For memories are not of the past. While you are tending the garden of your life, you will not miss them when they begin to break ground into your present life. They are seeds of wisdom whose teachings are designed to flower into your present consciousness when and only when you are ready to receive them.
As I hike up a mountain, I will take momentary stops to not only rest and eat, but to take a look at the view down below – and above. All around I can remember how different I felt at a lower elevation and how much more beautiful and powerful it is to gain higher and higher ground. For I can see further, deeper, and wider.
Yet, at the lower points of the journey, I still feel close enough to base camp to think that I could easily turn around and go back. I am still attached to the valley and the safety of it below. It is that thought that keeps me in base camp even after I have climbed upwards for hours. It isn’t until I get to the very heights when I realize that the return trip is an adventure all its own and that I cannot just turn around all of sudden and go back. Home somehow left me. It wasn’t really attached to me after all. And I actually feel stronger without it. I am no longer in base camp. I am growing up. Or, as some say, I am not in Kansas anymore.
I have been writing for many years mostly as a personal hobby of self- expression. I have published a few odd things now and then, but I wasn’t concerned with it much for reasons puzzling even to myself. But things have been changing very rapidly in my life, and I have found myself in a place far away from what I used to call home such that I can no longer call that old home a home any longer; for where I am now is a home that is always with me, that sleeps where I sleep, that learns when I want to learn, that loves when I love, that feels pain when I feel pain, and joy with joy. Where else would that home be other than myself, my soul, my teacher? Where else would you rather be? Finally, after all these years, I learned and took to heart what a young wise yoga teacher once told me and what he once did.
One of my very first yoga classes was at a studio called Eight Limbs Yoga in Seattle in 2001. The teacher’s name was Douglas. There are two specific events during that class that I remember most vividly, the memories of which I have carried with me since the day they were planted inside my mind. The thing about memories is that they are planted for a reason, for they are as seeds to find their flower later. I myself didn’t understand the reasons for remembering those incidents until recently, and now the memories are not just mere screenshots or clips from the “past”, but they are a beautiful flowering of my life.
The first event in my memory is when Douglas said to the class, “I am not the teacher. You are the teacher.” This startled me, not in an intellectual way, but in an emotional one. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I had to be my own teacher. I felt confused, as if I had just been handed car keys for a car that I didn’t think I was able to drive. I also felt slightly scared. The soul in me knew that what he said was true, but the ego-child in me feared that truth. Because being my own teacher would mean that I would be alone and abandoned. That is what I felt. An even deeper truth was that I didn’t know myself very well since I was too busy looking for teachers and people to help me and validate me. Like a child, I needed permission to speak, to lead, to teach. As an adult, I had forgotten how to do all those things even if I was being given permission. Douglas was giving me permission and I didn’t like it. Does the prisoner, after thirty years of being trapped in a cage and being emotionally neglected or abused, feel empowered to not just be free of that prison, but to be his or her own inspiration? Maybe not at first. Not at first. But they most definitely will be intrigued. The seed is planted.
The second event in my memory is when I was holding a Warrior II pose. He stood behind me to adjust my upper torso by using his hand to lightly guide my two shoulder blades towards one another. He was simply reminding me that they were there. I thought to myself how I have never paid any mind to my back, to what was behind me, what I couldn’t see in front of me. As a result, my back, my posture was not in the best of shape and he was guiding me gently, without judgement, and without force to correct it. From that moment on I began a cultivation of awareness for my body, in all the places I do not see and am not able to see. But it was always a long process. I stumbled many times. And I still do to this day; for the most important thing I couldn’t see was myself, who I am, that I am my own teacher, my own guide. My shoulders, my back, my posture, my soul: I hadn’t seen them before and a part of me didn’t even want to bother because I had enough things in my life to worry about and concern myself with.
I didn’t have time for my back or my soul.
Read that again, for I am not alone.
Home, at that time, was a place where I ignored myself.
And so here I am almost twenty years later. Little did I know that those two memories were seeds that meant to become beautiful flowers of wisdom in my life, whether I chose them or not. I continued my yoga practice because it was healing some chronic pelvic pain (Vulvodynia) that I had developed. Unlike medical treatments involving steroid injections, the yoga was healing my body not because I could prove it with medical statistics, but because I felt it. And yet still, later that year, I would discover that I had stage three colon cancer. My life as I knew it was about to end and collapse back into the earth from which I would be challenged to cultivate, grow, and build my life again. It was at that point when I was given another chance at life, and unbeknownst to me it was the beginning of finding my way back to myself, back to who I am, so that I might know how to nurture, love, and cultivate the best life possible. I was on the journey to remember who the teacher truly is, that the teacher is myself. For each soul, each soul of a person, is a mountain of the world, greater than the seven wonders combined. Most do not know it yet.
I am writing my poems and I am just starting to write my first book, not to tell or show people how to live better, or how to meditate or how to do yoga or any of that. I am not writing to impress people with my style or my depth of feeling or thought. I am writing only with a view to awakening the reader, not with knowledge but with reminders of who you truly and most magnificently are. My experiences, my impressions about the nature of the world as presented through poetry are only aspects of my light, a light that acts as an access to your own, which is yourself, your own teacher, your soul. And so, I will say to you as my yoga teacher once said to me and I will add a bit more:
I am not the teacher. You are your only teacher. All you have to do is begin to remember who
you are, of divine light and substance and beauty and power; to remember what
lessons you gave yourself so that you might shine as the sun shines and be a
reminder to others such that they shine just as brightly high above the mountains
and across all the valleys of the earth.