Last Saturday afternoon we welcomed Rolf Gates to our Naperville studio. Over 50 people filed into our studio, set up their mats and waited. I was among them….finally….after months, weeks, days of preparation the time had arrived.
I sat on my mat, tried to calm my mind from the many details I had tended to….were they all done? Too late now, I told myself, we are here, this is the time, that is all that matters.
And then it came…..the whole room inhaled together and the first OM of the day welled up around me like a wave of love, joy and anticipation. Tears sprang to my eyes as I knew that in that moment, in that OM, I was surrounded by my community, my people were here, filling our studio with the pure sound of open hearts.
What is OM after all that it should have such a profound impact on me? OM is said to be the very first sound of the universe and when we chant OM it helps us remember that we are part of something greater, connected to the universe and all those others around the world who chant OM. OM is about the universal community. But, sometimes that connection doesn’t feel quite near enough for me, and I’m left wondering if my own OM is just lost in space.
But this OM, this first OM and all the OM’s that followed that day were magical. They were visceral. They were close. They were supportive. They were community. Ah, back to that word…community. The word for community in Sanskrit is Kula and it means an intentional community. Kula is a community that comes together of its own free will. It is a community of the heart. I would hesitate to say family because with family you have to be born into it, adopted into it, or marry into it. With Kula you are freely welcomed as you simply set an intention to be part of the community.
Recently I have been feeling the loss of community in my life. I left my position at the churchwide headquarters where I worked and miss the co-workers and pastors around the country with whom I shared an intention for growing the church. And, in the yoga world, I have noticed a trend toward more studio hopping rather than setting down roots to be part of something bigger. No sooner do I get to know a new student than they are gone to a different introductory offer.
Of course, In many ways yoga is a very individual endeavor, but the purpose of that individual endeavor is for a greater good. We use yoga to change ourselves and improve our lives for the sake of the world, for the sake of the people around us, to bring something better to the earth. Sure, we can go it alone but community helps keep us on track, true to our intention and still part of the larger intention.
So, that first OM and all the OM’s that followed that day, helped me remember that I haven’t lost anything and that I am still part of a great(er) community of like minded people with whom I can share the challenge and joy that is yoga. Separately we can change our lives but together we can change the world.
Next time you are on your mat, open your awareness to the people around you. Share your breath with them, share your good intentions with them, share your heart with them, and then….OM with wild abandon. Come. Come into the kula, come home.