As I sit here and try to find the words to explain exactly how it is that I came to walk this path, I am struck by the sense that there aren’t words to describe something that’s such a deep and innate calling. I can tell you the outward events that led me to where I’m at now, but I’m aware to the outside eye they may seem disconnected, even random.
Growing up in a small country town in Pennsylvania, my childhood was spent enveloped in Christianity. I attended church every Sunday (sometimes twice), attended the weekly youth group, and spent summers at my church’s youth camp first as a participant and then in my teens as a counselor. I wanted to be called to the religion the way it appeared to me that so many of my young friends were, but to be honest I didn’t feel a thing. I heard the message being preached from every angle that if you just surrendered your life to Jesus, He would make everything ok. I tried in every way I could think of, but I never felt Jesus making anything in my life ok. I was convinced I was a failure of a human being who wasn’t meant to be saved.
Inevitably I rebelled from this whole situation the moment I went to college and spent the next five or so years drowning my sorrows in alcohol, cigarettes, weed, and parties. I was miserable and searching desperately for an escape, though at the time I would have told you I was living the dream. Having graduated from college with a major in music performance and English, I really had no career prospects and ended up trying to support myself by serving tables and tending bar. This lifestyle delivered me right into the arms of a gregarious young man whose whole extended family seemed to support the idea of partying life away, and I quickly got swept right into this swift current.
It was during the third year of this relationship that I randomly began to think “I’d like to do yoga” and “I want to learn Sanskrit” even though I literally had never heard of either of those things before, nor did I even know if they were real. This was before the current Yoga craze when yoga mats became available at gas stations and everyone you meet either does yoga or knows someone who does, but I did find a book or two on yoga at Borders Books and discovered the whole section on Eastern Spirituality. This opened my eyes to a whole world I previously had no idea existed, and began to make me wonder how so much of what I was reading seemed so familiar to me!
I’d like to say that this was a turning point in my life, that I left that relationship and went to India and the rest is history, but unfortunately having lived five years engaged in life depleting parties and unhealthy relationships to cover up my unhappiness, I was left with not much strength, self identity, or resources to support me on that path. I stayed in that life, went against my intuition and got married, and two years later found myself in a life that was not even close to the one that I wanted.
This was the point when I think I actually began to wake up, to see that the way I was living was not serving my Spirit. I finally began to follow that calling to do yoga, and relatively quickly that led to the realization that I could not stay in my marriage. Though one of the hardest things I have ever done, I did get out of that relationship, but I feel quite sure that in hindsight it was not me making those moves. I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own. I’m quite sure that a higher power was leading me and supporting me along the way, and I’ve felt that higher power with me ever since.
The moment I was free of my marriage I enrolled in yoga teacher training. Though I had no money, the funds to pay for it appeared. As I wrote in my “About” page, on the first day of that teacher training with Marni Task in Cleveland, OH, when I heard my very first OM emanating from the voices of the 20 wonderful people around me, I felt truly home for the first time in my life. The knowledge that was unveiled to me in those several months I still cherish, and it’s led me on a journey I could never have imagined possible.
During those months of teacher training in Ohio I realized that I couldn’t stay in the same life I’d been living with my ex-husband. For my day job I was working in IT at a hospital, and so I cleaned up my resume, posted it to monster.com, sat in meditation and asked to be led wherever I was meant to go. The next week I had a job interview in California, and not a month later I was giving away everything I owned that wouldn’t fit in my little Toyota Matrix in preparation for driving across the country to my new home. That first year in California was one of the happiest I’d known thus far in life. I taught yoga, hung out at the beach, meditated, got a good paycheck from my day job that let me start to pay down the mountain of debt left by my ex, and thrived on my own.
But then I met another guy. I thought he was a good guy, but he was another in the long line of men who pretended to support me and then slowly began so suck my spirit away as time went on. I stopped enjoying yoga, I became depressed, I started drinking again, and my life went downhill.
By another divine act (I’m convinced) that relationship ended in less than a year. I was so weak from giving so much of myself away to an unhealthy relationship that my best friends flew me across the country to take care of me, and when I came back to California I returned to a new roomate who looked after me while I was recovering. It was then that I surrendered, that I began to attempt the daily practice that had been nagging at me for so long. And this is where my real yoga began. Until then it had been a talk, an exercise, a casual engagement, but during this time of recovery I read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda and felt the call of Mahavatar Babaji, and my life has never been the same since.
In beginning as regular of a practice as I could muster of chanting and meditation, I started to dig deep into myself, to work through the issues that kept leading me back to unhealthy relationships, to strengthen the sense of Spirit that I kept feeling underneath my worldly concerns. I established a clear sense of what I wanted in a relationship, and not long after I was literally led right to David, the partner of my dreams. Next, I worked to expand the paramaters of what I could have for a career and found a new job that supported the yogic lifestyle I wanted to lead. Not long after that, I decided that once and for all I was ready to be rid of the pile of debt that kept me tethered to a certain income level and was offered yet another job abroad that allowed me to pay off an immense amount of financial obligations in just six months.
During all this time I was becoming more and more regular with my yoga practice. I was meditating regularly and engaging in whatever chants called to me, however, I was not free of stress of pain. In June of 2012 I was finally led to the teachers I’d been asking for ever since reading Autobiography of a Yogi. I randomly felt the intense calling to go to Ulpotha, a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka David and I had attended earlier that year, and I felt that I had to go at that specific time. So I booked the trip for 10 days, and within twenty four hours of arriving it was clear why. It was here that I met my current teacher, Mithila Ubayasekara, who introduced me to the method of YogaMonks which I now teach. While the method of YogaMonks has been life changing for me, what really links this whole story together is the fact that YogaMonks is a method of asana inspired by Kriyaji, who is in the lineage of Haidakhan Babaji, the most recent incarnation of Mahavatar Babaji.
When I visited Kriyaji’s temple, the murti from which I felt the most intense energy was that of Jesus. I had the sense that the reason I had such struggle growing up in my Christian world is that I was meant to seek out other religious paths. In doing so, I’ve come to understand that they are all fundamentally the same.
Since meeting Mithila I’ve become more and more aware of how the direction of my life is being guided, and I’ve become more and more aware that there is some higher purpose at work in guiding me from situation to situation throughout my life. Babaji has spoken through so many teachers along the way, has been present to me in countless forms that were unrecognizable to me at the time, but in hindsight I see them clearly.
I don’t claim to know anything concrete about the Divine, but I do know that in my own life I see evidence of being guided, very directly and distinctly, through situations to help me learn, to become strong, to become more aware of my true nature as Spirit. And I feel a calling to share my story with others, because I feel in being open with the truth of my life I may help someone else come a little closer to their truth, or I may give someone else the strength to carry on through something difficult with which their being faced. The knowledge shared with me by all of my teachers along the way, from Mark, the wonderful Chef at my first real job to all others I’ve met, even for just a moment, is priceless and must be shared. I’ve listed some of my teachers below along with any website or book that goes along with them, in addition to some other books that have helped me along the way.
This story isn’t meant for marketing or manipulation, it’s not meant to make you feel sorry for me or to make you admire me. It’s only here to offer you a place to relate. Know that you’re here for a reason, that there’s a unique space in this world that only you can fill. As one of my teachers recently said, “if you’re struggling, congratulations! It means you a have calling to follow.”
Know that you can carry on through whatever you’re facing. And if you feel called to speak to me, I’m here. Feel welcome to schedule a time to meet with me.
In Peace, Truth, and Love,
Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda
Fire of Transformation, Gaura Devi
I Am Harmony, Radhe Shyam
Path of Practice, Maya Tiwari
The Mantram Handbook, Eknath Easwaran