Yoga – I have no idea what is happening.

What is happening might be more profound than you know. Cultivate the happening.  – Matthew Sanford’s retelling of a quote from one of his yoga teachers

Tomorrow I will participate in the funeral of a yoga student. It’s my second funeral as the yoga instructor. The first funeral I was part of (as a yoga instructor) was for a hilarious, creative, and much loved woman named Robin. She died from a vicious case of cancer that did not come on suddenly, yet we had never actually talked about death, dying, her funeral – that stuff- in any particular way. We “just” did yoga together. She regularly came to a Monday morning class and even a Saturday morning retreat right up until about 2 weeks before she died. I was always surprised and amazed to see her walk through the doors for class. She was going through chemo and radiation and there she was showing up for yoga classes. Sometimes she mostly laid down or adapted the poses in the chair. But, she kept showing up. Some of her dearest friends were almost always in the class. We did cry some. But, we surely laughed more than we cried. Robin hadn’t made any real plans for her funeral. She didn’t actually ask me to be a part of it, her family did. I was humbled, to say the least.

Tomorrow’s funeral is for a larger-than-life, wonder of a human named Steve. Steve was a retired Presbyterian minister and a few wild lifetimes of other things besides that. I was blessed to be tucked under his Albatrossian wing as a young campus pastor at the University of Illinois 10 years ago.  I started doing yoga with him every week in his home, this past February (or maybe March?). This was about 3 months in to his “6 months to live” prognosis from stage 4 Pancreatic cancer. Steve was a very public figure in the community and spoke quite candidly about dying. He posted a picture on Facebook of himself next to his gravestone that he purchased and had prepared. He had a really unique view of the world and a great sense of humor that somehow normalized the dying process, if that makes any sense.  So, several months ago, when he asked me to do 5 minutes of chair yoga at his funeral, I laughed out loud. It sounded so hilarious that I had to check to make sure he wasn’t playing a trick on me. But, no, he was sincere.  Huh. Ok. Of course, I will do that.

Tomorrow at the funeral service of this deeply loved Presbyterian minister, I will lead the congregation in 5 minutes of chair yoga. It will be meditation of sorts, but it is how I start every yoga class. I’m assuming that was what he wanted me to do…not a deep hip opener or Downward Facing Dog.

I never asked Robin or Steve why they kept showing up for yoga. Honestly, I don’t know if they could have articulated why they continued, nearly right until their death. I am not sure I understand it at all either, even though I was also there — I’m the teacher?!  The only reply I have to that question is what has been whispering in my ear for months; there is more happening than we know or could ever perceive.

The magic of it seems to be in the showing up. Maybe we don’t even need to know the why or the how’s of what is happening. Like Robin and Steve, we just keep showing up. Cultivate the happening. I am so grateful – so grateful – and humbled to show up with all these wonderful people. Like you.

peace on your head, you.


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