When I began studying yoga philosophy back in 2011, Madonna’s Ray Of Light album was on repeat. The album, in it’s entirety, told a story that represented where I was at that time in my life. Songs like Frozen, The Power Of Goodbye, and To Have And Not To Hold were reflective of the relationship I was in at the time; Nothing Really Matters, summarizing my life; Sky Fits Heaven, sending me messages from the angels about my journey(*); and the most powerful song, Swim, about rebirth and most importantly, cleansing of the past.
The lyrics “I can’t carry these sins on my back, don’t wanna carry any more” and “let the water wash over you, wash it all over you … so that we can begin again, wash away all our sins” resonated with me as I became aware of the mindless path I was on, acting from wounds from the past in my (at the time) present. The reflections of different periods in my life and the guilt I felt about the actions that, after stepping away and examining them and my intentions, literally made me cringe as shame filled my entire being.
What’s interesting is even after all the work I’ve done, both on and off the mat, all the reading and workshops and healings, etc, I still feel moments of guilt and shame around my actions of the past. I became aware of this need to cleanse myself, but I didn’t really know what or how. I thought a lot had to do with needing to change my entire life completely, so back in 2011 (in the midst of my yoga journey) when I was relieved of a position for one of the companies I worked for, I took it as a sign to start to do away with the old parts of me that weren’t in line with my truth. Shortly after that was the end of an almost 4 year relationship (I feel as though I still have some issues to sort around that), and a restructuring of my day-to-day life. New job, new social life, new clothes, new me … right? Not quite.
As I ran away from hurt I felt from the loss of job and relationship, I thought I had found what I was looking for – the release of the sins from my back. As I sought out to wash myself of these “sins,” I was encountered by questions from people as to what these sins were. Was it one of the seven deadly sins, or did I break one of the ten commandments? I wouldn’t have gone that far … some of those are pretty serious. But there was still something deep inside I felt I needed to wash away.
I travelled near and far to find the cleanse I was looking for. While in Puerto Rico in January 2012 I thought if I swam 20 minutes from a little tiny island to a tiny tiny speck of an island called Palomino, it would happen (after all, Madonna’s lyrics were “crash to the other shore”). When I heard there were sharp rocks and the bottom and I’d have no place to top for a snack on my 20 minute swim, I kiboshed that idea. I thought I’d find it as I traipsed around Canada teaching people about yoga, but it didn’t wash me clean, only bring up more dirt from the past. What about in India? It must be buried at the foothills of the Himalayans, or running through the river Ganga. I got a little spritz, but was feeling more of a need for a power wash. Through all this though, I still wasn’t sure what I was trying to cleanse.
was forced to read picked up a copy of “A New Earth“ by Eckhart Tolle. I tried to read this once before in 2010 (snooze), then again in 2012 (via audio book, but man I can’t handle his voice), but now I’m getting a clear message to “read the bloody book already” (my angels get a little testy with me sometimes), and this is where it all began to make sense. Tolle says “sin is a word that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted … It means to live unskilfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering.” Ah ha! That’s it … that’s the sin I’m trying to rid myself of.
As I become more aware of my actions, I recognize that I can catch myself in moments when “the old me” (the one who didn’t know better) would react a certain way. It’s as though “the new me” (who understands cause and effect at a much higher level) can see he’s about to say something stupid, elbows him in the gut to shut him up, and takes over the situation. This transmutes whatever “the old me” was about to do into love for everyone in the situation, thus avoiding any new guilt or shame from being created. But for some reason, it’s the old guilt and shame I’m trying to figure out how to wash away.
I’ve been told to exercise self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, and I’m quite aware of those things, but how do I put them into action? I know hard work and determination and have used those to achieve all I have in the last 3 years (and trust me, running from pain isn’t easy) but why haven’t I yet activated these tools to clear the past? Why am I hurt knowing that I hurt others long ago? And why haven’t I forgiven myself for not knowing better, when (I’m hoping) they have, and moved on from it?
This road I’m on has been full of all sorts of surprises, and the more I find out about who I am and what I need to do, the more I discover I know nothing at all and have so much more to learn. That right there is the beauty – the more knowledge I’ve gained, the more knowledge there is to discover. I love it! I guess this is where the cleansing begins. Accepting the past, having hope for the future, and being mindful in the present moment … and realizing there’s just so much more to learn.
“Nothing takes the past away like the future. Nothing makes the darkness go like the light.” At the end of the day, love is all there is …
(*) True story: When I was driving home from one of my Yoga Teacher Trainings, I was listening to Sky Fits Heaven and singing along “travelling down my own road, watching the signs as I go” when I looked out the window and saw a man holding a sign that says “Jesus heals!” How fitting as this was the time I felt the urgency in clearing the past.