Tuesday, December 06, 2011

my journey to bliss

At the young and impressionable age of twenty five I began my quest for contentment and bliss. At the time I had achieved a lot, especially so coming from the modest family I did. I managed to remove myself from my Appalachian roots and get myself away to college. I graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University .

I did the unthinkable. I left the state of Kentucky and moved away to Texas for a job soon after completing my master’s program. Andy, my fiancĂ©e (and now husband) at the time stayed in school and completed his degree. Within a year of starting my job and at the age of twenty three, Andy and I were married and we did what couples do next, bought a three bedroom house with a two car garage and settled in the suburbs of Houston.

I channeled all my physical and mental energy to become what I thought was successful. Success must look completely different than everything I knew as a child I thought. I advanced in my job quickly and was promoted two times. Anything I lacked from my childhood years I was making up for. I actually had freedom and the money to do things I’d never been able to do before. It was a whole new world.

Everything was great except I felt alone and deeply discontented.

I was also very confused. I had worked so hard to have all the things I had. I was at the place I had always imagined as perfection. I told myself I should be more grateful for my husband, home, opportunities, and general abundance. I was one of the fortunate ones in my family after all. If happiness wasn’t found in my home, marriage, and job then where would I find it?

Rumi says, “You are a sea of gnosis hidden in a drop of dew,
You are a whole universe hidden in a sack of blood.
What are all this world’s pleasures and joys
That you keep grasping at them to make you alive?
Does the sun borrow light from a mote of dust?
Does Venus look for wine from a cracked jug?”

Turns out I was grasping for the things I thought equaled contentment and joy. I wasn’t living in my own accord. I didn’t know myself well enough to know what true joy looked like. I would have to untangle my thoughts and beliefs about what bliss was and what it looked like for me. Not society, my family, and my friends. Not even my husband. I had to define happiness for myself and give myself permission to create and color my own bliss in a way that felt true to my heart.

This was the beginning of a radical time of growth and transformation. It was also the start of my yoga journey. As my world around me unraveled it was my desire to know myself and the meaning of pure joy that helped me keep it together.

My yoga practice was a safe haven during an otherwise treacherous time. It was my yoga practice and the spiritual books I devoured that helped me to open my eyes and allow me to begin seeing life in a whole new light.

Yoga didn’t give me all the answers I desired. As I moved, bended, twisted, stretched, and strengthened I connected to my body in new ways. This felt very different than the exercise I was doing at the gym. I found that by focusing on my body and breath for 75 minutes I was able to disconnect from the endless chatter in my mind that consisted mostly of worries and fears at the time. Yoga helped me to connect deeply to my heart.

From that place I began asking myself, “What is it that I really want for my life?”

Something amazing began to happen. I began to see clearly what I wanted for myself. I was able to identify my hang-ups and my old ways of placing my happiness in the hands of others around me. What I recall most is being excited about my future, something I hadn’t felt for a while. My yoga practice helped me to get a glimpse of the possibilities that existed in my future. It was that time I was able to begin to visualize and define what I wanted my life to look like. It was radically different than what my family history was. It was different than what my beliefs were about what an adult is “supposed” to do in life.

As it turned out what I really wanted my life to look like was radically different than the life I was currently living. I wanted my husband and a handful of treasured friendships I’d created in Texas but that was all.

Rumi says, “Destroy your own house, destroy it now!
Don’t wait one more minute! Pull the whole house down!
A treasure greater than Pharaoh’s is hidden under it.
Go and build with that a million houses!
In the end, whether you like it or not,
Your house will be pulled down and destroyed,
And the treasure under it revealed.”

I would need to destroy my house if I wanted to discover the treasure underneath it. That was the path I chose. Part of me was nervous and scared as hell, but a bigger part of me knew this was the way.

I was setting off on a journey to bliss.


Mia said...

What a beautiful picture of you, Sharon! So full of emotion. Loved reading your "journey to bliss". Thank you for the reminder that the journey isn't always easy, but in the end it's worth it!

Bethany Hurley said...

What a gorgeous photo! Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, Sharon. Its timeliness is perfect for me and for many others, I imagine.