It’s been a most strange few days, especially post Christmas. It was supposed to be my quiet time, a chance to recuperate and recharge my batteries. Yet I feel under par and unsettled. So much has shaken around me – loss of friends, serious sicknesses, helplessness…

Death I felt very closely again and this time mourning a colleague and friend, but also acutely aware of how much others are affected by it. I sat in meditation both last night and this morning practicing Tonglen. It felt so raw and immediate, yet very precious and still. As I did my best to connect to others I realised once again how fine the line, how tenuous a link there is between life and death.

Yet today was back to work, a cover class and an important one. I was acutely aware I was hitting the road running this morning, teaching at HMP Pentonville, standing in for a colleague. Then all those feelings made me stop, remain standing still for a moment, and look at the men I was teaching. I don’t know why they’re there, what in any detail they go through. And it’s not just the inmates here, what of my other students in day to day classes, I don’t know their stories. But it’s obvious when someone is unwell, off balance, down. And not always adverse emotions either, it’s the whole gamut of life; ups and downs. If I look back at the last few years of teaching I’ve seen students passing exams, starting new jobs, I’ve seen weddings, babies, grief, financial crisis, injuries, healing… You name it and they’ve been there.

It dawned on me - slowly crept over me in quiet amazement, as I stood still then, that for some hours each day a group of people get together in a room, people with such varied - otherwise unconnected lives, with such different worries and joys; and they share. They bring their energies and they enter an unspoken complicite with yoga and with the teacher. They work and they engage - enter a dance with life if all goes well - for those class hours. And like I was feeling today, the division between that practice feeling and the quality with which we engage outside in the world is what we should work with, work on.

I recognised then that my job is nothing more than to be centred and available. In fact isn’t that the whole job of yoga practice? And I felt privileged to be here and share this practice with these guys, and hugely grateful for the lessons I’m learning on this journey.

(- This post was first published in 2012)