I met someone really important tonight. But I let this person walk right out of my life without doing anything about it.
It was meant to be. For once, I was actually early for yoga practice. I saw her trying to figure out the keypad for the door to the building -- not the easiest thing since there are two keypads and despite specific instructions on the yoga center's website, almost every intelligent being (me included) gets it wrong the first time.
So I showed her the way to do it, having figured out that she was a first timer. We chatted a little as we walked down the stairs to the basement -- nothing serious, just the usual 'is it this way', 'what time does it start' type of conversation. What was interesting though was that I had this feeling straightaway that I had known this person for a long, long time.
I went ahead and did my usual things. I had been looking forward to sitting for a few minutes in the changing room and reading, while waiting for the previous session of mysore practitioners to be done. The air was permeated with sweat, but that didn't bother me as much as it usually does on Sunday mornings (for some strange reason). It was then that I noticed she had gone to the men's changing area by mistake. It was confusing. The signs were small and not immediately obvious. But that is precisely why I love practicing here. It is the most cosy, unpretentious and 'real' yoga studio I have ever stepped into. It has been around in this part of town for years and years, run and frequented by pretty much the same core group of yogis.
I called out to her.
"Excuse me, that's the guys' changing area. We're way back down the corridor."
She was a little lost and rather grateful. I explained to her how the 'system' worked. If you're a regular and have a card, just go mark it off. If you pay per class, there is a little pouch on the ledge to put the money in. I could still remember the first time I came here, six years ago (the first time I was living in D.C.), a newbie to Ashtanga and very early on in my teacher training. Every single yoga studio I had ever been to (and had been to since then) had a receptionist at the front the minute I walked through the door, and a system of cards, credit cards and cash. They were businesses, fair enough. Even yoga teachers have to make a living (as I can testify to as well). But this place blew me away, because it was so much more than a studio. It was a space where everyone -- the teachers and the students -- truly lived their yoga. It was also here that I first fell in love with Ashtanga (until my second pregnancy three months later had me throwing up all over the place and forced me to cut the jumpbacks and vinyasas and just go yin for a while).
I showed her to the women's changing room. We chatted a little. She was from Iowa and here on a business trip. She wanted to do some yoga and found this place on the internet. It was convenient, right next to the metro, along the same line from her hotel. Again, I had this feeling that I had known her before. See, I would do exactly the same thing if I had time off on a working trip -- look for a yoga studio to do a class at. But it was more than that common trait that connected us, I was sure.
She went to wait in the front and I sat down for my ten minutes of reading. Inside, she pulled her mat next to me and said, "Well, I guess I'll come next to you, since you were helping me and showing me the way." I smiled at her. But there was no chance for a reply, because David was on a roll and had already said "Come to standing at the front of your mats, samasthithi...."
So we practiced side by side. The best part about being in a space like this was that everyone who comes here comes to practice. So there isn't the self-conscious tension of people sneaking glances at one another's postures that is common in places where yoga is a fad and lifestyle, rather than a way of learning and being. (Having said that, we all start somewhere, and I've been in those places myself early on in my yoga journey. So there is no right or wrong...just little discoveries every step of the way.)
It was an awesome practice. The breath was great; the flow was great. In the changing room afterward, we chatted a little again...about the eternal dilemma of whether to eat or not after practice. Usually, I feel like I can't. But if I don't, I would be starving by midnight and end up eating more than I should. There are a few decent restaurants near her Metro stop, I told her. She asked me about the Japanese restaurant next door. As we were walking out, she asked: "Are you going to the Metro too?" No, I said. I was going to stop and ask David a question and then go to Whole Foods next door. She hesitated a moment and then walked on after I bid her a safe trip home. It was then that I realized that maybe she had that same feeling of having known me from somewhere before, too.
A few minutes later, as I was walking out of the building, it hit me. Why on earth did I not ask her to have dinner? Or, just have a juice or vitamin water at Whole Foods next door?! Instead of making a beeline for Whole Foods, I walked right to the Metro entrance, hoping that I could catch her and if I did, I would ask her. I didn't see her. I could have gone down the escalator and I probably would have caught up with her. But somehow, I didn't. I turned and walked back towards Whole Foods, full of regret.
How often does one meet a person whose soul one's own recognizes from the start? I just had an awesome practice but despite the backbends, why wasn't my heart fully open? What was it that blocked me from exploring this potential friendship? Perhaps it was because I had this to-do list in my mind: ask David question about workshop, MUST do groceries, kids' milk running out...etc. Sure, those were important things I had to do. But she was more important. She was a person, and the experience and connection that I would have gotten out of just spending an hour perhaps with this stranger who wasn't and needn't have been a stranger was infinitely more important than groceries. Perhaps it was because I was sweaty and stinky, and I usually try to avoid seeing people I know after yoga when I'm sweaty and stinky. But then, she was sweaty and stinky too and it really didn't matter. In fact, come to think of it, right after yoga, when I'm open and energized and flowing, would be the best time to see people I know and care about! DOH!
So, I let this person walk right out of my life. It was meant to be that I walked into her fumbling with the keypad to the building. But at a certain point, we also control how things that are meant to be turn out. One of the sweetest and most down-to-earth actors I have ever interviewed, Eric Bana, said this to me last year at the Waldorf Astoria in New York: "The way people meet and come together...that's fate and destiny. But beyond that, what we do with it, whether we exchange emails, phone numbers, etc., that's within our control." How true.
I believe that all things happen for a reason. Someone once disagreed with me strongly, and said that things don't happen for a reason, but people give it a reason, because they need to. That, too, is true, and I believe it's pretty much one and the same. This person also added a caveat which I agree with totally. He pointed out that some people use "all things happen for a reason" as an excuse to not take responsibility for their actions. That is not cool, I completely agree. So I take full responsibility for letting my potential friend walk away.
So, the next time my soul recognizes another, I hope my heart will be open enough for me to invite her (or him) in. I hope the same goes for all of you as well. There are few things that truly matter at the end of the day, and the connection with another human being is one of them.
Namaste. (The light in me sees the light in you.)