This week marks the 30th anniversary of Eddie’s death. Eddie, my dad, was barely 52 when he passed. I was 28. My only real regret is that I missed the opportunity to enjoy an adult relationship with him. I am just now, decades later, curious about aspects of him that were of no interest to a younger me.
I know I work this quasi-Malibu surfer look, but, truth be told, I’m an Italian-Jew from just outside NYC. I grew up in a rough, blue-collar city in New Jersey. And as the son of a Navy veteran with anchor tattoos on his arms, I am still confounded by the mystery that he was a closet yogi.
I say mystery because, notwithstanding his outward appearance, he could frequently be found in our living room, in the dark, either standing on his head or sitting in meditation. His guide was nothing more than a stained, second-hand, copy of a yoga book. And a yearning for … actually, I don’t know. Stress relief? A spiritual calling? Alone time? It’s too late now for me to ask him, but I’d sure love to know what brought him to this practice.
As a kid, I found this all fairly ridiculous. My mom and I would roll our eyes and tease him mercilessly, and I was more than a little embarrassed to bring kids over to play for fear he would be, well, standing on his head in the dark.
Reflecting on this now, I deeply admire what I appreciate as his courage and curiosity. He had neither YogaGlo nor DVDs at his disposal. No mat. No props. There wasn’t a yoga studio for many miles, and no one in his life would even have known what yoga was, much less be practicing it (except maybe The Beatles? It was the late ‘60’s, after all). Despite the absence of any spiritual guide to learn from or yoga community to lean on, my dad stood on his head in the dark. It was the only pose he ever did, and he did it devotedly.
Today, as I think back to his practice and consider my own students, I wonder whether there are activities that you engage in that are unconventional given the context of how, where, or when you were raised. Are you manifesting something that feels mysteriously incongruous in the greater context of your life? Do you have a practice that is unpredictable or against the odds but that your heart drives you to do anyway?
If not, that’s okay. But if so, please do recognize your heart and give yourself a round of applause.
[Oh, and the irony isn’t lost on me that, despite my childhood embarrassment and dad-shaming, I am the one who actually became a yoga teacher. Permission granted, Dad, to roll your eyes and laugh.]