I've been searching for me for most of my life.
I remember after the death of my grandfather at the age of ten, scouring the Good News Bible trying to find the reason for his death, for the meaning of live and what our purpose was. As I grew into a teenager and limits began to be placed upon me - limits on what I could and could not do in the world, limits on how I should be, and limits placed upon my dreams - I rebelled and went down the alternative route. I embraced punk, I embraced drugs and alcohol and sex. I embraced the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. And I also embraced Buddhism however contradictory it seemed to my outward life. Because inside I was still searching for me. For my place of contentment and joy. For the place where I was truly allowed to be who and what I was. Where I could live my truth, my passions and my purpose.
The quest never stopped. I grew into a young adult and followed further down the Buddhist path whilst still indulging in my hedonistic lifestyle. I found many truths in my study of Buddhist texts, I began to meditate and went to teachings from venerable masters. However much truth I found though, I could never seem to embody it. Intellectually I was all over it. But it never seemed to resonate at a cellular level. Something was still missing and I was as discontent and as wild as ever.
One wintery day I was lying on my couch reading a magazine and came across an article about a Yoga teacher called Graeme Northfield. He taught and practiced a style of yoga known as Ashtanga. The article went on to say that he had been transformed both physically and mentally and also described the practice as the heavy metal of yoga. A hardcore workout with a spiritual twist. I was intrigued. At that time I was a gym junkie - I'd train for a minimum of 2- 3 hours a day - so the 'hardcore workout' aspect sounded just right. And then there was the hidden gems awaiting in the spiritual truths I might glean if I jumped onto the mat. I didn't do anything about it right away. In fact, I'm pretty sure I just dropped a tab of LSD and continued on my way.
A few short months later, I moved to Brisbane from Adelaide. A change that was long overdue and much anticipated. A chance to begin again away from everyone and everything that I already knew and that knew me. A chance for reinvention, and an opportunity to perhaps find what it was that I was missing. What I didn't change in the move, was my lifestyle and the nagging thought and belief that life needn't be an endless hamster wheel running to someone else's tune. The discontent was still there and so was the anger. I was still looking for happiness outside of myself even though Buddhist teachings had told me time and time again that it could only be found within myself. Had taught me that I was my own guru and that the Divine resided inside myself. It didn't matter how much I read this and believed it, or how long I meditated for, I still could only find it dancing while off my face. Nothing had really changed except the location.
Then one day I remembered the article I had read and realised there was an Ashtanga yoga class with the exact same teacher in the article just around the corner from my new Brisbane home. So I joined a beginners course and that was it. I was hooked. Ashtanga is a sytematic system of Hatha Yoga using a set series of postures, so each week I would take what I learnt and practice it at home. Graeme eventually left and was replaced with Iain Clarke, another well respected Ashtanga teacher. I blossomed under his tutelage. I won't say that my lifestyle stopped or my discontent disappeared, but I began to feel a shift. The missing piece I'd been looking for started to become clearer and I began to understand what it was I was looking for.
I began to understand that the ordinary life expected of me wasn't what I truly desired, nor was it aligned with who I was. At this time I was married to a great bloke. We were best friends and from the outside looked like the perfect couple. But my discontent ate away at the relationship, and fractures began to appear. I was still searching for 'more', and partially blamed him for my unhappiness. Eventually I decided I needed some alone time and went to Borneo on a two week holiday. I stayed a month, realised that the relationship was holding me back and broke it off upon my return. Another new start awaited me. And yet, nothing changed.
Old habits and patterns of belief will always reappear unless we realise and change them. So I left one relationship and entered another. I broke one heart so that I could have mine broken. And whilst it was possibly the worst mistake I have ever made entering into this new relationship, it was also one of the best. It was passionate and tumultous from the start. He was difficult, erratic, charismatic and had a long history of drug abuse. He had no respect for women. And he was a narcissicist. Thirteen years of ups and downs, of me trying to 'fix' him and his darkness, thirteen years of verbal, emotional and occassional physical abuse, and the birth of one beautiful child later, I finally left.
But during this whole dark period my practice never left, although it did evolve. I had always kept up a self practice even though during those years we were travelling or living remotely. About 10 years into my practice I found Ashtanga wasn't serving me as well as it once had, and I began to explore other forms of Hatha Yoga. And my practice began to deepen. I started to practice Pranayama regularly, and picked up my seated mediation practice again. And the discontent began to drop away. I found a deep joy and well of happiness within myself regardless of the turmultuous and ugly life I was living on the outside. I'd be amidst his anger and chaos and would realise that while I was unhappy with my relationship, I wasn't unhappy per se. In fact, quite the opposite. I was grateful and content for what my life was presenting me. It gave me the patience and skills needed to navigate the swirling darkness and anger I lived amongst. I look back now, and if it hadn't been for my practice, I doubt I would have survived that relationship. I still came out the other side damaged, with low self worth and my demons had raised their ugly head again, and I was drinking heavily. But my soul was happy - I wasn't angry and I wasn't discontent. I had found a modicum of peace.
The next year or so saw my practice deepen even further. It didn't take long and I had my drinking under control, I had regained my self worth and I was powering. I began a Yoga Teacher Training and I began to pursue the life I wanted. Not for anyone else but just for me. I made a point of practicing Bramacharya (sexual abstinence) for a couple of years, which was possibly the best decision I have ever made. I learnt so much about myself, and let go of old reoccuring habits. I continued (and still continue) to delve deep within my psyche and unravel self limiting beliefs. I am more determined than ever to follow the path I have always known should be mine. No more subjugating my desires to please others. No more 'fixing' of people. I give love and support and offer tools for them to help themselves, but without filling my own well, I have nothing to give others, and I realise this now. That dark period of my life may have been one of the worst, but it also taught me much about myself, and my consistent yoga practice supported that. It helped me survive what could have broken others, and once out the other side, it has given me the inner power to pursue my Dharma.
Yoga is my path. Through this ancient tradition I journey into the centre of self. And I now help to guide others to their centre through its tools. For this is my Dharma - to teach and inspire others to live their lives to its fullest potential. Hari Om Tat Sat.