I completed my Mat and Standing Pilates teaching certification through the PhysicalMind Institute Canada at KW Pilates with an incredible instructor, Stephen Filipowicz. I started my certification process without expectation. I wanted to delve more deeply into the practice that had been so integral to my healing after experiencing the sudden early loss of my mom, uncle, and dad over the span of two years. I wanted to take it day by day, and let it unfold in my life organically. I wanted to learn.
Boy did I learn. I learned all the things you would expect to learn about teaching Pilates, and so much more. I connected more deeply to myself and learned who Ashley the movement instructor was. I learned from the other participants in the program. I saw the things that made us similar, and I saw each of our unique strengths. I learned that I believed that the real magic of teaching Pilates happens by welcoming clients into your classes exactly as they are, and creating a space where people can be seen without judgement. I learned that Ashley the movement teacher wanted to share wellness through movement.
One particular Friday morning, I was making the 50 minute commute in an early spring snow storm. Traffic was crawling, and my anxiety was through the roof. My entire body ached, as I was in the middle of a flare up of my chronic pain. My thoughts naturally turned towards my mom. Thoughts about the last few hours of her life floated in and out. Thoughts of her car accident, thoughts of the day I found out, thoughts of everything she had missed since she left us.
Earlier that morning, when my 6 year old had groaned, “What’s so special about snow in April anyways?” I shared with her that snow is magic to me. I told her that it had snowed the November day that I married her dad, and it snowed at my mom and uncle’s celebration of life service. I told her that I believed that her Grammy was sending us snow that day to remind us that we are loved.
While driving, in an attempt to cope with my overwhelming feelings, I returned my focus to the beauty of the snow. As the big snowflakes fell gently, I thought about the beauty that constantly surrounds us. I thought about how odd it is that we might not know when we are seeing the last beautiful thing of our life.
I found myself stopped on the highway, with tears pouring out. I felt overcome with emotion. I was letting myself really feel. I wasn’t thinking about my feelings anymore, I was experiencing them. I felt the magic of the snow, I felt the intensity of missing the people who are so dear to me. I felt the longing to share moments, like the magic of April snow with them. How unfair, it felt, that my mom, dad, and uncle could not witness the beauty of a spring snowstorm with me. And how amazing, that despite my sorrow, I was still able to see the magic happening around me.
I showed up at KW Pilates feeling overwhelmed by emotion. I was worried that I was going to be distracted by unwanted thoughts, or that I would start to cry unexpectedly. During morning greetings, I decided to share my whole self with the group. I shared that post traumatic stress is my reality after experiencing the sudden early deaths of my three most important parental figures. I let them know that it had been triggered that day, and gave them the heads up that I might have some strong feelings come up during the day, but that I was okay.
Stephen responded to me in the most powerful way. He said, “all of you is welcome here today.” In that moment, I was so grateful to be surrounded by such goodness. His response was a transformational moment for me. He welcomed and accepted me, without judgement. He did not expect me to hide a part of myself to make him, or anybody else feel more comfortable. He was more than okay with my uncomfortable and painful feelings being present that day, he welcomed them. Throughout the day, not once did I become lost in my thoughts or overwhelmed. I spent the entire day “being” in my body. Stephen’s act of welcoming, acknowledging, and seeing me without hesitation or expectation, allowed my feelings to come and go, and took the power away from my fear of being seen.
When I began my commute back home, the snow started up again. As I drove, I thought again about the magic of life. Life, all of it, is magical - the sorrow and the joy, the connection with others, the knowledge that we are never alone. The gifts that we’ve been given, that can be used as wellness tools. April snow will forever be a reminder to me that life is magical, that it’s a gift to see and be seen, and that Ashley the movement teacher is meant to create community spaces where all of you is welcomed. The next time my eldest grumbles about April snow, I know my response will be, “what’s not special about it?”