(NOTE: This is a guest blog by the inspiring Danielle Orner)
The teenagers watch me roll out my yoga mat. As they whisper and nudge each other nervously, I notice most of them are boys. Only two girls are present in the sweltering classroom. I remember the afternoon, when I was nine, that I pushed a boy down on my front lawn and sat on his back. We both still had rollerblades on our feet. His brother raced down the block to get their mom.
When the mom asked why I wouldn’t get up, I burst into tears and explained he said girls couldn’t play street hockey. These boys will one day need courage to defend their yoga practice, which has become feminized in the west and was originally studied only by men for centuries. Now, they’ve vague ideas about yoga.
They’re all in basketball shorts. They’re all here for a year-long rehab program. At fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, they’ve already been consumed by an addiction to drugs and alcohol. I start by telling them my story.
I show them my leg. As they sit cross-legged on their wrestling mats, I see their expressions shift. I am not what they initially expected. I am not another outside adult lecturing them. I’ve been through the fire. In the language of scars, my body tells of oncology wards, of an amputation, of being different, and of fighting for survival. Just like them, my path derailed when I was fifteen. My trials made me grow-up fast.
Suddenly, they see I am not going to tell them life is easy if they just get it together.
We start the flow. They teeter in the balancing poses. Brows farrowed, they studied my every move. No one complains even though the room isn’t air-conditioned. At the end, they all have comments.
One raises his hand and says, “That was so hard but now I feel so relaxed.” I smile at his wonder, his sense of accomplishment, his realization that his moods are his own. He gets the lesson.
Life will be hard, for all of us at different times and in different ways, guaranteed. But we always, always, always have a choice of how to respond. I feel elated at learning this message from them at the same time that I am teaching it. We look at each other and know: we can choose brokenness or we can choose strength.
As they shake my hand, I look into their eyes and think of all the ways they’ve tried to numb the pain and escape their lives. Each of us is still seeking the voice of intuition we’ve buried. After a decade in and out of the hospital, I finally chose to take an active part in my healing. I became present for the good and the bad. When we tap into the now, we discover unconditional love for each other and this unpredictable, beautiful world. The work may be hard but the reward is getting to come home to our lives, our dreams, and our truest selves.
Written and shared with love by Danielle Orner. To find out more about Danielle, click here!
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.