I ‘m a bit of a National Public Radio freak. When I heard Kate Braestrup’s story on On Being while I was hiking, I took another loop around the canyon to catch her entire interview. She’s a chaplain in Maine who accompanies the game wardens on search and rescue missions that often involve loss and disaster; people driving off the side of a snow covered road, or going missing in the wild. Because she lost her own husband unexpectedly in an instant, she knows how important it is to have people around us as we face life’s challenges. Time and time again, she sees the power and beauty of people showing up for one another in a time of need and the juxtaposition of difficulty and compassion. “The question isn’t whether we’re going to have to do hard, awful things, because we are, and we all are. The question is whether we have to do them alone.” Braestrup says. “There is this sense of a community that will hold us.”
At my studio in LA, we witness each other’s lives too. We see each other through the down economy, watch the beautiful pregnant bellies among us turn into miraculous new extended family members. Broken hearts are comforted and new exciting jobs celebrated. We’re not in the wilderness of Maine, we’re in the jungle of the city and I am no chaplain. But human stories do not adhere to zip codes or territories. They belong to us all.
To share them with each other is to hold each other close.
When she came on retreat to Mexico, Sherry was terrified of the bugs, the food, the accommodations (which were luxury) and the sun. While everyone else was raving about the place, splashing in the surf and sipping hibiscus water, she found nothing acceptable. It was six days of misery in paradise. Never would I have foreseen what she proved capable of two years later. After her boyfriend proposed with the only sized diamond she would allow, they were married and had a beautiful baby boy. Three months pregnant with her second child doctors discovered stage-four breast cancer. It was strongly recommended that she abort the baby, as they had to do extreme chemo and radical treatment. She refused and bravely entered uncharted waters receiving the treatments while the baby grew inside her. During this time she would often cyber chat with me. She was not able to physically practice, but the yoga she was doing, breathing through this unbelievable situation, was far more sophisticated than I could ever teach. She, who had not been particularly focused on her mat, was unwavering on this battlefield.
She wanted to find the deeper aspects of her yoga, the “spiritual” ones, and we gently wandered through what that might mean to her. Miracles can be challenging to reconcile. The baby was born healthy and she is cancer free. She is grateful, but true to form, she is not afraid to point to what is unsatisfactory. I learned from Sherry that there is a warrior in all of us, even those of us who would appear to need to outsource such bravery. We don’t know what we’re capable of until we are challenged to the limit. I learned that inspiration is not precious with the string section swelling and the lighting just so. It is human, sometimes impatient, and still true to who it always was.
Originally from Santa Cruz, California, Andrea Marcum proudly opened U Studio Yoga in Los Angeles in 2006. She’s been featured in the Huffington Post, Shape, C Magazine, Self, LA Times, Origin Magazine, Gaiam, Qantas Inflight, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen and more. Andrea’s an Ambassador for Lululemon and Manduka. She’s currently working on a book. Though her early childhood aspirations were to be a fairy princess, she’s pretty happy with the way things have turned out.
FaceBook: U Studio Yoga
YouTube: Andrea Marcum
iTunes: U Studio Podcast