I asked Susi Costello, director and trainer extraordinaire for a blurb on her path of recovery. She shared with me an answer to a question she wrote that touched my heart. So without further ado –
“Do you recall a time when you allowed yourself to experience the dark side of an emotion in order to later experience the light?” Funny you should ask. I remember so clearly.
I was 28 years old, participating in a 10 day retreat, seriously anorexic, probably weighing about 80 pounds. I probably looked depressed but I really wasn’t. Mostly, I was emotionless. I guess I was looking for a change, throwing myself into spiritual practices, getting more serious about yoga, meditation. I had no expectations; I really had no idea if anything could help me.
More than halfway through the retreat, we learned metta. Apparently one of the traditional ways to learn this is to picture a newborn baby and allow feelings of innocent love and wishes for well-being to arise in yourself and then transfer those feelings to yourself and others. OK, this was 1983….you didn’t hear people talk about “triggering PTSD” but I guess that’s what happened. The only newborn baby I could picture was my own, my small daughter born during a very late and very unfortunate illegal abortion 12 years before. My eyes teared and I began to, once again, turn away from my feelings. But I had a crystal clear thought, almost like a voice, “This is your choice….you can be like this forever or just face it.” At that moment, I stopped seeing my robot-like emotional life as something that just happened to me and realized it was something I was doing to myself.
OK, I don’t think the monks were particularly thrilled that I had such an emotional release that day. (Stern looks were not having the desired effect on my sobbing however I did leave the room at some point.) I allowed myself to look at the snapshots in my mind and physically re-experience the emotions that came with them. Fear when I saw an actual moving baby. And then, crazy as it sounds, I remembered thinking of this baby bird that my family saved by feeding it, round the clock, with a medicine dropper. Surely someone would help my baby with a medicine dropper…”or an incubator?” I naively asked. “We just took her out of an incubator, honey, we’re not putting her back in one.” Feeling that stricture in my chest when I made eye contact with this lovely little girl and realized no one was going to try to save her. Can a newborn baby’s eyes look pleading? Cause I would have sworn, hers did. Horrible as these memories were, I drank them in.
That was the beginning of my slow, maybe lifelong, recovery. That’s why I come to my mat every day.
Thank you Susi for sharing your story with us! I think we can all relate to her experience in some way or another. It really is amazing just how unique we all are and yet – we are all truly the same.
Love and light,