Updated: May 10, 2019
In the summer of 2015, I was at the end of a two-year long internal struggle with depression and sad thoughts. I had dealt with a host of injuries over those two years -- plantar fasciitis, S.I. pain, and a fluke softball accident that tore my acl, mcl and meniscus on my left knee. Running had always been my medicine that helped me to deal with depression and worry, and I no longer had that method to help with my healing.
At the time, I had blamed the injuries on my running and physical activity, not on an emotional experience. Back then, I didn’t connect emotions with my body. It had been two years since I experienced what I now know is secondary trauma at my job (though I didn't know that this was a real thing at the time) . My coworker shot and killed her 9-year-old son and in a failed-attempt to take her own life, paralyzed herself from the neck down. She did this in her home, not at my job.
Two days before the incident, we had been having a perfectly normal conversation about magazines in the hallway. I had saved a discarded Star Wars book for her son, which he loved, that sat on my desk waiting for me to gift to him.
I was shocked at how much I was affected by this experience. My rational brain kept telling me things like, "you weren't that close", "you barely knew her", "you don't deserve to be grieving", and "only the family should feel this upset". I was very resistant to all of the emotions that had come up from this incident. I talked about it some. I ran more than usual. I tried to just think positive thoughts.
I thought that I had dealt with it in my own way. I thought I was fine.
Until two years after the incident, I attended a chakra and chanting workshop at a yoga festival that was held in my hometown. During the workshop, we chanted the bija (seed) mantras of each of the chakras starting at the root chakra at the base of the pelvis and working our way up the spine to the crown chakra at the top of our heads.
It was early on a Friday morning, I was still allowing my morning coffee to slowly wake me up. I chatted casually with acquaintances I knew in the room, kind smiles, warm hugs. There was nothing heavy on my mind. I felt completely relaxed and content with myself, most likely distracted by some arbitrary thoughts like my grocery list or which yoga classes I will attend at the festival later that day.
The leader of the workshop, Wade Gotwals, set up his harmonium in the front of the room and began leading us into our meditation seat. He explained what we would be doing and began to play the harmonium vibrating to the resonance of the first chakra. I chanted along, at first quietly and unsure, then slowly opening up to a more confident voice. I wasn’t feeling any particular emotion until we reached the 4th chakra, the heart chakra. I felt a stirring in my chest and something like a rock or an egg cracking open, and a physical release of energy. As we moved up to the 5th chakra at the throat, I began to cry. Then, I began to sob. I, and several other students in the room, searched for the tissues. I still didn’t know what I was releasing or what I was feeling.
When the chanting moved to the 6th chakra at the third eye, the seat of intuition, I began to see visions of my coworker. It was like a movie playing of every time I had interacted with her and her son over the years, which had been quite a lot. The images were joyful and happy and filled me with peace. Until that moment, I had not realized that I had buried those feelings way down in my body. I had basically not allowed myself to grieve properly when it happened a) because it was shocking and b) because I had told myself that we were “just coworkers”. I had minimized my loss and my feelings because the loss wasn’t a member of my family or a good friend. I had never been to their house or spent time with them outside of work. These were the rationalizations I had told myself when it happened so that I could keep the grief at bay. To deal with it, I had even made up a story in my head that they had both died in a car accident instead of the truth.
Well, of course, that didn’t work. Here I was, two years later, sobbing in a room full of strangers singing in sanskrit with a man from Chicago wearing board shorts and a scruffy beard playing the harmonium.
After that workshop I have not been injured since, and my activity level is the same if not increased.
I know that I healed myself from trauma on that day, by chanting the seed sounds in a room full of kind people and the vibrations from the harmonium. My thoughts and feelings about my coworker transformed from confusion, anger, and sorrow to compassion and forgiveness. It was not an intentional shift but a natural and organic one. It came at a time when I was ready for it. It happened somatically, in my body. There is no doubt in my mind that I was healed.
That moment three years ago sent me on a path of spiritual awakening. I have since completed three life-changing yoga teacher trainings. I practice yoga regularly and meditate daily. I became a coach focused on mindfulness and leadership, where I am committed to other people’s growth and inner awakening.