RIP Beautiful Tree

On Wednesday morning I arrived at the studio to sub the 10:30 class and a small work crew was standing in front of the studio. I quickly realized they were preparing to cut down the beautiful tree that stands (stood) in front of our window. I was shocked, as were the students who were arrived early for my class and the students who were finishing up the Pilates class.

I called the property manager to get some information. She normally lets me know when any type of work will be happening on the property. It turns out the work had been scheduled for the end of June, but the crew had some time available and they showed up ahead of schedule.

According to the property manager, it was necessary to remove the tree because its roots were causing the walkway to become uneven, posing a safety issue. And the roots were also affecting the foundation and thus our ability to fully open our front door.

By now, I think everyone knows that the entire property will be demolished toward the end of 2014 for a road construction project. It didn't make sense to me why our tree needed to be removed now.

As I prepared to teach the class, one of the workers climbed up the tree with a chain saw and a machete. Susan, one of the ladies in my class, walked to the front of the studio and picked up a yoga strap. She said we should form a protest and volunteered to strap herself to the tree. She was half serious, but her comment helped lighten the mood. We were all sad about what would transpire.

The crew started cutting the smaller branches, then worked their way to the bigger branches. Bit by bit, the whole tree started to come down. Cindy, another lady in my class, spoke up as we were putting away our props at the end of the practice.

She said she was distracted during class because she saw 3 birds fly by looking for the tree. She observed that the birds didn't panic, they just seemed to acknowledge that the tree was gone. She said the birds taught her a lesson in non-attachment. I was proud of her yogic learning, but at the same time I mourned the loss of a home for the birds and squirrels, and the loss of life of the tree.

When I got home, I posted a note on the private Facebook page the TYR teachers use to communicate. I told the teachers that the tree was being cut down, and they responded with notes of sadness and loss.

Emily: I loved that tree. Now from where will the squirrels watch yoga class?

Angela: I've already teared up a couple of times. I'm nervous about going to the studio. I've created a little something for people to sign (if they want) to give a little closure.

Stacy: The squirrel came by right as the pregnant ladies were leaving, looking for the tree. He just moved on. I think [this lesson] is to help us let go. The studio is changing. It's moving, it's growing, it's expanding. It's not the same that it was. We can't get too caught up with what's on the surface - that doesn't mean we can't feel sad, but our emotions show us where our own gaps are. It's a gift. We will miss what was, but along with every rebirth comes some destruction.

The next day, I was scheduled to teach the 8:00 a.m. class. I was nervous walking up to the studio. I didn't know what to expect, literally and emotionally.

After class, I posted another note for the teachers: It was a shock to walk up to the front door and feel like my friend the tree was missing. In its absence the studio is brighter, but I miss the filtered light. I miss the long branch that grew horizontally. I had always wanted to hang a wind chime or sun catcher on it. The orange cones and Caution tape in the tree's place add insult to injury.

And the teachers responded...

Angela: It looks like a crime scene. I was so "out of sorts" when I entered the studio this morning. Ungrounded. Everyone in my class felt that way as we started. By the end were stabilized, re-grounded, & re-connected & had a bit of closure for the loss of our beautiful tree. During class I saw the little squirrel running around the courtyard. He seemed lost. One student suggested putting a green umbrella & little table where the tree stood. Another student suggested we have a little ceremony. I observed another student pause at the tree site & reflect with her hand on her heart.

On the surface, it may seem silly that we are all so attached to a tree. We may not even have realized how attached we are or were. Yoga teaches non-attachment - not getting attached to things or people. I've written about non-attachment before, you can read the post here. It's easier for me to be non-attached to material things, but this week I learned that being non-attached to living things is significantly harder.

As the teachers and I mourn the loss of the tree and learn lessons from our emotions and thoughts, I know you may have reactions you'd like to share. Please post your thoughts and sentiments in the Comments section below.

XO, Zelinda

Commercial Real Estate: A Lesson in Non-Attachment

Ancient yogic texts teach us that becoming attached to things - objects, circumstances, expectations, or people - will ultimately cause us pain. When the object of attachment breaks, gets lost, changes, moves away, or dies, we experience the pain of heartbreak. This makes sense on a logical level, but putting into practice a lifestyle of non-attachment is pretty challenging. My search for a space to relocate our studio has been one huge lesson in non-attachment. As you may know, the property that houses The Yoga Room will be demolished when construction begins on a fly-over that will run from Deepwood Avenue to I-35, sometime around January 2015. Because of that, and because we just plain need more space, I've been looking for a new place to house the studio for nearly a year.

Thinking back, I've put serious offers on 3 places. I invested tens of hours of work into each of these properties: visiting, contemplating location, considering traffic patterns, designing floor plans, getting contractor bids on the work needed, and negotiating lease terms. The more work I put into each property, the more I visualized the floor plan and sensed how the space would feel when we were finally able to move in, the more attached I became.

Ultimately, when each of the properties fell through, typically due to the inability to come to agreeable terms with the landlord, I felt defeated. Heartbroken. The beautiful, serene practice spaces that I dreamed up in my mind disappeared into thin air. And I was equally annoyed with myself for sharing real estate updates with students and teachers and bringing them along on my real estate emotional roller coaster.

Even for yoga teachers, sometimes it takes a little trial and error to learn our yogic lessons.

In May I started looking into a property near the corner of 79 and Mays. I made a conscious effort not to get too excited about it. I'd learned from heartbreak times 3. I designed the floor plan. I sensed how serene and bright the space would feel. I consciously reminded myself that, while this would be a great space, negotiations could fall through at any time.

As my realtor and I prepared to submit the floor plan to the property's realtor, we learned that two other parties were also interested in the same space. And worse, one of those was interested in purchasing the space rather than leasing. Over the course of the next few days, the property's realtor didn't mention the other parties again. We figured they had lost interest. I was hopeful again.

We met with contractors who would bid on the buildout work required to make the space into a yoga studio. After a week we received the bids. While they were high, we figured we could negotiate them to a manageable number. We submitted the bids to the property's realtor and on Wednesday of this week she replied that the landlord was willing to work with us to define mutually agreeable lease terms. I was really feeling like this was the one.

Then yesterday I received a voice message from my realtor: the group that was interested in purchasing the space is moving forward. Game over.

And to my surprise, I was ok. I wasn't heartbroken.

I remembered that there's another unit at the same property that could possibly work out to be our yoga studio. So this afternoon I'll go there and begin again.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali teaches that yoga should be practiced with abhyasa (discipline, consistency of effort) and vairagya (non-attachment). Just as we step onto our yoga mats with consistency and practice joyfully without attachment to the fruits of the practice, so should we live our daily lives. It's easier said than done, but the good news is that every day we have the opporunity to live our yoga, learning lessons as we go.

What is your experience with non-attachment? Is it something you might want to integrate into your daily life? Can you think of a situation where you were heartbroken after becoming attached to something? Please tell me your thoughts in the Comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

XO, Zelinda



P.S. Thank you to Ellen Stansell for providing me the reference on the language of abhyasa and vairagya in the Yoga Sutras. She is a scholar of Indian Philosophy and yoga teacher at TYR, and she writes an incredibly insightful blog. You should check it out.