"Tis time New Hopes should animate the world, New Light should dawn for New Revealings to a race weighed down so long, forgotten so long..." ~ Paracelsus (Robert Browning)
I'm so excited about this New Year! I just know that 2015 is going to give us all plenty of opportunities to practice being more loving, compassionate, creative and kind. So many wonderful new chances to share the Love and be the Light.
A Course in Miracles says: "Teach Only Love - For That Is What You Are." In ACIM, to "teach" means to demonstrate. Which means, you don't have to take out an ad in the paper, or make some big announcement on Facebook, or get up on a box on some street corner (although that might be fun to watch!) and preach about how in 2015 you're going to be a kick-ass Pilgrim of Love.
All you have to do is get your heart and mind right each morning and then go out there and simply live your life. It will be through your daily thoughts, words and actions that your dedication and devotion to God/Goodness, to Love/Spirit will reveal itself and leave it's sweet, tender impression on your brother's and sister's hearts. Living your life in Love - this is your yoga practice.
As I've probably said a gazillion times before, if you can stick your foot behind your head, that's great. If you can sit for 2 hours of meditation, cool. If you can chant all 40 verses of the Hanuman Chalisa, awesome, but when you're done doing those things, if you go out into the world and act like a selfish asshole, then you're not doing your yoga.
Yoga asks more of us. This practice asks us to bring our awareness of our highest Self into everything that we do. That we try to see the Divine in all beings and creatures, that we do our best as Yogi Bhajan says, "To be the forklift" and raise each other up. Only building one another up in Love, never tearing down out of Fear.
So this is my New Year's request of all of you, and even thought it's a small favor, it's a long story, so thank you in advance for reading, as I ask for your help to bring hope, love and buoyancy to one of our fellow yogis - Mr. Cory Daiker.
(Just so you know upfront, he's given me 100% permission to share his story with all of you. What he doesn't know, is why I want to share it.)
For the past year or so, I've been mentoring Cory. This isn't unusual as you guys know, I offer Spiritual and Yoga Teacher Mentoring. What makes this situation special is that Cory is 3,000 miles away from me in CA. And he's also in prison.
Long story short, he's not in there for anything violent. Let's just say that Cory had himself a little habit, and to support that habit he decided to become a "gardener" of sorts. Much to his surprise, he had a natural gift of a green thumb. The kid could grow some shit - are you with me? So he uses his talents legitimately and starts out working for a small medical co-op. But then, one thing leads to another. And even though Cory smartens up and gets out of the business, moves back in with his mom (that's her in the picture with him) and enrolls himself in community college - it's already too late, a previous situation catches up to him. But he does the right thing and turns himself into the Marshals and he ends up getting a shorter sentence due to the good changes he made before going to prison.
So, this is when it gets interesting. In October of 2012, while he's incarcerated in FCI Lompoc, he discovers yoga! One of the other inmates, whose been in there for 10 years and is self taught, invites him to his yoga class and gives him the B.K.S. Iyengar book, "Light on Yoga." Cory reads the book, starts his own daily practice and over the course of the month becomes hooked.
Lo and behold, over time, Cory slowly starts to teach other inmates too. Nothing super formal, just sharing what he's learned from the different yoga books he started reading (his mom sends them to him) and from his own practice.
This is where I come in. His mom Kathy reached out to me in 2013 on Cory's behalf (she found me online) and asked if I would be willing to work with Cory and mentor him? She said he was thinking that when he got out of prison, he might like to one day become a yoga teacher!! I thought that was pretty cool and I was like, "OK, I've got to talk this guy."
And that's just what we've done. Via long emails and in short 15 minute phone conversations (you're not allowed to talk more than that) - we've talked - a lot about yoga and all kinds of things and I've gotten to know him.
Over the past 15 months, Cory has completed an incredible recovery program. He was such a positive presence in his group that the leaders chose to make him a mentor to others. He's continued with his exploration of yoga and like any student knows, some days go better than others. It's truly difficult to maintain a consistent practice in prison because, as you can imagine, you can't really let your guard fully down. The fact that Cory continues on is remarkable to me.
He also become vegetarian and has been able to put some of his innate gardening talents to use. He's been working to replace the existing hydroponic system to a fully organic system that doesn't use heavy salts as fertilizer. He said to me one day, "It's kind of funny to do new things, taking and using old knowledge I gained for illegal purposes and re-tasking it for something positive. This is the first time I can grow things and not worry about failure and I'm having a big breakthrough that I think could be quite beneficial to the farm industry and urban farming and it feels awesome!"
He's also working hard to cut out sugar (not easy with prison food), caffeine (he had headaches for days) and because of his work in the garden, he's able to eat some organic greens and even juice them a little. He can't wait to get out and once again be able to control his own diet. :)
His hope is to someday maybe teach yoga to people who are in recovery. We laugh a little sometimes because he's never even had the chance to take a yoga class at an actual studio yet! But my hope is that when he gets out, he'll land in the perfect yoga community somewhere in CA and they'll be as welcoming, friendly and supportive as I know you guys would be.
The other day, Cory wrote to me and one of the things he shared landed so deeply in my heart - he was talking about humility and gratitude and said,
"Just today, I had this crazy moment when I was standing in the garden watching the birds play and the hummingbirds and dragonflies flying around and the sky was so blue and it hit me. Oh my, I'm in jail. And I get to watch all this beauty. How crazy. So right there and then, I sat down in lotus and gave thanks for this day and how grateful I was for things to land the way they did and allow me all this. I thought this experience of jail was going to ruin my life but it has made it so much fuller and probably stopped me from slowly destroying my body over time. So, I can't believe I'm saying this being a prisoner but, I am thankful for jail and what it did to save my life."
If you guys could have seen me smiling and crying and pounding my desk repeatedly in glorious joy!! YES, YES, YES - HE GETS IT!!!
I was thrilled for him that he'd had that personal revelation and it made me so happy, that I wanted to celebrate it and do something nice for Cory. So, this is where you guys come in. Don't worry, I'm not asking for any money. Just a few minutes of your time. So this is my idea...
Cory will hopefully be getting released in November 2015. Fingers crossed it all goes great but in the meantime, I'd like to send him some words of encouragement. I'd like for him to know that even though we're far away, he already has a yoga community rooting for him and cheering him on - as he finishes up his prison time.
All I ask, is that if you could shoot me a quick email with a few encouraging words for Cory - whatever your heart inspires you to write - and I will collect them all and put them together in one big New Years email to surprise him. It will not include your email address or any kind of identifying info, just your "forklift" of a note and your first name.
Thank you in advance for those of you that choose to participate. It means a lot to me and I know it will mean the world to Cory (and his mom)! This is just one fun way that we can start our New Year with more love, compassion, kindness and creativity!
Wishing every single one of you a beautiful and blessed New Year. May you continue to shine and keep lifting each other up!