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Slowing Down to Act: A personal journey of service in Albany

By   /   November 17, 2011  /   Comments

 

Written by Lon McNeil

 

For years, Beverly Burt has been an active person in Albany’s business and social community. Both Beverly, and her husband Pace Burt, a local real estate developer, have stayed busy as two of the city’s movers and shakers. Until recently, Beverly was operating a pair of local businesses; Juicy Mama’s, a health centered eatery, and Kai Yoga Arts. The hectic, daily grind of her business life was actually running counter to the life lessons she was espousing in her Yoga classes. She knew something had to change.

Beverly recounted an experience she had at Juicy Mama’s that was the spark of that change. “This guy would come around and offer to wash our windows for a few dollars. Just to get him on his way, I would give him some money. He was a nuisance.” Then Burt had a conversation with one of her Yoga teachers about the man.  “She told me to slow down, and see what was going on around me”, Burt revealed.

The next time the window washer came by, Beverly learned that this pesky little man, appearing to be in his seventy’s, was actually just 52, and suffered from severe arthritis. His name was Robert, and he was homeless. She soon found out that he was totally disconnected from the many social services designed to help people in his situation. Burt got him connected. “Those of us with comfortable lives, assume that poor people here are somehow working the system. I learned that many times, the system is not working for them at all.”

This first step along her personal path to spiritual growth, lead to more people and more needs coming into her view. It was overwhelming, but as she put it, very gratifying at the same time. “Everything in front of you is your teacher”, Burt said. She came to see that when reaching out to help someone in need, your own needs are met. “If you ever get stressed out about all the burdens in your life, the hardships, and struggles you face, just seek out someone in real need, facing much more serious matters, and you will quickly see how blessed you are”, said Burt.

Yoga has been a very important part of Beverly’s life for a long time, but it has been this awakening to the needs in the community that has changed her life so dramatically. “People have a misconception about Yoga”, Burt said. “The physical training and disciplines are actually a small part it.” She says that to fully understand Yoga, you have to appreciate the inner disciplines as well. It is an expression of our relationship with God, through our relationships with each other. Bhakti Yoga is the practice of love and devotion to others, while Karma Yoga reflects positive actions toward others. Its precepts of service and self sacrifice fall right in line with Burt’s faith.

Beverly will be the first to tell you that she was fortunate to be in a position that allowed her to slow down, and she has empathy for those with less freedom. “Had I not been able to back away from my business commitments, I would not have been able to do what I am doing now. I don’t know if I would have thought of it.” She closed Juicy Mama’s, and soon after, closed Kai Yoga.  Burt now teaches a class at Yoga On Pine, a non-profit yoga studio in Downtown Albany, operated by Roger and Barbara White. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, she kicks off what she calls her Power Yoga, “Good Karma” class, and for good reason. All participants make a $5 or $10 donation for each session. All the proceeds go to help cover the costs of her efforts to help the homeless and needy people she has reached out to.

Burt had prayed for an opportunity for her and her children to go on mission work around the world, only to find that mission right here at home. “There are more than 3000 people on the waiting list for public housing in Albany”, she shared. “That’s just unbelievable.” Ironically, in order to follow her own soul’s calling, Burt had to slow down to see how she could make a difference in Albany. Today she is as busy as ever, but that’s okay with her. It’s a good busy.

Beverly Burt leads the “Good Karma” class at Yoga On Pine. Those attending make donations to help Albany’s homeless and needy.

 

 

 

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