We are grateful you are gone.
Paulo Coehlo retells a traditional Sufi story about a farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbors offered sympathy for his loss, but he seemed unbothered. When the horse came back accompanied by a beautiful mare, the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good fortune. But he shrugged that off, too, and they wondered why he wasn’t happier. One day when the farmer’s son was riding the horse, it threw him off, breaking his legs badly. Bad news. Except that when the army marched through, recruiting young soldiers for a doomed battle, the wounded son was left behind and saved from death at the hands of the enemy.
This year feels like that to me: a year of bad in the good, good in the bad. It’s been an exhausting whiplash of a year—a year where you dare not ask, “What’s next?” because the universe might supply you with another catastrophe to contend with. Between the pandemic and protests, there were fires to the west and hurricanes to the south and chaos in Washington. We lost our lion John Lewis and our Black Panther Chadwick Boseman. The year of our Lord 20 and 20 seems to do nothing but disappoint us.
But even in the midst of so much loss, there has been light.
We sat down. The coronavirus pandemic has required us to “go somewhere and sit down” as our mamas used to say. It hasn’t been easy for some of us. The chronically busy and the extroverts have found it particularly hard, but even the most introverted have had to practice sitting in our own feelings. We have had nowhere to turn from our discomfort, our inconvenience, our fear. But as yogis, we know the value of sitting in “what is.” And we remember what Dr. Gail Parker often says: “Just because you’re not doing anything doesn’t mean nothing is happening.” In sitting still, we have been encouraged to do our inner work.
We woke up. After all these decades of raising our fists and taking a knee and reminding people that we could not breathe—suddenly. Something. Clicked. Black Lives Matter. Of course, they always have, but now it’s being painted on the streets. People are seeking us out, trying to listen, and turning within, trying to understand. Is this just another novelty? We don’t know? But even some of the most cynical of us say this feels, somehow, different. We are being seen in a new way. Our opinions are earning their price. Our work is finally getting what it is worth.
This will be the time for some of us—if we are ready and we are careful—to step into new opportunities. We know, too well, the traps and the tricks. So, before we move, we will sit and contemplate, breathe and pray, seek guidance and tap into our wisdom. Then will step up and claim what is ours.
We got creative. When our yoga studios and community centers closed and public outdoor places were limited, we found other ways to create and gather. There are dance classes on Instagram and yoga classes on Zoom. Families scattered across the land are gathering virtually to share distanced meals and play virtual games. The point is that we are still together, even from a distance. We are finding new ways to connect and create. So much has been lost, but not all. All is not lost.
If it’s possible to feel sorry for a year, I feel bad for 2020. It has earned a terrible reputation; it will be infamous. The underbelly of our culture has turned its ugly side for all to see. We have been confronted with our biases and ignorance, with our fragility and vulnerability. But this year has also pointed out our strength and resilience and generosity. It has reminded us that we must love immediately and fiercely and completely. We have learned the precious value of life. This is the year that taught us the true meaning of namaste.
So here’s to the end of 2020. I honor the light in you.