What activities make your heart happy and your life full of meaning and purpose?
Practicing yoga, in all its many forms and facets with like-minded people. A group called a sangha in Sanskrit. Reading a good book. Writing of any kind; blog posts, poetry, fiction, even letters.
Spending time with my family.
All these things fill me up. Make my heart sing.Sharing what I've learned. The marvelous way that yoga's ancient wisdom has found to wrap words around concepts that are so ephemeral, yet quite real. Timeless, yet timely.
My bachelors degree in Psychology and English turned into a career in events and marketing, in which I found myself happily occupied, if a bit stressed out. I was 'living the dream' in the dotcom boom in the Silicon Valley in California.
Then I got a wakeup call. What I thought was an allergic reaction turned out to be a minor auto-immune skin problem. My body was attacking itself and, lucky me, I got a form that showed on the outside. With a prescription for steroid ointment, I left the doctor's office and began researching healthy life changes.
The changes that needed to happen included a healthier diet, more exercise, and stress reduction. I signed up for a community education yoga class. We met one hour, twice a week, in a former elementary school cafeteria. It was not glamorous or fancy, there was no pushing and no hands-on adjusting. The teacher celebrated her 80th birthday during the time I took classes with her. She set herself at the front of the class and talked and demonstrated, and moved us through class.
Sometimes it was difficult to be present, sometimes the poses were uncomfortable, sometimes they were just plain old out of my league. No matter. I left there with unparalleled joy in my heart. My body at peace, my mind calm and clear, and my heart filled with joy. I began to tell everyone, all the time, how wonderful it was. Slowly the idea dawned that I could, should, someday, somehow share this tool with others. But I suppressed the desire. I didn't know enough, I wasn't good enough at it, I needed to make a living, the reasons piled up and I pushed the dream away.
Some years later, still practicing yoga somewhat regularly, particularly when I was under stress, my husband and I had a baby girl. Becoming a mother is always life changing. My baby girl was born at 26 weeks gestation, her life was in peril and so was mine. We both made an excellent recovery, but something in me had changed. I found myself generally unable to care as deeply about my work. It just didn't seem as important as it once had. Fortunately, I was soon able to stop working outside the home and become a stay at home Mom. Best job I've ever had.
Flash forward 6 years. I mentioned to a friend that I loved yoga and had always dreamed of teaching. She said, "So why don't you?" I was afraid. She suggested I try teaching to the members of a club we belonged to. My first teaching experience wasn't earth shattering, but it was right. I began to search for a yoga school locally to complete my 200 hour training. I had searched before, a dozen times or more, but this search revealed a new school. As soon as I read the Teacher Training page on DevanadiYoga.com, I knew I had found the right place.
I immediately contacted the owner, Tanya Boigenzhan Sowards. Why? Because it was Thursday and the 9 month long weekend training was beginning that Saturday. To my great joy she accepted me into the program and it was a supreme joy to me.
Less than 3 months later, I found out that my mother had pancreatic cancer. A devastating diagnosis, the next 18 months of treatment were devastating for everyone. I am not comfortable writing about my mother, to this day. She's been gone now over a year, but I'm quite certain she'd prefer not to be a centerpiece to my story. Through this experience, however, I picked up one piece of truth. It became my mantra: "carpe diem." Seize the day. Seize this day, for no one knows how many you'll have. I am proud that I had already begun to set my feet firmly on my path. I am certain that my commitment doesn't waiver because of what I choose to take away from this devastating experience.
Through continued study (I've now completed my 500 hour yoga teacher training, and am working on becoming a certified Para Yoga teacher), personal practice that includes asana (physical yoga poses), pranayama (breath control), and meditation, and an amazing support system: I stay true to my path. My dharma. The reason I'm here.
Continued study with inspiring teachers like Tanya at Devanadi, Ben Vincent of One Yoga, and Rod Stryker of Para Yoga has kept the fire burning in me. It helps me to stay tuned in to myself, my students, my teaching, and it inspires what my yoga teaching can be.
Continued (almost) daily practice, whether alone on my mat or at the local YMCA or Life Time Fitness, helps to keep obstacles out of my path. Helps me to reconnect with myself. Keeps me grounded.Think about a time when you got off track. What did you do that helped you return to your heart's true path? Are there tools (e.g., vision boards, to-do lists, mind maps) that help you stay on track?
When I lose track, there's always a message. A new workshop, an email from a friend, a student who asks a poignant question. It puts me back on the track, reminds me why I do what I do.
Recently, I was interviewing for a position teaching yoga to a population going through treatment. I told everyone under the sun that I wanted this position. It felt so right to me. That I would be using my psychology background and yoga. I didn't get the position, but one of my fellow students did. Another student asked me how I could not be jealous about this situation.
"Oh, I am. I'm bitter and most furiously jealous. But, at the same time, because of where I am in my life, I can also see that I need to approach the problem from the standpoint of abundance, rather than scarcity."
If we feel, speak, and behave as if there is not enough of something to go around, then we are small, we are petty, and the world is an ugly place.
If we feel, speak, and behave as though the world is a bountiful place, then we can be genuinely happy for others, we can enjoy their joy as well as our own, and ultimately we are more likely to find ourselves where we belong.Tell us about your heart's community: Who are your supporters? How have you found people who believe in you, accept you and cheer you on through your journey?
Through taking classes all over town, teacher training, and local yoga events, I've been able to meet and become friends with some really amazing people. There are a lot of very caring, very knowledgeable yogis in the Twin Cities. Through my recent trainings in Para Yoga, I've been able to meet and share a great bond with truly gifted yogis from around the world.
My greatest support has been my husband. He sees so clearly from day to day, what a huge difference yoga makes in me mentally, physically, and emotionally. He believes in me and encourages me, no matter how crazy he thinks some of the yoga stuff is.
A mantra in Sanskrit, interestingly not from the tradition I study, says it so nicely: Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu. Which translates to English as: May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Recently, I began studying with Rod Stryker, founder of Para Yoga. He's written an amazing book to help guide people to find their path, or Dharma, to identify and overcome my obstacles, and live their best life. The book is called The Four Desires, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a yogic approach to finding their way. Here's just a little quote from him:
When you are thriving, when you are serving your highest purpose,
you serve the highest purpose of everything.—Yogarupa Rod Stryker
Connect with Dawn here.