By Aida Muturia
It’s hard to know how or where to start a story like this one.
Deep inside, I am overwhelmed that I was and am the character who has played, interacted and entangled with the roles I’m about to enumerate and yet, occasionally, in a very real sense, feel an actual sense of separation from it, a freedom even. A momentary awareness where everything is there and I’m here and I am watching it. Not always, but it’s beautiful when it happens.
The week preceding my arrival from India on 3rd March, 2021, where I had been for the better of 2019 to 2021, changed my life and my perception of life altogether, completely. It didn’t happen in a burst. It wasn’t forceful. Neither was it subtle. But it was absolute in its pursuit to separate me from my past, unequivocally and never ever to look back.
I came home from India where I had been for the past almost two years for what I’d probably call the great escape of my life which ended up being the most incredible spiritually altering experience that exposed me to encounters I would never have imagined possible in this lifetime and yet heralded me into a snafu that was to alter the trajectory of my life, probably forever.It catapulted me into a space I am yet to understand, adjust to and accept as a growth point, because it couldn’t be any other way given the rapid turn of events.
I had messed up a big opportunity a couple of months prior. Atleast that’s what I thought. And I came home knowing full well that I’m coming to nothing. Nothing in the sense, I didn’t have a job, business or income generating activity and did not have a plan as to how I would make things happen.
The build up to that trip home was full of dread and tension; an almost mental debilitation from the thought of not knowing what life would present next. Because in a lot or ways, that opportunity was my ticket out of suffering – the survival game – which was what mostly caused me to escape in the first place, only to come back and feel, I had circled round and come back to the same spot- an upgraded version, but one nonetheless.
In a series of events, my sojourn to India propelled me into a prestigious training in classical yoga, a desire to learn and offer ancient classical yoga in its purest form, as a teacher.
It was a rigorous and intense 5-month process.
I quit in the fourth month, three weeks before the convocation, for reasons to date I consider frivolous, yet it felt as if there was an unmistakable mental and emotional disconnection at the time, in the moment that I did. It seems as if I quit, but in the grand cosmic scale, a bigger set of cards was yet to comeinto play.
And that week in reference, as if the dread literally played itself out, a casual encounter with my younger brother, Mbovu, who’s my immediate follower, and my 84 year old father, Mzee, ignited a screw-up which turned very ugly, very fast and very unexpectedly and threw me off completely in a way I haven’t quite experienced in my life.
I thought I had seen it all.
But most importantly, I thought the profound transformation I had undergone in India had prepared me for this, or at least nearly prepared me, in a way I could handle or at least approach life differently when faced with a situation that threatened to throw me offbalance.
I knew I had encountered my family in their various stripes, many, many times over, but this particular situation seemed intensified in it’s aggression as if to tell me, “Let’s see what you’ve got, you newly christened spiritual seeker!”
And it came at me.
And I fell.
And I failed.
You see, over the years, my family drama had been a series of head butting, gossip and rumour peddling, accusations and counter-accusations, sibling rivalries, cold wars, blatant estrangements, discrimination, separation —inflated egos garnished with pride and moral high grounds, conflicts, addictions — just about anything with a name, in the classic family soap opera!
My family. My father. Add my brother and it became a toxic, potent combination that had the ability to suck you in, suck out everything you think you are or possess, emotionally and energetically and spew you out, deflating you to a point if you were not careful, you would tip the scale of insanity. And believe me, some did! And I’m a part of that family. And we were 17. Now technically, 18, minus 3 who got their wings, a grossly polygamous family where 3 were wives, two died, one walked away, a fourth one who joined later, 50 year gap between her and my father, younger than even the youngest of all of us – 13 siblings, minus 1, who died.
It is, at the politest, a diverse, dysfunctional and broken family where I wonder how I survived, yet gratefully bow down creation with the only prayer worth praying, “Thank you. Because of them, I am here. I breathe and I lived to tell the story.”
I couldn’t have wanted it any other way.
This is my story. Of a life inside and out of this family, drama which I sometimes feel is straight out of a ludicrous collective and mass imagination and one I feel has not quite gotten “fixed” from the previous lifetime, because I trust there was one, or several actually, and this is my comical way of acknowledging that and the fact that, I want to change that narrative, no matter how many times I fall.
Because I have seen that it is possible.
It is a possibility to become a better, happier, more pleasant version of yourself while here, no matter what. And if it’s anything to go by to testify to that, then my story is exactly that. Not remarkable, pales in comparison to many who’ve had it much worse but notwithstanding, one worth telling, if it could bring a little drop of pleasantness to another. Even one.
This is a story not of erasure, nor of closure. But of evolution. Evolving through the past, known and unknown and out of the drama and the dread. Hopefully even, a possibility for the last lifetime. At least for me. A last birth.
American talk show host and television producer, Oprah Winfrey has continually said, “You have to find the truest, highest expression of yourself.” That thing that brings you the greatest fulfilment, that makes your juice flow, that thing that when you do, you’re in your natural self, you don’t even have to get paid for it.
I listened to these clips several tens of times, over and over. But I wasn’t paying attention. The tell-tale signs were always there, knocking, prompting and prodding me to “obey” my calling.
I touched it occasionally.
Picked it up from time to time.
I didn’t think much of it but people noticed it, called it out to me severally, over the years. I often said there was nothing remarkable about it. There were a whole lot of people who do it much more incredibly, better than me. I wasted my time doing the wrong jobs, involved myself in businesses that had no anchor, which I didn’t enjoy, came up with ideas that never set themselves in physicality.
I even undertook the ultimate training of a lifetime in classical hatha yoga which unbeknownst to me was preparing me for this acceptance.
I realized that, above all and beyond, my blood always warmed up when I expressed myself in writing. It was the truest, highest expression of myself. I’m at my best when I’m in that state of expression more than any other I’ve ever known. It was my outlet, my escape, my embrace. My anchor which had always held me up when I felt I was sinking. Even in my deepest, desperate states – and they’ve been many – writing always saved sane.
But all these years, I didn’t fully give in or give myself to the calling. I heard the call, I waggishly flirted with it and entertained itor plainly rugged it under.
I felt like I was such a regular person.
But the call didn’t leave me alone.
The orchestration of events in my life, as a result and I firmly believe, seem to have been tied in with the cumulative resistance of that!
The propensity of the trials grew in depth and dimension. The funniest thing is, I could see that I was striving to grow, I was improving myself in a lot of ways, but I wasn’t stepping out of my patterns. Something kept drawing me back. What I found, I couldn’t hold. I was in and out of pleasant states. But still, I didn’t get it.
It took pain.
A lot of pain.
First it was depression for a period of over 16 years. I gave it an excuse for so long until it became my identity. I isolated myself from the world, stayed indoors, consumed insane amounts of alcohol, daily. I was in a hangover, daily. I smoked a park of cigarettes daily. I didn’t shower for days until I couldn’t stand the stench of my own body! I binged on pizzas and french fries and roasted meat. And then yours truly, my alcohol. I slept for more than 18 hrs a day, spent most of my 24 hours in my bedroom where curtains were drawn more than they were open. I since stopped participating in productive activity and I shut down. I wanted to die every day. I wanted it to end. But I didn’t want pain.
Eventually I got the opportunity to go to India, which at first was an escape, but slowly, I started to find myself again. My journey of healing began. I found yoga and it connected me with another dimension of life beyond my physical, mental and emotional boundaries.
Yoga saved my life!
And then it was time to come home, after almost two years. And everything I learnt and imbibed was thrown into the den of trial.
I came face to face with the things, people and places I was accustomed to and had left behind, people being their nasty, unconscious selves, oblivious to the very fundamental of life, the awareness of just breathing, being alive. People were talking the same way they used to talk. Doing the things they used to do. Judging and criticizing and blaming and shaking everything and everyone as the problem, except themselves!
Oh! The familiar!
They notice that something about you had changed, but they hadn’t. And they wanted to suck you in.
I noticed the sheer unconsciousness with which life was still being lived.
It’s as if I expected magic to happen because I felt like a brand new person.
So here I was. Seeing life from a different perspective, having a seemingly better perception of things, life, from my lens. But outside, nothing had changed. It actually seemed a little worse than I left, but the same. And it became the fight for my life. It seemed that way. And between weeping uncontrollably in private and long nights of sleeplessness, a new upsurge of headaches which I recognized as stress, an incessant, piercing scream from inside, for the infinite intelligence that is the creator to help me and eventually, a slow withdrawal from participation in the drama that was around me, into silence – I knew for the first time in my life, profoundly so, that my pain had hit its peak and I was trying to give birth to something.
It was the moment that Dr. Michael Beckwith, spiritual teacher and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center’s words, “Pain pushes until the vision pulls”, finally became experiential from the plane of perception. Apparently that pain, that daily struggle was the universe pushing me towards my calling.
For the first time, I recognized my pain literally, in its ugliness. It was a barrage of unfulfilling jobs, a professional career cut short by my own personal drama, an unrelieved promiscuity and unsatiated desire for men to satisfy me, perpetual brokeness and an inability to bring ideas or opportunities to life, a yearning for a loving relationship, a disconnection with everything around me, resentment and deep unconscious hatred towards my family, especially my father and generally, a fogginess of unknowingness -simply – not knowing what to do!
This labour pain was badly wanting expression. It signalled a world of possibility waiting for me to step into it. And it was leading me right into it.
Finally, I dropped the fight, and I listened.
That world of possibility became my new vision. Unclear in its purest form yet still, a dream starting to find expression.
And it seemed as if on starting to entertain this greater vision for my life, the pain then released it’s ache and began to give way to this purpose that was now pushing me forward.
It was until I came home and encountered the familiar – the typical and ordinary, people and places that were once a part of me – that I had an incredible moment of awakening that, a separation needed to happen and it needed to happen now.
I finally understood this pain in a whole new dimension and it ceased being physical. It was an overload of past events, conditionings and experiences that had accumulated to the point where just one look aroundthis environment which I found myself back in – my chummy domain –made me take a step back, sit still and breathe.
That moment when I closed my eyes, that same moment, my perception of pain became so heightened – it was that moment when every cell and sense in my body was screaming with a desperation to get out, that the pain finally pushed out the baby.
Four – decades – later!
And for the first time, I exhaled.