Shriyoga Blog

Who Were You on 9/11/01?

Posted on September 11th, 2011

This question was raised in some ABC News internet footage I watched today commemorating the attacks that took place on 9/11.  The correspondent pointed out that the question most asked about that day has been “Where were you?”, and then, pausing, he probed  “More importantly, Who were you?” and Who are you today?”

For these questions, I am glad that I broke my promise to myself that I would not watch any footage replaying the horror of what happened approximately 10 blocks down from where I am typing this blog entry right now.  A mentor of mine gently warned me back in 2002 (around the time of the first anniversary) that my anxiety level was being exacerbated by re-watching the towers collapse over and over in multiple views.  The terrifying footage was perpetuating an obsessive fear, and potentially slowing down the healing process for those of us living in nearby neighborhoods.

Again, I am glad that I allowed myself to watch just a little bit of footage today, even as I sit here provoked and crying, for the questions presented.  The questions that leave me pondering…

Who was I on 911/01 and Who am I now on 9/11/11?

On the deepest of levels, I am.  I am still that which is present, breathing and wondering what the meaning of it all is… and not knowing.

And, paradoxically, I am not anything of who I was on 9/11/01.  All the years, months… minutes leading up to 9:03 that morning, I was driven, willful and striving to be seen and heard.

Then, watching the destruction unfold, I was literally blown out of my calendar and plans.

It became very clear that day that most of everything I was doing and pursuing seemed empty and meaningless except for… yoga.  I somehow let go of the desire to be somebody… and the endless “to do” lists associated with that task.  It was my first adult taste of simply being.

Shortly thereafter, I completed my first yoga teacher certification with Max Strom.  I was in the training as a means to deepen my practice as I felt so lost and alienated in the life I was living.  I also had no intention of becoming a yoga teacher, and Max was clear with my intention when accepting me.  It was a surreal time, and at the end of the training, Max asked Cari Friedman, Jamie Elmer and myself to become his assistant teachers.  I was stunned as I accepted this generous offer.  Within months, I was on the schedule of various yoga studios teaching my own classes as I continued to learn hands on knowledge from Max, who is affectionately called “The Gentle Giant” for his tall and powerful stance, kind demeanor and ability to teach discipline.

Watching that archived footage today with the innocent 2001 version of the news anchors covering the horror, I realized that I, too, was more innocent back then, primarily because I was also more myopic.  The lens opened, and I experienced a taste of “something bigger” than me.

Being a resident of Soho since the 90’s, I had grown accustomed (even attached) to the unobstructed, famous view of the trade towers which were a trademark of walking down Thompson Street to my apartment one block above Canal.  It took years for “the scar” of their absence to fade away:   The absence, a constant reminder of impermanence.  One lesson I hope to never forget.


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