“You have deep roots”, she told me. I breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps there was hope for our fledgling social enterprise after all. She had asked me how working with homeless people and asylum seekers made me feel and why, and I while I was honestly stumped, I found myself revelling in the feeling too. Here I was, communicating with someone who wasn’t content with my superficial answers about empowering people…words that I had batted back all too easily…words that I had subconsciously thought would please my questioner. No this questioner was different. She wanted more. “But WHY does that make you feel good?”, she gently insisted.
And so I paused….for more than a moment, because the deeper answer took its time to bubble up. It meant I had to sit in the discomfort of silence while neither of us said anything. And though it seemed on the outside that nothing was happening, within my mind was whirring away…”why do I like working with people who are facing incredibly difficult situations?…because they are so often despised, scorned, ignored, left to fend for themselves, blamed for their own circumstances when I personally feel that our ‘system’ is what is really responsible? Yes, certainly”, but I could sense it ran deeper than that. I felt like an outsider as a child, as a teenager and often still now. Of course I am in the world, but I also feel separate from it; as if I don’t quite fit, as if I’m only observing. For me this feeling of being an outsider has often brought tremendous pain, so of course I feel the tug at my heart by those cast as outsiders too.
Ten years ago I found yoga, or as yogis like to say, yoga found me. The practice unexpectedly changed my life, subtly shifting the direction in which I’d been going. It wasn’t exactly a magic overnight cure, but bit by bit, I would notice little changes: my anxiety was less pronounced and made itself known less often, my relationships seemed closer and more real , my affection for non-human life seemed greater and most notably the depression that had burdened me since my teenage years just faded away. And then there were the instances of profound joy, the reemergence of play in my life and the moments of being shaken to my knees gratitude. That all felt wonderful!
I don’t mean to make out that this was a nice gentle process, that if mapped out would look like a gentle upward gradient. No, that would not reflect the richness of the process, the enormity of some of the struggles, the childhood hurt and existential angst that had to be worked through. This transition on a graph would have looked more like the scribblings of a toddler….but even amidst the deepest pain there was always a part of me that was so glad that I had found yoga. How could I not want to pass on to others what it had brought to me?
And once I told her this she smiled and told me we had deep roots. ”I see how deep they are when people start to mention their childhoods”, she said. It was my turn to feel a moment of deep appreciation for my questioner. She took me to a place, I hadn’t up to that point, noticed. She is right, this mission of ours does run deep. The message came when I had been losing faith about whether we can make this social enterprise work. I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering why certain things have happened, why my life went in this or that direction. It doesn’t often make sense at the time. Yet, I have also noticed that if I wait long enough, hindsight does seem to bring clarity, somehow revealing order amidst the chaos. It turns out there were never really any wrong turns along the way. It all lead to this point.
And this point is where we are. I’m not going to pretend that the doubt isn’t still there. I’m wrestling with it daily. Michael is too. Our own little fight between the light and dark. But I can’t say that life isn’t interesting because of it.