unexpected witness

On Monday mornings I teach an early yoga class downtown.  It feels productive to drive in and set up in the creaky wooden space, well before the sun comes up.  I love being up early, particularly on Mondays, and it seems to set up the week well with potential and focus. I tend to keep the lights low for much of the class, and people creak and pop in their morning bodies. No one says much so the morning can come in without much interference. Mostly when it’s that early people practice yoga like they are crawling out of hibernation. 

There is an apartment building directly across from the yoga studio, and the class begins while the city is still sleeping.  The old apartments have big windows that tell stories, and I imagine they are drafty and made up of the original glass. As I guide the poses, there is always a couple who begins their day in front of us with no curtains.  Usually about the time we get through sun salutations, they have turned on the lights and begun the morning coffee ritual. We have privy to the kitchen and the common living space, and this year they did have a Christmas tree. 

They get their drinks and bustle around the room, still shuffling in slippers and robes for a good portion of our class.  They seem kind to each other, and appear deliberate about starting the day with a steady purpose and slow steps. They usually sit down and look at each other right by the window, which I love the most, often about the time we are winding down towards softer and more supine poses. 

One morning looked like a fight, but it seemed to melt before they left the apartment.  During a class about three Mondays after I had first noticed them, a small head bobbed along the top of the window.  They have a child in the space only every now and then, and it seems like there are more lights on when he or she is there. There is more vitality when there is three instead of two, and maybe they try more, too. This small person’s inconsistent presence reminds me that we all have detours, broken relationships, and repaired stories. There are ways we continue to show up anyway, especially for those we love.

It has turned out to be a class of faithful regulars, and I assume they have noticed this family. Mostly, I think I enjoy them because it feels incredibly tender and human. I see the tension, the love, and the ordinary rituals each Monday. 

Recently, I taught on the loaded word “guru”. The word means the dispeller of darkness, and the “guru principle” is anything that moves us from darkness to light. A guru can come in the form of yoga pose, a 2-year old, the way the sunlight shines through an old window, or witnessing someone’s humanity on a regular Monday.  It seems like when we can practice really paying attention, there is a treasure map of teachers always right in front of us. I suppose this family can see us too, and they might be receiving something in return. Maybe they have talked about us over their coffee by the window.