January started with a heightened buzz. I'd just finished teaching my first yoga teacher training and led my very first yoga retreat. In Feb I cooked for three whole days for 25+ people at a yoga retreat. I was living my dream. By March I was prepping my second teacher training, and things were sky high. My yoga teaching partner Simone and I had a good thing going.
I was also teaching a couple yoga classes a week and subbing, too. My life felt spiritually balanced, I was in a good, centered place with my romantic partner, and I was in a solid, grounded place inside myself. My days were filled with joy, I experienced little depression, had an internal drive, felt love and compassion most of the day everyday, felt forgiving in each moment, I had very little anger, and I had a healthy sense of purpose along with a clear, focused direction for my life.
In May things started breaking apart.
This is when I introduced two of my yoga students and my yoga teaching partner to Nichiren Buddhism. It frightened me like I'd never felt scared before. It felt like childbirth, and suddenly, I felt responsible for these three very vulnerable human lives, souls, and destinies. It took me to a deep and silent place, a place I didn't have the language or expression to share yet with the world.
Suddenly, I felt angry all the time. It's like this alien rage monster that lurked inside my body would come out and create a disaster in my world. I had very little, if any, control over it. I often felt oppressed and at times like the world was against me. I felt sick of "the system," and I needed to fight back. I tapped into an internal warrior within. And through it, I found a loud and big voice that I hadn't ever learned to use. I wonder if this is the kind of strength that new mothers build. It felt that I was no longer fighting just for myself but also for the people, these people I knew, loved, and cherished. And I had to be the voice for these three human beings that I sponsored, protect them with everything I had. Even more so, I needed to develop stronger tools in order to do so.
Soon after, I knew that this yoga teacher training would be my last for years, if not indefinitely, and the mourning and loss were palpable. Simultaneously, I taught my last class for a company I had worked for a year and a half. And this part of my life was drawing to a close.
At the same time, still fighting my devilish anger monster and dealing with unprocessable mourning for this life I had built and known, I took an ecopsychology course, which changed the course of my life. A class intended for deep healing, I tapped into profound fears and losses, traumas and holdings in my life, while at the same time, re-experienced old traumas (without healing) and developed new ones. In short, my life was too open and too vulnerable, and I was, in fact, in danger. I didn't have enough protection around me. Inside I felt lost and very, very sad. And I went into a state of shock and trauma.
Without time to breathe, stop, or pause, just a few days after my class ended, and while I was still writing my final paper, my boyfriend and I set jet on a 17-day trek around Europe. Here, we grew closer, we worked through some issues, ones that inevitably surface when you're overseas with somebody you think you know, and we made it. By the end, we were engaged and more in love than ever.
When I returned from Europe, the soul work continued. Around this time, the Trayvon Martin verdict came out, and the US was toying with the idea of a war with Syria. This enraged me further, and at this point I was chanting three hours a day. During this time, too, I was prepping to go to a Buddhist study conference geared toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. This ideal closely mirrored the state of life I had been experiencing, and I felt a personal draw toward it. More anger, some depression, feelings of isolation arose from me, as I sat, felt through, and processed these deep and confusing feelings I didn't know my life held. Through all this chanting and all this seeking, I finally touched the root of my rage monster. I suddenly remembered how angry I felt as a teen, anger I had long forgotten, anger I had not felt since I was 15, anger I didn't know I still had.
I completely gutted out the ills and poisons between my mother and me, and I fiercely determined to revolutionize my family.
My school semester began two weeks after I returned from Europe. And in between that I left for my four-day conference.
And two weeks after my school year began, I met my client. And the real work began.
Without going into the ins and outs, let's just say it was four more months of emotional reactivity, high-charge emotions, anger, chaos, a serious loss of control with even more serious (illusory) attempts to control, pure toxicity, meanness I had never experienced before both from others and in myself. It was all around yucky, icky, sticky, gross, and disgusting.
In hindsight, I see that I just kept going and going. I did not give myself the room to stop or pause or process or reflect or be. My life, at its core, was restless, squirmy, and I felt painfully uncomfortable inside my body.
As soon as my semester ended, I hopped on a boat and rested, didn't move, for four days straight. It was a seven-day cruise with two days of travel, so removing the transition time, I literally lay by the pool for four straight days. My life needed this refresher more than I could have told you.
I got to chant again. I gained color again. I touched life again. I studied Buddhism again. I smiled again.
Once I returned from my trip, I got hit hard with a nasty flu. And a couple days later was Christmas. It's funny how these things work. The timing was divine. My flu moved through in about six days. But now I've got this painful lingering cough that has me crying at night from pain and suffering.
But guess what. I finally got the message. Relax Jen. Just be. Surrender. It's safe to feel vulnerable again. Let yourself be taken care of. It's ok.
The most joyful experience for me at the moment is being able to feel sad. When I cried two nights ago from this cough, it was the first time I shed tears in several months because I had to be too strong to get through my days.
I'm back in touch with myself. I am kind again, I feel forgiving, my compassion has returned for all life, all beings. My belief in the divine, cosmic, and mystic truth inherent in this beautiful universal wisdom and order is strong. I thought I had lost so much during this year. I lost my love. I lost my emotion. I lost my ability to understand or listen to or care for others. The life was sucked out of me, and I was sucked dry. But what's amazing is that when I look back in review, months and months of painful suffering truly feels like a single night's bad dream. And I am waking up again, refreshed, realizing it was just that, a bad dream. And I have this amazing life I get to lead. Awake.
You know what's really cool too? It's that while I was going through all of the above, there was so much good happening in me and around me too, good that I was blocked from seeing, feeling, and knowing because of the state of life I was in, the condition my life was in. So as I wipe out, polish, and purify the negativity that encrusted my existence during these hard times, what's left are beautiful, wondrous polished gems that I get to savor and enjoy. And these treasures are treasures that don't leave you, not even after death. My goodness I love life!
They say you can't change your past, but I have a different point-of-view. I think you can. I think you absolutely can change your past by changing yourself in the present. Because what happens when you do the work and overcome the ills and toxins inside your heart at present, not only do you change the trajectory of your future, but you also change the course of the past.
It's like this. When you rid the negativity in your life - and you do this by deeply going there, going to the scary, murky, ugly places in you - things inevitably lift. They lift. And when this darkness lifts, not only does it lift in the moment, but it lifts from your whole existence. I mean it!
It lifts the poisons in your past, your present, and your future. Happy memories rise that were once blocked through darkness and grief. Forgiveness leads to an open heart, and an open heart leads to open eyes. Cause when you block the pain, you also block the joy.
I am seeing things in my family, in my past, that I couldn't see before. Happiness in my childhood, happiness in my year, happiness in me. Joy, safety, protection. My heart was so closed because I had so much pain. But once I unclenched, and I let go, it's like thousands of white doves were free to fly inside of me.