Something was happening.
I wasn’t too far into my storybook before I realized that the life I had worked so hard to create was not the one meant for me. I felt it most when I got quiet, and I couldn’t help but begin to shift--shift away from my Midwestern ways, away from my conservative, christian upbringing, and away from the life I had built. From the outside, I imagine it appeared as though I was self- destructing.
Looking back, I now know that I was simply shedding my skin, as I journeyed toward a more expansive version of myself.
Yoga found me in my early twenties, while I struggled to make sense of my life. It is what kept me sane and off the pharmaceutical freeway of antidepressants, migraine meds, and digestive drugs. I’d like to say I loved practicing yoga immediately, but I did not. It was hard, painful, and humbling. But it did not take long for the promise of Yoga to reveal itself as something that would last, and could not be bottled. I practiced a few times a week and used yoga like a toothbrush - spiffing myself up on a regular basis, but hardly thinking about it between brushings.
In my mid-twenties, I met Debbie Rosas, my first serious teacher, and was shown how good it can feel to live in my body. At the same time, I met Dr. Deborah Kern (my dear teacher, mentor, and soul sister). These iconic women exemplified guts and grace, power and gentleness, and showed me the distinct difference between being of the world and being in the world.
When I look back, I remember often feeling raw and scared -- and constantly surrounded by brilliance.
In the meantime, I kept moving toward what felt good, right, free, and light.
At the same time, however, my marriage was disintegrating.
I was disintegrating.
I cut my long blonde hair and dyed it burgundy.
It looked on the outside as though I was having a mid-life crisis. But I was not.
Instead, I was blowing open my life--so I could let more light in.
I straddled the chasm between the western world and the esoteric. I started meditating, spent holidays on silent retreat, and stopped eating meat. I wandered in many circles, not fitting into any particular one. I left my career of teaching college and conducting clinical research. I wondered how I would make a living, and slept alone in a studio apartment, unclear of who I was or where I was going.
What I did know was that I was not going back. I made a statement to myself that I was not interested in growing old. I wanted to grow UP. I wanted to rise above old, unconscious, normal, average ways of being. I wanted to ascend. Transcend. I wanted to rise above unhealthy behaviors, family dysfunction, addiction, and reactivity. I wanted to grow UP. I wanted to be in the presence of light. And I set out to discover the source of all light.
I kept walking, even when it was hard and lonely, and mostly dark. I continued practicing yoga, and in my early thirties I noticed how yoga was transforming me. It was no longer a tool that I picked up and set down. It was now my sacred place, my portable safety net, and the chalice that held me through my days – even the darkest ones.
I started deepening my study of yoga, and began dating a Hare Krishna. We meditated twice a day, listened only to devotional music, and gave up alcohol and caffeine. I prayed and chanted and lived my life as though I were in an ashram. This worked for a while, but something was still out of alignment for me. I knew I had to return to the real world. I was human, and I wanted to stay that way. And so, again, I kept walking -- toward the light.
One day, after teaching a yoga class, I met my husband-to-be. There were no huge sparks. No thoughts of forever. We had a lunch meeting and then went about our business. I had no idea the seeds of my future had been planted, but for the next year, I was surrounded by light. Love kept coming at me, in me, and through me wherever I turned. I further placed my trust in the teachings of yoga, for it was the place where my heart was free, and it had never let me down.
Eventually, I married, and on a half-whim/ half dare, my husband agreed to join me for a three- month tropical yoga immersion in Thailand, under the guidance of David Goulet. We practiced ten hours a day for nearly three months, and returned stateside, different. We found two beloved teachers, Bob Smith and Ki McGraw, and lived in Bali six months out of the year for three consecutive years. While in Bali, we found the one who became my primary teacher, Swamiji Vagishananda Saraswati, and my study of yoga broadened beyond my mat space, my studio, and my life as I had previously defined it. I traveled to India and studied Ayurveda with Dr. Vasant Lad for eight weeks. It was the first time I was away from my husband since we married, and I was gone for Thanksgiving, my 40th birthday, and our wedding anniversary. When I returned, I no longer felt a need to walk toward the light. Light was all around me and I was ready to stand in it.
And so, we began building our dream, and with our own hands, and those of more than 100 others, Deva Daaru YogaFarm was erected. That was a little over five years ago, and today, Deva Daaru is where we live and share all that we have embodied about yoga, and how gently and profoundly it can walk you into your true and clear nature.
What I do is simple. It’s real. It’s accessible. And it is deep. I hold a lamp and light your way when you find yourself in the dark. I hold a lamp to light your way to Truth; universal love, presence, and the brilliance you seek that is turned on and shines forth, from the inside.
Deva Daaru is the backdrop for this, holding you safe and steady, and providing you real life ways to bring awareness, guts, grace, and clarity into practice -- not just on the mat -- but in your entire life.
Britt B Steele is a thought leader, yoga teacher, spiritual activist, and the author of Pilgrim: Living Your Yoga Every Single Day. She is a guiding light, dedicated to bringing powerful, yet practical yoga teachings to the forefront of today. She works with students to discover their dormant potential by bringing ancient yogic teachings (sometimes without a mat) into everyday life. Britt lives with her husband at Deva Daaru YogaFarm, an hour outside Portland, Oregon where she shares her teachings through online programs, yoga teacher trainings, and immersions.
Each day you wake up and you either move through life consciously -- paying attention to the details, or unconsciously -- going through the motions. It isn’t what happens in your life that makes the greatest impact -- it’s the perspective through which you see your life and what you do with what you see.