It’s Thanksgiving morning and I am filled with gratitude for my beautiful family and looking forward to our day ahead spent together with our loved ones. And yet, something is nagging at my heart that keeps me from heading out to the football game just yet.
I stay back to pray, meditate and listen.
There is so much the heart wants to say! But how much time do we allocate to our inner communication? The mind is so bossy!
If I can sit and settle, allowing my breath to guide me deeper, a new voice arises and it usually has a bodily sensation or reaction attached to it. Oftentimes, it is tears releasing a known or unknown sadness. Other times, I can tap into an area of tightness or tension, sending breath and awareness there and then I wait…
Thanksgiving Eve I taught a yoga class in Camden at our new, beautiful Kroc community center. Enter two women who have never practiced and I am excited because sharing yoga with beginners really lights me up. I ask Rita how her day was and she says ,”Rough”. I say that I am sorry and ask if she will celebrate Thanksgiving to which she replies, “No”.
I am sad but decide to begin class and get them centered, then moving energy.
I begin by telling them a bit about myself and my teaching at the prison in Philadelphia in the women’s unit. I share that the week before a woman spoke of being more free now while incarcerated because of her yoga and meditation practices, than while on the streets and stuck in the lies and stories in her head.
Rita (name changed) begins to quietly cry and I share, “Your yoga mat is meant to absorb as much tears as sweat. I should know, I have shed many tears on my mat over the years.” I tell them my hope is that the practice feels like:
-a visit to the therapist
-a great workout at the gym
Yoga can achieve these three all at once and is one of the main reasons why I love to teach.
By the end, Rita is laughing at herself and moving with ease. The change in her countenance is palpable and I am relieved. We chat about how she didn’t always want this life, she remembers at 17 almost attaining her GED and wanting to find a meaningful career. But she had a baby, the father went to prison and shortly after, she herself was rounded up in a drug raid and put away. Now at 33 she can’t find a job because of her record. She spends days holed up in a ball just trying to stay clean and out of trouble as her daughter lives a life on the streets. She occasionally gets to Sacred Heart church and loves the music, it makes her feel hopeful.
She says she can relate to so much I said, especially feeling like she is imprisoned in her own mind. The Kroc opening almost 2 months ago in her neighborhood has been a blessing as she comes most days to get out of the house.
Meeting Rita feels like divine intervention. The old voice in my head says something like “You can help her” but the new deeper, truer voice KNOWS that her words will change my heart and that only God can help but I CAN LOVE.
I now know enough about the sadness that can make me into a person I am not. I have suffered from moodiness my entire life. I know I need to release the depressive energy before I emanate it to someone else. I don’t leave my home Thanksgiving until noon after having shed tears for Rita’s lot in life and prayed that God continues to feed her body and soul just enough sustenance to make it another day. She is the first of many I will encounter and hold space for.
God speaks life into me and allows me to go forth in love to embrace and enjoy the ones closest to my heart.