Namaste. I’ve probably said that word more than 50,000 times since beginning my yoga practice in 1996. I was desperate, like many of my students are now, to find something to help me. I was working in sales, trying to finish my undergraduate degree, lonely and stressed out. I prayed for guidance while sitting at one of those 2 minute traffic lights that are way too common in Southern Florida. I remember the thought prior to that prayer; if I had a gun in the glovebox I just might use it. That’s when I knew I had reached my limit. But this wasn’t my first spiritual wake up call.
When I was 15 I ran away from home. My father and I were constantly fighting and with 4 younger siblings still at home and some older ones coming and going, I felt invisible. So I decided to disappear. I found myself living in a house with my older boyfriend and his big brother who just happened to be the leader of a motorcycle gang. I had unknowingly gotten down to 89 pounds from all of the stress of being away from my family in a strange place and I literally felt empty inside. I stepped onto the dirty scale in the bathroom one morning and saw the proof, something wasn’t right. And when I glanced up at the full length mirror and saw a fat person I knew deep inside that something was wrong. That was my first recollection of that little voice inside that I now call my intuition.
So sitting in my car that day in 1996 I felt the rumble of something, a guide if you will, saying that it was time to take action again. So I prayed to God to help me. I did not want to become like my father. I felt impatient and stressed out, his daily way of existing with eight children to feed, the biggest house on the block to maintain and a full time job that sometimes kept him away from home overnight when winds and storms brought down the electrical wires. That day I realized that “burning the candle at both ends”, as my father often warned me, had finally caught up with me.
Before I moved to Florida I had been attending a church in Michigan that I loved and where I felt at home, and here in Florida I had found that same energy. This church was extra special though because this is where I would soon find yoga. Or as they say, yoga would find me. So, the very next Sunday I went to church to get my holy fix. After service I walked out and I noticed a sign hanging on the wall for an ongoing yoga class on Saturday mornings from 10am till noon. I wondered to myself what that was all about. I’m not sure if I had ever heard about yoga. Even my hippie older siblings had not mentioned it and yoga at that time was only being practiced from videos and books.
So the following Saturday I decided to try it out. I felt like maybe this was the answer to my prayer. That was my very first yoga class. I had no idea that this magical practice would soon change my life in so many ways. I sat in that first class, listening to my first teacher talk about yoga and felt like she was speaking a foreign language. But on a deeper level I felt that this could be my saving grace. And it was! I practiced religiously with Mataji every Saturday morning for the next three years until I graduated. Myself and the other students giggled behind her back at her quirkiness, her inside jokes about awareness and kundalini energy that only she got. She was a delight and seemed a bit nutty. But now, 26 years later, I get it!
It actually took me about a year of practice with Mataji before it all started to sink in. Suddenly the things she was saying didn’t seem so absurd. It was like something inside me opened up and some old form of wisdom started shifting in me. Looking back on it now I know it was my consciousness that was actually shifting. It was as if I was remembering something that I already knew. Like a part of me that was lost was being recovered or uncovered. Now I know that it was the beginning of my beginner’s mind awakening.