The school year is drawing to an end. Cillian’s first year of primary school is drawing to an end. He has grown and matured so much. He has learned so much. Cillian has a strong internal teacher. He seems to have such wisdom. For him to remain connected to what is inside, he needs sensitive teachers on the outside. Cillian’s first school teacher has been exactly that. He seems to have really understood each child and their needs. Classes seem to have been fun filled and confidence building. Each child was given a chance to shine and where help was needed it was noticed and responded to with support. I know I speak for the entire class when I say that we are all so grateful to him for the support he has given our children this year. Interestingly we have found a school that has also been affected by the death of a much loved colleague, a young teacher who died suddenly not long before Cillian started in the school. I know that some of the staff in the school have read this blog. We seem to share a collective sense of inspiration from these radiant beings who came into our lives, made an impact, and then left. Through us, their teachings live on.
I hold in mind another young man who came to our mental health team as a very promising and inspirational psychiatric registrar. Everyone who came in contact with him liked him. He had such a fresh approach and seemed to really understand people. Sadly he became ill with cancer and died recently. I hardly knew him but when I heard the news I was so shocked and sad. I felt an instant connection to his parents and what they must be going through. I went to his removal to say goodbye. To meet and shake the hands of two people who brought the most incredible young man into the world. I have no doubt that his colleagues have been inspired by him and would consider him as one of life’s teachers also.
Teachers have the ability to plant seeds that grow into gardens within a person’s being. I didn’t see it at the time but now it makes sense to me to say that Oisín came into the world a teacher. He left seeds of wisdom that move in me like mantras for living life. There is one teaching that still feels like it is waiting for me to understand it in all of its depth. Whenever I took a video of him, he would often look into the camera and say, “Hello! I’m Oisín. What’s your name?” then he’d throw himself back in fits of giggles. A while after his death I found a recording he must have taken himself somehow, and it was exactly the same message, “Hello! I’m Oisín. What’s your name” and the familiar giggling as he threw back his body. The words hit me at such a deep level. That’s when I first saw him as a teacher.
Oisin might be viewed as a spiritual teacher, although that doesn’t quite fit for me. I don’t have any particular label for him. I’m not sure how I really feel about the word spiritual. I just have a strong sense of a highly conscious being who has taught me and others so much. Some people go on retreats to be in the presence of a spiritual teacher. I chuckle at our Skype encounter with Ram Dass, who offered to have a session with us not long after Oisin’s death. I had no idea how well known he was as a spiritual teacher at the time. It’s as if these people come along the path at just the right time. Who knows! I’ve been invited to a few retreats by friends since Oisin’s death, but have been selective about which ones I attend. I’m drawn to things that connect us with the internal teacher. That’s why Kundalini yoga and I go together so well. It teaches a philosophy of the teacher being within. The intensive weeks of yoga teacher training connected me very deeply and powerfully to this internal wisdom we all have. At the beginning of every Kundalini Yoga practice, we always tune in to the internal teacher through the “Adi” mantra. The yoga teacher simply creates the space and energy for each student to come to their own awareness.
Experiencing Oisin’s death brought me into close connection with this internal teacher. I learned about grief, trauma and healing, just by opening to the experiences as they unfolded. I noticed that Oisin’s death naturally gave rise to the emotion of grief. I learned that it is a natural emotion that comes and goes, and attempts to “get over” grief seem as pointless as trying to “get over” angry or sad or happy. Why would I want to do that? They are just feelings and by allowing them a natural passage through us they may come and go without any particular judgement or distress. I also experienced trauma following Oisin’s death, which carries with it a very different quality to grief. The death of a loved one can be traumatic when it is someone we never really expected to die at that point in life. It gives rise to feelings of helplessness and having no choice. We had to go through all of these unplanned, unprepared for, out of control experiences. The trauma was in the moment of receiving the diagnosis that Oisin would not survive. The trauma was in the daily experience of witnessing him moving towards his last breath and his final heartbeat. The entry into silence after all the intensity of caring for him. The intensity of the funeral. All the energy of those moments can overwhelm the mind and body. It’s only noticed when the silence and regularity of life returns. It’s there, all trapped in the body. It has no words and yet it needs to speak. If ignored, it starts to speak for you, in not so nice ways. I have also noticed this as a clinical psychologist to so many hurt and damaged people that come for help. When it comes to healing from our past experiences, it is always the same. There is a story in every person that needs to be heard and acknowledged, for what happened. The story must be told from deep within the body, not from the intellect. The story needs to speak of what didn’t happen that needed to happen. Healing is in the responding to those needs, giving love and compassion to that part of the self that has been so wounded. Healing is moving forward and expanding into who we are and what we are here for. In this process, it seems to be empowering to be witnessed and gently guided by a trusted and compassionate other.
Yoga was one of my ways through the trauma of Oisin’s death, and has remained for me a strong and powerful teacher. I needed to be with my whole system. I needed to be in my body. There are no words for how this experience has impacted within me. Yoga was just waiting for me to use it for this purpose. It had already offered me so much as I walked through those 4 months with Oisín’s illness.
As time has moved on, I have met other “teachers” that have supported me. One lady, Canella Michelle Meyers, came as a gift from a beautiful friend. That seems to be how all of these teachers have come along, and it is with deep gratitude to the generosity and intuition of friends. Canella lives in Vancover, Canada, and she has ancestry from Cork, Ireland, where Barry and I have lived for the last 5 years. She also happens to share a passion for Kundalini Yoga! She has been interviewed on a podcast, click here, if anyone wants a slice of her beingness. I had a couple of sessions with her, and then she posted up a retreat she was offering in Aherlow Castle, Co. Tipperary. I didn’t go last year but this year I jumped with that BIG DELICIOUS Yes, which only the heart can do when it KNOWS something is for your highest self. Canella is this shining bright star, this essence of fun and joy, this truthful being, this mirror that reflects consciousness as it shows up in the moment. Her work is so nourishing, so present and experiential.
All of the people who attended the weekend were so healing to be around. It was like coming home to a home where everyone gets each other, where intentions are heart felt, where words are meaningful, where all the nonsense that goes on between humans has fallen away. The food was divine. I could literally taste the love in every bite!! Aherlow Castle itself has an energy to it that spoke so much of the retreat. A hidden gem. Still, silent, waiting for it’s visitors to come upon its vastness! The owners of the castle are two clinical psychologists who seemed so humble and grounded. I guess this sounds like one big plug but it’s well deserving. I feel deep gratitude for this wonderful experience.
Teachers. All of us. We all have something to teach. Quietly or loudly, clearly or subtly. In our grief. In our joy. It is ALL teaching. Consciousness shows up and teaches. We just need to open our hearts and listen. Recently, I too have become a teacher. I made the step at last into teaching Kundalini Yoga. I teach a small group in my home. So here I am. Little me doing something so small and yet feels BIG. I can only handle little baby steps at a time. The world seems such an overwhelming place. Yet each one of us can play a part. Each one of us is a teacher and can each start with our own self. Teaching self how to be with self. The true teachers are those who teach by giving a person the space to realise the teacher within. Nothing is expected in return. It is a delight enough to simply have been with this person, at this moment, in service to something collective between us all.