It has been two months since I completed my yoga-teacher training here in Costa Rica, and two months since I wrote most of this blog.
In these two months I’ve been getting fit again. Motivation levels: up. I’ve been reading and writing. Creativity: improving. And I’ve been traveling with my family on the weekends, hiking, making friends and learning about the different landscapes of this beautiful country. Social interactions: doubled.
Sometimes we need a little help seeing our ‘blind spots’.
For me, surprisingly, this came in the form of three weeks of yoga, meditation, journal-writing, listening compassionately to others and to myself as we shared our inner thoughts, and singing that warmed the heart and soul.
If you have read any of my blogs, you might have noticed that there was some boredom lurking in my life; a dissatisfaction of sorts. But how did I get to this point? Well, I think it has been situational: a sense of lacking a community, a loss of my identity and role as a doctor to that of a first-time mother, the sharp decline in time spent surfing, and sleep-less nights with no end in sight.
But I won’t dwell on those just now. This is what ‘showed-up’ for me in the days after finishing yoga training as I wrote my journal.
‘The emotions are high: grief, happiness, tears of loss, tears of true love, and the feeling of relief.
And so it begins when yoga training ends. Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘The journey’, gives me freedom and space to write again. I tried writing a few times during the last three weeks while learning to be a teacher of the ancient practice of yoga, but my eyelids were heavy and my eyes dry from the dusty roads.
Despite my eyelids sticking to my eyeballs as I slept, at times dragging myself out of bed to rinse them with water, I started dreaming again. And, as I dreamed each night, I gradually stopped waking up looking for Ella, hoping she had not fallen down the side of the bed; each time slowly remembering she was there in her crib…safe under her mosquito net.
With my dreams came fluid memories. One year after my mother passed away, when I fled the family home back to Belfast, leaving Christopher, my younger brother, to live with my father, I started waking up each night frantically looking for him. Jumping out of bed as if the house was on fire, I would run to the other bedroom, pull back the duvet to find an empty bed, then run to the window hoping he hadn’t fallen out. This nightmarish activity continued for more than five years, when a change in anti-depressant medication brought life back to my brother’s eyes.
My time as a mother has presented many parallels with caring for my brother, the common thread being worry and pushing my limits.
As my yoga practice evolved at the teacher-training, so too did the bump around my waist, a reminder that another baby – all-being well – would be arriving soon. A reminder, too, that I have been hiding some fear around another stint as a stay-at-home mother, off-work and possibly alone!
But I was not alone on this yogic journey. Our weekly evening gathering by candle light an opportunity to share something with our group and to listen and feel in return. Coming from Northern Ireland, where stoicism is often the norm, to risk one’s reputation by showing our true emotion is to be avoided at all costs.
It was at our final gathering that I felt I could open my heart. And without preparing what I would say, for that often doesn’t come from the heart, I spoke through my tears, incoherently, I’m sure but freely.
So, thank you Nexus Institute for providing the time and space for self-discovery. For supporting me as I find my feet to walk again. For giving me courage to ask for help (thank you Jason for taking over night-time baby duties), and for fuelling me with inspiration to continue our Mother & Baby adventures across Costa Rica and beyond. And thank you also to the wonderful, talented students from whom I learnt so much.
Jean Vanier is a philosopher and founder of the L’Arche community. His words ring true to me in respect to what my brother has taught me and how, without knowing, he has enriched my life. I miss you Christopher Graham!
” People with developmental learning difficulties need love above anything else. It is the ‘strong’ human being who is healed by the ‘weak’, but often fear prevents this discovery.”
” Those we most often exclude from the normal life of society, people with intellectual disabilities, have profound lessons to teach us. ”
~Jean vanier founder of L’Arche
Finally, I leave you with Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, and I hope that journey finds you!
One day you finally knew What you had to do, and began, Though the voices around you Kept shouting Their bad advice‚ Though the whole house Began to tremble And you felt the old tug At your ankles. “Mend my life!” Each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, Though the wind pried With its stiff fingers At the very foundations‚ Though their melancholy Was terrible. It was already late Enough, and a wild night, And the road full of fallen Branches and stones. But little by little, As you left their voices behind, The stars began to burn Through the sheets of clouds, And there was a new voice, Which you slowly Recognized as your own, That kept you company As you strode deeper and deeper Into the world, Determined to do The only thing you could do‚ Determined to save The only life you could save.