I was born profoundly deaf, despite being an otherwise healthy baby with no medical issues or history of deafness in the family. Until I was 16 years old when I had a cochlear implant surgically inserted, my world consisted of vibrations and they were how I navigated through life.
At a very young age, I noticed that everything vibrated, even inanimate objects. Eventually, along the way, I noticed that the vibrations also had colours. Trees would give off the most glorious colours, in varying shades of nearly transparent, almost metallic in appearance, sea greens, azure blues, rose pinks… the trees would mesmerize me for hours as a little girl.
The waves of colours from the trees would swirl and wrap around me; I would feel draped in the trees’ essence, cocooned and protected by their powerful energies. Within the colours, I felt they contained very powerful divine information and by just being around trees, I was basking in their goodness and unconsciously absorbing their wisdom. I spent a lot of time in the woods growing up.
Even the night sky was colourful. I knew that the night sky was supposed to be black with white dots for stars, because that was what I was told, however, whenever I looked up at the stars, I would see rainbow halos around the stars and the moon, I would see streaks of purple and magenta zigzagging between the stars, I would see rays of colours shooting out from orbs—but imagine my surprise the day I found out that my peers could not see those colours! I was SHOCKED because I had thought that everybody saw those colours as well.
I also used to think the Northern Lights made noises—a beautiful ethereal whistling-like ringing that would oscillate up and down my spine—because I could feel the vibrations from them so I assumed they were singing, until someone told me that no, Northern Lights do not make any noises, they are silent. WHAT??! No, they are not! We just cannot hear them with our physical ears, but we can hear them with our inner ears. That was what I told myself anyway—because it was either that or I was crazy. I especially loved dancing because I could feel the beat of the music—dancing was a full-body experience for me.
I also started noticing that I could TASTE colours and sounds—even though I could not hear sounds with my physical ears, I could hear sounds inside my head. That unique ability came in handy when it came to mnemonics—it made me a very good student! When I said certain letters in my head, I would see different colours and realize that each letter had its own unique shade of colour and musical tone!
My deafness and my ability to see colours set me apart from my peers, and henceforth the isolation and alienation started to creep in because I found I could not relate to any of my peers or even the adults around me. How do I explain to people that I can taste the colour purple?!
However, as kids are wont to do, I shrugged it off and carried on, comforted by the safety of my colourful universe that I could retreat into anytime within my mind. But it was somewhat of a lonely existence. The more people I surrounded myself with, the lonelier I felt. I knew that this loneliness I had, other people could not fill. It was a loneliness for myself—I felt disconnected because I had a hard time connecting with other people.
Dissipating Loneliness – Embracing the Void
I had, back then, assumed I needed to feel connected to people in order to feel connected to myself. I now know that I only need to feel connected to myself. The loneliness is a homesickness for home and home is where the heart is. When I feel at home in my heart, feeling connected to myself and knowing myself, the loneliness dissipates. I thought I was lonely because I didn’t feel like I could connect with others but I was lonely because I didn’t know how to connect to myself.
As I progressed further in school, I started to get bullied for my deafness. People were quick to assume that I was dumb as well because I could not speak very well. I battled many prejudices and unconscious biases. To survive, I had to grow a very thick skin, one in which insults couldn’t penetrate, but the goodness of the world also could not penetrate the barrier I set up to protect myself from the constant bullying.
My sense of isolation grew. I started questioning myself. I stopped loving myself. My sense of self-worth withered away. A void opened up in my heart, a black empty void—the darkness. It started off as a very small void, I did not understand it but it grew and became a part of me. I then started to associate the void with Ego because very much like Ego, from a perspective, it is loud, colourful, tempting, appears to be your saviour, a know-it-all, overly confident and upon a closer glance, you start to see how empty Ego really is.
Fast-forward to me as an adult: I am in university, I have friends, I can hear, I can speak, everything looks good on paper. But the void was still there—my darkness was there, growing bigger because I did not want to look at it because I could not comprehend what it was. It was scary too—it felt like a blackhole trying to suck me in and I felt like if I got sucked into it, I would forever lose the sense of who I was.
I then tried to fill the void with food and alcohol and relationships that weren’t good for me. Alcohol seemed to fill the void the best temporarily so alcohol was my way to feel “normal”, to fit in, to go out and socialize and go against my introverted nature because I felt that was what we were supposed to do in our 20s—go out with friends and drink and have fun. It wasn’t fun but alcohol was a blessed relief from having to acknowledge that I had the darkness within me and I did not know how to confront it.
Eventually, I found meditation and yoga. An elder encouraged me to meditate and take a few yoga classes. Meditation calmed my monkey mind down enough to have clarity—it was through meditation that I realized I wasn’t living my truth; I was simply acting out a script that was programmed and put into place for me by society, family, friends, and the school system. Yoga helped me get unstuck and finally take action—by going against the grain and the script. A path opened up for me. Yoga gave me the courage to confront my void instead of running away from it or filling it up with food and booze.
My first class—I found that I couldn’t even touch my toes, despite me being athletic. Then I realized yoga wasn’t about being able to touch your toes, but it is about what you learn on the way down. The deeper I went into a pose, the deeper into my subconsciousness I went. I knew that the void had something to do with my subconscious self. I was terrified of my own subconsciousness and Ego because it felt like it would swallow me whole if I got too close to it. But by avoiding that darkness, I was abandoning myself; denying an aspect of myself because it didn’t fit in with my current narrative of who I should be.
That was when I started to realize that my body had its own innate wisdom, its own memories, even its own consciousness—all within my subconscious. My body was constantly trying to tell me something except it could not talk or articulate through words. I realized the only way I could listen to my body was through yoga. I also realized that doing yoga was one way to listen to my body. I realized that in order to get out of the void, I had to go THROUGH it.
So that was exactly what I did for the next number of years—yoga and meditation. I even quit my current job and dropped out of university to pursue the Yogic Path. I spent HOURS in poses, contemplating and meditating and listening to my body. I pushed myself to the limit. My body and mind rebelled at first—I would push and it would push back. But I kept at it and kept pushing myself physically and eventually my body started to “give in” as it started to trust my mind when I asked my body to go deeper into a pose or bend.
I embraced the void. I embraced my own darkness to see my own Light. In the embracing of the void, I realized that within the void is creation. It is the spark of life. Within the nothingness, there was everything. The void is the birth of creation. I realized that my void was merely a SEED! But I had to nurture that seed, weed my garden of my mind, water it, and actually LOVING that seed, in order for the seed to blossom.
It was my own ignorance that made me think that my darkness was something to be removed or eliminated or avoided when in truth the darkness was my best teacher. The loneliness I felt, I realized, was the only remedy to fill myself up from the inside, rather than from the outside in. Knowing and understanding myself was the best way to fill my spiritual cup. Instead of feeling fragmented, like there were pieces of me scattered everywhere and I felt like I spent a lot of time trying to find those missing pieces and trying to put myself back together, I started to feel whole. Knowing myself was the glue that kept the pieces of soul together.
Seeing the World As How We Are
Sometimes I forget to take the time to get to know myself. Sometimes I forget to take care of myself. When the pandemic hit, I went into survival mode and strayed from my daily yoga practice because I simply was too busy for such luxury. But by doing so, I started to forget who I was and I lost sight of myself. Traumas started to accumulate, and I know trauma is stored in the body, creating blockages all over my body. When I stopped doing yoga as often, the traumas started to take root in my body and I knew I had to do something about it before the roots of trauma grew and took hold and changed me into someone I wasn’t. The traumas were starting to cloud my clarity.
We don’t see the world as how it is; we see the world as how WE are. This is a saying I’ve always adhered to, as a reminder that my perception can be easily skewed and distorted by my senses and traumas. I now realize yoga isn’t a luxury; it is a necessity for me because yoga is a means for my subconscious self to release old energies that no longer serve me, to make room for the new. But as long as I was holding onto that stagnant energy, I could not heal and move forward. Like dancing, yoga is how I balance my energies.
This is where Yasodhara Ashram comes in. Coming to the Ashram was like remembering who I was. Doing the Hidden Language classes was like a homecoming reunion between my body, mind and soul. Being in the woods cocooned by the mountains; in the silence I heard my own essence. With silence, I could hear more. I know God took away my hearing so I could hear Him more. Being at the Ashram proved that. And without that void, I wouldn’t have come to know my own Light. The void was where my Light was!
Jenny Valdis is from Winnipeg, MB and splits her time between there and Kelowna, BC, her second home. Jenny loves the Great Outdoors, especially snow as she is especially at home in the snow, preferably in the mountains! She also loves the ocean, and is aquatic, as she has her Lifesaving (Lifeguard) badges and used to be on a swim team. She is an avid horseback rider, having ridden since she was a wee girl. She is also a Modo-certified Yoga teacher, as well an Ashtanga and Yin Yoga teacher a Reiki Master, and a BodyTalk practitioner. She is also training to be a Death Doula. She treasures her time with family, friends, dog, and especially her alone time in the woods as she is very much of an introvert.
Original artwork by Jenny Valdis