Written December 27, 2012.
Some people call it a quarter-life crisis. I know it as the natural order of things. All of nature moves in cycles, it ebbs and flows between creation and destruction. I was due for a rebirth. And what more hospitable womb could there be than the beautiful Desert? Warm, comforting, unchanging, surrounded by mountains that bear their rock layers for the world to see, unashamed of their history. The land always just is, no pretending.
This is a story of rebirth and reconciliation.
It was 2011, I had just moved back to Las Vegas after five and a half years away, having spent the last one in South Africa.
So many things had been left unfinished. There was so much to do, I became overwhelmed. I froze as I attempted to bear the weight of all I had been given in this life, my blessings, my gifts, my privilege; and forcibly tried to manufacture something out of it all. I was finished with school, I was 25, why couldn’t I save the world? I began to feel extremely inadequate. You see, I did not expect to be running my own NGO or have my first book published the same year I turned 25 but I did expect to be working toward these things and I was not. Not only was I not, I was suffering from extreme energy blocks. Nothing was flowing, not creativity, nor motivation, not even ink to paper. What was flowing, and in vehement streams, was anger and judgment. I did not realize this right away, at the time everything was dark as if I was a seed in the ground. In fact, my favorite yoga pose during this period was child’s pose where one is folded into a tiny ball, forehead and knees on the ground. It was the only thing that felt right. I did not like this anger but now I see that it had to come out.
My year in South Africa was a pivotal one. It is difficult to describe all it has revealed and continues to reveal. One thing I do know is that it broke the dam of repressed anger my spirit had accumulated over the years, anger I did not know I had. My spirit, like everyone else’s on the planet, has a profound necessity for freedom. South Africa made me confront the reality of my world. A world full of fences, walls, and all things meant to separate. Apartheid means separateness. Yes, apartheid is no longer policy or law, yes the country is in its 19th year of democracy, yes the people are amazing and diverse, things are looking up for the country… I was not judging South Africa. I was judging the United States. South Africa held a mirror, reflecting our injustices and my own history of assimilation.
“F*ck the melting pot” is a direct quote from my head. My head was swimming with these thoughts. It was always f-something: colonization, globalization, “development”, exploitation, exportation, “English-only”, racism, Arizona, white suburbs, rich people, Republicans and Democrats, THE BORDER, the media, automobiles, airplanes. You may ask why so angry at autos and planes when they have been so useful in transporting me around my earth? I was connecting everything with inequality. Can you imagine how exhausting that was? It is commonly known that most of the world does not drive or fly. It is also known, albeit uncommonly, that when you judge someone else, you are judging yourself. So my self-righteous hate of injustice manifested into all sorts of discontent and anger at myself.
During my years as an undergrad, I had grown into a mighty avocado tree, my fruit was rich and fed many. But nature moves in circles. I had been used to pruning on a regular basis, but this was different, this was slow decay from the inside out. The pruning had ceased since so many of my limbs were small and brittle anyway.
At this time there was so much negative energy in me – the fear, the hate, the loss of faith, the confusion, the loneliness, the bitterness, the lackluster spirit – all of these had been my companions. No more, I wanted these spirits no more. I longed and desired to be united with the Light. The light that created the universe, the light that resides in me. I had for too long obsessed over the planks in others’ eyes, not realizing mine had the plank and theirs only dust. I had been so certain of my rightness and superiority, I had neglected being human.
There was no denying that my spirit had become static. It took a year of physically moving my body to bring momentum back into my life.
Las Vegas is where I began a regular practice of yoga. At first it was only mechanical: move this arm, that leg, remember to breathe. It slowly evolved into a moving meditation and from there it was not long before it became an act of worship. I was discovering my body for what seemed like the first time. All my life I have held a sacred connection to nature, yet even when I was among the wisest of rivers, there was something still separating us. Nature is sensual and our bodies are nature. How can we connect to the full glory of creation when we are not even connected to our own sentient being? If my body was the interface between my world and I, I needed to feel it and live in it and once I began doing that, all things became new.
Not only was yoga the glue for my mind, body, and spirit, but it also became a bridge to the eternal source of my soul within.
There is a Sufi proverb that says,
“I searched for myself and found God, I searched for God and found myself.”
It was during these Vegas years that I experienced a transformation previously unfathomable in such a soul-sucking city. But whatever darkness infiltrates our famous strip, it is surrounded by a halo of healing sandstone, sunsets, and desert springs.
Of course, the great outdoors was not the only medicine prescribed to me, the story would be incomplete without the heart of my family. Leaving academia helped me dwell more in feminine energy which was physically represented by my mother and the red canyons around my home, both warm and womblike. I thought I had moved back to Las Vegas to “be there” for my family but really it was I who needed them.
I also planted myself in communities that cultivated health and vitality and offered a sense of family. One of these communities was Barefoot Sanctuary, a yoga studio. After my first session at Barefoot, I already felt old skins begin to shed. I had realized that I had been trying to extend my old life, stretch it out to cover the confusing years. I was trying to live from the outside-in, surviving off outside stimulus. But emergency resuscitation was not working. It was not revival but rebirth that my heart needed. Finally the borders had begun to come down and once again I would live from a full, free and fiery heart. And once again, I would know my heart for the first time.
To all of you going through your own transformations:
Take heart, take inventory and shed what no longer serves you.
Make a change, exterior conditions change when you tap into the power within.
Hold on for the ride.