“Your work is to discover your world, and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.” – Buddha
‘Say a few words about yourself to the group’ was probably the most terrifying statement I could have heard a few months ago. In fact, I’ve never liked public speaking, much less speaking about myself, in public or otherwise. I avoided any kind of situation in which one might be asked to introduce yourself, say where you’re from, and perhaps even add a funny / embarrassing story alongside to entertain the rest of us. Erm, no, thank you (*runs and hides*). My worst nightmare.
Well, apparently not anymore! Just a few weeks ago I lay on the floor holding hands with complete strangers, almost crying, having not only told them where I was from and how I was feeling that day, but hugging, kissing and even telling some of them I loved them! I must have been drunk?! No, actually, this was early afternoon during an Acro Yoga workshop one day in Dharamkot, India.
A cliché, yes, but it seems to have worked: I went to India to find myself, and low and behold, I think I’ve gone and done it! How is it possible that in just a few months of semi-half-hearted yoga practice, meditation and introduction to spiritual life, could I have come to this incredible state of awareness of who I am? (I stayed a total of 3.5 days in ashrams, did plenty of yoga classes, sure, but in between going to plenty of parties, and meditated sporadically, at best.), And not only to feel I finally know myself, but to love what I discovered to have been true all along too?
Damn, India, you are good ;)
What I see now however is that the past couple of months represent a burst or a peak of personal growth (or realisation) for me, although there were many important events, experiences and changes that have occurred to me and within myself, spanning months or even years, which led me to this point. You could say that my ‘awakening’, if that is what one should call it, was made possible because of a number of factors, which, while I was in the mountain hillside villages of Dharamsala, were symbiotically existing together in their optimum state – allowing for a very profound shift in my perspective about life, the world, and my place in it. Put simply, I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and most importantly, I was open to the change. I was ready. I didn’t know what for, but whatever it was, I wanted it.
I let go.
“Sometimes we have the power to say Yes to life. Then peace enters us and makes us whole.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The single most important thing I think I did during this last few months was learning to let go. Letting go of the past. Of pain. Of anger. Of disappointment. Of the fear of loneliness. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of rejection. Of betrayal. Of failure. Of disappointing myself, and of disappointing others.
I allowed myself to just be: to just be myself, in the moment. To not care what others thought of me – to see past any rules or conventions that might have before made me self-conscious, anxious to please, or nervous of not fitting in. Allowing myself and trusting myself to be and to behave just how I felt was right, rather than worrying about how I thought others would expect me to behave. To rely on my own intuition – to listen only to my own voice, my innate understanding of what feels good and right.
“Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.” – Henry Winkler
There were many things that preceded my trip to India that prepared me for this. For one thing, I had already gone a long way in breaking down my ego to a point where I really didn’t care much what people thought about me. How I looked, acted, or was judged (or ignored even) by others was trivial to me suddenly (whereas in the past I could certainly have been called a ‘people pleaser’). I suppose the last hurdle for me was to quit my job, leave the country and declare to my parents, friends and family (and the world via my blog!) that I really had no idea what I wanted in life, was desperately unhappy, couldn’t cope (let alone thrive) in the current lifestyle / job / society in which I was living, and was off to heal myself. (If that’s not letting it all hang bare then I don’t know what is.)
Once I did that, it wasn’t long before I realised that my own happiness was in my hands. It was up to me. It was within me – and it was tangible. For years people have told me ‘you can only really love another after you’ve learnt to love yourself’. And I agreed with them, in theory, although I didn’t think it was possible. Love myself? What does that even mean? I was terrified at the prospect as not only did it imply a sense of loneliness to me (I still felt like a child, wanting love and protection from someone else), but I feared it equated to arrogance or even narcissism – the exact opposite of who I feel I am and how I hope others to perceive me.
But I came to understand that it’s ok to be alone. In fact, it can be bloody marvelous! After years of yearning for someone to take care of me I saw that I could take care of myself. And actually, I was pretty good at it. That realisation was liberating and exhilarating. Interestingly too, what ‘they’ say is 100% true! The more I loved myself – in that I mean I honoured my own intuition, respected my own needs and desires, and nurtured my mind and body – the more love came to me. I made some lifelong friends, soul mates even, in those weeks in the Indian Himalayas. But while I continually received warmth and love from others, I didn’t become dependent on anyone else’s time or affection for my own happiness. I could appreciate what I had in that moment in its pure and blissful essence, without worrying if it would be lost or changed in some future moment. And so, these people will always be in my heart, will always be my soul mates, no matter when or if I see them again in this lifetime.
The next step? Opening my heart…
By letting go of all the above mentioned fears and anxieties, I was finally free to feel everything that I needed to feel – both pain and joy – sometimes in equal amounts, and neither less important than the other. When I cried I let the tears come. When I felt angry I acknowledged my thoughts and the physical effects of these negative emotions. Amazingly, pretty soon I found that they’d pass by, peacefully, leaving me once again in a state of calm. I acknowledged that to be at peace was far, far more precious than any sense of entitlement, resentment or bitterness towards another that I was holding inside. For I knew that this negative, imbalanced energy only served to punish me, not the offending party. And why let them continue to torture me now, when my feeling hurt will neither change the past nor change them?
“If is not insult from another that causes you pain. It is the part of your mind that agrees with the insult. Agree only with the truth about you, and you are free.” – Alan Cohen
When I really opened my heart though, was when I realised that while being alone is great, and I can do it (woohoo!), there is also something beautiful in opening yourself to letting others in. One must be able to receive love, as well as give (I’ve never really had a problem with giving it). I don’t just speak romantically here, although that is important too, but to open yourself to give and receive love from everyone is the only true way to feel all the joy that life can bring.
It was through the Acro Yoga workshop in Dharamkot that I really came to understand this in practice. By surrendering complete trust in an almost-stranger to support your body, and prevent potentially serious injury to it, was a challenging, but beautiful thing. And the openness created in that environment – in the little family we built in those few hours together (not only by holding hands and telling each other we loved each other!), was magical. It felt exactly how life should be – all of us together, as one, brought together in harmonious unity by non-judgmental, unconditional love.
So, there I was, heart chakra blown wide open, in love with myself and everyone and everything around me, literally in awe of how amazing the world is and how wonderful life can be, free from all the shit that held me back before… For days I felt high on life, so much so that I couldn’t sleep. I could tell my body was tired and my mind too was not functioning in a ‘normal’ way. I forgot to eat and I had no idea what day it was – but every moment felt like magic, like a blessing, and a teaching. Everything was a lesson: everyone I met offered an opportunity to learn more about myself, and in doing so, to heal myself.
Of course I could not stay on that ‘high’ forever. I needed to ground myself, to ‘come back to Earth’ I suppose, and find my balance. But what happened to me in Dharamkot changed me, for good, so I know that I can never go back to the way I was before. It gave me the gift of internal knowing – of knowing, through direct experience, exactly who I am and how my energy plays a role with others and with my environment. It also revealed to me skills I wasn’t confident I had, held back by fear of failure or lack of self worth. Once I let go, my creativity suddenly seemed to run free and I was furiously writing, drawing and taking photos wherever I went. I felt compelled to do, to make, to feel, to play, and ultimately, to share what I was experiencing. Hence this blog, hence my Instagram feed, at times exploding with what I hope were images that captured some of the magic on my journey.
And now? I believe that this is only the beginning. Now I have found myself, I know that whatever happens next will be the right thing for me, because I am conscious of what is happening, and I understand that I am simultaneously in control of my destiny, and at the mercy of a much higher force. Que sera, sera. But I will always be me.
“Love yourself unconditionally, and be yourself fearlessly.” ~ Anita Moorjani