Becoming the Oak Tree

Some years ago I was listening to a woman recovering from an eating disorder talking about the thing that drove her to get well.

"When an acorn turns into an oak tree," she explained, "there are two forces at work. One is the scientific part, the photosynthesis and mineral component of the soil. But the other part is the future oak tree that wills the little acorn to keep going."

She went on to say that even in the hell of her eating disorder, as she listened to the demons that told her she was worthless and needed to inflict a living death upon herself, there was a part of her- a better, future self- that also knew she deserved better. And her recovery started when she began to listen to that voice more often, and not the other one.

I identified readily with what she said. That was my own experience of starting to recover from addictions; somewhere deep within, there had always been a little voice that said 'you can do so much better than this'.

I've been thinking about this a lot with relation to yoga lately. Recovering from any kind of addiction is aligning yourself with your dharma. And so is ending a relationship that doesn't serve you, or leaving a job that you never felt that you were quite cut out for. Often, in these cases, life has a way of stepping in and making these things happen for you. How many of us can look back on a lover that broke up with us to our devastation, or a job we were made redundant from and became depressed, only to realise now how it was the best thing that could have happened at the time?

Many people that I know from my days in twelve step groups went on to become addiction counsellors; if that's not a perfect example of dharma and artha working together then I don't know what is. My own journey as a yoga teacher came from a similar place- I recognised how much healing yoga had brought me and wanted to pass that on to other people.

Michelangelo famously said that he didn't carve David- he released him from the marble that encased him. Somewhere within all of us is that masterpiece waiting to get out. For me, yoga has been the tool that chips away, day by day, to free myself.