Yesterday I practiced yoga on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum along with 1500 other souls. The occasion was the 10th annual Yoga on the Steps, an annual fundraiser for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. It was one of those crystal clear days when, whatever your orientation, you just can’t help but feel blessed to be alive. The sun shone brightly, the sky was vast and cloudless. The breeze cooled and surprised us with it’s gentle gusts.
The yoga practice, lead by Jennifer Schelter, was inspired and inspiring. The class honored the creative process of life. Jennifer gracefully matched each movement with a question, ‘Breathing in, what are you aspiring to? Folding forward on the exhale, What will you leave behind? Breathing in and looking at the horizon, What is your dream? Folding forward, Who are you now?’ The whole class was a living, breathing metaphor for who each of us is becoming.
Practicing yoga outside is always uplifting, and practicing with such a large group of people is truly inspiring. Practicing with a shared intention is powerful. But the coolest thing about yesterday was being in community. We were a large and diverse group of people sharing the beautiful day, sharing the dramatic space, sharing our practice together. We were also there together wordlessly sharing our personal experience with breast cancer; sharing grief and sharing gratitude. Among us there were long-term survivors and women who had recently been diagnosed. I heard one woman afterward at a bra vendor’s table, her life-filled laugh ringing, “No, I can’t get a bra today, I’m about to get a double mastectomy and who knows what size I’ll be!” There were sisters, husbands, mothers, sons, cousins, friends. There were daughters like me. I lost my mother 20 years ago, a year after the birth of my first child. Almost every day I feel sad, and sometimes pissed, that she missed knowing and loving him and the three that followed. I miss her.
Community: A unified body of individuals.
Brought together as one.
I believe what really brought us together yesterday was the commingling of our ineffable spirits, entwined by an invisible web, connecting us in the infinite blueness of the sky; and the intangible web of human emotion, below us that connects and grounds us all, like a vast and complex root system. Birth, death, loss, love, dreams, gratitude, grief, joy. These are the wings and roots that unite us in humanity.