Dear, everybody, With sadness, with deep feeling, I have to announce that the studio space will be closing on November 30, 2016. I recognize that this will bring questions, and sadness, and deep feeling to you as well. The studio will remain on full schedule for the rest of the month. I will be there every day; I want to be there for those questions and emotions. They are valid and important. I also want to help you figure out other options for practice locally, and how to continue practicing with me outside the studio space.
I've thought long and hard about this, and have explored every possible alternative to closing the doors. But renting a storefront is simply not financially sustainable for the kind of work Return, does.
In the early days of this decision, I felt a tremendous sense of failure and loss. This building holds such meaning, has held so many moments, took so much sweat and time and tears to bring into being. Opening took a tremendous leap of faith and unheard of personal bravery; closing felt like defeat. But going more deeply into the question, with talk and with time, I'm realizing this isn't a failure. It is, sad. But it's not a failure.
What has happened here has been stunning. Over 4000 people have practiced with Return, either in the studio or through outreach programs. That includes more than 500 kids. Return has worked with police, the fire department, and CentraCare. We've served domestic violence shelters, crisis centers, children's programs and public schools. From Return, people have brought their own practice to work, to classrooms, to co-workers, to students and clients and community groups.
Let's not be shy: the kind of teaching and level of practice at Return is far above par; the community, relationships, and experiences are special. We've gone through training, we've gone through births and deaths and community difficulty. We have cried together, realized how deep our hopes and intentions go, carved out strange new paths. We've healed, some things. And, we've discovered and held space for those things we can't, heal.
Even though the yoga industry is booming, and more people are practicing, independent yoga studios are struggling to hold ground. If the studio subsidizes classes, this is exacerbated. This is a hard, fact, and an open ended question: where do we find individualized teaching, educated instructors, and community if yoga classes are going the way of the gym?
It's an important question that I hope you take up, seriously, for yourself. I hope you seek out, experiences. Bring your discretion: know you don't have to resign yourself to classes that feel alienating or classes that feel injurious; nor do you have to feel alone.
There is a loss: having a public, special place is something we're losing in our culture. I know that a storefront window and open door policy makes practice available and visible. Without such a public space, how will the people who most need yoga, find it? How can practicing in a store or a basement compare to having a 'studio', devoted to the practice, smelling of incense? What happens when there is no place where you are invited to light candles in prayer?
I don't have an answer to this question. 710 West Saint Germain is precious to me. It holds all the resonance of a childhood home, or a place we first fell in love, a remembered lake. Brick and mortar places are often the structure for beautiful, life changing, and ordinary events. A context, for what we call our lives. They are the background out of which the 'self', appears. Without that structure, the 'self' is confused.
I don't have an answer to this question, other than a knowing that things can both be important, and change. Nothing lasts, forever. That doesn't make them less beautiful. They are beautiful, and they change.
One of my teachers spoke of the pain he felt on realizing his teachers were aging; the pain of knowing his teachers were going to someday, die. After some time, he came to a new understanding: You don't take the teaching of the teacher, with you. You become, the teacher. You embody, the teaching.
I've heard this teaching in old Buddhist stories, when social service agencies close, and when beloved yoga teachers move. One story has it that the teacher was dying. The students gathered. The man was seriously, dying. Mortally ill and pale. Wheezing, ashy, and mostly dead. When the students began to wail and mourn, he sat up. He sat up and he threw things, directly at their heads. You idiots, he said. You idiots.
The story ends there.
The moral does't.
The students had forgotten the point of this practice, the whole gyst of the story. The moral of the story isn't about the teacher. It's about, you. You become, the teacher. You go on, making space around you sacred.
This morning Mariah taught the 8 am class. It was the first time she'd ever done such a thing, led others through what she feels and loves so much. She opened with a few words about finding direction and times of change. I sat, as a student, and felt hot tears coming. They burned, and they were sweet.
Mariah came to the studio - was pushed into it, reluctantly, by her therapist - as a young and hurting teenaged girl. Something in her stilled. Something broke open. Something made her see her own beauty. She came, she practiced, she asked questions. She kept coming back. She didn't notice, but others have been inspired by her. When she speaks of how yoga gave her tools for anxiety, how she'd struggled her whole life and found something here, others listened and nodded.
I've watched her grow over the last few years. I've watched her step into autonomy, independence, strength. Sometimes she still says 'I don't know if I can handle it', but when I look at her and consider where most people are at her age, I know she'll be just fine. She wants to be a teacher, got the training syllabus, has done the homework even though she hasn't been able to attend training yet, shows up on her mat every single day. When she heard the studio was closing, she asked if she could teach. I don't want to miss the opportunity, she said, this has changed my life. She closed class with a flash of a grin, told us 'it's been my dream to teach here'.
This morning, Mariah taught us love, and change. I hugged her hard and felt like a proud, mama bird. She isn't the only one. She isn't the only one, changed.
I am, still available. Speaking with a close friend, she pointed out that my teaching has outgrown, the brick and mortar of 710. Opening the space, running the space, was a tremendous step of personal growth. It was important to me that I come home to Saint Cloud, that I be of service, that I set down some roots. It was important to me that I try an alternative to commercialized, yoga. And, it's important that I not hang on.
I am still available. I'll continue to work with trainees and mentees, setting out goals for their work, co-coordinating service work, talking about on-going study and personal development. I'm doing this long distance with a few, far-away teachers, across the country, via skype, and am open to taking on more.
I am, still, available.