Om Namah Shivayah Gurave
As I write to you on this sweltering June evening (it’s 24C outside as I write this), I am inspired by the mesmerizing melody of Sanctus by Ashana and Thomas Barquee – click here to listen to it now:
The mantra you see at the beginning of this post inspired my first public yoga class which I successfully taught this past weekend at my home studio, Bliss YogaSpa, as a 200-hr Anahata Rising Yoga Teacher-in-Training.
I chose remembrance as the theme for my class. Remembrance of the inner lighthouse that cloaks us with an unimpeachable green light whose source is a spinning emerald orb at our heart centre. This is the realm of the energetic power centre known as Anahata – in Sanskrit, this means “unbroken”.
You see, in the last few weeks, there have been several occasions where not only I, but many of our classmates, have felt broken, worn down – exhausted at the prospect of being so close to the end of our training, yet still so far away (with some of us still having to complete our first of two practicums, and then having to obtain 85% on the written final exam that tested a substantial amount of our knowledge about the physical aspects of yoga, as well as the philosophical, energetic and subtle body dimensions to the practice).
I am happy to report that in the last two weeks, not only did all of my tribemates and I pass our written exam (we all passed with over 90%), but all of us have now completed our first teaching practicum and received very good feedback heading into our last and final practicum at the end of June when we will be on retreat at the Sanctum Retreat centre (see below).
This past Saturday, I was the first of my tribemates to offer to teach a full 60 minute warm flow class to the general public at Bliss studio. I had been itching to teach my first class since our group teach a few months ago, and so when the opportunity arose, I just went for it.
As I only had a week to prepare my class, I began thinking about a thousand ideas for the theme for my class. Having done so much reading on this Buddhist scholar and that yogic scholar in the last 6 months, I had a lot of material to work with, but nothing in particular resonated with me so strongly that I knew that is the place from where I needed to teach the class to my first group of practitioners.
A promise to my soul sister, Jen
And then one night, out of the blue, I received a text message from my beloved soul sister, Jen…
Jen and I bonded since the first day of our YTT training back at the beginning of January. Together, we laughed, cried, and gasped at times at the thought of having to retain all of the knowledge our teachers were transmitting to us amidst our full time jobs (her a registered nurse and I a busy government lawyer with the courts). I believe that we likely were soul siblings in a past life, and were meant to be reunited in this one.
So it hit me like a ton of bricks when Jen told my tribe that she could no longer stay in the YTT program at the 90% mark. She knew in her heart that something was signalling to her, telling her, that she had to stop. It was her truth speaking to her in THAT moment. She was prepared to give up the certification, the retreat, and the fellowship that she had experienced with us these last 6 months together. Jen was simply exhausted, and her body could not keep up with all of her obligations at work and to her family and also complete the rigorous demands of the YTT program.
I remember a few weeks after Jen left the YTT program, she posted a picture of herself on social media sitting by a riverbank next to her new favorite meditation spot. I kept thinking to myself: what was she thinking about in that exact moment?
And then, one night, out of the blue, I received a text message from Jen…
Jen wrote me to tell me that she felt a lump in her breast one night while rolling over in bed. She thought it felt very strange and had it checked out by the doctors in the morning. One week later, Jen wrote me again to tell me that she had been diagnosed with an advanced form of breast cancer. I was completely numb. I was also furious at the universe. I could not understand how such a beautiful person could be subject to this terrible illness.
I remember being on the phone and telling Jen that I was so angry with the cosmos about what was happening. She was much more thoughtful and self-reflexive than I was in this moment because she explained how she believed this confirmed that her withdrawal from the YTT program was the right choice. It was a message from her authentic self shouting out at her to stop and listen. It prepared her to receive the news of this next phase of her yoga journey.
You see, both Jen and I believe that yoga literally saved our lives. She believes that yoga will save her life again as she prepares mentally, physically, and spiritually to battle the cancer that rages inside of her body.
On the second day after her diagnosis, Jen asked me if I would accompany her to the hair salon as her hair was cut off in preparation for the hair loss that she will experience in the coming months. I would not have been anywhere else on this planet but next to her side on that day. Afterwards, we dined at a local restaurant and pledged to each other that in one year’s time we would return to the very same restaurant and celebrate her victory in conquering her battle with breast cancer. The picture you see below is Jen and I just before we left the salon to have dinner.
On the way home from dinner, I knew in my heart what the theme of my class would be: remembrance.
Remembrance of the inner light that can never be extinguished, even in the darkest of shadows that plague our hearts. That is because the emerald light of the Anahata chakra – the heart centre – is unimpeachable. It is in this space of the heart centre that we know we are unbroken. There is nothing required to be fixed. We are perfectly imperfect in this realm of our heart.
When the day finally arrived, Jen was already waiting in the yoga lounge 30 minutes before class. I told her my class was dedicated to her and that the focus of the class was on the heart chakra. But, that was all (I didn’t want to spoil any of the surprises I had in store for the class).
A few minutes prior to class, I washed my hands and recited the mantra Om Namah Shivayah (at the top of this post) in my head 108 times before taking the seat of the teacher. During class, I felt calm, steady, and focused. I not only wanted to teach my students, but experience the practice with them through each pose, each sequence, each breath emanating from the inextinguishable light of the heart centre. This is the quality of the embodied teacher that I aspire to each and every time I am blessed to guide others through the practice of yoga.
I completed practice by chanting the above noted mantra two times and offering a prayer of light in closing. I felt I had truly arrived in the seat of the teacher this past weekend. I felt connected to each student in a very profound way, as though both the student and I were connected to the greater consciousness of the universe.
It was very encouraging to receive positive feedback from my colleagues, friends and family. I was honoured that my twin brother Mark and my two sister cousins, Verna and Winnie, as well as several of my work colleagues and friends were in attendance for the class. My brother told me he was proud of me. This was a very special moment.
And then there was Jen. She had a giant grin on her face. She was lit up from cheek to cheek. Jen explained to me that this was her first public yoga class since her diagnosis and that she had just experienced one of the most moving experiences in her entire yoga journey. She told me that I was a gifted teacher. It was a very emotional moment for each of us. We held each other and I told her that we would win this fight. She has an army of love that surrounds her; and, with love and light, anything is possible. Below are a few pictures of some of my extended family and my YTT family with me after class:
The weekend could not have ended on a higher note either: three pairs of my tribemates – Kelly & Laura, Kelly & Sunshine, and Michelle & Jodie delivered three inspiring practicums.
As we embark on our final chapter of our YTT journey – the retreat at Sanctum Retreat Centre the end of June – many of us feel bittersweet at the thought that this will all end in a few weeks’ time. But, I do not feel that way. Rather, I believe that the end of our YTT journey is merely the beginning of the next step that has been placed in front of us as we move towards our ultimate path – our dharma – of the highest seat of our Self. We have been given such incredibly powerful and transformative tools that we must now be of service to our fellow brothers and sisters around us to help to alleviate their suffering, and guide them along their path towards self-liberation.
Speaking only for myself, I know now more than ever that when I journey to the storied Kripalu Yoga & Meditation Center in August to sit with Stephen Cope, his teachings will serve as another critical step in living my personal dharma as the warrior advocatus – in giving up the fruits of this dharmic path, and living it simply, fully and utterly.
In closing, I offer you these words of Lao-Tzu:
Use your own light, and return to the source of light, that is called practising eternity.
May you always remember to return to the source of light, the source of unimpeachable goodness and love that radiates from the centre of your heart chakra, Anahata, and may you always know that in this place of self-remembrance, you have and will always be, unbroken. You are perfectly imperfect.
I wish you love, light, and hope, always.