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Teacher of August 2007 - Michelle Bradley

When I was twenty-three, I spent the summer in Ladakh, a Buddhist culture high in the Indian Himalayas. Towards the end of my stay, I lived in a mountainside nunnery with seventeen Tibetan Buddhist nuns, four goats and many ripening apricot trees. I helped them improve their English, and they taught me what it meant to live with an open heart.

One sunny afternoon, a solo traveler came hiking over the hills and asked for a room for the night. We talked through the sunset, after the evening puja (prayers) and past our bedtime. The next day, she left me a note and continued on her way. It said: “Be still. Its all there.”

This has been a common theme in the teachings of the wise that I have been blessed to study under, practice and travel with. One day, I hope to constantly reside in this understanding.

I have been questioning and seeking since I can remember. My father says that my eyes began searching the hospital room the moment that I was born!

What I have been looking for is authentic connection with my self and my world. We all ask, at one time or another, “What am I?” I have asked this question in a myriad of ways and places.

For much of my childhood, I felt a little out of sorts. As if there was something that everyone knew that I just did not. As a teenager in South Africa, a wise older woman told me that I was a square peg in a round hole! Realizing the possible truth of that statement, I didn’t take offense.

During my university days in Boston, two events took place that helped steer me towards yoga and meditation. The first was a psychologically exhausting summer, which resulted in me spending four months in bed, lifeless with mononucleosis. The second was being part of the events of September 11, 2001, in Manhattan. Watching the twin towers come down from a few blocks away and walking the streets that day with thousands of people, left my naturally sensitive disposition quite fragile in the months to come.

This is when my previously intermittent yoga practice became central to my life. I had tried to run from pain and discomfort by burying myself in my schoolbooks, or by dancing into the morning hours with my friends. However, neither of them held lasting relief. The only thing that helped me calm down and get to sleep was rolling out my mat, being guided through yoga practice and taking the time to watch my breath.

My reasons for coming to sadhana (spiritual practice) have evolved and developed since then, and so has my practice. My feeling of new beginnings and being on an exciting journey, however, continues every day.

After university, my practice grew under the compassionate roof of OM Yoga in New York City. Cyndi Lee, Frank Mauro, Christie Clark and many other teachers there gave me the tools to walk this path.

After a few years in New York, I yearned for new horizons and left for a nine-month journey through Asia and into my heart and soul. I spent six months of it in India on ashrams, organic farms and meditation retreats. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I had come home.

My experiences and friendships in India highlighted my desire to be of service, and this gave me the courage to apply for OM’s yoga teacher training program. I was accepted and over the next six months, was challenged and inspired to learn how to share Yoga with others. My teachers and their lessons are still with me in every class that I lead.

My journey as a teacher has taken me to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and, now, Taiwan. It grew roots in the countryside of Kyushu, Japan. Amidst the tanbo (rice fields), I shared Yoga with a community who are dedicated to their practice and wonderful friends to me. I am ever grateful to Naoko and Hitomi, who made our dreams possible.

I have continued to practice under teachers that help to illuminate the Way. In Mysore, I studied Yoga Therapy under the guidance of Yogacharya Venkatesha and his wife, Acharye Hema. Their brilliant and precise teachings brought to life the eight-fold path of Yoga. When outside of class or practice, my friends and I would gather under the coconut trees, in awe of the magnitude of their wisdom and compassion.

I bow in reverence to Sarah Powers. She is a practitioner of truth, and the Yin Yoga that I learnt from her has balanced and enhanced my practice and way of being immeasurably.

Since my first trip to India, being part of a meditation community has become an integral part of my path. I have attended several retreats in Vipassana and Zen centers. Time in retreat and my daily sitting is now the foundation of my practice. Meditation brightens my inner light and guides me in all parts of my life.

Every teacher with whom I have ever studied anything has shared his or her life with me, for which I am blessed. Each student with whom I have shared my experiences has inspired me to continue exploring. Thank you.

I owe much gratitude to my mother Eileen, father James, sisters Alison and Ava, brother Jack and friend Renee for their love and unconditional support. Without them, none of this would have been possible. I am also immensely thankful to my wise grandparents and my wonderful and eclectic family and circle of friends. Lastly, I would like to pay respect to Nature, for her endless wisdom and companionship.

There is a Zen saying: “The joy of the raindrop is to enter the ocean.” I am a raindrop, joyful in the process. May we all continue to move towards the light of truth, love and peace.

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