“Any pain can be endured as long as it has meaning.” Haruki Murakami
I always felt like someone out there. Despite these feelings, I have been relatively successful at playing the game of life and have survived school, college and work.
I have been fortunate enough to have healthy and supportive relationships with a few loved ones who have accepted me for who I am (habits, etc.). I suspect that I am perceived as inexplicably normal and harmless by everyone else I meet.
Like many of us who struggle with mental health, I have always wanted to know more about who I am beyond the surface level experience of life. And in my quest for truth, I explored different modalities. I finally found a place within a small yoga community.
Many of us seekers feel deeply and tend to simply overcomplicate things. that isIn my opinion, this style of yoga worked. Simply put, I believe that following my practices has made my life a little easier, made me feel more acceptable, and made me a better person to the people around me.
The more I practiced, the more I began to notice the pitfalls. As with many spiritual lineages, it is not the methods or teachings that are prone to error, but how humans interpret and relate them.
In my particular lineage, leaders were found to have physically and sexually assaulted students over a period spanning decades. It took years for the community (by and large) to finally admit the truth.
The revelation and realization that leaders are prone to error caused great distress to many during this period. Sadly, this is not limited to spiritual sangha.
At this point, some conversations took place about student-teacher relationships and the propensity for abuse in our lineage, but no cohesive collective safeguards were established or defined. During the period, a small fringe community developed in an apparent commitment to change. But that was never the status quo.
At this point the leader had left the body and many seemed to feel that the problem was only with this man and therefore gone.
I loved the practice and felt that my knowledge of bloodline history enabled me to recognize the tendencies of harmful force dynamics to occur. We have been blessed with teachers who seem only to support their students by sharing what they know.
For the first time, I didn’t feel like an outsider. I felt accepted for who I am. But sadly, my teacher transferred, so I joined a new community with a new teacher. This is where my pain story begins.
My new teacher must have been in pain. The details of my experience are not relevant to this article, but I now understand that I was bullied, disrespected and manipulated. Did I ask too many questions? Was it too direct? Maybe I wasn’t persistent enough? Over and over in my head I tried to figure out, why me?
I still loved practicing and wanted to be welcomed like everyone else. On the other hand, I can only assume that the teacher got tired of playing with me and played the last card, expelling me from the group and expelling me. I was also labeled by the community as abusive and aggressor.
And oh, it set off a cycle of emotions. Things put down on paper like this are just words, but I promise they felt intense, consuming and relentless. …
-Humiliation: I received a false report. I can never show my face again. People don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong.
-Shame: Why am I an outcast? Something must really be wrong with me.
-Rage: Why did someone hurt me so much? Why do they claim to be spiritual leaders?
– Outrage: No one in the community is standing up for me. No one is a good person to let this happen.
-Grief: I lost a practice I really loved. my heart is broken
– Depression: My path gave me purpose.
After that my life fell apart and I can honestly say that the period that followed was the darkest of my life.
We all experience the world through our own lenses. I understand that I have personal flaws that can cloud my experience of the situation. No teacher will match my personality perfectly, but that’s okay. However, it must provide a safe and inclusive space for spiritual discovery. I wasn’t given that and it wasn’t enough.
A well-being supporter has told me this many times. I get it, but I don’t know what to do.
At the time, a good friend of mine was recovering from alcoholism and was working on the 12 Steps. She told me that she prays every day for those who have hurt her.
“How can you do that?” I remember asking her. “I couldn’t wish the people who hurt me well.” My friend didn’t believe what he was saying at first, but over time, he became more compassionate towards those people. He told me that he came to feel forgiveness.
that’s what i did. I made a commitment to myself to start practicing forgiveness meditation daily.
First, I worked on forgiving my teacher. I learned more about this teacher’s past and learned about the significant life events that seem to have caused him great distress. Over time, I was able to understand and accept that her behavior towards me came from a place of hurt.
I also spent time reflecting on the positive things my teacher gave me. She acknowledged how she has preserved virtual space for our community through the COVID-19 lockdown. I am grateful that she introduced me to several authors. It has helped me advance my asana practice.
It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually I found room in my heart for compassion for this teacher. However, I was not completely cured.
I began to see deeper hurt and anger directed at other community members lying around. Some members were aware of this abuse and either denied it or chose to do nothing, believing it had nothing to do with them.
It was through those interactions that I began to understand the pain of victim denial and gaslighting. Holding toxic teachers accountable and implementing better safeguards to keep students safe I was outraged by the lack of collective action by the community to help.
That’s what my current practice is focused on — healing and forgiving institutional betrayals.
I’m lucky to be part of a new community that feels friendlier. It took time, but I can now separate my feelings about yoga from the hurt I felt from people in the yoga community.
I now realize that many of the people who silenced me when I tried to speak up about my teacher were simply ignorant. They weren’t cruel. It still hurts, but as time goes on you will see how gifted this experience is. It taught me how to find forgiveness and reminded me of the importance of compassion for all beings.