The blurry world of booze brought me to yoga.
Being a veteran crew member of the ‘ship of fools’ gave me the clarity to see my life as a yogic journey.
My 20s were spent perched on a bar stool. My student loans flowed from my pocket to that of the barkeep’s—hopefully his children’s post-secondary schooling would prove more fruitful than my own. The only personal investment I was making was towards a doctorate in drunken debauchery and blurry blackouts. Each night began with a multitude of mates boarding the ‘ship of fools,’ but only a select few of us would go down with the ship at last call. With great pride, we exceeded all expectations of being obscene, tasteless and thoroughly unhinged.
We were angry and full of spirit… well, spirits. Our emotions were raw and our souls felt like reality’s personal punching bags. Reality was an ‘armada’ and its merciless constitution skulked in the periphery of our polluted vision. We were in love with their magic but really, we were slaves to the piracy of Captain Morgan, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Some of our pain could have been our heavy heads and ‘unknown party injuries’ but we believed our agony was much more profound than that. The ugliness of reality was rearing its ugly head and we were nothing shy of pissed—literally.
If you weren’t radical and a self-proclaimed non-conformist, you didn’t have what it took and you were destined to fall overboard. If you had a shred of shame, we made you walk the plank. If you weren’t with us, you were obviously against us—our crew was ‘tight’ and we weren’t willing to accept any weak links. Our pain was real. The world was not what we thought it was and we didn’t want to participate so we vowed to never leave ‘the deck.’
Our nightly cruises were a buffet of more than just booze.
Amidst chasing Zambuca shots with our local ‘crack draft’ (dingy bar, hence, moldy tap lines), we blew each other away with literature like SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Butler. While double-fisting triple rye and cokes and waiting our turns in foosball and pool tournaments, we discussed the antics of Michael Moore and John Stewart. We shared play by plays of documentaries like The Corporation. We rocked out to The Tragically Hip, Queen and Stompin’ Tom while debating the philosophies of Noam Chomsky. With passion and spirit, we professed we were going to change the world—tomorrow—somewhere between three extra strength Tylenol and returning to ‘the deck’—if we remembered. We were nothing more than inebriated arm chair warriors for social justice. Sadly, we couldn’t walk the walk or talk the talk; we merely stumbled and slurred.
I was tired, battered and bruised but the notion of jumping ship was unnerving. Fueling the potency of my spirit was proving insufferable and came at a premium price. I had been casting off into the fringe long enough and was now a veteran member of the crew. How could I leave? We had shared more than our disdain for ‘sheeple’ and their ignorant and passive participation in making our world a cesspool. With overflowing spirits, raw emotions and a sense of misguided righteousness, we confessed our greatest vulnerabilities and revealed our darkest demons and best hidden skeletons. Hell, some of us were each other’s skeletons.
Despite fears of losing my crew, I found myself staggering to the perimeter of the deck. Each night closed with my head hanging out over the watery abyss imploring with intoxication for mercy. I swayed from side to side and stared into the mysterious unknown body of water. Consciousness was flitting but sharp like the flash reflections of light bouncing off the tips of the cresting waves. The answer was right in front of me—I needed to jump.
So, I jumped.
After a decade of debauchery, I was left with fuzzy memories, a mountain of debt, lifelong injuries, great literature and good friends.
Now that I had become my own vessel, the damage caused by my dis-ease was inexorable and sobering. With my spirits drained, I became a witness to the depths of my injuries. I had no choice but to devote myself to repairing my body—I couldn’t navigate a damaged and foreign vessel through this armada.
The blurry world of booze had brought me to yoga.
Unbeknownst to me, doubling over and crumpling into the fetal position on the floor was a yoga pose. Rather ironic this was called child’s pose; after all, when I landed in this position in the past, I was silently crying out for my mother. On occasion, evenings of disorderly conduct ended with me flat on my back, spread eagle on the hard floor, contemplating what I had just done to myself and praying for the mercy of death. This too, proved to be a yoga pose—corpse pose none the less.
Nothing felt natural and my body pleaded and moaned for restoration. My mind was frantic and wanted nothing more than to get back on deck. I was uncomfortable and raw but vowed to trust the process. My captivation with yoga was mystifying; although peculiar and awkward, there was something invigorating and intuitive about saluting the sun, being a warrior, posing as different animals and breathing like a lion. In retrospect, as a veteran crew member of the ‘ship of fools,’ I perfected behaving like a wild animal and am quite certain I had done so in the full spirit of a warrior.
The warrior within me grew more powerful each day. When I was focused and present, I could feel myself moving in rhythmic unison with my vessel. I had reconnected with my body and was ready to lift my head and look out into the armada I was navigating through.
The haze began to lift and it became clear that I had conformed to a twisted, exclusive culture.
I had slammed the purple juice—and it was laced. Discomfort and heartache overwhelmed me as I became aware of my contribution to my own plight as well as that of the world.
My gaze had changed and I became a witness to an infinite number of ships aimlessly floating and on occasion, having catastrophic collisions. Every helm was ruled by unique, powerful pirates; however, the suffering, heartache and fear were indistinguishable between the crews. The pirates spewed poisonous propaganda about ‘enemy threats.’ They reinforced their power by strategically slipping purple Kool-Aid to their starving members.
Brainwashed crews glared amongst themselves and towards other ships with jealousy, disdain, fear and envy. Waves of fear came over them as they saw reflections of themselves in each other. They had become attached to the continuum of distractions and could not see the epidemic that infected them.
Restoring and nurturing my vessel afforded me the skills and confidence to navigate through the vast ocean. Instead of being distracted by dis-ease, I became free to experiment, investigate and practice moving through the armada I once feared so greatly.
As I navigate myself safely around the hulls of each ship, I hear shouts from the decks above: ‘Granola B**ch!’, ‘Hippie’ and ‘Join the real world!’ And from my old deck: ‘Sell Out.’
In moments like these, I think there isn’t enough yoga in the world to protect these ‘sheeple‘ from a good old tongue lashing. In the past, this is a skill I could have trademarked. So I breathe: into the depths into my abdomen, alternating from one nostril to the other and sometimes, like a lion. Fearful onlookers back away slowly and slip back into their comfort zone, afraid of the unknown.
Don’t fear the unknown.
Take the leap; you won’t be alone. Submersing yourself in the ocean will connect you with millions. The bigger the wave, the bigger the change. Together, we can create waves. Hopefully we will become the tsunami of change humanity so desperately needs.
Life is about navigating through an armada of unknowns; as our compass, yoga gives us balanced direction and fills us with spirit… while clearly saving our livers.
Stephanie Sefton is a daughter, sister and mother. She is a friend, a partner and a loved one who practices and teaches yoga while dabbling in many forms of creative expression. She is a perpetual collector of knowledge and a student of life. Her yoga practice, like her life, is a process, not a destination.
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Ed: B. Bemel