For the longest time – and because of self-loathing and fear - I tried to fit in with others views of what is acceptable and lovable and have bent myself into every possible shape to ‘fit in’ – perhaps that’s why I became a Yoga teacher; a physical contortionist when really I was being an emotional and mental contortionist rather than owning up to who I really am.
It took me over 50 years to realise that I wasn't the only one and that it is only the brave who have the courage to be exactly who they are; shamelessly, proudly and with fervour. This realisation came after many ‘life slaps’ as I call them. A ‘life slap’ happens when you’re not listening to yourself and keep on doing the thing that makes you feel out of sync: That thing that makes you feel out of sorts and just ‘wrong’ with life rather than right with it.
Slaps came in the form of illness, loss, depression and thoughts around futility and lack. It went on for around 15 years but I finally busted out of that shell and kicked its ass! Some may say that 15 years of struggle is a long time but believe me, some people stay in that rut for the majority of their lives, so I count myself as one of the lucky ones who finally got a wake-up call that I actually heard! I swear I must have slept through hundreds of alarm bells before one of them was loud enough to wake me up.
The loud bell was on an extended ring and lasted for about 3 years before I went ‘Duh’! That moment happened when I lost my flat, lost my work, lost my health; my friends, my relationship and just about everything else and I had to move in with my parents in a tiny house on the commuter belt to London and sit in my mess until I faced it; and trust me when I say that I tried just about everything to resist. Finally I buckled down and did 3 years of non-stop inner work. All the things I had been avoiding in myself and in life, I made the decision to face head on…and I did it. It was painful, unpleasant, nerve racking and unbearable but I stuck it out. And then I realised something essential...and that was:
You can do ANYTHING if you want it enough and if you persevere. So all my years of studying the holistic and esoteric arts suddenly became grounded in truth. I have to say, it was and is the most satisfying experience of my life to date and the most important thing is that if I can do it; then YOU can do it too; if anyone can do it, then everyone can do it.
And THAT is something that makes it all worth while…
Although suffering is no laughing matter when we are going through it, when it reaches its end, we can often feel so grateful that we laugh and cry all at once. This is because suffering is often associated with a tremendous amount of pressure - either placed upon us by our own self, or placed upon us by our perception of what we consider to be external circumstances. The result can feel like being crushed by thousands of tons - an unbearable feeling of restriction and angst.
However, nothing of such intensity can or does last since every occurrence, incident or event has a beginning, middle and eventually an end and when the end comes and the pressure is lifted, the result is a sense of blissful relief that is so ecstatic that we might even flip out with the energetic release.
Often, when one has hit such a pocket of suffering, it can feel as if it will never end. However, it is at this most difficult of time, when we feel it the most intensely that is the 'darkness before the dawn', or the final moments of that chapter of your life; just before the suffering extinguishes itself and passes away. At that moment, our feelings miraculously change and we become free. What we must remind ourselves of, in these unbearable moments is that even events have a birth, a life and a death - albeit in your own sense of perception. The purpose is to push that perception to the limit so that it releases itself from your system.
And then - all of a sudden and out of the blue, it is gone- as if it never existed at all; and it might even be replaced by the most exquisite joy. When such a pressure is lifted we can laugh and laugh uncontrollably until there is no wind left in our body... And suddenly the suffering becomes beautiful and we feel so grateful for its lesson. It seems paradoxical I know, but when we are touched by true suffering, and we really let it in, all that is left when it has gone, is a gentle smile of gratitude and compassion...
That is the miracle of what it means to be Human.