March 11, 2013

What Do We Do When We Reach the Edge? ~ Donna Raines {Trigger Warning}

I think of my edge as that place where the human experience and the deeper self, the soul, the essence, the divine meet and sometimes collide.

Those moments when we begin to awaken. When we feel. When we realize that we are so much more than this body, this space and time. Tune into our intuition, our fears, our resistance, our pain all in an effort to return to our true self—who we truly are.

I encountered my first edge at the age of 11, when I finally told my sister that my brother had been molesting me.

In the days, weeks and years that led up to that moment my mind had begun to ask, “Why?”

He was my brother. I loved him. I looked up to him. I wanted his approval. Ultimately, I wanted his love.

I would lie in bed at night and wonder what I had done to deserve this. What was wrong with me that he couldn’t love me like other brothers loved their sisters?

This had been going on for as long as I could remember—it was really all I knew from him. But other siblings weren’t like this, were they? Was it all just a big secret I was supposed to keep? From the pain of that betrayal emerged not only these questions, but my first edge.

The response to my inquiry was calm and clear; from where it came I did not know. I just knew that it was in me, the answer came through me. It wasn’t in the form of words.

The answer was a feeling that there was a debt that needed to be repaid. It didn’t feel dire or tragic, it just was.

It didn’t tell me I was bad or dirty or wrong. It just told me that this is what needed to happen. As the answer sunk in, the edge became clear. I needed to tell someone. Speaking my truth to my sister and having a voice was the scariest thing I had ever done. It felt so big. So much bigger than me. I was afraid that he really would never love me now that I reciprocated the betrayal. But deep inside I knew that it needed to end. I was ready to move beyond the abuse, the confusion, the intense pain, and the resulting self hate. I felt fragile, I felt alone, and I was scared, but I dug deep inside of myself and found the courage.

I opened my mouth. I opened my heart. I moved beyond the pain, if only for a moment. I approached the edge and I started to awaken.

As quickly as it came, the edge vanished. I spent the rest of my youth and young adult life perfecting the art of silence. I learned very quickly to pretend, to avoid the edge at all costs. Although my first edge had allowed me to escape the abuse and unearth courage I didn’t know I had, it was never discussed again. Besides physical safety, the result was silence. It was just this thing no one discussed. I learned communication was dangerous and feelings were even worse. I learned silence was the answer. Unfortunately, from quiet denial grew a pain I couldn’t ignore.

It festered like a wound. It appeared at every turn. My parents were divorcing after 34 years of marriage, announcing they were both gay and all plans to pay for my college were off. I would spend days in bed sobbing. My world as I knew it was literally crumbling all around me. The edge was quickly approaching and I needed to be ready.

So I armed myself with drugs. Whatever, whenever and as much as I wanted.

I did it. I sold it. I overdosed on it. I lived my life around it. The San Francisco Rave scene, ecstasy, marijuana, mushrooms, acid and cocaine were my arsenal. They allowed me to approach the edge in a way that felt fearless. They transported me to a place that was more than what I knew. For the first time I felt plugged in to purpose. I felt love. For myself, and others.

I felt a greater meaning in life, a greater connection to the people around me, and I found a deeper part of my soul. Perhaps it’s unusual to look back on a decade of drug use and abuse with such a fondness. But it took all the terror out of approach to the edge, without distracting from the beauty of what lie before me. It gave me a new perspective and a sense of strength. Yes, it was an escape in many respects, but it was what got me to my edge, and my edge is what got me to where I am today.

My next edge was a seven-pound baby boy. The first months of motherhood pushed me to an edge so steep that I couldn’t see my way down. Everything I had created my education, my career, financial success, my marriage were all suddenly meaningless. In the face of this beautiful soul that needed, that demanded, all of me and nothing less. I felt stripped away. I felt raw. I felt lost. As I returned to work and handed off my son to his grandmother every morning the edge morphed into a balancing act of strength, determination, and presence.

It took everything I had to get through the day. My marriage was over, my career was demanding and my son needed me. Through my son and the experience of motherhood I learned patience, understanding, compassion, and pure love. Being so blessed to be his mother carries with it the responsibility of being the best me I can be. This requires constant work. A constant pushing up against the edge. With the extreme love for your child comes the other extreme  pain.

You ache for them. You feel dropped to your knees and raised up to the heavens all within a moment of each other. You feel guilty for the choices you have made that cause them pain. You want nothing more that to engulf them in joy. In these extreme moments of motherhood I find my purpose, my mortality. The place where my human experience meets something so much larger than you, or I. I find a love so perfect, so divine, and so never ending that it exists beyond this time and space, beyond this body, beyond this human experience. I find my edge, and I smile in gratitude.

On The Edge of Forever

There are times in our life when it all just bubbles up like hot lava.

So thick, so undeniable that you have no choice but to wade through it. To be in it. That hot lava feeling started for me during my second marriage. He was depressed. Horribly depressed. He was negative, and reclusive, frustrated and miserable. His pain, my pain,  the pain of multiple miscarriages and a marriage crumbling beneath me boiled up. The urge to run from the pain subsided and the need to stay forced itself in. The fog lifted and the edge appeared.

It was a 40-day transformation program that included yoga, journaling, meditation, and fasting. During those first days on my mat I fought through resistance, frustration, pain and anger. There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was sweat or tears streaming down my face at the end of a class. I felt like I was literally sobbing from every pore. I’d find myself in a heap on my mat at the end of class sobbing, sweating, transforming. As messy as it was, it was exactly what I needed. From that heap I found the courage, yet again, to rise up and approach my edge. For the first time in my life I could see my path so clearly beneath me. It was beautiful and open, and ripe with possibility and purpose.

It was where I was going, not where I was. The view from that edge allowed me to see not only where I had been but where I was called to be. From that edge I spread my wings and jumped with complete abandon, despite the fear, despite the worry. I jumped as high as I could and as I slowly descended the net appeared.

The net was another divorce, leaving my career of 17 years, following my heart, living my truth, and meeting the love of my life. The net was yoga teacher training, and finding forgiveness for myself, and my brother. The net was teaching yoga, finding a home and a community of like minded souls at Leap Yoga. The net was doing what I’m passionate about and having faith that everything else will fall into place. The net was radiating love, finding my purpose, and being a “Yes!” to life. From the edge I jumped and careened into the light.

At the end of 2012 I was called to the edge and I decided, yet again, to jump. The edge was ayahuasca, a medicinal herb from Peru in the form of a tea. Ayahuasca takes you on a journey that exposes it all dark and light. It takes you to the edge and shoves you off. When I first heard of it I thought there was no way in hell I’d ever do that. Facing your demons and inviting in the darkness scared the shit out of me. I thought back to those days as a child when I asked “Why?” and was given the response of karmic debt as the answer and the thought of what I had done to deserve that felt like a demon I would prefer to hide from.

As the end of the year approached I felt this strange shift around me. Energetically. Cosmically. I’m not sure how to describe it. I would wake up in the middle of the night with extreme pressure over my third eye. I’d wake up in a panic feeling a dark energy looming in my bedroom. This went on for days. It was as if the darkness was calling me. My darkness.

I had never experienced anything like this and felt compelled to reach out to a dear friend that is a shaman to ask for help. He explained that light illuminates the darkness in the physical world as well as the energetic world. He explained that all of the light I have moved into would not exist without the darkness to match. He explained that those with the most light also have the most darkness. The way he explained it put my mind at ease and by the end of our conversation I felt called to take ayahuasca.

Within a week I found myself in my kitchen gulping down a think dark tea substance that tasted like coffee grounds and honey with my friend the shaman, my soul mate and a dear friend. Within moments I felt the effects. At first it was just a visual splendor. Like you took acid and got on Space Mountain at Disneyland. I decided to drink more.

If I was going to do this I wanted to really do it.

There was no turning back. Mother ayahuasca grabbed my hand as I plummeted into the darkness. I was no longer attached to my physical body. I felt lucid and clear. I remembered every intention I had for my journey and one by one I went through them with her. In this new place, free from the constraints of the physical world there were no words just thoughts, imagery, energy, music and answers.

When I asked her what I had done to deserve being molested she showed me. I felt my insides literally being ripped out, and years of pain exposed. She encouraged me to give it to the people I was in ceremony with –allowing them to take my pain and release it for me. My physical human body was unable to move but my energetic body peeled wide open. I heard their screams and cries as they took it all, and all I could think was, “Thank You. I love you. Thank you. I love you.”

In the absence of the pain rushed in light, love, clarity, strength, understanding and healing. Every question I had was answered and my darkness became something I no longer feared but accepted, and respected.

From the edge I continue to float, finding new edges along the way. Sometimes the view from the edge reminds me of where I’ve been. Sometimes I see where I’m headed.

The view behind me is not always so pleasant.

The view from the top is filled with light that illuminates all of the shadows beneath, exposing the cracks and crevices, revealing the shadows and darkness that lives within the cracks. inviting you to explore, enticing you to jump. It can be beautiful, scary and exhilarating all at the same time. For large portions of my life I’ve tried to avoid this view choosing to move away from the edge and gravitate towards solid ground. But there are times when I’ve felt pushed or led there.

Like I have no choice but to step up to the edge and just take it all in. For those opportunities I am eternally grateful. It is the view from the top, and the resulting fall that connects me to who I truly am and why I’m here.

Where is your edge? Are you ready to jump and know that the net will appear?


 Donna Raines is a Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga teacher and student, as well as a certified Holistic Health Coach.  After discovering the transformational power of yoga in 2010 everything shifted. The combination of yoga, meditation, journaling and healthy eating that yoga inspired allowed her to truly see herself for the first time and live her truth. Two years later she left a 17 year career in high tech marketing to pursue her passion to teach and inspire through a combination of yoga and holistic nutrition. Donna is blessed to witness transformation happen daily at her home studio, Leap Yoga in Folsom, CA. Here inspirations include Baron Baptiste, Janet Stone, Rusty Wells, Sean Corne, MC Yogi and Deepak Chopra.

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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