Ever wonder about those people who even in the face of profound tragedy, somehow manage to lead a full, almost enchanted life? Well, so did I. My curiosity propelled me to study the phenomenon. I conducted a qualitative study that explored the lives of people with multiple sclerosis who practice yoga. The people I studied took charge of their lives and became great self-healers. They used a wide range of integrative self-care strategies to heal and be healthy.
I realized after the study that I myself function in a similar way. I have endured many of life's tragedies. One day I explored my own life story with a trusted friend and she said, "Yes, I know your story but I never think of you that way. You are not a victim or a survivor, you are just you."
Our life stories are an enormous treasure.They bring to life clarity and understanding of the people we are now, they ground us in our origins. Many things that happened early in my life were vital contributions to my innate ability to heal from adversity.
My earliest memories were birthed in springtime. I was five. I wrote a small insignificant blip of a poem, born of the love of a child for her mother. The poem was called My Little Marigold — inspired by a milk carton marigold I gave my mom on mother's day. The town newspaper published it and a writing career was born.
Soon after, a school field trip took me to an abbey. The monks were so sweet. The essence of kindness filled the air. It was akin to taking a bubble bath in love. There were springtime lambs there. I held one to my breast. The breath of newness from her musky coat filled my senses.
My next vivid memory involved standing on the porch of my seaside home waiting for my best friend, Sharon, to return from nursery school. Salt-water mist permeated my being. I drifted to the moment beyond where she and I first met. "I have known her forever" was the feeling that welled through my young heart. In our friendship rested the truth and beauty of all that was right in the world.
In the midst of all this, my mother was suffering from major depression, a product of her own personal demons. She refused psychiatric help. My sister, a nursing student, suggested shock therapy, a treatment pre-dating many antidepressants. I was taken in tow to a basement shock therapy clinic. My siblings were out finding their own way in the world, and that world did not have room for a quirky five-year-old. I remember a visit when a door was left open and I saw a man with electrodes on his head, my thoughts turned to fear: "I must never show sadness like mommy, or someone might do that to me."
Then my grandfather died. He was a beautiful man with a thick head of soft white hair smelling of wild earthy wind. I walked into the bedroom just as they pulled the sheet over his peaceful face, and my five-year-old heart felt no fear. The thought "He was just passing through" gave me great comfort.
Thus my life was born at the tender age of five. I experienced the wonder of birth in a springtime lamb and the joy of creation in a cherished poem. I discovered the true nature of death in the loss of my beloved grandfather. In a basement shock therapy clinic, I felt the crushing weight of fear and of secreting emotions away.
My young heart was profoundly affected by these distinctive elements of life. Out of them arose my outlook: tell the truth, tread gently, smile and treat yourself as you would treat your very best friend, regardless of the situation at hand. Our lives are a rare and precious gift.
My work is infused with joy, wisdom, humor, pathos and an occasional free fall. I speak of my life and the lives of others, people I have met throughout my travels. I relay a message about the path of a playful yogi directly from the heart of a storyteller.
That message is simple: we are all capable of self-healing on our own terms. So find those terms, embrace them and follow your own path wholeheartedly to health, stability and joy.