Like Coming Home

Name: Candice Garrett
Location: Monterey, California, USA
Occupation: Yoga Teacher & Director of Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga

Photo attributed to Flickr user Liamfm.

At 19 years old, I found myself pregnant, alone and in a hostile environment.

My mother had abandoned me during my last year of high school, and I was homeless, living out of cars and at friends’ houses. My behavior was reckless. A formerly model student and athlete, I barely made it to class and almost didn’t graduate. I think my teachers took pity on me and pushed me through, one of them even gifting me a yearbook anonymously. During high school I took refuge in an evangelical church. Their over-the-top enthusiasm to welcome me in made me feel less broken. I overlooked some of the codependent ways they exhibited in their faith because it felt like I had a family that actually wanted to be around me, faults and all. I remember thinking they were all so open with their faults and sins and problems. It made me feel at home.

For that reason, though I had been accepted to numerous colleges that would be cheaper, closer to familial resources, or more in line with my prospects of becoming a surgeon, I chose an elite, private Christian college. And away I went. Those first days were so odd for me, having come from such a tough last year of high school and being dropped into the lap of luxury, surrounded by children who were so sheltered, so bright, so sure of their places, their safety, their faith. They couldn’t fathom the experiences I’d been through, and frankly, they didn’t want to know. I closed up, made a show of being something, someone I wasn’t. This wasn’t the church I had found, these weren’t broken people, and I was out of place. That first year I lost three of my grandparents, people who had been pivotal in my life and in my identity. Having no one to turn to, feeling isolated, I lost it a bit.

I reached out for help, for support from my new-found community, but was told that my grandparents, who weren’t confirmed Christians, were probably in hell. I found refuge instead in the man I had started dating just before I left for college, the boy back home that came to see me. He was my lifeline. But somehow I couldn’t hold it together. I lost sight of everything I wanted and who I was, a sheltered girl who was thrown into real life in such a short time. I cheated on my boyfriend and I broke his heart. I felt helpless to stop myself, to reign in my self destruction, even as I watched it happening. Shortly after that, I found out I was pregnant and being that my boyfriend wanted nothing to do with me, we had an abortion. He held my hand the entire time, we cried together through the pain and the clinical terror of it all, and he left me, bleeding and woozy in my dorm room. And that, was that.

Photo attributed to Flickr user elycefeliz.

That summer, I fell into a crowd from college that, though able to talk the talk, played a very different game behind closed doors. In short, I found the same bad behavior from which I had come seeking healing. I drank a lot, partied too much. One night I had too much to drink and awoke to a man I barely knew. I convinced myself it was my fault, for having so much to drink, for going to bed naked. I ended up dating him, I think in an effort to smooth over the rough edges, to make it okay, for both of us, that he had taken advantage of me when I was unconscious. I think my sense of self-worth was so broken, so guilt-ridden over the abortion that I convinced myself I deserved every rotten thing that came my way. And so it was.

It was an uneasy relationship. We didn’t like each other, not really. He was mean and played hateful games at my expense. He beat me once. I stayed even then. But I looked forward to ending our summer affair by returning to school, as it was an easy way to break up, to let distance separate us, rather than stand up for myself.

Shortly after I returned to school, he came for a visit. That visit, though uncomfortable and short, ended up with me being pregnant. Again. I know now that that conception occurred on the exact same date as the baby I had aborted. The mind is tricky that way. It didn’t occur to me for years, and when it did, I found both comfort and unending despair.

He didn’t come back, that boyfriend, not even after he knew about the baby. I couldn’t go through with another abortion, wouldn’t. It was my choice and I took it. I hid my pregnancy for shame from my community. In a strict Christian college, one just didn’t have premarital sex (though, in truth, it was happening all the time, one just didn’t get pregnant). I isolated myself, finished my semester and then I went home to tell my family, my father, my sisters what I had done with my life. Their promising young surgeon was nothing more than a knocked up failure. My dear, sweet twin sister said as much. Though she would take it back now, a thousand times if she could.

I went home and nursed my wounds, birthed my baby and became a very confused mother. I had no friends, no faith, no community. I was bitter and scared, and truth be told, tough as nails. Motherhood made me find myself in the chaos. I didn’t know where I was going, or what to do, or what I would become, but I knew I had a little boy that was more precious than anything on earth, for whom I would sacrifice anything. I knew that if I never gave him anything else, I would give him pure, unadulterated love.  He would have that at least.

I slowly pulled myself together. I married a man that had been a good friend to me since I was 17, a man who had watched and nurtured and held me up through all of my misdeeds. He became a father to my son, and eventually  a father to two more of our own sons. Meanwhile, as my husband finished school, I sank into a depression, realizing the professional life I had given up, realizing that the Christian faith no longer had meaning for me. I became a very reluctant, morbid atheist. If this faith wasn’t for me, there couldn’t be anything else, right?

When my husband was in paramedic school, I started practicing yoga at our local YMCA. I have a congenital defect with my feet, and they were getting worse. I had heard yoga might help, so I went. I marched into a dark room, sat down and looked around, realizing that I was the junior of everyone else in that class by at least 30 years. When a woman walked in with thick orthotic shoes and a pronounced osteoporotic hump, when I realized this was the teacher, I wanted to bolt. What had I gotten myself into? I was clearly out of place.

But then she threw herself into shoulder stand and I was hooked. In the entire year I studied with her, I never heard a Sanskrit word, or anything about philosophy. I never did a headstand or an arm balance. But I felt good  and my feet got better. To this day, I will tell you that the short time I spent in that very gentle, secular class was the best yoga I have ever done.

Two of Candice’s sons.

I signed up for a teacher training when we moved into a remote area for my husband’s work. It was the first time I ever heard that yoga had a philosophy, a tradition behind it. It was so much to absorb and I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand the Yoga Sutras or the ideas behind them. So I didn’t study them. For me, the therapeutics was enough.

And so I practiced. I sought out teachers and studied more intently with my own mentor. I found new ones as well. And a funny thing happened. I went through a crisis of self inquiry. Though I wasn’t studying the philosophies, their lessons were happening, organically. At some point I realized that the simple act of asana, of being around good teachers, had made me seriously face my demons: the past, and the present ones. I cried, I raged, I was confused. But it eventually smoothed out to be an overwhelming sense of rightness and peace. I started studying the philosophies and really understanding them, with the help of my teacher, it grew. I grew.

Here was a way of living that made sense to me and aligned with my scientific nature. It asked me to be a better person, to study, to refine myself. And so I did. It was like coming home, for the first time.

My husband will tell you that yoga made me a better person, a more honest, kind,  confident person. In truth, he will tell you that it brought me back to who I was before all the chaos, to who I truly was, only a little bit better. And it is true.

Now I work with other pregnant women and train prenatal teachers and what we offer is more than asana, but group support; a chance to live it, breathe it, grieve it all, this whole journey of motherhood, regardless of marital status, or religion or sexual orientation. And in that way my journey has made so much sense. I lived this thing, so that I could have the wisdom to hold another woman up. It’s so simple, isn’t it? I don’t grieve for my story anymore. I don’t find shame in it. It is mine, and I own it, crunchy bits and all, so that I might be a better friend, a better mother, a better mentor to other women who know exactly what I’m talking about.

Candice Garrett is the director of Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga, a program that offers certification in pre/postnatal yoga, doula services and childbirth education. She is also the author of Prenatal Yoga, Finding Movement in Fullness and a mother to three sons. She lives in Monterey, CA.You can find her yoga program on Facebook here.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.

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My Rendezvous with God Through Yoga

Name: Anonymous
Location: Australia

Photo attributed to Flickr user legends2k.

“Darker it gets, nearer the dawn.”– this anonymous quote comes to my mind when I recall my past. My real life story may sound stranger than fiction for many readers and may attract an array of reactions and comments. We live in a world of information technology and with increasing information and knowledge comes great scrutiny and spontaneous comments, without a real life experience. Words cannot adequately describe the actual experience, even in this age of information technology. Only a ‘direct perception’ can reveal the ‘reality.’

When you write about a real life experience, various people from different countries, languages, religions, cultures and beliefs read such an experience.There is always a gap between what is conveyed and what is received because people read them with their conditioned minds, wearing glasses of various colors. If the article is read by a million people, there are a millions views and understandings; yet not even one in a million may really grasp the true reality. Whatever I am writing here is purely my personal experience, and all the opinions and suggestions are my own, and I do not intend to convert or change anybody with my views or expect anybody to concur with my views. You can read them, reflect on them and decide the outcome by yourself. Only direct experience will be of value in the yoga practice.

Sri Nataraja Temple

All my life I studied and practiced only science and engineering. But deep within me there was a great passion for Philosophy, Metaphysics, Occultism and Theology. This deep rooted passion has its origin in my past and it did not just come out of the blue. I am now 58 years old and I was born and brought up in the small town of Madurai, India, right around the time that India gained its independence from Britain. I remember we did not even have electricity at that time. Poverty and illiteracy were common. Our life centered on the great temple of Meenakshi. My dad was able to educate himself and he graduated from American College, a well-known college even today in Madurai. At that time, he was one of the few handfuls of graduates in the entire district. He educated all of us and I graduated as an engineer and I also did my post-graduate work at the University of Madras, now known as Anna University in Chennai, India.

During one of those days in the university, I happened to meet a fortune-teller, who was supposedly able to predict one’s future by simply looking at that person. He stopped me while I was walking past him and he said, “You come from a warrior family, who belong to the Vijaya Kingdom.You belong to a Naik clan and Naidu caste and you speak telugu. You will become a philosopher during the latter part of this life because that is your destiny.” I just laughed at his prediction. I offered him a cup of coffee and he accepted it as a fee for his prediction and then walked away. I never met him before or after this incident.

But in the second part of life, things changed completely. It was a deep, dark tunnel through which I had to travel nearly fifteen years of my life. I was deeply in debt and I had to sell everything to clear my debts before I became completely broke. I decided to leave India for good because I could not see any future there because of my past actions. I was able to migrate to Australia. My educational background and professional experience helped me for the migration. It was the darkest moment of my life.

Photo attributed to Flickr user h.koppdelaney.

During one of those dark days in India, I had a very strange experience. One day early in the morning I got up and looked at the mirror. I realized I was looking at a man in the mirror. It was a very strange, bizarre and scary moment which I will never forget in my lifetime. For a moment, there was no memory of me. My mind was completely blank. Even though it is only my own image in the mirror I was looking at, I could not relate to it. That momentary experience changed me completely into a new person, spontaneously dissolving all of my past. The great veil of Maya lifted for good. That experience taught me: when I was able to witness my own body, then who am I? The image in the mirror is a reflection of me, yet, I did not recognize that moment. There is a subject within me witnessing an object in the mirror, two different entities.

This mirror experience turned my life upside down. That was the beginning of my spiritual journey, because it was the ‘direct perception’ of my ‘self.’ What more evidence do I need to realize this truth that I am not the body but a spirit? Once this veil of ignorance called Maya is lifted, the darkness that engulfed my life simply vanished.

Now, I am a new person and there is a new beginning. During those solitary moments in silence, I can always feel that oneness with Self and experience Sahaja Samadhi. It is an experience where the Jeevatma merges with Pramatma in an eternal bliss. That was my liberation from the clutches of worldly attachments.The purpose of yoga is to prepare one’s body and mind until it dissolves one’s individual identity called ‘ego,’ and merges with the universal divinity called Iswara, in the state of Samadhi. Once you experience this state, there is nothing else to achieve because it is a direct meeting with ‘God,’ the most gracious, indescribable, ever-present and the most compassionate. It is beyond words.

My life today is very simple. I do not need anything and I spend all my time in the deep contemplation of Iswara, who showed me the path. I have been a vegetarian for the past 12 years and I don’t even think about alcohol and I am certainly not concerned about wealth or women. I have deep compassion for all forms of life on earth. I cannot witness any violence and injustice even in TV shows and I am overwhelmed by sights of poverty, hunger, domestic violence and exploitation of nature in the name of science and prosperity. I now view women with great reverence and respect. I see great divinity in the power of women to create, maintain and destroy. It is a great gift of God and cycle of nature.

I must warn the readers that the veil of Maya is very powerful and we cannot underestimate its power. We can overcome the power of Maya only with the grace of Iswara. When Maya becomes all the more powerful, then the world is in darkness and its end is imminent.

Yoga is a practical, step by step instruction manual that teaches people to transform themselves completely into their divine nature. It is not just a physical exercise or posture. The process is long and tedious and the path is full of hurdles and difficulties, but one can certainly attain the highest goal of Samadhi by following three simple rules of Tapa, Swadyaya and Iswara pranidinani ( strict discipline or austere life, deep contemplation of ‘who am I?” and complete surrender to Iswara). Everything else will fall into place for sincere aspirants.

Jesus Christ is one of the highest yogis in human history,  and Jesus said: “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel and will rule over all.”

This post was submitted by an anonymous author.

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