“If one does not meditate on death in the morning, the whole morning is wasted.”
Last Friday morning I unrolled my (borrowed) yoga mat after rolling up to the Timberland Library community room for a class. Twelve of us novitiates jockeyed for space on the floor as yoga instructor Beth Bauer distributed bolsters and blocks for restorative yoga.
The morning was suitably gloomy and doomy as we lay down on our mats and closed our eyes, while Beth began, with a soothing voice, talking us through a series of floor poses. We rolled and bent, stretched and flexed, breathed deeply into our solar plexuses (say that word a few times!), and breathed out slowly into the universe of Ocean Park.
I found that although at one time I could fairly easily sit on the floor cross-legged, those times seemed to be over. As we progressed, I peeked occasionally noticing that everyone else had nailed the pose while my joints creaked and groaned. (I know that nailed the pose is not appropriate yoga talk.) Just about that time Beth intoned, “Don’t criticize your body if your joints seem stiff or sore. Your body is perfect.”
“Well, she’s not in here,” I thought to myself, but contradicting a yoga instructor seemed in bad form. The last pose was my best — the corpse pose. I lay on the floor on my back, with feet comfortably splayed, arms out with palms up, just breathing deeply in and out to a count of four. Then Beth took us, or took me anyway, on an imaginative trip: first I was looking back down on our room in the library; then on the library roof; then onto the town of Ocean Park; then the Peninsula; then the county; the state; the whole of the United States; then our entire glorious sphere.
I found my eyes filling with tears; this was it! I was receding upward and looking back not only on my perfect body but on the world I had gratefully entered and now was slowly leaving. It was all so beautifully sad. But never fear — Beth brought us steadily back from the stratosphere step by step into the community room and onto our mats. The power of that meditative experience stayed with me the whole day.
Practicing a balanced life
Murderer Jetsun Milarepa (1052-1135) and future Tibetan siddha, confused about life and worried about death, consulted a lama who suggested he meditate in a cave. It’s said that his concern with death was so great that while meditating, his tattered clothes fell apart, but he decided not to mend them. “If I were to die this evening, it would be wiser to meditate than to do this useless sewing.”
OK, there may be a few buttons I am neglecting to sew back on a shirt or two; but I have to admit it’s not because I’m meditating instead. Finding balance in a life between activity and stillness is a challenge. And there is something about mindful practice that clarifies the mind and readies us for purposeful activity.
Not only has Beth established for herself a mindful practice, she’s committed to passing on the good news. This involves her opening — perhaps as soon as the end of April — her Jiva Yoga and Mindfulness Center at 25501 Vernon in Ocean Park. (We’ll post open house info when available.)
Beth’s journey to yoga, to a more peaceful and grateful life, and to us on the Peninsula started this way. “I’d been working in healthcare technology; but in 2015, I accepted a project manager position for an Asian telecom company in India. I decided to take a huge leap and moved for the job, but shortly after I was unexpectedly laid off. I found myself in Rishikesh, India (that’s where the Beatles went to find their guru) with some savings and time on my hands. So I took a good look at myself — I felt lost, unhealthy, depressed about losing my job, and confused. One of my friends suggested I try yoga.”
“Earlier I’d started a travel blog so I got the idea to approach some yoga schools to ask in they would exchange a few free classes for my promoting their venue. One of them said yes, so I thought — let’s do it! When I got there they handed me this stack of papers and I said what’s all this? They had signed me up for 200 hours of intensive training to be a yoga instructor!”
Fate and the Jiva Yoga Center
Beth’s fate had been dropped in her lap. She did yoga four and a half hours a day, every day except Sunday; she learned about yoga philosophy, and anatomy. She lived at the ashram and ate differently and, soon, started to feel like a different person. “I began to see myself change in just about every way possible — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I was in my element — I loved it, and I decided I needed to take this home to the U.S. and share with other people.”
First she planned to keep her project management business and do yoga on the side. But in 2017 when she got back to her “big ole house” in La Center, she didn’t feel at home any more. “I saw things completely differently. I had become much less materialistic. All of a sudden, everything felt like too much: my camera, my Harley Davidson, my Louis Vuitton briefcase. I wanted to simplify and minimize, drop my ego and focus on health and wellness. So I sold my big house and moved to the beach where I’d always had a cabin.”
She started teaching in Surfside on Saturdays, then at the OP library. “Now I have eight classes — restorative, Hatha Flow, Vinyasa and Yin yoga — and I’m pretty much at maximum capacity. So I started looking for a space where I could influence the ambience and expand my menu. I found a perfect place zoned residential/commercial right across from the Ocean Park post office.”
At the Jiva Yoga facility, Beth will have space to accommodate a few other health and wellness practitioners — perhaps an acupuncturist, a naturopath, or massage therapist? (If you’re interested in leasing a space and joining the team, contact Beth at 360-607-3915 or firstname.lastname@example.org) With more room for classes, Beth intends to offer yoga for youngsters and is getting certified to teach yoga for substance addiction.
Without hesitation, I can say that Beth is a talented instructor. Related or not, the day after our restorative yoga class I got clear on a decision that had been aggravating me for weeks. And by the end of our class by golly if I didn’t sit cross-legged for our closing Namaste.