Nikki Tishler was my first real yoga student. The first one who wasn't a friend or relative, who approached my Jeep--stocked with mats and parked at the Hingham Shipyard near the beachside patch of green we would practice on when the weather was fair--and handed me $5 for the outdoor community class, so I could teach her what I had recently learned.
Like so many others, I was drawn to Nikki's friendly smile and easy manner right away. She talked about her recent vacation, and the wrist injury that had prevented her from practicing for many weeks. That Sunday in late May of 2015 was her first time back on the mat.
When Nik showed up at my classes occasionally at Open Doors over the years that followed, it was like greeting an old friend. We swapped stories about our international travels (hers to Jerusalem, among other places, and mine to Japan). I loved hearing about her horse, and I'll flash pictures of my cows to anyone who's interested. But the best part of having Nikki in class was seeing her move. The old lyrics "dance like nobody's watching" could easily have been spoken for the way she practiced: with such feeling, care and presence. I was honored to have the chance to work with her privately, co-creating a sequence that incorporated the mudras and fun balance postures we both enjoyed practicing,
Just last week I learned that Nikki suffered a brain aneurysm in February. I was heartbroken to read that she had left this earth a month later at the age of 29. I could list her accomplishments here, but many others have already done so, better than I could. I knew of her activism, but Nikki was quite low-key about all she had done in her short life--professionally and otherwise. Every time I go back and read another piece about her, I realize again how much wiser she was than her years:
"Nikki Tishler dedicated her life to issues of equity and social justice, advocating for the rights of women and the LBGTQA+ community. Her passion for advocacy and social justice started when she was a student at Fontbonne Academy. She organized the Ducks for Darfur fundraiser to aid refugees in the war-torn region of Sudan. She practiced what others have referred to as “radical kindness” and demonstrated that it's not enough to only care deeply about an issue, but that we must organize and take action to incite change. Everyone who crossed her path was inspired by her positivity, passion, and dedication to the fight against social inequality."
Nikki's friends Sasha and Steph have set up a beautiful way to keep Niki's memory--and message--alive. They are collecting tax-deductible donations to a scholarship created for Fontbonne Academy students with a passion for social justice and who practice Nikki's style of radical kindness themselves. In addition to supporting Nikki's school, donors will receive a sweet "Radical Kindness" sticker for every $5 given. Please follow the link here if you would like to contribute.
My "Nikstick" now graces this website, as well as the bumper of my current Jeep--a yellow Wrangler, just like the one Nikki and I met at more than three years ago. I'm deeply saddened that I'll never be able to spend time with her again, but that decal brings the same feeling into my heart that Nik's smile did, and I'm happy to spread her idea of radical kindness wherever I go.
I'm so glad Nikki accepted my invitation to participate in a class photo shoot in August of 2016 with Pat Fournier of Fournier & Malloy Photographers. Everyone seemed to enjoy her infectious spirit <3