“We have a community vibe here. When you walk through the door, you’re considered family.” -Victor Colletti
Laughing Lotus, my urban sanctuary on 19th and 6th. I walk into that space and feel my shoulders relax, and a smile on my lips. The energy is pure love. Ganesha, Shiva, and Hanuman, all dance on brightly colored walls, offering their stories amongst a glitter bar, dance hall, and wide windows opening to Sixth Avenue.
I found yoga like many dancers do, through a “yoga for dancers” class in a movement studio, after dealing with injuries. I knew I had slight scoliosis and had been practicing Pilates for four years on the Reformer, but it was getting very expensive. I couldn’t afford the rates anymore, and was also seeking something more than exercise.
A yogi friend suggested Laughing Lotus to me back in 2008. I wanted to supplement my dance classes, and replace my Pilates. I had taken a few yoga classes at other studios, and I loved my Shiva Rea Shakti DVD in my living room, but wasn’t really sure I was doing it right.
The first class I took at Laughing Lotus, I knew I had found something special. I loved the goddess vibe, the chanting at the beginning of class, the popular music to a vinyasa flow, and the yummy shavasana at the end. I started going regularly, once a week. I kept to myself there, not really talking much to the teachers or other students.
I loved how I felt when I would leave the studio, but would find myself getting annoyed by life within an hour or two of leaving. Why wasn’t my prana, or life force lasting? What was I missing? Why was that person on the subway chewing gum so loudly? I enjoyed the physical flow of the classes and would find myself reflecting on the teachings, but there was a disconnect. I was very aware of my anger returning. I didn’t know why, and wanted the yoga glow to last. I didn’t want to be stressed. Yoga was offering relief, but it was isolated and temporary, just like my practice.
I had always wanted to add meditation to my yoga, but it remained a mystical aspect, and therefore pushed for later. When I found myself faced with a divorce I didn’t want, the desire for peace became pure survival. I felt everything crashing down around me, like I was spinning out of control, and reached out seeking quiet in the overwhelming cacophony. I sought the practice that had been on my radar, but not acted upon. It took a crisis for me to begin.
I came out of class at Laughing Lotus during the height of this time, determined to gain some knowledge, and headed to the studio store. I grabbed a book in the meditation section, and found myself getting drawn into “Ruling Your World” by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I felt he was speaking directly to my experience. I devoured that book, dog-earring pages on the subway, crying at night as I read, and began to explore Buddhism. This was a complete surprise for me, but things were beginning to make sense in the confusion of my pain.
Finding my meditation practice ended up informing my yoga. The spiritual side of yoga was no longer so temporary, or isolated. I began speaking to people at the center and forge relationships with teachers. I experienced my first kirtan, and did a yoga retreat. When I put my mat down, I began to understand the intention behind the asana. I found the Buddhist and yoga practice actually complemented each other like loving siblings, hugging each other from downward dog to cushion. They were connecting in me, and strengthening each other. My anger was dissipating, as I was able to explore what was truly underneath it.
I took class at Laughing Lotus for years before I realized why I went. It took an awareness of my struggles to see I was part of a community.
Just walking in the door, you are loved. And it doesn’t matter if you can do a million handstands or simply lay in child’s pose. The acceptance isn’t about how hard you work, or any goal oriented action. The acceptance comes automatically for just showing up. I feel safe there; I feel those walls can hold my shame, my sorrows, and the perfectionist little girl who wants to be loved.
I think the word family has a connotation of acceptance and support. And while many definitions refer to a blood connection, Laughing Lotus just relies on entering a common space. They have been a weekly inspiration for me to share this with whomever I meet once I leave their sparkled walls. It could be that just sitting next to someone on the subway is enough to pass it along.