The objective of Yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind in order to find stillness and bliss in the present moment. The mind is often trapped, re-telling old stories from the past and rehearsing hypothetical scenarios for our future. Often, this story-telling creates problems that either never existed or never will come to fruition. That doesn’t stop us from putting ourselves in a state of stress throughout many of the days that make up our weeks. For the past week or so, I have not been practicing what I preach, or rather what I encourage my students to give themselves, because I have been consumed with joy and gratitude over an event that took place last night. The event was Earth Hour. I felt very grateful and immensely excited to teach a Candlelight class for TruHarmony Yoga, a studio that has given me a professional home since I moved to Chicago, and where I feel I’ve been given permission to express my unique vision as a teacher and even as a writer. I am reflecting on last night, reliving the past, because I was overwhelmed almost to the point of tears at the tremendous group of people who packed our beautiful studio. They are professionals in a myriad of fields, come from many backgrounds, have varying interests, ideals and love their own special group of people, but what they all carried is humility, openness, joy and the desire to be more awake and aware than they were before. That is precisely what Yoga inspires: awareness, gratitude, enthusiasm. It drives you to simultaneously release expectations and invite acceptance while feeling compelled to be better each moment and each day. We powered down our usually heated, well-lit studio to just room temperature, all that we could see was influenced by candlelight and nothing else. There wasn’t much personal space because there were many eager bodies exuding warmth in the room. The city of Chicago could’ve turned off more of their lights, could make a bigger impact and a more concerned effort to conserve but it didn’t matter. We were there, resonating with the rest of the world, appreciating our time together, being alive on this glorious planet.

As if the genuine work put into the event from some very generous and amazing staff wasn’t enough, our practice and our experience was elevated by the presence of a very talented, connected djembe player named Taylor. I’ve experienced the magic in the primal sounds of this percussion before, but in combination with all surrounding elements, it was electric. Taylor is a gifted teacher and beautiful human being, please check him out and listen to his hypnotic music at home. It’s as if all our hearts were now beating to the same drum. We had a collective pulse. We breathed together, flowed together, chanted together and celebrated all that is life in such remarkable simplicity, it’s a wonder more people don’t find a way to live this way every day. We plan to bring more of this goodness into the studio and into the city of Chicago, somehow I feel that although I’ve been teaching for a few years and loved every second of it, that something now has truly just begun. This is the level of consciousness that should spread around our country, our homes, our planet, the universe. It is both evolved and pure, what our natural state should reflect, gratitude and joy. We embrace our differences and feel enthralled by our oneness. We encourage and accept, without competition, with genuine kindness and love. May sound like hippy dippy bullshit to some, and for them, I only wish them the gift of Yoga.

I wanted to share the piece I was asked to write and given the opportunity to share with the beautiful djembe to support my slightly nervous voice. To have family, friends, respected colleagues, fantastic students and new faces sharing in this very present celebration makes me feel inspired to keep improving, to keep loving and to keep living this awesome journey we call life. We printed the poem on eco-friendly paper with a pledge on the back, as an option to take these efforts Beyond the Hour. If you feel compelled to make small changes to better your own life and the quality of our home, planet Earth, then please feel welcomed to take your own pledge. It is essential in Yoga and in the message of Earth Hour to not concentrate on the daunting task of reversing the negative effects we’ve inflicted upon ourselves and our planet, but simply to focus on the means rather than the end, to not waste another moment in negativity or ignorance, and live better for yourself every day. Emanate joy. It is the impulse of the universe, life being lived.

Thank you to everyone who recognized their opportunity to uplift the energy in the room. It is a choice. Keep elevating yourself and others. Thank you to the dedicated and talented TruHarmony Yoga staff, to our pregnant goddess, Ria, for sharing her essential oils, for Taylor and his magic and for the students and their enthusiastic presence. Reduce, reuse and recycle what you can, and recirculate only the emotions that serve you best. You can trash the anger, disappointment, frustration, anxiety and fear. Laugh your ass off and love your life. Otherwise, wtf is the point? You deserve it. Believe it and be it.