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open hands.

February 23, 2012

A few months back, I sat alongside some of my closest and dearest yoga teacher friends excitedly listening to our teacher, John Friend, speak about the Dharma of Relationships.  I was still in a very raw state after the tragic loss of my father in an accident and subsequent loss of my uncle to cancer.  I was welcomed by John, and we lovingly exchanged words, hugs and tears over the situation.  I found it very sweet that he even knew about it and had the sweetness to be sincere with me about such a hard time.  The workshop came at a really hard time but helped me to focus and choose that which is life-enhancing.  I felt deeply blessed that I had found yoga and the it was such a big part of my life.

There was a point during the last day of the Teachers Intensive where we meditated and John spoke about how we must choose to keep our hands open to life and that every relationship, every experience for that matter, is like a little bird that can land in our hands.  We have the choice to squeeze and try to grasp onto it, or the choice to love and enjoy it for what it is, knowing that one day it can fly away and possibly never come back.  It was at that moment that I really broke down.  Every relationship in our lives will end in one way or another — the thing is that it’s so damn hard when they do end, even when it is our own choice.

Having lost two of the the most important people in my life, I was moved by this idea of keeping my hands and essentially my heart open to life.   A week after that workshop I got a tattoo of a bird on my inner forearm.  It was a tattoo that my father had on his arm and the actual meaning of the bird originates from sailors who would cross the equator and get the tattoo upon their return.  In some ways for me it represented the sentiments of having gone to hell and back but also as a reminder to always keep my heart and hands open to life — my father wouldn’t have had it any other way.  When I am practicing, or teaching or even just working my day job I can glance down and see the bird on my arm.  Sometimes it startles me, sometimes it makes me cry and mostly it makes me smile remembering that life is too short to hold on too tight.

The past few weeks or so has been fraught with drama and loss – this time from my yoga community.  Accusations turned into truths — turned into a total upheaval of my yoga world which for the past 7 months had been such a boon to my survival.  At this point, I don’t even know what to call what and how I teach, all of my training comes from John and a lineage of spectacular teachers that were trained in the Anusara method.  It felt like another loss of a loved one to hear the truth and then see our community crumble from loss and anger.

I do no agree with John Friend’s actions and reactions but I do know this — we are all human and falter, our systems and organizations will never be perfect.  I don’t condone the actions that occurred but now that they have been brought to light, isn’t it more important to acknowledge both the good and the bad and then move on?  It’s been a really difficult few weeks of teaching from my heart when my heart is confused and yet again broken, but I still get up and teach because in the teaching I remember to keep my hands open as an offering but also to receive and learn.

I come from a family of recovering addicts; people who hit rock bottom and decided that it was their second chance was their last chance at life — namely my father.  Dad was a great man and who he was, was directly due to the fact that he had the humility to always remember that but for the grace of God, that fucked up person next to him could have been him (or you, or me).  I think about that a lot lately.  I wonder, what would he say about the man that hit him and his best friend?  Knowing my father, he would have known that it could have been him there on the other side of that accident.  I hope in many ways that John and all of us can be willing to see where we hit bottom (when we really do) and then pick ourselves up and do the work – our practice, a practice of love and remembrance for what is important.  We can use everything as an opportunity to remember how lucky we are that the Universe chose to embody us in all our brokenness.

I celebrate my 34th birthday this Saturday – it’s strange to think about celebrating life, another year.  I feel old – not old like an old lady, but old in experience, albeit wisdom to some degree.  Things go on — they keep going on, they fall apart and then come back together again.  Life is about how you can enjoy the times when things are together and how you can stand strong when things fall to shit.  This is my practice on and off the mat, finding strength when I thought all was lost and remembering to let things fall apart so that new things can build up even when fear and anger cloud my view.  No matter what — each cycle brings a new understanding, a new wisdom.

With my hands (and heart) open, I welcome in this new year.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Joan Gordon permalink
    February 23, 2012 9:33 pm

    Beautifully expressed. Happy Birthday!

  2. Anne permalink
    February 24, 2012 1:26 am

    well said, and happy birthday!

  3. Nancy Zimmerman permalink
    February 24, 2012 3:43 am

    You are such an beautiful woman, one who seemingly transcends life itself. I stand in awe of your wisdom, love and deep inner lovliness Nicole. Truly a very old soul! You so remind me of my sister Carol, who flew with the hawks, survived 48 hour treks into her soul, deep in the woods with nothing but a mat, prayers of the Grandmother and trust, totally alone but never so. XO to you from my heart Nicole. You have made an impact you never realized and I cannot thank you for blessing me so…. Nancy Zim

  4. cintra permalink
    February 24, 2012 5:32 pm

    I loved what you shared so openly and beautifully…..I found myself crying because your sharing touched my heart. I will try and keep my hands open to life because through it all I want to have the life I was meant to have……..You are indeed an amazing teacher……have the happiest of birthdays……. ❤ 🙂

  5. Luisa Michaelosn permalink
    February 25, 2012 11:10 pm

    Absolutely are truly your father’s daughter! Very proud to be your step-mother but honored to call you my friend..I love you!

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