Today I joined Heidi McNeely of the Worcester County Warriors Against Opioid Addiction for Holy Yoga. It’s the first time I’ve practiced in OC since I got home from the west coast. It was Divine!
Of the many life teachers I have been blessed enough to walk beside, Heidi has a boundless enthusiasm that anchors her dedication. She is a true reminder of life’s gifts.
Yoga always makes me remember Jasmine, Bobby Ray, and Father Ed, my first spiritual teachers. Jas’ presence was to be inside a great, hidden city of dark curls. You ended up feeling exotic yourself, touched by a bit of her calm. She was my intro to yoga. These were the early days when I quit drinking. Life can be so thrilling you know, if you let in what is trying to happen for you.
This was the same time in my life I met Bobby Ray. People in the Benfield area of Anne Arundel, Maryland, know of this man. The first thing Bobby ever said that stuck with me was, “the past is full of regret and the future is full of worry. Both are caused by fear. So the present moment is the only moment you can be fully with god, or full of love.”
I think that last sentence I am paraphrasing. You get the point, I hope~
I was 23, 24ish. Learning to breathe from a novice yogi, learning to meditate from a guy they called Shaman Bob, and elsewhere, learning to utilize my power of choice in my reactions and interactions, while out experiencing my day-to-day life.
Jasmine and I lived together my senior year of college. This is when I learned that the word Yoga has its origins in Sanskrit. An awesome poet—he would call himself a poet and deep ecologist—his name is Gary Snyder, was my favorite reading back then. I was getting a degree in writing. Gary Snyder is how I learned yoga means to yoke, or as Snyder described, make union.
So I was learning from Jasmine how to use my breath during yoga, to practice union by feeling a deeper sense of being present in my body.
Back then I was also receiving free therapy, from a priest, this was Father Ed. I love the Christian context for the word yoke. The denotation is a wooden tool used to link oxens together. The connotation is to yoke, or connect the heavy weight of what you carry, to Christ.
That brings faith into the conversation.
Life has taught some people, maybe many? That we can’t trust treating one another as we would like to be treated because we always have to be on the look out, defending ourselves in order to meet our own safety and survival needs.
To me, when I practice doing unto others, it is a day-by-day, experience-by-experience, chance-after-chance to bring love and kindness. I challenge myself daily to align my behaviors and reactions with these principals. Prayer, after all, is one thing. How I act however, that’s on me. It is how I pay forward my thanks for getting to live.
Probably my most oft-used adage is Begin Within. This is because doing so gives me the chance to get present with what is real for me. Is it an old story, what’s going on in my head right now? Regret or worry—fear-based? Written in my body by my life’s experiences, hanging out on the neuropeptides of my emotions, too close to my surface for my liking? Making me uncomfortable? I was a black out drunk you know, so I keep a close eye on these things…to avoid picking up my favorite or at least easiest way of checking-out.
Deep yogic union can be a way of reminding me that in the present moment, breath is healing. It is truly all I actually have. It can be all I need. I believe that life is a gift. Lots of loss taught me that. To live today the very best I can and enjoy myself as much as possible while I am–usually requires me to get real with me, then to turn my intentions towards how I want to behave today. Doing unto others ensures I enjoy my life more because it makes me soft and open, which is the direct result of lightly practicing love and kindness over and over.
Abidingly human, or Aries, or Irish Catholic, or whatever else it is that I am I remember to hold gently the fact that I’m also totally imperfect as it gets. Angry, lazy, self-righteous, selfish, arrogant, rigid, overindulgent, super anxious, too controlling. All of these things. I keep my own self-understanding close, so that compassion for others is never too far behind.
When I get caught up in fear, which always makes my imperfections worse, my work is to begin within. Being a jerk is easy. What I don’t work out I will act out. Taking responsibility for this takes committed return from beginning within to the question, how am I behaving right now? I begin again with this present moment, using my breath. For me, it doesn’t take long in the present moment to get grateful for having access to it.
Doing unto others by becoming deeply present to right now. Giving thanks for the chance to get to do so. That’s really all it takes. I think it’s one of perhaps the most simple and simultaneously most challenging acts there is.