Breaking down or breaking through?

100_2321When it feels like things are falling apart, sometimes they're actually falling into placeMy life has changed dramatically over the last year. I began to wake up and get in touch with my true self, who I was and what I wanted. The problem was that it was none of the things I’d spent years building my life around. My corporate career, my partner of 7 years, my house by the beach and my lavish lifestyle. Within the space of 12 months I replaced all of these things as I went on my journey of waking up to what’s important in life. Let me tell you about what I now refer to as my breakdown breakthrough!I was blessed with a life that had all the hallmarks of success from the outside but inside it felt like there was a hole in my soul. I had ‘everything’ except what really mattered and I was unhappy when I was told I had all the conditions necessary for happiness. It was through this process that I began to figure out how and why.I had been unhappy for a long time but I was chasing all the things society told me would bring success and happiness so I couldn’t understand why I was left thinking “there must be more to life than this”. I began meditating, I studied Buddhism and trained to be a yoga teacher. The things I was learning really struck a chord and made sense to me. It was like a philosophy to life that I’d missed out on in my education. As I began to put it into practice I could see how it brought happiness. I could also see why I’d been unsatisfied for so long walking a different path. This new knowledge transformed my life.Since then, I have become so much more aware. I feel more connected to nature, the seasons, my food and myself, I know who I am and have made peace with the imperfections. I am aware of how my body feels and know instantly when things are not right. I notice more colours and smells around me and I seem to have developed an intuition I never realised was there. I guess you could call it a spiritual awakening although without the brightly light, earth moving, epiphany I suppose I would have classed as a ‘proper’ spiritual awakening. For me it was more gradual over time and I never noticed it happening. It’s only now when I look back and put the pieces together that I understand my transformation.I got perspective around what matters and this wasn’t my KPIs, job title or annual bonus. I’d rather have the time to spend with those I cared about, do the things I love, take care of myself. It wasn’t that I’d lost my ambition as some thought, it was that my ambitions changed. My version of success became how happy I was, not how much I earned. It also gave me the courage to try all the things I’d wanted to do but was often too scared. Where previously my insecurities had held me back I had found a new confidence to live my dreams; I travelled, I wrote book and I began teaching all things that had been on my bucket list for a while but locked away in a dusty corner of the room, breaking through allowed me to bring this to life.I suddenly realised all that was possible and I saw things differently. In my mind I had discovered a new way of living and a path laden with happiness. For years I thought there must be more to life than this and now finally I was waking up to what that meant. Buddhists liken an awakening to a lotus flower growing out of the mud to bloom into a beautiful flower above the water line.If you’ve been through this sort of transformation yourself you’ll know it’s something of a break through in life, but can so often be mistaken for a breakdown. The symptoms are very similar!Years spent living according to the norms and expectations had left me drained, I got sick a lot, I had no energy and I was unhappy. My authenticity had been buried for so long I wasn’t sure what it really was anymore. I wanted to find meaning and purpose in my life and live according to what was in my heart, but I had to find it first and this was part of waking up.As I went through the process of my breakdown breakthrough I experienced confusion, sadness, fear. I doubted myself and began asking questions that made others feel uncomfortable. I sought out like minded people which meant moving in different circles and making new friends. Those around me could see I was changing and going through a struggle and for many it was so far from what they deemed to be normal that mental instability must have been the only logical conclusion. I started to do things they thought were strange; living in Ashrams, stepping off the career ladder and meditating with monks. They needed to find a reason for the change in me and for many a breakdown seemed to fit the symptoms.I don’t blame them for thinking this and I can see how fine the line is between a breakdown and a breakthrough. I also know that their reactions were out of worry and concern for me and what I was going through.There were days I felt like it was all too hard and didn’t want to get out of bed. There were days it all seemed to be going well and then days I’d wonder what on earth I was doing and felt like I was on the brink of failure. But often it’s not until the pain of where we are exceeds the promise of where we want to be that we are forced into action and these feelings were my catalyst for change.I think in some ways a breakthrough can start with a breakdown. It’s when things sink to their lowest we find the motivation for change. It is often our darkest times from which we learn and growth. As Thich Nhat Hanh says “Without the mud there can be no lotus”In order to experience life’s greatest joys we must also experience its deepest sorrows. Many happy people have grown from their darkest times and are a product of the experiences they’ve learned from. “It’s through the cracks that the light gets in.” As we wake up it gets lighter and it becomes possible that we are breaking through.After going through my breakdown breakthrough hopefully now those who were concerned can see the difference it has made. I can certainly feel it. For me it was a true awakening to how good life can be and how we achieve happiness. I awoke to what’s important in life, to the joy in everyday, the power within us all and the infinite potential of life. It felt like I’d finally been set free and was a true break through to my authentic self. After years spent wondering if this is all there is to life and I’m now living life.