When I was in the mental ward for bipolar disorder, age 17, yoga and making paper cranes were two of the things that I did to cope and get out of that hard to be place. That was when I weighed 118 pounds, before the medically induced weight gain took over my body. I had learned the beginnings of yoga from a book a friend of the family gave me. So around age 8 or 10 I taught myself yoga when I didn’t think anyone else knew it or understood it. It was speedy and mostly just to see if I could kink my body into the hard to form poses. I wanted to prove how flexible I was, and that was the main thing I did it for. So maybe it wasn’t really yoga until age 19 when I audited a class with Dolores at Virginia Intermont. That was the introduction to the concepts of yoga, and the idea that concentrating on breathe is important. I was in and out of mental wards 17-21 due to the onset of mental illness. I am sorry that it is true, but the more balanced my moods got, I also got fatter and fatter, until I did not feel comfortable with what body I found myself in. So by 21, the yoga aspect disappeared, and I quit yoga, and barely swam, which is one of my important things that I do for my whole health, mental and physical. Thank God, the illness did not completely take away my body or my mobility and flexibility.

Around age 29 I took a required gym class, Intermediate and Advanced Swimming. It was the course I chose among a nice list of possibilities from Yoga to Camping and Hiking. I am fortunate for the privilege that my education offered me. I had swum now and then between 21 and 29, but at 29 some things occurred to me. Not everybody even knows how to swim, so I am gifted in a way in terms of the fact that my strokes are pretty well formed and my speed could almost meet the average of my female classmates. My friends and classmates told me they were impressed and surprised by my swimming. So at least that semester, I felt stronger and more active in my body. I felt more able and vibrant in my abilities. A couple semesters later, I took walking for fitness the same semester that my old faithful car broke down and I ended up trading the car in for money ultimately because it was a drain on my finances and I knew I could just walk. At that point, I walked an hour in class three days a week, which was a lot for me, a 330 pound woman. Plus now, I was walking to school and sometimes even home, which totaled up to 4 miles each way! My feet were hurting some. I felt I had done something stupid selling the car at first. But by the end of the semester, which was my last semester of college, I did not regret it anymore. I had done it! I was 30, it was 2012. I started college in 2000, then immediately got ill. This was a true accomplishment academically, but also, my body was at a momentous place in life because I was forcing myself to walk so much.

I moved home to Tennessee, and due to the fact I had a family car, I kind of stagnated a little in terms of walking so much. In these 5 years, I have had a lot of time at the pool, thank goodness, and have resumed swimming as a healing important necessary aspect of my life. I still walk, and terrifically I have overcome the back pain I had in college. I attribute that back pain I had to “resistance.” I also feel emotionally complete and utter joyfulness. I don’t mean I don’t have passing emotions or that I don’t suffer grief, but my general temperament is just so happy. A big part of that is I have let go of trying to be attached to anything. I am aware my happiness is fleeting. That is the wonderful paradox I know.

Yoga in my present life has not been happening much. I took a few classes with Heather, and I adore her patient approach that she offers students who need not to rush their yoga, who need to work on building strength and resistance. That is where I feel I am at in my yoga. Except for one stumbling block. I can’t afford to pay for yoga. People say yoga is pretty cheap in Bristol, and I agree the people involved try to make it very affordable. Community yoga is only 5 dollars, classes are 10, and due to Heather’s great benevolence, meditation is always free. Still, it is nearly impossible for me to raise 5 dollars a week or even per month to pay for that yoga. I tried the ten dollar class, but due to my low income status from my disability I had to set a limit and not pay that anymore even though I so craved the yoga, and got so much out of the classes.

Now it happens that I am reading a wonderful book called Swimming with Elephants that deals with the fact that mentally ill people are healers the fact that it can be a very dangerous approach to ask people money for their healing. Also, recently, I saw a documentary, The Last Shaman, that covered a similar subject. How rare it is to find a shaman who is not trying to make money off of their gift. And some of the shamans and healers and yoga instructors are just doing their best. Many of them are. They are doing everything in their power to spread their love of yoga while somehow making ends meet for themselves. Plus some people are super glad to give their money for a yoga class, for some people, because they do have a little extra money, they are happy to share their wealth and think yoga classes are the absolute best thing they can give their money to.

Also, right now, due to my joy, and my current state of being so well, it happens that I recognize in myself that I am “having an opening.” My response to that is I have to change something. It started where I thought I might get a job. Then I firmly decreed not to just get some job. Then I found a very idyllic Quaker role in Boston that made me turn around and apply to the Quaker job, despite my decree, or rather, due to the fact that this was not just “some job” but a wonderful job in the case that they want me. I have yet to know whether they do or not.

Meanwhile, I was sitting on the front porch reflecting and I pretty much had a clearness committee for myself. I came to a very deep honest place and made a decision, recognizing that if I do not get the job, I will still be in a personal place of OPENING. So if I don’t get the job, I want to have a plan to really do something to use my gifts and talents and strengths to make the world better in some way. That is the goal for the opening. Then I looked at my yoga mat which was sharing the porch there with me waiting for mobility and sun salutations. My yoga mat has a personality and it was talking to me. And it said, “why don’t you get up and do sun salutations by yourself, regardless of all of this money talk? You apparently have all your needs met, so now would be a great time for you to practice your yoga.”

And I want to and will and am excited to listen to the advice of my yoga mat. But first I wanted to write this, because I think the answer for my OPENING has come to me. I want to do the 2020 yoga teacher training at Bristol Yoga if I don’t get the idyllic Boston Quaker job. I think I have a lot to offer as a yoga teacher, that many other people here don’t. For two big examples, I am a large figured woman who could inspire others like me to strengthen, and I am low income and willing to teach for free. Being willing to work for free, I think, is a sign of a truly interested person.

So as I wait to hear back from Boston, I can’t help but to think, what if I took the opening part of my soul and life course and build around myself in Tennessee something as idyllic and helping others as that which I hope to do in Boston. So I could go either way. I don’t know if Boston wants me, and I don’t know if I can raise over 2,000 dollars by 2020 for the yoga teacher training. But I know I am one of these people who commits myself to what I do, and I know I made it through college walking sometimes 12 miles in some days just to make the finish line. And I am pretty sure I can do anything I set my mind to.