How Life's Struggles lead us to Beautiful Places

How Life's Struggles lead us to Beautiful Places

How a Health Crisis Led to a Profound Spiritual Awakening - By Emma Smallman

Reading time: 4 minutes

Every cloud...

The other weekend I had a pretty special moment, I DJ’d at a Cacao and Ecstatic Dance Ceremony which was part of The Big Reset Retreat delivered by The Heart Shaman and Aum Tree Yoga at The Hay Barn venue in Shropshire. For those that don’t know, this is a spiritual ritual that involves drinking ceremonial grade cacao in a group setting inviting connection, healing and self-exploration.

The origins of such ceremonies are from Mayan and Aztec traditions tracing back at least 4000 years and have gained popularity recently. In this ceremony and in many others, music is played to enhance and enrich the experience providing opportunity to dance and move freely surrendering to the rhythm, finding ways to express and release and creating a myriad of states from peace and comfort to ecstasy and exhilaration.

It was the first time I had the privilege to DJ at such an event and I felt a great responsibility, it was important that the music appropriately facilitated the experience and fortunately it did. It was so satisfying seeing people get into their own bodies and respond to the musical journey. I also loved playing such an eclectic mix with music inspired from my more spiritual side all the way through to the raving one.

The mix was a genre hopping eclectic extravaganza from slow and soothing all the way through to heart pounding drum & bass and it went down brilliantly. Afterwards as I walked back to my van, I felt blissfully happy, that kind of DJing was so in alignment and as I looked to a starry clear sky and beaming moon, I said my thanks.

Now, Cacao* isn’t known for producing the best night sleep, so I lay awake in my little van for a good while after. As I pondered on the wonderful experience something struck me, none of this might have happened if I hadn’t experienced vertigo and migraines a year prior. Ok, let me rewind for you…

Exactly a year ago I had a bout of vertigo and migraines for the first time, for anyone who suffers you have my upmost empathy, for anyone who hasn’t the best way I can describe it is it’s like being your most drunk and most hungover all at once but without any of the fun beforehand. It knocked me off my feet.

I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t teach yoga or my dance fitness class. I couldn’t read or watch TV. It was debilitating. I was given medication from the doctors and the side effects made me feel awful, so I stopped them and decided I wanted to follow a more eastern route. I had an appointment with a specialist who recommended a whole shift in diet. No dairy, no caffeine, no meat, no citrus etc. I was willing to try anything so I cut all this out in the hope that it would work.

During this time my only salvation was going down to the local woods, closing my eyes, hugging tight onto my favourite tree and listening to the soothing sounds of nature. It was honestly the best respite and so I managed to get myself their daily. The tree has since become my favourite for its nursing abilities, and it was through this I really understand the healing power of nature.

I still wasn’t getting better though so a friend suggested a shamanic healing session. Not something I had done or thought of before, but she said it worked wonders for her, I was willing to try. I googled shamans near me (I’m sure that’s not how the ancient folk did it) and up popped The Heart Shaman.

At the time it wasn’t possible for me to drive so my lovely friend gave me a lift there and back and I had two hours with him. Lots came up in that session and through the work I began to uncover where the unbalance was in my life. This set me off on a journey of personal exploration and a week later I went on another healing shamanic journey. I got more insight and dived in. This was powerful stuff.

Alongside this deeper work the Dr suggested I had my eyes tested and I got some better glasses. All this happened at the same time so it’s hard to know what worked but very soon after it was as though someone had flicked a switch on my health, I was back!

I remember that day well, I went for a bike ride and a walk through a bluebell wood and felt like I was born again. A new sense of appreciation through regaining my balance. I got home and could finally watch a film. Eat, Pray, Love was on which was the ideal comeback movie. Just near the end of the film when Julia Roberts was in Bali with her guru, he said to her, “Balance, my darling, is the key to everything” and I laughed to myself. Ok, I get the message.

Who knows exactly what happened but a year later, I have had neither a migraine nor vertigo attack since. I’ve since been on a few retreats for self-development, one was in Mexican mountains with Root of The Gods and the Mazatec community and through all these powerful experiences have delved into some deep personal work and growth and made some significant life changes.

All of which has helped me move into even more alignment with myself, my purpose and the all-important balance. So fast forward to me being wide awake in the van and my realisation that if I hadn’t had the vertigo, I might never have contacted the shaman and everything that came from it. I could really see how that cloudy time resulted in a silver lining.

In the weird way the world works as I began writing this article my friend text saying she just had a vertigo attack in a sports shop. Awful! What I am not about to do is send her this as a step-by-step guide because my point here isn’t a lesson in how to cure vertigo and migraines, what worked for me won’t necessarily work for anyone else.  Instead, the purpose connects to the symbolism behind the lotus flower, how they grow and rise from the muddy water and produce something beautiful.

As you look back and trace the routes and paths you take maybe you too can find points where you might recognise how deep challenge and muddy times can often lead you somewhere special. As we reflect, seeing that life’s difficulties often lead us to a place we need to be, giving us strength, insight and understanding that we may never have gotten otherwise.

I can think of many examples of this in my own life, I know my reason for teaching yoga in marginalised settings is because I have experienced first-hand the power of yoga to find you when you most need it and pull you from a rock bottom.

As I look back at some of my most defining life struggles, I can really see how the lotus flower concept fits and so I write this with the hope that if you are in a thick cloud right now, that soon, like with the help of my new glasses, they’ll be some clarity and light.

As I write this it’s actually a very cloudy day out there, particularly for this time of year but hey, if it was sunny I wouldn’t be sat inside writing and if it leads you to somewhere more beautiful, well then that’s a glorious silver lining in itself.

*commission earned from this link.

Emma Smallman

The founder of 'drum n bounce & dubstretch fitness' providing uplifting drum & bass aerobics and flow yoga to mainstream and marginalised populations.