How a Spiritual Practice Saved My Life
For many years my life was fraught with stress and anxiety.
Every day plagued by thoughts related to food, exercise, control & fear.
So disconnected from any real sense of myself or my life, I existed in a heightened state of fight or flight, always running from one stressful circumstance to the next.
My outside world simply mirrored my internal world.
Dysfunctional jobs, relationships and demands only reflected my internal relationship with myself.
I was my own worst enemy. Harsh. Critical. Unkind & unloving.
I had no idea of what true self care and loving oneself even meant.
It was only through the cultivation of a yoga practice, which catapulted my spiritual journey, that I was able to transcend the prison cell of my mind, that is an eating disordered brain. I was probably drawn to yoga due to the anxiety and panic I was experiencing at the time, rather than anything related to the eating disorder. I was very much in denial about that aspect of myself and could not face it within myself, never mind talk about it with someone else. Initially I could not even sit through a yoga class, becoming so agitated, I would leave early. However with persistence over time I developed a love for this practice, that helped me learn the skills to create some space from the thoughts in my head and the emotions I was feeling.
Through the immersion in spiritual literature and yogic philosophy, I came to realise on a deeper level that I was not my body. This may sound unusual at first, as we are very conditioned to focus solely on our physical form in this modern world. However, if you think more deeply about it, the human body undergoes various changes from birth to death, it is always changing. Even on a cellular level, our cells are turning over all the time. So can we really be the body we are today, given this could change tomorrow and is likely very different from how it was 20 years ago? Yet there is an essence of you that was always present, watching your whole life play out. Watching the external circumstances of your life, watching the thoughts and emotions, bodily sensations, all passing through. So with this deeper understanding we can see that something so transient cannot be who we really are. We are so much more.
As I started to connect with my higher self, the purest and truest version of who I believe, we each really are, I realised that it was time to disconnect from the wounded version of my personality to enable me to live the best version of my life possible. The higher self is that part of us that is non judgmental, free from judgements, expectations, pressures and demands. By connecting with this part of ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we are always in this state, we are after all, human spiritual beings. It just means that our lives are governed by something stronger, deeper and more aligned to truth.
It was from this vantage point that I would start to actively override the voice in my head, dictating what I should and shouldn’t eat, how much, when and where and start to listen to the needs of my body. This means that even when it shouts out loud telling me what to do, I make active choices to do what I know from a deeper level, my body is calling out for me to do. This is where the work lies. It is extremely challenging as the voice can get so strong that we believe it is who we really are. Yet does it even make sense that we would deprive ourselves what we need if we were in true alignment? Would we really be harsh, critical, unloving and cruel to ourself if we were acting with our true needs in mind? Of course not. We often would be so much kinder to a friend, family member or colleague than we would our very own self. Self compassion is something that I talk to many of my patients about on a daily basis. Giving some of that love and kindness that is so often projected outwards, back in to our self. Only from a place of wholeness and self love can we truly give to others.
It was by no means easy. In fact I doubted that I could really overcome such a powerful force that is the inner dictator of an eating disordered brain, yet my internal spirit remained strong and determined. For an unknown reason I always held the strong believe that I would overcome these challenges and ultimately use them to be of service in the world. I can’t say where this came from, but ultimately I maintained the hope and deeper knowing that my life was destined for much better things. I also knew that these could not co-exist with the person I was at this time.
As a doctor I see how we all as human beings are faced with choice points in our lives to continue with things as they are or to choose a new path in the hope of a better future. Only we alone can make that decision to forge a new direction for the trajectory of our life, as ultimately the human journey is a solo one. No one else can make the decision or take that journey for us. It comes down to self responsibility and action. Even if we start with the smallest of steps, by shifting down a new path we are forging new tracts in our brains to rewire old outdated thinking patterns that are no longer serving us. It might mean telling a friend, getting some professional help, changing our diet or whatever it is that we know we need to do. And if we don’t know it involves cultivating some space in our lives to get some clarity. Letting go the gloried busyness status and sitting with ourselves.
What I realised was that there is a bigger picture to human existence than the physical form. It was the cultivation on a deeper level of this awareness that enabled me to see the futility in the choices I was making in keeping myself stuck. I could see that the more important things I wanted for myself in life, love, career, travel, freedom… could not co-exist with my old ways.
I had a choice. Like we all do. Ultimately though, the greatest challenges of our lives can also be seen as the biggest blessings. My journey through an eating disorder and transcending these aspects of myself, led to my greatest awakenings. I learnt so much through the suffering and pain, and it was only through this process that I believe I could access greater clarity and direction towards the true purpose of my life’s path.
When we see the human condition for what it is and let go the dysfunctions of our particular human mind, we can shift into a greater version of ourself and live the life we were always destined to live.
Dr Talia Steed
Doctor & Yoga Teacher