Part 1: The Guru We are here to heal, to be made whole. That is the only goal, and the lesson is found in the journey. The teacher is life itself. But The Guru, Our Master, is eternal and takes many forms. Only when you open yourself to The Guru can you truly be healed.
“This is your time; invite yourself to just be,” she started.
The soft sound of healing breaths, in and out, began to hum as we drifted into our own inner spaces. Grounding ourselves in our breath, reminded of our humanity, and reaching with our hearts, reminded of our spirits, we commenced our yoga practice. It’s a practice designed for discovery. We struggle with poses we’re not yet strong enough to hold. We flow through stretches that push our limits. We falter, even fall, as we learn to balance. The discovery will be of our true selves, the core of our beings at the energy source that sparks our human existence. This practice is part of all we do.
The chimes bring us back as our guru intones reminders to listen to our bodies and go at our own pace.
“Thank you for sharing your practice with me today. Thank yourself for making the effort to be present. Notice if you were able to put on those yoga blinders and care only for your practice rather than comparing yourself and your practice to others. Ask your soul if you loved yourself in your practice today. That’s why we practice.”
We thought about her words. We closed our eyes and searched our souls. Then we all bowed and offered “namaste” at the conclusion of the hour. Emma sat frozen with a smile, beaming as if illuminated by the time we’d just shared as a group.
Her petite frame was shrouded in atypical exercise attire. But then Emma was no typical yoga instructor. Mousy brown hair went all directions, appearing to spring from her delicate pink face; it was pulled up as usual, in a style none could, nor would likely attempt, to replicate. Her baggy clothes looked as though they could slip off her narrow shoulders and hips without warning. Yet she held her balances with unwavering strength. She moved with beauty and grace none would expect from such a disheveled waif. She looked like a wood sprite or faerie playing at being human and unsure how to fit in. But when she spoke she lit up the room. She was truly beautiful.
“So, how was that on your your neck, Sarah?” She asked as I gathered my things after class. “Was that buggy? Because we don’t want it buggy. Remember, if you’re over it, you’re over it–just like anything in life. Yoga teaches us that, right?”
I snickered a bit. I couldn’t help it. Her phrasing always made me smile. “Who talks like that?” I thought.
“It was great, Emma. Really. I’ve been trying to listen to my body and honor my limits, …” I demonstrated what I’d been practicing, propping my head against my forearms on the mat. “It actually feels better this way and, look.” I pushed out the last word with a bit more force as I kicked my legs to the ceiling and entered my headstand.
“So that’s two goals met: crow pose and a yoga headstand,” I beamed upside down still.
“That’s so awesome! You amaze me.” She waited until I righted myself and returned to sit, crosslegged on my mat in front of her. “Sarah, can you believe that you’re stronger now, so many years after your diagnosis, than ever before? … I mean, that’s really powerful. You should be ecstatic” She searched my eyes, tearing up as they often did when the subject of my health and happiness came up.
“I am proud of myself,” I replied. “I know I can do whatever I set my mind to.”
“But you’re not happy. I can tell.” A tear escaped against my will as she leaned in and seemed to see into my soul.
“I can’t explain it. It’s like I’ve just discovered who I really am and it makes me sad that I haven’t honored my identity but, more, like I don’t know how to.” I admitted, wondering why and how she brought this honesty out in me–and why I kept coming back to share more.
“Sarah, sweetie, you do know. It’s why you keep coming.” We embraced at that and I let the tears flow.
It’s true that I’m a cryer, although most would never guess that. I would rather suffer great pain than cry in public. Tough. Strong. Hilarious. … those are the descriptors I make sure I demonstrate in my day-to-day activities. They’re also what I tell people I am. Emma says crying is a sign of strength, and I almost believe her. But I still think being able to hold my tears until I’m alone is a sign of even greater strength. Every time I say that she speaks of the need for vulnerability, but I’m not there yet.
But today I cried, sobs and sighs, and gasps for air included. It was no dainty or sweet cry. It was the heavy healing kind of cry.
“Well it’s about time, cutie,” she whispered. “I knew you had that in you. And now you’re ready.” Her smile soothed me as she spoke.
“Sarah, you’re about to begin a journey.” A mysterious shift in the room’s light, as if the sun had broken free of dozens of clouds, seemed to welcome me to another dimension as she spoke. The only way to explain it is to say it felt like church, that light and airy and thankful feeling of peace when church is the way it’s supposed to be and love is the lesson.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Today’s lesson will begin to explain it, so just go with it.”
“Okay, Emma. I’m all in. ”
“Cool,” she said informally. “Let’s do this!” She smiled, beamed really, as she began. “Today’s lesson is the parable of the guiding light.”
And, with that, I was transported to a morning more than two decades ago.