Meet this month’s Manduka Yogi of the Month, Teresa Eigel! Teresa is a dedicated yogini who is at Yoga on High whenever she is not traveling for her work. She especially likes Michael Murphy’s classes for his expert adjustments and his ability to read the room to know what people need or want. Teresa’s blog Peace, Love, Wholefood gives her the chance to explore and share her love of good food and her newfound self acceptance. Yoga on High is pleased to partner with Manduka to feature Teresa this month!
I live in a Community of Care and this has never been more obvious nor more intentional that this past year. What does this mean--Community of Care? It has several elements.
The first element is self-care. One of the greatest obstacles to compassion is exhaustion. Those of us in the “business of care” need to know how to replenish our own energy stores, and we can be relied on to do this most of the time. We are not perfect but we do our best. We have daily practices that we know restore us. We do them over and over even when we may think we don’t need them. In addition to the daily rhythm of self-care we have occasional, longer periods of self-renewal that involve stepping out of our daily lives for vacations or retreats. This is as essential as our daily practices. We also schedule time together for fun and important conversations about what we value—we share our celebrations and our struggles.
The second element is community. We work together to care for the people in our community who need help at any given time. No one person is indispensable, and we stay in communication to know who is able to help and to what degree. Sometimes it is like a big puzzle as we figure out who can step up and who must step back. Just this past summer one of us lost a beloved relative. She needed regular support, so a group of us stepped forward to offer her what she needed including housing, food, Reiki and company. We developed an email list of her support team and kept in touch about what she needed every day and what we could offer. We created a schedule so everyone had clarity about who was doing what. Then one of the support people found out that a relative of hers had a dire medical diagnosis and that she was needed at home. She was able to step out of care for our friend and tend to her relative. And we began to check in on her to see what was needed there. And so it goes. None of us is always a giver or a receiver--we take turns.
The third element that helps make this possible is self-knowledge. We are checking in with ourselves on a daily basis to see what we realistically CAN do without causing ourselves harm. We know that there will always be someone in our community needing support, and we are committed to our own sustainability which will allow us to continue the blessings of embodying compassion.
And along with self-knowledge we are cultivating honesty and increased skills in communication. Knowing that you don’t have enough energy to help does not always translate into being able to say that to another, especially if the other is in trouble. Many of us have been trained to believe that everyone else is more important than we are, and it can be hard to say no to a request for help or to take time for ourselves. Learning to know what is true, and then speak what is true, are two different steps that are works in progress for each of us.
Back to community--if one of us loses track of what is reasonably possible to accomplish, another of us will be alert enough to help them step back and take more rest. It may be as simple as a 10 minute restorative pose at just the right time, or a more extended sabbatical from helping.
It can also be a challenge for those of us who are used to being “helpers” to receive the care of our community, but we are getting better at this as well. I have been amazed and gratified to see the grace of this. Another of our dear friends was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer this past summer, and has received much love and help from many of us since then. She has been a beloved caretaker in our community for most of her life and now she is a beloved receiver of our care. It has been really gratifying for us to be with her as she has opened herself up to receiving nearly daily Reiki and food deliveries. She has received cards and outpourings of love with grace and gratitude. There have also been a few times when it felt challenging for her to be on the receiving end of such love, and we worked through that together as well.
The words “giving” and “receiving” do not really do justice to the process I am describing here. In everyday language they seem like opposites and very different from each other. One of the things we have learned in our Community of Care is that giving and receiving are so closely intertwined as to be virtually the same thing. When a friend is willing to receive our support she is giving us a huge gift: the ability to be present with her. We share love and, in love, there is always complete giving and receiving simultaneously. We are not giving from our own storehouse of energy at that point, but from an endless Universal Love that flows through us. We are both renewed.
When I broke my ankle a few years ago I, too, was the recipient of much care. Each day someone brought me food and Reiki. Often, the person giving me Reiki shared something they remembered that I had offered them in a yoga class or in a conversation that was meaningful to them. I realized that each person was glad to be able to offer back something to me (I was a teacher for most of them), and that helping me was a way of completing a circle of love. It was a beautiful gift to know that something I had said held meaning for them. And what they told me supported my healing process.
I am excited and a bit in awe of the communal wisdom that is present in our group. We are so much more powerful together than we are separately. I can rest in this. The final element in our community is Trust. We trust ourselves, we trust each other and we trust life to be enough just as it is. This is a miracle of high proportions. This goes against my personal training and much of the training of our culture, and I am grateful for all who keep reminding me of the beauty of what is possible.
This month we are honored to feature two Manduka Yogis of the Month! Jen and Delene are two if the most inspiring women, and dedicated yogis we’ve had the pleasure to meet. The duo regularly attend both Lara and Jasmine’s classes, traveling from Lancaster several times a week to do so. They set such a positive example by embracing challenges and life with an attitude of possibility and opportunity. These best friends contribute so much positive energy to our practice and studio and we are grateful to know them!
Yesterday I met with my surgeon, Dr. Floor Backes, who outlined the final steps of my treatment and I have some joyful news to share about my cancer treatment. My tumor markers, reflected in a C125 score, have returned to normal. They went from 106 in September, just after the debulking surgery, then to 13 in November after two heavy-duty rounds of chemo were administered directly into my peritoneal cavity. And the blood work for yesterday’s treatment indicated a score of 6, which is normal. I happily agreed to the IV chemo Dr. Backes suggested for yesterday and for my final treatment on December 31. I will need a small surgery to remove that peritoneal port.
So, I will be finished with treatment this year and start my recovery on New Year’s Day of 2015!
Dr. Backes did say I shouldn’t travel until after that last treatment, and surgery, which means Jerry and I won’t be able to join our family in Mexico over Christmas. We already feel great joy knowing their happiness in being together in a beautiful warm place. The thing we most wanted to see was the three little toddler cousins playing together on the beach. And being with all of our loved ones relaxing and catching up with those who live far away. I will be following my brilliant and wise doctor’s orders, stay home and enjoy from afar.
Sanskrit has a specific word for the kind of joy you feel when enjoying the happiness of others--mudita. Celebrating mudita, finding happiness in the glad hearts of others, is a way to increase the amount of joy in your own life. Who couldn’t use a bit more joy? Why not an unlimited amount more?
Mudita is some of what you’ve been sharing with me, along with shouldering my suffering. I don’t doubt the power of your good will, prayers, sending me light and love and Reiki and Blessings of all kinds and from a beautiful variety of religions. I credit my success in healing to your constant flow of energy-- that I can feel in my body and soul. I am grateful and humble for the power of your prayer and attention.
May you have the unlimited version of happiness this holiday season, and rest and ease and deliciousness in food and company with lots of light and love in your heart.
With gratitude, and love to each of you!
Originally posted on CaringBridge.
Meet this month’s Manduka Yogi of the Month, Vanessa Welch! Vanessa has been coming to Yoga on High since before we had a computer system. She has been practicing for 23 years with Marcia Miller and teaches as well. She takes everything here--sometimes in the same day. She is always cheerful and glad to be here. Vanessa is a pleasure to be around and brings joy to our yoga community. Read More…