I make an attempt to do it as often as my energy allows for me to.
Earlier this month, I was getting my hairs done in downtown West Asheville where just about anything goes. A street man who was a little worse for wears came in and started to talk to the salon owner. She treated him with such respect and dignity letting him charge his phone and mill about to the dismay of some of the others in there. I found it touching. He seemed so welcomed even to the slight chagrin of the other beauticians.
As he left with a smile he plopped himself on the bench outside the door. I guess he expected to be treated the same by everyone even those who passed by him. I watched as he tried to make conversation but it was as if he wasn’t even there. Couples and singles walked by him without even glancing his way. He was invisible to them and I observed his smile fall away into a sense of innocent bewilderment. This happened again and again. I know that there are inherent risks when you put yourself out there to strangers. But there can be pretty amazing rewards too. Sometimes the interactions with people you don’t know, especially with the most vulnerable in society can be the richest ones. Here's a few recent soundbites of my latest interactions. We can learn a lot from others, not just about them but also ourself. Yoga teachers are everywhere!
A few weeks ago, a young woman who was very thin and holding the usual sign looking quite desperate and scared was standing out at a traffic light. I stopped at the red light and was right next to her as I looked in my wallet for whatever I had to give. (and she was observing me doing this) as I saw that I just had a $20. Yikes…she has seen me reach in to give so here goes as I handed her the bill. She gratefully accepted it and reached into my car (and kind of startled me) as she threw her arms around me in one of the most heartfelt hugs I remember ever getting and blessed me as she said that all she needed now was another $20 and then she was done for the day. Oh boy…I tried to not think too hard what that meant. I just enjoyed her hug as I moved forward at the green light feeling her warmth for the rest of the day.
The second experience I had was of a young male who was also very thin with a sign standing at the traffic light near my office. I stopped and looked in my wallet (usually I have just coins but sometimes dollars) and found a five. I hesitated and then handed over the money and the conversation went like this, You’re not going to buy drugs with this, right? No he replied. When was the last time you used? Yesterday in jail. You sure you aren’t going to buy drugs? No I want to get a bottle of water—(he did sound parched.) Promise me, no drugs? I am not going to buy drugs today. (The guy behind me patiently waited for me to move forward.) As I was driving away my final question was, What did you go to jail for? Burglary. Stay away from the drugs…Bye!
Yesterday, I was headed home from work and at the turn off of the highway near my home there was the usual person there. It is a spot that I avoid giving at. I feel jaded about that hang out spot as I have watched drug deals happen right at the gas station next door. There was a young guy there with a big smile though waving to a girl on a bike as she drove by. For some reason I felt more open to engaging with him. I looked at his sign, which said, DON’T GIVE ME MONEY. I said hey what do you want then? Anything! Well how about my soda (seltzer water)? Ha ha…No, really.do you want the water? You said you don’t want money but I will give you my water, do you want it? (Smiles) he turns the sign over and it says REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY…but replies sure! And then adds as I give him the soda water, “Love it! Love you! Aw….thanks man
I sometimes see others here in Asheville engaging with people on the street corners in their cars at stop signs and it is fun to watch the drivers leaning out to listen and maybe even to learn.
I went to Anna’s D. class yesterday for the first time in years. The last time I went it was for a Bikram class something that she has expertise in teaching. This time it was for vinyasa. She is new to teaching this style of yoga. I stared at her and she faltered only slightly before teaching like a machine. The bikram style present even here in this soft bamboo room setting.
I liked the sweat that poured off of me and could only hope that I was detoxing the sugar and junk I had eaten the day before at the party we hosted. At parts I veered off from her teaching to play in poses that I mostly made up. Contorting my body this way and that to loosen my joints and free my mind. She didn’t yell at me this time. She must have known that I was comfortable in this terrain.
She told us during Abs that there are no excuses for not getting in there. That a teacher Joel who used to teach for the studio before leaving the area would called her out after she had her second c-section and would complain for the umpteen time that it was hard getting back, no excuses he would tell her. She obviously listened and dug in. This was my thought as I stared at her rock board mid section. My appreciation for what it took to get her belly back in shape. I didn’t listen to the no excuses though and rested while the rest did their abs. It was kind of nice just lying there but a little anxiety producing too. Like I should be heading in a direction that everyone was going in but was just standing (lying) there still. My neck was hurting and I needed to rest it I told myself. Excuses..
At the end, I watched the mostly young yogis file out as I enjoyed not rushing out the door. I told her as she picked up her things that I liked her wood decorative fixture in front of the door. We chatted and she suggested things I could do with the bamboo that my husband and I had had cut down in our backyard. She softened every so slightly in conversation. As we parted I said, “this yoga is getting harder as I get older.” More Excuses.. She quickly retorted we are all getting older. I am lazy (I tell her).
She replies, “I can be lazy!” “I was resting on the couch before I got here.” We are fighting over our laziness! Two young kids and running a studio and teaching? You have a right to be lazy and rest on the couch!
“You probably needed it,” I answered. But she might not of heard me. She was already out the door heading to the desk to sign people in for the next class.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.