by Richii Jai
Richii is a dear friend, a spiritual mentor, and most of all, a splash of imperfection in this pretentiously perfect world. Read away.
I keep getting up too early in the mornings. I feel like it may be making me grumpy by mid-day, but I continue the habit. This has been going on for years now, starting back when I lived above a yoga studio in Nederland, Colorado. When I say “living above” the studio, I mean directly above the studio’s lobby in loft area that you could park a Mini car in. I had stashed all of my necessary belongings in the loft, and could only visit the space after 10pm each night, because this space was a secret. Only the owner of the yoga studio knew that I was sleeping up there, up an old pine ladder, on a futon mattress surrounded with neat piles of clothes, vitamin supplements, and a hoard of kids toys.
Every morning I had to get up at 4:45am, climb down from the loft and move the pinewood ladder back up into it’s position in the ceiling. I’d keep all the lights off because the neighbors did not know I was living there, nor would they approve. Feeling my way through the lobby around large desks and display cases, I’d get to the kitchen area and make tea, as quiet as a mouse and as respectfully a possible to this space. Tea in hand, I’d go to the floor of the lobby and sit down in the dark.
This is magical space, dead quiet, maybe some wind, cold from the snow outside and the old failing heater. I’d sit and give thanks that I had a place to sleep and a warm-ish place to wake up, and a place that was a healing arts center. Yes, yoga studio was in the front, and Shiatsu, Acupuncture, and Massage Therapist treatment rooms in the back and side of the of lobby area. This building was over 120 years old, made of old timbers and sat in the middle of an ex-mining camp, now Colorado tourist attraction. Truly when sitting in the dark I could feel the spirits (Tommyknockers, ghosts of miners) of the people that had lived there in history, sometimes slightly creepy, but non-threatening. I could also pray. I sat in the dark, holding a hot cup in my hands and prayed for help with my life.
Now since there was a regularly scheduled 6am Yoga class each morning, I had to wake up, tidy up the space, and make it appear that I was arriving for the yoga class, usually the teacher would get there just minutes before it was to begin. Remember, it was a safe guarded secret, and only the owner knew about me being there.
So, yeah, praying, praying that usually broke into tears and begging God/dess to save me from the turmoil of downward spiraling events that had occurred in the last two years. Divorce, brain surgery on my 4 year old son, homelessness, heartbreak. I had also beat addiction to tobacco and marijuana, and other trippy controlled substances. I sat in the dark and asked for help and direction, help on a path that was destined for something better, really anything with less hardship would be better. I had a sacred space to sit in, I was held by the vibration of healing that emanated from the treatment room and the adornments in the lobby, the likes of tapestries, statues of deities, large crystal bodies, and mountains of books about healing and spiritual masters. All those vibes gave me security, a sense that this was going to work out for the best, and I was at the mercy of the spirits in that building, and the universal spirit guardians kept nudging me, or allowing me to feel them, this helped me to feel like I was not lost, not abandoned, and perhaps being lead through a special training that would make me qualified to help other people through the strife and difficulties life can present.
By 5:40am I had to on my feet and erase any residue of tears and outcry, get my coat and boots on and stand outside of the building, making it look like I’ve arrived for yoga class. This went on from August of that summer, through the winter and into May. That’s about 9 months of sneaky-after-dark back door entry, lonely bedtimes, and early morning sitting in the dark waiting for yoga class. During that time I had several part time jobs down in Boulder and was hitchhiking and taking the bus up and down the 17 mile canyon system. I would work my hours in an herbal apothecary owned by some very nice yoga devoted people. They were always encouraging and insightful in their daily conversations about health, wellness, yogic lifestyle, and Buddhism. This was the second biggest blessing and high vibrational environment I would sit in almost daily. I was surrounded in healthy approaches to diet, and herbal supplements for detoxification of tissues, and “true believers” as my friends for the day. Usually I would go take another yoga class in the evening right after work, and then I’d have to bide my time until I could sneak back into the healing arts center to go to bed.
On the weekend I was borrowing people’s cars so that I could drive the 4 hours to southern Colorado to see my son. My ex, her daughter and our son where living well on our property outside of a small town in the mountains. They were safe and secure, enjoying our mountain home and getting through the early years of elementary school. I was unable to find work or living space in the ranching town nearby so I moved back to my hometown of Boulder. I’d come mid-week sometimes, too, depending on availability of cars or trucks I could borrow, you see, that long drive had killed two Subaru outbacks in two years. Thus, I’m always asking new people if I can borrow their car, as to not wear-out my other possible lenders. I was not making enough money to buy another car, I was earning enough to feed myself, pay child support and hospital bills. I am ever grateful for the people that helped me those 2 years, getting to see my kids often and having the fortune of healthy, spiritually oriented people to help my heart heal from dismay.
Sometime in late Spring I had the opportunity to move down to Boulder and have a nearly-free rent situation, sleeping in another loft above the yoga studio! This one was nearly identical, very small, no storage capacity, a kitchen and a bathroom downstairs that I could use. . Still no car, i walk everywhere. Walking and talking, or rather chanting mantras I’d been learning at the classes, and listening to on CD’s. The studio in Nederland, the Good Karma Center, had asked me to start teaching classes regularly because the teachers and hiring managers felt I was proficient and capable. I was teaching a Wednesday 6:30pm class, and then they asked me to teach all of the early morning 6:00am classes. Wow, now I was suppose to be there early in the morning! No more sneaking. My life had become filled with teaching and taking yoga classes, attending satsangs, and kirtans, working for a holistic health focused company, and walking everywhere. Walking is likely the best meditation you can have. Every step is surrounded in an open space, and yet feels private because nobody cares to look at you. Walking also takes forever to get anywhere, and it’s less fun if you have to carry lots of items. So, a small backpack, good shoes, and a song in my heart, I’d walk everywhere, feeling grateful that I have a family, a new group of friends that show me love, and enough money to pay child support and bills, and maybe soon I’d get a new car and be able to rent an apartment.
I continued to study yoga, it was the only time space that I felt made sense to me. I enrolled in more training and became formally certified to teach nationally. I was hired by a large studio that soon gave me enough classes to teach that it was full time job. Still no car. Still walking, busing, and biking between Nederland, Boulder, and now Denver, to make a living. It’s rare for a new and budding yoga teacher to make much for teaching classes. It usually takes years to get any good gigs, or enough experience to learn to manage your schedule effectively. On the buses I would listen only to spiritual music, chanting albums, and lectures about the spiritual aspirants journey, the pathway of the masters, and the wisdom of the ancients. I was still dirt poor, but had amazing health, stamina, and desire to learn and develop the ability to be a better teacher and a better person.
Fast forward to the 5th year as Yoga Teacher, I had been training in massage therapy and manual therapies under tutors at The Good Karma Center, and the Element Center, so I was offering bodywork and healing art sessions, working on several people per week. This was slowly helping my financial situation, and I eventually rented a house in Boulder. Still, ever eager to learn about the healing forces in the body, I was studying and practicing 2 and 3 times a day and remaining inside of a bubble of yoga, health, and spiritual devotion. I was becoming my environment. People started giving be flattering titles like “master” and “guardian”, and those are difficult to deflect and remain humble, while my self esteem need the boost so badly. They are just names, they are things people call you when they want you to be that for them. They are characters that walk around the community, “The Yogi”, “The Healer”, “The Leader”, “The Servant”, “The Milkman”, “The Artist”, “The Banker”, “The Hippy”. I’m glad to know that being on the spiritual journey, and the journey toward healing my extreme sports injuries, would be a great way to get an ego boost, make some new friends, and re-stabilize my family life and role as a father. My son doesn’t remember his brain surgery, he doesn't remember the weekdays that I wasn’t in his home, he has only memories of healing arts centers, yoga studios, and weird health food recipes that don’t taste like donuts. Some how I managed to get the help I needed to heal from a broken heart, a broken family, and a broken body. He doesn’t know anything about what I was going through, because I was smiling when he saw me and grateful to be present as a father.
I am on a spiritual journey, I see things other people cannot see. I have had experiences that are unique to someone who has survived the brink of insanity, and the cliffs of despair. I have been held by friends, masters both alive and dead, and sometimes, once in a while, God/ess actually talks to me outloud, reminding me I am not alone. I get up early in the morning, it’s still dark outside, and I make tea. I sit on the floor and try not to cry about my life. I get ready to go teach the morning yoga classes, and give thanks that I have somthing to do with my life that keeps me out of trouble, and also helps me make friends.