I recently took a trip down memory lane in the form of a trip to Amsterdam, a city I called home for a tumultuous and transformative seven years of my life. Included in the trip was a visit to my storage unit, a veritable time capsule of that life, nearly ten years ago. For many reasons I closed this chapter with only a rare look back, but life has a way of opening up doors when the time is right. Processing the past allows us to integrate the memories and relationships into our present so that we may move forward.
As I walked alongside the canals recognising the many bars, cafes and shops that were my old stomping ground, I was flooded with memories that seemed so fresh in my mind, yet worlds away from my current life constellation. I spent a blessed evening with old friends whom I have not seen in all these years, and was struck at how we have all changed, and at the same time how something so rich and rooted has remained.
What changes, and what stays the same? It must be different for each of us, but one idea is that life is a series of passages, interconnecting spaces where we might play, experience and connect with fellow earthlings, before moving on. Sometimes these ‘playing fields’ are places we return to again and again to reconnect with established family and friends to reflect and also to create new memories; sometimes new and unexpected places open up where new relationships form and change the course of our journey forever.
What brings me back to my yoga practice again and again is the familiarity of the playing field, and the changing nature, but certainty of existence of at least one relationship – the one I have with myself. As my body changes form, the asanas morph from one shape to another. Even the breath is sometimes moody and unknown, yet each time I come to my mat, there is a chance for me reflect and take the time to either enjoy being lost, or understanding where I am in the journey. The thing is, even when we think we know where we are, we never know what ultimately lies ahead, which doors may close and which may open. This is the joy and the sorrow of living.
In my storage unit I found a seemingly random mix of clothing, books, art work and instruments, things that were meaningful to me at a time in my life when I was not ready to let go of them. I was stunned at the amount of books on the topic of yoga and healing I had amassed, even so many years ago. The rifling through of old things was like looking into the mirror, meeting a fellow traveler whom I know and love. In that storage unit I met a youthful, more frivolous version of myself.
At the time I left Amsterdam in 2007, my time there had seemed to come to a natural closing. In order to move forward with changes in my life, I had to let go of my great love for the city, and the wonderful friends that I was so lucky to share my life with. I did this to make room for something new – my relationship with my husband, my deepening desire to study and practice yoga, a deeper involvement in my declining health.
Nine years later I have a husband, a son and a new liver. I would be lying if I would say I was happier or more enlightened. I sense that I am more reflective and self-aware, more in touch with my own physicality, and more grateful for my family and for my life. Perhaps I have created a deeper sense of meaning through the unfolding of time, or maybe when we acknowledge change we can better accept how a life may eventually and inevitably unfold.
Leaving Amsterdam, I felt reconnected with an important period of my life that I don’t want to forget or erase. The more we can integrate our pasts with our present, the more we have roots to lean into, allowing us to emerge into new spaces of dimension and depth, wherever they may be.