In the misty and cold evening of April 1 I stood in line in front of the IFC Center waiting to see Enlighten Up! It was the movie’s opening night and I was really excited to be there. But before I share with you how much I loved the movie I want to tell you about a small but beautiful story that unfolded. This story will resonate with each and everyone of you who lives in New York.
I was standing in line on the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue. By now the line has stretched so far that it reached the front door of a tattoo parlor that was very brightly lit and had a big sign right behind the cash register which read that absolutely no refunds were given after a person pays. There were all kinds of small tattoo drawings on pieces of paper hanging on the wall and a small TV by the window was showing grainy videos of what was supposed to be artistic masterpieces being created. Two girls walked in and started discussing with the guy inside how big they wanted their tattoos to be.
The line was not moving.
An older man joined the line behind me. I instinctively looked behind. The man looked at me with a very kind and loving look. He really made a long eye contact with me. He did not glance over me quickly, instead he really saw me and acknowledged me being there. I smiled but quickly looked away because I felt a bit uncomfortable – after all people do not really see each other on the streets of New York. For a split second I wondered even if I needed to feel threatened but brushed the notion away quickly. Minutes passed by and I forgot the incident. A very beautiful woman joined the man. A few more minutes passed and a second man came up to the couple behind me and said “ I missed your class today because I wanted to come and see the movie. I saw you in it.”
I overheard their conversation and as you can imagine now my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to speak with the man. I used the first opening I had and we struck a conversation. I was amazed at the man’s energy. It felt so centered and so peaceful. He had a great sense of humor and was joking how he as one of the teachers in the movie is being given the red carpet treatment by waiting in the rain outside. It felt so easy being around him. From him I learned that the movie was shot 5 years ago. I asked him how he got into yoga. He said that he was born in South Africa and his father had a yoga ashram. Because of the large Indian community in South Africa they had the opportunity to have India’s greatest yogi visit and for him and his father to learn from them. Later he was trying to teach yoga to black people in South Africa but these were the years of apartheid. South Africa became too dangerous for him and he moved to the US.
His name was Alan Finger and his father, Mani, was South Africa’s most eminent yogi.
The line began to move and it was time for us to enter the movie theater. While settling down into my seat I silently thanked Alan for reminding me how important it is that we actually look at people and really see them. I felt silly for having felt uncomfortable because of his first kind look towards me. I also felt silly for having set aside the things I believe in and having allowed New York to make me feel rushed, enclosed in my own little ego needing to protect myself from the world around. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I felt the sense of relaxation cascade down my body. I was ready to be immersed in Enlighten Up!
Please take this story with you in your day today and take time to make eye contact with people and do not be afraid to really see them. For you will encounter a beautiful soul in every person you see and you never know what gifts they may bring you and in what ways they may enrich your life.
Alan is the warm and wonderful person I met when I allowed myself to see Alan.
Later, I learned that because Alan and Mani spent years absorbing and teaching different yoga techniques they felt the need to systemize what they had learned. That is how ishta yoga came to be. ISHTA means an integrated science of hatha, tantra and ayurveda. It is a system of yoga that supports the individual to find the poses, meditations and breathing techniques that work for their unique body. You can learn more about Alan and ishta yoga here. And I look forward to taking a class with Alan and speaking with him again.
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