Karoline Kulhanek’s article about how she became aware of Michael Stone and the Centre of Gravity originally appeared on the Centre’s website. It is a lovely description of her introduction to yoga practice which many of us can relate to. We are so pleased that Michael is joining us this August 24 – 29th for Yoga, Meditation & Deep Healing.
The first time I heard about Michael Stone and Centre of Gravity, I was in my bathroom. (Buddhism is more of a laxative than a sedative, no?) I picked up the book that lay by the sink, “Inner Tradition of Yoga,” my Beloved must’ve left behind. Andrew was leaving soon, one-way to India and we were bidding farewell, a dreadfully painful event that effectively triggered 38% of all my holding patterns. It came to be, at Union Station, standing face-to-face with my departing friend, my face soggy from tears and feeling empty, I wanted to leave him a parting gift, but after years of nearly drowning in a well, enacting a Jackson Pollock painting with him while singing Leonard Cohen hymns, my heart was full, but hands empty. Dear Andrew: what can I possibly give you?
“Go to Centre of Gravity,” he says, “…and take care of you.”
Centre of Gravity? Really? You mean ‘do’, not read? What if others see my darkness? Am I flexible enough?
Let the stories come. I made my way over.
I came upon an oasis in an arid Sahara! I drank in the humour, the intellectual challenges, the bibliographic references, the invite to be still. I drank in the palpable respect and love arising in formality, in chant and the accepting discussion after dharma talks.
I kept returning.
Exchanges ensued: pride for gratitude, certainty for curiosity, fear for courage. Fatal habits were replaced by life-giving ones and self-centered tendencies by compassion. My office-mate tells me “something’s changed with you;” friendships become deeper; and I’m no longer searching for a path through a mangrove swamp of old, stale patterns. The integration of the aspects of being began and Centre of Gravity became like my very own couple’s counsellor, repairing the broken marriage between how I express myself and what is meaningful in my life.
Truth be told, I hate sitting. It’s like washing dishes: not exciting and somebody else should be doing this! When I just don’t want to, I feel the room full of people who are sitting as well. The person next to me sits humbly on their cushion, but is my pillar. I sit straighter and return to the breath. That’s when I learn there’s so much crap I’m holding onto that makes it so hard. Weeds. Shunryu Suzuki says we should be grateful for weeds, that we pull them out and then bury them near the plant to give nourishment.
My plant has grown since I’ve become part of the sangha. The small place that thinks that love is finite gives way to this wave of sprouting buds, and the next thing I know I’m growing fruits and planting new seeds; I can feed others! But then I learn it’s not me doing the feeding or the planting, or who I think is me, and then I begin work with people dying in their homes and I look back and wonder how it is I came from a spiraling-down place of anger that was leading rapidly to mortal death 2 years ago, to being here now. Is this what is meant at Centre of Gravity when I’m reminded to be grateful for my life?
The reintegration of self through physical asana practice, yoking the breath with my mind and looking deeply into my psychology with instruction from how the masters did it, heals me and strengthens relationship.
I had no idea the impact of that book would have, sitting on my bathroom counter last year.
Born in Toronto, raised along the Golden Horseshoe, Karoline Kulhanek currently lives in the city in the east end with her cat, Saturn. Karoline paddles in a sea kayak on Georgian Bay or in a canoe in Algonquin; she sleeps in a tent as often as she can, and occasionally frolics in mountain valleys, and rides her bicycle in good weather. When she’s not doing the aforementioned, she’s reading non-fiction or coordinating clinical lymphoma research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Karoline volunteers with Hospice Toronto. She spent much of her life reading about philosophy, then spirituality, and is now hitting the cushion, not without resistance.
Michael Stone is a renowned yoga teacher, Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist and activist. Based in Toronto where he runs the Centre of Gravity Sangha, Michael teaches internationally in yoga studios, monasteries, academic institutions and clinical settings. He is the author of five books on yoga, mindfulness and social action.
Join Michael for Yoga, Meditation and Deep Healing from August 24 – 29th on Cortes Island.