Fierce medicine is probably the most impactful book I’ve ever read. I read this book during my yoga teacher training, and during a holiday trip to Paris, I was reading it when my Nana passed away, and when I flew back for her funeral. Somehow (or so I thought) each chapter aligned so perfectly with what I was discovering about myself, or what I was struggling with, and when I turned the final page I felt transformed, and armed with the tools to continue to connect to my spirit.
I read novels, I love to get lost in stories and imagination, so non-fiction for me is a struggle, but not here. It helped that Ana’s life is so incredible; in the very first paragraph she describes “the abuse that drove me to alcohol by age four, cigarettes by age six, weed and pills a few years later”; but she also tied her stories so expertly into her chapter themes, slowly building through her idea of yoga, from asana to connecting to a higher being. Her journey is electrifying, and her descriptive writing a thrill for the senses. Oh and she’s a total badass.
One area that resonated with me was empathing, or “seeing” energy. At the very same time as the hands-on assist breakout weekend, I was reading about the “Seeing Circle” in Forrest yoga teaching ceremonies. I started to feel for the first time the energetic nature of assists, and I began to practice seeing energy in my day-to-day life. I found that with me, right now at least, empathy arises as an emotion, not visually. Breathing deeply and focusing on one person, I would feel a flash of a strange emotion in my heart. It was an incredible experience to open up to, and once I noticed it I found I would have actual mood-swings assisting a class as I moved from one student to another. Moving forward I want to spend more time on how I see and feel energy, especially during assists where it’s the most intense, and also have an opportunity to pinpoint or verify what I’m picking up by asking questions.
A smaller, simpler and still very significant section of the book was on… singing! A poignant moment for me during teacher training came after our silly practice teaches where one of my characters was an opera singer. During the feedback I received some cutting truth, that my voice was incredible, but my teacher did not really know me, had not really connected with me. That hit me hard – connection is something I cherish and thought I was good at! – and I realised in that moment how much I had lost my voice. So naturally at the very end of Fierce Medicine was a chapter to remind me of that. Ana speaks of movement and noise as energy creators that give voice to your heart and connect you to spirit. I realised that the pure, naked, ecstatic, explosive, joy that singing brings me – that’s the feeling of my spirit coming to me.
In May last year, on the last weekend of my yoga teacher training, my Nana passed away very suddenly leaving a hole in my heart. We were close, in fact, my sister and I stayed with them every summer from about 6 to 18 years old. I was having trouble dealing with the loss, and mostly “got on with it”, moving through life, keeping busy, without acknowledging or feeling my grief. Ana helped me to snap out of it.
I don’t know what would have happened or how I would have coped if the timing had been any different, and although I miss my Nana, and would have her back any day if I could, since her passing I’ve come to believe that the timing was exactly how it should have been. Because of yoga teacher training, I was more open and connected to spirit than I had ever been before, because of Fierce Medicine, I was equipped with the knowledge on how I could go deeper, and now, I had a reason to do so. I was able to believe that my Nana’s spirit was still out there, and I could speak to her whenever I needed to. Ana gave me a path to continue to connect to my Nana.
It’s coming up to a year without my Nana now, and coincidentally (or not) Ana was in Houston this weekend giving a series of workshops. It was great to be led by the truth-teller herself, an incredible reminder of how far I’ve come, and a call to keep on working.
Here’s to living fiercely.