Driving in my car this morning on the way to teach my weekly lesson at Yoga Roof, I thought about what I wanted to say in this month's blog and how I might connect it to this marvelous day of celebrating Women the world over. Then a dear friend who is going through a difficult time called and we spoke of how, though she can't imagine it now, the devastation she is feeling at the moment will pass, and she will emerge from the wreckage whole and yet transformed in ways neither of us can imagine. Then, as I walked the rest of the way to class and thought about the plan I had crafted for today's lesson her words echoed in my mind:
"How will I get through this?"
And since some of the best ways I know to sort through questions of the heart are movement and meditation, I put this question to the class and we practiced paying attention to how we confront challenges on our mat: do we resist, recoil, harden, blame or shame? Can we learn to relax, to receive support, to soften, and even smile? Might we meet the challenges of life with the same sense of softness, steadiness and play that we bring to an arm balance or bind? As we closed with a blessing to each other and others who are facing challenges (everyone on the planet) I sent a special blessing to my sweet, suffering soul sister and gave thanks for the grace of seeing her through to the other side.
And then at the end of class, some folks stayed for tea and we sat beneath the new sign on the studio wall:
"just for moment I park myself in the middle of the joy and surrender"
More than the beautiful words what touched me was seeing the name beneath it and being able to tell the story of how I know Kate Hoyle.
Her genuine smile, punctuated by the sweetest dimple in her cheek, is what first endeared Kate to me when I met her as a college freshman. During the four years that she cared for our daughter, our dog, and our home, Kate became a precious part of our family and a dear friend to me. When I think of the qualities that I want my own children to possess, I think of Kate: kind, courageous, vulnerable, adventurous, reverent, loyal, generous, radiant. A few months after her graduation from college, she sent me a copy of her self-published poetry volume, home. Several times, I have shared one of my favorites in class:
i drew you there
when your eyes were closed,
before the day and the people touched you.
i drew you in words and light.
i wonder if you'd see yourself in my portrait.
you might see God and not know she shares your face.
An artist, writer, yogi, activist, traveler, sister, daughter, and whole-hearted life-liver, Kate is a soul sister. What a gift to see that her words and her light will live in the hearts of the yoga community where her passion for the practice was ignited and to be able to share our story with anyone who wonders about the origins of that magnificent sign.
When I got home to write this, I checked my email as all good procrastinators do, and found a message from Yoga Roof congratulating me for my anniversary with the studio. Six years ago today, I took my first class at Yoga Roof. Having left a yoga community in Salt Lake City that filled both my soul and my social needs, I longed for something similar and, for four years, searched out the few options to no avail. Then, hearing that a friend had rented a space in town to offer lessons, I showed up to the first class. Along with one other woman, we practiced in a black-walled room rank with the smell of stale cigarettes from the previous nights' event.
At the end of the class, the other woman in the class introduced herself as Mara and shared that she and her husband were opening a yoga studio shortly. A few months later, they opened and I came to take my first class. My prayers had been answered.
As a new mother still feeling the effects of postpartum depression and working part-time at a job my heart was no longer in, the studio became a refuge for me and the weekly classes I took with Kelly Griswold re-ignited my desire to teach again.
When I approached Mara, she wasn't convinced, but was willing to give me a shot--outside the studio. So I proposed Walking Yoga and for an entire summer we traversed around town and practiced asana everywhere--including the Riva Caccia Bagno Pubblico where we received strange looks and now, over 100 people gather every Saturday during the summer to practice! In the fall, I got a slot on the schedule and within a couple years, followed my heart to make teaching yoga my vocation.
Through it all, from hybrid-adventures like Stroller Yoga Workout and Yoga Hikes, to my latest experiment with a Yoga + Essential Oils workshop, Mara has always given me the space and support to grow, to make mistakes, and try again, and to share my passions. It hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows, and as with any meaningful relationship, we are stronger for having faced challenges together. I am forever grateful to this soul sister who invited me to try her studio and has been inviting me ever since to show up and contribute my talents to realize our shared vision for a thriving yoga community.
When I met Mara in that terrible room, I could not have imagined my life right now. Though the details themselves have changed only a little, my inner life has transformed--in large part thanks to the soul sisters like Mara and Kate who have come into my life. On that day, ujayiing away in the rancid air, I too wondered how I would get through it. Not just the toxic air, but the challenges of living a life that didn't feel like mine. I couldn't have know that six years later, I'd have the privilege of spending the morning breathing fresh air in a light-filled room with my beloved, dedicated students. I couldn't have known that I'd have a collection of women to celebrate, cry and collaborate with. But that's how it is with miracles. In fact, it was Kate who said on a summer afternoon while we sat by the lake with our mutual soul sister Prue: "miracles are everywhere. You just have to look and you will find one."
What a gift to be able to share a few stories of some of my soul sisters. I am blessed to have many more, and someday, I'll share them all with you. For now, on this International Women's Day when we honor half the human race, let us reach out and share the stories of our soul sisters. Let us thank the women who have held up the sky for us when we felt our world crumbling to pieces. Let us admire the women who are leading by example and celebrate the women who are helping us to realize our dreams. Let us applaud the women who are taking the day off to take a stand. Let us forgive the women who have hurt us and lift up the women who are reaching out for help. Let us remember the women who have passed. Let us welcome our girls, the women of the future, into a sacred sisterhood by telling them the stories of the women in our lives and in this way, we will get through it--any challenge however mundane or grave, personal or political--together, softer, steadier, maybe even smiling.