I had lots of topics to write about in my head early today. Lots of emotions. Lots of processing. Lost of word vomit I wanted to spew into my whitespace.
I had started several pieces, made some notes, generated some sentences and gathered my thoughts.
I went to lead my College classes this afternoon, prepared to teach some vocabulary, dive into our first chapter and spend some time attempting to make a college textbook feel less like a threat and more like a good and resourceful friend.
My first class went just like that. It was quite nice. I walked into my second section with good energy, a revised and improved lesson plan, and authentic presence.
Then, about 20 minutes in,
We went on lockdown.
My first response? Keep calm, and teach on. I taught at Title One schools in some high gang crime areas for ten years. Lockdowns don’t even phase me.
Well. They didn’t. Anyway. Before this. Before today.
I did keep teaching. And smiling. And cracking (debatably bad) jokes. My students were at ease, because I was. Some new people were ushered into my room from the hallway by the staff. I greeted them, and kept teaching. No stopping to check the news, or my staff e-mail, which was alerting me to what was actually happening. Blissfully (unwisely) unaware.
My Dean came to our door again, me in mid sentence, hands in the air, pointing at the screen talking about the associations and subtle differences between “stoic,” “dispassionate,” “morose.” and “misanthrope.”
Words that proved to be of sound lesson today. I sincerely doubt they’ll forget the meaning of those words. Like ever.
“Michelle,” he interjected, “I’d recommend you close your curtains, block the window in your door, turn out the lights and otherwise act as though this classroom is empty and offer no reason to enter.”
That changed things, a bit. A lot.
The room got silent. Students offered quiet suggestions for blocking the door window. We went dark. And then I checked my e-mail.
A shooting. There had been a shooting outside, one dead and two others injured, suspect still at large.
Still, I remained steady and responsive.
And then some beautiful things showed up in our space.
“Professor,” said a student who’d been let in late, “do you have any strategies for dealing with anxiety?”
Um. Yeah. Sure do. Sure do have those strategies. Like, it’s kind of my jam, and I never actually anticipated using them in this way.
Because, as it turns out, I have lots of training for that, actually, and all of the knowledge in the world means nothing if not practiced and shared.
So I did practice and share it, the art of controlled response. Holding your shit together. Calming the fuck down. I facilitated that.
We did some breath work, some mudras, and I offered suggestions for inversions (head below the heart), because it’s the fastest way to reset the Central Nervous System that I know of.
And then we sat in darkened silence, each sending soundless messages via dimmed screens to our friends and family.
What was most lovely here, was the steady and noticeable vibration of comfort they continued to generate for and because of one another. No one was rude. Not a single person panicked or risked the safety of themselves or others.
They were graceful, respectful and patient. Very.
I felt so very honored to hold that space for them. More so than any yoga class I’ve ever taught, except, of course, that this WAS yoga.
Union. Yoga means union.
And their reaction, no, actually, their response, was union.
My response, was union.
OUR response, was union.
Breath. Thoughtful and purposeful movement. Placing things in a special way.
Today, in response to fear, we chose yoga. Just imagine the possibilities that lay on the other side of that experience.
Imagine them. Because I am. And my imagination — it’s big.
Will you create a world with more yoga in it with me? A soft place. A content place. A generous and graceful place.
Strength with ease. Intelligence with purpose. Breath with movement.
Let’s move forward in union, and not resistance. We’ve had about enough of that.
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*Author’s note: no additional students were harmed after the shooting. All persons on campus were safely evacuated and able to return home within three and half hours of the initial lockdown.