Our conscious mind is continually giving us a sense of purpose and identity. Being a mother, I saw how this transition from no identity to having an identity occurred with my child as he developed. And prior to being a mother, I held a different identity; one as a professional climber and an author, coach. Birth of my son brought with it a sense of responsibility, a purpose to make sure this little Being is safe, nurtured, happy. I did not make space for silence that would allow me to see beyond this attachment to an identity. At least, I did not have to fully absorb that silence until my son left home and went to boarding school. I had had glimpses of this inevitable event, but I was so comfortable with my role and the purpose it gave my life, I did not entertain it seriously... until I had to. Until I returned to my job, my home, my life, that now had only the responsibility for myself to fill my mind.
And I had a nervous break down. Perhaps a spiritual awakening that is still unfolding. A painful loss of self identity. I had been so busy being a mother, I did not know who I was or what I wanted. I only knew I did not want to be where I was.
So I threw the rest of my life out and tried to fill the space with a new baby, a new purpose… a Yoga studio. I tried to shape my identity into that of business woman. Desperate to re-create my sense of self through the external world, I felt it would be safe. After all, the yoga sangha is a seemingly safe space. But when we feel unsafe at the deepest recesses of our heart, when our identity is based on the objects of the material world, nothing in the material world can create a sense of safety for us. Everything in the material world is ever changing. Evolving and eroding.
It is when there is no further to sink, when we feel completely lost, we finally give ourselves over to a higher power. This is where I stood, as I made the decision to close the studio and have nothing; no job, no identity as wife, girlfriend, mother. No longer a teacher, a coordinator, a coach or mentor, author or employee. No one needed me, no one needed my intelligence, my helping hands, my words, thoughts or my hugs and love. I was meaningless.
We all look for something; an answer to the meaning of our lives. We look for something to give us a greater sense of purpose, understanding. When I knew, no one needed me, and in fact some people were probably quite disappointed with me, all that was left was to look beyond this material world for understanding of why I was still breathing.
I would have preferred death. I would have preferred not thinking of how my funeral would only be my family, obligated to attend and probably frustrated at my irresponsibility in dying and making their lives more challenging. Of how my life was a failure. I could not see life as a gift, a blessing. I could only feel the pain and loneliness of the inevitable loss we will all face when we die or someone we love and count on dies. Yet, as a student of Yoga, with a teacher who challenges accountability, I continued to meditate, to pray and to look for a way back to having meaning.
I am fortunate to have loving, compassionate friends. People who believe in me and know when and how to say it so I hear it. Their words were not commiserate, rather they were empowering. "You seem to be doing really well, despite everything." The comment that made me look more closely at how I was handling things. "You are a legend." In other words, "remember all you have accomplished already and what it has meant to others."
These friends lit the lamp of hope in my heart and in an effort to just flow with where I was in the material, I moved back to my roots and began to climb out of my poverty of identity, one step at a time. I began to test my capacity, to get my sense of personal strength and determination back. I began to realize that there was still potential in this life for me. As I put the effort into the rebuilding of my life, as I cultivated the faith and discipline to keep trying and trusting, to keep exploring the options, more opportunities came alive. Sure I eventually found some work, but more importantly, I was finding connection, the way to love again and step into positivity, not wallow in pain.
Critical to this process was to shed that which was disempowering me. The people and the things that I was holding onto out of fear had to go. I was fortunate, they left me. Fear is a draining and all consuming entity that sucks positivity and possibility from the heart. It comes in strange disguises. Sometimes it is merely the striving to be heard, or not heard. Or it is the striving for the money one thinks is required to live. Or fear that drives one to not being true to who one really is in an attempt to make someone else happy.
The problem with identity is that even as I rebuild a new life, I am rebuilding a new identity. One which will evolve and die too. So there will be another cycle of pain of loss of that identity when it slowly decays and must be transformed. Let me hope and pray I still have those friends to count on, and the memories of this time to guide me. I pray I still have the intelligence and discipline to stay rooted with faith in my practice, and perhaps re-read these words to lighten my heart.