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Drop Mats, Not Bombs

I’ve lived in Boston my whole life, and have watched the Boston Marathon from many different locations along the route. However, April 15, 2013 was the first time I ever stood at the finish line. The sun was shining, the temperatures were nearing 65 degrees, it was perfect.  My younger sister, had spent the last four months training for her first Boston marathon. I witnessed the fundraising, the long runs, the short runs, the blisters, the days where after working eight hours she would get right into an eight-mile run. By mid-morning I had posted up in front of the Uno’s Restaurant on Boylston Street, and I was enjoying meeting the families around me from all over the world. I helped these “strangers” cheer their loved ones on. After I received the text that my sister had just passed the 26th mile marker, I anxiously began searching the crowd of runners for her familiar face. Right then is when it happened. The first explosion, 400 feet to my left. It sounded loud but far away. I thought, “Don’t be crazy; it was nothing.” I turned back to the right not wanting to miss my sister as she ran by. A second explosion, 200 feet to my right. I was facing towards it and felt the heat on my face.

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I walked away from that day with my life, all of my limbs, all of my family members accounted for. My heart aches for those who cannot say that. An incredible range of emotions followed that day from disbelief, guilt, sadness, gratitude. But worst of all, I felt terror. I have always been aware of the violence that happens every day in our world. However, I never lived my life in fear. But this made everything feel personal. And suddenly, unintentionally, I had a deeper understanding of fear, war, and hatred. Sirens and loud bangs had a new meaning to me. I was guarded, angry, and prejudice. But I knew it wasn’t fair for me to live that way. I must continue to live a positive life in honor of those who had their lives ripped away from them, right in front of my eyes.

After a lot of reflection I made some promises to myself. One of those promises was to never take my body, its abilities, and my practice for granted. What a gift, to have a healthy body. After being so close to having this taken away from me, I truly began to appreciate it. I signed up for Teacher Training.

Three years later, it is hard to believe not much has changed and every news report is filled with violence, hatred, and terror. The past few months have been heartbreaking. When I saw the video footage of the tragedy in Nice, it felt too familiar.  The news reporters always search for a motive and almost jump to the conclusion of radicalization.  Rather than understanding why this could happen we start to alienate ourselves from the act of violence. We demonize the people who commit these acts.

Don’t take this the wrong way, because I am in no way excusing any act of violence, of terror, of hate. But maybe part of the reason this continues is because we separate ourselves from these acts of evil.  And as a very apathetic person, sometimes I feel helpless. I want to help victims; I want to speak out against violence but how? I am not a doctor, a police officer, an elected official, or a social worker.

Recently, while attending a Yoga festival, I had the pleasure of taking class with Seane Corn. During her class, I had an “aha” moment. I do not know what her exact words were but I will do my best to rephrase/share what stuck with me, because it’s so valuable. Seane, if you are reading, sorry if I butcher this and thank you for this reminder.

“You may not be able to grasp, or understand, or recognize within yourself the capability to commit an act of violence. You may not be able to find it in your heart to carry hatred towards others. However you do have the ability. You have the ability to hate, you have the ability to murder. You are human being and so are those who commit hatred and violence. There are demons that live inside all of us. However we have an outlet. We have loved ones, yoga, meditation, community, spirituality, self-love, and self-expression. Instead of looking at the stories of the people who commit these acts we need to start to look at them as human beings. Forget the story. Do not focus on what divides us but rather focus at what makes us the same.”

yogi feet

Wow. I was reminded that when someone tries to hurt us, we must do our best to let go of all prejudice and recognize that it is a call for love. Instead of allowing these moments to terrorize us, to separate us, we must seize the opportunity to unconditionally love, without the fear of being hurt again. If you can provide others with an outlet, to let go of their stress, their fears, and their pain, you should provide them with that gift. When you do this, you will realize that everything that divides us is not real.

In my ideal world, everyone would practice Yoga, and there would be world peace. And now that you think I am a crazy irrational hippy, I will clarify: I do not know how Yoga could possibly end terrorism. But realistically, it can provide an outlet to so many people. An outlet to let go of trauma. Bad Yogi provides us with this type of community. It is a place where all are welcome, and we can begin to recognize that the things that make us different from each other should be celebrated, not feared. And I live my life without fear, because I know that terror is too heavy of a burden to bear.  I recognize that our stories outside of that space do not define us because we are all the same. I cannot compare myself the incredibly brave people on the front lines of those combating terrorist actions. However, I can roll out some Yoga mats and provide a safe place in my community, promoting strength, peacefulness, and understanding.

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6 Comments

  1. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    July 20, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    My heart ached as I read this, but through that ache, my heart also cheered. You are so right. We are all people. We are all capable of horrible and of heroic things. It is up to us how we choose to use this vessel we call our body. You are a hero. You are a hero to your students when you roll out your mat, to your sister as you cheered her on through training and through devastation, you are a hero to all those who read this, today. Thank you so such a beautiful message.

    1. Jennifer Pollio

      Jennifer Pollio

      July 21, 2016 at 9:38 am

      Thanks Megan, I know it’s easy to feel alone and helpless during tough times. We are lucky to have the Bad Yogi community.

  2. Chelsea

    Chelsea

    July 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    This is an amazing piece. I loved every word. Thanks for sharing that experience with us. And Seane’s words… They gave me a lightbulb moment, too!

    1. Jennifer Pollio

      Jennifer Pollio

      July 21, 2016 at 9:39 am

      Thanks Chelsea, I am glad I was able to share it with you.

  3. Michael Duncan

    Michael Duncan

    July 20, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you for your inspiring words. After working these past 30+ years as a first responder I often wonder about the lack of physical, mental, and emotional outlets in my patients lives. I have to remind myself that I am lucky to belong to my Yoga and meditative communities. I agree with you – if all people could take advantage of our understanding and supportive communities, we may not stop the anger, hatred and violence, but we certainly could put a dent in it

    1. Jennifer Pollio

      Jennifer Pollio

      July 21, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Thank you for your service to the community Michael. You inspire me to do my small part.

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