Throughout my life, beginning in childhood, I have had a huge love for those in the world who don’t always feel loved. On the playground those were the outcasts, the loners, the kids who didn’t fit in. Not that I was ‘cool’ by any means. I wasn’t ‘popular’, but I did have a unique and interesting mix of really amazing friends. One of these friends was Susie. Susie clearly came from a home where survival was not a given. She was not thriving. Susie would come to school unbathed, wearing clothing was falling apart, and probably hadn’t see its way through the washing machine in months. She was hungry, she struggled academically, she was socially awkward; and she wanted so badly to have friends. Most kids avoided her. Even as a child, people like Susie broke my heart. I wanted better for her. And so, I wrapped my loving arms around her and as often as possible, I included her in whatever my friends and I were doing. I saved a seat for her at lunch, I greeted her with a smile, I asked her about her day. Little things.
And so that began the course of the rest of my life. However, as compassionate as I am, I am also very permeable. As you can imagine, I often got myself into some ugly situations. When I opened my heart to people like Susie, I also took on the burdens of their lives, I would carry the weight for them, and I would oftentimes feel like I became them. In turn, they would cling to me (and I use the word cling as an understatement). Once I showed someone like Susie that they were loved and that they had value, I would become the source of their love and value. They would obsess over me, stalk me, behave in some ways that were quite scary. And I had zero tools to handle this. I had all the love in the world to pour out, and no container to keep myself safe, I had no boundaries. I was unable to help the Susies of the world stand on their own two feet, find their own internal worth and source of love.
Time after time this same scenario would play out in my life. I was taken advantage of on many accounts in various different ways, none of which I could anticipate of foresee. I was scared of people. I didn’t know who was going to cling to me next and behave in ways I didn’t know how to deal with. I thought I must be holding a huge sign above my head that magnetically drew in all the creeps of the world.
I tried to hide beneath thick, angry skin. I changed career paths over and over to get away from ‘needy’ people. I ended countless relationships. I always felt guilty. I wanted to help people, yet the experiences of my life left me calloused and sad. Hopeless. Bitter.
Then I found Anusara Yoga. I had studied and even taught yoga before I found this particular style and what I found was that my practice was always asking more of me. To go deeper, to reach farther, to do more. And as a teacher, I once again became a confused counselor to my students. Without words spoken, I was taking on their troubles and trying to ‘fix’ them. I ran from that, feeling in my heart that instructing yoga was not for me.
The physical practice of Anusara Yoga asks us to pull in. To hug in. To move from periphery to center. To create a relationship with the midline. Dance had given me flexibility and Anusara asked me to detach from it. To stop relying on my ability to stretch more and to find the container within which to express myself through the pose. To hold space for ME.
Wow, that was a radical shift for me. To learn to hold my own space first and foremost was a huge life lesson. Within that containment, I learned a ton about myself, and I continue to. Things stopped being so much about everyone else and about giving, giving, giving. I found solid ground from which to offer support, a way to honor both myself and others.
I am always re-learning these lessons; how to put on my own oxygen mask before helping my neighbor. Motherhood puts me in position to remember this daily. I am so grateful. This is my work. This is the work I must do in order to live out my Dharma.
Dharma is the Sanskrit word for our life’s purpose. It’s being who you are meant to be. Susie showed me early in life what my Dharma is. She embodies what so many others have shown up to teach me in my life. I ran from it over and over until I finally aligned with the inner strength I needed in order to show up for other people. I am here to offer love. I am here to let you know that you are perfect in every way and that your inner light shines with fervent energy. I am here to help you trust that you are where you are meant to be. I am here to value the gifts you offer. And more importantly, I am here to help you see all of that. To give you a container within which to provide unconditional love to yourself. You already have the source of love living in the cells of your body. You are divinity in physical form. Now, let’s meet on the mat so that you can connect with your heart, your spirit, your body, your mind. That is why I am here.