“Is this it?” The beginning of my path to healing

About twenty years ago, after the birth of our third child, a daughter, I remember thinking to myself…”is this it?”   I was thrilled to be a mom, had a great husband, a house, and really cool job but still I felt a deep sense of loneliness, and a sense that this was too good to be true and, like most things I had experienced, it would be short lived.

I had been a keeper of lists.   And as I added things to the list, I was convinced that as I achieved that next item on the list, I would finally be happy. After the birth of my daughter, there really wasn’t anything left to add. And if I’m being honest, I felt guilty that I had this beautiful life but still, deep down, I was not happy not to mention not thriving. I wondered many times what was wrong with me even though most people wouldn’t notice because I was, and still am, as some would say, high functioning.

Shortly after my daughter’s birth, I had what I would call an interruption. A triggering event occurred and it sent me reeling into a downward spiral. I had experienced other triggering incidents before and had been able to get over them, or actually suppress them, and move on. This was different. It could have been that my body had simply had enough of the suppression and that the stressors and traumas in my body had reached capacity. Or it could have been that with three young children under the age of 5, that I was simply exhausted and did have the energy to fight it. Whatever the reason for this breakdown, it was a gift.

I went into therapy for the first time and was diagnosed with PTSD from childhood trauma and anxiety disorder. The diagnosis came as a relief. But the solutions and eventual healing seemed inaccessible, if not overwhelming. The therapy offered to me, was seen as an intervention by my insurance company, meaning I could go for six visits and then after the six visits (so really six hours), in their minds I would be healed. What?? I had a choice after my six visits, which was to go on meds or look to other forms of healing and that is when I found meditation and it was the beginning of my exploration with holistic and alternative modalities. What I discovered isn’t anything profound. And what I found was that the more I connected to my body through stillness (and eventually movement), the better I felt and the more aware I was of my reactions (which there still so were many of) but also I noticed my moments of peace.

My first meditation course was at my local gym, an upscale establishment in an upscale town. I had no idea where to search for such classes so when this one caught my attention, I immediately signed up. “Watch the thoughts like you are watching a movie”, the man presenting the workshop suggested. I had a really hard time with that idea. Then the man suggested using a mantra, which is a word or saying one repeats over and over silently to themselves and can be offered as a prayer or intention, and offered the suggestion, “I am peace”.  This idea I could get my head around. I kept silently repeating it using the breath….. “I am” on the inhale, and “peace” on the exhale.

And I knew right then, that this was the beginning of something beautiful.

Creating an altar

altar

I often talk about creating a special place to meditate in my classes, workshops, and immersions. Having a special place that one can go to at any time can create huge shifts or simply bring you back to the present moment if you are having one of those days where the mind is extremely busy. So, I’ve been wanting to blog about my altar for some time. In many ways, it’s extremely personal. But I think it will be helpful to those of you seeking something similar for yourself.

This is my altar. Almost everyday, you can find me here meditating, chanting, or offering thanks and prayers (or asking for guidance). It’s usually before and/or after I practice, but I will also sit here on some evenings. This is my sanctuary. I sit in front of this altar and my body immediately feels at home. The items on my altar change from time to time and I’d say right now, my altar has a “busyness” about it.

Here’s what’s currently on my altar and I’ll tell you why these items are on there. I have a stature of Mother Mary. One of the things I have great appreciation for growing up Catholic, is that the Church holds Mary in such a high regard and I’ve always felt close to her. To me she represents courage and beautiful grace. Next to Her, I have a picture of Buddha and Jesus in a drawing called “Lords of the dance”. This picture reminds me that all spiritual practices and religions, at their purest, are the same…”love one another and show compassion and kindness”. Hanging from that picture is a rosary from the Vatican blessed by the Pope. The other is a red Buddhist knot blessed by HH that I was given on my first trip to India. Ganesha, sits in the middle and reminds me of the obstacles I have overcome, of the obstacles I still face, and reminds me that we all have our obstacles and to act with compassion and kindness to those I encounter. The picture of Neem Karoli Baba reminds me that there truly are Saints walking among us, and that Guru’s do exist and can create huge shifts in the people they encounter. Hanuman reminds me that I am simply a servant to God and that God exists in all who I encounter, so I serve them as well. Green Tara represents enlightened or compassionate action (my dharma, I believe) and reminds me that when I work with those who are hurting and working on their healing, that I can meet them where they are whether is just eye contact, one breath together, teaching yoga or even a smile.

I have three Malas on my altar. One rests on Ganesha and was given to me on my first trip to India (made by Tibetan children in Clement town India.). The second mala made of mostly turquoise, I had made on my first trip to Nepal and spent a great deal of time selecting each and every stone. The third mala (with a thread from Neem Karoli Baba’s blanket and infused with Maharaji’s love) was given to me by Ram Dass at the retreat I went to in December. I have a brass container of water from the Ganges given to me by someone who is very special to me and reminds me that life is like a river…constantly moving and changing and it’s best to just ride it out than fight what I don’t appreciate.

Every color of the chakras is represented on my altar. Right now the two crystals are amethyst and lapis to help with the energy in my 5th, 6th, and 7th chakras. I have three candles. I use one strictly to meditate on and the others just to clear the energy in the room. I swear the purple and blue candle’s flame shows up like a heart. And, finally I have a Ganesha incense holder.

My altar started out really simple and has evolved to this over time. So if you create one, it can be one item, can rest on an already existing countertop, or you can create a place specifically for you. It doesn’t matter. Sitting, quiet, and connecting even for a few minutes…that’s what matters. I hope you get the chance to sit today.