I struggled with chronic pain and nerve damage for more than fifteen years. I tried every alternative mode of healing, therapy, etc. in hopes of eradicating the pain. I was very fortunate to have worked with highly skilled and, even more importantly, compassionate healers, including my pain management doctor, physical therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and yoga and pilates instructors. I was willing to try every new technique and modality, determined not to “give up” and have surgery.
What I discovered along this journey with chronic pain was that I had been resisting the idea of surgery for so long because I thought it represented failure for me. Since I wasn’t able to figure it out or fix it, it became my personal failure. I didn’t want anyone to know that part of the pain, the sadness, the frustration. This part of the story was something I was willing to suffer in solitude.
I continued to search and found myself at an event with Dr. Deepak Chopra, where he taught an advanced meditation technique. It was here that I gained clarity and certainty that pursuing surgery to aid in my healing was not a failure at all. Rather, I saw it as an opportunity to gain the stability in my spine that I was lacking at that time. I remember leaving that session with Dr. Chopra knowing that there would be a shift in the way I was approaching my pain. I had an awareness, an intuitive knowing, that this surgery that I had postponed for many years was going to be the best choice for me. By surrendering, letting go of my stubborn thoughts, I was open to other possibilities and that made all the difference with my healing. I was willing to have my doctor surgically correct a mechanical instability that was the result of an accident.
My decision to have surgery resulted in correcting the issue in my spine, and the added bonus of seeing the pain in my knees and hips also disappear, which is wonderful but where would I be had I not resisted surgery so long? I wouldn’t have discovered alternative healing and enrolled in teacher training programs to become certified as an instructor of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Primordial Sound Meditation, and the Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle program. In this way, what I thought was a problem was actually a gateway to a whole new world.
Based on Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga is a three-part, Hatha-based yoga style incorporating the element of movement with the asanas, or yoga poses; the breathing techniques (pranayama); and meditation. Infused throughout the class is wisdom from these seven spiritual laws, natural or universal laws, which govern all aspects of creation.
There are many different types of meditation and mindfulness methods one can practice. I experienced my first formal instruction with Primordial Sound Meditation, which I learned again from Chopra. Primordial Sound Meditation is an ironically silent technique, using a personal mantra that is calculated according to an individual’s birth date, time and place. This term “mantra” comes from the ancient language of Sanskrit and is simply translated as “mind tool.” In the same way I might use a barbell to strengthen my biceps, I use my primordial sound, or mantra during meditation as a way to direct my focus inward. As sensations, images, feelings or thoughts arise, I observe and turn my attention back to my primordial sound. With any new meditators, I will gently guide them to bring their attention to their breath, noticing the ease of each inhalation and exhalation. This simple technique of observing the breath is meditation.
I completed my third certification in the Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle Program. Ayurveda (ayus meaning life, veda meaning wisdom) is a 5,000-year-old healing system, originating in India, yet its principles are just as relevant today as they were then. This is not a “one-size-fits all” or “all or nothing” approach to health. Ayurveda provides tools and practices that allow us to integrate all aspects of our being, mind, body, spirit and environment, to reach a state of vibrant balance. The nature of life is dynamic and always changing, and with this awareness and conscious choice-making, we are more easily able to see what is affecting our well-being and steer ourselves back towards balance and health, rather than in the direction of illness and disease.
I was dedicated to deepening my own practices of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda as I continued my path towards healing. This passion to study and practice these ancient philosophies came from the recognition, an inner knowing, that everything in the universe is connected and when we balance all aspects of ourselves, we realize our full potential and experience a true sense of health, wholeness and vitality. I began to see myself as a fully integrated being, rather than the dissection of parts between the left leg and constant nerve pain that occupied all of my attention, and the rest of my physical body. I also had a greater awareness (and acceptance) that, in my particular circumstance, what finally worked was a blend of Western and Eastern modalities.
It is an honor to share the wisdom of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda to the guests I serve with my work at The Chopra Center, along with clients who join me for workshops and retreats as I guide them toward finding balance and well-being in their lives. I am in gratitude, in love, in yoga every day that I get to present the beautiful teachings and practical tools in ways that make them accessible to everyone, regardless of belief system, age or fitness level.
A student once asked me, “What is your favorite thing to teach?” Without hesitation (or interference from my ego and analytical mind), I responded, “Awareness.”