Gifts from my yoga students

photoOne of my yoga classes that I have been teaching for the last 4 years at a corporation has had its last hurrah. Although this was a pretty unconventional yoga class, done in the cafeteria, on a cold, hard, dirty floor with ants and loud warning bells going off in the middle of class, this was one of my favorite classes.  It wasn’t because of the stellar environment but because of the students that came every week. They truly loved and appreciated me and the yoga I was sharing with them. It changed their life.  Although I was bringing to them the gift of yoga and inner peace, week after week they showed me what true caring was.  They knew I had been going through some rough times and they were the ones ironically that were there for me.

As I was going for a run the other day, I was thinking about this particular class and how I was going to miss them.  This then brought me to another thought. I began to reminisce over the last 13 years I have been teaching yoga and how my yoga teacher, Mokshapriya, was right when she said to me when I was going through a really rough time in my life and feeling alone, “You are not alone, you have your yoga students.” At the time I really couldn’t understand that truth. It didn’t sink in, I just kind of blew it off. During my run the other day though, that truth came barreling into my mind, then into my heart and I literally had to stop running I was crying so hard.  I couldn’t believe it. What an epiphany for me. Yes, Mokshapriya, you were right. I get it now.  All these years I thought I was giving so much of myself through my yoga classes and private sessions but in fact it was and is my yoga students that give so much back to me.

I remember so many times I would be crying in my car driving to go teach a class, pull up to the studio, wiping the tears off my face and saying to myself, “Ok this is not about you right now, get it together. You have no idea who’s in that class, what they are going through and how much they might need yoga right now. Put your pain and heartache to the side, smile and show them your love.” Those were some of my most powerful classes.  Most of you don’t know this, but while you we’re in shivasana, I would sit there with you and silently cry. I went through some pretty tough times in the last decade, as many of you know.  Teaching yoga was my saving grace. My students were my saving grace. As I look back on all the emails, notes, talks, hugs, words of encouragement that have been given so freely and abundantly to me over the last 13 years I am overwhelmed with such gratitude and love that I can’t help but shed tears as I write this letter to you.
So I want to say thank you. It seems that these two words are not enough for what you have given to me, but I want you to know that all of these moments and all of your support has helped shape me and has helped me to grow and to heal. You have been an important part of my journey and I am so grateful for your presence in my life. To all of my yoga teacher friends, you too have helped me to heal and grow. Thank you for holding my hand, for holding my heart and for loving me.
I love you,
SoulFire (Stefania)

Love thy Neighbor- Gratitude is my prayer

It was Sunday morning about 7:30am, I’m lying in bed, soaking in my first morning in a long time that I can sleep in, when I heard a loud knock/pounding on my door. My first thought was, are you kidding me!?  Then I thought maybe if I don’t answer they will go away.  No such luck; the insistent knocking continued. So I begrudgingly crawled out of bed to see who was at my door. It was the aide who lives downstairs with the old man Joe, who has Parkinsons.  Apparently he was on the floor again refusing to get up.  This has been a pretty regular thing with Joe now so I am familiar with the drill. I get dressed all the while murmuring to myself not so very pleasant things, after all it was Sunday morning, my special day! I start talking to myself, saying, “Don’t let this ruin your whole day. Keep a good attitude. You have been looking forward to this peaceful day for weeks now. And if you plan on walking in your truth of loving thy neighbor, stop complaining and put a smile on your face. Love sometimes is not convenient. Think about how they must feel.”

My self-talk helped a little bit, so I muster up a little sunshine and head downstairs to find Joe stark naked on the floor with the aide very upset. We get him up after about 15 minutes of trying.  It’s no easy task to pick a 200 lb. man off the floor who isn’t helping. She thanks me and I leave, still a little annoyed I will admit, but trying hard to be kind and loving. I open my door and see a huge spider crawling very fast across my stairs. I ran outside, freaking out, thinking… great now I can’t even get back in my house because there is no way I am stepping one foot in my home with that ginormous thing running around!

Boy Karma works fast! I walk next door to my other neighbor who has helped me out many times with the spider thing and knock on their door. I am humbled at this point and  feeling like this is happening for a reason. My neighbors’ wife tells me he is in the shower, so I tell her not to bother him. Being the amazing neighbor that he is, he gets out anyway and rushes over. After a little searching he finds the spider and puts him outside. He doesn’t believe in killing anything, another reason why I love him.

My neighbor has also come over out of a nap and not feeling well to check on my dog, Karma because I was worried she had a tick.

My other neighbor watches my dog when I am at work.

And my landlord and his wife always are looking out for me and feeding me!

How many people do you know that will make a sacrifice and go out of their way to show a kindness or do a good deed for someone else? It’s amazing that I am living and surrounded by these type of wonderful people.

My reminder that Sunday morning was that love is not always convenient. There are times when you need to make sacrifices for others. And it’s important that you do it with a loving, kind heart. You never know when you will be in need.  After all Jesus’ two most important teachings are: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second is: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”