Saturday, September 28, 2013

Letting Go (and Holding On) in the Land of Un-friending with a Click

Letting Go (and Holdng on) in the Land of Un-friending with a Click

"Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
― Ann Landers

The Process

In a world where you can un-friend someone with a click. I have always been one to hold on.

I don’t like this space of deciding if people should be “kept” as friends. Is she still my friend? Is she in or out? I am sorry but you are not my friend anymore for these reasons….

What is that about? Should we really un-friend people?

Still, there it is- the strength in letting go. I say do it. Let go!

This letting go is not an un-friending of the person or people. They are on this earth doing what they need to do, on their paths. Sometimes that means they behave badly and you hurt. Sometimes it means there is space between you.

I say give them space.

If you have loved someone, been a friend—as Webster defines as:  one attached to another by affection (from: I see no point (outside of official abuse) at which you would say, “You are no longer my friend.”

Maybe I learned about this early because I had to- but once someone is in my heart- they are there. We may part ways, we may not walk the same path anymore. Still, I love you and you are my friend.

My Dad was in the Navy and we moved all of the time. My young life was lived in: Maine, Florida, California (a few places there- San Diego, San Ramon), Sicily (the island in Europe), Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, and New York. I had wracked up all of those places before I was 13. Across those years, I had many friends and said many good byes.

I learned- for better or worse- that letting people in meant that the goodbye would be painful. I also learned it was worth it. No matter how many times I moved, I let people in. I loved them. And it hurt like hell to say good-bye. I think that people who grow up in one place sometimes don’t get that until much later in life. I knew it early.

I know my way of being close isn’t like everyone else. Maybe a lot of military children are like me, I am not sure. I did not make it my area of research because it is just too close to home. I wrote one paper in grad school about mobility in childhood and it was not super promising—not horrible—but I knew I would spend my life studying something else. My way of being a friend is a work in progress. Having lived in Buffalo for almost 20 years now, I have learned that moving isn’t the only reason people drift from your life. Who knew?

I have also learned that being a friend, moving or not, comes from the heart. It is an intention and an enduring emotional state that involves love, affection, and support. In friendship, I have found that judgment has no real place. It is not effective in building intimacy and for promoting growth. It doesn’t make this world a better place.

In the processes of liking and not liking things on Facebook and friending and un-friending people, we have come it trivialize the complexities of true friendships as simple judgments that are as easy as a click. One click and they are gone- they are un-friended.

Yoga teaches us non-attachment. It does not teach us to be afraid to be close or to release friends as soon as they don’t behave exactly like you want them to.

Yoga it teaches us to be who we are and do the best we can and to not attach to the rest. 

We keep the friend

What we release is the need to sort people into a level of friendship category (see Google + circles) or to decide the bigger question—the to-friend or un-friend question.

No, no need for that. Just love. Let go of the judgment and be a friend, an enduring, loving, affectionate friend. Yeah, do that. 

Zuri’s Eyes: Loving Anyway

Zuri isn’t like me in so many ways. She is African American. I am Caucasian (English, Irish, German, and Welsh, and some suspect maybe a tiny bit Native American). I moved many, many times growing up and Zuri has lived in the same house her whole life. I grew up middle class and Zuri is poor. We are different in so many ways.

We share two things: (1) The Yoga Bag, of course, and (2) sensitive hearts.  It is why I know I can write about her even though we are so different.

Zuri doesn’t know what to do about a girl at school, not Emily or Jayla. She is working on them. There is another girl, Natasha. Natasha was the third. Their parents and teachers at school would always call them the three musketeers—Zuri, Emily, and Natasha. Natasha is still in school and still around, but they are not like they used to be. Natasha seems to think this is Zuri's fault and truth be told- Zuri has not been 100% the best friend a person could have all the time. She has struggled.

Somehow, she and Emily have always been able to re-connect. Sadly, things have not been the same with Natasha. Natasha has seemingly decided to un-friend Zuri. She stopped following Zuri on instagram and weird things like that. Zuri has tried to have heart-to-hearts with Natasha over the years. They’d feel close for a while and then things would fall back away. It seems that Natasha could not be close for one reason or another. And for Natasha, it has meant two things (1) it had to be Zuri's fault and (2) if it wasn't going to be how Natasha needed it to, they were not friends.

Zuri has spent time hurt, mad, struggling. She’s had long talks with Emily about it. She has even stayed up talking to her mom about it, which she tries to avoid- her mom is typically drinking too much after 7: 30 PM or so. But this weighed so on Zuri’s mind. She risked the drinking talks with her mom. FYI, those never go well.

She was attached. She was attached to the friendship being right, fixed, and okay. She was attached to Natasha not blaming her. She was attached to being accused and being un-followed or un-friended.

She read my notes- my journal (above) on friendship and letting go. It was hard to for her to get her head around (as it was for me).

“So,” she thought. “You don’t let friends go. You still love them and wish them well. You don’t need to be attached to their reactions, their blaming, and their stuff. You just love them. It’s like that compassion cushion thing…(see the last post).”

Zuri thought about how it is so much easier just to un-friend someone. To stop “following” them on instagram. It’s cleaner, neater, and easier to judge and drop them.

Yet, there was something appealing in the letting go of her reaction rather than her friend—someone for whom she has had enduring affection- like the definition.

Zuri decided to love Natasha and to keep Natasha as her friend. If someone’s asked, “Are you Natasha’s friend?” 

Zuri would respond, “Yes. I am Natasha’s friend.”

Zuri always thought about this stuff late at night when her mom was downstairs drinking and Eric was gone. I see her tonight, late, with The Yoga Bag. Books and notes scattered on her bed. I see her letting go of her reaction to Natasha and not letting go of Natasha.

And then it makes sense:

"Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
― Ann Landers

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Compassion Cushion: Creating a Big Interpersonal Cushion for the Ones You Love

A Compassion Cushion:
Creating a Big Interpersonal Cushion for the Ones You Love

I just created this term, compassion cushion, to describe my practice. I try, everyday, to give the people that I love space to be on their own path. Not my path, their path. Like yoga, compassion is a practice.

In poetic form:

         The Compassion Cushion
A feather-soft pillow
For the people in your life

To Try
Screw up

Work through things
Be what they need to be
When they need to be it


             By Catherine Cook-Cottone

Now, let me be clear- I am not talking about tolerating abuse: emotional, physical or otherwise. That isn’t part of the compassion cushion- per say. I am talking about the times when-- one of your friends doesn’t return your call because she is in her head about someone in her life, or something going on, and she is not ready to talk and she knows that if she calls you she will have to go deep into the whole thing and she just can’t right now. Yeah. That was a run on sentence- but that is how it looks in your/her/his head.

In this post, I will share with you about how the compassion cushion shows up for Zuri (in Zuri’s Eyes) and then the psychology behind it (in The Process)

In Zuri’s Eyes: Zuri’s Best Friend Emily (Who is Zuri? See the About The Yoga Bag page)

Friends since pre-K, Zuri and Emily have been distant lately. All summer they didn’t really connect and this school year they have had a few good days. Still, they have not been close, not Zuri and Emily close. Zuri has been trying not to get mad at Emily. She sits at her desk, in class, and sees Emily, four rows up, two desks over-- everyday. Emily knows things have been hard for Zuri. Still, she doesn’t say, “Can you come over and play?” or “Do you want to spend the night?” or “Do you want to go to the mall with us?”

Zuri has always counted on Emily to be her solid place. Emily is like Aunt Jasmine. You know, the people that you look to so that you can believe that things really can be okay someday. It’s all good with Emily. Emily’s mom and dad are still together. They met in high school and had three kids Emily is the youngest. Both Emily’s sister and brother have already gone to college. With her siblings in college, it is sort of like Emily is an only child at home. Her mom and Dad love her a lot. They don’t really drink much or use drugs. In fact, her parents are strong church members (they were at Thomas’s funeral) and they work hard with the church helping in the garden and in the community. They are both teachers for the Buffalo schools. They are committed to bring Buffalo to its full potential- a real city of neighborly love. Zuri loves Emily’s family. When she is with them she feel safe and happy.

Zuri has been reading my yoga notes from the yoga bag. She has read about the compassion cushion. I had used it as a theme for a yoga class and described it in my notes for the day. Zuri thought she would work on cultivating compassion which she Googled, checking to see what it was, “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it” ( She read my poem (see above). She knew that Emily must be going through something because they have always been so close. She wishes that she could help Emily feel better. Yet, she has a sense that Emily needs space. So, she decided to practice compassion. For now she would be loving Emily and giving her space.

They were finally able to talk the Monday after Thomas’s funeral. At the funeral, they had said hello to each other there. Zuri smiled and practiced love and compassion for Emily. She thought, “Emily I love you a lot and I hope you are okay” as she smiled over to Emily. Zuri was holding close to Eric. She and Emily did not have a chance to talk.

Monday at school:

Emily walked up to Zuri’s locker, “Hey Zuri.”
“Hey Emily.”
“Is Eric okay? It is so sad about Thomas.”
“Yeah,” Zuri replied. “He’s okay. I think.” Her words didn’t represent her fears. Her thin voice did.
“Do you want to come over and do homework, bring Rashan?” Emily asked.
“Yeah.” Zuri tried not to sound too needy. And so it was. They smiled at each other.

It was when they were doing homework that Zuri found out that Emily’s parents had gone through a rough patch over the summer. Emily explains that they were fighting all of the time about moving. With  the summer crime wave and stuff that had been going on in their neighborhood, Emily’s mom wanted to move and her dad refused. It recently resolved at Thomas’s funeral. She said her parents agreed that the people in the city needed them to stay and fight for a better way of being, of living. Together her parents decided to stay and fight in honor of Thomas and for Thomas’s family. Emily said she was afraid to tell Zuri because it might make it real that her parents might break up. She said that she wasn't ready to talk about it. Emily said that through it all she knew that Zuri understood. 

Zuri was so relieved and felt really bad for Emily. She knew what it felt like to be afraid to say something out loud.

“Emily,” she almost whispered. “I missed you so much and was afraid I did something wrong or you didn’t want to be my friend anymore. But I kept sending you love.”

Emily laughed out loud. “Zuri, never, ever, ever would that happen.”

Zuri told Emily about The Yoga Bag and all of the stuff she was learning. She told her about warrior ones and twos and breath. Emily told her that a lady was coming to teach yoga at their school.

“Wait! “Zuri we should go together! Let’s sign up!”

They agreed, yes they would go. Zuri’s heart was on fire.

The Process

Giving People Space to be on There own Path—The Compassion Cushion.

Sometimes we struggle. Here is an example from my house. My husband does this thing once in a while. He cleans the house. Amazing, awesome, wonderful, right? Well, sort of. After he does this, he becomes completely intolerant of anything we leave anywhere. Now, we all have a sense of the bigger picture, the reality of the two days prior-- when all of his work was on the kitchen table-- and his computer was next to the honey and granola-- and the kids were shoulder-to-shoulder trying to eat breakfast. Then suddenly, without warning, he has cleaned. What follows is a zero tolerance policy for at least 48 hours. We hear our names being called and he is standing with a half-drunk cup of coffee or a plate and fork, or car keys (yeah, a lot of it is mine). He is standing there with a look on his face of complete and utter judgment. At this moment, my husband is all of us.

We all do this. We make gains in our personal life, in our spiritual life, our relationship with truth and honesty, exercise, nutrition, whatever it may be. We make these gains. Then, we look at others through the lens of our growth. We think: Why does she struggle with honesty? Why is his practice so inconsistent? Why is she eating that food and drinking that drink, when I know she is struggling with a health issues? Why is she talking in the hall when she has a deadline? And who would leave a half drunk cup of coffee in the bathroom? (Well the answer to the last one is- me). 

No compassion. No cushion. It is so easy to feel that people need to be on the same path, at the same pace as we are.

The thing is that it is not possible. In a world of 7 billion people, I am pretty sure that there are about:

7 billion different life journeys
7 billion unique struggles
7 billion setbacks
7 billion paces of growth

Yeah. 7 billion. So, why do I think that my path, my growth is the measuring stick? You are right. I should not. None of us should.

GIVE people in your life space to have their path. Give people in your life room to try and fail and try again. Let that space be compassionate and soft. Let it be supportive, just like a cushion. None of us grows in complete grace in every moment. Growth is tricky, bumpy, discontinuous, variable, and part of being human. In growth, we are trying on new ways of being and when you are new at something- well- it can be kind of messy.

In psychological interventions there is an approach called Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT). One area addressed in DBT is Interpersonal Effectiveness. Within interpersonal effectiveness (stay with me), there is a method called GIVE- this can help you when providing a Compassion Cushion to the ones you love.

Here is how to be present when supporting someone you love-- Dialectic Behavioral Therapy-- GIVE:
G – Gentle (Be): Approach the other party in a gentle and nonthreatening manner, avoiding attacks and judgmental statements.
 I – Interested (Be): Act interested by listening to the other person and not interrupting.
V – Validate: Validate and acknowledge the other person’s wishes, feelings, and opinions.
E – Easy (Be): Assume an easy manner by smiling and using a light-hearted, humorous tone.

Zuri and Emily are working it out. Friendship needs space sometimes. Their friendships, our friendships need a Compassion Cushion- and in that space- all things are possible.

So go out there and be a good, compassionate friend!



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What is underneath your compulsions? It takes THESE 15 minutes to change your life

What is underneath your compulsions? It takes THESE 15 minutes to change your life

Today’s post is about those seconds and minutes between the moment you are triggered and the moment you act. It is those exact, rich, beautiful, scary, moments that can change your life. I described these moments for you as seen through Zuri’s life (Zuri’s Eyes) and then explain the psychology of it (The Process).

Zuri’s Eyes: Zuri’s Brother Eric is in Trouble

Things have been going okay for a while. Zuri has been watching the TV and monitoring the situation in Nairobi. She has been praying for the Kenya people every day. Her mom never did come home Saturday night. At 11:00 AM Sunday morning, she walked in with groceries as if nothing had happened. Zuri is used to this and, like always, Zuri tried to hide the hurt in her eyes as she listened to her mom go on and on about how her Aunt Jasmine “thinks she all that….” Well, they had groceries and her mom was some so…

This week was a so-far-so-good week. She, Eric, and Rashan got to school and her mom to work on both Monday and Tuesday. The news came late Tuesday night. There had been a shooting. A 16 year-old was dead and a 22 year-old injured. The police were not releasing the child’s name until the family had been notified. Zuri ran to check on Eric. Ahhh, phew, he was buried in his bed. He threw a pillow at her, “Get out of here Zuri!”

Early Wednesday morning they heard on the TV that it was Thomas that died. Three streets over, Eric’s friend. Thomas was a pretty good kid, but he had been hanging out with some of the kids who were into trouble, really bad trouble. The news said he was an innocent bystander of an attempted murder. The police believe that the target was the 22 year-old who suffered a gunshot wound to the hand and was in recovery at Erie County Medical Center. Thomas, it was said, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Zuri felt like she had heard that a hundred times. Eric was a mess.

The day of the funeral, Zuri, her mom, and Rashan were dressed and ready to go. Zuri went upstairs to get Eric. He was refusing to go.

Their mom yelled, “Come on! We are late.”

Zuri hollered back, “Me and Eric will catch up with you. You go.”

Eric sat holding a bottle of vodka, seal on. He was crying and rocking back and forth.

“Zuri, get out of here.”

She said, “No Eric, I won’t.”

He said, “I am going to drink this whole damn thing. I don’t care any more. It’s not okay. Thomas is dead. He didn’t do anything to anyone…..God, Zuri, get our of here!”

She felt that feeling she feels when her mom pushes her away so that she can drink. It was so familiar. It was a deep ache in her chest and a worry in her belly.

“Eric that is what mom and dad do when they think they are not strong enough, they drink. We don’t have to be that way. We don’t. You are my big brother. You are the strong one. You take care of all of us and make sure we are okay. I need you to NOT do this. She held his hands and looked into his eyes. Eric, I love you so much (they were broth crying now). I can’t lose you like we have lost mom and dad—and now Thomas is gone—all for this sh#%. Because no one thinks they are strong enough.” Zuri had been reading from the books and notes in the yoga bag. She had confidence in her words.

Eric let the bottle roll off the bed. “F#%$ it,” he said.

(For an amazing poet [warning lots of strong language and descriptions of violence] on the violence in the inner city watch

Jasmine Mans - " I Know you Didn't Mean to Kill Him"

And then he sobbed. He held his face in his hands and he cried for Thomas. Zuri rubbed his back, tears running down her face. It was 10 maybe 15 minutes that passed. Eric looked up at Zuri and said, “Let’s go. Thomas’s family needs us.”

Zuri and Eric headed out the front door. Zuri, look at Eric, nervous. “Uh, I forget my purse, Hold on.” Eric said, “Hurry.”

Zuri ran upstairs and hid the bottle of vodka in her closet, in the yoga bag, and grabbed her purse. Feeling safer, she ran to meet Eric.

The funeral was so very sad, heart-wrenchingly sad. Sometimes Zuri thought she couldn’t breathe. Afterword, Thomas’s family and friends met in the basement of the church. There was food. Kids were telling stories about Thomas. Family and friends held Thomas's mother and sisters. They had glued photos on poster boards and placed the jerseys and awards from his sports on the tables. It was really nice and really hard. 

After, Zuri and Eric walked home together. She leaned into his side and he placed his arm around her shoulders.

“I love you Eric.”

”I love you too Zuri.”

The Process

There is this moment between the time that you are triggered and when you act (or not) that is so completely powerful. Kim Chernin, a famous feminist writer spoke quite effectively about this.* A pioneer, she addressed eating disorders in the 1980s. She spoke of this exact, formative moment between urge and action in her book, “The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and the Search for identity.”

“The first time I tried to deliberately hesitate before I ate I found that I was scarcely able to drag myself to my study to grab a pen. The urgency I felt, the pressure of the unknown force, made my hands shake. I wanted to move and act and eat and swallow. I wanted cookies and chocolate and gobs of peanut butter. How could I sit at my desk, how could I hold back the frenzied rush, how could I think?” (Chernin, 1985, page 151).

It was in these moments that Kim, herself, battled her own eating disorder. She forced herself, in the moments that she was triggered, to fight for the voice underneath the symptoms. She-- time after time- went to her desk and wrote. At first one word, maybe two, and after a while a cluster of words, and then an image, and then a memory. Over time and after many so-called, failed attempts, she was able to unearth an incredibly powerful image that was driving her compulsion. Underneath her bingeing and purging was a complicated, confusing, interpersonal struggle that she had been avoiding for years.

We take ourselves out in so many ways. Like Eric, holding the bottle afraid to face his friend’s funeral. We don’t blame or judge him. We all “hold on to a bottle” of some kind or another, our own crutch, our go-to thing. For some of us, it’s shopping, fighting with our loved ones, binge eating, smoking, or painkillers—in fact there are thousands of ways you can take yourself out. Like they say in AA, there is no problem a drink can’t make worse. True for all the of the other vices. You are already here and it’s hard. You don’t need to add your compulsions and addictions, they complicate things and take you out.

Stay. Like Eric. Connect with someone you love. Hold his or her hands and try. Then, get out there. Get to yoga. Go for a run. Make a healthy choice and be in your life for the better of it and when it’s worse. Be in it. You will be amazed how strong you are and how much you can handle.

You may also learn some pretty powerful stuff about yourself- because in the staying is all of the rich, gorgeous, thick, stuff—and it is worth every ounce of your trying. And on the way home, arm and arm with someone you love, take a deep breath in and smile.

See you in the game:)



* Chernin, K. (1985). The hungry self: Women, eating, and identity. New York, NY: Random House.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Zuri Hears about the Violence in Nairobi, Kenya (9/21/13)-- Sutra 1.3: Then you abide in your own true nature

Zuri Hears about the Violence in Nairobi, Kenya (9/21/13)
Sutra 1.3: Then you abide in your own true nature

Zuri Hears about the Violence in Nairobi, Kenya (9/21/13)

Today, Zuri woke up to the sound of CNN on the TV downstairs. Her mom was already awake (not normal for a Saturday). She came downstairs to the sight of her mother watching CNN, tears running down her face. Her mom had a coffee mug clutched within her interlaced hands.

Zuri says, “Hey mom. What is going on?”

Sherece shakes her head, “More violence baby, more violence.”

“What happened?” she asked.

“I don’t know baby. It looks like some people shot up a mall in Nairobi. There are anywhere from 11 to 20 people killed and maybe as many as 50 injured. That is what they are saying now."

She pauses, shaking her head. "This is where our people are from, Nairobi. Your family, going way back, were coffee workers in Kenya. Your babu (grandfather) and bibi (grandmother) came here from Nairobi to find work and land here in the U.S. Babu wanted to work his own farm. Babu worked hard his whole life as a migrant farm worker *(see link below about migrant farm workers in the US).  You know bibi struggled with her mind and pombe (alcohol in Swahili). I watch this baby, and I see our faces in the faces of the Kenyans. I feel so much pain.”

Zuri felt like she knew something about Nairobi, Kenya. She remembered reading about it somewhere. “Where did I see that?” she thought. Her mom never talked about Africa or Kenya or Nairobi or her grandparents (both gone now). She felt like she had to ask as many questions as she could while her mom was open to it.

“Mama, tell me more about Nairobi. Tell me more about Kenya.”

“Ah, baby, I don’t know a lot. Babu and Bibi missed Kenya so much. Their whole life-- all of their family was there. They came to the U.S. a long time ago, before I was born. They wanted good work, land, and a nice house for our family, your Aunt Jasmine and me. I know Kenya is beautiful. There are palms as tall as buildings and elephants that live on the land. Rich people travel there now to see all of the animals in the national parks. The cities are a lot like ours. See the TV? See this violence?It happened at a mall, a lot like our malls.” Zuri’s mom went quiet and was slowly shaking her head back and forth.

“Zuri, I have a few errands to run. Will you watch out for Rashan? And don’t let Eric sleep in too late.”

Zuri’s eyes started to fill with tears. She looked down to hide them. She knew her mom was going out to drink. Ahhhh, it was still so early, not even 11:00 AM. She felt her stomach clench. “Mama, I will go with you! Please!”

“Zuri, I will be right back. It is just a few errands. And you have to watch out for Rashan. Eric is no good at that.”

Her mom set down her coffee, grabbed her car keys and her purse. As the front door shut, Zuri’s head fell into her hands and she sobbed. Her mom might not come home tonight.

After a good cry, Zuri started to settle down. She kept watching CNN and thinking, “Where did I read about Kenya?” Then, it hit her—The Yoga Bag.

I had kept some of my Africa Yoga Project (AYP) notes in the bag, folded inside one of my Baptiste books (Journey into Power, Baron Baptiste). I had taken the book to an Art of Assisting Workshop and Paige Elenson ( the founder of AYP was running the workshop with Tami Schneider, owner of Cleveland Power Yoga ( 

Hearing about the powerful work AYP was doing, I had approached Paige about conducting a research project in Nairobi the summer of 2013. She said that it sounded like a good idea. I grabbed all of the material on AYP I could get my hands on, folded them inside of my book. Zuri had found these materials.

I remember the first time Zuri opened the book. She looked to the back because that is where she writes all of her most personal stuff. This is where she might find out the really interesting stuff. It's funny, that is where I write my secrets too, in the back pages. She unfolded the AYP materials and traced her finger over the magical images in wonder.

“Yes,” Zuri thought. “The Yoga Bag.”

She ran upstairs and grabbed the bag out from its new hiding place, deep in the back of her closet under her winter boots, a blanket folded around it. She unwrapped the bag, and dug in to find the book. She flipped to the back and found the AYP materials. She read about teachers, and students, ambassadors, and mentors.

She saw all of the stunning images and broad smiles. She looked right into the eyes of a girl that looked a lot like her and thought, “Some day, I will practice with you in Nairobi, Kenya. Someday, that will be me with a big beautiful smile.”

She set down the card with a photo of a strong woman doing wheel pose (see all of the amazing images on AYP page).

She laid down on her back, knees bent, the souls of her feet flat on the floor. She placed her hands near her head fingers pointed toward her feet. She in inhaled and on the exhale; she lifted up into wheel, a full gorgeous wheel. She felt her heart beating, her breath moving through her body, and she felt, for a moment, just a moment, her anxiety disappear.

She dropped out of wheel and looked for more yoga photos. She found them. Warrior one. Warrior two. She tried them. Feet grounded, arms reaching, hands open, fingertips lifting up toward the ceiling. She took deep, deep breaths. She felt energy from her grounded feet through her reaching fingers. “Ahhhh, this feels so good.” She sat down and opened the book. “Oh, there are so many poses. All the instructions are here.” She sat and smiled and felt a warmth rise in her chest.

Zuri felt like she feels when she meets a new friend. She felt hope. The sound of the TV distracted her. She tucked the book, the AYP notes, the bag, the blanket, all back into her closet. She hollered into Rashan and Eric’s room, “Get up! I am making breakfast. No sleeping all day!”

She mixed up eggs and thought about yoga, Africa, Kenya, and Nairobi. She thought about the paths people take and how powerful choices can be. Her bibi and mom faced fear with drinking. Zuri knew her path would be different. She felt her feelings full on and then found the grace in the rubble. At that moment, she said the first of many, many prayers for the people in Nairobi and one more of the million-- already said-- prayers for her mom.

I am so proud of Zuri as I watch her making breakfast for her brothers. I am so proud of her being able to negotiate all that has happened to her already on this Saturday morning. I am so happy that she has practiced her first asanas today inspired by the AYP images tucked in the back of my Baptiste book.

Good work Zuri. You are on the path toward your own true nature, toward our true nature.

The Process:

Sutra 1.3: Tada drashtuh svarupevasthanam

1.     Looking at the Sanskrit of it (adapted from or Agora Review):
a.     Tada = then, at a time, at the time of concentration and meditation
b.     Drashtuh = the seer’s, of the soul, the witness
c.      Sva = own
d.     Rupa = form
e.     Svarupe = in its own form, nature, essence
f.      Avasthanam = stability, resting, being in a state (stha= to stand)
2.     On that day the seer comes to dwell in his own true nature (Roach & McNally, 2005)
3.     Then man abides in his real nature (Prabhavananda & Isherwood, 1953)

Roach and McNally (2005) say that this is one of the most important days in our spiritual journey- the day we stop engaging the Big Mistake (Roach & McNally, 2005). Prabhavananda and Isherwood (1953) say that this is when an individual sees how he really is, always was, and always will be-- a free illuminated soul. Our identity is just a mask that covers the soul.

Zuri’s mom, Sherece identified with what was happening in Kenya. It is horrible. I am watching on the news channels as I write. It is terrifying and I am sending prayers to my friends in Nairobi affected by this horrific violence. Feeling this pain and the compassion for others is important. Sherece was not able to negotiate the feelings. She does not trust in her own true nature, which, truth be told, could in fact handle this very scary and hurtful experience. Rather, she becomes overwhelmed by it. She lets this violence, and many other things, take her out of her self, out of her purpose, out of her role as a parent. She lets these things take her into her addiction and away from her children.

Zuri felt her feelings. She sobbed. She cried until she felt wrung out. She, then, found herself. She found asana and breath. She dug into her being—her actual sense of being present. These practices can be like a trusted friend, always there. Overtime, we become one with them, knowing they take us deep into the seeing and the being of our existence. Early in our practice we get tiny glimpses of what is possible. As thousands of sun salutations pass through our bodies and millions of mindful breaths through our lungs, we get deeper and longer glimpses into the sense of peace, stillness, and grace that is all that is.

And from that place, all things are possible and love grows.

When a tragedy happens, all too often, I know that that darkness needs is light. In each of us is this light—the one you see in me and I see in you. I re-commit each and every time darkness falls to not let this tragedy, this act of violence obscure my light. Instead, I feed my light with practice, breath, connection, gratitude, and prayer. Like Zuri, I am on my path, and like you, we will—together—bring light to the Earth—not someday- today- September 21, 2013—today.

My love and prayers go to all of my friends, fellow yogis, and the beautiful people of Nairobi.

Peace, Peace, Peace,


A link to information about migrant workers like Zuri’s Babu: