It’s been one year since Chris, our BYSJ Manager and good friend, suffered from three seizures and then soon after was diagnosed with stage 4 Glioblastoma. Four surgeries later, a serious infection leaving his brain unprotected, 49 radiation treatments and countless trips to the hospital for chemotherapy and other medications, he is right back with us in the studio walking around talking to you and me AND taking the yoga, helmet and all! It is a miracle! I believe in no small part due to the love he gets from all of you and from the studio he helped to create, build and run. It’s the fuel that manifests more good cells than bad cells. The journey is not only long for Chris with this condition (but who cares if he can continue to add more quality to his life) but it is entirely different.

Chris will tell you that he considers his life now to be all gravy as he should have died years ago. Yep. Take some time with Chris and he will unfold his history of substance abuse and the dark night that saved his soul nine years ago. I met him shortly after that and I can attest to the fact that since I’ve known Chris, he has always lived his life clean and even more than that gratefully. All of us have episodes that are life changing but many of us unfortunately skip the deep work needed and find ourselves right back in yet another perhaps more intense episode different content same theme. I asked Chris how he has done it all these years keeping his life on this gratifying and aware track. He will tell you that he had no choice and that made it easy – do it or die. I took that to mean that he created explosive episode after explosive episode only to have no more mercy line to play with as he hit a wall with no more give so the choice was No Choice. Chris will tell you that THAT alone made it easier for him. Running out of clever ideas, ego manipulation, wiggle room, revealed the single scariest part of himself that he had to meet head on – pain!

For Chris, his dialog had to change from “if only I could land this job”, “I just need a little more time”, “It’s really not that bad”, to “how did I get this way,” “why am I always in a mess,” “I am going to die if I don’t address my issues.” This is where ego meets the soul. This is consciousness. The point we all must reach if we are ever going to climb more satisfying rungs on the ladder to higher living. And it truly is the start of living our most authentic life. The one we are intended to share with the world and the one we want to show up for!

Speed things up to present time and our beloved Chris is yet again cuddling way too closely with death. What’s interesting is that in this instance, Chris did not create a self-destructive path to cause a serious brain tumor. So, the ego’s automatic reaction of attempts to bargain his way out, or attempts to deny the severity of the situation and repetitive “if only I had done this” scenarios are pretty ridiculous. Even Chris shared with me what a waste of time it was to try and figure out how this might have happened. What that tells me folks is in the end all the justifying, rationalizing, denying, bargaining, persuading, just might be fun but it sure does rob us of a lot of time that could be used at looking at the real information underneath all that ego protection. So, what does Chris do? “Michele, I can’t change WHAT IS so the best way I know how to deal with it is to sit with the – pain!

Not long ago, I was dealing with a situation that had me in one long stream of anxiety attacks. I was functional but all consuming with issues that suddenly had a different perspective: all of it good but like any new revelations of personal truth – confrontational and emotional. Chris was my healing post! He unconditionally wrapped his loving words and arms around my wounded heart and suggested that I sit with my pain! It was a foreign idea completely and the image that came to mind as strange as this sounds is from the Disney movie Fantasia. I thought of all those mops and brooms dancing and how mysterious and dark and uncomfortable it was in not knowing where this animation was headed. Are we going somewhere up or are we going somewhere down? Soon enough Chris and I were on my couch in my office in complete silence eyes closed just allowing that feeling of pain to come in, settle and as I like to call it metabolize its way on through.

It is not common to see Chris cry but it isn’t unusual to see it either when it happens. For him to own the pain of what destiny has dealt him, it is nothing short of brave and beautiful. Surely, I can own my pain. What’s in there anyway? As I sat, I wrestled with the discomfort and allowance of vulnerability that stirs up when you feel out of control. But when you get down to it regardless of the words you associate with pain: failure; not worthy; loneliness; anger; grief; etc.. pain is just well – pain. And like the movie Fantasia in the scenes where light and dark endlessly battle, it’s the sun coming up the next morning that dismantles the fight signaling that there is light at the other end. And, there is. Metabolizing pain regardless of type makes room for higher levels of consciousness. If we don’t, pain rules our world cloaking all our actions with the fear of it. But, if we embrace our pain, we unite with our broken selves and begin to hear the dialog of the soul that’s been trying to talk to us all along.

That same day, I took class with Chris standing next to him in the back row. I felt calm and noticed that even in our yoga poses we are allowing for pain to pass through. The random topics of: “I didn’t hydrate enough the heat is getting to me”; “my injured shoulder just can’t take this long hold”; “I need to buy that wrinkle cream my friend suggested, look at all those wrinkles”; “I’ve got to get out of work earlier and get here more it’s just that important”; and more take the stage until we pop them like balloons with every inhale and every exhale. We steer the mind to think about the dialog given to us by the teacher and move accordingly giving the mind something to do. And, there you are left holding in Half Moon Pose. You are not your thoughts; you are not your body; you are not your work; you are not the sensations you feel; you are not the obnoxious noise battling, justifying, bargaining, denying, persuading for center stage; and you are not your – pain! Instead you are perfectly aligned, ego in check, pain metabolized and open to dialog with the soul. Consciousness is the language and the result is at long last the relationship we’ve always wanted –the one we own with ourselves! I once read that our separate journeys IS our community! – love that!

Consciousness is a challenge we awaken to everyday. It is a responsibility and it can’t be earned. But we are obligated to work on it every day if we want to escort our soul’s agenda and have true fulfillment and meaning in this one life. Let’s celebrate Chris, our friend, our teacher and our reminder to live not from perfection but wholeness. Being mindful is our task cooperating even with the depths of our own pain summoning us to the call of a much larger journey.