My family and I recently traveled to San Diego, where my husband Andrew lived briefly between high school and college. I had visited as a kid, but had forgotten (or maybe had previously never really appreciated) how beautiful the place is: blue, blue ocean; fuschia bougainvillea creeping up white walls; fragrant citrus trees all over the place. The sea air and the sound of the waves lull you into a slower pace when you walk. Coming from the mountains and the desert, the change of scenery was palpable, and welcome.
But the physical beauty of the place was not even the most inspiring thing on our trip. What was: meeting a coffee shop owner. Rob, a friends of Andrew’s from his time in San Diego, runs a place called Heartwork Coffee Bar with his brother and a couple of friends. But more importantly (to me anyway) Rob resides in my mind as the unofficial mayor of San Diego. Or at least a certain slice of it.
Here’s why: Rob used to play guitar in a band in the 1990s, and to a generation of punk and hardcore kids (Andrew and I included) they were Kind of A Big Deal. For me, it’s not actually because of the music itself, but because of what I learned from being in the community that formed around it—a community that Rob and his family contributed to in all kinds of ways (his dad, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting, used to drive kids to hardcore shows all over the city and he can translate Misfits songs into Spanish. YEAH IT’S AWESOME!)
From people like them I learned at a young and formative age that art matters, and that you can and should make it yourself. I learned that a community can be forged as an antidote to alienation or social awkwardness—that your weirdness or inability to fit in can lead you toward great things. That everyone is just learning as they go, and that it’s okay to show your growing process in public. And that helping each other along is pretty much the best reason to do anything.
I know the worlds of yoga, and of weird bands playing in some all-ages café somewhere, are different worlds. But they don’t feel that distant to me. They share a feeling that I’m always looking for: collaboration, learning, stumbling, standing up, witnessing some shining moments of greatness surrounded by a lot of day-in-day-out trying. I feel these things whenever I teach or talk with people after class: that we’re all participating in some expression of human beauty that is as perfect as it’s going to get for that day. Making our mistakes, showing our strengths, tending to our weaknesses in the silent communion of shared breath and movement. We’re creating a lived practice, not just consuming something made by someone else. And in this endeavor, we’re always just sort of helping each other along.
So thank you. Thank you for being part of a practice and a learning community that holds us all together. It means everything. It’s so awesome.
Much love and thanks for reading,
Erin H/Grassroots Yoga