My best guess is that in these past three years I have attended over a hundred yoga classes by now… at least a hundred if my rough math is correct. Yoga is new to me. It has been a delightful discovery doing yoga that I have a body. \Well.. to be more precise, I did know that I had a body.
I don’t think I cherished my beautiful body or relished in having a body… or ever really explored this glorious collection of a trillion co-operative cells. I do on my mat in all this twists, stretches and holds.
How my breath and my movements come together into one expression of life.
True confession… I was a yoga hold-out. A recruit of the yoga-resistance movement… for years. I held out against the persuasive invitations of my loving yoga-passionate partner and friends.
It was far too popular and too New-Agey for me. I swore I would never be one of those guys carrying my mat with sandals on my feet. It is all so trendy and so… I don’t know… lulu lemon like…
I now carry my mat. I wear sandals while I carry my mat. In public.
This past week, at my yoga class I had an experience that I have been considering and pondering these past days and had been longing to express in writing.
In yoga, you set up your mat. Others set up mats around you. It is how it is done in yoga.
In my hundred-plus yoga classes, I have had many new folks or vaguely familiar people set up their mats around me. I notice them but I don’t often pay too much attention. It is helpful to get to the class ten or even fifteen minutes early. I tend to use that time to close my eyes, often to get low in a crouch on my mat to stretch out and to ground myself before the class begins. Sometimes I lay on my back with my eyes closed. More times than not, I am not even aware as the spaces around me fill up. I mostly look up only at the start of class. It is often at this moment that I become briefly aware of who is around me. I also take off my glasses and so everyone is a bit blurry so I’m not always so sure.
This past week, I was doing my usual thing. I had crouched in ‘child’s pose’ with my eyes closed. I heard someone quietly set up next to me. I felt the slight breeze of the flipped mat descending near my left side.
Then, after a few minutes, I sensed her. I really sensed her. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was a field of energy or a wave of feeling down my left side. It made my body tingle and I looked up at her.
She was sitting cross-legged. She was looking up out the window at the mountains and sky above the buildings.
I had seen her before this day… not often at the classes I frequent but a few times. I don’t know her name. I hesitate to describe her more as I would value not disclosing who she is by a description of her.
The class moved ahead.
I kept sensing her. I didn’t need to look over at her. I just had this awareness of her presence.
The class ended.
I got up to return my blocks and my blanket. When I returned to roll up my mat, she was in the process of rolling up her mat.
Without planning or any pre-consideration or thinking through what was happening, I suddenly spoke to her… shyly and quietly… this is the gist of what stumbled out…
“Ah… I know this sounds strange but I sensed you quite powerfully today. It was an energy coming from you and it was surprising and persistent. My eyes were closed when you came in. I’m not used to feeling someone’s presence with this amount of awareness. The feeling that I encountered was one of sadness. It was filled with sorrow- but very bittersweet and also warm and beautiful- almost radiant- as though you were trying to take it all in and were finding a way to embrace a new and difficult realization. That was how the energy felt to me and how it felt to be beside you today.”
Awkward silence arrived. She held my gaze briefly in silence and began to speak.
“This is very odd. I’m not sure what to make of what you are saying. I was very sad this class. I can’t believe you could pick up on it. A close friend just died this past week. I was thinking of her throughout the class. And another friend died just before… about two weeks ago. I was thinking of how fast it can all happen… I was looking out the window at the start of class and just thinking about it all…” And she began to tear up. She smiled and looked into my eyes… and that same wave crashed against my shore but this time with much more direct energy and engagement.
We both knew that this was enough said.
I smiled back without comment. We rolled up our mats. We parted without saying anything more to each other. Others were also around us and cleaning up. And a new class would soon be filling the space.
How often does this experience of sensing occur to me in a day? How much energy flows around us and between us? How did I become so desensitized- so mistrustful of my heart? How often am I distracted by the monkey-who-lives-in-my- head and all the frenetic thoughts and tasks that I fail to even notice another or my own heart? How often do I notice something… but then do nothing… lacking a courage to speak to another about what I have sensed in them and between us? How do much do I trust my heart? Where might this take me?
I have not encountered her in the last couple of classes since then. I still don’t know her name. Before last week, we would not have noticed each other at class…no more than all the others in the class we don’t really know. When we do encounter each other next class… now, we will likely smile and nod.