Yoga Shanti New York is equivalent to the most beautiful sand mandala: It was prepared with painstaking detail and devotion, and now must be destroyed as a teaching in impermanence. There is not a detail in the studio that wasn’t constructed with thought and love. I remember talking to Evan about not using nails on the benches inside the front doors; he wanted to use wooden joints, wanted the wood to be one slab with all the beautiful imperfections that make it perfect. These are the things you might not notice when you walk in, but you feel it.
Mother Theresa says, “What you spent years building could be destroyed overnight—build anyway.” That’s what we did: Five years ago, Rodney and I, masks on our faces and sledgehammers in our hands, alongside our son Evan and our soon-to-be partners Jenny Hudak, Joyce Englander, and Ariel Levy, built. The music was blasting and it was pure fun. That was my first therapeutic moment of knocking down a wall. We were like enthusiastic children with a vision and a dream. It felt so good and right. With a clean slate, we laid down the first grain of sand and watched as the space came to life.
We spent the next year developing the brick and mortar space. Rodney, Evan, Joel Siegel, and I ran around Marrakesh buying chandeliers, beams, altars, and rugs. We arranged a boat to transport our treasures back to the States and placed them lovingly into a space that we had transformed into a place of love, devotion, and refuge. Zen monks, Chodo and Koshin, performed a beautiful blessing. We were planning on having a low-key opening, when Ariel’s generous father decided to turn it into a bash. We ate, talked, and danced with delight and excitement...
Then the students showed up and the teaching began. They were met by a hand-carved, bronze Ganesh with lights delicately twinkling behind, and a warm front desk staff who welcomed them and showed them where to put their things (in the beautiful lockers - again made by hand by Evan and Joel). They then stepped into our gem of an asana room with walls painted by the renowned painter Denise Regan. Of course, the gold ceiling shown down on all. And so our dream came alive.
Thank you to each and every one of you that showed up day after day to do the work to discover personal depth and beauty. We couldn’t have built this community and had these beautiful four years without you.
So why am I crying? Because letting go of something so beautiful is painful. My first teacher, Sharon Gannon, used to tell us that life was about letting go. If you didn’t learn this, she said, then life would be suffering. When I was 25, I had no idea what she was talking about. She would tell us to inhale the word “let,” and exhale the word “go.” When we were in a standing forward bend, she would tell us to let go through the crown of our heads. She would even make us chant “Let Go” loudly, over and over again, while she played the harmonium. Her words are making so much sense to me now. Inhale “let,” exhale “go.” Several decades later, I have been hit over the head with big “letting goes,” from divorce, to the death of a parent and many friends, to my kids leaving the house, to less physical ability, etc. For heaven’s sake, I am even learning to let go of my once taut skin.
Every day is an example of having to let go or suffer. The choice is ours. Ramanand Patel says that at the end of every day, we should cry a little, laugh a little, and go to sleep. With letting go comes new beginnings and more life to be lived and loved. I have to believe that when one door closes, another opens. I will see you inside the next door that opens.
It is with big love in my heart and sadness in my gut that I will learn to let go of Yoga Shanti New York and treasure the immense love and transformation that took place under the gold ceiling there. Thank you all for your kind support as we make this difficult transition. Cry; laugh; inhale let, exhale, go. The space that we built will be destroyed, but the love that grew inside the space can never be taken away.
Here are Evan’s words about his journey with the studio:
It’s sad to see our hard work come down, but I realize more than anything that I value the unique experience and opportunity of designing, furnishing, and building Yoga Shanti with Joel Seigel, Denise Regan, Jenny Hudak, Dad, Colleen, Ariel, Joyce, Moishe and crew, and the endless list of volunteers: Demo Donna Karan, who tore down the wall; Thaddeus Echeverria, who was Denise’s paint assist; Matt Grandin, who was our carving assist; Lexie Burstein, who was our first intern; Jonas Blume and Yusef Nathanson (my roommates who endured the unbearable noise while I jigsawed out the logo in copper and steel by hand...) Most of all, if it hadn’t been for Joel’s insatiable hunger for pushing our own capabilities, we probably wouldn’t be sharing the communal design/woodworking studio we are now. It’s for this reason and many others, that Yoga Shanti’s significance, in time, more than equaled it’s brick-and-mortar existence. Thank you to all involved, and I hope it has been as important a learning experience to others as it was to us.