Light is in all our beloved inspirational phrases... “Let your light shine” “Be the Light” And who can forget “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” My baby sings in Sunday school. Our bible is filled with scripture and knowledge about Light. Most importantly Jesus our Light of the World and his teachings. Is this symbolic Light something we can only find in the bible, and access through church? It is there without a doubt, but what a marvelous story it makes when God uses other paths to bring you into His presence. My light became dim and damaged. Even though I had read a hundred times “Cease striving...” It was not until the process of yoga that I learned to stop trying to micromanage my little world. Gradually I gave up the struggle I had been trained to perfect. In doing so, “Truly my soul finds rest in God...” Psalm 62:1. Yoga for me is a breath-taking process of self-discovery, becoming aware of and learning how to reach for that light within. It’s definitely not the only path, but it’s the one that was there for me on my sweet journey from darkness to Light.
Like most everyone in my generation, I lived a very energetic lifestyle. Thirty something with two beautiful active children, career as a CPA, volunteer & church activities, constant social engagements, and the finest “pleaser” personality in the south. Still I was motivated and sought to attain perfection in everything I laid my hands on. Unfortunately, my attempt at picture perfect came to a lifeless halt. After a trying day, I took off on my usual run down Gum Springs Road. My mind was racing 100 times faster than I was running. Just when I hit my pace, my hands and face began to swell and itch like crazy. I stopped, completely freaked out and in moments my mouth and throat became so swollen it was hard to breathe. A friend picked me up and took me to the ER where the Dr treated me for “anaphylactic shock” and asked me what I was allergic too. This absurd and frightening meltdown happened a few more times with no explanation. Each time more severe, leaving me weaker physically and in a more muddled and fearful emotional state. Specialist called it idiopathic anaphylaxis because there was no known allergen. I learned that anaphylaxis is the physiological equivalent of lightning — you never know just when or where it will happen, but the likelihood that its effects can be devastating are very high. In the beginning of 2014, I had the most devastating reaction yet and was hospitalized in ICU. My body wiped out. When I woke up I heard doctors telling me that my body systems went through the shut-down that happens immediately prior to death.
I spent the next year with nerve damage, severe anemia, migraines, and chronic fatigue. I had an extremely difficult time being social, my mind felt blank. My Dr. and therapist later unfolded all this confusion to be stress responses as a result of developing Complex-PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) The text book definition for PTSD is a set of symptoms resulting from prolonged stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature, especially in the context of interpersonal dependence. Situations causing the kind of traumatic stress that can lead to C-PTSD-like symptoms include captivity, as well as psychological manipulation (gaslighting and/or false accusations), which can result in a prolonged sense of helplessness and deformation of one's identity and sense of self.
It was starting to become clear that my emotional being was so desperate to get my attention, it literally put a stop to my physical world in order to do so. I grew up working like a boy on a farm in South AR. I considered myself tough and unstoppable, but now my heart ached with exhaustion and fear. I felt fragile like shattered glass. My children were the miracle that kept me going. Thankfully the strength of being a mother is more powerful than natural laws. They are part of my being, my heart walking around outside my body. This God-given role provided God-given tenacity to keep moving forward even when the steps were small.
I was friends with Kelly James, owner of Yoga in the Valley, I had never attended her classes before though. I felt compelled to go and see what this yoga thing was all about. Kelly’s yoga class was turned out to be remarkable. Even though I cried through classes, I felt so refreshed after. It was more than just stretching; I was so intrigued. Kelly was a breath of fresh air, light beamed out of her. I felt loved and peaceful in her presence. We talked about her journey and she referred me to Balance Yoga and Wellness School. I immediately signed up for the RYT 200 hr program being held at Blue Yoga Nyla in Little Rock. Their mission “to offer education in the study of yoga with integrity, compassion, and authenticity” was just that. The yoga I began learning about was not just exercise, this was a mind body spirit experience. My former cardio-junkie over-achiever lifestyle knew nothing about how to be still, meditate, and find peace from within. This exquisite Blue Yoga studio where our teacher training was held became my sanctuary. I spent one weekend a month for almost 2 years. We studied yoga history and philosophy from the Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, ethics based on the eight limbs of Yoga. I learned about our bodies’ subtle and energetic anatomy, the chakras, and basic Ayurveda principals. How breathing is not just breathing, its Pranayama, which is our vital life force, no wonder the Bible refers to it as “breath of life, breath of the Almighty” “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 We studied the work of B.K.S. Iyengar, named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine, who can be credited for bringing Yoga to the Western civilization in the 1950’s. In his first book “Light on Yoga” which has been referred to as “the bible of yoga”, Iyengar’s states “It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.” Another required reading was the “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” which was written around the 3rd century B.C. Patanjali explains what yoga is, how it works, making it one of the most spiritual text in the world. In these pages I learned that Yoga is NOT just the physical postures. There is a rich history I became enthralled with learning and sharing. The word yoga is derived from Sanskrit word meaning to bind, join, yoke, union. Yoga is the true union of our will with the will of God. All this history was parallel with everything I’ve learned about Christianity. I was truly astounded. Through the practice of yoga, we settle our body, mind, soul into one and in that stillness we are able to commune with God. My mind was constantly reminded scriptures from the Bible with that exact correlation. Using God’s instructions such as “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 with Yoga principles, for me, turned out to be the ultimate combination for peace and enlightenment here on earth. I’ve learned the scripture through church, but soon after life kicks in and I become distracted. Even attempting quiet time at home, my body gets restless, my mind wanders, suddenly I’m hungry, check my phone, fix more coffee, lose my place, wiggle. Etc etc. Our lifestyles are packed full of stress, tension, worries which can settle into our joints, tissues and organs causing all kinds of issues and illness. Through the ancient steps of yoga, our nervous system becomes purified bringing our body, mind, spirit all into the present moment. The eight limbs of Yoga are almost a frame work on how we achieve “being still” With yoga postures, breathing, meditation and moral guidelines we are able to work out all the kinks, bad vibes and tension before they manifest into major issues. Through continued practice along with other yoga principles our physical being is able to “be still” for longer periods of time so we can turn inward and focus on the meditation and spiritual side of the practice.
Everything I learned about yoga has brought me closer to God. And when I say closer to God, I mean “God is within her (Me), she (I) will not fall” Psalm 46:5, His holy spirit living in me, the light within guiding me through each moment. This guidance system is alive and active within, more and more available to me the more I use it. In order to do this I have to let go of the past, not worry about the future, the find joy in each precious moment of my day. Staying present is as simple as being aware of my breath and keeping my mind from hamster wheeling out of control. A mind at peace miraculously alleviates worrying and stress. The Bible instructs “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely... think about such things” Phil 4:9. They call it the law of attraction these days but it’s not a new thing. Study of the power of the mind has been around since the beginning of time. Yoga finally helped me comprehend that whatever I obsess over in my mind becomes my reality, good or bad. When I remove this obstacle of over-thinking I can create space where I was once stuck, unveil layers of protection I had built around my heart and make peace with who I am and where I am. I became “how I feel in the moment oriented” and realized that I can be the creator of my journey not for just one goal or end result but for the joy of living each moment. I listened to hours of podcast and tedTalks about yoga, meditation, enlightenment. My favorite was Wayne Dyer was an internationally renowned philosopher in the field of self-development. The most inspiring idea I learned from him was that, “I am not a human being that has an occasional spiritual experience, I am a spiritual being having a temporary human experience.” And realizing that every one of us is a spiritual being. God’s children, His Light shining from within. Every person I meet is a little piece of divinity just like me. Each individual’s journey, the ups and downs, mistakes and achievements, is their own way of coming into a perfect reflection of what it within. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” And how cool that this famous yoga teacher Iyengar agrees and shares the same thoughts “Spirituality is not some external goal that one must seek, but a part of the divine core of each of us, which we must reveal.”
Furthermore learning through this process that life is not about outward performance has been exceptionally beneficial in my story. I relish in the fact that I have God’s ever-shining, all knowing, glorious, radiant Light living within me. And that makes me full of JOY, on the ugliest of days I can still beam with love, light, and joy. I still work hard, I still sweat, get up early and stay up late. But I don’t have to prove myself to anyone anymore. I can let go knowing, the Light is gonna shine and the blessings from it are pure heaven on earth.