I believe that at the heart of everything happiness is our truest form of being. For me practicing yoga, meditation, gratitude, and compassion inside a community (sangha) of like minds and hearts is like nothing else!
Each one of us has a story, we bleed the same, all seek happiness, and try to avoid suffering. And in the end what connects us human beings feels to be so much more than what separates us.
My hope is that little by little as we get our stories out from the dark basement of our soul the healing process begins. Understanding, growing and eventually letting them go. Or is it that they finally let go of us? What I've been learning is that when things are ready to fall away, they are just going to fall away. They won't be relevant anymore. At least this is how it is for me.
I grew up in Queensland, Australia, whose 4,000 miles of shoreline include the world-famous Gold and Sunshine Coasts, and, offshore, the Great Barrier Reef. My dad was in his early twenties, my mum just twenty years old when they married. Both had been abused as children, and they took their pain out on each other, and on me. They were like magnets perfectly matched to bring out the worst in each other.
By the time I was born in the fall of 1975, my dad had already moved out. He came back and left again many times, and was in and out of prison for supplying drugs to the lost souls of the Gold Coast. Mum kept trying to find her way and did the best she could, but really wasn’t up to the task. I wasn’t starving or homeless or without clothes or a warm bed, but as a sensitive child, I was deeply affected by Mum’s mood swings and Dad’s abuse and neglect. Today, I see their beauty, too, but I’d be lying if I denied the negative impact their actions had on me.
Follow this with mental illnesses, addictions, depression, food obsessions, and a moment where I wanted it all to end. Fortunately though that never happened.
Many of us have gone through these kind of things, or dealt with loss, and no doubt we have all experienced pain at some point of our lives. Sometimes this can bring someone onto the spiritual path, not always, but usually this is the case.
From the outside I might look like someone who has it all, and in so many ways I really do! I have a healthy body, an incredible family, a supportive husband, two healthy kids, and a meaningful practice. This comes together for many reasons, perhaps karma, a dedication to healing, and the desire to feel balanced.
A few years back I came to a place where I had to stop treating myself as second fiddle and choose self-love. It was time to stop looking for new parents and to be the mother of the tender little girl inside, holding her, helping her develop into the woman she was always meant to be. Sometimes a mother needs to provide nurturance, being the love we crave. And sometimes she needs to leave the child alone and give her the space to figure things out for herself, while guarding the doorway with the fierceness of a lioness. Whether it was easy or hard on any given day, it all boiled down to presence. With presence, everyone feels safe, and all aspects of ourselves can be touched.
Sitting tenderly with my traumas and dramas, loving myself and especially my broken parts, continues to be my spiritual path, and I know it’s one of the most courageous things a person can do. When we go inside to be with things as they are, all generations’ wounds are healed. Spending time in nature helps too—the sounds, the smells, the crisp air and my bare feet stepping onto the morning dew. These were all entryways into inner space on my journey “home.”
So, now I have a new understanding of A Life Worth Living. I thought it meant to merge with wisdom, but now I see it as a much more ordinary path, just being ourselves, through and through, with love and understanding.
My mission in life is to be love and to share this with others. Our truest teacher lies within, but I didn't always understand this. It took me reliving past pains, looking for savors on the outside, and hitting many rock bottoms, until I knew that who I was searching for was always inside.
Channa Dassanakayaka was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He learned Buddhist sensibility, cooking, and the traditions of his culture at his grandparents’ compound, and then worked in the food service industry in Europe, the Middle East, and at home in Sri Lanka. As the decades-long civil war in his country widened, Channa moved to Australia and opened a restaurant outside of Melbourne.
Not long after, his mother died, and he spent the next year training at a Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka. He returned to Australia in 1998 and helped start four more restaurants before opening Dassanayaka Yoga Centre in Melbourne.
He is the founder of Dassanayaka Yoga and Living in Awareness practice, integrating yoga, buddhism, and depth psychology.
(Photo by Darren Murphy)