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Inspired: Compass Yoga Closes Its Doors After 4 Years

Namaste

Namaste

It is with an incredibly heavy heart, teary eyes, and several boxes of used tissues that I share the news that Compass Yoga, the nonprofit I started 4 years ago with the lofty dream to bring yoga to every person on the planet who wasn’t able to access yoga through traditional classes, has dissolved. Though I tried many avenues to make it financially successful, none of them worked and that stings.

Knowing what to do is important, but knowing what to stop doing is just as important, if not more so. Yoga teaches us that change is inevitable and that we must do our best to see change as an opportunity for growth and learning. Even though I know this is the right choice, it doesn’t make it any less painful to let go of the dream I had for Compass and admit that it just didn’t go the way I had hoped.

We helped hundreds of New Yorkers through our free classes every week, and without our classes our students wouldn’t have been able to learn yoga at all. Compass Yoga received a considerable amount of good press over the years that helped us reach an audience far outside of New York City. We also gave close to 50 new yoga teachers their teaching start by finding and cultivating opportunities for them to teach free classes in our community. It has been an absolute honor to work with all of these people to play a small part in helping them live happier and healthier lives. And goodness, did I learn so much about business, myself, community activism, the economic climate for nonprofits, and yes, yoga, along the way.

In time, I hope all of the good we did overshadows the enormous disappointment and sense of failure I feel right now. These are the tough choices that no one tells you about, the possible conclusion when we try to stretch far beyond what we know how to do or what we think we are capable of doing. When we go way out there into the unknown, we find our edge. And I, without a doubt, have found mine in this realm.

On the upside, I will continue to explore ways that I can personally continue to teach yoga and meditation to the people who need it most. Somewhere in this rain there’s a rainbow and I look forward to finding and following it. Thank you to everyone who has supported Compass Yoga and my dream of it over the years. The light that is in me honors the light that is in each one of you. Namaste.

Beautiful: Phineas Contributes to SingforHope.org

Phin with his neighborhood Singforhope.org piano.

Phin with his neighborhood Singforhope.org piano.

Just around the bend from our apartment, there’s a beautifully decorated piano – in Central Park. Phineas tried his paw at plunking out a few notes. Ultimately he felt he could better serve the cause by doing his best modelesque “look-away” pose in front of it. He’s really more of a vocalist than a piano player anyway – he has the most emotional, heartbreaking howl I’ve ever heard. (Seriously!)

So what’s a piano doing in Central Park? It’s out there in the open for anyone to play, courtesy of SingforHope.org – a nonprofit whose pianos-turned-public-art are eventually donated to under-served local schools, healthcare facilities, and community organizations, where Sing for Hope artists continue to bring the pianos to life year-round through classes, performances, and workshops. There are 88 pianos, all decorated by artists, scattered throughout the 5 boroughs. Check out this map to find one near you.

Phin’s piano was designed by Paolo Pecchi and it explores the dichotomy of our city – sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, sometimes soft, and sometimes strong. That is the amazing thing about art in any form – it can hold opposites, placing them side by side to show us how complex and rich life can be. Art shows us what we’re made of.

In a Spirit of Giving

Just another day on the Great Lawn in Central Park

Just another day on the Great Lawn in Central Park

“You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.” The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

The universe always rises up to support someone with a passion to do something of value for others.

I think about this quote a lot when people ask me about Compass Yoga‘s partnership with the New York Public Library. We offer 9 weekly classes at different library branches in Manhattan, all free of charge to anyone who walks through the door. Over the past two years since we began offering the classes, a number of people have asked me how I make sure the people who are in the class really need it. What they’re really asking is how do I feel about them coming to our classes for free while they have the means to pay for classes elsewhere.

We certainly do have students who could afford to pay something for a class – perhaps not the $20 or so it costs for many classes around the city, but certainly something. A few of our students have given donations to Compass Yoga because they are of means and support our work. I wish others who are of means would do the same. Perhaps in time they will. Other people have given their time and expertise to support our work. Other people don’t have the means at all, but they bring their energy and dedication to class every week.

There’s another New York-based charity that operates under the same circumstances as Compass Yoga: NYC Parks. Consider how often New Yorkers take advantage of the beauty of Central Park, or any of the other public parks in the city, on a  sunny day? How many of them have donated money to NYC Parks? Certainly not all of them, maybe not even most of them. I wish more people would donate, though the parks don’t discriminate. They don’t have a giant gate around them demanding payment before entry. Compass Yoga has the same philosophy as Central Park: to be free and open to all who enter.

I started Compass to bring more yoga to more people in more places, no strings attached. I also started it so that yoga teachers who are just starting out could get experience teaching. I wanted to build a bridge between the people who need what yoga has to offer and the people who have the training to teach. I know if we stay true to that goal and work hard at creative fundraising strategies, eventually the funding will flow. The trickle has already begun; now its our job to do our best to carve it into the Mississippi for the sake of all our students.

Leap: Compass Yoga’s First Grant Application is Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

With great excitement (and a sigh of relief!), I clicked ‘submit’ on Compass Yoga‘s first grant application yesterday. We applied for a 2013 Special Projects Grant from the New York State Health Foundation. A huge thank you to the dedicated and passionate board members as well as our uber-talented teachers and partners who make Compass the beautiful and valuable organization that it is. I am humbled and honored by their support and commitment. Namastes all around!

Leap: Quoth the IRS, “Compass Yoga, it’s official. You are a 501(c)3 charitable organization!”

Okay, so they actually said, “We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to you are deductible under section 170 of the Code. You are also qualified to receive tax-deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.” But doesn’t my title for this post sound much more celebratory, aptly reflecting this enormous milestone?!

I couldn’t be happier with this recent turn of events for Compass Yoga. Actually, the moment I got the email from our attorneys I started doing a little victory dance to the song “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees. How fitting!

This tax-exempt status sets in motion our opportunity to get the healing benefits of yoga to more people in more places. Great things are happening, and I can’t wait to share the progress with you. Now, the work really begins. If you want to be involved in this journey in any way, please contact me. We’d love to have you climb aboard our ship. There’s room for everyone who wants to be a warrior of wellness.

Leap: You’ll Find Opportunity Everywhere. Now, Plan.

Since formally announcing my New Year’s Resolution to go my own way in my career this year, I’ve been spotting new opportunities everywhere. It’s as if I’m manufacturing rocks to turn over just to have some place to stash all of the possibilities. The board members of Compass Yoga tease me sometimes about my unending enthusiasm and my belief that yes, I can heal the world, and so can everyone else. Our future really is T.B.D. and it really is up to us.

Last week, I met with a few of the board members and we determined that with the legal set-up work behind us, we now need to get cracking on a solid strategic plan. I fight structure a bit, but I know how necessary it is to make the best use of creative energy. Being the President of a board is a brand new role for me, as is making the shift to work for myself. In the process, I’m seeking out lots of advice and doing a lot of research, which I love.

Here are 2 resources from my research that I thought you would find helpful if you’re doing some planning of your own:

1.) I came across a 10-step guide from the World Bank that details the strategic planning process for a nonprofit from beginning to end. (If you click the link, it will automatically download the PDF to your computer.) Even if you’re not starting a strategic planning process for a nonprofit, this document is filled with lots of wonderful advice about the act of planning in general.

2.) Also, over the holidays I read Steve Newcomb’s latest essay, The Art of War: A Warrior’s Guide to Raising Money in the Battlefield of the Silicon Valley. I’m not raising money in Silicon Valley (yet!) but this guide really helped me understand the value of a plan of attack and a few approaches that will be very valuable as the board and I undertake this planning process.

Happy planning, plotting, and acting!

Beginning: Compass Yoga is Officially Incorporated

Rob, Michael, and I trekked downtown to see our rock star attorneys to review our by-laws. They surprised with the wonderful news that in record time the Department of State has granted incorporation status to Compass Yoga. We are official, moving us one more step down the road to getting more yoga and wellness programming to more people who need it to improve their health.

Up next:
Approve the by-laws
Vote in the board members
Open a bank account
Apply for our EIN (Employer Identification Number)
File for nonprofit 501(c)3 status

As we wind our way through this exciting and complicated process to establish a nonprofit, I continue to pinch myself. I am so grateful to the incredible board, our amazing and generous attorneys, and for the many people who keep encouraging our mission. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s falling into place so well. By putting our very best out into the world we are receiving so much good fortune in return.

It’s amazing how much magic we find when we have the courage to begin.

Beginning: Compass Yoga Files with the New York Department of State

Compass Yoga has taken another step on the journey toward incorporation. A few weeks back our attorneys filed our Articles of Incorporation with the Department of Education. The Articles of Incorporation explained our reasons for being, and the board and I worked closely with the attorneys to get our objectives and the associated language just right. These Articles set the stage for the financial, governance, and programming structure. Get those wrong, and the whole mission is at stake. Luckily, our phenomenal attorneys have given us top-notch support from the get-go.

The Department of Education gets involved because our mission is primarily one of teaching and instructing. Yesterday I found out that we sailed through the review process and they have given their consent for us to move to the next step – filing with the Department of State. The Department of State will now review the articles and if all goes well, then will officially give the incorporation green light for Compass Yoga.

So many of you have generously offered your support and advice in this process. On behalf of the board, I am so grateful to each of you and wanted to share this exciting update. The adventure continues, and there will be more to come!

Beginning: Meet the Compass Yoga Board of Directors

Last Monday, Compass Yoga held its first Board of Directors meeting. I had been anticipating that moment, dreaming about it, for many months now. I am beyond lucky and exceedingly grateful to these talented people who have made the decision to walk this path with me and build something truly extraordinary. I could go on and on about their gifts and achievements, but I will let them speak for themselves through their bios. To learn more about why they joined Compass Yoga, please click here.

 

Rob Lorey
Rob has over 20 years of performance and business experience in the entertainment industry. He has exhibited extensive leadership as a director, producer, and union liaison. In addition to his artistic work, he has taught theatre to professionals and children for over 15 years developing workshops, seminars, and master classes. Rob received his Masters of Social Work from Hunter College School of Social Work in 2009. As a social worker, he has developed programs within the LGBT community for teens and seniors, worked in hospice for the past five years, and mentored at risk youth while connecting them to college opportunities within the CUNY system. His current career endeavors involve social policy and advocacy.


Amy Rebecca Marsico
Amy has spent 15 years as a stage manager, producer, assistant director, and writer in both non-profit and commercial theater.

She holds a master’s degree in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding with a concentration in trauma healing. Amy is interested in the convergence of the arts and conflict resolution fields. As a trainer and facilitator, she has designed workshops for youth that employ the arts to teach trauma awareness skills, encourage resilience, address root causes of conflict, and build capacity through dialogue and education. She has also designed workshops for women and girls that explore gender and power issues.

Amy is the co-author of Transforming Trauma: An Interactive Role Play for Community Leaders and Caregivers – a piece that was used by the STAR program (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) to train civil society leaders on how to recognize and address trauma in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. She also wrote and compiled an Arts Resource Guide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Amy’s experience as a volunteer for the International Rescue Committee, where she helped resettle refugees from Sierra Leone, inspired her to work with people who have survived war and conflict. She has traveled to Bosnia where she had the privilege to speak with refugees and internally displaced persons about their experiences, and she has conducted interviews with refugees from Lebanon, Palestine, and the DRC. She spent six months at the UNHCR, the refugee agency of the UN, where she helped to develop the Heightened Risk Identification Tool, managed an awareness-raising project on child participation and was a contributing writer for several manuals and information sheets, including the Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming Guide. Amy is a roster member for the United Nations Volunteer Programme.

 

Lorenzo E. (Lon) Tibbitts
Lon is the Manager of Strategic Operations Planning for American Express Global Payment Options and also serves as Chairman and Director for Rite Care of Utah, a non-profit provider of free speech and reading therapy for children with speech or reading disabilities aged 2-12 with offices in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah. He has previously served as Director of Advertising for Copperfield Publishing, President of Shoreline Ltd. and LaMirada Inc., both small venture capital firms, SVP of Utah Printing and Group Manager of the Granite Mountain Records Vaults.

Lon was educated in Literature and Economics at the University of Maryland and Brigham Young University. He and wife Lana are the proud parents of three feminists and one son – all grown and doing great things.

Lon loves to chase little white balls around pristine green spaces, hike in the mountains of Utah with Lana, do anything on, in or by the sea, and spoil his grandchildren. His passion is creating a freer, more open and democratic world for his children, grandchildren and their peers all over the world.

 

Michael Vito
Michael is a strategy and operations professional combining traditional business and financial analysis with understanding of the needs of firms and government programs evaluating development of and investment in sustainability strategy. He monitors developments in renewable energy generation and efficiency technology, NGO activity, and environmental policy in the US and Asia.

Michael is a graduate of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, an accredited LEED Green Associate, Asia Society member, and active participant in Net Impact. He is currently pursuing ongoing studies of Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.

Beginning: Compass Yoga’s Story Resonates with Lawyers to Secure Pro Bono Legal Counsel

“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” ~ Ben Okri

This week I learned an enormous amount about the power of authentic storytelling. I founded Compass Yoga to provide yoga and wellness programming to populations dealing with specific health concerns. Given the incredible need, we are focusing our efforts on helping returning veterans, their families, and their caregivers, particularly those who are challenged with PTSD and other stress- and anxiety-induced illnesses. For some people, this is a difficult mission to imagine. They can’t see how veterans will ever take to yoga and other therapeutic treatments outside of traditional Western medicine. I understand their concern, and so storytelling has become a major focus for us.

On Tuesday, I presented to Lawyers Alliance, an amazing nonprofit who mission is to assist existing and would-be nonprofit organizations with legal matters. I requested their help in filing for nonprofit incorporation and 501(c)(3) status. To begin the process, I applied, had a phone interview, and then presented my case to them in-person. I was acutely aware of the my presentation’s dual-purpose – first, I needed to demonstrate the practical need for the organization and the logistics I would put in place to deliver on the mission. Then, they needed to see if I was passionate about the idea; they needed to hear my personal story. In short, they to know why this organization matters – to the world and to me.

I am so happy and grateful to report that on Friday I learned that Lawyers Alliance has agreed to take Compass Yoga on as a client. For a small retainer fee and necessary government filing fees, they will help us through the process of incorporation, set-up, tax-exemption filing, and other associated needs. Now the match-making process begins and they will contract with a pro bono attorney from a firm to work with me and the Compass Yoga Board on these actions.

When I received the notification, I literally started jumping around my apartment. I couldn’t believe this incredible good fortune. Wins like this make me want to work even harder to realize all of the potential for healing we have brewing with Compass Yoga.

A million thanks to so many of you who have sent your good wishes, resources, ideas, suggestions, links, and general goodness in this effort. None of this would be possible without all of you. It takes a village to grow and spread a good story, and I’m honored and humbled to be among you on this road. Today, my heart is full of gladness and sincere appreciation. Through my teaching, I’ll pay it all forward many times over.

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