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August 18, 2022

How my Trauma Became my Dharma.

Carl Jung wrote that “you meet your destiny on the road you took to avoid it.”

I now find this truth to be self-evident, as I can thankfully state that I rest comfortably and effortlessly in my dharma or creative purpose.

But I was once so hopelessly lost on the proverbial backroads of life, leading further and further away from my true destiny, that finding a way back to myself seemed utterly impossible. Perhaps that is why Jung also wrote that “[t]here is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

I now embody this statement as I embark on the final leg of my personal healing journey, all the while endeavoring to heal the world as well and promote higher forms of consciousness to all of humanity.

My current lifetime has been marred by early childhood trauma, namely the loss of both of my parents at a young age. My beautiful and perfect mother passed away when I was only 11 years old following a seven-year battle with what was initially diagnosed as terminal, stage 4 ovarian and uterine cancer. The loss of my mother at this formidable age prompted what would be a 30-year hardening of my heart. When my father unexpectedly passed away of a massive heart attack just months after my 19th birthday, that process of hardening rapidly accelerated into a scarification and fossilization of my heartspace.

Before I lost my parents, I was an artist. My mother instilled in me and strongly emphasized the importance of the arts and creativity in life. My father, however, worried that my art wouldn’t provide the financial resources that he and my mother so dearly valued because they both grew up in households of very meager means. My father was the only son of my farmer and rancher grandparents who lived their whole lives in the desolate grasslands of Beaver County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. My mother was the oldest child of a stoic World War II veteran and his post-war bride who resided their entire adult lives in the tiny town of Collinsville, Oklahoma.

Both my father and mother struggled with shame and embarrassment of their meager beginnings, especially after they decided to leave Beaver County themselves less than two years after I was born. My earliest memories were the feelings of conflict between my father’s encouragement toward an academic and professional adult life and my mother’s desire for me to explore my natural passion for creativity and the arts. I appeased them both by excelling in both the arts and academics—playing multiple musical instruments, constantly drawing and painting, and singing and acting in musicals and plays, while also testing as a gifted student and receiving remarkable grades throughout my early schooling.

I was only four years old when we learned of my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Our family, including my mother’s parents, was gathered around the dining room table when my mother began sobbing the horrible news to us all. I immediately greeted the news with a pledge that, “It’s alright, mom, we’ll get you better,” as if I would cure her myself.

Sadly, that would not happen and while it was in no way unexpected, the passing of my mother was so devastating that in a display of defiance toward the universe, I immediately began to subconsciously shun those artistic endeavors that my mother had so deeply encouraged.

Ravaged by this loss of stability and security, I instead turned my entire focus toward academics with the pursuit of deriving material gain and securing financial wealth as my singular goal. This persistence toward achieving financial security coupled with my parents’ idea of “success” intensified deeply during my college years after my father’s unexpected death during my first year at the University of Oklahoma. I was left without any financial resources whatsoever and I worked full time while also excelling in a rigorous full-time academic environment. Within just a few years time, I relinquished entirely all of my passion for creating and studying art and music, choosing instead to forge a path toward achieving monetary rewards, power, and fame.

I went to work for a Wall Street investment bank immediately following completion of my undergraduate degree in Finance and Economics. Along the way, I became adept at locating and infiltrating corporate power structures and the wealthy individuals leading those institutions. This skill for socializing with and becoming entrusted by individuals in power would soon become the sole source of my livelihood—and I see now that this marked the beginning of my downward ascension.

Within four years’ time, I had reached the ceiling of my opportunity in finance and securities, so I next elected to walk down the path toward my father’s ideal of success and recognition: law school. My father had attended the part-time night program of a small, private law school—Oklahoma City University. But after law school, my father had not found the lucrative law firm position that he so desperately wanted, so I fulfilled that dream for him.

After graduating with Cum Laude honors from the full-time law school program at Oklahoma City University, I was selected from a nearly endless pool of eager candidates and offered a position as an associate attorney with one of the State of Oklahoma’s oldest and largest law firms—Crowe & Dunlevy. Crowe, as it was known, was founded in 1902 and had long-since been known in the community as one of the state’s and region’s stalwart legal institutions. Crowe’s reputation of producing countless federal and state judges, politicians, and business leaders from its ranks of associate and shareholder attorneys was too enticing to turn away and I began my legal career there in 2006.

While several offers were extended to me during my eight-plus years as an associate attorney with Crowe, I elected to remain within the firm and wield the power that the firm had so carefully curated over its more than 100 years in existence. In 2014, I was named as a shareholder (or partner) of the firm and in less than a year’s time afterward I had single-handedly developed a thriving and voluminous legal practice and I counted several of the world’s largest corporations as my personal clients. In an effort to attract this illustrious clientele, I developed a particular expertise in the area of Eminent Domain and Condemnation. In particular, I represented public and private utilities (primarily oil and gas pipelines) in their efforts to condemn (or take, by legal means) private land.

In short, I became one of the State of Oklahoma’s foremost experts in the legal theft of private property—an expert thief seemingly deputized by my clients’ purported right as a utility or private pipeline company to take private land and utilize it, instead, for the supposed greater good of the country. In the process, I was named in nearly every attorney ranking publication as an “expert” in this arena—as I was named a “SuperLawyer” and “Best Lawyer” in this specialized practice category for nearly a decade. But awards and accolades were not all that I collected during this time—I also found a spouse that was a collector of similar meaningless achievements, several opulent homes, and luxurious travel throughout the country and internationally.

In hindsight, I now see clearly that with every accolade received and dollar earned in furtherance of my clients’ capitalistic objectives, I became further disembodied and distantly separated from dharma or my true purpose in life.

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“Is this really all there is?” I would ask myself.

My feelings of desperation were perhaps stronger because I had accomplished all that I had intentionally set out to do when I embarked upon my law school education and legal career—I had accumulated wealth, power, and fame. These material items I had in abundance but with every addition to the spoils of my legal victories, I added nothing but misery and suffering to the mixture of my existence.

In February 2019, I had come to the end of my proverbial rope. I was clinically depressed, riddled with constant panic attacks, and consuming alcohol in near-lethal amounts in a hopeless effort to numb or somehow ease the feelings I secretly housed within my body. From the outside observer, I had it all: a corner office at the white shoes law firm, an enormous three-story brownstone for a working couple without children, a Range Rover, endless fine suiting, and all the requisite fashion accouterments that go hand-in-hand with a marvel of the modern world. But what I lacked was purpose—true purpose—and, more importantly, the fulfillment that coincides with living my life in furtherance of that truth.

At the time, I had no idea what my true purpose in life was but I knew very well that up until this point in my life, everything that I had accomplished was utterly meaningless and of no value except in the eyes of my profit-driven clientele. In fact, my actions during the height of my legal career were so contrary to my own personal values (and those values instilled in me by my father and family) that I simply had lost the will to carry on. There were several unsuccessful attempts to drink myself to death during 2017 and 2018, but I was truly ready to end it all by my birthday in early 2019.

On February 4, 2019, I awoke in a jail cell after my final attempt to drink myself to death. Thankfully, I had failed, yet again, to end this suffering, misery, and endless despair. And for the first time since my mother’s death, I not only acknowledged that there was a power greater than myself in this universe, I actually called upon that power to help. I called upon the universe to save me—from myself, from my prior actions, and from my unending thoughts of guilt and shame. I knew I needed to make wholesale changes in all aspects of my life and I simply could not do it alone.

February 4, 2019 was both an end and a beginning. I relented to my powerlessness and my inability to change myself, so I simply handed that power over to the universe. It instantaneously marked the end of my relationship with alcohol and, therefore, the beginning of the end of all the anxiety and depression that is inextricably intertwined with a life of daily drinking. It also marks the day upon which I first came to meet my dharma. My destiny. My true purpose in life.

I took a two-month leave of absence from the firm to detoxify, recuperate, and reassess my entire life. During that period, I first entered This Land Yoga studio in Oklahoma City. I had previously practiced yoga periodically in a private setting but my initial entry into a yoga studio opened my eyes to a brand new world of self-love, compassion, and healing that I never knew existed.

I intently filled my entire week with daily classes to ensure I could carve out at least one hour of peace and tranquility in my internal environment. Consecutive days of practice turned into consecutive weeks, then months, and by the end of 2019 I had enthusiastically committed to This Land Yoga’s teacher training program scheduled to begin mid-2020. I had also immersed myself in the yoga community and, simultaneously, I had begun the much-needed retreat from my previous circle of friends and colleagues. I had returned to practice at the firm but I was intent to never represent any client in an eminent domain proceeding and I had hoped to never again represent another oil and gas client that I had so grown to despise.

Despite the countless health benefits that yoga practice afforded me, my legal career of nearly two decades had taken an immense toll on my body. Even more, the stress of living in fulfillment of an inauthentic life purpose had brought upon debilitating chronic colitis and diverticulitis. By the end of 2019, I had consulted numerous specialists in digestive disorders and bowel illnesses, all of which were utterly perplexed with my condition and were unable to accurately diagnose the cause of the excruciating pain. I was convinced this was a sign that those around me were causing me such dis-ease that I may die (again), which ultimately accelerated my decision-making process. I ended my marriage, sold my ridiculous house, and began to navigate my life with the sole purpose of finding inspiration and following it toward my true destiny.

There was another life-threatening event, however, that occurred before being whisked away on my journey toward fate. I had become so sick with chronic colitis that I was vomiting all day, every day, beginning in December 2019. Over the coming months, I underwent countless diagnostic procedures with an array of physicians but a diagnosis was still not found. In late February 2020, I was transported to the emergency room and informed that I had a complete blockage of my large intestine. I knew then and there I was doomed to die a horrific death just like my mother.

I was told that I would be having surgery early the next morning to remove some or all of my colon. I was given a wide-ranging prognosis: the best case being that three to four feet of my colon would be removed and possibly re-attached, and the worst case being that I had terminal thoracic cancer and I would die.

Upon receipt of this news, I made a number of promises with God, the universe, the higher power I acknowledged in the jail cell nearly a year ago, and, perhaps most importantly, myself. I vowed that I would not waste a single minute of my life if God would be so gracious as to give me another chance. I vowed that I would live my life with purpose—not a purpose that I felt was worthwhile, because I had no clue what such a purpose was—rather, I would live in honor of the purpose given to me by God.

I awoke from surgery the next morning with a morphine drip and time-released Oxycontin coursing through my veins. The first words out of my mouth were “I feel amazing!” despite losing three-plus feet of my colon and having it successfully reattached. My colleagues visited me later that day in the hospital and all remarked, “You look amazing!” I felt amazing too and my life all of a sudden made perfect sense. An entirely new perspective was born within me—I not only had hope, I knew perfectly well why I was incarnated on this earth in this lifetime.

I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a spiritual leader. I am a healer.

In Kundalini yoga, we often chant the mantra “Sat Nam.” The direct translation of this mantra is “I am truth.” Yoga practice led me to my truth—that kundalini yoga is a practice through which I heal myself and others. The suffering of my first half of life now serves as the fertile soil from which I have grown wisdom, the ability to love again, and compassion for myself and all of humanity.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati said that “everybody should know something about kundalini [yoga] as it represents the coming consciousness of mankind.” This truth is now my mantra and mission to tell the world through my art.

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