Yoga for Congo Women, and miracles.

Undo your heart
Tell me your thoughts
What you were
And what you are…

Like bells no one
Has ever rung.

-Kenneth Rexroth

It’s been a really hard thing, trying to find the words to talk about the Denver event.

I would never have admitted this to anyone but my husband before, but I approached this event with so much dread and fear.

As I looked back on the previous year, what rang in my mind over and over was this terrible fear that many people would feel that they had supported me or the cause already and didn’t need to come again.  I tried to push it away, but it was always there.

Total fear of absolute “failure.”  Fear that the second time around would be the true test of this event.

And as the event approached, my worst fear seemed to be coming true.  Registrations were half of what they had been the year before.

As I prepared the night before with my family, I tried to get the nagging fear out of my mind.  But then I got call after call and email after email from friends telling me they wouldn’t be coming after all.  With registrations so low and my friends canceling left and right, I felt cold, sad, and empty.

I packed pictures of women I loved and truly wept.  I felt I was letting them down.

I went to bed crying, praying, begging for a miracle.  I felt so tired and so defeated.  I prayed and cried most of the night.

It is hard to admit, but I struggled to get out of bed and get ready that morning.  I just felt so sad.

Somehow, when the sun rose, I knew it would be okay.

It was hard to keep up my faith at first that morning.  Half of the people who had actually registered didn’t come.

Words can’t describe that heartbreak when you’ve given everything you have.  My worst fear was that the event wouldn’t grow this year, that we would have less people than last year.

And from one viewpoint, that’s exactly what happened.  I was tempted to be absolutely humiliated.  But I just kept looking at the faces of our sisters.  I wasn’t doing it for me.  It was for them.

And then, suddenly, it was time to start.

I looked out at the people who came.  Most of them were totally unexpected.

And all of a sudden, it rushed upon me.

My miracle.

Not the one I had prayed for.  One that was better.

The love.

It overwhelmed me.  It encircled me.

It didn’t matter that there were fewer people.  The love was so much greater.  I could hardly talk I was so overwhelmed by it, from my sweet husband front and center, to my few dear, dear friends and loved ones who came, to people I didn’t even know.

At every event I travel to, I never meet the people who don’t come.  I never even know they aren’t there.  I only envelope myself in the total love and joy of those who do come.  When it’s my home event, that’s harder to do.  But when I let it go, I am amazed at the incredible love I feel.

As we went through the practice together, the love only grew.  I was literally exhausted by it.

I know that I always say that my life is changed by this event.  It is.

But this time, it has changed more than I thought possible.

I had to learn to finally let go, of everything everyone might have thought.  Of every sorrow over a friend who didn’t come.  Of every fear of failure and sorrow for not doing more.

Only then have I come to know the transcendent joy of sacrifice and doing something for someone other than myself, of living outside of myself.

The time I passed through after this event was at first very painful.  Friends avoided me.  Several really didn’t want to talk to me when I saw them at parties or church or the store in the coming week.  Others tried to talk to me too much.  Some told me to quit, because it obviously wasn’t worth what I gave if I couldn’t fill that room and make more money.  How to tell them that the money is only a tiny part of it?  How to describe the loneliness and pain of having so few people care about or understand something you’ve given your entire heart for?

In time though, I lost the sorrow for myself, and felt it only for them.  I finally knew true joy.

And I realized that to be capable of feeling such intense joy, there had to be a corresponding level of pain that would go with it at times.

But that’s okay.  Finally, it’s okay.

Because I keep thinking back to the love in that room.

I think of the sweet friends who do understand.

Of the husband, the true helpmeet, that gives me more than I have ever given anything.

I think of the totally unexpected people whose love absolutely overwhelmed me.  People I never would have expected.  And people who I know were terrified, but came anyway.

And I think of this: Last year, nearly everyone in that room was there for me.  This year, I don’t think that anyone was there just for me.  The ones who came, came for them.  They came to love and to give.

And that’s the greatest miracle of all.

One sweet woman who came, and who had been there last year, told me that there may have been less people this year, but it felt like more.  Because the feeling was so incredible.  You could have touched the feeling in the air.

I’ve tasted such exquisite joy.  Something was given to me that morning.

I will never be the same again.

And finally, I have tasted success.  Success isn’t numbers.  It isn’t money raised.  It isn’t popularity.

Success is joy.  Success is love.  Success is selflessness and an abundant life.

Matt has talked with me countless hours and countless nights, helping me to finally understand.  How I love him.  My dearest, truest friend.  I could never have imagined the kind of love we have.  I will never forget him sitting in the most prominent and self-conscious spot in that room, just so that he would be close to me.

So finally, I don’t care anymore.  Though I know as it grows, I will have to adapt and let go of many things (already I’m starting to have to figure that out), I will never quit.  Even if it hurts.  I don’t care if I’m down to one person at my events.  It will be worth it.  I will give everything and love everything, because I finally know joy.  True joy.

True joy comes of not holding back.  Of opening yourself to loneliness and pain.  Of sorrow and working through fear.  Of faith.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.  – Mother Teresa

I will ring my heart like a bell that has never been rung, because I have tasted love that is so sweet, so miraculous, that I cannot imagine how I lived before.

To those who came, thank you, thank you, thank you.  I have no words to express how I feel for you.  You changed not only Congolese lives together that morning.

You changed my life.

Photos by Janine Grover.

13 Responses

  1. heather menlove

    I am not the best at expressing myself in words but yes love sums up that morning. How wondering it is to feel pure love a true blessing. Thank you for opening up my heart to it, friend!

    October 26, 2011 at 5:44 am

  2. stephanie cottrell

    You have such a way of expressing the emotions of that day! Thank you, for the opportunity to experience this with you :) I just hope that my kids (namely Austin :) ) weren’t too much of a mood breaker. You are a truly amazing person and friend Ann {HUGS!}

    October 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

    • Ann

      Austin was perfect. I loved having your kids there! They were such a sweet addition to the day. :) It made me miss my own!

      October 26, 2011 at 10:08 am

  3. What a beautiful event it was!! So glad I could be there and feel the amazing energy and love of everyone there!! :) You are beautiful!!!

    October 26, 2011 at 10:05 am

  4. Trisha

    You are an inspiration.

    October 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm

  5. Ruth

    Beautiful pictures of a beautiful day!

    October 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm

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  7. Liesel

    I’ve put on events where little to no one came, so I know how that feels. But, it looks like the ones who did come made it worthwhile. Then for those of us who registered, but couldn’t come (dang, I’ll make sure I don’t have anything for my non-profit on the same day next year) at least there was that money contributed to the Congolese women. I’ll do what I can next year to help you advertise it.

    October 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm

  8. Debbie Domenici

    I have hosted many events where no one comes, but my mom and sisters. It is so very heartbreaking! I am so sorry that we financially could not swing it this year. I pray that our situation changes so that we can come next year and see your beautiful home and girls. You express your feelings so well and a lot of the time they are the same feelings I am going through in my life. Your events are life changing for those who attend and are so beautiful. I really cannot wait until the next event to help the Congolese women, you and myself! I love you my friend!

    October 29, 2011 at 7:14 pm

  9. Ann, i have been offline for a week or so, just trying to regain some sensibility. this post is amazing. you are amazing. i so feel the depth of your pain. and wish i could make people care too. it is so discombobulating. all around. you will forever be a hero to me, and i will be one of the ones that always comes. your husband and i can sit together in the front row…lol…he is awesome.

    lots of love my dearest inspiration,

    October 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

  10. You’ve given me so much to think about. I love you’re spirit and compassion and love. What a beautiful moment.

    November 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm

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