In my mid twenties I lived in a 1 bedroom flat on 15th Street between 8th & 9th Avenues in NYC. I worked for Calvin Klein. Smoked American Spirits. Chocolate chip banana muffins were a breakfast standard. I drank 2 to 3 espressos a day. Traveled around the United States on an expense account. Latte in the afternoon. Went to fancy restaurants wearing very fancy black clothes. I drank top shelf tequila... on the rocks. I was living the life.
Outwardly, I was doing 'awesome' and looked 'great'. My inner life, though, was a fast moving storm of panic, anxiety, thoughts of worthlessness & eruptions of anger. Twenty years, much therapy & countless acupuncture treatments later I am able to layer words onto my experience. Then, though, I was lost in the hot winds of my thoughts. To have met me then you would not have known how adrift I felt. I was a master at hiding. Even from myself. In some ways, we are all masters at hiding from our inner life.
An interest in yoga, meditation, Buddhism, Ayurveda & natural healing were borne out of my desperation to feel better. I started taking yoga classes at a gym on the lower west side. I began a daily sitting practice. Weeks and months into the practice, I began to notice that my mind was more spacious after I sat. My racing thoughts slowed. It was gradual shifts like these that fed my desire to learn more about alternative modalities of healing.
I never considered medication, nor was I given a label such as PTSD, 'chronic depression', 'bi-polar'... etc. In some ways, I wish that I had been given a diagnosis as a means of understanding myself. Labels can be validating. I have also seen, though, how they can constrict. I have also wondered how medication might have supported me during that time of my life. Perhaps, it would have bestowed much needed space so that I could begin to attend to my inner life. That wasn't my Dao though. Instead, I forged ahead in my attempts to heal myself.
In the fall of 1999 I left NYC and moved back to Maryland. My loyal cadre of symptoms - anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive thinking, exhaustion - came along with me. I continued practicing yoga & meditating with some sense of relief but it wasn't a magic wand. There is no magic wand.
Or is there?
As I type I am remembering that I offer myself the wand each time I face my life with kindness & compassion. The wand extends itself to me in the open ears and kind heart of a friend. The wand shimmers & sparkles in heart-centered community which is why I am intent on creating spaces where people can gather and be authentic. The wand grows larger each time I FEEL the feelings in my body and observe my thoughts while not attaching to them. This is the magic. There is no singular wand but each of is a wand unto ourselves, our loved ones & to the world.