For ten years, my yoga practice was my escape. My mat was my magic carpet. And at 6am every day it would transport me to a far-off land away from all of my problems.
But after every few months of consistent practice, a funny thing would happen. Out of the blue, I would be struck down by some mysterious, unexplainable affliction. First, it was a kidney infection, then a frozen shoulder, followed by a broken toe, a series of skin infections and more recently, a chronic knee injury. There was always some random illness or injury popping up that would keep me away from my mat for days, weeks or months at a time.
It was incredibly frustrating to be forced to sit still. I’d be left feeling untethered and restless without my daily escape. I was irritable and quick to anger. My mind would run wild with a million different thoughts that I could never keep up with. My anxiety would peak and as a result insomnia would keep me awake for nights at end.
Without my magic carpet, I’d seek salvation in anything that provided me with an ounce of comfort; chocolate, wine, ice cream, whisky and Valium. I numbed and numbed and numbed some more. I had no desire to tend to the unabating noise of my mind or the fierce waves of emotion that would strike me down in the dead of night. All I wanted to do was escape.
Throughout these times, I would do everything other than meditate. I refused to close my eyes and sit with myself, even though this was the very thing my body was telling me to do. Over and over again, each time my latest ailment would drive me out of my practice, I still refused to stop.
And then one day, something changed. I realised that life was teaching me a lesson, and with this, I let go of my desire to rally against my injury. Instead, I allowed it to be there; without judgment or criticism, without defeat or damnation. I accepted the fact that I was unable to move and instead I chose to sit. I closed my eyes and began the most important journey of my life; the journey inwards.
Over the past year and a half since I’ve spent countless hours meditating. I’ve learnt how to observe the thought patterns that would drive me down into deep valleys of depression, the ones that caused me to be at war with myself and the ones that would fill me with an intense feeling of fear and dread. I’ve learnt how to welcome all of my emotions with a sense of warmth and curiosity rather than pushing them away. I’ve learnt how to experience physical discomfort without needing to numb the pain.
And most of all I’ve learnt that I don’t need to escape. That everything I was searching for was already inside of me, all I had to do was turn my gaze towards it.