Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Never erase your past. It shapes who you are today and will help
you to be the person you'll be tomorrow.
Ziad K. Abdelnour
This past year has felt like a new doorway opened into a different world, but we haven’t yet fully shut either doors….as if we are still living in both worlds. I feel, and I ‘m sure many of you feel the same, that we need to integrate the worlds….as if we need to build the bridges between the past, present and the future realms.
Many indigenous or aboriginal cultures across the globe use storytelling as a means to reveal knowledge of cosmology, science and values of life. The stories were used to transcend the past-present-future boundaries. Storytelling is a way to instill knowledge of the mind, body, and soul in connection to the earth. And the stories offer a way to heal from the traumas of the past and present.
Storytelling is a term that everybody interprets in his or her own way. The life lessons brought about in storytelling are essential for peoples to make sense of the current world and to teach about values, history, significant events, relationships, cultural beliefs and sacredness. Many aboriginals believe that the stories provide an inter-generational transmission of knowledge, which is essential for humanity’s survival. Stories were used as a teaching tool to infuse morals in the younger generation but the stories also tell us about the world and its creation. Creation stories are significant because they explain how we have the power to find our place in the future.
You have to know the past in order to understand the present
I have questioned how I arrived here at this point in my life quite often this past year. I have reflected upon my story (again and again) as a mechanism to heal, but also to help fuse together my fragmented pieces, which some seem to have been lost and floating for many many decades. This pandemic has given us (or demanded of us) the time to reflect. As we pull together our lost pieces, there is a wholeness that arises. From this wholeness, the bridges begin to appear between the past-present-future.
To build up your future, you have to know your past
When I reflect upon my childhood, I feel incredibly fortunate to have chosen the parents I did (as they say we do when we traverse through the cosmos). In current child-psychology research we can see that mindfulness, presence and freedom are some of the key factors to healthy human development. My parents were incredibly available for me. Yes, there wasn’t so many distractions and pressure growing- up in the mid-eastern United States during the 1980’s as there are today (e.g. economics, electronics, smartphones and virtual-realities). I was also given a great deal of room to roam, make my own decisions, fall down and fail (over-and-over) and to get back-up and learn from my own mistakes. Always, along the way, my parents expressed their support and love. In retrospect, I had no idea how lucky I was to have landed such a beautiful family. I was too self-absorbed into my path that I forgot to remind them how much gratitude lived inside of me. When I left home, the recognition hit me hard. I would write letters to my parents and siblings to communicate my deep appreciation and longing for them. This sensation is still so palpable today.
When I consider my childhood experiences, I can clearly see what my parents modelled and taught me. I don’t think it was intentional on their end….I just learned by mimicking them (as children unconsciously do). I learned how to pray, to have hope, to understand the significance of family and roots, to celebrate life, to be at one with the Earth, to nourish my body, to take care of community members, and to feed my connection to God. I was encouraged to stand-up as a leader, regardless of my fears. My Mom repeatedly told me as a child, “Follow your dreams Suzanne….you can become whatever you put your mind and heart into”. This motto took me on many adventures.
During my undergraduate degree and shortly there after living throughout the northeast of USA, I was passionate about training for my competitive marathons and triathlons. These practices were a form of outlet or a channelling of all the prana running through me. As a child I had a love affair with gymnastics and track-and-field, so somehow I prepared myself for the intensity of this kind of training. Funny enough, I found a pranayama and restorative yoga teacher and was introduced to this vast world of yoga by entering the subtle body. I had also found a Zen Buddhist sangha at that time in my life, and I was committed to our meditation sessions together. My yoga and meditation practices helped balance the negative impact (e.g., knees, biochemistry of the body) of these competitive sports. After a few years every inch of me was ready to migrate out of these sports, and I truly started to become a devotee to the yoga. I started my journey with Mysore Ashtanga and united these practices with Iyengar Yoga. I was hooked, as I am sure many of you can relate.
During my masters' degree in Educational Psychology in Boston I studied curriculum design and learning, human development and the psyche. I became fascinated with how the mind operates within different environments and how we as teachers play such a significant role with shaping healthy conditions for learning. After my master's degree I was part of a small team that co-founded a secondary school. I taught everything from mathematics, advanced literature, outdoor education, yoga & meditation and I was a school and family counsellor. As a team of teachers, we worked incredibly hard to have our school accredited under state & federal standards. This unfortunately, in my opinion, truly hurt the learning climate...the accreditation superimposed an agenda which seemed to squash motivation and curiosity in the kids. This enticed me to further my studies in cognition, behaviour and the human-heart. So after several trips to Thailand, India and Nepal to be with my meditation and yoga teachers (and I completed three different 200-hour yoga teacher trainings), I started my doctoral studies in Counselling Psychology in Vancouver, Canada.
In order to fund myself through my PhD, I took an Instructor-Professor position which required me to teach University courses. I remember feeling quite shaky during my first few days of teaching these courses. I was asked to teach master-level courses to MA students. I taught courses such as Human Development, Social and Emotional Evolution and Research Statistics. I was also a Professor in the Teacher’s School, so I taught courses to students studying to become certified licensed school teachers in Canada. Here I taught School Psychology, Curriculum Adaptation and Assessment of Learning.
After five years of my doctoral studies and teaching, I accepted a postdoctoral position in Los Angeles at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI). I conducted clinical-behavioural and social research with some incredibly talented human beings. It was here where I received my first federal grant to test the benefits of yoga for addictions - wow, what a journey it was to direct a research team and trial on yoga.
I also met several of my most profound yoga teachers at this time within the Iyengar and Ashtanga lineages, and Founder of Anusara Yoga, John Friend. I was committed to my Tibetan Buddhist Sangha, as we studied under my teacher Thrangu Rinpoche - the 9th Khenchen. And I to this day I feel so fortunate to have met my dearest meditation teacher, Sally Kempton. I continued to dive deep into my yoga studies (all the different branches) with many different teacher trainings, immersions and mentorships, and kicked my yoga-teaching into higher gears.
Before I left Canada I met my best friend, my beautiful husband. He came to California with me. We both longed to be back in Canada….but first we traveled throughout Europe on our bikes and hiked through the Himalayas of India, Nepal and Tibet together. We immersed into yoga teachings in various yoga ashrams and visited my Buddhist teachers in several monasteries throughout India and Nepal. I studied at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India, with BKS Iyengar himself, and several of his senior instructors including Geeta and Prashant Iyengar.
I then accepted my second post-doctoral position in British Columbia Ministry of Health’s Cancer Agency in Vancouver. I continued mental-health and behavioural research, but this time I focused on palliative care and breast cancer patients. I received my second federally-funded grant to test the effectiveness of yoga for cancer. I also worked as a yoga-therapist at an Integrative-health cancer clinic and taught yoga classes at a local studio. It was a very intense few years of work for my heart. I then became pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were absolutely elated.
Becoming pregnant felt like I was pulled into the universe inside my womb. As with most women in pregnancy, I was given a direct line of communication with my primal instincts and intuition. I knew that the path I was walking was not the right ecosystem for the development of my own heart and for the little human growing in my belly. We had a beautiful home-birth (with all of our children we had ecstatic precious homebirths).
I found myself opening a yoga school during my maternity leave- the beginning stages of changing my personal environment. This is one of the most challenging endeavours I had yet taken. It was a new sector and my roots probably needed more time to grow in this industry before opening a studio. Yet I did it. I met and worked with some of the most amazing human beings, friends and teachers I have ever met. A few of these gems are perched high in my heart to this day. During these chapters of owning the yoga school there were times I felt like a failed and other times I felt held by Grace and this beautiful community.
I continued to work for the Ministry of Health in Vancouver, but part-time. I co-directed the studio, taught weekly classes, hosted international teachers from around the world, led workshops and retreats, and started to co-teach yoga teacher trainings. I began to travel and teach across the globe. I also managed to continue my mental health research positions, and meanwhile I felt a deep pull to be closer with my little son.
During these next few years of riding my edge, I then became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter. I remember her big brown eyes would gaze at me as I held her in my arms in the middle of the night nursing her, as if she was asking me - ‘What are you doing, Mommy?’. I realized that I needed to make a discerning decision. After much deliberation, I left my career in mental-health to focus solely on my yoga-teaching profession and my children. I traveled to Europe numerous times to teach, as my husband is French-German and I had family in Europe. We explored places to potentially live.
I then became pregnant with my third child. A big light switched-on. I knew that motherhood was a priority for me and I was also deeply concerned about my nervous system as I had been living a life of intensity for many years. With a deep sense of naivety, my husband and I sold everything in Vancouver and moved to Spain while I was 7 months pregnant and with our two children and malamute-husky. Ibiza, Spain, became like a new womb for me and my family. Yes, we lost a sense of our identities during the move, but I had not been held like the way I was in Ibiza since I was a child. The sisterhood, community and conscious-living-like-minded people cultivated a proper ground for me to heal, grow and evolve. Ibiza is like my home.
I spent the last six years raising my children here in Spain, and I feel so incredibly fortunate for this opportunity. To speak a new language and to embody a different culture has been life changing for all of our souls. I have homeschooled the children, we have lived in community with other families, and we have also lived deep in the countryside amongt the fruit trees and Mother Nature. I have spent the past six years teaching throughout Europe and have poured my heart into enhancing my teacher trainings. These past few years have allowed me to integrate all of my educational knowledge and work experience from the health, education, psychology, yoga and business sectors. I needed this time and space to follow my instincts with motherhood, to digest my journey and assimilate my experiences.
The one thread throughout my life that stands out so clearly to me is the impact that many beautiful people have had in shaping my story. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to share moments, friendships and chapters with so many of you. I am flooded with gratitude for the precious and tender exchanges….you know who you are. Many pranams.
Like many of us, I made some wrong decisions in work-related contexts, I started things that I never completed and many times what I thought would happen did not manifest into fruition the way I wanted. But all of these were moments of developing skills and character so that I could unfold my highest version of my Self.
YOUR STORY-OUR STORY
This is a version of my story. As I write about my reflections, there is a core-flame magnetizing my fragmented pieces into a whole-being. I highly encourage you to share your story. It will not only connect your missing pieces and inspire others, but it will shape a bridge over into your future and fasten you to the collective story - our story, as one-humanity.
You are a success when you have made friends with your past, are focused on the present, and are optimistic about your future.
Speed ahead, and here I am NOW living in Mallorca, Spain, homeschooling my three children (Tenzin-12yrs, Indira-10yrs, and Kailash-5yrs) in the middle of big paradigm shift across the globe. And it is with the utmost honour to run one of my longest running and transformational programs - Awakening of the Heart 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training.
For over 10 years I have been delivering this program, and now I have the most unbelievable team in collaboration.
Join me for a comprehensive 200 Hour Yoga Alliance (North America) and Yoga Alliance Professionals (UK) qualified Vinyasa-Hatha Yoga Teacher Training. This training is an integrated approach to both the Classical and Tantric yoga pathways.
Expect a sincere awakening of the mind, body and Spirit as we traverse the elements of philosophy, history, science, art and methodology of yoga.