Did you ever read a line in a poem or hear one in a song that just reached out and grabbed you?
There’s a line like that in a poem by one of my favorites, David Whyte, “There is only one life you can call your own and a thousand others you can call by any name you want.”
All of my life, I have vacillated between wholeheartedness and apathy. A quotation like that is sometimes, though not always, enough to jolt me out of occasional stupor into a more purposeful life.
Another dose of spiritual caffeine from the eternal poet Rumi, “You must ask for what you want. Don’t go back to sleep!”
I wonder if you can relate. We all feel better when we can be wholehearted about something worthwhile.
What is wholeheartedness? Wholeheartedness is stepping forward to live your life in service to that deeper level of your being. Most people do it here and there to varying degrees and then fall back on their superficial relationship with life.
In what ways do you live in service to your conditioning? How, when, and where do you stand up and live in accord with your soul? What is the dance you do between those two things?
Wholeheartedness brings to mind two people that I met at Peachtree’s Yoga Teacher Training courses. On the surface, these two people seem very different.
One grew up on a small farm in Korea, near a small village. On his teacher training application he wrote, “Most of them are farmer. We know each other very well. We know how many spoons and chopsticks our neighbors have.”
Sunghun Lee came to America because there just wasn’t much yoga in Korea at the time. He applied for teacher training at Peachtree, and I liked him instantly. He completed training in 2008, but I remember him like it was yesterday. And I cannot imagine his face without that permanent smile.
I was sad to have to turn down his application for teacher training. On one hand, he had great positive energy that would have proven an asset to our circle. On the other hand, there was a language barrier that I felt was insurmountable. How could he pass the teaching test?
Sunghun Lee proposed a solution. He requested to enroll in the course even without receiving a certificate.
In an email, he wrote, “Hi Graham. This is Sunghun Lee. Thank you for giving me a chance. At last I can take part in the teacher training course. I made some money by myself and borrowed some money from my sister.”
Sunghun Lee’s English improved as well as his personal practice. Three months into the course, Sunghun Lee sent his fellow participants an email.
“Fortunately I passed the test. It feels like I won a lottery,” he wrote. “I hope everyone in the training course will pass as soon as possible. You can make it. I’m enjoying the course and thank for being with you. Namaste.”
We all celebrated.
How was it that Sunghun Lee made it from that very small farm near that tiny village where everyone knew how many chopsticks their neighbors had, all the way to Atlanta and Yoga Teacher Training?
The next few years I’d get an occasional email from Sunghun Lee. One day, he informed me that he would be opening his own yoga studio. He asked if he could replicate the Peachtree Yoga Center logo for his sign. I was honored!
In about a year, Sunghun’s yoga studio grew from a single staff member to three teachers. His small community welcomed yoga, and they all embarked on the journey together.
Sunghun’s story reminds me of a quotation from The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
Emily Wilson shares the same kind of wholeheartedness as Sunghun Lee. She has Type 1 Diabetes. Her body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas as if they were invading cells or viruses. As a result, her pancreas makes little or no insulin, so the cells don’t get fuel and cannot work the way they should.
When applying for Teacher Training, we asked Emily what special gift, talent or attribute she felt she’d bring to the course. Here’s her reply:
“I believe my special gift is my Type 1 diabetes. It took me a long time to be able to call this a ‘gift,’ but I truly believe that it is. Having reached my lowest point in life, and struggling with anxiety and depression, I can give others a helping hand. I’ll help them through my yoga practice. Yoga has helped me more than I can put into words, and I know it will only continue to lift me higher. If I can bring that to at least one person, and share my story of hope, I will consider myself successful in life.”
Emily recently completed her 200-hour teacher training. She has already enrolled in our 300-hour advanced teacher training, and soon will be teaching at Peachtree Yoga. She is off-the-charts wholehearted about her practice, as shown in her picture. She is equally whole-hearted about sharing yoga’s gifts with others.
Sunghun Lee’s and Emily’s stories are so inspiring to me! And yet, if space permitted, I could give you oodles of additional stories. Teacher Training seems to attract wholeheartedness.
Legend has it that we are all given a gift that is uniquely ours. Not to keep, but to give away. The world needs people wholehearted about living the one life that they can call their own. And it’s none of our business whether it’s big, shiny, or impressive enough. It just needs to be ours.
I hope these stories have inspired you. I’ll leave you with one question asked by David Whyte in another poem, “What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?”