A bright sunrise was followed by a crisp fall morning in Ukiah. The year was 2006. I had just spent an entire weekend teaching my very first Bikram yoga classes in a cute little studio near downtown. The studio owner had taught me a lot and also paid me $30 per class. It was just enough to buy something to eat and fill up my gas tank. I was feeling proud of myself; after all, I had only graduated from Bikram yoga training one week earlier. With a bit of cash in my hand, I ran across the street to buy a burrito. I intended to eat it on my long drive back home to Sacramento.
With the warm burrito in one hand and car keys in the other, I hurried out the restaurant door and straight into a man’s arms. He instinctively extended his hands out to avoid a big collision but nevertheless my momentum pushed me up against his chest. At that moment, anyone who saw us could have thought we were lovers. What flashed through my mind first was: HE IS MUCH TALLER THAN I. Being so tall myself, that rarely happens!
And my next realization was, HE SMELLED. That combination of smells of a person who had not showered for a long time, cloths that had not been washed for too long, and the smell of alcohol. And he was still holding me in his arms. My face was resting against his chest. And yet I was not afraid of this homeless person, this alcoholic roaming the streets. Nothing about this man bothered me, despite being the fashionista that I am. When I pulled myself away from his chest, he kept his hands on my shoulders. We stood facing one another. His sparkling blue eyes were glued to mine. The dirty hat on his head made him seem even taller. Despite his dreadful state, I sensed a pure and beautiful soul below the smelly clothes and alcoholic breath.
“My name is Mark, and yours”?, he asked.
“I’m Nada”, I answered.
A tiny part of me was thinking is something bad was about to happen when instead, he said:
“I love you.”
And just like that, I blurted out “I love you, too. “ Somehow, incredibly, I felt safe saying the “L” word.
“Come with me” he said. Mark was a charmer.
Still standing close to Mark, I put my hand on his chest, kept it there and said:
“You know Mark, I have to drive home now. I have lots of things to do today. I am sure we will meet again soon. “
He let me go and I walked across the street towards my car. Even before I had unlocked the door, I heard Mark’s voice behind me and he repeated those words “I love you.”
And “ I love you too” came from me again like the most natural of responses. We waved to each other like two lovers would.
On the way home I did enjoy that burrito. As I drove along, I turned the event over and over in my mind. ” What had just happened?” Why had I NOT BEEN AFRAID of that man?
What is fear?
Not only did I not fear that man, I felt love and compassion towards him. Perhaps something had changed within me? Oh, I think I know. I had just completed nine weeks of teacher training to become a certified Bikram Yoga teacher. To get my license, I had to practice twice a day with the thermometer at 90 F and nearly 100 % humidity, and attend classes until three in the morning. 180 minutes of yoga practice a day for nine weeks had washed away much of my emotional and physical pain, the injuries my body had endured from years of playing professional basketball. The sweat and tears ate away at years of trauma and sadness I had experienced. And what about my fears? They also seemed to have melted away.
Love is not somewhere else, over there. Love is you. It is buried within the life you have lived.
The disappointing part is: You cannot buy it online.
The exciting part is: You are born with it and only YOU can work for IT.
I often think of Mark. If I was afraid of what he seemed to be from the outside, I would have missed his beautiful inside.
And what are you afraid of?