I must admit that I feel a little bashful posting this. I have thought that perhaps it seems selfish, crazy, or just unbelievable. I have written for quite sometime now that I wished I would post more frequently, but now I have more of a motivation. This is a lengthy post, but I wanted to explain my reasoning thoroughly. Please help us, if you can, whatever you can offer, get to India/Nepal. Here’s my detailed story behind it:
Pilgrimage in India. Photo courtesy of Seth Lagner and Sati Shannon Rose Chmelar
For anyone who has ever suffered from an addiction, a loss of direction, or just felt like you couldn’t get out of bed; you have experienced the nature of suffering. At one point, we have all experienced heavy emotions and for many, it passes or we press on. Some find taking up a new hobby, experience, or relationship can fill that space. For others, we may attempt to fill that void with self-destructive afflictions. Regardless of the direction hard times have taken you, no one is unscathed from pain, sadness, frustration or fear. All of us carry suffering deep within our tissues and memories. Our body and mind does not forget and forever more, our choices and words are often dictated by things that have pained us or that we have not learned how to let go or accept.
In this way, we can all relate. Through this, we all share a very common and vulnerable bond. Many of us hide behind our fear of repeating mistakes, failure, inadequacy, money, and so on. Yet, if we were able to tap into the nature of this suffering and find the freedom within that vulnerability, I imagine we might feel a great sense of relief and peace with the way things are.
India pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Seth Lagner and Sati Shannon Rose Chmelar
About me and this, in a nutshell:
During my adolescent years, my emotional awareness of myself and others led me to believe I wasn’t good enough. Like many of my peers, I started to experiement with alcohol. Going to parties provided a false notion that I belonged in a community, which quickly developed into sexual involvment with many other adolescent boys. None of us obviously bore the knowledge of the detrimental effects that having multiple sex partners can do to a person, especially a teenager. When I was 18, I found peace in God and returned to Christiantiy for refuge from my confusion.
Once in University,“God” no longer was enough. The seed of inadequacy had already grown, and I was looking for wholeness. I wanted to belong and suffered for not feeling like I did. It was there I discovered the treachery of bulimia, which would become a hidden source of painful comfort that would torment me for the next ten years.
Unfortunately, therapists, doctors, a short-lived cocaine addiction, and a revisit to the Christian faith brought me no solace. Searching, I stumbled into my first yoga class and the journey of seeing myself in a new light started to slowly unravel. Yoga did not initially bring me peace, but something about the practice and the community intrigued me. People looked amazing at various ages and cared for themselves. I even found myself free of my eating issues for nearly 2 years.
Sadly, it all came apart my first time abroad. My yoga journey to India was supposed to have been the place where I would find “God” and myself. I was at a loss. I had traveled so far to realize that I had gone nowhere.
Teaching yoga in South Korea in 2011 at Wall Street English.
Feeling an urge to escape, I believed a change of scenery would make me whole again. With the longing to be open to new things, I landed in South Korea. Accordingly, my eating disorder followed. There I managed to connect with the yoga community and start teaching my first ashtanga yoga classes. But, my bulimia still ailed me. It saddens me the way my suffering prevented me from just living. My secret caused me to alienate myself whenever possible. It was when I happened to listen to some of Pema Chodron’s buddhist talks that things began to shift.
She spoke of working with the nature of the mind, instead of fearing it. It is when you come to know your own suffering, you can relate better with the world. It was the first time I had heard that I could use my suffering as a vehicle for compassion and connection with others. I had never considered attempting to understand the nature of suffering. The entire time, I had been doing everything to avoid it.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bernert and Sati Shannon Chmelar
So where am I today and what do I want to do?
As for yoga, the physical practice has tested my willpower in many ways. After having had to practice alone for so many years, yoga has been a testament to discipline and faith that I clung to hope for peace within. Perhaps self indulgent to be so consumed by a physical discipline, the yoga posture works towards the ability for us to be one with who we are, instead of a disconnected bystander. It also teaches us that the impossible is possible.
Love has brought me wholeness too. Outside my family, who suffered greatly when I was in the midst of my personal angst, my best friend and fiance has been life’s greatest instrument of unconditional love and compassion. He has never tried to change or fix me, rather has only accepted me for where I was and helped to find a way to direct me in a healthier path.
Even so, to be a good partner, lover, friend and caretaker of myself, I have needed to learn the tools to nourish me. It is beyond advanced yoga postures and it far surpasses inspirational quotes, self-help books, therapy and drugs. The greatest gift brought to me from my near 10 years of bulimia was understanding the nature of suffering and the mind.
Love, acceptance and non judgment has been the greatest healing on my life.
Some never journey this far with their suffering, but we have all experienced it to different degrees. Shoving aside or pressing through has never been a solution for me though. I have been seeking an understanding and a reconciliation with my mind.
I am not a therapist nor do I posses the proper education or credentials to equip someone else on their journey through suffering. However, it is my wish to have the ability to give back by directing others through wisdom and helping discover the right direction for their journey to peace. Religion or not, I think the principles of the yoga practice and Buddhist philosophy offer useful, life saving techniques towards finding tranquility and contentment during difficult times.
From the other perspective, my partner has been witness to my suffering. He has held space for me all these years, expressing his desire to understand and love me unconditionally. He is an example for those who do have a healthy relationship with themselves. However, none of us are untouched and if we do not experience suffering to such a deep extent, we probably know someone very close to us who does.
Help us go to India! Photo courtesy of Christian Bernert and Sati Shannon Chmelar.
In February of 2015, a pilgrimage to the heart of dharma in Nepal and India will be led by the Vasudhaiva Institute. The journey will take us to the 8 major sites of the Buddha along with a focus of the lineage, comparative study and cultural immersion. Additionally, we’ll also be exploring our own ashtanga yoga practices in more depth under the guidance of Sati.
Yoga is the vehicle for healing the body, both inside and out. Meditation, or finding peace with the mind, is the avenue for healing of the mind. This is a journey of self study that will enable us to share it externally through our own teachings, both yoga instruction and food.
Additionally, we plan on wedding summer of 2015! We look to this pilgrimage for healing as a way to set up a solid framework and prepare ourselves for a life of love and marriage.
How your support would help:
Your contribution would help us better equip ourselves so we can share our experience, which will hopefully have a healing affect others. After this trip, our goal is also to integrate food into our work and bring joy with all the senses to every meal. The last component for my healing has been making peace with food. After battling food for so long, I have come to realize that I have a great love of it. So, it is a great gift to be able to use what I so long feared to serve and nourish others. I will use my writing to document the journey, write and blog, as well as apply the learned knowledge to developing Yoga n’ Spice and help others find balance and healing.
We’re attempting to raise $6,000. When I think about how many friends we both have on Facebook, if everyone gave $5, we’d be set, but not everyone cares or has the ability so I’m reaching out to cyberspace!
Yes, it is expensive, but this is the real deal and a very comprehensive journey. It is demanding of us (we will have to do a lot of self study prior) and will give back to us in an even richer way. Sati is an amazing teacher and friend, so I sincerely hope we’re able to make this a reality.
Thank you for taking the time to read this through…and a thousand thank you’s if you feel so compelled to support. For more questions, please write me.