As I write this, 20 years ago today I graduated from high school in Park City, Utah and soon after took my first yoga class from Tiffany Wood. That summer, one evening every week my best friend and I joined the other beginners assembled on the lawn outside our local athletic club as Tiffany guided us through asana, meditation, and my favorite, the nap at the end.
During a time in my life when I used marijuana, alcohol, sex, and bulimia to cope with the uncertainty of my future and life in general, Yoga entered as something to keep me occupied and out of trouble, yet over the course of the next two decades emerged as my passion and my purpose.
It's always easier to view with hindsight the steps along the way that lead you to your current position and, looking back, I remember hundreds of moments ranging from apotheosis to crisis that, when added together, equal a pretty clear map pointing to here.
As with all trips, the journey has been highly personal and also totally universal. The gift of yoga is that, no matter where you start, with the help of a skilled guide, every road leads inward, to the center of your own heart through which you can view the universe. As the visionary poet William Blake writes:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
To view the macrocosm in the microcosm--to look at the world and see yourself and look at yourself and see the world--this is both the work and the reward of a disciplined yoga practice. Although each of us must follow our own path, we do so in the company of others, or as Ram Dass says: "We're all just walking each other home."
I've been beyond fortunate to be accompanied by outstanding teachers: Erin Geesaman Rabke, Peter Francyk, Kelly Griswold, Smadar and Barto Lanza, Jeff Fisher, Elena Brower, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Yogarupa Rod Stryker and now, Stephen Thomas. I could fill volumes with the teachings I've learned from each of these generous and gracious guides, and someday I probably will, but for now, I'll share a recent treasure--a variation of the message all my teachers express--gleaned during a training with Stephen.
He opened our latest course with a teaching from J. Krishnamurti to engage in the learning process not to gain something, but rather to be in the experience. Echoing the lesson of the Bhagavad Gita that we have the right to act but not to the outcome of our actions, Stephen emphasized Krishnamurti's point that the process, which is happening in the present moment, is where yoga happens. And then, in his easeful and earnest way, he encouraged us to "have the guts to be yourself."
It wasn't the first and it won't be the last time I'm reminded to just be me; in fact, I'm pretty sure one of my senior year quotes was Polonius' "To thine own self be true." But still, I lose my way, sometimes hundreds of times a day, sometimes for weeks; there were a few years that I detoured off the path completely. And then, in an instant, the way becomes clear and I realize I am already home.
In this way, we all traverse the territory of our lives; may we do so with the courage to be ourselves, the compassion to love one another, and the clarity to see that we are always at home here.