On Friday I had the honor of teaching yoga for four freshman PE classes at my daughter’s all-girls high school. My approach with these classes was to focus on stress management and self-awareness through some guided meditation and yoga poses. The students came streaming into the room, about 40 in each class, all giggly and chatty. I heard some of the girls in one of the classes coming into the locker room shrieking “YO-GA, YO-GA, we love yogaaaa!!!!!”. A different reception than at the yoga center where I teach for sure. Some of the girls were curious and friendly with me, some shy, some comfortable in their bodies, and some very awkward. The student’s yoga mats were positioned in a big circle with my mat in the center. In order to get things rolling and to bring the energy level down (more necessary after lunch for sure), I had them lie down on their backs and close their eyes. They resisted and struggled at first as most people do in the middle of the day when told to be quiet and still, and it was hard for a few of them to quell their excited chatter. I calmly repeated my instructions over and over in a strong but soothing voice until they were all on their backs with eyes closed… “Please lie on your back on your mat…close your eyes…please lie down on your back…lying down on your back and closing your eyes…resting your arms by your sides, palms facing up…this is a time to be quiet, to relax and bring your focus inward… please close your eyes…quieting down…closing your eyes…I promise your friends will still be here when you open them…surrendering your body to the floor” and so on.
After they were quiet I gave them simple instructions about tuning into their own bodies, asking them to notice areas where they were holding tension and instructing them to deepen and lengthen their inhales and exhales. I explained to them that each person has unique ways of manifesting stress in the body, and asked them to notice their own patterns in this regard. As they lay quietly on their mats I rattled off some common symptoms that people report when feeling anxious: sore back, sore neck, headache, fatigue, insomnia, “can’t breathe”, chest pain, tummy ache, racing heart, and so on.
After I walked out of class I sat down in my car and checked my cell phone for messages. I had an email from a friend who reads my blog with a link to a news story that a suspect, Dinh Bowman, a 29-year-old North Seattle man, was arrested in the apparent road rage shooting of Yancy Noll on August 31st which I have discussed here and here in my blog in the past few weeks. I also had a voice mail from a friend who works for a local news radio station informing me of the arrest. It was an odd feeling to receive these messages and think about the murder again, especially after spending most of the day talking to teens about the importance of becoming a detached observer to one’s own feelings and thoughts and helping them understand how lack of self-awareness and reacting unconsciously to thoughts and feelings can hurt them.
I’ve checked the news obsessively over these past few weeks hoping every day for the announcement of an arrest. It seemed unthinkable that the killer wouldn’t be found with a description of him, AND a video of his distinctive BMW Z4 speeding from the scene. According to news reports there are only 235 or so of those cars registered in the Seattle area. Someone HAD to know who this guy was. And indeed, an anonymous female tipped off the police that the suspect matched the description, had a Z4, had weapons and a “volatile personality”. Last night I spent some time reading what I could about the suspect. It turns out that he lives about ten blocks from where the shooting occurred. The victim also lives a few blocks from that fateful intersection, and this is all close to where my family lives. We are community members whose lives intersected in different ways on the evening of August 31st.
There is a link here to a Seattle Times article from 1996 about the suspect, who is referred to in various news articles as a “former child prodigy”. I have read all sorts of comments around the web speculating on what kind of issues he may have had, ranging from “Asberger’s Syndrome” to “anger management problems” and other mental illness. At this point, it is up to our legal system to figure it out, and punish him accordingly. It is too late to help this man. He may have been seething with anger, he may have been mentally ill, he may have been high on drugs, or as it appears, he may have just been a volatile man who had a gun room in his home and made his own bullets, but the damage is done. Mr. Noll, an innocent, beloved community member is dead for no reason, and many families are grieving, including I’m sure, the family of a former child prodigy.
I don’t know what can be learned from all of this. Perhaps more insight will come later, or maybe once again, we will have to face the fact that we are a society that makes it easy for angry, volatile, sick people to get their hands on firearms.