First Sunrise of 5778
Happy New Year, dear friends. I hope this finds you well in this brand-new year.
A few years ago, I discovered the gift of streaming live services from Central Synagogue in NYC. For the past few High Holy Days, I have fully participated in services from afar while sitting on my couch. It’s a great model for me; couch, dog, accessible bathroom/my bathroom, clothes of choice, no parking restrictions, my house, my God—beyond-lovely. I’m able to be fully involved and impacted by the services, while relaxing in my own space. After this morning’s services, I feel an awakened moment of praise and gratitude. In that spirit, I offer you this reflection about the core blessings in my life, recovery and yoga.
After the fog of my active addiction lightened, I looked around the rooms of the Twelve Step program with awe. Certainly, everything I needed lived inside those rooms. For the first time in twenty years, I was outliving my cravings to drink and drug. By using the tools of the Fellowship, I could get through the day without anesthetizing my feelings. I had found the Fellowship with full randomness. Bottoming out, lying on the floor of my Fifth Street apartment in New York City, senseless and thoughtless and without intention, I found the phone and called the hotline. The meeting, two blocks away starting in ten minutes, found me. Although I was terrified of the people, unclear about the principles, cautious about the connections and committed to remaining unique, nevertheless I knew I was home.
And home it was. Things changed both slowly and quickly. I was gaining sober time. After a few years, I then found myself mightily struggling with the concept of “conscious contact”, connection with that spiritual energy that wasn’t me. I had no clue what this meant and typically worried about my not understanding. When whining to my therapist yet again about my lack of understanding, she hesitated and then casually invited me to find a teacher.
Find a teacher. What did that mean? I didn’t know but I prayed, I requested, I cajoled the universe to deliver to me a teacher. Nothing much happened. Then someone told me about Kripalu Center in Western Mass. This was 1989. I was three years sober.
My journey up to Kripalu, my investigating the programs, sitting with the guru, Amrit Desai, in evening program, triggered some deep need in me. I took a few programs that year and decided to come to Kripalu as a volunteer for the two months of my summer vacation from teaching. It was then I began yoga on the mat.
The body! This missing puzzle piece revealed itself to me on the yoga mat, in the Main Hall, dawn breaking, morning after morning, watching the darkness open into morning light. Yoga on the mat became a sharp and shiny mirror of me; my insecurities, my need to get “it” right, my rampant desire to be accepted and loved, came pouring out of the asanas my body was attempting. The invitation to practice “self-observation without judgement”, a core Kripalu teaching, was profoundly pertinent, and so parallel, I began to realize, to the principles I was learning in the Twelve Steps.
Something else was happening; I realized that, by reconnecting to my body through the sensations generated on the mat, I began to feel more tethered to the moment. Clearly my addiction was about my inability to abide the moment, to stay with what was happening around me and inside of me. Yoga on the mat was elongating that process, strengthening that moment of connection. Being present in the moment was dependent, for me, on my relationship to my body. Yoga was the key to unlocking my connection to my body. I was elated, overwhelmed and committed; I decided to stay at Kripalu for the upcoming school year, taking a leave from my job and subletting my apartment strangely enough in the Kripalu whirlpool to a guest.
Creating the program, the Yoga of Recovery in 1992, and running it for these years, the parallels between these two systems of healing, recovery and yoga, continue to merge and dance, complimenting each other.
For this alcoholic, I need the rooms of Recovery. I need the reminders, the brilliance of others on the same journey, the profound safety and depth of the Steps. And for this alcoholic, I need the yoga mat; I need to feel my body, to remember that addiction lives inside my body.
Was Amrit Desai, Gurudev, the teacher I prayed for? Was the Kripalu community the answer to that prayer? Do my ultimate teachers live within the rooms of recovery? It’s all sacred. It’s all true. I am abundantly blessed and ultimately supported. Yoga and recovery continue to be the path to my wholeness.
And dear friends, what are your blessings? What are the gifts that hold you up, that carry you forward? May this New Year be filled with those blessings, with renewal, peace, and possibility, for us, all.
Please do follow this button to learn more about the Yoga of Recovery, 2017, running November 10-12 at Kripalu. Join me if you can and please pass on this invite.