They say that opportunity waits for no one.
And to this, I’d add that one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to see how vast opportunity is. The million shapes, the many blessings…you will fall down. And you will see that here too, and perhaps most of all, is the opportunity.
I’ve been in California now for almost 5 months. This time last year I was back in my house in Rochester NY, anticipating my upcoming trip to Kenya. I had no idea then what a year would bring…and as wild as my imagination is, I wouldn’t have believed you anyway.
The palms trees here remind me that I did it, I said I would move to California and I have. The sweet handsome guy I hold hands with, he shows me the most beautiful views. For the love I have lost before, or could never quite hold in my hands, he holds my hands, and it’s all I need to know.
My niece and nephew come running to the door every time I arrive. Arms flailing, full speed. They run right into me, every single time. Knock me out with the love that comes from 6 years of living, and 8 years of living, they remind me that running full force wild to those you love, to be fearless in my expressions. Who cares what others think, If I love you, I’ll come running. You see, distance does matter, and I will never regret being here with them.
This morning at 6 am, I taught yoga a few blocks a way from where I live. A new place for me, called yoga shala, and it feels so good. Talking with the people that came in for class this morning…I remembered so many of those early mornings in NY…just like this. The nostalgia of how it all began. And it wasn’t till it happened that I knew that I needed to remember what this feels like, to share this space, I needed to remember the sound of my voice, of my feet on the ground, of love all around, and so that’s what I did. And that’s who I am. I am reminded that there are beautiful people everywhere who will hand the keys over to their home and invite you inside.
One of the most beautiful opportunities that has come from my time here is 3 times a week I teach adults going through the drug court system. I picked these classes up from a Sacramento teacher who was moving down to SoCal, friends put us in touch. I teach addicts who have been in and out of jail and who have been in a system that is either failing them, or they are failing. Get up, fall down, go to jail, repeat. Its this cycle until it’s not. They share with me about the partners, children, of elder parents who they are still trying so hard to please: to get clean this time. They share with me how for more of their life than not they have been on drugs, they’ve been high off of heroin and crack, they’ve been low on vodka and sedatives. They are I believe, the most honest human beings in one place I have ever met, and I see them, and they are beautiful. They want to be clean and sober, but the world is a scary place when you are not numb. They are right. But slowly each week we build, do a little bit more, it doesn’t look like any yoga class I’ve ever taught. But let me tell you, it’s yoga. How do I know? Because we are breathing. We are an unlikely crew alright, but this experience is redefining to me what an opportunity it is to share with others. It’s helping me see that opportunity looks one million ways, and rarely does it look as we had imagined it to be. again and again I remember ‘the people on our path have been expecting you’
When he was a young boy Martin Luther King came to speak at Sacramento State. He was there…it was here that MLK read this poem from the podium. You could have heard a pin drop in the normally boisterous room, I asked him if I could record it and he gave me a second take after our class was over. It took him a few takes, he said he had never felt so acknowledged and he kept stopping himself. And isn’t that the truth…what a lesson right there.
I think what moves me so much about this is the sheer honesty. When I look around at these folks and we’re in our warriors, and laughing in our chair poses, or doing whatever the heck it is were doing…I see them, and in a so many ways, sometimes jarring, sometimes compassionate, always insightful way: I see me. I see the fine line I walked so many times and how my life looks different perhaps, I understand shame and regret, I understand feeling like I fucked it up beyond repair. I understand feeling that what I am doing is not enough: that I should be doing more. We all do. I encourage you to look at everyone and see not how you are different, see how you are the same.
To be the best of whatever we are… in this we must not settle…how could we? how dare we. with so much struggle out there in the world, we have got to try harder. Be the best of whatever we are. Surround yourself with those who will only lift you higher.
Life will become hard, and you will become numb…I ask of you to come on back. It matters that you are here.
From what I can tell it’s a blend of a few poems…his version is a bit different. Take a listen and read below. I cant quite seem to track a source…but here is what I found.
And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it.
Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.
If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.