Clearing Out the Lungs

“If you want to clean a house, you have to see the dirt.” – Louise Hay

As some of you may recall, we’ve been talking a lot about ego. Yogis and spiritual types refer extensively to ego, and many refer to ego projections as shadow qualities. Coming from these questionably refined people, who out there can’t help but feel slightly judged?

Because I can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, let’s explore my history. On January 19, 1983—exactly forty years from the date Janis Lynn Joplin was born—I was born Jillian Joyce Lang to a Roman Catholic family who baptized me, and now I’ll never burn in hell. Growing up in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, I recall detesting church so much, that my parents would coax me out of bed on Sunday mornings with the promise of breakfast at the Modern restaurant, which included generous servings of meaty Treen’s bacon. Until age 21, I called this bacon Modern bacon. I stopped attending church when my family moved to Strathmore, Alberta, in 1996, and thus began my journey through the public school system.

At age 18, I read my mother’s copy of the book The Celestine Prophecy. I honestly don’t remember details of the book, but I do know that it launched me onto the spiritual path. Around age 20, without ever having stepped onto a yoga mat, I assured myself while working out at the Mount Royal then College gym, that one day I’d be a yoga teacher. I had been taking kinesiology classes, including a flexibility and relaxation elective (which I excelled at), and I remember feeling inspired. It turns out I did have a gentle nature.

By this point I was a long-time natural born counsellor. In grade nine I remember couple friends calling me over to help them resolve conflicts. Strangers, spilling their life stories to me on the Greyhound bus. People liked talking to me. I think it’s how I won over the hearts of men, although growing up I was quite busty.

Fast-forward to a newspaper co-op during the spring of 2007. I was assigned to cover the Grandmother Drum tour. Not only did I pay my own way into the event (which is not protocol), but I was also asked by local white people organizers to chip in for the $1,500 community drum. I didn’t mind the former because I appreciated supporting indigenous arts and culture, but I didn’t understand the latter request. I didn’t live there; I was a student on a co-op. The woman who asked the newspaper to cover the event asked me for $350. I gave the drum I made—and paid for—to a local woman with severe cerebral palsy and otherwise felt alienated by the pushy and clearly unreasonable, not surprisingly white, “spiritual” community. The same woman who introduced me to Archangel Michael (if the priest talked about archangels in church, I didn’t pay attention), was the same woman who called me nonstop at the newspaper asking for the money I never agreed to paying her. Free advertising wasn’t enough.

During this time I was uncomfortably overweight. I had been yo-yo dieting and binge exercising at the gym to no avail. Through another assignment, I found myself caught up in a raw vegan program. I attended various potlucks and this latest diet lasted all of four days before I fell back onto the emotional eating bandwagon. I wanted to give Bikram’s Hot Yoga a go, but the woman in charge of the raw vegan program told me that I would have to choose between the two. I chose hot yoga. I couldn’t starve the fat off my body; I had to burn it off—and it worked.

Thanks to Bikram yoga, I lost all of that uncomfortable weight. Throughout my final year of university, I even let myself eat macaroni and cheese with sausage once a week. A friend of mine gifted me a coil of sausage for my twenty-fifth birthday. Several months after graduating university, the local hot yoga studio hired me part-time to work the front desk. I must have forgotten that my dad paid for my hot yoga membership during my last year of university, and one of the perks of working at the studio was free yoga, when I would smugly tell people who couldn’t afford the steep membership rates that they would have to learn how to prioritize their expenses. I watched my boss do it. We all talked smack like that, but to be fair, hot yoga studios typically pay their teachers fairly.

I wasn’t willing to sell my 2008 Toyota Corolla (which I later crashed) to attend the live Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, so I veered off into the realm of therapeutic yoga. I had kept an eye on a teacher who offered training locally since before embarking on the newspaper gig, and signed up for a training with her in 2009. By December 2009, I was officially a certified yoga teacher.

A beginner training wasn’t enough for me, though, so I went on to pursue an advanced certification in therapeutic applications of yoga. From there I moved to Vancouver, bounced around in that cog for eight months, then got in an accident moving for a guy whose mother didn’t like me because I didn’t have a fancy career earning a lucrative income. It was like being kicked when I was already down.

Suffice it to say, that relationship fell to pieces, and less than a year later the alleged gold digger found herself on welfare. I no longer had the physical capacity to work full-time—or to work as much as I needed to when work was available. I even had to give up my freelance arts columns because my nervous system couldn’t handle being on deadline.

Upon entering the social welfare system, the first social or “case” worker I met with told me that writing and teaching yoga weren’t real jobs. She then went on to insist that since I clearly had slow-processing skills, I must have a brain injury from the 180-kilometer combined-impact accident. This blonde, pregnant case worker clearly didn’t understand the wrath of Indigo Angel Jill’s fury, though after having some time to think on a couch outside the horrifying mother-to-be’s office, I figured that she was right and the employment program for people with brain injuries would be more appropriate than going back to work full-time.

“I got these slow-processing skills,” I said to the blonde, my negatively focused ego wants to say, bitch. “You were right. I think the brain injury program would be more suitable.”

The blonde horror show was nauseatingly pleased with herself.

Meanwhile the insurance industry wouldn’t cough up a cent, and on the one hand told me that I didn’t make enough money before the accident to qualify for coverage, while on the other, I was making too much money on welfare and teaching one class per week to qualify for coverage—that I paid for. My lawyer told me that I would have to stop working, yet later on I was told by another lawyer that it’s illegal not to ensure every effort is made to work after an accident—regardless of injuries and bodily conditions.

The system told me that I was worthless. There were no boxes for me.

Fortunately I had a roof over my head, but chronic malnutrition along with neglected injuries nearly killed me on two different occasions. I reached out to local studios and asked if they would donate proceeds from karma classes to my online fundraising campaign, and was met with silence. I even volunteered to teach the classes! Afterwards, I watched friends in my community—who ignored my efforts to raise money for myself—share the campaigns of friends in their communities who had cancer. Later I realized that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had been raising money to remit cancer. It wasn’t the fucking cancer; it was me. My own community treated me like I was crying wolf.

Don’t get cancer, Donkey, I whispered in tears on my deathbed, nobody would fucking care.

Though I bet none of those people have heard the music of the spheres.

Can you imagine if I had been charging money for all those years of free counselling I had been offering, to my friends? I would have never run out of money to take care of myself. Yet because I basically had no one to turn to, I was forced into self-reliance. I had no choice but to call on Jesus and the angels for help. Oh yeah, I remembered, Archangel Michael—the great protector angel. Capricorn could abandon people who didn’t respect her boundaries, but I didn’t have to abandon a relationship with Archangel Michael. Because I couldn’t pay my way out of my predicament, I had to pray my out.

Eventually you learn to navigate your way around the system within the system. And, of course, I did get by with the help of a few good friends. Remember how Yogi Bhajan said that there’s a way through every block? Judgment strikes back with the gale force of a boomerang, a lesson (as a Capricorn ruled by Saturn), I’ve learned time and again. For this Indigo, judgment is largely a defence mechanism, yet without all that suffering I might not be so humbled with compassion and understanding.

Like anyone, I have my moments of short-sightedness, but fortunately I can’t call Auschwitz my middle name.

And that’s what we’re dealing with. It is by no means a reflection of me that people choose to act like assholes. It is, however, a reflection of me that I rendezvous with them.

Meanwhile, it must have been Venus in Aquarius who invented silver linings.