Years ago, I recall Gary Vaynerchuk, a bold, self-proclaimed compassionate leading entrepreneur of this digital age, discussing the “me too” stories coming out as women started to un-silence themselves about the sexual abuse they had experienced. His takeaway was beautiful: “one day, from this, maybe the real lesson is that we’ll learn that we all have shortcomings and with that realization, we’ll all start to get along.”

Just this morning, Jessica, one of our wonderful teachers and part of our senior staff team, sent me a passage from Gonçalo Luz:

Dear one,
You, who are taking as much as you can from the supermarket shelves, to help ease your fears, I love you.
You, who deny what is happening and think this is an evil plot to control the masses, hoping it will all go away when you open your eyes, I love you.
You, who spend endless hours in the hospital helping others without rest, I love you.
You, who don’t really care about safety and hygiene and keep doing whatever you were doing before, coughing mindlessly and touching the bread loafs in front of me with your bare hands, like a child, I love you.
You, who ease your feelings by preaching to others with your long sermons of how they should go about their lives in this moment, as if you owned the truth, I love you.
You, with your stories of a new shift in conscience, certain that those who will die are the ones who did not shift, I love you.
You, who think what is happening will bring out the worst in us, I love you.
You, who think what is happening will bring out the best out of us, I love you.
You who suffer in silence, unable to bear the pain of your own thoughts, as you sit alone, I love you.
You, who are rejoicing in the comfort of your yoga mat because you have found a way to be with your pain, I love you.
You, who are profiting from the pain of others, I love you.
You, who are losing it all from the uncertainty of this moment, I love you.
You who now have more time to stay with your family, I love you.
You, who have no family, I love you.
You, who write words of comfort to ease your pain, I love you.
You, who help others, to help yourself in these moments, I love you.
You, who close yourself in, fearing death, and pain, and life, and your own wounded heart, I love you.
You, who selflessly put yourself in service, when others are in need, I love you.
You, you can feel the pain of others, I love you.
You, who cannot feel the pain of others, I love you.
You, who think you know better in these moments, I love you.
You, who think you know nothing in these moments, I love you.
You, who keep an open heart to change, and are able to sit with the not knowing, I love you.
I am all of you. I have you all in me.
And I love you.

It’s essence captures that, right now, we are experiencing both our brighter sides and darker sides together with heightened exposure. We will clap from the rooftops for our first responders, and yet hoard tissue paper. We’ll participate in 6′ social distancing, yet still sneeze out in the open with no mask. Some of us think that this time is not to be wasted and given as a gift to reset: catching up on sleep, bonding more with family, and other activities we’d otherwise never do or appreciate.  Even so, we watch in grave concern that maybe all this was political and we’re somehow being manipulated into a state of fear.  

We are certainly living with such contrast: our love for this time of slowing down, retreating inward to reflect and come to know ourselves again. Living with confusion, grief, and uncertainty as our work routines are in question, our finances are unstable, and our country seems more divided and angry than ever. There is so much conversation and so many opinions that we listen to AND participate in.  

As Gary stated, I believe we all have shortcomings and, as Gonçalo states, it’s not that you have one and I have another, it’s that we each have them all. To experience the fullness of your life, to be fully human is to cultivate compassion. Recognizing the highlight reel of your life is well and good. So to, it is necessary to acknowledge the more daunting parts that aren’t as accepting. The mature human is aware that both sides coexist and churn together to create compassion.

And what is the role of yoga in all this? Yoga transforms all that we are (these light and dark sides if you will) by building our muscles of compassion.  

michele outdoors

Michele on the Los Gatos trail.

While walking on the Los Gatos Trail, I find it amazing how much everyone is working together to support this “Shelter In Place” policy. Of course there are arguments and editorials diving into judgments about SIP. Regardless of that noise, we have acted on it and we are doing it. The message here is clear – stay home.

Our dialog is the same way. First of all, just doing your yoga practice helps you to ‘tune out’ so you can ‘tune in.’ Bravo! So much of our lives are ‘out there.’ We need yoga to bring us back into the quiet, peaceful place of our own being, to feel our bodies grounding in presence. That is a must. The dialogue helps give us a command to act on, collecting all the junk of frustration along with all the gratitude and confidence. It enables you to move with clarity on a decision – Lock the Knee. It’s this collection of ALL of you, beautifully played out, moving yourself forward in the totality of who you are even with the opinions, judgments, conversations that swirl around in your head.

There is a great book called Oneness by Rasha (I recommend everyone read it at least once in your life). In one chapter, she explains that a decision is only a decision once you have really made it. Regardless of what the decision is, there is power in making the decision. However, if you keep revisiting the decision, then you haven’t really decided. You’re basically stuck. A decision, once made, allows all your energy and actions to align behind that decision. By deciding to Shelter in Place, we have been able to get behind it and work together on how to best honor that decision! SIP is an act of compassion, decisively made – even in the midst of our kind gestures and messy selfish acts – to come together and get along.

COVID is pushing us to unite with our differences, that’s the beautiful part.

Michele doing yoga at home

Michele does Standing Head to Knee pose in her living room.

In short, our yoga reinforces our need for radical self-acceptance: to accept all parts within ourselves, and still decide to Lock the Knee. In so doing, we can then accept the people with whom we share this earth, even with all our collective differences. We can still decide TOGETHER to Shelter in Place! This is Compassion (arguably the highest form of love) – often mistaken for empathy, yet it is so much more. This love, this compassion, leans into our darker aspects of self that enable a flow of vulnerability and sameness!