I am often surprised at the lack of glamor that surrounds radical transformation. The big shifts in life appear to happen in a moment of instant awakening, coming like a thief in the night, are really the product of long term commitment to Self-study and small, daily changes. When transformation happens, or at least when you realize that transformation has happened, it feels so full of power, so brilliant and wonderful that it must have occurred in a dramatic landscape, or a take-your-breath away, well lit, well designed room.
Half of my weekly classes are held in a 1000sq/ft room located in the upstairs of an office building. A pretty space to be sure but one that shares a floor and a bathroom with an insurance agent and a pan-asian consulting company. In that context, it presents as a rather unlikely place for healing.
It’s true that when John Friend comes to Raleigh the event is held in a gigantic gathering space in a building owned by the Hindu Society of North Carolina. Here there is a lobby for checking in, an entire room for the Sri-Tail (retail) store, separate bathrooms, another room for a healing practitioner to offer his services; there’s even an industrial kitchen. The practice space is well lit, the colors are soothing and the ceilings are high. All in all, quite swanky. Not all of John’s venue’s are like this. Many are in old YMCA’s and community centers where no matter how much you try, the floors will never really be clean. At the Y in Cary, where I also teach, there is a fat pole in the middle of the room; cycles and aerobic equipment line the walls. There is no elegance in any of these places. But it’s in these slap-dash spaces with very little in the way of amenities or view, people experience bursts of light, deep energetic shifts, physical, emotional and spiritual healing. They change, and they change for the better.
In my home I am blessed to have a small room of my own. There is a window looking out at the patio and wax myrtles where robins and finches and squirrels like to play; three of the walls are light, creamy yellow with the fourth accented in lilac purple. Last August I relieved my parents of the honey colored oak desk set that was a part of my childhood bedroom suite and rearranged the room to better serve it’s many purposes as a place to practice, meditate (though I actually do that on the couch in the living room), write, paint, pay bills etc. Until recently the floors, like the desk, were a pleasing honey color. Two weeks after putting in the new/old desk the AC froze and then, despite the tech’s guarantee to the contrary, unfroze and water leaked into the room warping half of the floor boards. This happened in September. For various reasons it still has not been repaired. I spent the fall practicing and working in a room with half laminate, half concrete flooring. Now, as we prepare to install some lovely bamboo, all of the contents of the room have been hauled into our open dining area and I am doing asana in our bathroom. Certainly no glamor here. But there is a skylight and when I look up I see the tips of pine trees giggling with light; the black outline of birds soaring through the sky. I didn’t see this part of the dance from the window in my room and am glad I haven’t missed it.
At our old apartment I did my yoga first on the carpet in the living room next to the gas fireplace (which was excellent at 5am on chilly winter mornings) then on the sturdier vinyl floor in the shotgun kitchen. While not very big, this was a great place to practice. It’s where I learned to go from Prasaritapadottanasana to Sirasana II (standing forward fold to tri-pod headstand.) Cradled on one side by the oven and fridge and counter on the other, I had no fear of falling.
It doesn’t matter where we practice or meditate or pray (in a studio, a church, the woods, the shower) so long as we do. A clean, beautiful space creates a more inviting, less chaotic atmosphere and I think that’s important. Pleasing color, light, furniture, cleanliness is a gift we give ourselves. But what really matters is the space inside. Overtime our yoga rooms, no matter how humble or stylish, build up a resonance of Shakti and this resonance creates open spaces within for the power of Heart to take up residence. What could be more humble than residing in the house of the Divine?