Many years ago I had a reading with a western astrologer who said to me, “You have really good karma and a great chart for spiritual growth.” Like most people, at times I get swept up in the stresses and strains of daily life and temporarily lose sight of what a blessed existence I have. Then I remember, in times of quiet clarity, all the wonderful gifts I have been given in this lifetime—stable, loving parents and a happy childhood, a good education, a strong body and a quick mind, a brilliant guru, a vocation I love and the opportunity to travel all over the world teaching yoga, and a beautiful family—just to name a few. Someone once said, “To the one who is given much, much is expected in return.” This coming Saturday, April 30th from 2-5pm I’ll have the opportunity to give back a little bit when I teach my 9th annual benefit workshop for the Sean O’Shea Foundation.
I first met Sean O’Shea in 1992 when he started attending classes at the old E St. studio. Sean was always quiet, humble, and unassuming when he came to class, which wasn’t that often because he was on a tight budget. Even so, he had the self -discipline to practice on his own and made great progress in spite of his infrequent appearances in my classes. In 1997 one of my yoga students, Joyce Lively, started a program called the Foundation for a Tobacco Free Youth, and we began a pilot program at the Ashtanga Yoga Center, teaching yoga to high school kids who were trying to quit smoking. Joyce later received funding for her program as part of the settlement of the lawsuit against the tobacco companies and was able to hire some teachers to spread the program to several high schools in North San Diego County. One of the teachers she hired was Sean, who demonstrated a remarkable ability to connect with these kids.
I continued to see Sean periodically over the years. One day he came to me and told me he was thinking of opening his own yoga studio in La Jolla. He said he considered me to be his teacher and was wondering if I’d be willing to give him my blessing in this enterprise. I said, “Of course,” and he proceeded to open Four Seasons Yoga in 2005. Even with his busy schedule of running the new yoga center, Sean and his girlfriend Gianna, would typically show up from my Thursday morning improv class. One Thursday morning right after Christmas in 2006 Sean and Gianna didn’t show up for class. Soon after I got home from work that day I got a call from Scripps Hospital in La Jolla saying that Sean and Gianna had been in an automobile accident. Sean had been killed instantly, but Gianna had suffered only minor injuries, so I drove to the hospital, picked her up and took care of her until her parents arrived. We were all absolutely stunned and grief-stricken by this tragedy.
There were two separate memorials for Sean, one at Four Seasons Yoga and the other at San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside. At each memorial there was a tremendous outpouring of love and affection for Sean as his family, friends, and students shared what a profound impact he had on their lives. He was a remarkably gifted and generous young man with a great ability to connect to people in a way that both inspired and empowered them. The Sean O’Shea Foundation continues Sean’s good work in the world and I am honored and humbled to be a part of it.