Welcome to Transformation Talk. Every Thursday for the next year, I’ll post an interview with someone who is a force for good in the world. These men and women have either deepened their passion or found their calling after experiencing a loss, trauma or diagnosis. My hope is that in their words you’ll find echoes of your story. In their inspired actions, you’ll see yourself and your immense possibility.
Today’s interview is with, Jeannie Page, inspirational blogger (in two languages!) and founder of The Yoga Diaries. Enjoy!
Can you share a little about your grief journey and a specific experience that had a profound effect on your path?
In 2007 I lost the best friend I had ever had in my life, a man who had been my rock and with whom I shared every aspect of my heart and soul, for almost four years. He did not die or anything that dramatic, but after he met a new woman, he chose to cut me completely from his life. As he truly was my best friend, and I was certain that this was a soul-connected being, for me this felt worse than death. I gave up a great job and a well-established life and moved 3,000 miles across the country to fight for him. But sadly I was met with only more anger and hatred from him. He tossed me to the curb like a piece of garbage. That was 5 years ago, he has since married that woman, and I’ve never heard from him since.
Though I had lost other best friends and had lived through devastating broken hearts in the past, nothing in my life could ever have prepared me for the grief that I felt when this man walked right out of my life and acted as if I’d never mattered at all to him. Everything I had ever known and believed came crashing down around me. I had entered my “dark night of the soul.”
What were the first few months like, after you realized it was really over?
It was more like the first few years, not months. I was in the absolute depths of depression for at least two solid years. I could barely eat. I remember I had a milk-shake diet at the time because it was the only way I could get any calories into my body. I couldn’t sleep. It was a Herculean effort to drag myself out of bed. I cried endless tears. And then when it didn’t seem like there could possibly be any more tears, another wave would come crashing over me. I think I aged 10 years in that first year. I walked through life in the deepest, most debilitating pain I’d ever known. I was constantly battered with thoughts of him and the new woman, and I tormented myself trying to find the answers and understand why. The answers would never come and so I continued on my search, in constant agony. I prayed often that I would simply not wake up. I really didn’t care about my life, nothing mattered anymore.
How did the shift out of the depths of despair begin to happen for you?
As an act of desperation, one day I dragged myself into the neighborhood yoga studio. For the first few months I numbly forced myself through the poses, constantly on the verge of tears. Little by little I began to notice that while I was being forced to focus on a handstand or some other challenging pose, that for even those few moments, it served as a welcome distraction from my grief and my tormenting thoughts. So I continued to go to yoga.
As the months went by, I began to notice that a subtle shift was occurring within me. Though I was otherwise filled with grief in my life, I found myself walking out of the studio feeling better, and at times even feeling brief moments of bliss. I knew that something was shifting energetically within me. Through the regular practice of yoga, meditation and with the power of the breath, slowly but surely I began to work the grief, the pain, the anguish up and out of me. Over the next few years, the power of the practice would only become stronger and stronger and the shift more powerful, palpable and life-changing.
I have actually written more specifically here about my healing journey with yoga: http://theyogadiaries.net/about-2/. It was through my own personal journey that I felt inspired to start The Yoga Diaries, a site dedicated to sharing stories of transformation and healing through yoga.
What did you discover about yourself in your grief?
I discovered that although I always knew I was a strong person throughout my life, that my inner strength knew depths I never could have even fathomed. I have learned that the resiliency of our spirit knows no bounds. I have learned how to stand on my own two feet, to be empowered and to be happy and fulfilled on my own, within myself. I have also fully integrated the lesson that true happiness comes only from within and never from outside of us.
I have learned that the only way out is through and that in order to find true happiness, we must do the work. There are no shortcuts. And I have learned that if we are brave enough to do the work, to walk through the fire, there is incredible transformation, awakening, and ultimately bliss, that awaits us. I have learned that this is what it means to be a Spiritual Warrior, and that I am one.
Having lived through this loss, I now know that there is nothing that this life can throw at me that I cannot handle. I have already lived through my “dark night of the soul” and as a result of this profound and life-altering experience, I now know that I have the perspective and the spiritual tool-kit to be able to handle and overcome anything with which I am faced.
What are you grateful for that came out of the pain of loss?
I am grateful for so many things, it is hard to even narrow down a list. But if I have to pinpoint the top things for which I am grateful, it is the following:
The first is yoga. Being on the yogic path has completely changed my life. It has altered my perception of the Universe and of myself, all in positive ways. It has connected me with my own Spirit and also to the Universal Spirit that is in and around all of us. It has put me on a path with hundreds of beautiful, like-minded souls and wonderful friends, who now support me on my spiritual journey. And it is a path that I know is life-long and that will only continue to present me with grace and beauty as I walk further down it.
The second aspect for which I am grateful is that this situation with this man led me to California. Since moving to California, I have met like-minded souls like I never have anywhere else. (A perfect example of one such person is Alana Sheeren!) There is something special about the spirit of California and for decades it has attracted seekers: people of a spiritual nature, people who are focused on inner exploration and the elevation of consciousness. In this place, and with these people, I have truly found my home.
The third aspect for which I am grateful is that this experience put me on the path to being a writer. Never in my life did I have any intentions, desires or aspirations to be a writer. It was never remotely a thought in my head. But after one of my yoga teachers asked me to write my story of healing with yoga, it opened a floodgate. Suddenly I realized I had a lot more to say. And not only did I have a lot to say, but I have been so humbled that my stories have been able to help so many others that are living through their own grief, their own “dark nights of the soul.” This has truly been the most humbling experience of my life, and I know that without the devastating grief that was inflicted upon me by this man, my current life would not be possible.
The fourth and perhaps most important aspect for which I am grateful is the knowledge that I am strong, empowered, self-fulfilled and that I have the strength of spirit to overcome anything.
How does your experience with grief inform the work you do now?
One of the most important themes in my writing is the power of positive thinking and how to use it to overcome dark times. This obviously comes as a direct result of my own experience, but it also allows me to connect with thousands of readers all over the world. I am so grateful and overwhelmed to receive hundreds of emails from people of all continents, telling me how my words have resonated with them, how they share a similar story, and how my own journey of healing has inspired them and helped them to overcome their own dark times. Never in my life have I felt so sure that I am living my purpose. Back in 2008 I saw a healer in Sedona, Arizona and he said words to me that I will never forget. He said, “You are the wounded healer being healed. You have to walk through your own healing so that you may help others with theirs.” There have never been words that ring so true to my current experience.
What did you learn that you will take into your next grief experience?
I have learned to go with the flow. No matter what is thrown at me, I will try to accept it with humility, for I know that it will be for a reason and that through it the Universe will be providing me a valuable soul lesson. I have learned to surrender to whatever is, and in that surrendering I have found true freedom.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would change that so many people are living with so much suffering, with so much pain and grief. I would wave the magic wand so that people would realize that true peace and happiness comes only from within, and that we all, each one of us, has the power to tap into that inner light.
What brings you the most joy?
This one is simple: helping others.
Just for fun, what is one thing that makes you uniquely you?
I spent a year living in Spain and this was the experience that set me on the path to being a life-long adventurer.
Jeannie Page is a reformed .com management professional who has made a dramatic shift in her life, a shift to follow her bliss and to get into alignment in order to be a force for good in the world. Martha Stewart’s Blogger of the Month in Whole Living Magazine, Jeannie is also the founder of The Yoga Diaries and also maintains her own blog The Awakened Life. Jeannie can be found on Facebook here and on Twitter at @jeannienpage. Jeannie’s Spanish Facebook page can be found here.