No One Gets Left Behind

How lucky am I? I had to cancel my trip to Portland, for my next session of training in yoga therapy, at the last hour. No one but me and my assistant manager to run the store, and I just couldn't leave her in the lurch like that. And I'm extremely disappointed; I was so looking forward to spending some time focusing on one thing, which is the essence of yoga.

Yogah citta vritti nirodah: Yoga is finding a focus and maintaining that focus over time, without distraction. Moreover, it's a focusing of the mind, the vrtti, rather than a physical activity. As a result, the true self emerges from beneath all the stuff that accumulates over time: the expectations, your role in your family or work, how the culture sees you. Tadah drastuh svarupe avasthanam: Then, the real you comes to the surface. Not forever, but at least briefly, so that you begin to have a sense of who you really are and who you are able to be. Kind of like taking a good long exhale after holding your breath.

I called my teacher here, and explained the situation. I emailed to the lead teacher for the program and my mentor in California, explaining the situation as professionally as possible. I also noted my plan for catching up on the information that I would miss. This session is focusing on breathing practices, which I am not versed in. I also sent an email to my study partner, apologizing for leaving him without a colleague and expressing my regret. Last night I told my boss here that I was not going on the trip. None of these were easy to do. And with each one, I was a bit more sad that I had to miss the session.

Here's the good part: everyone has been so supportive. It almost makes me cry to listen to their phone messages or read their email responses. I do feel surrounded by care and concern. I do feel lucky to have found teachers and a boss and friends and colleagues at work who are supportive. I went to a grad school that I call Boot Camp for graduate school: the overriding motivation was to break the student down, to infantalize him or her and leave one with no self-confidence in one's ideas or abilities. So to have found, through studying yoga, a group of folks who miss you when you're not there, who are concerned with your entire collection of stuff instead of just the intellectual, is surprising to me.

On our day off at the last yoga training session, my teacher and another student from Chicago and I went to Muir Woods for the day. It was only two months after my surgery, and while I'm in better shape than many women my age, I don't have much aerobic capacity. We took a trail going up. After an hour, I stopped to rest. We went on, and it was a fast clip set by my friend, who kayaks and hikes and camps while always looking beautiful. I started to flag. My competitive nature told me to keep going, but the smarter part of my brain told me that I should slow down or stop. I listened to the smarter part and told the other two that I was tired, but that they should keep going. I have a book in the car, I said, and I would just go back and read while they finished their hike. It was afternoon, good weather, and a clearly-marked trail close to the visitor's center.

Absolutely not, they said. I'll be fine, I told them. I can find my way down, and if I get tired, I'll just stop and rest.

No, they insisted. No one gets left behind. We're in this together and we're sticking together. Group hug on the trail, and we started down. Much laughter, a conversation about the best way to prep for a colonoscopy (true but sad - conversation of middle-aged women is so different than any other genre), and then to the beach to see the ocean.

No one gets left behind. That's how I feel today. I'm here, they're in Portland, but I'm still a part of the group.