Some background about my younger self:
As a teenager and throughout my twenties, life was profoundly challenging. Anxiety and fear ruthlessly claimed those years. No one to guide or help me understand the chaotic emotions that ran wild within.
Growing up in an abusive household, physical and emotional maltreatment seemed quite normal. My parents said they were "strict" in order to raise obedient and respectful children. Having no other frame of reference I just assumed that this was the way all caring parents raised their children -- my fear and pain typical.
My life was quite insular, attending a NYC yeshiva first in Brooklyn and later on in a sweet little beach town called Belle Harbor, in Queens. The beach became my safe haven where I would periodically escape and find moments of solace.
In my teenage years I became more exposed to how others lived outside of my small conservative community. Witnessing other family cultures I began to realize that many of the behaviors I endured at home were not usual, nor kind, and often overtly cruel.
In my mid-teens I stumbled upon a book, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yoganandya, in the book store at Brooklyn College where I frequented on the weekends. I discovered that in addition to pictures of yogis in contorted postures -- there were numerous suggestions made for breathing techniques. I tried a few and found them surprisingly grounding.
The following autumn I left home for college in the throes of an eating disorder, with the firm belief that I would never go back home to live regardless of my life circumstances.
I realized along the way that liberating myself from the relentless feelings of fear and sadness meant dedicating myself to schoolwork and finding the help I desperately needed to overcome the suffering and the internalized self abuse.
Loneliness consumed me, yet I was far from ready for healthy relationships. I first had to learn to be kind to myself, to care for myself, to have greater capacity for self-compassion.
In addition to academics, I studied the teachings of the yogis and began practicing the breathing techniques and meditation. Intuitively, I knew that this was one of the secret ingredients to calming my chaotic inner world and would open the door for greater self-care and receptivity to receiving help.
In those days it was about survival in a difficult family dynamic. I needed to breathe to withstand the hurt. Today, the breathing and meditation strengthens me as I have moved on and created a successful life.
What I would have loved to tell my younger self:
I would have loved to tell my younger self that I was a good person and that I did not deserve the treatment I received. That I did have the strength of will and inner resilience to overcome the challenges and obstacles that my life presented me.
I would have also told myself that not being born into a loving and supportive family does not preclude you from creating a circle of loving and caring people in your life. Allow good, decent people into your life and nurture those relationships; for they will bring you the experience of connectedness and belonging that have been absent from your life.
I would have told myself don't work so hard that you miss sweet moments when they are right before you. Slow it down. Know that you have everything you need already at this very moment. There is no class, no teacher, no philosophy that taps into the wisdom that already exists within.
You must take the time to stop, breathe, get grounded and feel. The only way through difficult feelings is by moving through them -- feeling, observing and becoming deeply curious about their meaning.
The intensity of every feeling regardless of how strong, will eventually subside. There is a rise and fall to each emotion, and learning to go for the ride is crucial because they keep right on coming.
The truth is you can endure any feeling. You can make decisions about who elevates your spirits and energy levels and who depletes you. You can hand select and piece together the community that will love and support you. You can create your best possible life and although it will not ever be perfect -- it can be wonderful and even surpass your greatest expectations.
Believing in yourself and building your capacity for self love eventually spreads to others and becomes highly contagious in quite splendid ways. You are free to be your authentic self each step of the way and can bring your truth into the context of each relationship -- building indelible bonds based on mutual respect, integrity, and love.
That is what I would have liked to tell my younger self, and she would have loved to hear those words from the woman she became.
Dr. Randy Kamen is launching her retreat, BlueberryFieldsMV on Martha's Vineyard June 4th-7th 2015. In this beautiful, intimate setting experience a blend of insight, positive psychology, yoga, and mind-body practices. Hiking, biking, salt water pool, magnificent beaches, fire ceremony and guest speakers. For more info contact Randy@DrRandyKamen.com