One of the fondest memories of my summer was receiving a gift from one of my yoga students, Nancy Nolan. This gift was a book entitled, “The Other Side of Chaos,” by Margret Silf.
Nancy was a beginner to yoga. She was in her late forties, a little windblown, and came to her first class carrying what appeared to be a camping mat, that you would put under your sleeping bag for cushioning. I gave her a mat (: She had a huge smile. She came to my first “yoga on the beach” class after seeing it advertised in the local paper. It was a dreary, rainy Thursday morning. She explained to me she had many shoulder operations and was very inflexible. She also made it clear that she was overweight…with a chuckle of course.
She also stated…
“This is the first day of the rest of my life.”
I saw your advertisement, and I said to myself, “If not now, when?”
I smiled, and felt an instant connection to this woman. How courageous of her. Now…I knew I needed to make sure I taught her modifications for the poses, and be mindful of her injuries, and make sure she enjoys this! I felt a little pressure, I won’t lie (:.
Nancy came to many classes this summer and she improved drastically. She brought me such joy. Even on the days she didn’t practice, she would stop by the class and say hi to me on her morning beach strolls. She even encouraged her son Shane, a high school junior, to take class as a way to stretch his muscles before the fall sports season. He was as kind as his mother. If she saw me struggling with bringing all my mats up to my car from the beach, somehow she appeared out of nowhere to help me on days she didn’t even take the class!!! Where did she come from!
I didn’t give it too much thought, but I sensed something unusual, special, and spiritual when I encountered her.
One morning she said to me after class, you are here for a reason. I just want you to know that. She said, “I believe that people come into other people’s lives at certain times, if only for a day, a month, or a year, to teach them something that their life needs.
This rang a bell, as I remembered during my yoga teacher training, my teacher, April Martucci, of Fire Dragon Yoga, sharing a definition of what a “soul mate” was. It was a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. It went like this:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
I think Nancy must have read this quote somewhere…she must have???
We talked for a bit more and she asked me why I decided to come spend the summer at the beach and teach yoga and what else I do when I am home. I shared with her my background and that for 10 years I worked in financial services in NYC and NJ, I studied psychology and have a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. I said life threw me a curveball to say the least so there has been some changes and I am taking time to reevaluate, be positive, healthy, and yes, teach yoga. She met my father earlier that day who shared with Nancy that he had just retired from his job as CFO of a major medical company.
She shared with me that she was an Investment Banker for a long time in NYC. That was all she knew for 20 years but she hated it. She didn’t go into details but she said she no longer works in that industry to take a risk and explore working in alternative healing practices. “Can I give you Reiiki this summer? She said with a smile. “Of course,” I replied graciously.
The next morning. She handed me the book, “The Other Side of Chaos.” Inside she wrote, Thank you for yoga, Nancy.
She said, “Please read it, I think you will enjoy it.”
That evening, I opened the book up while on the porch of our beach house. It was a Christian publication, which made me go hmm…for a couple reasons, but I put those thoughts aside and began to read.
It was all about going through life transitions. There was a chapter called ‘Will You Save Your Life or Spend It?’ It was amazing.
Bottom line is, we all encounter transitions in our lives from satisfying work to sudden unemployment. From a happy marriage to a hurtful divorce. From caring for your kids to caring for an aging parent, right?
These are just a few of the countless ways that life hurls us into the chaos of change, where our certainties are shaken and maybe you may even your faith declines. The book Nancy gave me made me ask myself what if we saw the chaos—the “mess”—of our lives not as something to fear or run away from but as something to be embraced?
I knew why she gave me this. I needed to be reminded of these lessons. She came into my life for a reason.
Once a stranger, now my summer soul mate.
So I will share one last thing with you–ultimately, we all need to learn to trust that when life is breaking down we need to see our messes not as something to be rescued from, but as something that will help us break through to a place where all things will be new and better.
I am happy that it was through the practice of yoga that Nancy and I were brought together.