Finding God within, not without

Working through the resistance, the dogma, and the fear of finding God not within an organized religion, but within myself

Don’t forget to breathe

On my mat in twisting crescent lunge, in a room over 90 degrees, my heart racing, my breath frantic, sweat pouring in my eyes and soaking my mat, I heard the words, “Let your heart shine and don’t forget to breathe.” Tears streamed from my eyes as those words echoed in my head and I thought, “Had I forgotten to breathe? Forgotten to let my heart shine? Where had I been for the past 12 years?”

I sunk deeper in the pose, determined to fight, as I thought, “I’m here and I’m breathing.” I wanted so desperately to be healthy, and I knew so deeply in that moment that yoga was my path to heal not only my body but my mind, heart and soul. I found yoga and most importantly an inspiring and supportive teacher; I was home. As the months passed, I pushed myself to get back on my mat daily. So many things started to come up for me that had been suppressed. I dove back into meditation. I began to honor my body by eating nourishing foods. I worked harder at the gym. I walked longer. I went deeper. I stuck with it even when I wanted to quit. I got to know myself and my suffering. I confronted my fears and stared them in the face.

More months passed. More strength came. More weight came off. More layers were being shed to reveal my true self. My teachers continued to inspire me. I started to wonder what else was out there; I started reading and soaking up everything I could find with an open mind. One day, I had the profound realization that I was on a spiritual journey. Joe Keyes said, “Religion is for people who believe they are going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I could relate so deeply to these words and finally felt like I had found what made sense for me, not for someone else.

Finding God within, not without

I worked through the resistance, the dogma, and the fear of finding God not within an organized religion, but within myself. My mat became a sacred place where I felt fully supported, where the thoughts about the past dissolved, and worries and anxieties about the future didn’t matter. I was just in that moment, in that pose, fully present, letting my heart shine and finally remembering to breathe. I began taking what I was learning on my mat and applying it to other areas of my life. Yoga and meditation became the cornerstones of my spiritual practice. I was so deeply grateful to them and wanted to learn everything I could and pass it on. I wanted to teach; I wanted to share.

Through this process, my creativity started to re-emerge; it had been buried deep within. I started to create. I picked up my camera again, inspired by the beautiful world around me that I felt I had never truly seen or experienced. I started to paint, to sew and to create mixed media pieces. I used whatever I found around to make art that spoke to me and served as a constant reminder to me that I was on the right path, moving in the right direction. My art was another way to heal and inspire. My passion for healthy foods grew and I began experimenting with gluten free baking. I noticed the effects dairy and cane sugar had on my mood and thinking. More aware and 80 pounds lighter, I began to enjoy the sweet things in life, without deprivation.

I allowed my gifts and talents to shine. I knew very deeply that I wanted to inspire hope in others…to remind them to breathe, to let their hearts shine. I wanted to share the knowledge I gained on my journey back to health. A year later, I was awake, aware, back to optimal health, and had developed such compassion for others, food, healthy living and the earth.

I share my story and experience in hopes to reach others trapped in desperation. When I started this journey over four years ago, I was 80 pounds overweight, pre-diabetic, on the verge of liver failure, and facing death. I was hopelessly addicted to smoking, shopping, food, alcohol, drugs and desperate to escape from the hell I had created in my mind.

If I can do this, so can you

I want everyone to know that there is hope; there is a way to live a healthy, happy life. Each day is a chance for a new beginning. The power is within you to make the changes, put in the hard work, time and determination. This is your world; you have the power to shape it however you want. If you are unhappy, if you are suffering, today is the time to change; the time to grow, and in the words of my teacher, to “Let your heart shine, and don’t forget to breathe.”

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