It is hard to believe that 6 years ago, my life and those of my fellow Hokie friends were dramatically shifted due to the unexpected and heartbreaking shootings that occurred on Virginia Tech’s campus. Six years ago today marks the beginning of the redirection of my path.
The days, weeks, months, and years that followed this day have been extremely transformative. People who have not experienced traumas do not realize the full extent of what they mean. Your entire world changes, including your friendships, dreams, possibilities for career, and willingness to confront the present moment. All the plans I had for my life shifted. And the fears I had to confront were phenomenal, beginning with, How will I survive now?
The traumatic shootings that took place on April 16, 2007 and the difficult times that followed led me first, to a path of self-destruction, anxiety, and depression. I was disillusioned, angry, volatile, resentful, and I didn’t want to talk about it. I had lost my trust in life itself, even though at the same time I still completely trusted that God would somehow lead me through it all. I was living in a psychologically and emotionally contradictory state, which made me even more desperate. There wasn’t a place I could hide in my head about this. Little did I know that chaos is a classic precursor to transformation.
As time went on, I found myself more and more distant from those I loved and from my own work. Eventually, my mentor stepped in and encouraged me to attend a mindfulness meditation group that had been organized specifically for those of us who were present during the shootings and wanted to heal. After several sessions of mindfulness meditation and yoga asana, I felt calmer and as though I could now begin to confront my feelings and my new relationship to life. I began to open to a path of self-healing and self-transformation through the power of a daily practice of Ashtanga yoga and meditation.
The path of healing dark patterns of illness has not been easy and I tend to revisit the dark spaces on occasion. At first, I had to rely on the strength of my faith to get through this, and my faith wasn’t that strong when this happened. During my recovery, I felt dark emotions I didn’t want to accept I had in me, such as jealousy at other people’s ability to move on from this experience. The hardest thing I ever had to do was to work my way through these feelings and to come out the other end a person who still saw purpose and potential in her life. I learned, through the practice, how to draw on my own reserves of inner strength and integrity to establish myself as worthy, capable, and a powerful conduit of change. I learned how to experience, through my body and breath, my own ability to protect myself, not only because I could respond honestly to my feelings through my body, but also because I knew I could move past the discomfort into a place of ease. I learned how to deal with the consequences of being honest with myself. My whole internal attitude toward my life underwent a remarkable transformation. It’s amazing how your world changes when you discover that you can honestly take care of yourself.
To this day, yoga continues to provide me the opportunity to practice and cope with all that I feel I do not deserve, good or bad, in ways that empower me, and to pursue as best I can the development of my highest potential in all endeavors. Yoga hasn’t solved all the darkness in my life, of course. Rather it has given me the tools to honestly explore and live fully in the mysteries, traumas, and affections while discovering myself one piece at a time.
– Marie Belle