This past weekend I had the privilege of attending an American Bar Association dinner in Chicago. As a lawyer and spouse of a lawyer I’ve had my share of hotel dinners honoring various members of the profession for personal achievements. But this dinner was not like any I’d attended before. The award was the Thurgood Marshall Award, named for the first African American Supreme Court Justice. The dinner was sponsored by the ABA Section on civil rights and social justice. And the recipient, the 85-year old still practicing Thomas Sullivan, was a former colleague of my husband’s.
Mr. Sullivan was honored for his relentless pursuit of equal justice and civil rights. He has visited Guantanamo eight times on behalf of wrongfully detained prisoners, been on the cutting edge of reforms to the criminal justice system (including abolishing the death penalty, which was used disproportionately against minorities, in Illinois), and mentored countless lawyers in the art of providing quality legal services to those who can’t afford it. One of these menthes was the internationally renowned best-selling author Scott Turow (of Presumed Innocent fame), who gave an impassioned speech about how much he learned from Mr. Sullivan.
But the highlight of the evening was Mr. Sullivan’s acceptance speech. He did not afford himself any pats on the back or rest on his (many) laurels. Instead, he spoke about the work still to be done in the arena of civil rights and human liberties. Work he still intends to do. It was inspiring on so many levels.
You may be asking yourself what all this has to do with yoga. Like the path of the lawyer advocating for civil rights, the path of yoga is one of continual effort. The growth comes from the dedicated and repeated practice. It’s not as if the yogi has a great experience on the mat or meditation cushion and says “well, I nailed that yoga thing.” No, the path is long, perhaps never-ending. It’s a process more than a destination, though there will likely be moments of triumph and accomplishment along the way. And being part of a community of like-minded practitioners makes the journey that much sweeter.