Woman understands neighborliness

Anapoorne Colangelo, second from right, brings joy to many when she visits her mother, Pauline Colangelo, right, and others at the Grace Manor group home. With them are, from left, Nancy Johnson, owner of the Clinton group home, and Inga Borgstrom, a Grace Manor resident. - Matt Johnson
Anapoorne Colangelo, second from right, brings joy to many when she visits her mother, Pauline Colangelo, right, and others at the Grace Manor group home. With them are, from left, Nancy Johnson, owner of the Clinton group home, and Inga Borgstrom, a Grace Manor resident.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Nancy Hill knew that she had met someone special shortly after moving to Whidbey Island when Annapoorne Colangelo introduced herself as Hill’s new neighbor.

“When my little family moved here to Whidbey, I had felt a guidance leading us here. My belief was confirmed when we drove up and a woman we had never laid eyes on before came out in a brightly colored dress to greet us,” Hill said. “Turned out she was our new neighbor, Annapoorne Colangelo, who welcomed us with her open heart, warm smile and outstretched arms, saying ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’”

It could not have been a more fortuitous meeting.

“Many years have passed and my children and I have been so blessed by her benevolent, spiritual steadfast love for us all. We are not just neighbors, we have become family,” Hill said.

Annapoorne Colangelo isn’t afraid to take chances on opening her heart first to someone.

“I could look foolish, but that’s OK,” Colangelo said. “It used to be important to me to be understood, but that doesn’t matter anymore. As long as I feel I have treated people with respect.”

Colangelo defines respect, she said, by seeing all God’s people worthy of love and respect. She says that sometimes, people can only start out by tolerating a person. However she’s not satisfied to stop there.

“Everyone of us wants to be respected and loved, my aim is to try to get there with each person I meet.”

She cites an example of tolerating someone verses respecting them. In 1985, when her then-husband told her he wanted out of their marriage, she was hurt and angry. At the time, she wanted him to hurt as well. That changed over time.

“Eventually I was able to forgive him,” she said. “Now I am not merely tolerating him, but I truly like him, I have a love for him. And we have been there for one another, and will continue to.”

As a freshman in high school, Colangelo suffered a broken back in her gym class when she fell off the parallel bars. Doctors didn’t give her much hope for her back to recover. After six years of constant pain and physical limitation, Colangelo said she cried out to God, “If I don’t find something to help me, I am going to kill myself!”

That day she went into a bookstore, and was drawn to a book titled “Yoga for Bad Backs.” She purchased the book, and within months found yoga was not only strengthening her back, but was opening her up to what would later be her life’s work — using yoga and meditation to help others as well as herself. She studied Integral yoga with Satchidananda from India.

She said she believes that within each of us resides wisdom called intuition. If we can trust this, she said, it can guide our lives into our full potential, of what God has in store for us.

Today she teaches yoga classes and workshops on Whidbey helping others to listen and heal their own bodies and minds. She volunteers as well this whole body exercise to youth and the elderly. Her students appreciate what she has to teach.

“As a teacher, Annapoorne is consistently gentle and sympathetic to her students,” said one of those students, Langley musician Linda Good.

Colangelo was more than just sympathetic when Good ran into health trouble.

“When I had to have a biopsy after a suspicious spot was found, Annapoorne eased my anxiety with her support, meditations and diet suggestions,” Good said. “It was a great comfort, when you are going through something that is not easy, to have this kind of loving comforting support. I am married to a science teacher, and he’s a skeptic, even subscribes to “Skeptical Inquirer.” But even he could see the positive results for me.”

In addition, Colangelo has been active in the South Whidbey Soroptimist Club, and helped to organize an annual Children’s Day celebration on South Whidbey. She inspires as a diligent recycler. She also has a gift of comforting people and even helping them to heal themselves.

Not everyone is open to the non-traditional methods and spirituality that Colangelo offers. One Sunday afternoon several years ago, Colangelo was seated at a table for a benefit luncheon. A woman her age sat down next to her, and the two struck up a friendly conversation.

After a bit, the two exchanged introductions and names. The other woman immediately pulled away, and said “You’re that witch!”

Colangelo was bewildered, but nevertheless kept treating the woman with love and respect. She didn’t take the woman’s comment to heart. Eventually the woman got beyond her preconceived ideas of the practice of yoga. They became close friends, and Colangelo has had the opportunity to help this woman with some health difficulties.

Some years after Colangelo’s father passed away, she brought her mother from her lifelong home on the East Coast to live on Whidbey Island. Her mother now lives in Grace Manor, a Clinton group home.

Colangelo spends many days with her mother, baking cookies, dancing together or reading stories.

”I look forward to and treasure the time I get to spend with my mother,” she said.

Claudia Walker, musician and volunteer, says Colangelo lives from a place of love and joy. She said she saw this when she befriended her son when he was 18 years old.

“She is an accomplished listener as well as a wonderful friend to youth,” Walker said. “When my son sought her guidance, she was always there for him. She taught him the value of trust and unconditional friendship.”

Colangelo says she loves the youth of today. She recalls a recent phone conversation with her nephews. She talks about that call with a lump in her throat.

“They told me ‘Annapoorne you will never have to worry about your old age, you’ll never be alone, we will be there for you, we want to take care of you.’”

Colangelo says she aspires to live her life to help and understand others, not to necessarily be understood herself. She says she hopes others will feel loved by her, even if they don’t like her. She feels she has found a caring and alive way to live her own life.

“I do believe that I am here to see the worth in all people, no matter how they see life themselves.”

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