Attitude of Gratitude
By Theresa Caruso, November, 2018
If you had told me a year ago that I would be writing the Focus of the Month for the Yoga Shanti newsletter, my response would have been, “Get outta town!” Yet, here I am, doing just that. No, I cannot quote yoga sutras and give you words of wisdom, but I will share some of the experiences and discoveries I’ve had since I’ve come to Yoga Shanti.
Back in April, I came on board as the new manager of the Sag Harbor studio. I had no prior experience running a yoga studio, but I’ve had plenty of other business experience over the years working in finance and running restaurant kitchens. I thought “How difficult could it be?”
Surprise! In my first week alone, I was reduced to tears. I was bamboozled with trying to memorize a zillion student names, learning a new computer system, dealing with MindBody and customer accounts, finding last-minute substitute teachers, responding to a barrage of emails, dealing with emergency locksmiths, purchasing props, cleaning blankets, editing the newsletter, doing the bookkeeping and so on. A hundred times a day I asked myself, “What the heck did I get myself into?” A former Yoga Shanti manager, upon hearing my plight, informed me, “Theresa, this is not a job. It’s a lifestyle!” Boy, how right she was!
Amidst the maelstrom, I had one anchor in the sea of insanity at work each day and that was the chance to jump into yoga classes. It was delicious to have 60 or 90 minutes to “zone out” and not have to think at all. Tentatively, I started to take classes as if I was gingerly sticking my toe in to test the waters. Yoga wasn’t totally new to me but I hadn’t regularly practiced in almost 25 years. I used to frequent a little studio on Staten Island at the edge of New York Harbor where I could lay in savasana and hear the ferry fog horns and the clanging of the buoys. The passage of time, however, was none too kind to me, physically-speaking, with the jelly rolls, the stiff and creaky bones and the loss of flexibility. Most of all, I had completely lost my ability to balance which, I believed, was merely a reflection of my mental state. My mind could not be stilled, it could not focus. It just raced from one thing to another and, try as I might, I couldn’t lasso it in.
While at the studio, I came to know the many students who religiously came to class each day, despite busy schedules, inclement weather, sickness, physical injuries and personal obligations. Some students even came twice a day. I watched the beginners’ club members, so dedicated and enthusiastic, and the 8:00 am crew who you could count on to show up like the rising of the sun. Don’t even get me started on all the wonderful teachers. I would try their different classes like I was sampling a smorgasbord. I gleaned a precious morsel from each one of them.
In retrospect, six months and 100 yoga classes later, I notice a gradual change, a shift. Physically, I feel like I’ve grown two inches taller. I find space in my body where there was none before, as well as increased strength and flexibility. Don’t get me wrong, I still have far to go. Tree pose is daunting and I fall out of it every time. I can’t do a chaturanga to save my life. But that’s ok. I just keep plugging at it. One day, it may come. If it doesn’t, that’s ok, too.
With that attitude, I note, more importantly, a shifting in my mind – an acceptance of things as they are right here, right now. There is the beginning of a mindfulness, a new-found patience, an appreciation of every little thing – even if it’s something as mundane as folding the studio blankets or, for that matter, something as basic as drawing breath. It’s amazes me how, for years, I’ve only breathed “from the neck up”, never taking the time to actually inhale deeply and exhale with satisfaction. At times, I confess, I’ve even caught myself with a peaceful and quiet mind –not racing around like it usually does. I can relish silence rather than be fearful of it. Has yoga taught me all that? I don’t know…perhaps…or perhaps it’s just that yoga puts you in that mental state where you can be open to all things. It’s amazing how many times people have crossed my desk saying “Yoga has changed my life.” Now, I can believe it! This is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows the lifetime of lessons yoga can bring?
One of my favorite parts of class is when a teacher says, “Take time now to dedicate your practice.” Wow! What a beautiful thought! To think that we can give something back for all the good we receive. Whether you believe in the power of prayer or of raising your mind and heart to a higher consciousness or of just sending good energy out into a world so desperately in need of it, I’m gladdened by the notion that, by dedicating your practice, you can bring somebody or something some good.
So, this Thanksgiving, at the risk of sounding sentimental, I will have an attitude of gratitude. I am very grateful for my beautiful daughter, Lucia; my family; my home; my job; my bosses; my chance to practice yoga – for all the blessings in my life. Also, I am grateful to you all – you students and teachers who continue to inspire and encourage me each and every day. This Thanksgiving, I dedicate my practice to you.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!