Chris Davies lost a man who made a difference in his life. Here’s how he honored him.
I would like to submit a story of a personal experience that has occurred for me which started perhaps ten years ago. About that time I had a mental breakdown. As part of my own healing process, I decided to do something I had always wanted to do but never made time for myself. And that was to join a yoga class.
I found the experience life-changing. At the time, I felt very vulnerable and well scared.
As a professional person with a mental health issue, knowing who to trust became an almost overwhelming anxiety. I could not talk to workmates or family about what I was experiencing. So yoga helped to calm my mind, the racing thoughts that for want of a better explanation could be termed “monkey brain.”
One of the teachers was this lovely bald-headed small guy with homemade tats, a gravelly voice, and these old fashioned square rimmed glasses.
But where he was small in stature, he made up for in spirit. Terry was a Vietnam veteran who, upon returning, had turned to yoga and was instrumental in developing the yoga veteran’s program.
I met Terry at is the local Satyananda Yoga Centre where I attended for probably six months. Yes, as a bloke I did find the young ladies with the shaved heads quite nice, too. I was really getting into this new thing when half the centres’ yoga instructors decided to go to India for two years. So there was this massive upheaval and no one could agree on who was going to run the centre, so it closed down. There was this lovely final blessing and chanting ceremony with flowers and music, of which Terry was a key figure.
So Terry, being the straight shooter he was told, them all to go to hell or India or wherever and started his own class in the local hall. We went from this lovely carpeted hall with a warm gas fire and wall to wall curtains/drapes, to hard floorboards with a breeze blowing through the gaps and a noisy heat pump/air conditioner. It was hot in the summer and you had to have a beanie and blanket in winter.
But Terry soldiered on, so to speak, and his loyal devotees still turned up week after week.
One of his flock told the story after the funeral service to me that when he was finding it hard to pay and didn’t know what he could do, he went to Terry, who replied “Well, you bloody well better keep coming!”
To continue my story, recently I have become part of a men’s group the following are two emails that I sent as a group email to them. I must admit I had moved on from Terry’s classes but when my partner found his death notice in the paper it was with some sadness I heard of his passing.
Before the funeral:
Honouring a Man.
Today I am going to a funeral,
I would like to take with me your presence as men to honour another.
I was undecided as to go but after talking with Paddy, it is important to honour each other and in return it is important to know in the event of our own passing we also will be honoured.
So Terry Buchanan was my yoga instructor, in stature he was small but in spirit very large at times I did fear his presence. He was a Vietnam veteran, a father, Yoga Instructor, and a kind man.
I wish I could have been more open to him, but instead took from him as much as I could at the time instead.
I believe his life was very disturbed for a time after coming back from conflict, and perhaps he never finished that conflict, I am not sure.
I think I feared his presence because I felt he could see inside me and new of the turmoil that I endured. Of which I wished to keep secret.
For me his passing represents closure of a chapter of a part of my life and the beginning of another.
So today I will walk tall and straight and cry openly if my heart wants.
And I will have you at my side.
This second email I wrote the day after.
How do we grieve as men today?
Grief and grieving how are we supposed to act today? What is appropriate? What is not?
Is the stiff upper lip hold it all in the correct way or the blubbering wreck? Or perhaps a bit in both camps. Do we shed a tear when safe and no one is around to see, in the garden or out in the bush on top of a mountain. Or at the vice in the shed, perhaps we cannot find that safe place and hold it in for years.
Yesterday I attended the funeral of a very special man.
At these times it is interesting to reflect on many things, the thoughts I have are quite varied. Without dwelling on the morbidity of death. One thought that came to mind was the duplicity of life and the bringing together of people at these occasions and the many hats we wear as individuals. Each one is different and through our daily course of life we often don’t meet.
To me, he was in way a saviour he had been my yoga teacher. At a time when I needed support in my life, and that came in the form of a few hrs every week on a yoga mat. I had had a mental breakdown and was rebuilding myself. I had decided I would start from basics, I needed to learn how to breathe. (Ok I did know how to breathe … I wasn’t dead.) There are many forms of yogic breathing “Pranayama” the full yogic breath.
Saying that I used to just fall asleep most of the time I don’t think I made it through one of Terry’s Yoga Nidra’s. I can still hear his lovely gravelly voice (He was always going to give up smoking) … “Yoga Nidra the yogic sleep where all the senses are awake the body rests but the mind stays alert.”
Terry was also a return veteran, among the congregation was a large proportion of return service men. Half of the service was family celebrant and half was conducted by the president of the RSL. I had never witnessed this before but found it quite appropriate and moving. Especially when the return servicemen were invited to lay a poppy on the coffin.
Terry had been instrumental in setting up the Vietnam veteran’s yoga program and continuing with return service men from current conflicts. In fact, he had continued with the program even though the yoga centre in Hobart had dissolved.
I sat with four of my classmates which was special in its own way.
Terry had passed away very quickly over the weekend and one guy was very distraught, he had not seen the death notice in the paper and turned up to class on Tuesday to find out Terry was no more.
Some people you think will go on forever doing what they are doing, I think Terry was one of those.
Our consensus was he would be very pissed off that he had died!
Over the last 20 years a remarkable story unfolded in Hobart, Australia.
Men who thought they would never feel joy again found hope, healing and peace.
This short documentary tells how yoga and meditation helped a group of war veterans recover from the devastation of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Director/Cinematographer/Editor: Ryan Walsh
Concept/Coordinator/Producer: Helen Cushing
Production Assistant: Robert Henry
Editing Assistant: Jake Houston Harris
Additional Camera: David Pyefinch
Transcription: Swami Neelmani, Karunananda
Music: Crixus, Mobygratis, iStock
Funded by the generous support of individuals and organisations, including major sponsorship from the Returned Services League (RSL), Tasmanian Branch.
A project of Life Beyond Trauma, an initiative of the Yoga Assoc. of Tasmania and Ganges Yoga:
Production by Ryan Walsh Films:
Copyright Helen Cushing and Ryan Walsh 2015.
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