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Opening Your Heart to What Was Already There

On a recent morning, I found myself looking through my journal of notes, thoughts, and anatomy diagrams, to find a reflection on a mantra meditation session during my yoga teacher training. This was my first ever attempt at the practice of the miracle of meditation.

I recall that I had a breakthrough—through discomfort, and through cramping limbs. It was the commencement of the second half of the Kundalini practice that marked a profound turning point for me. It was a clear mental shift. The tedious, repetitive movements and long-held positions were no longer just physical endurance but were indeed rustling up something deep inside.

Something that felt like it had been covered up and buried under layers of dried up fall leaves for many years, deep in the pit of my stomach. That something remained but a vague idea, an uncatchable essence, that—once its existence was realized—loomed above my head and swirled violently. All this time it was calmly sitting, and waiting for me to discover it. 

Hari Gopal, our petite-framed, but energetically explosive guide, asked us to think of our legacy of goodness on this Earth. She invited us to visualize all the good that we had left on this planet in our time—a trail of positive deeds manifested and bookended by our existence. That did it. The rush of physical aches hit the wall of unlocking many surprising things for me.  

The first vision took over so vividly. It was my childhood self, on the last day of pre-school—a culmination of my many young efforts and attempts to understand the world and my place in it at the ripe age of 4. I stood, hugging Kevin under a tree. He was my self-proclaimed boyfriend of the time, and there I was, in my fancy giraffe-print skirt holding him so tightly. The clear picture projected in my mind as if on a movie screen, and I took a back seat to watch the feature with dumbfounded wonder at the randomness of the subject and what it meant.

Kevin had not been a major force in my life (I honestly can't even remember his name), nor did the memory count as even a blip in my personal history before its random emergence. Why was this scene, of all possible scenes—so vibrantly exact, yet completely random—triggered when Hari asked us to envision our legacy? The story that wove through the image and answered the question suddenly became clear: my legacy was the unabashed willingness to provide unconditional love without judgment.

In this memory, I hugged him tightly, even when he did not care, when all he probably wanted was to do what all four-year-old boys do: play. Still, I smiled and held him as if to say; this hug will linger even when it's done. I hugged him just in case years from then he'd need that love in its simplest form.

My memory of that moment had never held any meaning before. I had always remembered him as a silly crush; a cute moment for our parents to gush about for years to come. If anything, I was probably a little ego-bruised and embarrassed looking back. Time and social construct quickly taught me to be careful in putting all of myself out there or to wear my heart and passions too naturally on my sleeve. That was probably the last time I loved out in the open so genuinely and unconcerned.

Then, there was another vision like that—another hold or hug. I thought of my dad one time when he cried—it was the first time I ever saw him break down. It was the night Kalei, my sister, wailed over the apartment my dad had tried so hard to decorate and make homey after my parents were divorced. I remember how the coconut-lime candles, with their hue of happy tropical green, slowly lost their cheer. That night seemed like the world came crashing down for all of us. So messy, so bright with emotion—the pain and anger of misunderstood efforts.  

It was the first time that I understood the sensation of being helplessly out of control; the first time that something told me to close my eyes and to go inside to depend on and trust myself. Remembering my dad's face that night, bright red and unable to look me in the eye for more than a second, I wanted, as a foreign source of love, just to hug him. I wanted to hold my sister, who couldn't seem to understand the why of it all. And I wanted to hold three of us together—to reassure that efforts were not wasted; that it would be OK one day, and that, in fact, love was underneath all of the pain.

The cries came from the loss of some other familial love and the frustration of trying to communicate love through our very different languages. I had blocked that memory from my mind. What could come next during this session? I watched...

The third thing I saw took me on a ride that I would never have anticipated. Everything shone gold. Then, there was my mom, hugging me so tightly. I felt an unbelievable amount of love. I felt it first, the golden hug as if it held my entire heart or my essence in its hand—her hand. It spoke as if it never had the chance to before, but like it had been trying to communicate. "Oh, sweet baby." Comforting the tears that were about to come.

We both knew what was released, for we had been waiting for this moment to meet again. "You've given me everything. You were my everything. I love you infinitely, and you have loved me so." She didn't say "You loved me in the way I couldn't love myself," which I had thought about many a time before. Instead, she was teaching me, solidifying my legacy, redirecting me to my purpose as a soul, here on earth. I was able to see like I never had before, that I had given both my parents so much by merely holding a particular space in their lives without even trying. 

My being able to play that part as their daughter continues to be my most authentic legacy—to see how I've infused, indefinitely, love and the realization of it, into the lives of two humans to the extent that I have, feels like the biggest blessing I've ever had. It has been undoubtedly, my highest purpose. It's not to say I'm amazing, or I've done so much, but instead, I was picked by a universal force to be a space holder for my parents—to be a part of my family's experience—that is the magic of it.

Strangely, this made me realize the connection to my parents as humans, and that any soul could have held my place. I don't think I'd be able to see that if I didn't travel spiritually through the times when love was a challenge—back to situations when it was easier to be angry than to believe that love existed.

The pain of witnessing the loss of my mom in my life has taught me to savor the short experiences we have with the people we briefly come across on our path. It's different than the idea of 'count your blessings,' or 'appreciate the things you have in life,' or 'live life to the fullest.' Instead, it is to remember your temporality by acknowledging your purpose, to keep searching for it, and to live by it.  

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