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The Healing Power of Community

By Amy Pickholtz, Louisiana, USA

October 14, 2007 started off early, at 5:15 a.m. It was pleasantly brisk. I said to Jim, “You must really love me to get up on a cold Sunday morning to take me down to Houma for a water blessing with the Yogis on your motorcycle.” He replied, “Yes, I do.” That was always enough for me.

With a bridge out in Bourg, Louisiana, me being directionally challenged, and Jim having to monitor an ongoing problem for his employer, we never made it to the water blessing. We rode back and forth across the bayou, stopping to call for directions, but when Jim got the call from work that they needed him, we were forced to head back home, even though we were only 3 ½ miles from our destination.

As we rode back the day became sunnier and more pleasant. We melted into the bike, into each other, and into the ride. We stopped at a café. After his coffee Jim got up to use the restroom. I sat a few more minutes then walked out to the porch towards the restrooms and kissed Jim as I passed him. He headed to the cycle. When I arrived he voiced his usual, “You ready?” and off we rode. It was just past noon and we were cruising at 55 mph in the left lane by the centerline. I was nuzzled into Jim’s back with my arms wrapped around him, my head leaning slightly on his right shoulder. We were experiencing the ultimate union of the ride and each other, fully present.

I saw something in my right peripheral vision, it seemed like a mirage, and I looked in utter disbelief. I didn’t say anything. Jim didn’t say anything. Then there was nothing. I couldn’t feel my body. I screamed for Jim. I was scared and Jim wasn’t there.

When I was told Jim didn’t survive, a lot of people were around me, but I was alone and screaming, “I need Jim,” and, “Oh, my God,” over and over again. I was unstable with no one to help bear the brunt of this catastrophic news. My “blissfully happy” life with Jim and our blended family of four children was destroyed. My body was severely broken. I was in inconceivable, excruciating pain begging God to take me to Jim. My world ceased to exist, but the rest of the world kept going.

Phi Truong, founder of Lotus Yoga, learned of the crash the next day and emailed Meredith Wright, founder of the Kundalini Yoga Center in Houma who was one of the Yogis at the water blessing. They began emailing yoga communities. Meredith emailed Dev Suroop Kaur in New Mexico and she sent global notices to the 3HO Community.

Phi, Meredith, and Dev Suroop made certain Jim and I were being taken care of spiritually—me holding on to life, and Jim having passed over. Meredith and Phi visited me often, and although I don’t remember particulars, I do remember their faces, light, bright, and caring, and the incredible outpouring of love from women I really didn’t know well or for very long. Meredith brought a CD player with mantras to the hospital, and prayers and gifts continued coming for a year. Phi and Meredith supported my coming back to teach my yoga classes by finding other teachers to fill in and donate the wages to me. They sent email updates, and arranged financial and spiritual support selflessly. Their optimism permeated my bleak existence.

Daily phone calls from Dev Suroop Kaur for the entire time that I was in the hospital and rehabilitation were a life-line. Now, her voice is forever ingrained inside of me. Her spirit kept me going. She is my friend in a most unique way.

It is because of Meredith, Phi, and Dev Suroop that I received prayers from people all over Louisiana, New Mexico, California, Illinois, Michigan, France, and Asia. Cards came with sentiments and signatures from yogis in the Global Community. Akal was chanted for Jim, and prayers continued for me during surgeries and recovery. Financial support kept us going that first year. Jim did not have life insurance, so it was only by the generosity of others that my bills were paid.

Phi set up a donation account and hosted benefits, including one that Sat Kartar Kaur hosted. I attended in my wheelchair, moving my arms, and chanting, feeling vibration for the first time since the crash. I adopted the healing mantra of Guru Ram Das as my own personal mantra. Sat Kartar’s gift of music and of herself began the re-opening of my heart.

“Yogini extraordinaire,” Michele Baker, founder of Swan River Yoga in New Orleans, held a Jivanmukti Yoga benefit. Pre-Katrina I had spent 2 years studying with Michele and brought Kundalini Yoga classes to her students, the last of which was just a month before the crash. Michele and her students sent their blessings for healing, and financial support. When she visited my home, she knelt beside my wheelchair and held me with all of her energy and light, reminding me that my practice had prepared me for this challenging point in my life.

I never knew Bill Savage before he sent an email from Thailand expressing his sympathy and offering his prayers. Feb. 17, 2008 was the first of many hours of classes with Bill. Bent over, hobbling with a cane, in severe pain, I got through the class and experienced my first breakthrough of uniting my body, mind, and spirit with Jim in the Universe. Afterwards, I dusted off my sacred space for practice. Now, Bill is in my life as a teacher, a friend, and an inspiration. When it came time to cleanse the crash site and bless it, Meredith, Bill, and many of the yoga students came to the site for a sacred ceremony.

Tiffany Stewart, a yogi and jewelry-maker lost her uncle in a motorcycle crash and wanted to do something special, so she created a jewelry line called “Journey of Compassion.” Sales of these specific pieces were donated to me. She became the first, unfortunately, of many I have met, who also lost loved ones in motorcycle crashes. Her generosity is unsurpassed.

My yoga student, and kindred-sister, Heather Stroup, came from Virginia to care for my children and me for two months, leaving her job and husband, and toting her baby daughter with her. She was a housekeeper, caregiver, step-mother to my kids, and compassionate sister comforting me with all her love and strength through my grief and pain. Likewise, my daughter, Rebekah, showed more courage through our ordeal than one would expect a thirteen year old to muster.

Without all these precious souls, I could have never begun to move through my grief and pain. It is because of yogis like Rachel Anselmo, who sent cards for over a year reminding me that life is for living, that I am still striving to live up to the credo, “It’s not the life you live, it’s the courage that you bring to it,” which I adopted in 2004 when I began teaching yoga, even though I was not sure why those particular words resonated inside me so deeply. Gratitude and humility are my lessons as I continue to heal, advocate for motorcycle awareness and safety, and honor Jim. I maintain that Kundalini Yoga is my saving Grace. My many doctors have acknowledged that without it, I would not have recovered as well as I have, let alone continued without Jim, who is still without a doubt the unequivocal love of my life, and with whom I will always and forever be connected to in this Universe.

With deepest regards, on behalf of my children, and in memory of my husband, Jim. Sat Nam.