In my yoga class is a young woman with blue eyes, muscular legs and a quick smile.
Yesterday, she placed her mat next to mine. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and when I turned towards her I saw that her hair was shorn with the softest, brown fuzz peeking around her hair band.
It registered that this woman is struggling. She is battling a disease. Outwardly she looked the same, perhaps a little tired. As the blood flows through her veins, alongside it flows the chemicals that are challenging her every cell.
It then struck me that every person has a battle inside them whether it’s a physical manifestation of cancer, an addiction, mourning a loved one or a divorce.
Each one of us has poisoned cells to varying degrees.
We can’t explain what causes one person to develop an illness over another. Some might say it’s karma, others blame lifestyle or genetics.
But each of us chooses how we deal with those painful hurdles.
Do we rail against the world, blame others, blame ourselves?
Or do we find strength in those around us, strength in our yoga practice, strength from our love for a supreme being, for ourselves.
For a moment, I imagined, it could be me fighting the cancer battle.
Why her? My mind spiraled to the pain, the loneliness and the fear she must be feeling.
I willed myself to send her some energy, some strength through the vibrations of our practice to help carry her along.
She hadn’t been to yoga in awhile and that can throw anyone off. But I sensed she may have been doubting herself as she struggled with the core challenge and the endless plank poses. I noticed my breathing and my heart and I wondered how different she must feel—more tired, perhaps in pain from surgery or the endless needles and catheters.
Who else in the room was facing similar unknown hurdles. Without the badge of hair loss, who knows what pain those around us are facing?
The journey in this life has so many unknowns.
How can we hope to overcome?
I know we are all faced with a choice to either fight, or to succumb, no matter what poison we are facing.
Late at night, in the witching hour, our vulnerability is laid out in plain view. All the hurts, real and imagined, are there endlessly spiraling in our mind. How horrific it must be to have cancer as your late night dream partner.
I cannot be imagine that type of fear. It puts into perspective the daily patter of meaningless issues we allow to pepper our conscience.
The moment of peace that arrives on the mat in Sukhasana must be the purest joy one can experience in this life.
The birth of a baby, the thrill of love, the pain of death, the fear of illness, these are all part of our life journey.
We choose our armour and our path. Predictably, some people will have more battles than joy. But we all end up in the same place, on our backs, taking the last breath of our bodies and hopefully in that moment we are filled with joy and peace beyond belief.
Or perhaps it’s pure, unadulterated fear. But I hope it will be joy.
That day at yoga, I resolved to enjoy my moment of peace to the absolute fullest and to wish that young woman the strength to continue her journey.
We all are all fighting our own personal battles and we all deserve to share in some peace. As we shared our final “Om”, I hoped that our collective energy would be enough to carry her along.
This day and every day, let’s all resolve to help each other on and off the mat. It’s a small wish but just maybe, we can make a big difference.
I hope I see her next week and the week after that. I hope that if I ever have to battle the dragon of cancer that I can do it with purpose and grace, and that my family, my friends, yoga, and even strangers in my path, will give me the strength to reclaim my peace.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kim Mackay
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock