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Many of you shared that you have appreciated my transparency and communication during this challenging time in our history. It’s been therapeutic for me to write to you, and I’m always grateful for your kind ear and encouragement. Because I’ve been so forthright in the past, I’m anticipating that you may have an expectation for a little more from me following our announcement today that we are closing Luma, our dear and beloved family-focused community gathering place, urban retreat, and wellness space on the corner of Center and Union in downtown Santa Cruz.

 

Over the last eight years my business partners, staff and I have worked together to manifest our vision to provide accessible holistic services to a population that is ever stressed by the demands of modern life. We had a lofty and inclusive mission from the beginning. We asked a lot of ourselves along the way.

 

Like all small businesses, we struggled to navigate the realities of offering services in a part of the world where the costs of doing business and the costs of living are high. In the best of times our financial position was a tightrope walk. Add to that a global pandemic, social and political unrest, a local disaster exacerbated by the realities of climate change, and everything else our community has been weathering collectively and we are left with a deeply strained business that took an excess of creativity, vigilance, personal resource and care even under milder circumstances.

 

Over the last months I have worked and reworked my best ideas for reshaping our business model to enable a sustainable future for Luma. I saw the COVID crisis as an opportunity to pause and rethink everything we do. I sought a simpler operation, one that provides more revenue to the service providers (our teachers and therapists), and one that requires less overhead from the organization. I have explored new revenue streams such as premium small group or private classes, and online and virtual offerings. But in working up a more sustainable model, I find myself forced again and again to let go of the essence of what we were originally trying to provide. 

 

My partners and I wanted more than a wellness center or a yoga center. Our original mission was to build a community center that would offer a variety of classes and services to people of all ages and stages of life.

 

As mothers we struggled to find balance and community when our children were little. We wanted to provide a landing place for families —especially families with young children. We wanted to create opportunities for kids to grow up with yoga in their lives, and to cultivate a space that encouraged whole-family participation.

 

Most importantly,  we wanted to create an environment that would encourage casual and friendly interactions between folks that could potentially lead to deeper friendships and connections. We succeeded in our mission. But in striving to offer all of that we asked our business to wear a lot of hats. Probably too many hats.

 

The bottom line is that when I sat down to rework our business, our resources required that I compromise those lofty goals and squeeze my vision into something else. I also know there is no guarantee. Working hard with a smart model does not necessarily result in sustainability in our industry. Too many yoga and wellness studios are passion projects.

 

Our industry, which preaches personal sustainability and self-care, is itself sick. It relies on the giving nature of the professionals to provide their services at a low cost. I won’t go into details, but the unfortunate nature of our industry is that most teachers and practitioners in the healing arts —those who are your ‘saviors’, the ones who help you set your nervous system right, the ones you rely on to be there for you when you need to touch base with yourself, the ones you love, who inspire you, and who help you heal your body and soul— can’t make a living doing it in centers like ours. And centers like ours are fragile entities in and of themselves.

 

Some of you might be saying to yourselves, ‘Well I can pay much more for my class or my wellness service! Why don’t you raise your prices?’ 

 

I agree with you. Yes. That is what needs to be done. But then our little center affirms its position as a place that is accessible to those with expendable income to put towards personal wellbeing. Luma already relies on the discretionary income of those with financial privilege. We exist in an economic reality where self-care is perceived as a luxury to be enjoyed by those with the means (and the time) to put towards it. 

 

And here is where I’m caught. 

 

Our industry is struggling to make our spaces feel safe and accessible to everyone. We preach that yoga and personal services should be available to all. Yoga teachers are educated in a culture that glorifies the importance of making a difference by providing free services to folks including folks experiencing incarceration, homelessness, abuse, addiction, and mental health issues.

 

Separately, as an industry we are waking to the problem that our spaces aren’t welcoming to black and indigenous people of color, or those who identify as gender non-conforming. The way I see it, the solution to sustaining our center by raising prices will only exacerbate these inequities.

 

Holistic centers traditionally cater to people of privilege, and this reality is in conflict with Luma’s expressed values. We find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

 

I’m not giving up. These matters are at the heart of what I think is the single most important and useful pursuit of our time: We must address the problems of equity and sustainability. I want my next decade of teacher-ship, entrepreneurship, and stewardship to improve upon the current paradigm, not contribute to the problem. I believe and have believed that Luma as a business, and as a community could survive this. I still believe we could pull through. And I believe more than ever that Luma has been a valuable asset and should exist.

 

Furthermore, I think I can speak on behalf of all of our professionals and staff and share that we crave the opportunity to see you and serve you again. We miss you. We believe that you will return; and we would love to be there to welcome you back. 

 

However, we are without the financial backing to completely reimagine a Luma that is not one of the compromises and contradictions I describe above. One that is in alignment with where we want to be and what we want to offer. So we must now let it go.

 

I am not a yoga scholar, nor am I Hindu, so as a general rule I hesitate to share yoga philosophy in soundbites, especially in communications such as this. I prefer to prepare the listener with some caveats about the limitations of my knowledge and cultural perspective. When I asked my teacher Shukl’acharya about the concept I’m about to share, he reflected that my understanding on the subject was remedial. I think his exact words were ‘accurate, but at the level of a schoolboy’s.’ 

 

Nonetheless, there exists a concept in Hinduism called Trimurti. It refers to the manifestation of the ‘supreme consciousness’ in three forms. Brahma, the force of creation. Vishnu, the force of preservation, and Shiva, the force of destruction. Everything in existence is in one of these states at any given time. And. Also. Everything that exists contains, holds, and is made up of all of these expressions of consciousness simultaneously and inherently. 

 

If Luma is an idea, a place, an offering, a manifestation of a wish, a mechanism, an infrastructure, and even a spiritual touchstone for some of us, it was brought into being because of an idea and manifested from existing resources. It was sustained, served to sustain us in some way, and inevitably must dissolve in order to become something else. This is the nature of the universe. The universe is energy in motion. Becoming, Being, and Breaking Down. Rinse and Repeat.

 

Present in Luma’s becoming, and in all of its moments of existence, it was already destroyed. Put more gently, moment by moment it was already becoming something else. The same could be said about all the feelings and actions it took to make and enjoy Luma, as we all did, as well as for all the feelings and efforts that are a part of its unmaking. And so it is.

 

Thank you for all that you built with me.

 

It has been a pleasure to serve in our beautiful building. Thank you for all of your kind words and wishes. I will return them as soon as I’m able. It gives me great pleasure to know that what we made meant something to you. This last decade has been rich in challenges, experiences, and rewards. It has been a tremendous learning experience. I am grateful for every moment. From that place of gratitude I look forward to new beginnings, and to continuing to grow with each of you as the future for all of us continues to unfold.

 

With abounding love and gratitude,

Valerie Moselle