Happy Nine Year Anniversary BYSJ! Reflecting on nine years makes me ponder who I was when I first considered opening BYSJ at the Westgate West Shopping Mall. It was the very beginning of my life as it is now. Anniversaries are about celebrating life, as well as recognizing the ebbs and flows that one inevitably passes through on the journey from that starting point to the present moment.
As many of you know, my mom died of Alzheimer’s at age fifty four. She was forty nine when she was diagnosed with the disease. Unfortunately, there is no defeating Alzheimer’s; there is a battle, but right now, always a losing one, as there is no cure. Many of you have experienced a relationship with dying in some fashion. For me, it was four long hard years of witnessing a life wind down to its terribly sad finish. It was awful to feel helpless and know that nothing I could do would change this course my mom was on. In time, I came to understand that this process was not about me, but about my mother, Donnadae. Once I got over myself, I rose to every occasion to give her in whatever way I could, right up until the very end: tossing the ball with her grandsons, sharing in her favorite ice cream; having the sun shine upon her face…an experience that brought her a true and simple joy.
Dying is inevitable. We all know this. Yet despite having this knowledge, it is very uncomfortable for most of us to deal with our own mortality. But, it can also be a huge gift in teaching us how to live. The open-eyed acknowledgement of our inevitable passing can shake up our entire sense of being, forcing us to question who you are and how we want to be in the world. And this can motivate us to grow and change. Looked at from this perspective it’s a true silver lining, the proverbial “blessing in disguise.”
Experiencing someone so close to me leaving this earth plane made me realize how ridiculousness my fears of dying were. It was a huge moment, the Universe shouting loudly in my ears “What are you so afraid of,” and “what are you waiting for?” The dying experience gives you a big kick in the pants that says, “You better get on with living!” And it really was the best way for me to honor my mom; to get on with this business of living!
So, I started to dance again, taking ballet lessons at Alonzo King’s school in San Francisco. I worked part time at an art gallery and learned how to professionally wrap gifts. (Yes, there is a way!) I studied black and white photography using my grandfather’s very old Canon 35 millimeter camera taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge creating a card line named after my mother. I learned how to ride a motorcycle riding both a Harley and a Honda. And, I started yoga. Yep! I wasn’t wasting any time. I was living.
I recall sitting with a good friend that I worked with at Il Fornaio. I used to say to her when I was in the height of all this activity that I just didn’t want to forget.What did I mean by this? Well, during this time, I was also a Hospice Volunteer. Hospice was a big part of my mom’s final eight months. They are the most compassionate and understanding group of people. It’s an organization that owns a beautiful mission about the meaning and quality in one’s life. Hospice recognizes the difficulties that surround all those concerned when a loved one passes. They go to great lengths to give the dying person and their relations a quality of life to the last possible moment, whatever that may mean for the situation. Hospice is not about dying at all, it’s about living.
The Hospice Director at the time was amazing. She was super strong and a great ambassador for this still somewhat unknown non-profit group. She told me that what many people struggle with are those years in between learning that someone is dying and the actual death. She said, “There is a lot of life there.” It was a great moment for me as I came to realize what my mom had instilled in me in those four years – life! That was the very thing that I did not want to forget: the relationship that I had cultivated with life!
In our culture, it is so ingrained in us to reach for the next best thing to make us happy, to make us feel alive. Our society sends us mixed messages on how we need to be. Dying strips away any of that pretentiousness right away. It keeps us accountable to what is real, to what is our true nature, to what is life.
So does yoga. It is my belief that stepping into a yoga class for whatever reason begins the process of creating a profound and intimate relationship to life, your life. And, not because of something outside your current existence, but through the awareness of the positive existence you have in you and with you right now!
Bikram has a great saying that negative thoughts are nine times more powerful than positive ones. He is right. And yoga is the single most powerful antidote to negativity that you can find on this planet! And, it’s just what we ALL need. Negativity comes in many forms: inflammation, lower back pain, depression, cynicism, heart disease, greed. Negativity is anything that removes you from your alignment to life, which is always positive.
The world is a confusing place. We need help in reinforcing the positive. We have to be self-centered in order to be centered. So, do your yoga and dismiss the negative. Wayne Dyer has a great phrase in one of his books which says, “when you change the way you look at things, what you look at changes.” When we do this, then we can follow the words of Gandhi and “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Over the years, we’ve celebrated our yoga, our relationship with our families and friends, our relationship with each other and our community. We’ve recognized and continue to honor that relationship we have with our Source. This year, our ninth year, as we open into new experiences in our new studio, let’s celebrate our relationship to LIFE!