Throughout my life I have often felt a sense of urgency – to get to University, to get a job as a Solicitor, to run faster, to be thinner, fitter, to stand on my head, to earn enough money to buy a house, to meet a man and have babies, to have good holidays but work hard enough to retire at a reasonable age (before this became practically impossible in the UK). And at some point throughout all of that I was to obtain happiness, a sense of purpose and satisfaction during this exhausting ‘gift’ of life. It’s fair to say at many stages I’ve wanted a refund.
Now, I know I’ve been swanning around with my backpack since October but I am not a work shy person – I think it’s my nature (apparently I have a significant amount of Mars & Sun energy – whaddya mean I’m feisty?) but also, in part, from my upbringing – a mother who encouraged my independence and autonomy and a stepfather who entered the RAF at 17 (who makes the bed with hospital corners like no one else), who still works full time at 69 and who believes `if a job is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right`. I’ve always tried hard to do this life right.
As you may already know, about three years ago, in the midst of insomnia, panic attacks and stress, I began to question the purpose of my life, of where I was heading (apart from to the GP regularly) and what the point of it all was. I had seemed to stagnate and was festering in a flow of working too hard and beginning to feel too old to ‘play out’ as hard. There was something missing. And through yoga I found a map to a yoga mat which over time led to a large flashing arrow pointing to a spiritual life. Then to a thunderbolt moment that there was indeed something MORE than the daily dirge. And in my relief, excitement and all that Mars energy I ploughed head first into that – building a business, building community and contacts, finding and setting up my own studio and building a new life for myself on what I thought were firmer foundations. It was only after I reached a ‘successful’ peak of working 6-7 days a week, working 3 jobs, taking no holiday (as I was building a business) that I began to suspect things were not as zen or any calmer than they had been in my first life this life.
The restlessness I have felt, the loneliness I have felt, has been hidden, buried deep under a dogged work ethic, a need to please people (or at least avoid their disappointment) and an endless thirst to understand myself and my purpose in this life. This unease would be brought to the fore with every break up, every apparent obstacle in my way and during illness when vulnerability crept in. It has been with me wherever I go, work, travel and play. It has been with me on the comedown of a fantastic holiday, or a fantastic date. It is the shadow as I remember how much I miss my friends and parts of my life in London, and selfishly, it has been triggered at each and every wedding of friends and family and with the birth of all the scrummy babies around me. And, it has haunted me for much of my travels as I have sat with the frustration that my way back home, and my way back into work remains unclear.
Yesterday, I had the honour of marking my 35th tour around the Sun. I celebrated all day culminating in an evening meal of an utterly horrendous veg sandwich and 8 chips. A meal to forget. A dear friend messaged me wishing me well, but also letting me know it would be perfectly normal if I was freaking out on my new stride towards 40. She knows my neurotic self well. Other friends sent me delicious photos of their babies sending me love & my little nephew sang happy birthday to me on a video (produced and heavily directed by Mother Dearest). And all I felt yesterday was love. I looked at the little bodies of the little people born to friends and family of mine and all I felt was warmth in my heart and wonder at their little selves, smiles and their lives ahead. That at 35 I am happy, content and loved despite the irony that I have nothing of material ‘value’ (except my very precious harmonium which I am dearly attached to). I am staring down my dwindling savings account, I am very much single, unattached and un-pregnant (a phase of womanhood?!). And that all these things have been not so friendly ghosts over the last few years.
But love has spooked the spooks! The greatest gift of my 35 years has been the gift I chose to give myself – the commitment to myself, to remembering to give myself space, time and relaxation. The gift of following my heart back to India and into yoga communities to be held, supported and given the opportunity to explore love, love for myself and God. Bhakti yoga has transformed my heart, my head and my thought processes. It is setting up firmer foundations than I allowed myself on my last tour of India. That love, mantra, positive thinking and gratitude has eroded so much of the negative self talk and limiting beliefs that kept me caught up like a dog repetitively circling and chewing its tail of lack, comparison and worry.
In December last year, my Guru gave me the name Kīrtan Devī which means devotional surrender. And as I sit and reflect on the last 7 months of travel, of yoga, of freedom from the shackles of ‘should’, of freedom from focussing on the ‘lack’ of things I have in my life (job, income, man, babies, avocados), I realise how surrender has helped me find peace with all I have now and all that I am. That surrender into love, the love of God, has helped me become a little more gracious in accepting my path so far, and the belief that whatever comes next for me is in my highest good – even if it involves a three night stay in one of Delhi’s delightful hospitals.
I do not know what will happen to me today, tomorrow, next month, never mind, next year. I do not know if I will meet someone and share a healthy human experience of love which has been pretty much denied to me this life, so far (karma is a bitch to work off sometimes). I do not know if I will ever carry, birth and love my own baby. But as much as I know I still want these things, I also know now that I am and will be happy without them. Because I am happy without them! That there is so much more available to me if I keep open to love in all its forms. That this life, in however it unfolds, is a gift, and that there are many ways to love, and to mother (I’ve been mothering friends of mine for years!) and that love is always available to me in this life. It is the source of life. And my life purpose is spiritual growth. And it has been the denial of those experiences I have longed for that has led me to this moment, to this understanding, to this soft feeling of peace (which I am trying not to scare away). For me, my life appears to be about sharing the truth in my heart with anyone of you who cares to listen. It’s about hopefully inspiring you to take a different look at your life and how you treat yourself too. It is about continuing to do the work, the practice, the mantra recitation, and keeping hope and faith in the greater good even on the difficult days, on the days I still feel a little lost. It’s about staying present, staying calm and knowing that the energy that connects us all, that feeds us all, feeds and sustains this life is love. And that in love, we are safe, loved, and provided with all that we need (including avocados).
So roll on 40, roll on life. I am enjoying and learning so much from the ride.
Namaste & thank you for reading.
Kīrtan Devī xx