I woke up yesterday morning and did what I normally do. Like everyone else in this world, I reached for my phone, checked my text messages and emails, and then logged onto Facebook. (Don’t even try it, we all do it!)
I noticed a teacher had posted that her young son was headed to the ER and was asking for prayers. I paused with that for a moment. I find that, more often than not, it is best to sit with the pause rather than the alternative. My reaction was highly emotional, riddled with questions, and this was not the place for it. So I sat with what I was feeling and sent her and her little boy all I had.
I am a mother of three children, who I am deeply in love with, so when I hear of a child in trouble it is my instinct to react. I have spent many sleepless nights at the beside of my children in the hospital, so I know how that feels. To be strong for your kids when you are paralyzed by your own fear is no easy task.
At the beckoning of my dogs, I pulled myself together and got out of bed. I lit my altar with a candle and incense. I chanted the mantra I do every day as I wake up. I cleaned off a little dust and thought of my dear friend and her son.
The dogs and I went on a long walk by the water, and my thoughts lingered with this family. When I looked at my phone again, I saw that she had posted an update. Her son was crashing and needed help. Again I paused, and rather than responding to her posting in full view, I sent her a short note in a private message telling her that I was with her, and that I loved her.
A few hours later, I received a phone call from a friend, who told me that this teacher's little boy had passed. My friend on the phone didn't know what to do and needed help. All I could say was "go to her", and that, if it was within her means to go right now, go. And so she did.
I walked into my house, told my husband what had just happened and then went on a very long run. I needed to move out of the space I was in. I was desperately trying to run away from what I was feeling. I could lose anything in this life, and I could get through it. But losing one of my children I am certain would change me forever, and I could not shake this feeling.
I did not reach out to my friend right away, because I knew that I had to choose my words carefully. So I did what anyone would do - what any teacher should do. I went to my own teacher. When mired in sadness, it is difficult to find a rational thought process. This is why we have our teachers.
So this is how that conversation went:
Me: A teacher that has been with me for years just lost her five year old son. I am overwhelmed with sadness, and I don’t know what to do. Please help me find the right words, if they exist.
My Teacher: Give her a place to fall apart and then hold the hope for her. We are not these bodies; we are vast in spirit. He is with her. Be in a SAFE place.
Me: I feel so heavy. I don’t know how to do this.
My Teacher: Don’t answer a cry for help with a cry for help. Be STRONG.
Me: I think I just heard a crack in the universe. Thank you. That was exactly what I needed to hear.
Don’t answer a cry for help with a cry for help. Be strong, but don’t be a hero. Stay human. You see, her grief is not my grief, and it is not her job to console me.
Now is not the time to quote scriptures or philosophy or to give a teaching. Now is the time to hold someone up when they cannot do it for themselves.
Yoga teachers are privy to the private matters of students. As a teacher myself, I have met many kind people and witnessed many sacred moments. A new life; the passing of a parent, student or friend; the celebration of a new job or promotion; the start or end of a marriage: memories we all share. There is a time to be a teacher, and then there is a time to just be.
The student-teacher relationship is a dynamic one that is born in trust and surrender. “It’s one based in faith, not doubt, with no external proof needed. And that faith that a student places in a teacher opens doors” (Lady Ruth).
These are doors that lead to healing, and so, at times, even when a teacher says nothing they say everything.
Don’t answer a cry for help with a cry for help. Be in a safe place, and be strong.