Sifting through the Ashes
It took me nine months to get out of the same cream and beige outfit I wore every day, off my parent’s couch, and back into the world.
The brainwashing and deep rearrangement led me to the brink of a psychic break.
I had been healthy during the first 4 months in India (besides the not being able to walk from the lumbo-sacral sprain—ok, so not that healthy). When I left the ashram, I immediately got a bad chest cough. From there a staph infection that started as a weird thing growing out of my nose, and eventually went to my brain.
Several rounds of antibiotics got the infection under control (after vehemently resisting any intervention for months based on my dissociation with my body and belief that the infection was a manifestation of my mind.)
My body shouted in every way to be included in the story. After months of neglect, of abiding to the idea that the body does not really exist and is an accessory to the soul- my body screamed out.
My guru continued to contact me through e-mail. He wanted me to impress upon me the powerful opportunity that I had let slip away. It got to the point where I had absolute dread going near the computer. I started to feel nauseous as I opened my inbox.
And then my body, once again, said
Every time I received contact from him, the infection started growing out my nose again.
I needed that physical sign and “excuse” or reason to tell him not to contact me. Months went by, the scab formed on my upper lip, and then sure enough, he wrote me again, and same thing, growing expanding red blob out my nose.
My body, neglected and demoted in my new philosophy was raising its proverbial hand or in this case growing a nose scab. The physical, material world was giving me the clues I needed for the road back to health. The “lowest” part of being (*this is not Tantric philosophy folks) was occupying the highest place in my consciousness.
The Road Back
Having spent six years in Boulder in the land of somatic psychology and body-centered therapy, I was familiar with and believed statements like “your body is your biology.” But I had rewired myself and nothing that used to make sense made sense any more.
When I heard these old phrases that used to be imbued with so much meaning for me, I felt revolted, repulsed and totally confused. Who was this person (me)? What could I trust? What did I believe? What made sense to me?
It’s all good to talk about giving up beliefs, until you really do, and realize there is no sufficient ego structure underneath.
I was at a loss for descriptors when I did make the effort to talk. While I felt like the shell of a person, there was also something clear. You know how someone looks after a good hard cry- cleansed.
I could no longer practice yoga without heavy emotion surfacing. I frequently had to stop practicing altogether to go into the fetal position, and give myself over to intense sobbing. I bravely ventured to my home studio and instead of worrying about being too disruptive, allowed myself to be, exposing this deep emotion that was usually silent in the studio.
I also began slowly to share parts of my experience, and to realize that while I felt like it was impossible for anyone to relate, mine was not as unusual of a story as it seemed. I looked to my original yoga teachers, whose words had once resounded so much truth to me, for orientation. I took my time to see if I could feel any reverberations again.
I dove wholeheartedly into the material world.
I decided that the world of yoga was too disheartening and decided to go to graduate school. I would revisit my roots in social activism and racial justice and turn my attention to direct service. I would teach elementary school. I even bought a house. (which is really something for someone who for over ten years hesitated to buy pots and pans lest they restrain a last minute trip to India or foreign move.) I needed roots.
I went to therapy. For the nth time in my life reached the same conclusion—
Yoga is no substitute for therapy.
I resolved to believe other people’s reflection of me. Where I felt duped, stupid, and lost, my friends and students gave me different feedback. My own judgment was suspect, so I leaned on the opinions of people I respected.
I learned, again, how all the spiritual talk in the world does not make you exempt from error. Spiritual evolution doesn’t inevitably translate to decent behavior.
I teased out all of the gems- the wisdom, transmissions, and insight from the manipulation. I forgave myself for my vulnerability and learned to cherish the innocence, courage and genuine desire to learn and evolve that led me to the relationship to begin with.
I saw the opportunity to yank up the deep root of male abuse and desire for an external authority once and for all.
I admired the courage it took to walk away when I had found someone whose knowledge and background was a shockingly perfect fit for my yearnings, talents and questions.
I was proud that I walked away when it could have been tempting to give in.
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