"Lockey, can you take us outside to do yoga? I want to see what it feels like to practice yoga under the sun."
The man who asked me this question died two weeks after making this request.
His parole officer said he died of a heart attack. One might assume his heart attack was the result of a relapse or the result on his body of long-term drug use. I guess they would be fair assumptions to make because he was, in fact, participating in a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program. But being an addict in recovery was only a part of who he was. There was so much more to him.
When he first came to my yoga class (I teach in the facility), he was reserved. We introduced ourselves to each other. He indicated that he had never done yoga, and truthfully, wasn't very interested in participating in the class. After thanking him for his honesty, I invited him to hang out and just experience the class. If he felt like there was a pose that looked interesting, he could try it. At the very least, he could just connect with his breath.
As I began teaching, he sat and watched. He didn't take his eyes off me for a minute. I think he was waiting for me to give him a stern look or make a comment about him not participating. After a few minutes, he realized that I wasn't going to "force" to do anything, and slowly, he began to move with the class. At the end of class, he thanked me for "making yoga less weird for him."
After that, anytime he was in my class, he participated. He shared his feelings. He asked me questions about how best to connect with his breath. After one class, He remarked; "yoga helps me settle my mind."
After he asked me if we could go outside to practice yoga, I brought it up to the group participants as well as the therapists who run the facility. All were in agreement that this would be a good idea.
The following week a group of around 12 participants walked the 5 minute distance from the facility to the harbor with yoga mats under one arm and, for some, a cigarette in the other hand.
After practicing under a gazebo, I asked the group if they would be willing to walk around the harbor to see if there was a place closer to the water where we might practice the next time. The entire group walked around with me, scouting out potential yoga class spots. We ended up sitting under a tree, they smoked cigarettes while we all somehow got on the subject of our pets. Soon phones were pulled out to show photos of pets, which resulted in jokes about whose pet was the cutest. (My dog was clearly the cutest.)
Eventually, we reluctantly returned to the facility. That night, I was telling my husband about the connection we all felt. I acknowledged him for coming up with the idea. I remember telling my husband "If you met this guy, you would want to hang out with him."
He died two days after that class. I still can not reconcile the part of him that was so loving and kind and that other part of him. I wish I had the chance to show him who I saw when I looked at him.
I have no profound lesson to end this essay. Frankly, the whole thing sucks. I hang on the fact that I was blessed with the opportunity to know this man. I will remember him as he was to me; humble, kind and loving.