How will you react when your life starts to crumble and the illusion of control over what is most important in your world is taken away from you for good?
Not so long ago I got the opportunity to experience this, when my ‘perfect life’ fell into many discordant pieces.
My husband and I were a successful dual career couple with two healthy,intelligent and beautiful children.
Then our marriage broke up.
In the midst of a difficult separation, we received a phone call from our daughter’s school. We were asked to immediately come and talk to the school councilors as they were extremely worried about our 15 year old daughter. It turned out, our daughter had self-harmed herself, had suffered from anxiety attacks and depression, apparently for years. We had been clueless, the entire time our daughter was miserable, she’d been hiding her problems from us until she simply couldn’t anymore.
This was the beginning of a long time of despair and agony for all of us. With the initial treatments things only deteriorated and soon our child needed to be hospitalized to protect her from her suicidal urges.
Worrying about how you would handle such a situation is not very useful, but there are things you can do to ‘prepare’ yourself like honing your resilience skills.
Changes are certain to challenge us, what we want to hold on will disappear and relationships will end. As parents we want to protect our children from harm, we would gladly suffer all the illnesses in the world if that would keep our offspring healthy, but unfortunately that’s not how it works. Constant worrying is useless and overprotective parenting counterproductive. So how can you strengthen yourself for tough times?
This is where yoga comes into the picture – and here I am talking about the science of yoga, the entire philosophy including the spiritual and meditative aspects. I first got exposed to yoga asana (the physical aspect of yoga) shortly after the birth of my daughter and it was love at first ‘practice’. Never particularly into sports or my body in general, this first asana practice literally awakened me to my own body and I distinctly remember how wonderful it felt when all the parts of my being (physical, emotional, and mental) were for once in harmony. This experience made me realize that for much of my life I had been living ‘next’ to my body, barely feeling what was really going on inside me. The first years I attended yoga classes twice a week, which at the time felt very helpful as I was going through a stressful time raising two small children while finishing a PhD.
The body is only the beginning, after years of asana practice, my awareness began to grow beyond my limited physical experience, my senses sharpened and I became more keenly aware of what was going on around me. I started to let go of judgment and increasingly felt more connected with myself and all living things surrounding me.
After many years of yoga asana, including a teacher training (where I was taught about the entire yoga philosophy including the associated ancient traditions) and workshops all over the world,another aspect of the yoga practice became increasingly important: meditation. I was fortunate to find the right guidance from a number of very experienced yoga masters who helped me establish a dedicated daily practice.
Sincere yoga practice bears fruits with time, I am now a much more balanced, compassionate and easy going person than I was 16 years ago. Some of this comes naturally with age and maturity,but the ability to center, find stillness and wisdom within is very much the result of many years of dedicated yoga practice. How have these qualities enhanced my capacity to recover with ease from difficulties?
When our daughter was first diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder I was initially in denial. I thought that it must be a mistake; there was no way she suffered from so many things without us noticing anything. Yes, she had increasingly been hiding in her room, but isn’t that a normal teenage thing? Her grades were good until the end when she finally stopped hiding the truth from us. Therapy, medication and one year residential treatment followed and there were times when my heart almost broke.
But there were also times when I could glimpse a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel.Throughout this time I kept going back to my yoga mat and meditation cushion where I found the grace to let go of wanting to control and change the situation, where I was able to let go of feeling guilty for somehow having failed as a parent, and where I found the blessings that still were in my life.
We still have work ahead of us, our daughter is not considered completely well, but she is thankfully doing much better. One thing is certain: I don’t know how I would have handled this very challenging time without my practice. I am eternally grateful to all my teachers that passed on their wisdom based on the ancient philosophy of yoga.
Written byMarcella Dean
Marcella Dean was born and raised in Switzerland and has lived in the US, Borneo and the Netherlands. She is the mother of two teenagers and is currently employed in the Oil and Gas industry in the Netherlands, providing geophysical expertise to the storage and containment R&D program. She holds a degree in Graphic Design, a BS in Geology, MS and PhD in Applied Physics.Her motivation to contribute actively to mitigate climate change is a direct result of her committed yoga asana and meditation practice.