I used to own a yoga studio. 10 years ago, in the deep, heavily Christian, buckle of the bible belt such an endeavor was laughable and doomed to failure. I loved yoga and my students but such love did not sustain us and eventually we closed. But before that happened something extraordinary happened in my little studio.
I rented a room to a journalist, and the local Dharma center run by a woman who was working to be ordained a buddhist monk. She had shaved her head, and given away all of her worldly possessions and whatever else she had to do (I don't remember) and all she needed was a place for her ordination. It made sense for me to host it since I had the space. Little did I know we would be hosting a Geshe and his traveling retinue of brother monks. They would perform the ordination and then create at a local university,a Mandala for peace after the 9/11 attacks. Fresh from the Gyuto Tantric Monastery in Dharamsala, India, home of the Dalai Lama they were a torrent of Tibetan, brilliant smiles, broken english and saffron robes.
When being introduced, or simply making conversation a monk would look deeply at you and perhaps take a breath. It can be somewhat anxious meeting of the eyes as your new aquaintance uses his spiritual x ray vision to see you in your psychic underwear. It was of the utmost importance to truly be there with an individual without any desire to judge or evade. The same intention was ideally brought to everything that they do. They do not desire to be anywhere else or doing anything other than what they are doing at the moment. Departures were marked with hands pressed together as in prayer and Namaste: "the light in me sees the light in you."
I am not an ascetic, not even close. But it has dawned on me that cancer and it's treatments can be, in themselves an ascetic's voyage where an individual's trappings are stripped away and you face the you that was hermited in the deep spaces behind your carefully constructed appearance. It takes some guts to recognize the parts of yourself that you have declared false or too damaged to project. Coming to terms with your deepest self is a uncomfortable voyage past your psyche to behold and nurture the light within yourself. It is an act of courage and forgiveness to let go of your selfdom and allow yourself to become more authentic. So that you can really be seen.