"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering."
Thank you, Cory, for being such a considerate (and fun!) tour guide!
Gilda's Club Chicago ended its programming at Rush University Medical Center yesterday.
It was one of the most difficult, most unusual, and most rewarding teaching experiences I've ever had.
From 1:30-2:30 I'd teach chair yoga in the cancer outpatient floor of the professional building. The students tended to be open to a lot of the chanting and visualization I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra, and the chair and gentle yoga practices I'd learned from Lakshmi Om and Sister Leslie at the Shanti Niketan ashram.
Sometimes there wouldn't be any students, and I'd go into the waiting room and do "outreach," telling the patients about Gilda's Club and our programs. I initially had a lot of resistance to this, since it went against some notion I had about "not selling" yoga. I got over it (mostly).
From 2:30-3:30 I'd go to the inpatient ward in the beautiful butterfly-shaped tower, where I'd go from room to room asking long-term stem cell transplant, bone marrow transplant, and chemo patients if they would like to "do relaxation" (savasana) for ten minutes. We did not call it savasana.
You never knew what you would get when you opened the door; some were grateful to see you, some were afraid, some were asleep or indisposed, and some were hostile; one lady was choking and suffering terribly from taking a large pill. It ran the whole gamut and it was a wonderful lesson for me not to take things personally.
This group of students spanned every imaginable color, ethnicity and background.
Once, there was a policemen outside of a patient's door - not to keep him from leaving, but to keep others from coming in and harming him.
Once, I walked in and asked a very thin patient who was relaxing in an easy chair how he was feeling. "I'm great!" he said, with a big, missing-tooth smile. "I'm homeless!" He seemed to be relishing the luxury of being in the hospital.
Oftentimes, the patient only spoke Spanish, so I taught in Spanish.
Once, I taught a man who only spoke Italian in Spanish (in an Italian accent). It worked!
It always worked, when the patients and their family / friends were open to it. I was just the guide.
That was the real lesson: to be open to things (my tendency is to be closed, and this does not work).
This experience also helped me come to terms with the deaths of my parents from cancer in 1997 and 1999.
Now the classes are moving to Gilda's Club Chicago's downtown clubhouse. I found this out while driving to the Mumbai airport last week.