A Testimony to Yoga; A Reminder to Love Anyway by Erica Lee
"It was when we started declaring our belief system, affirming it with great conviction that the universe would drop in with a situation to help us clarify, and potentially reconsider, how about now? Do you still believe in love when the water gets murky? When they call you crazy, take your stuff, or even try to hurt you? Will you stand firmly in your conviction even when the storm rolls in?” a mentor Yvonne, a powerhouse, being the change she wishes to see in this world evokes a sense of declaration, of commitment to a higher road. "Yea!" Every cell in my body calls out in response, and then an opportunity to walk the talk came rolling in.
In an unassuming part of town, on the corner of 11th and Baker, rests one of Longmont's community gardens, a hidden treasure. I was taking the evening to tend to my plot, which it desperately needed, like when we haven't touched base with yoga for days and are wilted like a flower in too much sun. It was already July and I only had it half planted. A generous veteran gardener Jan had taken me under her wing and offered to meet up to give some tips on planting. Upon her arrival she introduced me to James, the man with the pristine garden, free of weeds and equip with a fully automated watering system. James had brought along a couple dozen starter plants that he needed to find a home for. Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, basil and brussel sprouts, oh my! I felt like I was in extreme home makeover and overnight my garden was going to transform from drab to fab. I lost myself in the garden digging out weeds and planting new seedlings. I was on a rampage, instinctual, tribal instincts getting the adopted horticulture into the ground, feeling sunset rapidly approaching.
With each weed being pulled I imagined I was cleaning out the weeds of my mind, the, "you can't do this" thoughts, the, "you're not good enough for that" thoughts. With each plant taking root I felt stronger and more able, feeling unlimited and unbounded. Like the soar we feel in yoga flow, and then, cue peak pose, where all of a sudden we momentarily choke, "can I do THAT?" We ask ourselves, can I believe in me and surrender to thee when the teacher prompts me to hover my head an inch off the floor in Crow Pose or when my feet and head are directed to seemingly impossible places? Can we still love anyway when it feels like life smacks us across the face?
I wasn't quite sure, so I manifested this situation; Jan came to check on my progress in the garden and found me covered head to toe in dirt. "Where is your bike?" she asked. For months I had been the girl riding down the street on my cute purple schwinn cruiser, affirming to every person that told me I should lock up my bike, "I choose to live in a world where I don't need to lock up." Mmhm, interesting to note that earlier in the week I had finally succumbed to buying a lock. Though this time, the bike was not locked to anything. In fact, it was gone, ridden into the sunset. I tried to use my deep belly breath but it caught at my heart and my lip started quivering. Jan's face turned empathetic as she saw the tears well up and the flood gates open. I had forgotten how good it feels to water the garden of our minds with the tears of our pains, letting ourselves really be exactly where we are. That wasn't the peak pose cue though, it was, “can I love anyways”?
Out of thin air like Simba's father appearing out of the cloud in The Lion King, I heard my teacher Erik's voice, "hmmm, that's interesting. I'm sure good things will come of this." Maybe the lesson was simply to lock up the darn bike, and with that I'm notorious for looking deeper. I had used this mantra countless times, sometimes completely faking it, this time it felt so true. And so it was, I wiped away my tears and chuckled at the fact that they, whoever "they" are, left my yoga books and packed dinner. All the secrets to peace and happiness in life in these books and they chose the bike instead.
I felt strangely comforted by the experience and felt compelled to say, "thank you." I felt every bit of transference from the mat: "inhale, get comfortable where you are. Exhale, dive a little deeper. Shaking welcome, tears welcome, cursing welcome. Just notice how it feels to be you right here, right now. Witness yourself in your experience, free of judgment and criticism. Feel the un-tarnishable peace emanating from within, or simply notice the lack there of. Giving your true yes and true no, answering the question, "can you love anyways?" I gave a resounding yes that day and prayed for the person whom took my bike. I prayed for them because I know we are one in the same. Inhale, "sooo", exhale, "hummm". So-hum meaning I am that.
If we forget to forgive another, to see the divine in another, we deny ourselves of ourselves. I choose to think of them fondly as I know them to truly be, and simultaneously caught sight of the true me.
We had also been studying Karma in class that week. Apparently perpetuated by selfish action, I acknowledged seeds that I had planted with previous action, perhaps leading to the bike being taken. I also noted the seeds that must have been blossoming from past action leading me to have a more peaceful response to this prompt than I would have in my pre-yoga life.
My peripheral spiritual vision was eyeing the part of this situation that did not express outwardly before I began practicing yoga. A part of me felt like the Buddha on the night of his awakening. "Who am I to take the seat of a Buddha, of an enlightened being?" He called upon something that seemed outside of himself to witness him in his experience. And so the Earth Goddess came to witness him and all of the daggers and weaponry, all the weeds of his mind turned to rose petals and fell to his feet.
Until a few weeks later when at my brother’s graduation dinner my brother took the last bite of chocolate cake. The cycle was not entirely over yet as I felt the tickle of anger arousing inside yet again. Isn't that interesting? I'm sure good things will come. And so they did. My brother got a new car for graduation and I inherited his old truck. Now when I cue students to exhale deeply, let something go to make room for something new, this example reminds me just how pwerful our breath is.
An interview with a Tibetan monk helps reaffirm the practice of continually loving anyway. He was kidnapped from his home, taken from his family, tortured and brutalized. When asked what the hardest part of the experience was he said, "the hardest part was that I almost couldn't give my love to them. It was really tempting to withhold my love from them." What do we say about that when we think about the kinds of things we withhold our love for, someone taking our bike or the last bite of cake, someone cutting us off in traffic or even looking at us the wrong way. May we remember to love anyway.
Bringing it full circle, the garden is blossoming, thriving beautifully with daily water. The extreme home makeover was a nice boost and like us, it keeps softening open, going within and turning away from nothing as we return to our mat again and again.