Safety. My search for safety set me firmly on this path. How do people feel safe? How do they find safety? These were the questions I began asking in earnest when we moved to Hong Kong in the late ‘90s.
I was not scared; I was actually quite comfortable. Our family relocated there from eastern Germany and our expat package was very comfortable. Our twin sons had begun elementary school at an international American school, though they had to be interviewed to see if they knew enough English to be admitted. American-born and English speaking, their language skills had come into doubt after we had praised their German fluency from our time in Weimar.
The new lifestyle in Hong Kong provided a luxury of time for me. Necessary domestic chores were matched with new domestic care. There was a novel standard of service that was available, freeing me from daily cleaning, cooking, and shopping to spend time with my boys and spend time for myself. Yes, I was very fortunate and deeply grateful.
In the yogic philosophy “to place in a certain way”, I was newly free to follow my curiosity. Each hour that my sons spent in school, was an hour I was able to spend on myself. Novel, free, and curious is how I landed on asking about safety.
It was at the prompting of a friend that I tried this thing called yoga. It was just my friend and I arriving at the apartment of a French yoga teacher (I’m sorry to not remember her name). The teacher had mats for us side-by-side and instructed the 2 of us through the course of an hour. Full-on hand assists for every posture. Kind encouragement guiding into detailed precision. And, a peaceful demeanor that stays with me to this day. I felt amazing! My friend felt amazing! And we returned for follow-up classes.
Hong Kong was a city of transient expats from around the world. My yoga teacher moved. We moved, I found a new teacher and then she moved and I moved again. I also got involved with the textile society, Feng Shui classes with master Raymond Lo, boot camp exercise classes, and hiking the trails in and around the city.
Safety, my theme of inquiry. How is safety marked here in this culture? Hiking to the top of Lantau Peak, over 3,000ft in hot humid full-sun conditions, there was a lone pagoda there. A structure with roof and open sides and the welcome sight of benches to sit and rest. Most every mountain peak had a pagoda, not a private residence. The trails and peaks were for the people and for the festivals, one of which involved carrying heavy food baskets up to the top, to be closer to the heavens, to honor the ancestors.
I made a friend and she was also inquiring into safety. We met a few times for talks and walks to discuss what was on our minds and in our hearts. But mostly, my inquiry was quiet and internal and wordless. It was something that I brought into my daily meditation, having begun a practice back when I was in elementary school.
I found that when I got rattled and tried to think my way through, this was not how I felt safe. The times when I lost my way navigating strange city streets, when I was being followed by a threatening stranger, when I couldn’t find the car keys. Side-by-side this, I also realized that I cannot think my way through an asana practice. Yogic movement is practiced on the mat with the strength of my weight and the movement of my living tissue structure.
So why yogic movement? Because it takes me out of my thinking head and into present-moment feeling awareness. It is entry into a deeper and more real dimension. Stillness, silent, spacious, I am re-connected with all that is whole and good and kind.
It is here where safety had led me. It is where safety continues to take me in our time of new normals and global upheavals. With all the change and uncertainty that goes hand in hand with our lived experience, I roll out my yoga mat, feel the gravitational weight of my existence and dive into a timeless and spacious knowing of safety.