Last week I forgot to show up to two classes I was supposed to teach. Just straight forgot. Didn’t do it. No-showed. Blew it. (Twice).
Here’s what happened: our fearless, peerless co-director Kate was out of town. I’d agreed to sub some of her classes while she was gone. I’d also neglected to put these particular classes on the calendar and was, therefore, wholly absent when the time came for them to actually occur.
Instead, I found myself belatedly returning Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky to the movie store with the two youngest members of the family I live with and our dog. There are worse places to be while wreaking havoc on the SKY daily schedule—however, as you likely can imagine, I felt manifestly awful about the whole ordeal. I was miserable at first. All the self-flagellating thoughts you might expect flashed through my mind—that everyone involved was furious about it; that I possess a chronically absent mind and am consequently unfit to co-direct any kind of organization; that I, through this singular act of absentia, would spiral the studio irreparably into financial and reputational catastrophe. In other words, my reaction was to think that I, I alone, had done something that could not be undone, had lost something irretrievable.
I’m not going to say that that last sentence is untrue. I and I alone did forget to go to classes I said I’d teach. And both times some of the time, energy, and confidence of the folks that practice at SKY was lost irrevocably. All of that’s correct.
What’s also true is that the folks that practice at SKY—many of them, in fact, the same people that were standing out on the sidewalk on St. Helens Ave staring at the studio’s locked door that morning—it’s these people that have helped me come to understand and appreciate what I did (or didn’t do) as something that, while certainly not a positive experience, is in fact worth something. They’ve shown me that it’s not a uniformly terrible calamity from which no good can come. It’s contributed to my own healing, I think, which is the idea behind this place anyhow.
In the days following those missed classes, more than one person asked to make sure that I’d only forgotten to come open the door and teach, that no emergency had occurred, that everyone was okay and that the studio was doing alright. Talking to these folks throughout the week, I got over my initial relief that they weren’t angry and saw that their concerns indicated something about what matters here at SKY, something that’s beyond actually practicing yoga. What mattered to everyone who checked in after that morning was the community that’s being fostered behind and around the classes at the studio. People did (justly) express frustration, but mostly they seemed worried that that sense of community SKY provides was somehow at risk, and when they learned that it was doing fine, other concerns eventually fell away. That isn’t to say that they felt the whole thing was totally fine, but the big picture, the studio’s presence and continued work in Tacoma, was what counted—that became clear to me.
Recently I’ve heard the studio described as primarily a social justice organization; yoga is just our particular means toward that end. People here don’t often approach practicing yoga as a cure or a fix as an end to itself, as an escape into the land of blissful feelings—here it’s more of a means toward healing, which often doesn’t feel great and looks all kinds of ways. Even when it comes by way of serious mistakes, healing does make you feel more whole, though, more held in relationship with others, whatever your faults, foibles, and forgettings, which, in the long view, seems like a better place to be. I was, then, both jarringly and gently reminded over the course of this last week what it means to take part in mutual healing, to not only provide others with space and time to experience themselves in community, but to allow them to give that to me as well.