In the Flow

This morning I walked through my City of Sydney, drinking in the sights with these eyes for the last time before heading off for a month long adventure. In nine years, this will be the longest I have left this city and I am sitting here somewhere between being nervous and excited. It is a bit like going on a first date with someone who you’ve had your eye on for a while and you know it’s going to be a game changer. I am leaving my home, my cat, my students and my community but this is the next chapter of a story that started a long time ago. Finally, after three years of dreaming of it, I am hopping on a plane to undertake a 200 Hour Prana Flow Teacher Training with Shiva Rea in Greece.

It feels like I am standing here on the edge of change – ready to let go of what was, honouring what is and completely open to what will happen.

My first 200 Hour Teacher Training was done locally, with BodyMindLife in 2012. It was no doubt a life altering experience. So much changed for me during this time including a shedding of a long-term relationship and a huge change in career. I’m glad I had opted to do it part time to allow me the chance for slow integration into all aspects of my life. This time however, I am taking the plunge. I am immersing myself completely in the experience, limiting my contact to the outer world to a minimum.

Every time I go deeper into this path something of what I was, is stripped away so that I can become more of what I was meant to be both as a person and as a teacher. These events are magical even though they might not always be easy. They have a way of releasing an old way of being, a way of thinking that no longer serves us and sometimes even old relationships. Leading into this, I have been very careful not to make big commitments as I know that these are very personal journeys and it would not be fair to make a promise that I am not sure I will be able to keep.

There is so much to experience and so much to learn within yoga and we are lucky to be in Australia at this time as the tribe is continuously growing. We have had an influx of great international teachers including Ana Forrest, Maty Ezraty and Bryan Kest, each bringing with them a wealth of knowledge that has fed my own practice and my teaching.

Prana Flow however, has always been close to my heart.

This was a style that was introduced to me more than two years ago by Chanel Luck and Simon Park. Being an ex traditional dancer, something about the ritual and ceremony in combination with discipline, intelligent sequencing and the freedom of flow spoke to me. It was like the practice was telling a story and my body opened to participating in this tale that was being spun.

I am in love with how elements including the weather, the cycle of the moon and the energy of the students in the class are all welcomed into the space to create a complete experience. I am fascinated by how the more Tantric philosophies that honour the feminine are involved.   The way the flow is taught has given my body and soul a freedom that can only be found when my mind can get out of the way. There is an intuitive intelligence to it that can only be felt. There is a fullness and wholeness to it that feeds the soul.

And so we unfold.

When I decided to become a yoga teacher, it also meant that I had committed to a lifetime of learning. It meant a dedication to self-enquiry. Yoga is a lifelong process, a loop that keeps looping. We learn and we practice so that we can keep teaching. Sometimes we have to go back to our own lessons in life and in practice to be able to give. If the day ever comes when I don’t want to practice and feel that I have nothing more to learn, then it is probably a sign that I should stop teaching.

For now, the path is taking me deeper into knowledge of myself as a person. This is the knowledge that informs me as a teacher to be able to offer more to my students on their own paths and I am so grateful to the teachers and life lessons, hard as they may have been, that have brought me here.

So here I head into the next leg of this journey. It’s hard to be away from loved ones and the support that I’ve come to cherish from my community but we are in continuous flow and sometimes, the river has to take us in a solitary direction before we can come back to the sea. I look forward to returning to my city and my community with a new way of seeing things, more to share and so much more compassion.

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One in Four – A Walk through Shadow and Flame

According to statistics, one in four children in the US have been sexually molested. I don’t know what the statistics are in other parts of the country, but that is a big number. It means that every fourth person you meet has been in some way or other, sexually taken advantage of. I don’t know what the statistics are in Malaysia or in the UK where it happened to me but it could be similar. And yes, it did happen to me.

This was 29 years ago, when parents thought that the world was a safe place and that you could allow children to play securely and innocently. He was an acquaintance of my mother’s, someone she was taking a course with in Manchester, UK. It was already a rough time, as my father had sent me to my mother along with a letter that he was leaving her for a younger woman. She was devastated and I was confused.

How does a six year old even begin to describe the situation? It was a public place, and there was no pain involved but something about the situation didn’t feel right. I couldn’t even find the words to say what had happened and my mother was already upset, so I kept it quiet. Keeping it quiet however, did not mean that nothing manifested of it.

I’ve lived my life panicking every time a man stands too close behind me, and when a man assists me in child’s pose, my initial reaction is to stop breathing and freeze up until the message gets to my brain that I know the person and that it is OK to relax. It took me years to get used to the assist in downward facing dog where someone grabs you from the hips and pulls you back. Even now, there are only a few men I can relax into the assist with and I am extremely sensitive to the intention behind the touch.

It was never spoken of, but it has always been somewhere in the shadows.

And it wasn’t until two years ago that I had a vivid memory of the experience. My abuser had come from behind and he wasn’t rough, but he did touch me in an inappropriate way. A child might not know it in their mind, but children are sensitive receptors of touch. It was a lucky thing that there were other people around on the other side of the room or it could have been worse. I wanted to look out the window and he carried me until I could see. It was subtle but I did feel violated.

The event has been playing in the back of my mind for all this time.

‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears,’ old Buddhist proverb.

And so I must have been ready as the right teacher appeared. She had been through a worse experience than I had, relived the memory and come out the other side. I remember being in her class over a year ago, and the feelings surrounding the situation for me came up. Even from the first class, she noticed that I had trouble connecting to my sacrum and was coaxing me to bring breath into the area. It has been a slow process and part of the thing that made is so was my fear to face the assault.

It takes a lot to face these things but last Wednesday, something clicked. Ana Forrest, my beautiful teacher coaxed us to go on a quest towards identifying the blockages that keep us from being whole. In case of a traumatic event, a part of you remains in that time until you go back and free them. Ana said the magic words, telling us that the worst was over. We had survived and we were alive.

That, I think was what did it for me. I decided at the beginning of class that I would chase this fucker down so he could have less power over me. That intention must have been potent because even from the beginning as I was bringing breath down to my sacrum and pelvic area, the tremors began. They continued through core work and most of the class. Finally, when we got into Shavasana, they took over, wrecking my entire body and causing me to panic to the point of not being able to breathe. Luckily Claire, Ana’s assistant, lovingly stayed with me, gently touching my head and cueing me to keep breathing. As soon as we were out of Shavasana, I was a sobbing wreck.

It did not finish there.

Through the day, when I got home, I would sit down, start breathing into my sacrum and the shaking would start followed by sobs. Emotionally, I had to revisit that time of being confused, scared and betrayed. That feeling of being left alone overtook me, and most of all were the very strong feelings that as this was happening to me, my father, the one who was meant to flex his muscles (he was an ex footie player) and protect me was busy starting a new romance. He had let me down, and that’s where my belief that men leave you when you’re weak started.

There were some positives to it though. I was finally able to speak to my mother about it and gave the six year old a voice. She has been a rock through these times. She continues to be amazing, caring, calling me and supportive in my determination to get through this. She’s stuck through me in my crazy quest and called every day since.

We women are so much stronger in our compassion than we give ourselves credit for.

On Thursday I went back. The tremors started early, and towards the end, we were in a compromising Frog pose with a big roll under our bellies. That’s when they fully took over my body. A big part of me wanted to leave the pose and run out of the room. Another part of me was absolutely adamant to chase this fucker out of my body. Ana stayed with me through almost all five minutes of the tormenting ordeal where there were moments when I truly believed that I might die.

But I didn’t and here I am.

I’ve been a gaping wound all week. The memories, and the feelings surrounding them rise and fall like waves. They take over me and I am a shaking mess all over again. Sleep has been sometimes easy but most of the time not. I’ve had nightmares and gone to some really dark places in my mind, but as much as it scares me, I don’t want to put a temporary salve on this.

This will be a tough ride but I want to live my life fully so I am choosing to go through this. The other option is to live my life behind a safe wall where ‘fine’ and ‘comfortable’ are good enough. They are really not so I am living the days occasionally getting thrown into my past knowing that only by facing the nightmares will I be able to shine light on them.

The first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training I did, I was recovering from a breakup. This time, I will be so much more vulnerable as I head into another time of big change. Sometimes though, it is in times of darkness like these that you learn to find your own light. I could bury it and stick a positive affirmation on it, but that’s not where the work is done. There is greatness and magic in the world however, as what you need always gets provided to you. In my case, I have a strong and loving bond with my family even though they are far away, a generous and solid community that holds me in their arms, wonderful friends and a nuturing yoga practice.

I am also taking steps to protect myself now. Where I would spread my love without fear of backlash before, right now, I am a bit more cautious. Where I see threat of unnecessary hurt, I step back. Some friends will taper away. This is when you know the ones who are leeching on your life force, the ones who only want you when you are light and easy. If you have a partner, this is when you know a weak person from a strong one.

It is a process of riding the waves day by day, and a transformation through fire. At the other side awaits a stronger person with more compassion and so much more love for self and others.0c136b5c56fd13046766ee65c4826572-d6ha2cv

Brahmacharya

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In 2012, a few months before I went into my first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, I made a radical decision. I decided that for a year, I would observe Brahmacharya. Named for the state of searching for the ‘Great One, Supreme Reality, or Self,’ Brahmacharya is one of the five Yamas according to Yogic texts. In Vedic traditions in refers to the state of celibacy one chooses during the life stage of being an unmarried student and fidelity when married. In modern times, it is better known as a state of being sexually responsible. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, Monks practice Brahmacharya their whole lives as it is considered necessary for their spiritual practice.

It wasn’t a decision that required a lot of consideration on my end. I loved the sound of the word, ‘Bharmacharya,’ and something about doing it felt completely right. I chose the more strict sense of the word, not only refraining from the sexual act, but also anything that could lead to it including kissing, extreme alcohol consumption and situations where I am alone with a man I am attracted to in a private setting.

As soon as I had decided on it, it was like I had donned a veil that made me sexually invisible. There was a sense of liberation in being able to let it go and practice my Yoga, learn my texts and most of all, learn more about myself. Once I had taken the whole dynamic out of the picture, I found a lot of freedom. I learned to walk in my own skin without trying to gather the attention or to please a dominant male figure.

A lot came up in that time but once the year was up, and as I was ready to lift the veil, my beloved father passed away. Now that opened up a whole other can of worms and Brahmacharya was extended. The relationship between a daughter and a father is always something pretty amazing. My father, no matter what he did was my hero. Whenever he was in a room, his was the only presence that mattered to me. We had our ups and downs of course. When we disagreed there were so many strong emotions running around that the charge was palpable. It was the love that was also the double-edged sword. When he hurt me, I would lash out as strongly but the love was so deep that when I hurt him, it was akin to taking a knife to my own heart.

My father was a bit of a narcissist in that he never saw how his actions hurt the people who loved him. Growing up I was used to him getting distracted either with a new relationship, a new love interest or a new work venture and he would disappear during those times. Those were the days when he didn’t return my calls, or was simply not available. Then when the thing that had his interest for the moment went to shits or he got bored of it, he would be back and I would welcome him. It hurt like hell but I was young not to see the cruelty and selfishness in it so it became the norm.

When he passed, the patterns that I had carried on from my relationship with him to my relationship with other men came to light. Of course, I never loved anyone quite as strongly. How could you love an employer, friend or lover as much as you love your own father? Not even close. But I did notice that in my relationships with men, I had been willing to accept a degree of cruelty. I’m not saying that the men in my life have been cruel, not all of them anyway, but there have been acts of cruelty that I had previously quickly forgiven and even sometimes apologised for.  In doing so, I had been cruel to myself and reaffirming the belief that I was not worthy and therefore it was my responsibility to hold things together.  That was a pretty big one to see and a bigger one to disprove.  Thanks goodness for the friends who see your light even when you can’t.

There is something to be said for not being in a romantic relationship and seeing these patterns. I haven’t been a monk where emotions are concerned. Of course, I’ve had crushes and emotional interests but the commitment to my practice has held me from getting into going forward with a relationship. I had nothing to lose. I’d spent my entire twenties almost continuously in long-term relationships. The thing is, when you are in one, you’re so caught up in the highs and lows of it that you can’t step back and say, ‘wait a minute, here’s that behaviour that I am repeating.’ I’m not saying the change is immediate but like with everything else, you have to notice the pattern to change how you act to it. That has been my greatest lesson.

I have many lessons to learn, I’m sure, but it has been three years and eight months since I committed to a state of learning these lessons on my own. This has in a way become a crutch to save myself from complications and the possibility of pain, but what is life without some complication. It might be time to opening myself to lessons that involve another dynamic now.

In about two weeks, I enter into my second 200 Yoga Teacher Training. The main teacher, the amazing Shiva Rea is a true Tantrist. This time instead of slow assimilation to practice, it will be a month away in an insulated situation, but once the month is done, I think it is time I consciously lift the veil of Brahmacharya that I’ve been wearing all this time.

To victory in facing fears, taking risks and standing in the discomfort of the fire until change is ready to happen. Jai!

Healing from the Healing

A while ago, a decision was made.  A big decision.  At the time, I knew that it was what I needed.  My life had been traveling within the same spiral for years and I didn’t know how else I could get out of it.  So I stepped out of the circle completely.  Some might say that I fell off the face of the earth into some parallel yet unknown universe.

In this void that I created, I finally allowed my attention to sit on the scars that had been there for years.  You know those ones, the ones that are so bloody and filled with puss that it’s easier to just stick a bandage on them and hope they heal on their own. Those deep ones that if you leave long enough cut through so deep to the bone that you end up having to remove the entire limb. There were a few there so instead of moving forward, I decided that I should stay and work on the things that needed work.

This state of alone-ness was only meant to last for a year.  In this time, I have had various healing treatments from an entire retreat to kick off a life overhaul, to massages, cleanses (you know, you cleanse the liver, then the kidneys need a wash out, then there’s the intestines and then it’s back to the liver and it never ends), Reiki, yoga therapies, AcuEnergetics, and all the way to psychic and tarot readings as well as internet research (some were great, some were just plain weird and due to what I do, some are necessary on a regular basis). Fortunately, witch doctors are rather scarce in big cities.

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There are days however, when I wonder if all this healing work is just an excuse.  You see, when I decided on celibacy for a spell, I put massive blinkers on. I’ve always been a bit daft when it comes to these things in the first place.  It has to be ridiculously obvious otherwise I’ll just see it as a friendly thing. With blinkers on, my ‘friend’ pants were on and they were staying on no matter how smoking hot or ridiculously obvious the guy was.

More than two years later, my blinkers are still on.  I said I took them off, but a conversation I had last week showed me that I have made many excuses to keep them on.  It was one of those days when a man’s perspective gave me a different perspective. We had both gone undergone similar energetic treatments, but where he didn’t think he would go back, I did keep going back.  I suppose if he had stepped out of the treatment room and fallen in love, it would be as simple as him meeting someone awesome and falling in love.  Whereas if I had stepped out of the treatment room and fallen in love, I would have gone into this whole story of how the treatment had released me from past hurts, unlocked such and such and opened my heart and then I fell in love. Sure that could have been part of it, but surely it wouldn’t be all of it.  Surely this other person would have something to do with it as well.

Which leads me to this.

As much as healing treatments are great for you, I wonder if sometimes they can be a crutch.  I know they have been for me.  I wanted to remove my man ban in January, then I found other stuff to work on, and then more stuff, and so on and so forth, and the work continues.  My seven main chakras are still shit some days, and Mars and Venus are no closer to being aligned than they were when I was 16.

What are we trying to achieve really?

We cleanse and starve ourselves, go for endless treatments and keep finding issues that we need to work on before we think we are worthy of love.  We read countless books before we think we have the right to be a parent.  We think that until we can become the most awesome and perfect girlfriend/boyfriend/parent in the universe, we just shouldn’t do it. However, in all this, all we keep finding are reasons why we are unworthy.  It’s like those times when we have a small injury where we just need to stretch it out but instead of doing that, we keep getting second and third opinions until we meet some crazy crook who decides that it needs surgery, which leads to even more time off the game.

I’m not saying that healing treatments are useless.  Depending on the individual, some will work, and some won’t, but perhaps, there needs to come a point where the digging stops.  Perhaps there needs to come a time when we stop getting outside opinions and let the information sink in. After all, that’s what yoga and meditation are for. Perhaps it’s OK to continue working but keep life going at the same time.  Consider the pressure (and sheer boringness) of being or being with someone perfect.  What else would there be left to explore?

Without fuck ups, how uninteresting and bland would life be?

We are all works in progress, but there comes a time when progress actually means just being OK with what is and going from there.

The Power of the Symbolic Act

As I reach my 33rd year, and with this new moon in Aries, I am thinking a lot about new beginnings.

Something shifted this year. An old life ended, and a new one is just beginning. Bhairava https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/the-terror-of-my-own-universe/ has been my companion for a while. What I feel is akin to falling in love – my heart is ready to float out of my chest into the unknown, but I am terrified. What was before was familiar, but what is coming is unchartered territory. I can’t go back. I’ve been pushed out of a door that shut and bolted itself right behind me, and strangely all I can think of is my hair.

Why do you wear your hair the way you do? It is part of your identity, the person you want to show the world. A good hair day makes you feel good and a bad one can sometimes stop you from stepping out of the house. Women through history have perfumed their hair on special occasions. Even Muslim women who wear the head cover pays attention to her hair, brushing it until it shines. A successful courtesan tends to her hair painstakingly. When a Hasidic Jewish woman gets married she either shaves off all her hair or wears it very short under a wig. When a person completes the Islamic Haj, he or she is required to cut off a bit of hair to signify a new beginning. The power of symbolism is that one simple act can signify a million different things to different people.

Sometimes it’s not about the hair at all. It is an act that signifies something greater.

And there is something romantic, beautiful and strong about this kind of symbolic act.

Symbolism through history has had a strong impact. It is the ring on a finger, the burning of old love letters, the tombstone for a person whose body was lost at sea, the solidarity of standing silently in protest. After intentions are made, a symbolic act gives something just that much more strength. Like Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son, a symbolic act can be an act of devotion, of surrender.

The practice of yoga, is amazing for the physical body but it also feeds our souls with posture that signify more than the obvious. There is mountain pose symbolizing the balance of Ardhanaishvara even without perfect symmetry. There is Hanuman Asana, signifying the devotion of the Monkey God as he leaped to Sri Lanka to rescue the beautiful Sita. In Natarajasana, there the peace and balance of Lord Shiva in the face of destruction. Then there is Shavasana, corpse pose, signifying that all things must end. And of course there are the mudras, each a symbol of the intention.

So based on all this, this year, I feel like something symbolic is needed, so I did something terrifying.

I chopped off all my hair.

The process :-)

The process 🙂

The last time I did this I was 19 and fearless. At that age, I fell hard and fast, mourned deeply and then would do it all over again the next week. I didn’t worry if any man would find my short hair attractive and if I didn’t have dates, then I would find something else to do (getting caught smoking by the campus guard and running because we thought it was a ghost perhaps?). We did stupid things, and then we laughed about them. Life was simpler, and so was I.

Without my mane, I feel a bit exposed, vulnerable. A lot more visible are the wrinkles, the dark circles, the freckles that I’ve just recently stopped trying to cover with makeup. More than that, every emotion I feel seen through eyes that can’t be hidden with a flip of the hair. In cutting it all off, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable.

So this is my act of surrender along with an intention to let go of the past and a prayer for the future. This is my goodbye, hello, sacrifice, gratitude, asking for blessing, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, letting go of love and inviting love in, shedding old skin so that a new one can take shape. This is me allowing myself to stop waiting for my father to come home.  This is one book closing so that a new chapter can begin.

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A symbolic act need not be great. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but you. It can be as simple as a new journal or as complicated as a move to a different country. It can be laying your forehead down on the mat in surrender, or holding your hands in a mudra. What matters most is the intention behind it. It is your journey, your choice, your story. Doing something symbolic is, in itself, a form of therapy.

What symbolic acts would you like to bring in to your life, your practice, and perhaps to seal your intentions?

Detaching from Non-Attachment

For a while after my last relationship ended, I gave this whole non-attachment thing a go.

On the one hand, I get it.  Imagine being so attached to the outcome of getting into a full split that you literally split your hamstring at the seams, or me being so attached to the number of ‘likes’ I get to my blog that it loses all essence of me.  On a larger scale it could be getting so attached to the idea of “success” that you shut down your conscience.   Then there is the classic – changing who you are for the outcome of making a relationship last (been there, done that, still learning).

The lotus symbolizes non-attachment in some religions in Asia owing to its ability to soar over the muddy waters and produce an immaculate flower.

The lotus symbolizes non-attachment in some religions in Asia owing to its ability to soar over the muddy waters and produce an immaculate flower.

There is the other side of it though.  In order to become a monk, one must let go of all attachments.  This is not limited to iPods, apartments and cars.  These amazing individuals renounce EVERYTHING – their names, their families, and the thought of ever building a home with someone. Even outside the monastery, there are people who have adopted this philosophy of non- attachment – moving fluidly from place to place and relationship to relationship.  Hey, if it suits them, why not?

However, after trying it out, I wonder if it isn’t, in essence, a cop out.  What is falling in love if not allowing yourself to get attached to some degree? Allowing yourself to want another in your life for a certain period of time? This is not just limited to romantic love. It could be love for anything or anyone. Some people feel things like this strongly.  When they put their roots down, it grounds so deep into the earth that replanting would mean snipping off some parts of themselves.  When they love, they love fully, no holding back.  For such people, perhaps not getting attached in the first place is more a matter of self preservation.

Imagine falling in love with no holding back.  One moment you would be this solid entity and the next you would dissolve into the relationship you were in. Or finding a book you love, letting yourself just dive in, characters becoming real for you and for a few days, just disappearing into the story.  Fabulous isn’t it?

Unfortunately, being this also means that when you cry it is with abandon. Yours are not the pretty tears that can come and go in a second. In fact, you often need to make sure that you are alone when you are sad as it takes over you and you need a few days to get through it.

Compared to all that, non-attachment is the much safer option.

Then I remember what it was like to fall in love, and what it was like to even think about building a future with someone, dreaming, imagining.  The connections I made to friends and families.  And I think about the end of the relationships I had in my life – The sadness, the anger, the tears that flowed for days.  How everything broke open and left me a gaping wound.

And you know what?

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Sure I am working on how to preserve myself a little more than I used to.  My mentor Mel keeps reminding me to hold my heart in a little bit because if I don’t I’ll end up breaking my back, both physically and energetically.  This is especially as a yoga teacher where putting my heart out there would just leave me an exhausted mess, no good for anyone in the long run.

However, it was the range of emotions that I have gone through that have given my life meaning.  It is the beautiful sunshine, radiance of light, heavy storms, winter cold and everything in between that has made me grow.  Even though severing roots hurt like hell, every time I rooted down, I was touching someone and making a connection that in turn, made my life more.  Total non-attachment to me is like living in a safe greenhouse while being connected is like being out in the elements, living life to its full range.

Although some of the people in my past were not worth it, my own growth was worth every bit of pain.  Every tear cried, every time my heart shattered into a million pieces, they made me more of me as much as the happy laughter and hugs.  So although I will continue working on holding on to my personal space, I do so with intention to allow myself the space for healthy attachment and connection because otherwise, what use would teaching and touching be?

What will you choose?

Jewel in the Lotus Flower

Lotus Flower

Recently I had dinner with a friend who told me that since her breakup, her yoga practice has gone deeper than it has in the last three years, in her case, especially in forward bends.  It made me think back to my big breakup last year, and how one day my lovely Vicki suggested a forearm balance.  Prior to that, I had a mortal fear of going upside down.  But that day, it was like every emotion I felt in my chest contracted and expanded, and somehow there I was, upside down (against a wall of course), and holding this crazy pose.  Of course, when your heart is light, sometimes your practice is almost effortless, your hips are so open that Warrior 2 or half pigeon does not feel like a death sentence. Who knew though that heartbreak could allow light into the dark corners of your body too?

Your body and your emotions are directly related.  In fact, a lot of the time, when you experience some kind of emotional turmoil or block, your body will react to it.  It has definitely been the case in my life.  When my parents went through divorce, I suddenly developed respiratory problems, and was admitted to hospital twice. Respiratory problems, centered around the chest area, was the way my body reacted to unreleased heartache. After a while, when I learned to manage the emotions, I got better, but by that time, I had already been put on steroid based medication (which now I know is never a good idea). In my late teens and early twenties, I suffered periods of intense weight gain, and incredible digestive issues.  If you study the chakra system, you will know that issues with the belly relate to issues with personal power, either so much that it becomes an overactive ego, or too little that you feel helpless. In my case, I was feeling helpless.

We have this idea that any sort of pain or illness is a bad thing, and worse still if it is emotional instead of physical. A physical ailment is normal isn’t it? But when it gets to a level where it is actually based on the emotional, it becomes unbearable. For years I thought my smoking was a physical addiction, but when you look deeper, an addiction, any addiction is a sign of emotional imbalance.  Accepting that I was suffering from an emotional addiction was much harder than just saying that my body was addicted to nicotine. The thing is though, just like our bodies, sometimes our emotions get sick too.  We just don’t want to look at it because this unseen universe, the one that goes beyond the physical is far beyond out comprehension, and most of the time, we can’t just pop a pill to cure it.

It is not all bad.  Most of the time, going into the emotional illness, or allowing your emotions to be affected have a way of allowing you to grow.  Sometimes emotional discomfort happens because your energy is growing and can’t fit into your current space anymore. Rumi said, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” Yes of course, sometimes the rubs are rough. The truth is sometimes it’s more like being put through the wash than just a rub, but every emotional ailment has a way of expanding you just a little bit more. The secret is to first do the difficult thing of acknowledging it, and then going through the more difficult task of sitting with it.  Cry if you must, scream into your pillow, stare it straight in the eyes and let it hurt.  Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it hurts, but life is a cycle of emotions, and despite what the seven deadly sins tell us, there really are no bad emotions. They are there, and they are as natural as the sun rising.  It is when we start first hating ourselves for feeling these feelings, then denying them and pushing them down that they have a way of just one day overflowing and drowning us. So be there, hard as it is. Emotions are God given. The test is how you react to them.

I wear rings with the Buddhist mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which roughly translates to, “the jewel in the lotus flower.” Originally it refers to how Buddha is the jewel in the lotus flower that grew out of the mud, but personally, I think that we are all lotus flowers growing out of this muck call life. Every heartache, every bit of love, every flash of anger, and sadness, joy and hardship, every bit of emotion opens us up, petal by petal. The thing is, we should let it open us up, let the physical ailments be a window to your emotions, and a step to surrendering to your full potential. I say surrender because we never know what our full potential is, and while we push, we might be pushing in the direction that is the opposite of our complete selves.

There really is no point in my talking about it if I hadn’t been through it. So this is my story. For years fighting and pushing were exactly what I did, never checking in to see if this was what I really wanted. It was about being the “it” girl, making my parents proud, being this picture of perfection according to everyone else.  Then one day, my heart broke. “How could it be?” I thought, “I had held my fire in, cooked, cleaned, been nice to the friends and family. Everything I should be.”  Well, the thing is, I was not being me.  So unlike other times, this time I stopped and lived in the pain. It was the most diffucult thing, but it changed my life. Things became clearer and I became more of me. Despite what I was made to believe, it isn’t all bad if you don’t want to be CEO of your own company with the 2.5 kids and the husband, or a multi-millionaire wearing Manolos.  Just work at finding yourself. Not who your parents, society or the magazines want you to be.  It’s about being where you want to be, and being the person you are.  So surrender. Feel.  Everything is a step in getting closer to the jewel within you, your true center.

Om Mani Padme Hum