With self-awareness, my understanding and a gradual accepting of who I am and what I need to maintain comfort in this sometimes over-stimulated body that I inhabit have grown. It’s been a long haul, and it’s not over yet.
Growing up in a raucous household of eight was no easy task for me. I had two older brothers and three younger sisters. Both of our parents worked, and when my father wasn’t working, he was drinking. To say that we lived in chaos was an understatement. We kids were often left on our own, and we took out our frustrations of living in a way-too-small, cramped house and having absentee parents on each other and usually at the top of our lungs. Fights were common among us as we grappled with and brawled our way through our days. These conditions left me feeling very ashamed and embarrassed and added greatly to my sensitive, self-conscious nature. My introversion gripped even tighter as I entered school, and my socializing was quite limited, mainly due to my own reticence to invite anyone to my home.
Miraculously though, the six of us kids found a common ground as we grew into adults and turned ourselves toward searching for meaning in our lives, which took the form of delving into books that opened our eyes to new ways of looking at the world and eventually learning yoga and meditation.
So, what did this now young woman, who craved her own space and quietude more than anything in the world, do? Why, she moved into an ashram (communal spiritual community), of course, which housed between 15 and 20 other people, all at varying degrees of dysfunction, trying their damnedest to find some stability and meaning in their lives. And so it began, my indoctrination into self-discovery, which soon included marriage and two baby girls. At the center of our ashram experience was our daily sadhana, or spiritual practice, which consisted of early morning yoga and meditation sessions. I learned service, humility, and reverence and gained great strides in learning to coexist fairly peaceably with my fellow beings on the path. Our practice facilitated a feeling of balance and strength that I had never known before.
As an adult, I also learned that I have an autonomic nervous system disorder that explained much of my nervousness and anxiety-ridden childhood…and which continues to this day. I also explored some books written for those who grew up with an alcoholic in the family, which shed even more light on my own behaviors and feelings that reflected my struggle to cope. I’ve had many aha moments throughout the years.
The insights have been great blessings, and I know that I’ve grown in ways that I never imagined when I was that small girl battling to find my identity and firm footing in a rocky and confusing household. I now recognize that there was a physical component as well as an intense emotional one that worked to “create” me. But through grace, knowledge, and some very profound spiritual shifts, I came out the other side with greater appreciation and compassion for who I am today. And maybe more importantly, I have more of an acceptance of my need for quiet and calm in a sometimes very loud and unruly world.
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