Gratitude for all the firsts and growth in 2020

I know I haven’t spoken with you all in quite a while. Quite frankly I’ve been running hard, then running in place, then sometimes hardly running at all. Since mid-March it feels like we experienced a tectonic shift. The last class at the studio was a Sunday, Chakra Yoga Flow. I had put up posters about hand washing, face masks and apologies for the bleach smell. But after that life has been a blur. Yep, we shifted some classes to livestreaming. Nope, haven’t had any classes at the studio since. Yep, we still have the studio space, but I don’t know for how long. What we’ve been up to since then have offered growth, letting go and new vision.

To say that I’m grateful would be a severe understatement.

I am blessed and feel a sense of duty to the vote of faith and trust the community has placed in me and Just B Yoga.

I know I haven’t spoken with you all in quite a while. Quite frankly I’ve been running hard, then running in place, then sometimes hardly running at all. Since mid-March it feels like we experienced a tectonic shift. The last class at the studio was a Sunday, Chakra Yoga Flow. I had put up posters about hand washing, face masks and apologies for the bleach smell.

But after that life has been a blur.

Yep, we shifted some classes to livestreaming. Nope, haven’t had any classes at the studio since. Yep, we still have the studio space, but I don’t know for how long.

What we’ve been up to since then have offered growth, letting go and new vision.

First, I got to remain connected to working with children through Communities in Schools.

 We held a virtual yoga day camp over several weeks. I had a ton of fun creating a program to connect with young people in Battle Creek and help them connect with different ways of expressing how they feel in their bodies. This was the summer after their school year was interrupted. I really treasure some of the memories of laughter and how resilient kids are.

This program also really challenged me to shift how I connect with children to teach them. I’ve always relied on my natural rapport with kids, as a big kid myself. But a computer screen and about 40 miles of distance create new kinds of barriers to connecting.

I’m forever grateful to be stretched in this way and I bow in deep respect for our educators and those committed to the healthy growth of children, especially now.

Speaking and writing have been coming back into my life after my retirement from journalism. Unite to Face Addiction Michigan came up with an innovative idea for an online rally for recovery to provide resources and inspiration for those in recovery from all kinds of addictions during this pandemic. I was invited to help organize some of the online presentations and I was honored to host a panel discussion about the challenges 2020 presented for the recovering alcoholic/addict and the hidden promises and hope.

Oh – and there was yoga! Of course.

Continuing to stretch my hosting and interviewing and overall camera presence, I was honored to work with the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition to host Mending Mondays. This was a series meant to offer mindful and healing coping for the disabled people of color community.

We kicked it off with the importance of healing ritual and ceremony. Watch the video on Facebook here: https://fb.watch/1ZhyLH00j9/

Please, enjoy meeting Grand Rapids artist, Reyna Garcia and her inspiring story of hope and growth.  https://fb.watch/1Zhuj9IKQB/

We created several guided meditations for Consumers Energy, Chair Yoga DVDs for Edgewood Village. And there will be some Tai Chi demonstrations in an upcoming episode of AARP Real Possibilities with Paula Cunningham on WLNS.

Overall, this year presented opportunities to culminate the journey of Just B Yoga into practical tools for various aspects of a year of challenge and crisis. I was asked to deliver two keynote addresses, one for Jackson National Life and the other for the Capital District Library.

For Jackson, they wanted a toolkit for surviving the stress of working from home, Zoom fatigue, and more. I shared a creative way of looking at Survivalist Self-Care and offered suggestions on what to pack in your mental health “Go Bag” and how to get it packed and ready to go for when the next tsunami of uncertainty hits.

For CADL, I chose to take a personal route, which has pushed me to stretch and grow in the most profound way of all my adventures this year. Libraries and information and access to knowledge are dear to me. Education and academic achievement were prized in my family, not only as Black people but as women. So I shared the story of my grandmother, Lorraine Rachel Lonesome, the first Black person to work as a clerk in the U.S. Supreme Court and who taught me to take a bite out of an onion as though it were an apple. I shaped the talk around that theme, reminding us all that unprecedented time are in each breath we take. If we’ve never done it, it’s unprecedented. It’s up to us to shape how we are living in this time; with fear and resentment or with hope and desire. Unprecedented is just another way of saying First.

So I look back briefly at this year of firsts for Just B Yoga, firsts for Belinda. I cannot say definitively what is coming next. But I’ve never been able to say that about us from the beginning. We just put one foot in front of the other and take it one breath at a time, connect with community as openly and honestly and lovingly as we can.

I will keep teaching, maybe more privates than group or general classes. I will keep speaking about how to live our best selves when life keeps getting harder. I will write more. There are so many stories to tell about healing and meaning.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me, Belinda Thurston, as Best Yoga Instructor and Just B Yoga, as Best Yoga Studio in the City Pulse Top of the Town. It was truly a surprise and humbling reward after all this year has offered. What is our studio any more? It is you. It is what it always was to grow into – the whole community, a studio without walls. And what is yoga any more? What it always has been. A life practice of connection and consciousness through healthy body and mind. It’s how we share with one another, how we reflect one another and how we lift up one another.

Ashay. Namaste.

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