Many years ago my twin sister Katherine gave me a little metal sculpture made of antique spoons. I still have the sculpture, a six-inch tall metal figure with a face on it and on the body, it says, "Dignity, Integrity and Humanity."
A few weeks ago, I parked in front of The SweatBox at 7:45am. As I got out of my car, I noticed a figure in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk of the brand new apartment building across from the studio. Next to the sleeping bag was a wheelchair. What do I do? Do I walk over and wake this person to see if they are okay? Do I call the police? The paramedics? I decided to wait an hour and go back out. When I peeked outside again at 9am, the figure was gone.
As I prepared to teach my 9:30am class, this person was all I could think about. Did I miss a moment to connect with this other human? Have I lost my ability? Is this how the world is? How I am?
Before I started the class, I took a moment before the beautiful group of students to share the experience. "When you walk outside today, remember your humanity," I encouraged them. Spending the next 90 minutes in the yoga room with my students, seeing them all working very hard, struggling, each in their own way, I felt so grateful to be in this environment of love, kindness and vulnerability. At the same time, I felt utterly crestfallen about the state of the world.
My job as a teacher is to support and guide and love my students, to help shepherd them to places where they feel good and whole and at peace. These days, on the streets in Seattle, all over our city, there are people who are struggling, who are without support or love or guidance. They are without shelter, proper clothing, consistent food and water.
At the same time, there is development-- new places to live and eat and shop and do yoga. It's easy to separate, to find emotional safety in crossing the street or lowering your eyes. But what does that say? How does it make a person who is struggling feel? How does it make you feel to avoid or dismiss another human? I come back to the sculpture my sister gave me 20 years ago--"Dignity, Integrity, Humanity"-- a message that is so basic, and so important to remember. Every human being deserves these fundamental things. Our world, communities as small and blocks and as large as countries, will not survive without those things.
We are all human. No matter what your political beliefs, your income bracket, your skin color, your mental health status, national origin or hair color. Think about the heart that you nurture and open and connect with everyday in your yoga practice. Recognize how you feel when you are in a space where you are confident that you are being loved and supported and held. Practicing yoga, opening your heart creates happiness, joy, a sense of peace and ease. When you walk outside today on the Seattle streets that have become hardened and sad and desperate for so many, remind yourself that we are all human. Share what you have by showing humanity to everyone. Do what you can to give everyone some dignity and integrity. Challenge yourself to look at each and every person in their eyes. If you don't have money to give or something to share, don't avoid connection. Be a human in whatever way you can.
All month, you can bring toiletries, new socks and undergarments, personal size toothpaste and deoderant, raincoats, winter clothes to The SweatBox. We will collect and deliver to Mary's Place, a downtown Seattle shelter serving homeless women and children.