A yoga studio’s closing message
Lighthouse Yoga School was a bright studio in Williamsburg, with a curved ceiling that bowed down into the wooden floor. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors lined one wall and black trimmed windows revealed a small patio in the back with a few green plants sprouting from cement urns. I had been practicing yoga for 15 years when I first walked through its doors. I was one of the advanced students in most classes in New York, tilting into arm balances and easily straightening my legs long while holding onto my toes. But Lighthouse was different. I had never seen so many advanced practitioners in one space—yogis lifting slowly into handstands, gracefully holding challenging twists and inversions for what felt like hours, and arching into deep backbends. I was intimidated and frustrated. But I also fell in love with it. This was a place where I could truly expand my practice.
So I purchased a pack of classes, got on the subway, and traveled from my apartment in Dumbo into Manhattan and back into Brooklyn, to Williamsburg, on weekends. If I got there early, I would perch inside a café around the corner and write.
Only a couple months into this new routine COVID-19 struck. I fled to Illinois to stay with family and started taking Lighthouse’s new virtual classes. It was not the same, but I kept at it, determined to not let this surely minor hiccup in the world throw off my practice. Like many, I never expected COVID-19 to turn into what it has—a pandemic that has taken thousands of lives, prevented real contact with other human beings for months, confined those of us lucky enough to still have our jobs to working from home, suspended international travel, and shuttered businesses.
On June 19th, Lighthouse posted a message on Instagram:
“Dear Lighthouse Family,
It’s humbling to look back on the past few months and bear witness to the seismic change that can occur in such a short period of time. Four months ago, the world looked and felt very different than it does now. We hope that no matter where you find yourself today, your yoga + meditation practice has helped you to furnish that place with ease, contentment, and peace. That said, we have an important development to share, which is that Lighthouse Yoga School must permanently close . . . . On June 27th Lighthouse will be closed for good. . . .”
A week or so after this announcement I took the founder of Lighthouse’s virtual class. Before starting class, Jared McCann sauntered back and forth in the living room of what appeared to be a large house somewhere in the wilderness. He looked at the camera and spoke for a few minutes—giving a dharma talk if you will, a public lecture. His words have unexpectedly stayed with me these last few months. He told the class, with a glib, no-nonsense tone, to not be sad, to not wallow in self-pity. He acknowledged that it sucks to have something taken away, and it hurts. But that is part of life, and we have to trust that the universe is propelling us in a new and better direction. We need to stay open and move on—otherwise, we risk missing lessons and new opportunities.
I was inspired by his attitude. Afterall, his business, his studio, and his community, vanished in many ways overnight. However, given his positive attitude and strong mindset, I have no doubt that he will create something even more powerful. I realized, I wanted to embrace that same way of thinking.
Today, I think about everything that has changed in my own life recently, and the many things that have been taken away. I lost my grandfather, with whom I was very close, at the beginning of the summer. We all knew it was coming, and I got to say goodbye, but it still felt like a shock when it happened and makes my stomach sink when I think about how he is no longer here.
A much-anticipated trip to Greece with friends was cancelled. New York City, my home, banned indoor dining and closed fitness studios, stores, music venues, and theaters. Over a dozen friends have permanently moved out of New York. And dating, which I had hoped would take a turn for the better—because people surely have to want real connections with people now—seems to have gotten worse.
The other morning, I woke up in a horrible mood, because I went on what might have been my worst date ever the night before (with a guy who showed up 45 minutes late, planned nothing, proceeded to talk about himself for the next two hours, and then did not contribute to the bill), and I was tired of feeling so alone and trapped inside my apartment. By habit, I clicked open a work email, still in my pajamas, and scanned a nasty note in my inbox from someone outside of my organization. Anger about the patriarchal aspects of our society, the impact of technology on the way people treat one another, and all of the things that COVID-19 took away boiled up inside of me. I was ready to explode.
I put on my sneakers and went for a long run along the waterfront, my mood lightening as I stared at the city skyline, listened to my favorite songs, and gazed at the Statue of Liberty off in the distance.
When I got home, I decided to take action. I thought about Jared’s words and realized that I could bitch and moan and wallow about how terrible the world is right now and about how much I miss my old life. Or, I could shift gears and think about what good might come out of these challenging times.
I love New York City, my home of 12 years, but I have also wondered what it would be like to live somewhere else. Because I am working remotely, I have a unique window of time to live and work from anywhere I want. So, I opened my laptop, emailed my landlord, and asked for a reduction in rent. She responded within a few hours and gave it to me. Then I booked a one-way flight to Denver and three weeks in Snowmass/Aspen—a perfect yin to my chaotic, complicated, but always beautiful city. I promised myself I would not plan what came next after Colorado. Maybe I would extend my stay, maybe I would go somewhere else, maybe I would return home.
I accept that many things are not the same as they were six months ago. But maybe, as Jared said, it all is happening for a reason. Maybe a new path is opening up.