A very good friend of mine lost her husband a few weeks ago. Though he was a successful and respected restaurateur, his extreme generosity and thoughtfulness distinguished him most. His custom was to give a copy of Leo Buscalgia’s The Fall of Freddie the Leaf to friends that had lost someone dear. The book follows – “Freddie” as he discovers his reason for being while experiencing each season, and is an amazing story about the cycle of life and our purpose in it. How appropriate it was to hear this thoughtful man’s close friends read aloud from this wonderful book at his memorial.
Many people are uncomfortable talking about death. I lost my mom 11 years ago and, despite the sorrow it can bring, I’m okay talking about this difficult subject. It may sound strange, but the beautiful memorial made me think about the season we are in now – autumn – and of yoga. Mother Nature reveals the reason for this season with winds blowing, leaves swirling and the temperature falling. I live in Santana Row and while there are not many trees, I am fortunate to have one directly outside my window. Just now, the remaining leaves look heavy and torn, like a sign that says, “it’s’ time to let go.”
Every time we step in the yoga room, we are asked to let go. Let go of the daily concerns, let go of over consuming thoughts and circumstances, let go of expectations about a pose, let go of distractions like sipping water or using a hand towel, let go of bodily discomfort, and so on. Even the practice itself with the extreme heat has us shedding layers of sweat, layers of self. Those that are new to the practice might start to feel an “identity crisis” as the yoga, like death, brings up questions we’ve worked hard to avoid or confront situations we’ve tucked away for years. But, like autumn, like the passing of a good friend, it is all a part of the process of becoming who we are. Fall is the necessary precursor to new life. Dying is a passage to another phase. Nature teaches us that surrendering is a source of strength as we, inevitably, enter the next phase in the cycle.
Ironically (but appropriately), Thanksgiving, a time for gratefulness, falls right in the heart of…fall. We come to appreciate what we have more profoundly when all we have is being shaken out from all around us. When we are being stripped of life as we know it, space opens up and, in that space is a chance for clarity. Autumn invites for reflection and is a great time to prepare for renewal, whether it’s something tangible or a way of thinking. ‘Tis the season to appreciate what has matured; ‘tis the season to acknowledge that death is part of life. The truth is that a part of us is dying every day. At the same time, every day a part of us is growing. My friend’s memorial reminded me to avoid such a tight grasp on life. It’s like during the yoga practice: breath and space (as opposed to force and constant contraction), not only opens us to greater physical possibilities but also heightens our reverence for everything and everyone. As nature demonstrates, what you get is based on what you let go.
I am so appreciative to each and every one of you! Your unique contribution – to me, to the studio, and to each other – unites to create a perfect Thanksgiving Yoga Family Portrait! Please enjoy your holidays. I highly recommend a walk to appreciate and observe Nature during her process of letting go. Stay tuned to your own process. Ponder the tough questions. Use your yoga to stay centered in times of chaos and deepen your connection to the cycle of life, and like nature, evolve.
A special thank you and dedication of this newsletter goes out to my dear friend Robin Duffy. Thank you for showing us with such grace how we can use our yoga wisdom to move through times of difficulty. I love you.