Thank you, Michael Stone - Lindsay Gulanes, Virginia Shay, Ryan Case, Kat Lourenco, Claudia Gracias, Brittany Bruce
On Sunday night Michael Stone, Buddhist teacher, yogi, psychotherapist, public figure left this Earth. There is now a tremendous void in the philosophy and mindfulness community. There is an even greater void for his young (including unborn) children, his partner and his loved ones. There is no doubt that Michael was an incredibly influential teacher in our community, and several Fearless Heart yogis have trained with him personally. His books, podcasts, and videos extended that reach to influence many people to question the way they structured their lives and values. He challenged us to discover what it means to truly be present, regardless of the comfort or discomfort we experience in the moment.
I began writing these thoughts from a very abstract place, thinking about what it's like when one is a teacher, and to some extent a publicly owned persona. But as Ryan and Virginia and I discussed when we met in shock to comfort each other in this loss, it's evident that what has been lost is a human being and that's what everything else comes down to.
One of the biggest gifts that he taught was that healing can only happen in the context of connection. That true meditation was about living deeply in each moment, and connecting with the people, places and situations in front of you. The true meaning of being awake is to be connected to others and to love and practice compassion and kindness to ourselves and everyone around us. And, similarly, being awake and giving someone your attention is one of the greatest gifts you have to give.
He deftly wove big philosophical questions with disarming jokes, always reminding us that each moment has the opportunity to be joyful, even as we do the hard work of becoming awake in the world. He encouraged us to stop blaming, to view ourselves and each other with compassion, and he taught us the incredible power of stopping to give attention to our physical, present experience for even just one moment. He revealed how much living opens up when you have the courage to encounter a moment honestly, without hitching it to narratives in your head about your past or your future.
I'm surprised by the intensity of my impulse to cling today. There is an enormous amount of sadness, that I think is about the realisation that despite always knowing how ephemeral life is, I still took for granted that there would be more wisdom and compassionate advice coming from him for years to come. And I've completely transferred that feeling and projected it onto everyone else in my life that I cherish. It's made me feel an urgent need to connect. I've called a bunch of my close friends today, and seen a few more in person. It felt necessary. I needed the assurance of those connections. Being connected is a big part of how I know that I am alive and today there is the raw reality of just how quickly it can all be over, even when you are busy making plans for the future.
Going forward I feel a few different urges. The first is to reflect on the ways that Michael has influenced me personally, as well as the positive impacts on our sangha. To that effect, a few of us here at FHY are sharing this post to give thanks for the valuable teachings he gave. Secondly, we will be having a gratitude meditation gathering to honour him, to gather our community together and to celebrate our sangha. The third is that I would ask you, dear reader to take time to express your gratitude this week. Maybe saying thank you to someone, writing a letter expressing gratitude, paying it forward with kindness, or simply pausing to recognise the moment you are in, feeling your breath and your own beating heart.
Ryan: I attended a workshop led by Michael in Toronto in 2016, and he opened that workshop by inviting us to imagine ourselves as leaves on a tree. Each leaf needs its own sunlight and water. And, at the same time, when one leaf satisfies its own needs, it can impact the other leaves. In this way, we are all individuals and we are all connected.
For me, this captures what Michael's teaching was all about: practicing going beyond postures, beyond your own needs, and arriving at a practice that focuses on relationships and awareness---connecting yoga to what really matters.
Kat: What a hard thing to put into words, how one person's words have stuck with you. Again and again, I go back to Michael talking about the 'little retreat' vs the 'big retreat'; practicing yoga in isolation from the world vs. practicing from within our loud, chaotic lives. Yoga as gift not just for ourselves, but for those around us.
I'm filled with sadness, but moreso with deep gratitude for a teacher who, even in parting, shines light on the practice of being vulnerable and real, and ultimately human.
Brittany: Yoga for a World Out of Balance was the very first book I read when I started practising yoga in 2012. Before I ever attended my first FHY class or knew that teaching yoga would become a part of my life, I had Michael Stone's compassionate insights in my head.
Thank you, Michael, for introducing me to a whole new way of living. I'll never be able to repay that gift
Claudia: Reflecting on the passing of our teacher, mentor and friend, Michael. I carry so many of his teachings with me every day. They have truly helped to transform my heart. Remembering this teaching today has helped me find some peace.
"We can always come back to this moment. And we can learn to be friends with whatever happens in our experience, including the parts that are unpleasant. Bow to whatever arises in the heart moment to moment to moment."
Today, I dedicate my practice of gratitude to Michael Stone and this sangha. May we all support and serve each other and continue to awaken.
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi svaha