“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and pit it under a bushel, but on a candlestick: and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” ~ The Sermon on the Mount.
“Welcome to Phoenix, and thank you for flying Southwest,” the captain’s calm voice announced as we taxied to the gate. A smile beaming across my face and tears welling in my eyes, I looked down at my brass bracelets I bought myself in Ubud, Bali, and I whispered, “I did it.”
The routine announcement did not go unheard in my heart. His words were proof and acknowledgment that freedom has arrived. Anything is possible. We can fulfill any dream we have, when we unlock ourselves from the prison of fear.
Bali was a fantasy. A voyage that was a lifetime or two away. A voyage, men with large bank accounts, a back pack, a beard, no commitments, and a predilection for adventure pursue. Well, I did it.
I flew across the ocean, to a little island 10, 000 miles away, and embraced the journey as if I were going to the grocery store to pick up some milk. The world in its entire has become my home, because I am now home within myself.
I was released from the prison that I was held captive within for 17 years. A prison I did not know I had the control to be released from. The key was in the lock the entire time, and I did not see it. My light, my spirit had dimmed, and life was no longer visible. I could not see my path or purpose. I dimmed so much that I became my own warden and captor.
My jail sentence began as I starved my body into a skeleton with skin, and considered ending my life. I allowed a volcano of anxiety and compulsions to erupt and consume my every thought, decision and action. I was sick, and I was not even aware of the severity, until years later when I turned around, saw the bars, and who was on the other side reaching through; my daughter, my husband, my family, my friends, my passions, my purpose, me.
What happened to the little girl with the determined, hope filled eyes? The girl who sailed the seas, swam with the dolphins, paved her own path. The girl who sat on the bow of the boat for hours, contemplating the meaning of life and her dreams for her future and the world. She disappeared, locked herself away, and tortured herself by fearing the very thing she loved, life.
The fear was paralyzing. It brought my world to a halt. I paced the tiny cell of my mind’s creation for years. My sentence began at the age of 14. It robbed me of my energy, esteem, confidence and dignity. Anything my mind could do to squander my spirit, it did. When I could no longer keep the anorexia a secret, I started to overexercise. When I was no longer able to mask the overexercising with marathon running, I found something else to become addicted to and control. My mind persuaded me that the only way to live, was to control what I did with my body. I did not understand, that the only way to live is to delve deeper and calm my mind so my body and soul are free
I did not understand, that the only way to live is to delve deeper and calm my mind so my body and soul are free.
I convinced myself everything was unsafe, and death was looming outside of my front door. I became a recluse. I allowed my malignant mind to dominate, and the phobias to breed. I could no longer fly on an airplane. My fears reigned over me. I would have a visceral reaction to seeing a plane on television. Panic attacks became a part of my routine. The sickness infected my entire life. I missed out on 7 years of weddings, funerals, baby showers, family reunions and vacations.
My phobias began to invade my nest. The more reclusive I became, the only entity I could control was my home. I had exhausted the starvation tactic. My knees could not handle running anymore. I could not travel. I did not want to interact with people. My home became my jail cell. I began to clean and focused all of my energy on perfecting my surroundings.
Cleaning became my heroine. I cleaned obsessively to the point my skin would crack and bleed. I disinfected every surface multiple times a day. I vacuumed twice a day. The moment a speck of dust fell, I swooped in like a ball retriever at a tennis match. If someone entered my home, I was convinced that they had disturbed my perfection, so I scrubbed their presence away.
I was lonely, cold and vacant on the inside. I could not see in my darkness, therefore I did not notice the impact of my actions on the people in my life. I neglected everyone, because I was ignoring myself. I stole the light from my husband’s spirit. I put up walls around me to keep everything and everyone out, so I could preserve what was left of “me.” I was only surviving because my spirit had not completely extinguished. And then, Emma entered the world and held a great big mirror in my face.
Navigating the first year with her and my diseased mind was arduous. I yearned to be the perfect mother and guide for my daughter. I tried with all my might to show her the
beauty and glory of life as I once adored as a girl, but now life was dark and cloaked in pain. My obsessions and compulsions were magnified that first year.
I would not allow dirt to be seen anywhere near my home. My house was on lockdown. I would not allow anyone to baby sit or watch Emma, including her own grandparents. She did not leave my side for 9 months. She was plastered to my chest in every wakeful moment. I was exhausted, depleted and empty. I cried almost every day, praying for God to release me, let me out, make me happy again, but no one answered. I did not see that I had the key. That I had the choice. It was all my decision to stop the fear from annihilating my spirit.
I had taken a hiatus from my yoga practice during the last part of the pregnancy and those first nine months of Emma’s life. My physical practice, which I discovered at 20, had been my savior. My practice was recess from the jail cell, however I was immature and undeveloped in mind.
I became just as obsessive about my practice, as the eating disorder and the cleanliness. If I did not practice everyday, I thought my whole world was going to implode. I did not grasp that my spirit did not need a rectangular rubber mat to appear, but could be in constant presence. Ultimately, it was my spirit that unlocked the bars.
I will never forget the day I awakened. We all have a defining moment in our lives that marks our “rock bottom,” the moment that grabs us and catapults us back into the light. Well, here is my moment –– Emma began to crawl off of the blanket I put down on the carpet for her, and I lunged to grab her and pull her back. Why? Because, I did not want her hands to get dirty.
It felt like someone socked me in the stomach at 100 miles an hour. I gasped for air, and I came to. I stood there stunned, saddened, disgusted, embarrassed, aware of my malnourished being. I was withholding my baby from growing, from learning, from exploring, from living! I picked Emma up sobbing, grieving, apologizing for my absence, for the sickness I permitted to take me over. That afternoon, I picked up the phone and called At One Yoga. I asked what time class was that evening. I called Keith and told him I was going to class at 6PM. That was the beginning. That was the beginning of my liberation. That moment was the beginning of the end; of the suffering, torture, fear and disease that had occupied my mind and body.
In that moment of rock bottom, my spirit ignited her flame and burned away the blind fold. I was not going to raise my child in fear, I was not going to destroy her precious life. It was at that moment, that I saw myself in her eyes. I saw my perfection; I saw the light. I saw that if my light was bright, hers would be too, and the whole world would light up.
Healing was a process, and it still is. A commitment to maintaining consciousness at all times. I became devoted to my recovery, to restoration, to living my life again. It was demanding and difficult at times. Healing became and remains my discipline, my practice, my meditation, my yoga. I strive to maintain a balance between my precocious mind, my tenacious body, and my divine spirit. If I allow my being to be eclipsed by either one of these elements, then I will fall back into unconsciousness. I have taken a vow to remain devout to my awareness of self. I vowed to see myself in all; everything and everyone.
I encouraged myself to get back on an airplane with my children. I went to therapy. I sat in meditation and did not turn away when the pain exploded within me. I faced my fears one by one, and as I did, they dissipated and disappeared. My desire to teach the lessons I learned from my experiences began to grow stronger and stronger.
I enrolled in teacher training. I made the choice to allow the universe to guide me, and my life began to unfold softly, gracefully and effortlessly. Keith and I confronted our marriage and decided to set each other free. I took a vacation from my physical yoga practice to analyze why I was practicing. I understood that I needed balance within my practice, and cut back on my asana to focus on my meditations and studies.
As I sat with myself, I understood that my purpose on Earth is to share every facet of my essence. Through my openness, I would help others reignite their lights. My words do not belong to me, they belong to all of us, because just as one sentence altered my path, I knew I would do the same for someone else. It has become my mantra, my footprint, “Save one life, save the world entire.” The life I have saved, is mine.
I began to ache for a yoga womb; a safe, sacred sanctuary to pray, cry, sit, dance, and practice. A place to share my light with others. The studio appeared. I hungered to adventure, discover and experience the world again, so I went to Bali and will be going to India in January.
I am writing this the evening before the first birthday of the studio. One year ago, my flame began to dance again. Today, my flame is brighter than it has ever been, yet as I said before, I am a work in progress and always will be. The days I stumble into the dark, I do not panic, because I know now what I did not know then –– our job is to journey through the dark and into the light and back again. This is how we learn, how we heal, how we relate, how we connect and how we grow. The purpose of our existence is to live in balance. If we are always in light, we would not know dark. Our responsibility is to keep our candle shining, so we can see the key and unlock the jail cell bars when we find ourselves behind them.
One afternoon in Bali, I checked my email and this is what was waiting in my inbox, “ I remember that little girl who sat on the bow of the boat excited and ready for anything the adventure would bring. I knew she was always there, I knew she would return, and she has. I love you, Dad.”
By Rebecca Lammersen
Editor: Lindsay Friedman