Warning: adult language below!
My road to a life of outrageous joy began with waking up in the Acute Psych Ward at Lion’s Gate Hospital in Vancouver. I’d been “committed,” which meant I wasn’t free to leave until the doctors had deemed me sane and safe enough to myself and to others.
But this wasn’t even the most devastating realisation of that morning—even more devastating was the knowledge that my fiancé had broken up with me.
I had been dumped by the man I loved deeply because he didn’t like who I was. I felt betrayed and bereft. And perhaps worst of all, I was stuck in a dorm room with three other women, feeling unable to grieve because I had no privacy.
All I wanted was to curl up in a ball and sob my heart out, but I was in an alien place, with alien people around me. There was nothing familiar, nothing comforting, nothing soothing. I wasn’t even in my own clothes, but garbed in faded orange pyjamas given to patients to reduce their flight risk.
Even now, eleven years later, recalling this moment, my eyes well with tears. In that moment, I had nothing and no one. I was completely lost and adrift on the currents of life.
Now, everything has changed.
Now, if I found myself in those circumstances again—dumped, locked up, alone, grief-stricken—I wouldn’t feel the way I did then. I wouldn’t feel lost and adrift. I would still feel at home, I would still feel comfort.
I would likely even feel joy.
Over the last eleven years, I have cultivated my inner being and my connection to faith, hope and trust. Out of this development of my inner being and my connection to All that Is creates joy.
My joy is no longer dependent on my life circumstances or the people around me.
While I was in the psych ward (for nine days that time) I only recall one visitor (although I’m sure that must have been others). It was a woman I had known briefly in Whistler. She was in Vancouver and came to see me, bringing me a journal. Somehow, she knew I loved writing and that it was what I needed. Even now, reflecting on her, it’s like she was an angel sent to give me the one thing that could put me on the path to recovery.
Despite my despair, loss, devastation and misery, when I wrote out my first entry in that journal, I ended with this line.
“… the sun will again shine in my life, so there!”
I wrote it as an act of defiance in the face of the reality I was facing. And it was that energy—that fuck you, you can’t keep me down energy—that was to carry me through the next few years when I felt like a piece of shit almost 24/7.
All through my journey over the last eleven years there have been turning points like that—when I choose power over victimhood. Each time, I levelled up and began an action that was to help me recover and restore myself back to full mental health.
There were also moments when I made choices which reflected the mental and emotional patterns and ways of being which no longer served me. In the old paradigm, these might be called “bad choices.” However they were always pointers to what I needed to face, see and release within myself. There are no bad choices, ever—only choices which reveal who we are.
If we want to stop making those choices, all we need do is release the part of us which makes the choice.
Case in point.
I choose to move in with a partner two weeks after our first date. It was only two weeks after I’d moved out of the house I’ve been living in with my former parter.
At the time, it was a wildly romantic and impulsive, trust-the-universe kind of choice. At least, that was how one layer of my being justified it.
But on a deeper layer, I was motivated by fear. I was afraid that, having moved out of the house with my former partner and into a flatting situation again, that I wouldn’t be able to survive on my own as a yoga teacher and writer.
My decision to move in with my new partner was about safety and security and support.
This was all happening on an unconscious level though, and it was’t until years later that I could see the pattern, see the choice born of fear, and see how that fear-based choice had created certain karma for me.
And this has been the learning. Every choice we make has it’s origins in either fear or love. On the surface, the choices can look the same, but the intent that drives the choice will determine the outcome, or the karma.
My deep determination to know myself intimately has peeled back the layers of being over the last 11 years and given me the power to determine in the moment, more and more, what the underlying motivation is for my choices.
When I’m choosing based on fear, there is often a residual pattern of mental and emotional behaviour—this is literally represented as a groove or rut in the brain wiring. Every time I become aware of a pattern like this in action, I give myself the gift of making a conscious choice. But it’s not easy to make that choice. Often, when I first become aware of a pattern, I’ll still fall back into the rut, make the fear-based choice, and suffer the consequences as a result. Only now I’m aware of what is happening and if I’m not careful, can add another layer of suffering to my experience my judging myself.
“I should have known better!”
It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you’re aware of a pattern but can’t seem to break it.
However, adding suffering to one’s life is not wise. In time, I learned to be kind, compassionate and loving toward myself even as I made “bad” choices even with awareness. I learned that in time, with that compassionate loving awareness, patterns eventually shift and I could make different choices.
Post-2004, it took a long time for joy to re-enter my life. That is, joy untethered to circumstances, the joy that just bubbles up from within because there is a deep connection to life and no obstacles to it’s expression.
2004 to 2007 were deeply difficult years. I struggled with life on a daily basis, and spent hours sobbing out immense pain and grief—vomiting tears from the depth of my being. Often I would sob in the shower to drown out the sound for the other people in the house. Plus the water was always soothing—I felt held and comforted in the middle of the despair.
Toward the end of 2007 I met my son’s father, which began an intensely difficult period that ended in December 2010. This difficulty was no longer based on the past and how awful I felt, as it had been from 2004 – 2007. Instead, it was firmly based on the present and the nature of our relationship—classic addict/co-dependency with massive swings between up and down, and verbal and emotional abuse.
Even in the midst of that though, I knew that I was co-creating the experience. That I wouldn’t be in it if I wasn’t who I was, and that “who” needed to be seen and released. That I needed to learn how to be and act different. As a result, the relationship—difficult as it was—became a massive catalyst for growth. In fact, I even justified staying in the relationship in the face of the deceit, lying and abuse because I was growing so rapidly.
Eventually, that growth freed me as I developed strong enough boundaries and self-worth to make a different choice.
This may have been the moment when I again felt grace enter my life.
On that particular evening, my partner was again indulging in behaviour that I didn’t want in our relationship or around our year-old son.
I was about to go into my normal pattern of response… but something in me halted. Stopped. Backed up. And instead, I stood in stillness and watched the swirling of my mind, the reactive pattern, the emotions arising.
Out of that stopping and that stillness, I made a different choice.
After making that choice, I stood in the lounge and observed my breath and my mind. The usual thought patterns that would occur in this situation were fading out, almost as if they were being held at bay by an outpouring of light from the centre of my being. The light in the room appeared to get brighter too as I stood there, for five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Saying nothing. Doing nothing. Just witnessing the moment.
In that nothing-ness the wheel turned and I was finally done with that relationship, done with that pattern, done with being that woman.
It was a conscious choice to be a different way and it dramatically altered the flow of my life.
I had broken a huge pattern.
If I was to name a moment when joy again entered my life, it was that moment. December 29, 2010.
And it came about not because my circumstances were joyful but because I had accessed something deep within myself—a deeper state of being, a deeper knowing.
I had discovered who I truly was, and it certainly wasn’t what I thought, or what I felt.
Nor was it about my body.
I had connected with that within me—the same that is in all of us, all of existence.
Joy has become a choice in my life now. It is something I bring to my circumstances, not something that my circumstances bring to me.
There are still difficult times when I feel deep despair, and these times are clues to beliefs and thought patterns which are not who I truly am. These moments of deep despair then become gifts, because they shine a light on that which is ready to heal and release. And in doing so, the moments of difficulty become more and more rare. Once, those periods lasted all year, then for months at a time, weeks at a time, days at a time. Now it’s rare that they last more than hours.
Each time I go through a difficult time, I am less identified with the thoughts, feelings and sensations of the situation and more firmly rooted in a beingness that lies beyond all. I feel my strength and power grow. I feel myself grow and expand, on the deepest level possible.
And out of this arises joy—outrageous joy.
It’s the kind of joy that can erupt from beneath the grief at the loss of a relationship because even though the pain is strong, the grief is real and the tears exist, none of it is me.
That me, she is dancing in the light now. She has become the light.
Author: Kara-Leah Grant
Editor: Renée P.
Photo by Ali Kaukas, via the author