Parm's Yoga Journey
There's a huge stigma around mental health, but the truth is that everyone is suffering in some form or other and this suffering originates in their minds.
My story doesn't have any glaring factors that would scream emotional trauma. My parents are still together, there were no untimely deaths in my family and I didn't experience exceptional trauma at any point in my life.
Maybe this is why my story is so powerful.
To others, I was always happy. Nothing could bring me down. I was carefree, and things just landed effortlessly in my lap. No one could see my suffering, at least not until my later years in university.
"Parm, how come you always look so sad when you're not laughing?"
All eyes in the room turned to me. I blinked and laughed it off, "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just tired."
I left as soon as I could, back to my apartment and straight into bed, where I truly felt safe and away from the prying eyes of the world.
~ ~ ~
Graduation was nearing and everyone around me was hustling to put together their next step, whether it was finding a full-time job or applying to master’s programs around the world. I seemed to be the only one who was still walking around casually and spending time just lounging in the library or student areas of campus.
Every time I tried to wrap my head around committing more years of my life to things that I didn’t truly want to do, I felt this intense resistance rise up inside me.
I was so angry.
I had already given 18 years of my life to the educational system and now I was expected to hand over the rest of my life too?
Over the past 18 years, I hadn't spent any time doing the things that I wanted to. In fact, I felt so disconnected with myself, that I didn't even know who I was anymore.
All these years, social pressure had driven me to do things that society expected of me.
Go to school.
Go to work.
My decision not to accompany my peers in their desperate search to secure their next step was a decision made out of desperation.
I felt like I was drowning. I had swum as much as I could and now, I was tired. I could see that the current I was swimming with wouldn't take me to a place where I could rest. It would just have me continue swimming forever and it was here that I decided to stop swimming.
After graduation, I bought a 50 L backpacking bag and went to South America to take that time that no one would ever be able to give me.
A year later, I came home having experienced so many different worlds but eventually having gotten tired of that too.
I didn't know what to do. I was back at square one with two miserable options available to me -- industry or academia?
When I was little, I had had dreams of making a tangible difference in the world. There were so many problems that were just waiting to be solved. So, I had opted to study nanotechnology engineering, hopeful to be the change I wanted to see in the world.
But the more I grew, the more I saw that no one was really willing to address the root causes of the issues in the world. I would just be expected to work on a shiny new band-aid for the world's biggest booboos.
After struggling with myself for 6 months, I finally sucked it up and found a Green energy start-up looking to make wind turbines for Northern Canada; it was a cause I could get behind and, in a start-up, I would have the flexibility and impact that I craved.
Not two months in, I started to feel the same way I'd felt before: like I was trying to fit myself into a box that was too small for me.
Despite being a start-up, the company operated like a 9-5, complete with gender bias, degradation, condescending, leery manager, and unbelievably slow processes. Most of the time, I sat at my desk browsing reddit.
Was this company truly trying to make a difference in the world or just reap the rewards of taxpayer money from a new government grant?
I couldn't handle the misery it brought me and about 6 months after I began, I quit. I knew I couldn't be happy in that job or in any other job.
I was learning without a doubt that the world's issues were just large-scale manifestations of individual issues.
With two weeks left in my sublet, and no idea what I was going to do with myself, I decided to practice yoga every morning.
I didn't know what it was about yoga, but at every stage in my life, the practice had appeared. Something about it was so comforting.
And this commitment to yoga is what heralded change in my life.
From that moment onwards, in a whirlwind of activity, my life transformed. I practiced every day, and with each practice I felt closer to myself. It was like layers of me were peeling away to bring me closer to my authentic self.
Soon, my path led me to an ashram, a very spiritual place. I stayed there for almost a year; I met my guru, I deepened my yoga practice and learned the truth of what yoga is.
Yoga is a method to come home to yourself.
And most of all, yoga is practiced to end suffering. I hadn't noticed it as I practiced, but my misery had slowly evaporated, my anger dissipated and my frown literally turned upside down.
I no longer worry about the future, I no longer felt like I didn't fit in anywhere, and most of all, I no longer felt directionless.
Following the path as it appeared with full faith that it was the right step for me has freed me from my mind.
Nothing in my past bothers me anymore.
I have no worries, anxiety or concerns about the future.
My biggest insecurities and fears have transformed into my strengths. From a very fundamental level of my existence, I used to feel like I didn't belong anywhere; my family is Indian and I was born in Canada. I wasn't fully Canadian and I wasn't fully Indian. What was I? Who was I?
Like that, in every situation I faced in life, every moment that I came across, I felt like an outcast. So much so that I pushed away people who loved me. At some level, I didn't feel like they truly loved me because I didn't love myself. So how could they love me? I felt that they were lying and trying to manipulate me.
When I found yoga, I felt so alone. I felt like I didn't have anything or anyone in the world. I was stuck; I couldn't move forward in the framework of society and I couldn’t go backward to some point in time when I didn't know how empty everything truly was.
I had spent a year in South America searching for myself and a place where I belonged. Nothing fit. Not school, not travel, not work, none of these things brought me the inner satisfaction and knowing that this was truly for me.
It wasn't until I met my guru that I found my place in the world.
And now, with this knowing and belongingness in my heart, it has become my mission to be a guiding light to everyone who is where I was years ago.
I know what it feels like to not see any light anywhere around you. I know what it feels like to feel like an outcast in your own skin. And I know what it feels like to be so tired that you don't even know why you get up in the mornings.
I also know that you have the power to make all of this go away.
With the right guidance, with love, care and compassion for yourself, all of this disappears as if it never existed.
Now I'm not going to lie, I cried while writing this, but they were tears of gratitude. Gratitude that I've overcome everything and gotten myself to a point where I have my own start-up and the privilege to make a real tangible change in the world and the lives of anyone who seeks me out.