• Karl Thunemann

When did your spiritual awakening began?

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

By Vida Rose


I've seen a trend on social media in which people respond to the prompt: When did your spiritual awakening began?

I don't even know how I'd respond to that. Let me give it a go.

As a kid I felt spiritual and believed in some kind of G*d, even though I was raised by self-proclaimed atheists. When I was a teenager I went to raves, and it was closest thing I'd experienced to church. Dancing until morning around sweaty strangers, being hypnotized by the booming sounds and watching the sun come up- it felt like it meant something and was important.



Bellydancer Susana Valadares

In college I took a belly dance class. The teacher radiated a childlike joy from her body. I didn't know many people in the world who seemed to be having more fun than me (this was before the illusionary joy thief of Instagram vacation posts) so it was a very big deal. I had to have what she was having, as they say.


I remember noticing knowing that my life would not be the same, I knew I couldn't stay in my relationship. I knew my education would be more nonlinear and everything would be stranger and more difficult and maybe more interesting and real than I'd heretofore considered. At the time I was a big fan of Tom Robbins, and I remember thinking it was possible that my life could be as fantastic as one of his stories.

So I practiced the isolation movements every day in my tiny apartment. Circles, waves, figure eights. It became addictive and all I wanted to do.

In hindsight, I understand a world of occurrences that were transpiring as I learned to dance:

  1. I was experiencing a meditative state

  2. I was shaking out trauma stored in my body

  3. I was feeling my body from the inside, rather than thinking of how it looked from the outside

  4. I was making everyone around me, who benefited from my disembodiment, uncomfortable

  5. I was doing something my ancestors wanted me to do

  6. I was realizing how deeply the world humans have created fears women in their bodies

  7. I was really hoping this would change very soon

At the time, I didn't have access to these sentences. I just knew that I liked belly dancing, that it made my husband uncomfortable, and that I wanted to do it anyway. I just wanted to keep doing it so that I could keep doing it, because I liked it.

I was not looking for anything else.

Before I'd ever heard of Kundalini, I stumbled into an experience of an absolute energetic heart-opening. This was not conceptual or abstract. I had been belly dancing in the forest for a week, with my friends, and I felt safe and happy. One moment I sat down on a bench, and as I did, a palpable cosmos of energy rose from beneath me into my heart. It completely changed my posture, I'd never been so tall. It felt amazing and completely natural. Just breathing felt like the sweetest most delicious experience, I'd never taken such full breaths.

I remember noticing knowing that my life would not be the same, I knew I couldn't stay in my relationship. I knew my education would be more nonlinear and everything would be stranger and more difficult and maybe more interesting and real than I'd heretofore considered. At the time I was a big fan of Tom Robbins, and I remember thinking it was possible that my life could be as fantastic as one of his stories.

I remember watching people and seeing how fragile and sweet our egos are as we interact. How much we all want to feel safe and seen, and for some reason how hard that is.

I didn't know how to talk about what happened to me in the forest. Part of me wondered “Is this (euphoria) how everyone else feels all the time, and that's how they're able to cope with the world?”.

I realized that all of my city-smarts and jaded world views were just borrowed, and that I myself was a child. I was 20 years old and I didn't know for sure how magic the world could be. All I really knew was that I didn't want to let go or move on from this state, with my big open heart and gorgeous full breaths.



Thich Nhat Hanh

Back in the city, all the realities crashed down on me one by one: My relationship was falling apart. My newfound vulnerability was attracting all kinds of wolves. I was burnt out at my preschool teaching job and would cry in the bathroom every day. I had no money and no personal space. I would sleep on the living room floor to have some kind of autonomy around my body.

My oldest friend thought I was being immature and unreasonable. But the truth was I had just stopped pretending to be mature and reasonable.

I ended up temporarily moving back into my mom's house, a choice that made everyone equally miserable. My little sister had taken my old bedroom, so the only available space was essentially a storage room. There was an ironing board, a record player and a couple bookshelves. I slept on the floor surrounded by all the other things in the house no one knew what to do with.

In a pile of clutter in the corner, I found a copy of “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hahn. I'd seen the title before but wasn't interested until that moment. His gentle words reminded me of the way I'd felt safe in the forest.

Breathing in, I calm my body

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment.

That's how my mediation practice began: on the dirty floor, in the messiest life transition, with a book no one else wanted, and nothing to lose.



illustration of dancers by the author

I turned 39 this year. I still turn to the “Peace is Every Step” meditation. I dance every day in the room I'm writing in now. I've carved out space for my inner child and the adult I want to be. The heart-opening in the forest is not an experience I want to recreate, but its' memory is infused in everything that I do. I simply know that a much more beautiful world is possible, that peace is possible, that unconditional love is possible. I've seen it and felt it. We all have a cosmos in our chest waiting to unfurl.

To be honest the patriarchy is taking a lot longer to die out than I'd hoped for.

But in the meantime, meditation helps.






 

Vida Rose is the co-administrator of this blog.