So a few days ago, I shared with you the amazing and transformative experience I had when I shared the gift of yoga and mindful meditation with Survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
What has happened to me in the four short days since that experience has resulted in only the most amazing gift, and thus explains my absence and lack of posts since. I’ve been a little overwhelmed.
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One of the participants asked me why I wasn’t certified yet. I hemmed and hawed and moaned about the expenses and how it all seems like a racket, that all the classes (there must’ve been some Steve Jobsian-edict from the Yoga Alliance) cost a minimum $3,000 for Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) 200-hour certification. I felt like there was a “system” in place; a mafia, so to speak and I considered the whole thing rather unyogic.
Truth be told, because yoga has become so “hot” lately, some people believe the practice has become diluted; that the essence of the discipline has been taken over, and focused more on “yoga bodies” and “long, lean muscles.” Gone are the covers on Yoga Journal of regular people sitting in meditation or in a traditional pose; now everyone is doing King of the Dancers (a very advanced pose) and has 14% body fat. I tend to agree with the concept that yoga has been somewhat corrupted by commerce. The whole point of yoga is not $135 transparent yoga pant recalls but rather: to build balance and flow in poses to prepare for sitting for long periods in meditation and to build a lasting relationship with equanimity.
So much for equanimity:
I teach sixth graders for 8 weeks every spring, free, at the school. When I first started 6 years ago, the focus from the kids, and it was a good ratio of boys to girls then, was all about relaxation, stress relief and becoming quiet. The kids knew this. They were into it. They were scared and nervous about the transition to middle school and they welcomed the opportunity to stretch their muscles, touch their toes and fall asleep for 10 minutes in the dark before dismissal.
The number one question then: “Can I do yoga anywhere?” The answer: Yes.
This year, the NUMBER ONE question was “will I get abs from this?” and “how do I get a six-pack?” My answers, respectively and invariably, have been: “If you didn’t have abs, you wouldn’t be able to walk,” and “You get a six-pack when you turn 21.”
They hate those answers. They want, at 12 years of age, “perfect” bodies. They’re so stressed out about getting “perfect” bodies, that they are completely obsessed with it.
I digress. Be it known, however, that I am working on changing those kids’ attitudes.
Where was I? Oh, yes: complaining about the price-fixing -esque nature of the yoga certification industry. I complained about that to my friend when she asked about my training.
She was not impressed with that answer. She has known me for quite some time. She and I have talked about this before. Apparently, whatever I did with her that day rocked her world because she took it upon herself to blow my mind the next day.
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Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, she dropped off a check. A check for $3,500. $3,500 which will cover my registration, lessons, travel and testing for becoming a “Registered Children & Family Yoga” instructor by my 46th birthday, this year.
I am floored.
My husband accepted the check, he thought it was for $35 for a Pampered Chef order. He thought it was for a pan, or spices or the crank ‘n’ maul (my brand) manual food processor. When she dropped it off, she said, “This is for Molly’s yoga certification,” and practically skipped away toward her car. He was in a haze; it was likely the cooking and cleaning and dealing with the children that he had to do for the previous few hours in preparation for my awesome breakfast in bed:
Upon further examination of the check, when he confirmed that it wasn’t for $35.00, he sort of lost it. He looked out the window and she was >poof!< goneski.
He came up to me and said, “Bipsy McFarlandberger just dropped this off, it’s for your ‘certification‘?”
My heart sank. It also swelled.
Then it sank again.
Then it leapt. Then it sat.
I squinched my face. “She did? Hrmmmm… I was afraid of that,” I took a sip from my Wonder Woman mug.
“You were ‘afraid of that‘? What’s up?”
“I forgot to tell you. She gave me a loving, but firm hard time yesterday for not being certified to teach yoga yet.”
“Yeah. And Helga VonFranklesmith, told me that Bipsy is a force of nature and that just because I said no earlier to her first proposal, it doesn’t mean I can really mean it.”
“Because Bipsy is a force of nature. She’s tenacious. C’mon…. you know, she’s… BIPSY…”
And he nodded and said, “Yeah, I know Bipsy. So, what’re you gonna do?”
“I can’t TAKE it…”
“Right. You don’t have to. But it’s Bipsy we’re talking about.”
“Yeah, and she kindly said that she’s tired of hearing my story and she knows this is a dream of mine and that she has this money and she wants to give it to me and I told her not to and well… you see how far that got me,” I said, as I began to chew on my inner lip. On one hand, it’s freakin’ awesome: I’ve NEVER had anyone I’m not related to or had exchanged a marriage vow with (that’s only one guy so far) believe in me that much; you know: just hand me cash. In fact, NO ONE has done that. On the other hand, would I be morally beholden, obligated, is this a transaction? I didn’t want to be “owned.”
Well, no one more than Bipsy knows that no one is ever “owned.”
So I called her Monday. We talked; she’s so funny. She said this, “I’m taking a very safe bet on you. You’re so good for this… ” she doesn’t want repayment. Of course she will get repayment. “This is a gift,” she said. She… who thinks she has the last word on this. But there is an air of yogic responsibility and universal (woo-woo alert) flow to this. She expertly argued that if I don’t take the gift, that I am stopping the chi, the prana, the flow of good energy back into the universe.
She had me there.
She told me that instead of repaying her, I will pay for someone else; pay it forward. Ok. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
I talked to my husband about it.
“A lot of men would feel emasculated by this,” he said. “I don’t. Here’s why: she’s right. I could give you $10,000 cash RIGHT now, and you wouldn’t do it. Why? Because you think I don’t mean it; that I support you because I’m supposed to; in sickness and in health, and all that. But she’s right: you’ve been giving yourself away for so long, it’s time you were certified so you can become ‘legit’, y’know, earn income and give back, which you always and already do, on so many fronts, so why not take this gift, as you’ve tirelessly and selflessly given to others, to this community and to the school, in return?”
So I shrugged my shoulders. I had no answer, no good point. She didn’t need the money. He wasn’t threatened by it. I had no reason to say no. No good reason. The bad reasons: I’m not worthy of it; I can never repay her; I think she’s a good kind of crazy; I’m not ready for the certification; I’m unable to do it; it’s logistically impossible I’m … I’m … I’m … all of it, every single reason was prohibitive or critical. That’s not good.
I’ve stopped people from giving me gifts. For our 10th anniversary I made my husband take back a pair of diamond stud earrings. They were princess cut, like my engagement ring; they were fantastic and happy and gorgeous. They were not prudent, so I made him take them back. I feel a pit in my stomach now at that memory and how I must’ve shot him down. When he presented them to me, he said the kindest things. That I make him smile. That he loves me like no one else ever; that I have given him miraculous children, that I am the reason he lives.
Shit Stuff like that. I rejected them. It was an imprudent gift; we were in no position financially to do it; we’d just renovated our kitchen, literally, on our 10th anniversary; I was happy with that. But I shot it down angrily nonetheless; I had the temerity to blame him.
Another time, when Bruce Springsteen came to town, he wanted to surprise me. So he bought tickets. They were financially out of sight, in an outdoor stadium, in the middle, excellent seats. I made him sell them on Stub Hub. We made a nice profit, actually, but the point is that I rejected them again.
The other point is, that I have a problem, a serious problem, with accepting sincere and loving kindness and gifts. I am afraid to open my heart. I am shielding it.
If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.” – Pema Chodron
I have to grow up. I have to accept the fact that not all gifts are “loaded” that people like to give for the pleasure of giving and accepting the gift is not a sign of weakness. That graciously accepting the gift means that I see value in myself and that the giver is not an idiot for giving it. I also have to grow up and realize that “hand-outs” are nothing compared to a hand-up. My upcoming yogi, who apparently knows a lot more about energy exchanges than I thought I did, said that my continual hand-outs of my own talents and gifts for nothing in exchange sends two messages: 1) that I believe I have no value (which has been established) and 2) that my giving my talent away makes the recipient feel like charity.
“What if your current yoga teacher or offered you classes free but charged everyone else? What would you do? What what you think?” she asked.
“I would insist on paying her. I would feel that she didn’t value herself,” I answered, as I kicked a rock and shoved my hands into my pockets. “I would feel like she felt sorry for me.”
The fact that Bipsy is a friend, but not a super-lifetime, known-me-since-I-was-in-diapers friend helps. There is that level of detachment, that level of our knowing each other only as adults, and that she knows me as an active community member and trusted friend and as a healer (or attempting healer) and so it was with great gratitude and cheer that I accepted her gift. Monday I inquired. Tuesday, I applied. Yesterday I was interviewed and accepted into the program and today I registered for the program.
So, for 16 days, I will be on an intensive, yoga certification retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia to learn how to teach Kundalini yoga to children, children with autism, anxiety, differing abilities and all the other kaleidoscopic ways that makes them unique and also to men and women and seniors. Meditations will start at 6am and lessons will go until 6pm ever day. I will learn how to cook vegan-ally (is that a word?) and I am so excited. It will be the first time I’ve ever been away from my team for more than five days. I’m ready.
Mind officially blown.
Thank you, Bipsy. I don’t know if I will have ability to send dispatches from retreat, I hope not… I’ll just bring a pen and paper. Remember those?