― Thich Nhat Hanh
|The Studio at Community Yoga|
I was grateful to be alive.
Although a regular meditation Practice had been part of my life for decades at that point, my own genetic programming, inconsistent attention to diet, and years of smoking, had set me up for acquiring the same form of coronary artery disease that had ended my father's life at age 61 and his father's life at age 57. Although I never had a heart attack, by the time of the procedure, the major artery that feeds the major pumping chamber of my heart was 90% blocked!
It's clear. Without the wonders of modern science and Practice, I would not be sitting here at this aging Mac laptop, in reasonably good shape for an old coot. I'd be ashes spread to the four winds.
Connecting the Dots
If I try to connect the dots of my own spiritual journey as a child of the 60's, it was the inspired Christianity of the Civil Rights Movement, embodied in the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that had led me to explore the life and writings of Mahatma Gandhi. The engaged spirituality of Gandhi's Satyagraha, and the vibrant example of his Life and Practice had then drawn me toward the exploration of Hinduism. Like many others, Hatha Yoga became the Gateway to developing a Spiritual Practice.
The world of Hatha Yoga in the US was different back then.
In that era, yoga studios were far and few between, mostly in a few big cities. There certainly weren't any in the fringe suburbs of ChicagoLand. My first Teachings and Teachers were the books of Richard Hittleman and Swami Sivananda, then Lilias Folan of PBS's "Lilias, Yoga, and You" delivered on an 18" black and white television. In those days, Yoga wasn't primarily presented as an exercise and stress reduction tool. It was embraced as a spiritual practice, a path leading to enlightenment.
As it was, my kid brother David Little ( a healer, who has lived in India for the past 40 years), gave me my first "hands on" instruction in yoga (as well as certain medicinal herbs and compounds) during my visit to Marin County is 1970. (He had recently emigrated north from this place known as Haight-Ashbury). His lessons on asana and pranayama were inspirational. Within the next year or so, Ram Dass's classic Be Here Now, provided continued inspiration, and over the next couple of decades Yoga became part of my life. I found a partner who practiced yoga, then classes with the Yoga Meditation Society of Madison, WI (affiliated with Swami Rama's Himalayan Institute of Swami Rama). After a decade of Practice, I taught classes there in the 1980s.
By 2011, all that was ancient history. Although I occasionally stretched out, my Hatha practice was non-existent. By then, the meditation practices of Buddhism had become central to my life. Other aspects of my life had become more sedentary as well. Contemplating the situation deeply, knowing how close I had come to the final curtain. I decided that I wanted to reclaim a hatha yoga practice. The serendipitous synchronicity that emerged in the wake of that decision was grand.
At the end of the first class I attended, part of a noontime series offered by the local food coop, that day's teacher, Jenny Chapin, announced that she was looking for a someone to barter custodial duties for yoga classes at Community Yoga and Wellness Center, the studio she owned and directed.
"What a great idea," I thought. Retired, I had much more time than money. Looking to regain a serious practice and more physical lifestyle, I was immediately on my feet and headed in her direction. The brief discussion with Jenny was quite positive. I started the next day.
I'm not chomping at the bit to find a replacement.