Ok, I know Sharon Gannon, founder of Jivamukti and vegan extraordinaire…and we have had our differences of opinion, to put it lightly.
In fact, the Huffington Post asked us to have a video debate about it. I was really into it at the time; not to change anyone’s mind about their diet, but to give those who eat meat and practice yoga a role model.
Between you and me, however, I secretly hoped to challenge Sharon on some of the judgment I see within the vegan community when it comes to interacting with yogis who choose other forms of nutrition. Though I had never met her in person, there has been some energetic distance between her and I, though I may be the only one who was feeling it.
So when I was at the Yoga Journal Conference presenter’s dinner at the New York Hilton the other night and got a tap on the shoulder, the last person I expected to see when I turned around was Sharon.
Yet that’s exactly what happened. Usually, I keep my interactions with well-known yogis private—however, I think this one’s worth sharing.
But first, let’s back up to the night before. I walked into my Rock Your Core class of 100 students on Friday evening with my iPhone firmly in hand. I’d made a playlist, including Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On a Prayer (of course), and right after that, Pashupati, one of the most gorgeous yoga songs I’ve heard. It’s on Sharon’s new album, Sharanam.
I included it on purpose, knowing the conference was bringing together teachers of wildly different perspectives and focal points, and so when it played, I gave her a shout out, saying something like “Sharon and I may have differing views on food, but I love her album and this song, and I wanted to share it with you.”
Then I continued on with the class.
Fast-forward to the dinner, and the proverbial tap, and the very quick exchange that became a powerful moment for me, and I think for her too.
I turned to see Sharon standing above me with one of her main teachers. He said, “Sadie, may I introduce you to my teacher, Sharon Gannon.”
I stood, took her hand and said, “It is so lovely to meet you.” She answered, “I heard you played my music in class the other day, and I wanted to come and say thank you so much!”
I let her know how much I enjoyed it, and said I was happy to share it with everyone. Then I paused, wondering if I should say what was in my heart. I was not certain how she would react, yet my truth had to come out.
I looked her deep in the eyes, still holding her hand, and said,
“Sharon…though our diets may be different…
…we share the same soul.”
What happened next took me completely by surprise.
Instead of politely thanking me and exiting the situation, Sharon, without a second’s pause, said “Oh!”, and passionately embraced me.
It was the kind of completely unfettered, joyous hug you get maybe three times in a lifetime, like when you tell your best friend you’re getting married to the wonderful guy she was rooting for.
For me, actions speak louder than words, and in that moment of utter abandon and acceptance, we were, quite literally, one.
Instead of judging me, or I her, we were able to communicate from that core place where the details fall away, and what remains is the compassion, the deep peace, and as fellow teachers on a national level, the sometimes seemingly insane desire to spend one’s lifetime in the full service of others’ healing.
A fruit basket, a heartfelt hug, a kind word in a blog–these are all roads into my heart. I’m easy that way. But that exchange was truly something special, and I saw her true Self encapsulated in it. Sharon gave me a great gift that night.
I clearly saw that she and I, just as I, and anyone else, are far more alike than different. Regardless of the places we may disagree, I fell head over YogiToes in love with her in that moment, as pure love offered out instantly tends to do.
Now I figure, instead of debating about the areas where we digress, I’d rather spend this use of cyberspace reminding myself, and all you in our larger yoga community, that we ultimately belong together. Still speaking our truths, of course, but also healing the chasms that can divide us, the competition, the gossip, backbiting and separatism that is prevalent even in the yoga world.
Perhaps if the teachers lead the way, the students will also come to understand that yoga is so many things, and is comprised of infinite pathways toward balance. Instead of remaining fragmented, can we make our way back toward unity?
As Sharon made her way out of the room later that night, she caught my eye, and paused, hands together at her heart, to give me a deep and reverent bow…one I returned without hesitation. In that moment of Namaste, where the light in her recognized and honored the light within me, and vice-versa, I knew without a shadow of a doubt:
If a Conscious Carnivore and the Vegan Queen can do it,
we all can.
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