Eleven years ago, BYSJ opened with close to 50 people in attendance all day. I was extremely happy with that opening! Fast forward to Saturday, January 25, 2014, and see us celebrating with over 550 in attendance all day! Words can’t even begin to describe the feeling that swells in my heart as I try to demonstrate the gratitude I have for each of you in creating something more powerful and loving than I could have ever imagined. For the first time, this year, I taught on our anniversary attempting to share my profound appreciation in a small way. I hope the 148 of you in that class felt the passion I hold for you, this yoga, and this place. My goal here is to reach more of you – those that weren’t able to come to our anniversary class or celebration but yet from this piece, you too will feel how important YOU are to me and to this community.

As you all know, this last year has been extra challenging. Our wonderful manager and great friend, Chris Canevaro, suffers from a brain tumor. Diagnosed back in August, all of us had to come together and deal with something so shocking and tragic. The result has been more bonding between us like family producing this evident surge of energy that Chris has used to get him through those very tough times. Clearly this energy is called love. Members, we are greater than the sum of our parts as the power of your love as a whole has not only brought Chris to greater heights in his health but singles out how special BYSJ truly is. Over the last few weeks I’ve used this and other reflections to help me deliver a message to you with regard to what you mean to me, this community, and to this world.

Years ago, wonderful and highly praised, Sidney Poitier, won the Cecil B. DeMille award given at the Golden Globes, highlighting an established actor or actress with excellence in film. His acceptance speech went something like this: “Yes, I was in so and so film and did that part and yes, I was in this other film and played that part.” He continued with film after film that he was in with a little about each part, the year he was in it, and other recollections recounting the enormity of his career.

Then he stopped and stared at the audience and slowly stated something to the effect of, “but, it was director so-and-so that took the risk to put the first black man in such a film.” “And it was such and such good friend who took the steps to get me in such and such film when it could have cost him his career.” And on he went to humbly honor and give credit to those that believed, took a chance, stood up for what was right regardless of consequence as really the ones responsible for where he was now – getting this honor in winning a legendary Cecil B. DeMille award.

It was such a beautiful way to deeply thank the people that influenced his life and to thank those that made such an impact on the world of film as we know it now.

I know the content is different but it’s the best approach to appreciate all of you on many levels.

Twelve years ago I was looking for the right spot to open a studio. Yoga was still somewhat unknown in the mainstream of our economy. Endless corrections of yoga and not “yogurt” were explained at nauseam. It really took an open-minded landlord to appreciate our vision. Without it then and even now in the new studio, we would not be here.

Those years ago, if it weren’t for Chacho, Steve, Rick, Darius, Amy, Gwyneth, and Todd going above and beyond tirelessly to build, heat, fix, fold, and clean, we’d have no product to offer in the way it needed to be delivered.

And, if it weren’t for Chris, coming into my life and diving into the operations end of BYSJ since 2005, we would not have had a consistent product, money to keep us open, or the well thought out detail in the magnificence of this new studio.

If it weren’t for Jose, Sohyla, Michelle, Carlos, Marcel, Linda, and the teachers and volunteers reaching out with enthusiasm to give of their talents in their own unique way, we would not be taught professionally or organized efficiently; nothing would like pretty, clean, or stocked.

AND if it weren’t for all you accepting, trusting, respecting, guiding, responding, laughing, poking holes, encouraging, believing, and really just loving me in this position, I would not be standing here as I have been proudly doing for eleven years and more. I have and continue to lean on you I think more than you might feel you’ve leaned on me. It is you that makes a difference; it is you that is making an impact on this world; it is you that is the shift in consciousness that the world needs right now; it is you that is willing to serve a greater good; it is you that vibrates love!

But my reflections on BYSJ and what you’ve been responsible for doesn’t end here. I’ve spent some time pondering what makes a good community. What makes a successful community. You can argue that community is filled with like-minded individuals. Okay, true, as we believe in the power of yoga. A solid community could revolve around a good product, a consistent product. We do have reliable classes every day; the business is run pretty well; the people here are nice. We all seem to want to be here.

Marketing people will tell you that people buy feelings. That is the sticky factor to customer loyalty and in part what builds community. Again, this is true as we do feel good doing this yoga. We are better in all ways and for the most part feel better leaving than we did coming in. So we keep coming, we keep buying. But, as I mentioned in class Saturday, I’d like to suggest something deeper to what makes a successful community – “No one is special yet everyone is special.”

In our world today we are being compelled to be better, smarter, and faster, to be unique, original, to do more, and to illustrate our own points of distinction. It’s our culture so it’s everywhere and in everything: commercials, sporting events, schools, the workplace, relationships, technological advances…and more, that brainwash us (even in subtle ways) to compare or compete. I’m not trying to be cynical but rather observant of these powerful messages that separate us.

Walk in to BYSJ, you get a “hi” at the desk, grab your mat and towel, set up your same yoga spot wearing the same clothes you did last time you practiced, next to the same people ready to do the same routine of 26 poses. You are not tuned into differentiation, you are prepping for self-realization. You come in and take off (drip off) to embrace, let go, accept and do your best despite what is going on next to you. You are here for you in whatever capacity regardless of what your neighbor’s standing bow looks like. Despite color, age, height, income, address and all other differentiation. We come and are in here to do the same thing!

I am no greater or less than you, and you are no greater or less than me. We are all the same. We are not here to divide; we are here to be One. We are not here to separate; we are here to Belong. And it IS the very basis for feeling validated, the basis for feeling secure enough and enabled enough to discover and then become our own creative expression. So no one is special but everyone is special. Our rock star solid “example to the world” type community is a result of the honor and respect NOT from the differences we have in each other but the sameness we are in one another. Yoga is the way. We are knitted together in this hot room – this multi-cultural tapestry. It’s so potent and perfect enough to model the ideals to live by for the highest community of all – humanity! If we are not careful, our years ahead will potentially make a lasting influence to the world around us! As we begin February, month of love, I will continue to feel and expose the gratitude you’ve created in me. And fuel up for the challenge to evolve and thread our great community to higher places.

Be sure to take a look at our scrapbook section below and our Youtube links to view our party highlights to include Chris dancing!