The expression "grace under fire" has been exemplified for me by recent participants of Transformation Yoga Project's Juvenile Detention yoga program at Lima. Due to the fact that classes are voluntary rather than compulsory, there's often a small contingency of students who choose to sit out. For the most part, these teens are respectful of their peers who decide to participate.
Occasionally, however, there's a bully in their midst. These individuals seem to derive a perverse enjoyment from standing on the sidelines and openly ridiculing everyone and everything. From rude comments to outright insults and inappropriate hand gestures, no measure of nastiness seems to be off limits. It's not their disrespectful behavior that strikes me, though. It's the resolve and resiliency of their targets who inspire me.
The brave young adults who stand tall in mountain pose in spite of the barrage of negativity being hurled in their direction motivate me to keep going, even when the verbal barbs are being directed at me. In the unnerving and potentially dangerous environment that is a detention center, I recognize it would probably be easier for them to follow the in-crowd by stepping outside of the mat circle. That's why it never ceases to amaze me when kids rise above the influence of peer pressure to pursue peace through yoga rather than seeking the perceived protection of popular pack mentality.
These select few who make the choice to shift their focus inward, even in the face of overwhelming outward distractions, serve as living examples. Not just for my continued dedication to providing yoga service to incarcerated youth, but in my own personal practice- on the mat as well as in the world.