Growing up in the 70s was an interesting time for me.
When I was a child I knew I was different, but didn’t quite know what was different. I just knew something about me was different from the others I played with at school. As I grew into my early pre-teens these differences seemed to become more apparent.
Again I didn’t know what I was at this time, I just felt that I was different.
I would rather spend time with the girls playing jump rope than the boys chasing each other and rough housing. I didn’t know why I different interests than the boys, but I did. Around this time I was also teased for being feminine; for playing with My Little Ponies rather than He-Man dolls, or wanting to be in dances with the girls rather than playing soccer with the boys.
The more I was teased the more I withdrew from my feeling-self. I no longer trusted my intuition, my emotions and desires. I forced myself to play with the boys, I put all my beautiful ponies away and I tried to be something I wasn’t—one of the straight boys running, wrestling and playing in the field.
As I grew into a teenager the chasm between who I was on this inside versus who I thought society wanted me to be on the outside grew wider.
As the distance and duality expanded, I became more fragmented, isolated and unhappy—a constant internal battle being waged in my body, mind and spirit. Consistently being told I was a freak, odd or a sissy impacted my entire being as a young person longing for love and belonging.
I was moving far away from my dharma, who I was meant to be.
I was suppressing my inner voice and slowly adopting the norms of the majority. I was trying to squeeze myself into clothes that did not fit and the more I tried to fit in, the more I lost touch with my own reality.
I was someone unrecognizable to myself.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, beyond physical needs and safety, people need connection and belonging in order to thrive and reach self-actualization.
The prerequisite for connection and belonging is vulnerability, to allow ourselves to really be seen, heard and to show our heart.
Coming home I would take off my mask and sit in my room by myself listening to music and dreaming of the day that I could be the real me, outside of my own bedroom. But in the 80s this was still socially unacceptable. In media, movies or TV homosexuals were still portrayed as the victim or the sick freak.
Anyone who has lived a life of fear, hiding and suppression knows how suffocating this can be, especially when society tells us we’re sick, different or a sinner. And when we can’t get air for long enough we slowly begin to give up and die.
And at 12 years old I did give up.
One day while I ate lunch with one of my few girlfriends by the library I was approached by a bully who proceeded to strangle me with my winter scarf. He continued to pull and pull, it was so tight, I could not breathe and all the other kids watched and laughed. I remember his face smiling at me as I blacked out.
The rest of the day was a blur, recognizing now that I had been victimized and was experiencing a form of shock, where I completely dissociated from my body to escape the trauma and fear associated with it. My friend helped me collect my stuff, I went to the bathroom and wiped my tears as I stood staring into the mirror at someone who was completely destroyed—my spirit had left my body.
I remember going home opened the medicine cabinet and without thinking I took every pill in it, I did not even care what they were. I wanted to escape. I lay on my bed and prepared to die. I could hear my heart slowing, my mind getting sleepy, my body relaxing. It was coming and I could feel it.
But then as everything slowly winded down came this resounding, “no!”
It was abrupt like a scream from someone far away, across a precipice, trying to get my attention. It caused me to jolt, gasp and immediately try and stand up, which I couldn’t, so I crawled to the bathroom and spent the rest of the evening vomiting every pill out me. Something in me wasn’t done, wasn’t ready to die.
My heart took over control.
My heart woke me up that night and truthfully has been keeping me alive and allowing me to thrive ever since.
This was my turning point and once I was awake I could not go back to the old way of doing things. I could not continuing waging an internal war between my heart and my actions.
I began doing things I enjoyed, I found dance and the arts. I went to a school that protected and nurtured social outcasts like myself and I began to flourish, like a tree that was now being fertilized and supported by its roots.
Most importantly I came out, I told the world and my family I was gay.
This was the moment in my life when I truly became free, it was my rebirth—I was finally alive
As a homosexual I really learned to understand the idea of duality.
Many of us have our external-self, the person who fits into society’s rules and expectations. The one who doesn’t rock the boat, who laughs at the guy’s jokes even if they are poking fun at who we are. The external-self who listens to society’s definitions of masculinity and tries to awkwardly adopt them.
There is always an internal struggle between the inner-self based on what our heart or spirit yearns for and the outer-self based on a ridiculous standard.
I believe I was lucky, that from the early age of 16, I began to let my inner-self out a little.
This is when I began to flourish. I became fearless and adventurous. I knew fear and I was going to attempt to not let it rule me like it had in the past. I had nothing to lose, I could not go back into the box.
So how does all of this fit into a yoga journal entry?
What can we take away from this for our own personal practice?
We don’t have to be gay to know that we have an internal and external-self. We all live with this constant duality. Many of us, through societal pressures, choose to mask the internal-self or focus so intently on the external validation and definitions of how we “should” live, that we lose connection to our inner voice-we lose our own pulse.
This world is hard on the individual, it expects normality and for us to fit the status quo.
We feel safer when we belong. Its how businesses sell millions, they make us believe that we need to look a certain way or live a certain lifestyle to be truly happy, to fit in.
Some of us lead with the heart and forget to think, or we live by logic and forget to feel. Men can live in touch only with the masculine and deny the feminine. There are so many ways in which we get stuck in this duality of black or white and often only let one side of the coin rule.
In yoga we focus on balancing this duality of our two-selves.
I’m going to use the Nadis as an example.
According to tantric philosophy or “energetic anatomy” the body is said to have 72,000 energy channels or Nadis to help flow Prana (life force) to every cell in the body. Think of Nadis as the banks of a river that carry the river to its destination.
Out of the thousands of Nadis three are emphasized: Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.
The Ida (Left nadi, mental energy, Feminine, Moon) and the Pingala (Right Nadi, Physical energy, Masculine, Sun). These two channels run like the strand of DNA around the main energetic river of the body the Shushumna Nadi, which loosely correlates with the spine. As these nadi’s spiral up from the Muladhara (root) chakra to the Ajna (third eye) around the shushumna they intersect at each of the chakra’s along the way.
The chakras are said to be “wheels” of energy that exist along the central channel, in front of the spine. Over the years these chakras have been correlated with various nerve plexus, psychological and emotional states by many western interpretations. The relationship between the Ida and Pingala shifts throughout the day, typically with one side being dominant. This is said to affect our emotions, thoughts and physical body.
Similarly to how I was struggling with the dualities of my life being at war rather than in unity, we often live in this duality where one side is dominant over the other, leading to imbalance.
When we are out of alignment and our energy is not flowing properly, we can become blocked or stagnant leading to physical and psychological manifestations. So the goal is to balance the flow of energy from left to right, internally and externally, creating a dynamic balance or marriage. When we unite or yolk (yoga) these dualities, we achieve flow state (bliss). In this moment Shushumna opens up and we awaken the powerful dormant energy of Kundalini and allow it to rise up the main channel.
Without balance this energy is closed to us and remains untouchable.
Back to my story.
I was living two lives that were at war with each other. I was ill, I was consistently unhappy and I was stuck. There was no flow within me. This imbalance continued into my 30s and continues to be something I am aware of. Although I was more connected then I had ever felt in my 30s it was an unconscious connection and therefore it seemed to be something that was fleeting.
There was no mindfulness or conscious control to it. I was doing things for the sake of doing them, because they made me feel good. It’s almost like a kid on Halloween gorging on candy. We continue to eat it because it feels good, but we need guidance, something to tell us, “Slow down or you’re going to get sick.”
The practice of yoga began to give me the guidance I needed.
And through my growing commitment to the practice I began to lose the parts of myself that were holding me down. I was stuck in the Kleshas (illusions or poisons), being lead by my desires, and fears of not fitting in. I was essentially stuck in the ego, external-self. But every time I came to the yoga mat and moved, or sat still in meditation I could feel a different voice begin to rise.
30 years being ashamed or self-conscious of the inner part of myself made this hard to do.
But the more I sat in the muck and mire the more comfortable I became with what I saw in the still waters I created. Just as the Lotus blooms out of the swamp I had to sit in the mud and I began to bloom. In theory I was slowly revealing my inner-self, bit by bit, and the more did it, the more my being came into balance.
Like the Ida and Pingali Nadis, we will have a different side dominating us day to day.
Some days the inner will shine, some days I am stuck in the Story of “me.” But if we have the ability to focus, then we also have the ability to recognize who’s leading and this awareness allows us to move through our experiences with more grace and mindfulness.
Some days, I am lead by my head on days, on others my heart.
But behind each of these opposing forces is the other. Not competing but instead supporting the other, informing them.
Through my yoga practice I have found moments of oneness.
These moments of flow state are where I feel most connected to myself and to the world.
At 41 years old, I am finally beginning to really feel at one with the idea of duality—once this happens the duality dissolves little by little. I am eager to let my beautiful inner-being or heart shine, and feel comfortable telling the “stories”, “what if’s” and “should’s” to shut the hell up.
I am also learning to accept both the heart-driven and the mind-driven experiences, because I cannot exist without one or the other. I allow the two to live in harmony.
These glimpses of connection are like looking at a sunset. It’s timeless. It’s beautiful. It’s bliss.
Author: Jason Morris
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: Author’s Own