(I Almost Didn’t Go)
To celebrate the Summer Solstice and support the Mental Health Association, our community has an outdoor yoga extravaganza (which was indoors this year). I wasn’t going to go. It would be hot and crowded. I’d have to leave work early. I wouldn’t be home to fulfill my dinner-making duties with my family. Besides, it promised to be awesome. That is my cue to stay away. I have honed my scorn for awesome, crowded events over many, many years. Indeed, this scorn has been passed down from generation to generation. I come from a family of introverts, where anything too popular or too crowded is to be avoided. Join in with whole-hearted enthusiasm? Nah ah! Better to stay home and be safe and do one’s duty.
One of my yoga friends and teachers, who happens to embrace – joyfully – all things awesome with wholehearted enthusiasm, reminded me that Matthew Sanford would be the guest teacher at this event. Oh! Hmmm. The author of the amazing memoir, Waking, that heightened my devotion to yoga?! Oh well. That’s okay. I don’t need to take a hot, crowded, awesome class with a yoga teacher who happens to be a paraplegic and has written eloquently and with great insight about the mind-body connection…or lack thereof. Besides, I am too busy. Busy, busy, busy. That mind of mine is going off in a million directions with Very Important Thoughts.
But this quiet voice in my gut said, “Sally. What are you doing? You have been profoundly and forever affected by yoga. Matt Sanford’s book had a huge impact on you. You know you want to meet him and take class with him. Embrace this opportunity with whole-hearted enthusiasm!” I decided to listen to the quiet, intuitive voice in my gut instead of the busy, analytical voice in my head. I invited my friend Gina, the one who enthusiastically accepts my most spontaneous invitations with touching appreciation, kindness, enthusiasm, and support. My friend Gina who thinks the best of me, who thinks I am better than I am. Dear Gina said yes. Off we went.
We arrived and there was an assortment of sponsors advertising their wares. Marketing, I scoffed. (Full disclosure, I make my living by marketing.) Gina left me at the registration table in a hurry to get to the first table to chat up the sponsor and see what they were offering. Within 10 minutes, she had gotten valuable tips from a nutritionist and found a photographer who did beautiful yoga stationery. I, on the other hand, was wondering how quickly I could dump the goody bag and all the flyers. Then, we entered the hot and crowded space where the class would be. Music was playing. I saw many, many yoga friends. I smiled. Aware that I was in this funny space where my mind kept me at a distance from the experience, from other people, from whole-heartedly and enthusiastically being All In, I decided to be there. All In. With my friend. With my yoga community, those I knew and those I didn’t know. We found a space in the middle of the hot crowd and became part of the hot crowd.
Matt Sanford was introduced. He began. Speaking, teaching, in his wheelchair, about the mind-body connection. He was simply profound. And he was an ordinary guy who was impatient with the uncooperative sound system and with the shortness of time. Determined to convey the messages he felt were most urgent to deliver to this hot, crowded group of devotees who wanted to soak in every word he said in one short class. He had us feel our breath behind our hearts, notice that we felt better when our bodies were energetically in alignment, and appreciate the touch and support of a partner. Some of my paraphrasing of his words of wisdom include:
- The body is driven to live.
- The body is the best home for the mind (to rest).
- Take up space with your body.
- The distraction of the mind prevents us from feeling and being present.
- The silence of his paralyzed body is like the silence we will all experience as we age.
- Notice the humming of energy through your body.
- Feel your body. Feel connected. Feel.
- Life is a gift – enjoy it!
After the class, everyone in this hot, crowded space held hands and sang and chanted and felt connected. It was truly awe-some.
And to think I almost didn’t go. I would have missed so much.
Me with Matt. He is inscribing my copy of Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence.
Photos: Gina took these photos.