At the start of this year I began teaching Mindful Yoga in a three week intensive outpatient program to veterans with symptoms of PTSD . While I have taught yoga and exercise to many people from different backgrounds and abilities over the years, this would be much different.I would meet new participants every few weeks from all over the country. In my previous work I would work with the same participants for years- some for up to 15 years and have shared share meals, celebrations and even travel.
After two months of teaching Mindful Yoga I found myself very emotional, upset and even having symptoms of increased heart rate and panic. One day I was so upset I started crying on the train. The tears wouldn’t stop they were closing up my throat and making me pant and hyperventilate. I can’t do this anymore, I won’t even make a difference I said to myself. As I got off the train a young woman handed me a note.
” I wasn’t sure if you want to be approached, but you look like you’re having a really bad day. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know you have every right to be upset because emotions are always real and valid. I hope things work out or you’re able to overcome your struggle and I want you to know that you are beautiful and this stranger is thinking about you.”
I paused after receiving the note. Took a breath. I brought myself to the present moment just as I invite participants to explore in the Mindful Yoga that I facilitate. I realized in order to do my job that NEEDED to be done I had to live 110% by the tools I was teaching and that indeed I could make a difference by being present and offering support just as this stranger had done for me.
Earlier this month a client who had become my very good friend passed away. In shock I found myself once again crying, panting, hyperventilating. Why did this have to happen to her at such a young age?
She often thought about others before herself. One year she encouraged me to further my education taking a Kihara Stretch Technique workshop (which all my clients benefited from) as I learned ways to help people release knots and tension while activating muscles. We went to see Alvin Ailey Dance together and she pushed our group workout class to try the Alvin Ailey professional dancers ab workout routine. She organized my group workout classes with sign ups and spread sheets and made me a better business woman. Often when I worked with her she would ask me what I would be doing in 20 years. Could this career sustain me when I got older or would it be too hard on my body to be moving and stretching others all day? She suggested perhaps I could study acupuncture or Chinese medicine. As all the wonderful memories of my friend came to mind the streams of tears ran less and I found myself smiling as I thought of her. She was the kind of person that would make sure a crying stranger was okay.
As the stranger wrote to me…emotions are real and valid. As the stranger showed me: caring about other people 100% in the moment CAN make the world a better place.
Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful- Thich Nhat Hanh