The Urban Yoga Den

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Surrender, Recovery and Death January 22, 2014

“OUR TIME ON THIS EARTH IS SACRED,
AND WE SHOULD CELEBRATE EVERY MOMENT.”
~ Paolo Coelho

This morning I am saying goodbye to a treasured DC friend, Sovani Meksvanh. Since before Christmas, I have been posting on my personal and Urban Yoga Den Facebook pages about his battle with late-stage cancer, and how touched I’ve been by his balance of strength/action and acceptance/surrender. Last night, I posted my final thoughts about this beloved soul…

*  *  *

ON SOVANI’S PAGE:

I know that Sovani is not reading this, but his beloved family is. Your father/son/brother has always been a very special being to me. I will never forget our first social outing. Somewhere around 2005, he hustled up and down the ramps of RFK Stadium at one of the 1st Nationals games, taxing the heck out of his lungs, and putting up with my crazy baseball fandom the whole day. Over the years I’ve seen him help dozens (if not hundreds!) of people who are in recovery…from many different “ailments.” He is, to me, the perfect example of a Spiritual Warrior – one who shows up for life and all of its trials knowing that his Higher Power has simply sent him to live out a purpose more significant than his own human will, to strengthen from that ultimate surrender, and to use that strength to be of service to others.
All this time, over the past few weeks, I’ve never “cheered him on,” encouraging him to fight. Not because I want to let go of him, but because I want him to let go of fighting – I’ve wanted Sovani to give himself a break. And then there was a point where he started writing about feeling safe in His hands, and I exhaled so profoundly, knowing that Sovani finally melted into the care of his HP instead of fighting so hard…
Well, that’s how I perceived it. And it helped me so much, to observe what I saw as pure surrender and devotion.
I have been meditating and praying and crying and loving for weeks…and all of this is a tiny fraction of the support and commitment and effort that you have offered him, consistently and honorably. What an amazing family you are. I send my love and my comfort from Nashville…I wish I were there…

FROM MY PAGE:

I dedicate this song (Te Extraño by Marta Gomez) to the strong spirit of my dear friend in DC, Sovani, whose cancer battle I’ve been writing about since before Christmas. His condition has worsened – since Saturday, he has been on life support, and today his organs started to fail.
Bless his beautiful young daughters, mother and family members who have been by his side through this journey, and updating us on Facebook the entire time – which to me, has been precious, since I moved away from DC in September. Despite the weeks of meditation, prayer, tears and love in his honor, I am feeling a bit useless. And I miss him. I wish I were there…
Bless Sovani, who – as everyone knows – has been the strongest fighter one could ever meet. I mean, he was diagnosed with cancer 17 years ago, folks. And all along, he has insisted on, taken risks with and surrendered to the most experimental and progressive treatments available. But the surrender that impressed me the most was over the past week or so, when Sovani started posting about his surrender to the loving care of his Higher Power.

Photo: Michaela Ringerson

Photo: Michaela Ringerson

So, this song is for Sovani, and, for his amazing family. Sending so much love to DC tonight, through the wind, through the cold, through the snow. 
Sometimes, for me, all love songs are simply conversations with god. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Pero te extraño hace tantos días

que las palabras se confunden con la voz
los sonidos ya no hablan de tu amor
no imaginas la melancolía que se cuela en mi ventana si no estás
y el silencio que me obliga a recordar
tantos años de vivir
toda mi vida junto a ti
tanto tiempo, tanto espacio para ti.
¿Cuánto tiempo hay que esperar?
¿Cuántas miradas recorrer,
para sentirte en un abrazo
y no verte envejecer?

But I miss you
It’s been so many days that words and voice have been confused
And sounds still can’t speak of your love
You can’t imagine the melancholy that creeps into my window when you’re not here
And the silence that obliges me to remember.
So many years of living all of my life with you, so much time, so much space for you.
How long must I wait? How many visions must recur…to feel you in an embrace…and to not see you grow old?

*  *  *

What could I add to that today? Hmmm…one thing. I am in the midst of a new phase of adult life, having moved to Nashville from DC to be closer to my soon-to-be 86-year-old father, who is struggling with dementia and increasing physical challenges. I am also deepening my relationship with my sister, from whom I was separate for decades, due to my addict lifestyle. As most of you know, I have now been clean and sober for more than 11 years. And thankfully, over the past few years, my sister has graciously invited me back into her life. She lives a bit south of Nashville, and we are teaming up to support Dad. So, this new phase is not always comfortable – but the three of us are doing our best.

My biggest challenge during this new phase of adult life? Dwelling in and acting from love and faith.

And so, to Sovani and his family, I say: THANK YOU.

CoelhoOurTimeOnThisEarthIsSacred(Jan14)

Image: Journey to Peace

I am grateful to Sovani and his family for Facebook-ing their journey over these recent months; I am grateful to Sovani for always sharing about his family so lovingly; I am grateful to have witnessed the gracefulness and transparency of his daughters as they navigated this process; and, I am grateful to Sovani and his family for sharing about their Faith so openly. I have learned so much from all of them; and I thank them for teaching me the best way to step forward in the journey with my own father.

With this family’s example as my inspiration and motivation, I shall aim straight and high to celebrate every moment of this sacred life.

From Sovani’s family this morning: “After careful and thoughtful consideration of the medical team’s advice, the Family has decided to remove Sovani from life support to relieve him of needless pain and suffering. God Almighty, Our Father in Heaven, Creator of the Universe please forgive his sins and receive his Gentle Soul into Your Arms.”

*  *  *

This is my 1st formal blog since before September, and my move from DC to Nashville. The intensity and quantity of challenges that have arisen over these five months prompted me to use Facebook more often, for briefer and more expedient updates. So much has happened since September. Sometime in late Fall, I drafted an update blog called “Shalom, Y’all.” But it fell to the wayside as more important priorities – my job search, my care for dad, my general adjustment to TN and my grieving of my beloved DC – took precedence. I didn’t realize that grieving a long-time friend would also become a priority.

I am posting “Surrender, Recovery and Death” on my Urban Yoga Den blog, because I like to pass on spiritual lessons as they happen in my life. Plus, there is so much yoga in the story of Sovani’s dying days…

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, “Isvarapranidanani” (there are many alternate spellings) is the 5th virtue discussed in the 2nd limb of yoga. The 2nd limb, or “Niyama,” suggests 5 ethical values to follow if one wants to live the yogic life. “Isvarapranidanani” has been described as “surrender of the self to God,” “offering everything to the Lord or to Humanity,” “sacrifice of all to the Lord”… You get the picture.

I yearn for this kind of surrender. I know it would help me when I feel frustrated with and harmed by my father – who can be quite hostile due to his illness. I know it would help me when I feel scared of losing my dad. I know it would help me when – due to such heightened vulnerability from the move, from my lack of sustaining work, from my family situation – my old core wound of being a problem rears its ugly head while dealing with my father, my sister, and others in my life…causing me to react like a threatened child.

When I look back at the peacefulness and grace that Sovani and his family portrayed through their process, I am compelled to reach deeper into my own soul for the surrender that I crave…or, should I be reaching more widely beyond my own self for that surrender? More will be revealed.

From experience, I do know this – like the 12 Steps of recovery programs, the 8 Limbs of yoga are in order for a reason. And for me, there have been many parallels in my practice of both the Steps and the Limbs.

So in this case, if I want to access the surrender I seek, I must re-commit to study and practice of Limbs 1 & 2 – the Yama and Niyama (the 10 suggested virtues). And, I must broaden that commitment to include Limbs 3-8…a process of reaching my most ideal way of living, which includes: Asana (poses), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (regulation of the senses), Dharana (single-focused concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (“enlightenment,” or in my own simple terms: when my actions and behaviors portray the intentions and virtues that I have been aiming for since Limbs 1 & 2).

I must also energize my commitment to integrating the 12-Steps into my daily life. As Step 12 suggests, I aim to practice the program’s principles in all of my affairs, in order to carry a healthy message and be of service to others.

Photo: Sovani Meksvanh (I loved his shameless selfies...especially these, while I was so far away.)

Photo: Sovani Meksvanh
(I loved his shameless selfies…especially these, while I was so far away.)

And so today, I am saying out loud: I re-commit to the deepening of my spiritual practices, so I may replace my fear-based reactions with a god-based surrender, faith and love…and therefore, act toward others with love and in service.

Let’s see how that goes (she says with a slightly mischievous, quite human and very forgiving smile)…

I’ll close with another timely parallel between the tools of yoga and recovery:
In his commentary on the Niyama (yoga’s 2nd Limb and collection of 5 virtues to observe), Sri Swami Satchidananda says: “All spiritual life should be based on these things. They are the foundation stones without which we can never build anything lasting.” And, in the two primary texts for 12-Step recovery, Bill Wilson and his co-writers say: “There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer. …when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life.” And, in relation to the 3rd step, which invites me to turn my will and life over to the care of god (and I’d say that’s the surrender I’m seeking!), “…this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.”

I am grateful for both of these influences on my life, and that they both led me to a very significant relationship with an amazing man named Sovani. May god bless you and keep you, my friend. Love love love.

*  *  *

HAH! In true Holly fashion, I just spent the morning side-stepping my grief…expressing it in a very structured and intellectual manner…writing, quoting, analyzing, learning, sharing…  And later, I’ll read everybody’s loving and honoring posts on Sovani’s page.

NOW, in true honor of Sovani and my relationship with him, it’s time to get messy, surrender to my heart, and let the tears flow (oh, god – even as I proofread this piece – here they come)…into music and nature I go.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for your love. OM Shanti.

{PS – Please forgive WordPress for posting inappropriate advertising at the bottom of my posts…I can’t afford to upgrade, and they need to survive!}

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My Superhero Death Grip On Life October 6, 2012

The wise one observes the world
but trusts her inner vision.
She allows things to come and go.
Her heart is open as the sky.
– Lao Tsu

I can hold on too tightly, to many things.
Expectations.
Wishes.
Ideas.
People.
Solutions.
Fear.  Yup.  I can even hold on to fear.

*  *  *

Today I am being forced to release my superhero death grip on life.

After a few fear-based eruptions, some heartache, a back injury and now a stomach virus (I think), my outsides are looking pretty bruised.  Between joyous celebrations of my favorite baseball team’s victories (I am a huge Washington Nationals fan), it’s been a rough and tumble week of crying and crying out.

After all, the Buddha says that life consists of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows!

Despite my outer messiness, my insides are feeling serene.  The crying has helped melt some of the pain.  And the crying out has brought relief in the form of immediate strength, support and tools for navigating tough times.  I am so grateful to have a team of people and resources who have my back – and know how to strengthen it when I am caving in.

*  *  *

Often our ideas toward others/ideas/situations may not be very clear. Thus reacting harshly could land us in situations we do not want to be in. In such circumstances, any opportunity to have second thought is worth considering.
– TKV Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

In the beginning of the week, some things happened that triggered a downward spiral of fear regarding finances, friendships and security in general.  I lashed out toward others, including loved ones and fellow yogis.  Thankfully I recognized the pattern and started making amends.

Still, the bottom of that barrel was NOT a good place to be.  So the first resources I tapped into were: practicing Pratipaksha Bhavana; repeating 108 Asato Ma chants; and asking Shiva to guide me through, then relieve me, of this darkness.  Thankfully on Tuesday a Google search revealed a powerful essay on the benefits of replacing destructive thoughts with yogic intentions, aka, Pratipaksha Bhavana.  I’d never seen the “Yoga With Amey” blog before, but I am so glad I found it.  (Check out the essay here: http://www.yogawithamey.com/pratipaksabhavanam.html)

The Asato Ma chant says: “Lead me from unreal to real; lead me from darkness to light; lead me from things that die off, to that which is everlasting.”  When I repeated these phrases, I started to feel a shift from dwelling in doubt to thriving in truth, acceptance and love.  Then, like the Jai Uttal song says, I got “down on my knees, crying for freedom, begging for freedom.  Om Namah Shivaya.”  The Hindu deity Shiva governs the cycle of birth, life, transformation and death.  So I was praying for freedom from my traumatic past’s destructive hold on my present.  The past will never completely be erased; but I would like to be liberated from the irrational fears and related overreactions that arise when I get triggered.  I recognized that this was another instance of my agitated brain turning a trigger turning into reality, when in reality, a trigger is just a passing detached moment.

Taking these actions mid-week – shifting my thinking, chanting and praying – brought so much clarity and balance.  Although the week would continue to bring difficulties (one of my friends is not accepting my amend, and I am so sad; then, I hurt my back while moving furniture, and I am in serious physical pain), I continued to rely on the symbolism of the Asato Ma and of Shiva to have faith despite challenges.

Yesterday, in the midst of a paralyzing sadness about potentially losing my precious friend as a result of acting out, I reached out to my Facebook community asking, “How do you not hide from life when feeling great emotional pain?”  My M.O. at such times is to disappear into an abyss of negative thinking, doubt and shame.  I feel really grateful to have such a caring, understanding and experienced friends, whose wisdom has been helping immensely.

Among other things, they answered:
– Reach out.
– Random acts of kindness.
– We pursue and embrace life with all of our heart, body and mind.
– Crank up some tunes and clean! I find it kind of meditative that way. Plus, I do not like being around others when I feel like crap. Plus, it always cheers me to see my material environment brightened at the end.
– hide if you need to hide, cry uncontrollably until the tears run dry, lean on friends, post on facebook, listen to and play music, wait, sleep, be depressed, be suicidal, let these thoughts and emotions pass like clouds in the night sky, sooner or later, this too shall pass, walk on the wild side, you already know what to do.
– I find chanting a mantra helps – calms the monkey mind and really does a healing number on all areas of the body-mind-spirit.
– You know what to do already, but you may be too busy, too agitated, too stressed to hear it. Stop. Wait. Wait. Wait. Mountain pose. Sukhasana. The answer is waiting.
– For me being quiet with god for 30 mins.
– Breathe.

By the time I went to bed last night, I felt a lot more peaceful.

*  *  *

Finally, today, I was reminded to relax my clinging fingers.  Release the grip.  Surrender.

At about 6am, I woke up with some kind of stomach bug and have been feeling completely wiped out.  I had to text and e-mail and post that my morning yoga classes would be subbed.  While on Facebook, I came across a post that truly awakened me.  Wisdom from Swami Satchidananda.  This week I experienced aches and pains of all kinds!  Everything at once.  So I’ve had to reflect on accepting the things I cannot change, and changing the things I can.  I don’t believe in an interventionist, capital “G” god, but I do believe that surrendering my attempts to control this life can bring great healing.  Because it has in the past.

You cannot do everything by yourself.  If you believe in God, if you trust God wholeheartedly, even your sickness will go away because you are putting yourself into the hands of a more powerful doctor.  Difficult situations come to give us a chance to prove that we trust in a higher energy.  Otherwise, how can you ever prove yourself?  When everything goes smoothly you are all good devotees, no doubt.  But you really prove it when everything is shaking and still you are able to say, “It doesn’t matter. Even if I lose everything, I am not going to lose this faith.”  Once you prove that, then everything that was lost will come back to you.
– Swami Satchidananda

So I am letting go.  Again.  I am letting go.

*  *  *

When this much is happening, what relaxes me most is sensing that a great change is coming…and I’m not talking about the obvious change in seasons or change in my situation or changes around me.  If I am open and willing and proactive, there will be great change within me.  When I surrender, I trust that the right things will happen around me.  And even though I am nursing my heartache and back ache and belly ache this weekend, I feel simultaneously horrible and hopeful!  In my opinion, that’s a great place to be.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace.

 

Running Into Nature April 23, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,nature,Spirituality — Holly Meyers @ 8:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The couch can be a dangerous place for me.

Running into nature is like running to safety.

Today I went into the woods with great mental confusion, weighty worry and enough fear to call “terror” – and I left it all there.  I came out with strength, hope, faith and belief.

*  *  *

I lost my peace this morning.

I’ve been facing misfortune for a while now.   I have been looking for full-time work without success, piecing together some part-time work with teaching and “working from home” on the job hunt and my yoga projects.  I am more isolated than ever, worried about how my bills will get paid and constantly wrestling with a negative mind.  I don’t sleep well, I grind my teeth and my dreams are weird.  I feel overwhelmed, burnt out and under-fed.  And lately, I have been getting in touch with the huge amount of fear I am existing with day-in and day-out.

The good news is: if it weren’t for my devoted yoga practice, I’d be feeling even worse.  Somehow I get through the days smiling (most of the time), able to connect (most of the time) and able to give (most of the time).

But to be completely frank – my primary mode of functioning through this is to deny the fear and push through.  So sometimes I crumble.  Like this morning.

*  *  *

There is a pattern.

I’m sitting at my desk, knowing what I should do, for the sake of accountability to others, for the sake of getting a job, for the sake of my well-being.  I start off with vigor and resolve.  And then like a shot of morphine creeping into the veins, the exhaustion hits.  I rapidly fade into fatigue.

And the couch calls out to me.

So today, just as I was curling up on the couch with my pillow and blankie, boo-hoo-ing about succumbing to slumber, a friend called.  Knowing I was sinking into oblivion and after already canceling a work-related meeting, I’d texted him to cancel our post-work plans.

When he called to see if I was OK, I fumbled for words, not wanting to tell the truth: “I am sinking into oblivion and would not be very good company.”  As I grasped for a good story, he figured it out.  “You need to get out,” he ordered.  I continued trying to explain that I was not feeling well and he repeated, “You need to get out.”  So I asked if he would come and hike with me after work and he answered, “No; you need to get out now.  For yourself.”  I continued mumbling…

“GET OUT!” he commanded, with urgency.

So I got out.

*  *  *

Into the woods I ran, as if something or someone was chasing me.

I don’t even remember the first 1/3 of the hike.  Somewhere along the way, I took a turn I’d never made before and walked toward the sound of rushing water until something about the trees and sky stopped me in my tracks.  I looked up, crying.  I searched for the right thing to pray.  I cried more.  I told the truth.  “I don’t have what I need.  I’ve tried everything.  I’m terrified.”

“Help.”

After a series of heart-felt confessions, prayers and sobs, I paused and listened.  The next thing that came to mind was:

“What do I need?”

The first answer was, “Money.”  I immediately realized it’s not that simple.

“Income.  And in order to have income, I need work.”  Yes.

And then the anxiety started to build again.  So again, the question arose:

“What do I need?”

And louder than bombs, I heard the words:

“STRENGTH…”

“HOPE…”

“FAITH…”

and then

“BELIEF.”

Realizing that I not only needed to tap into my own resources, but that I’d need the strength, hope, faith and belief of others, I added:

“SUPPORT.”

I knelt and touched the earth.  I awakened to the day, the forest, the water, the moss, the rain.  The smells and sounds of it all.  And I cried some more.

Returning along the path, I came to the crossroads where I’d turned off earlier.  I stood still with my eyes closed, doing nothing but listening, smelling, feeling.  Trying to figure out if I should head back home or walk a little more.  And then it came to me, “Running into nature is like running to safety.  So why would I leave?”  And onward I hiked.

*  *  *

Admittedly, I haven’t touched anything on my “to do” list since returning from the forest.  I made hot chocolate with cayenne and cinnamon; I ate some toast with sunflower butter and pomegranate jam; I wrote this blog.  And now I’m pretty darn tired and will most likely curl up on the couch for a nap.

Later this evening, I’ll reach out to friends and tell them that I need support.

I may have lost my peace today – but I also knew to take a break from my own mind (and the couch) to get into the vast expanse of nature.  Thanks to the willingness to ask for help, listen to suggestions and run toward safety, I am feeling the ease of accepting exactly where I am.  Which is much more peaceful than being paralyzed by confusion, worry and fear.

Tomorrow, I will see where this acceptance takes me when I sit down at my desk with that “to do” list again.

Wishing that all beings receive exactly what they need.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Focus: Why Yoga? – Challenge August 18, 2010

If we learn to open our hearts, anyone – including the people who drive us crazy – can be our teacher. – Pema Chodron, Buddhist monk and teacher

I would take the above quote a step further and say, “Anyone or anything – including the people or situations that drive us crazy – can be our teacher.” To me, this is challenge.  Challenge comes in many forms.  Perhaps we are facing tough difficulties; or, maybe we are offered great opportunities.  With all challenge, we are invited to jump into or go through something big, something new, something nerve-racking.

The question is – can we SEIZE opportunities…can we GROW through our difficulties?

For me, all challenge is a teacher and brings the chance to grow. But I did NOT always feel this way!  Hah!  All challenge meant inconvenience and discomfort!  Difficulties meant stuffing emotions in order to look strong.  “That’s OK, I’m fine!”  And opportunities meant finding ways to side-step toward a more comfortable route.  “I don’t feel safe doing that.”  What I’m really saying in those cases is, “I am afraid – afraid to feel my feelings; afraid to try something new.”

The funny thing is, these responses to challenge are related.  When I act strong on the outside but feel broken within, consequently, I stop taking healthy risks because I strongly crave comfort.  On the other hand, when I get honest with myself and others about my brokenness, my shadows and my difficulties, I find the support, conditioning and strength to seize opportunities and grow through challenge.

Yoga helps me do this.

Using yoga to face difficulties. In the past, my practice decreased when life got tough.  I remember a rough loss in February 2008.  Prone toward restless sleep, lazy mornings and naps on the couch, I most certainly did not prioritize my yoga practice.  People had to coax me from my apartment just to hang out and eat a little.  Ugh.  Then one day I received a “We Miss You” promotion from Flow Yoga Center.  It had been a while since I “belonged” to a studio.  At that very moment, I felt a need to belong.

I dove in.

Getting back into the DC yoga community truly re-awakened my life.  With a new set of teachers who helped me rehab structural injuries and regain physical confidence, consistent exposure to yogic philosophy, and regular connection with fellow yogis, I started to heal emotionally. By the end of that summer, I’d remembered my past yearning to teach yoga.  And in Fall of 2008, I became a certified instructor.

Using yoga for seizing opportunity. For 15 years I attended Level 1 yoga classes.  Talk about fear of healthy risk!  Granted, I’d been healing from a number of physical injuries; and, I’d been through some emotional losses.  So I had all the excuses in the world to stick with the comfort of my precious Level 1 practice.  After becoming certified to teach in 2008, I felt excited to teach beginners, and share the fundamentals that established my yoga foundation.  At the same time, that foundation was just that – a blank slab with nothing rising out of it.  I started to feel limited and stagnant in my own yoga practice.  And I noticed that same stagnant quality in my life, as well.

I had no faith.

I only had fear of newness, fear of being vulnerable, fear of failing.  I was living the same story every day – no risks, no opportunities, no challenges – and therefore, no growth.  So this year, I resolved to try Level 2 Asana!  Instead of saying, “I can’t do that pose because of my shoulder injury,” I asked for modifications to build the strength toward that pose.  Instead of claiming, “My core is not strong enough,” I asked for assistance in order to experience the full pose.  Instead of listening to my self-limiting stories, I committed to gradual conditioning and I accepted outside support.

If you’ve read past posts (i.e. April’s “100%” and May’s “100%+1”), you know that this year has been immensely progressive and I have seized a number of opportunities! I owe it to yoga – and the consequent inspiration and motivation I have received all around.

On that note…some of you know that I am a crier.

For me, shedding tears is a huge part of my path toward growth.  Tears keep me honest. Tears will sneak up on me in the middle of a yoga class – perhaps pigeon pose unlocks those stuffed emotions, or, a song triggers my heart to melt.  Or both.  I find that, if I allow myself that good “I can’t hold onto my tears because my body is so challenged by Asana right now” cry…I feel refreshed.  I feel stronger.  I feel clear.  I feel able to face what’s next.

I fondly recall two memories of transformations from fear to feeling, and from fear to faith.  I was terrified of “flipping the dog” – this fairly new and dance-like practice of moving from Downward Facing Dog into Wheel by, essentially, flipping the body.  I would watch people next to me in class and say, “That’s not yoga.”  The fact was – I was scared, and my self-limiting stories manifested in my judgment of others!!!

Then one night this Spring – during the height of my discernment about life’s direction – I was at John Horan’s class at Past Tense Studio.  John’s classes are beyond inspiring – with fairy tales and cosmic lighting, they take us to another world.  I guess my self-limiting brain was not functioning in this other world!  John was playing songs from the new Sade CD, all about love and strength and empowerment. So I was already a bit emotional.  There we were, in Downward Facing Dog, when John extended the invitation to “flip the dog.”

Suddenly, I felt as though strong hands reached down from the heavens and lifted me into the pose.

My leg rose, my hip opened high, I floated on my fingertips and I easefully settled into Wheel.  And I cried.  Pure tears of surrender.  All of my “no”s washed away.  Yes, I can flip my dog, and yes, it is yoga.  Yes, I can develop faith by practicing yoga.

I can also tap into stuffed feelings in class.  Recently, I went through weeks of struggle about a relationship, which finally ended.  Sometimes I think I’m totally in touch with that loss and am processing it authentically.  And sometimes yoga class tells me otherwise.

Just yesterday, I was feeling “ahhh-some” in yet another lovely class with Caroline Millet.  She guided us through a true Sun Salutation for the entire set.  The music was perfect for the summer sunrise – mellow acoustic folk and sweet Hindu chants.  And then, while in Downward Facing Dog, Caroline invited us (as she often does) to find something new in the pose.  So I was hanging out and waiting for the revelation. And BAM, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s sweet and heart-breaking version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” nailed me right in the heart.

I sunk to my knees and wept in child’s pose.

Apparently, I am still grieving my loss.  And lately, I have been too busy to feel.  Thankfully, I can reach and release these feelings in the safe space of a yoga practice, surrounded by community members and guided by a caring teacher.

How does yoga help you face challenges – whether new opportunities, or difficult times?  If not by releasing emotions or presenting new poses, then how does your practice support your growth – on and of the mat?  When you meet life’s teachers – even those people and situations that drive you crazy, make you uncomfortable, rock your security – can you embrace them with an open heart?

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.