I have long loved the offerings of Thich Nhat Hanh- the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who’s simple teachings resonate deeply. In the early 2000’s I would lie on the floor in Bikram Yoga, resting between poses, eyes open as directed. Heart beat racing from the heat and exertion. And THN’s words holding me in that space: “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile. Living in the present moment, I know it is a wonderful moment.” This mantra was my bridge to calm in spite of the moment.
These days, I am deeply appreciating his teachings on nourishing the seeds of love, peace and joy that exist within each of us. Thay (as he is known by his students) teaches us the value of looking after each moment. He shows us that by bringing awareness to now, we know what we need to do to bring peace and joy into our lives. And we in turn know how to nurture and touch the seeds of joy in others, rather than the seeds of anger, frustration and despair.
One of the gifts of yoga it’s the way it brings us to present moment focus. When we bring all of our attention into our breath, our shape, and the way they are married in a pose, there is little room for the past and future in our mind space. And every time we wander away from present moment focus we are guided back again. By the teacher’s voice, by the sound of breath from a neighbor on the mat, by our next inhalation. Yoga teaches us moment by moment and day by day to create space for ourselves. And how to arrive again and again into our own heart space.
When I started practicing yoga in the late 90’s I’d had little exposure to the practice of yoga. No role models, no friends who were teaching or taking classes. But for some reason, on the heels of my father’s death from pancreatic cancer, I knew that it would have value for me. My dad’s death had opened me to the possibility that there was a different way to do things. He died when he was 56. His death made me question what I believed and how I was navigating the world. And somehow some part of me knew that yoga would be a way to find ground in the midst of these questions.
One of our great tricks as humans is avoiding what is real, what is right in front of us. We can push things away. We can deny- both knowingly and on a more subconscious level. To some degree some of us put more effort into avoiding contact with the real than we ever put into getting to know our selves and our needs. Yoga takes us away from that. As I tell my classes when I teach, yoga asks us to be brutally honest with ourselves. It asks us to step towards the real.
So through instinct and inner knowing I found my way to yoga, and eventually to Anusara Yoga. Through John Friend and our Kula of practitioners across North America and Europe I llearned to let my heart open and my inner instinct have voice. And I learned to listen.
One of the teachings that I love is the idea of our heart becoming dusty as we navigate through life. Day to day experiences cloud our remembrance of the version of us that rests in our heart, the version that is true, honest and authentic. The version that is not afraid of what happens when we follow our calling. The version that is not driven by fear, societal expectations and habit. We learn that yoga helps us shake this dust away.
And for me, yoga is just that. It is my way of arriving. It is the way I become me again- the path to feeling like myself when I get overwhelmed or become under confident. I practice and I arrive. I come home to me.
When we were designing our 2016 Yoga Loft clothing collection, Thich Nhat Hanh’s mantra “I have arrived, I am home” was an obvious choice. This year more than ever it is clear that the Yoga Loft is home for all of us. As we walk up the stairs there is a deep sense of letting go of the day, respite from tomorrow, and a chance to step into the now. And by arriving at the studio and finding our mats, we step into practice and let the dust fall away. We connect to the us that lies underneath the distraction and fatigue and worry. We find ourselves. And we remember that underneath it all we are part of something bigger.
So once again Thich Nhat Hanh is my teacher. I find the mat and I breathe. I feel more like me. And I touch the seeds of peace within myself. “I have arrived. I am home.”
I have arrived, I am home
In the hear and the now
I feel solid, I feel free
In the ultimate I dwell