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Life-o-rama

REposted from December, 2010

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to go to a concert that my students were playing at in my hometown: Band-o-Rama. In my yesteryear, this same concert was the backbone of every winter from grades 4-12. Driving to the concert, I got that nervous pit in my stomach of going to a place where you haven't been for a long time, not knowing and wondering if it had changed or perhaps even wondering and acknowledging that I had changed, and that the course of life had taken me to routes unforseen from the fourth grader I once was.

As I found a seat perched high in the bleachers, I took in the scene: each band set in configured arcs buzzing with nervous players settling into this new medium, -to the veterans in the back who had been through the whole diametric range of shifting from one space to another year after year. After seeing the lay of the land, I started to pick out the faces that I knew and teared up as I saw the very person that started me on the whole trek through music- Mr. McLellan. It was easy to pick him out from the crowd on the floor. His springy step and professional air was contagious and his problem-solving and incredible scope of the whole room was so readily apparent. This man, I realized, was my first mentor. He saved my life. Literally. Breathe Sharon, breathe. As the haze from my eyes started to clear, I saw each of my students in their respective grade levels and chairs and became overwhelmed with a sense of pride of where they had come from when I first started with each of them, to where they were now. It continually amazes me what every year brings forth.

The rumbles of the fourth grade band stirring into action woke me from my reverie. Raw and squwaky, they made their way through. The fifth graders, with more proficiency, were like a pack of wild horses wanting to blast out of their seats. As the grades progressed, the playing got better and better and at certain points, I could hear where the proficiency was holding them back and where in the later grades, it was a tool to be able to help them express fully.

What struck me was witnessing the progression and seeing the possibilities that the fourth graders were shown, and the perspective that the grades after had of looking back. All in all, the bands were together starting the concert and ending the concert, and no matter how green or advanced they were, they were all there, creating music together. This made me think about entering a room of yogis and witnessing the magic that a room of people from all different backgrounds, days, and levels provides. During a ninety minute class, each person's tempo of practice as well as proficiency might be different, however, we begin the practice together and end it together united by breathe, movement and emotion. In essence, we are all mirrors lending us to look at where we have come from, where we are at present, and where we can go.

Life lessons have a funny way of showing up and waving their hands at you. In my case, I saw the conductor, my mentor from my past waving his arms to conduct, yet it was also that elegant sweep in a four beat pattern that reminded me that the longevity of this man's profession was the passion and love of his job, -the internal knowing of the vital importance to bring a life line to these students to express love, anger, joy and angst. Likewise, as a newer teacher of yoga, I feel a constant student wobbling my way through, where sometimes the spurts of growth can be like a wild and wonderful rollercoaster ride and at other times, the path gets cluttered and it is easy to lose my way.

As I was heading up to Boston this week, I was feeling tired and cranky and my partner gave me a hug and a kiss and said, "ok, honey, it is time to go up there and do your important work". Something about this statement made me do a double-take and the whole ride up was a teary mash-up filled with so much gratitude of remembering to be tender, patient and kind to myself and give space to have the perspective of noting where I came from, where I am now, and where I have yet to travel. So, renewed, I find myself wide-eyed and ready to always be a student of the possibilities ahead. Thank you John McLellan for being my constant mentor and source of inspiration, this work is of vital importance. Thanks you for the reminder.

It Only Takes a Moment....

Back in my restaurant days, I worked under a chef who bore into us a phrase that has stuck to me as it has such a widerspread spread application: 'It Only Takes A Moment'.

Truth be told, in the business and dizziness of any one shift, where multitasking was a must, these moments became more clear when I would stop and take a moment to assess what would need to be done in the field of tables that I was waiting on.  Inevitably, the actions of taking the time to greet a customer, to put a toy in a homemade sippy cup for a toddler, or check back in with a customer who might have had a special dietary concern, made a huge impact not only on the gratuity but more importantly on the level of contentment for the diner which as well impacted those sitting around them, the quality of the work day, and whether they would come back.

I think about this phrase in my non-restaurant days, and realize that it is just as important now if not moreso, because the phrase serves the vast plain of the human heart and speaks of taking that moment to think outside of the 'me' and into the 'we' that life surrounds us with.

On many mornings, I take photos of my young son and send them along to his daddy, who although only five miles away at work,  feels as if he is a million of miles away from all of the firsts and the trillions of heartbeats and smiles that he has missed.  In capturing a moment digitally and passing it along, the day doesn't seem as long or as foreign for all of us. 

So, I urge you to take a moment, really, it does just take a moment, to reach out.  Get up out of your seat and greet the sun, call your mom or dad who you think might not be waiting by the phone but could actually be, greet a stranger with a hello or a smile and direct look in the eye, take a moment for yourself to tell yourself that you are indeed, smart, beautiful, creative and lovely, because all of these small acts become very big when you think about the unlimited number of moment there are in a day.

Share

When we share our stories, we show our shadows. When we show our shadows, we shed our shame.  When we shed our shame, we shine as only our true selves, our most essential selves knew we should, could and did.

Awake

I do not know what it is about these early mornings when the sky is still cast with the night's dye.

The world's harried pace, calmed by the shade of sleep, delayed by early quiet morning refuge.

A perfect place

for warriors to face the dawning of a new day

for dreamers to create

for dark light to illuminate a sleeping lover's face.

remember the peace

live within the beautiful silence of space.

greet the dawn.

steady

calm

awake

written 7/11

To Practice...

 

This Post originally appeared on my sister, Christine Koh's site, Boston Mamas, under the title, Lesson Learned.  Many thanks to her for the inspiration to write this piece, which was my first in the eight months following my son's birth, and the catalyst for creating this new blog space.

I don't know if my lesson will ever fully be learned but it will always be practiced. Eight months ago, I gave birth to my son. He defied all expectations and denied me of the Hallmark-type experiences that I had dreamed of.

He arrived after a frightening night of monitoring and an ambulance ride from Cape Cod to Boston. He was born 2 months early and all of the plans and all of the ideas my husband and I had about how things were going to be were severed with the stroke of a surgeon's knife, which yielded a 2 lb 2 oz shrinkadink of a baby -- fragile to the touch and, admittedly, frightening for me to look at.

As a woman who is proud of her health and strength, I was quickly humbled by the feeling of utter powerlessness as the decision to take him out was based on necessity rather than choice. My bodily strength was quickly dissolved by magnesium, which felt like being burned from the inside out. There was an even fiercer flame of fear that brought me to shadowy places in myself that in my past life made me build brick and mortar around my heart and pounds of flesh around my body. The mask of determination swaddled a scared and angry child.

 

Every step since my son's birth -- a baby shower cancelled, a birth plan not realized, countless tests and needle pricks into this innocent being, daily knots in my stomach from potential bad medical news forecasts, the relief of letting time do its work, the frustrations of breastfeeding and the battles with thrush, the 70 days in the NICU 100 miles away from my home and husband -- scrubbed away every glorified image I had of motherhood and turned me towards the reality of what was right in front of me: fear, pain, resentment...and eventually joy and relief that my son is alive and healthy, and that our little family is still together after that tsunami.

I have spent many days and nights questioning, blaming and punishing myself over what presented itself rather than what I expected. I felt betrayed by my body and my life.

In yoga there is a term, ahimsa, which basically simmers down to mean non-violence. After the wound of flesh and ego started to scab over, the real lesson of being kind came with the realization that I was killing myself and my family with the bitterness and judgement that came with not seeing the beauty of the small and sacred gifts. In hindsight, these gifts came in the form of each ounce of weight gained, the observation of how once concave flesh now wears soft and fleshy around the sweetest of smiles, the gradual lessening of fear as my husband and I grew more secure handling the fragile shell of a boy connected to tubes and wires, watching those wires go away one by one, noticing bit by bit the strength started to surge back into my legs and body, actually feeling the warmth of my husband's hand holding mine, and how love -- true love -- waited and worked even when we were in the darkest places to come back with hearts unguarded, to face and feel the anger, fear, and suffering of disappointment that has melted with time, communication, tears, and with being kind to ourselves and to one another. This experience, with all of its challenges, awakened the practice of kindness. The practice is the practice. The work to be kind will never end.

A New Journey

Welcome to my new website, which reflects a new journey for me. I hope you'll come join me for the ride.

Many thanks to my friend Daniel Cojanu, for the beautiful images you'll see throughout the site.