Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

A Lesson From a Blind Woman

Sometimes we need to slow down and refocus our line of vision on what really matters.

It was 8 am on Sunday morning.  My head hurt from last night’s whisky and my internal rollercoaster of competing thoughts.  Career. Relationship. Life.  What did it all mean? And why am I always hungover? Ugh. I dialed up the happy beats on my ipod and stepped out into the soft morning fog to walk down Fillmore Street to my yoga studio, hoping a powerful series of postures would calm my racing mind.

Over the beats of Jack Johnson, I faintly heard a voice pleading behind me to stop.  My life is usually planned out in three-minute increments and I never have time to stop for anyone.  However on this day I decided to make a change. After all, it was still early; I could afford to be distracted.  I took out my earbuds and turned to see an old woman with long flowing white hair calling out to me. One gnarled hand carried a plastic bag filled with food, the other tightly gripped a seeing eye cane.

“Excuse me….I’m blind…can you help me?”

I walked over to her, wondering how many other people had passed on by.    “Good morning! How may I help you?’ I said as cheerily as possible.

“I want to walk up to Sacramento Street but feel I am turned around. Can you please tell me if I am in the right direction?”

She was indeed, in the wrong direction. Perhaps I could afford more than a 2 second distraction.

A mild earthy odor filled my nostrils as I took the women’s left arm and gently spun her around.

“Why don’t I walk you there? Where exactly do you need to go?”

“The bagel shop just past Sacramento.”

I looped my arm through hers and walked her slowly up the street, guiding her over cracks and intersections as we chatted.  She asked me why I was up so early and I told her that I was en route to yoga so as to limber my limbs.

“You probably need it more for your mind,” she said calmly.  I wondered if her blind eyes could detect the chaos in my skull.

“I used to do yoga,” she said wistfully. “I spent 12 years in India!  I studying spirituality and religion, and, well….love.”

I wondered how a western bohemian India dweller ended up blind, asking strangers for help on the streets of San Francisco.

“I spent some time in India” I replied. “I was in Kerala in an Ashram. “Sivananda.” As I offered the name of my Ashram, I remembered my life before I was booked two weeks out.  I remembered long days of meditation, yoga, selfless service…..and ample amounts of time to listen to those around me.  When I was there, my own wants ceased to exist.  Today my wants seem to get an unbalanced proportion of attention.

“Ahhh yes….Sivananda.  Very solid practice.  I was also in the south.  I studied with Sai Baba.”  Sai Baba was known for performing miracles on people.  He also created a free hospital to serve the poor.

“The people in India are beautiful, aren’t they?” she looked up at me with vacant clear blue eyes.

“Yes,” I smiled. ‘They know how to love, as I remember.”

“They are generous and believe in a collective love.  The people of the United States could learn something from them!  We get so caught up in ourselves here.  Not many people stop for others.” She smiled and squeezed my hand.

As we approached the bagel shop she thanked me.  “I am just going in to use the bathroom.  It’s the only place that allows people like me in.”

“Do you need me to help you with anything else? I’m happy to wait for you.”

“No I am just going to walk around all day.  Enjoy yoga.  Thank you.”

As I left it dawned on me that she was homeless. Homeless, blind, yet able to see more than most of us.

I walked slowly back to my yoga studio to take the next available class.  I was grateful that instead of speeding down my planned morning trajectory, I made time for a detour and listened to someone else.  The old woman was right on love-we type A Americans could make some adjustments.

When the yoga teacher asked us to dedicate our practice to someone I had no problem finding my muse.

As I breathed in I let go of the adrenaline rush of corporate ladders, company valuations, whirlwind meetings, and dot.com ambition.  As by body twisted through vinyasas I forgot about the chase for Italian made shoes, German branded cars, and see and be seen French Tuesday parties.

As the class turned to meditation my body was open, my mind cleared, and I was ready to refocus…..and find time…..

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