A Day at the VA

People often arrive in mental health facilities during the holidays for a number of reasons. They are either hurting themselves, others, taking too many intoxicants to numb their pain, their families can’t handle their disruptive behavior during the holidays etc., etc. I often see people over and over (meaning they had been discharged, only to return at a later date). Some of their stories as to why they return are heart breaking. I always tell them, “it’s good to see you” and I mean it. Because if they weren’t back in the hospital, they’d either be in jail or dead…..not to be a downer, but this much I know is true.

Today was one of those crazy days. I had one man scream at me because I thought he was telling me his name was Jerry and it was Gary. After me trying to get clarity on his name a second time, he stormed out of the room. Another guy (who told me his name was batman) kept ignoring the boundaries we set in there, to see if I would react. I kept gently reminding him…asking him, “would you please not do that, it’s really difficult to teach when you are walking around the room, touching my things and walking in front of others”. I handle it in this way because I know one wrong word will trigger them. He apologized. He really just wanted to be in that energy in the room and I get that. But it can be a balancing act.

So that left me with one young man, who was really engaged and kept asking me questions. I’d seen him before and thought we really connected so I asked him (at this point, all bets were off)….”do you wanna really play a bit?”. He said sure, and we then went info a beautiful flow…Warrior 1, Warrior 3, Warrior 2, triangle, HALF MOON (mind you this guy is totally medicated), several variations of tree and more. He was awesome and so happy that he could do all of it. If only I could show you his face….priceless. People began looking through the windows outside of the room, and starting practicing in the corridor. It was beautiful!

If I’ve learned one thing teaching here (and it’s what we already know), is that what people really want is connection, they want to feel heard, they want to be seen, they want to feel that others care. And what was really cool about this encounter, is when others saw us connecting in the room, they wanted some of that too. It’s human nature and we can’t help it (like batman wanting to be in that energy). And, a bit of compassion/kindness/love can change someones day.

As I was leaving, “Gary”, said “thanks for coming”. I said “you’re welcome sir” and he screamed, “I’m not sir, I’m Gary”. And I said, “yes..you’re welcome Gary and I hope you have a wonderful day”. That’s all he wanted…to be seen, heard, and to know someone cared (even if it was just saying his name).

I have the best job in the world. May all beings be happy and free.

Gratitude Day 11

Last September I was leading a retreat near Tahoe and after the last session I taught there, a group of us went on a hike. During the hike, we came across a man who was wearing a Vietnam veterans hat. I thanked him for his service and we chatted quite a bit. He told me how great it feels when people thank him for his service because it wasn’t that way when he returned from Vietnam in the 70s, when people who were against that war took their frustrations out on returning veterans.

I told him I was co-leading a retreat to Vietnam next spring and he said he is ready to go back and see that country in a different light. We discussed my work with veterans and I suggested he try yoga which, surprisingly, he seemed open to the idea. He said he was grateful to the VA for all they did to help him with his PTSD. His wife was with him and I told her he was lucky to have her to support him through his healing. He and I had a connection and we probably could have talked much longer.

Two weeks ago, I went to an art show for veterans. The art these vets created is part of their treatment. I was surprised at how talented they are. And , of course, I was humbled by their brutal, raw honesty reflecting their process. Grateful for our veterans and their sacrifices, grateful for chance encounters, grateful to the VA and all they do to help our vets, and grateful that I get to have a tiny part in all of it. ‪#‎breathefirst‬ ‪#‎breathelosgatos‬‪#‎thankyouthankyouthankyou‬ ‪#‎veteransyoga‬ ‪#‎veteran‬ ‪#‎yogalife‬ ‪#‎yoga‬

Gratitude Day 2

Center for Survivors of Torture

Center for Survivors of Torture

I’m grateful for these people at the Center for Survivors of Torture. I’ve been volunteering for the last two years here and I look forward to this class every Monday. These three are from Bosnia, Syria, and Iraq. Some of the people who come to class take two buses and it can take up to an hour and a half each way to get to and from class. We have fun and laugh a lot, especially when the instruction gets lost in translation. They are surprisingly fit, as their cultures generally move more than Americans and they’ll try anything I throw their way. I adore these people and am grateful that I get to serve them once a week. ‪#‎thankyouthankyouthankyou‬ ‪#‎breathefirst‬ ‪#‎livinthedream‬‪ #‎gratitude‬ ‪#‎weareallthesame‬

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