The Lady in the Corner
My first trip to Yogaville was in the Spring of 2006. I was finishing my Yoga teacher training, had fallen in love with Kirtan and Indian food and was heading to an ashram with 2 friends for a night of R& R.
Our plan was to drive there, participate in the yoga classes, hike around the property and enjoy the peace and quiet of ashram life, and drive back to DC the next day. I was 28 years old.
The trip went well, we listened to music and talked the whole 3 hours. We arrived and got settled into our bunk room. We took the afternoon class they offer visitors who have just traveled to the ashram.
I noticed her right away. She was older than we were, long brown hair.
Her style was relaxed, not paying attention to us at all. She was in her own world. Right away, I could tell she was not in a good place. I don’t know how I knew that, but I felt it right away.
She was not crying or drawing attention to herself, she was quiet and as class began, she was a little more open than we were in the postures, in the attempts, more generous with her breathing and eventually, she was doing her own thing. In a class. With a teacher. At the time, I was so new to yoga experiences that I had never seen anyone do this, My attention kept drawing back towards her over and over- who is she? why is she here? what on earth is she doing over there?
At the end of class, I did not say anything to my friends about her. But I could not get her out of my mind. Later at dinner, I saw her again, and I could not take my eyes off her, maybe it was the way she was walking or her gaze, but it was captivating. I wanted to know her whole story. Did she live at Yogaville? Was she visiting like we were? Where was all this pain I could feel radiating off her coming from? I felt like I really needed to know.
The next morning at yoga, she was in our class again, this time a bit louder with her breathing, and possibly some crying, it was hard to tell given the variety of sounds that came out of her and that she was behind me. All the students in the class were “good and quiet” and followed the cues. But not her, I could feel the wild openness of her practice that morning, behind me. I was distracted by her presence and her practice but more than all of that, it was her freedom that truly got to me.
I could not name anyone who had that same embodiment. I had never met someone so fully alive with her self and her emotions. It was scary and intoxicating. I had lived my life in checked boxes of achievement, goal oriented plans and was successful in all the ways, AND YET… I actually did not realize something was missing until I experienced this lady in the corner.
Then it was like a craving so deep in my bones, that I could not release it. I was exposed to a whole new operating system. I was conflicted, confused and wanting to hear how she got there. How long would she be there? My mind was racing with questions for her, I needed to know more.
After breakfast, we went for a walk to the other side of the ashram, to the overlook. There she was, standing on the top of the porch, hair flowing.
“Hi” She says to us.
“ Oh.. hi.” We replied.
“ Are you guys enjoying your stay?”
“ Yep.” We reply. “ It’s our first time. It’s beautiful here.”
“ Yes it is.” She says. “ Yes it is.”
She turns to walk towards the road. I tell my friends, I’m going to walk back. They want to come with me. I know this is my chance.
I start to walk with her, my friends behind.
“ What brings you to Yogaville?” I finally get to ask.
Then, I’m so nervous, I start talking and telling her that we are there because I’m in Yoga Teacher Training and I’m getting married and we thought this would be a great Spring get away and my friends were curious but all of our allergies are so bad, since it’s spring and the ashram is dusty we think we will probably leave right after lunch and I go on and on.
She is just smiling at me.
Listening as we walk the paved road hill back to the main center.
For some reason, I want her to like me. I want her to feel connected to me, maybe because I feel so connected to her?
“So, do you come here a lot?” I ask her. This time I pause and stop talking, to give her a chance to respond.
She takes a deep breath. She smiles at me and tears start to fill her eyes.
“I came here once a few years ago.” She says.
“ I’m getting divorced. I quit my job. I don’t know where to go. My whole life is changing. I decided to come live here for a bit and get myself together. I saved enough money to live her for a few weeks, maybe months while I figure it out. I just wanted to be here. I don’t know what’s next.”
She is open, calm, clear and hurting. She is lost and lonely and grieving and here and present with me. We walk the rest of the way in silence. I don’t know what to say. I have no answers. I’m intrigued by the lack of plan, I don’t really know anyone living this way.
After lunch, I waved to her as we got in the car to drive back to DC. On the way home we stop for pizza, famished after eating carrot soup for 24 hours.
We smoke cigarettes on the way home, we talk about the food and the hike and we say nothing about the woman. We are so young, we are all on paths.
She scares me, this woman who is unraveling at Yogaville. I have never seen this, up close, someone moving away from the destined path of marriage, career, stability, all the things I’m walking towards, she is walking away from.
It’s been many years since I met that woman at Yogaville. I’ve seen many women come undone since that time, but she was a gift.
She opened a door I had never seen before, another way to live that I had never seen up close. A freedom, a wildness, I had never experienced nor been so close to touch. It would be many years until I would have my own breakdown to breakthrough, but this woman in the corner, hair tangled, eyes tearing, she was the one who showed me the strength of a woman.
She was raw, in pain AND smiling. She was homeless and divorced but alive and breathing and hiking and stretching.
I think of her often and hope that wherever she is, she found her way.