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A Woman Alive

September 3rd, 2013

My Greatest Gifts

By Diane

Dara Cole is the owner of Sacred Brooklyn, a beautiful and special yoga studio that shines with the light of community gathering, movement and sharing.  The spirit of this studio is not surprising once you begin to get to know Dara, and I am so grateful for her open and vulnerable sharing here on the pages of #authenticlife.  Dara is truly an example of a woman who has found her authentic calling and received “the greatest gifts from her greatest struggles.”  Thank you Dara.  www.sacredbrooklyn.com

Dara_PhotoI’ve always been consumed by righting injustices, both mine and others.

As a child I used to secretly harbor designer clothes I’d received at home and gift them to my peers who didn’t have them.  I did the same thing with Binaca breath freshener and cigarettes.  In the moonlight, I’d write poems about my own salvation, a light at the end of the tunnel.  In the daylight, I was passively suicidal for as long as I can remember.  As soon as puberty hit, most of my struggles were enacted on my body.  I was anorexic, bulimic, abused laxatives, exercised until my entire spine sported a series of bruises and over ate until I couldn’t move.  Everything was shameful.  In college, I recovered from the most insidious parts of my eating disorder and realized it’s roots in abuse and woman-hating and I started talking about it.  In my transparency, a whole lot of other young women were able to begin telling the truth about their own private war with their body.  I was also disastrously un-embodied.  I had checked out of my skin very early on and lived mostly in the clouds observing life as almost a third party.  This lead to; embarrassing gym classes, car crashes, insomnia, and bi-yearly accidents causing broken bones and emergency rooms.  I was almost fatally unaware. 

From my youth through my twenties, I worked in social services trying to heal the world’s pain alongside my own.  I worked in homeless shelters, community centers, after-school programs, foster care, and offered respite to families with severely autistic children.  I welcomed the world on my shoulders and discounted complaints from friends and partners that my work was consuming.  There was work to be done and I was the one to do it.  I found some tools in anti-depressants, self help books, and short bouts of therapy, all which helped but never fully got me back to my true Self.  Then I found Bikram.  At 29, it was almost instant, as if I was being shocked out of a stupor and back into my Atma, (soul).  All confusion subsided. I knew I had to break up with my longterm girlfriend, leave my job working with LGTBQ youth in foster care and run to LA to learn from Bikram himself.  In less than 6 months I overhauled my life.

After Bikram yoga, life was almost technicolor.  Everything was more intense; sweat, stench, sensation.  It was the exact amount of intensity that I needed to zap me out of my homeostasis and into real living.  Teaching required full presence.  There were no meetings to discuss case plans.  In real time, armed with a teaching script and basic knowledge of these poses, I aimed to heal.  I began managing the very sweet little studio that had given me my life back and then opened a 2nd location as part-owner.  One of the key lessons of Bikram yoga is that the only way out is through, or by enduring the pain, you will receive the therapy.  There was no place this supported me more than in the birth of my daughter, Xena

In 2007, I delivered her at home.  I knew my body intimately and knew exactly how to release her into this world.  My body trusted the gift of birthing pains.

In my first trimester, my relationship with my daughter’s father ended.  I was devastated and despite the messiness of it all felt this strong conviction that it would all work out.  I began a daily practice of writing gratitudes for my exact circumstances, my harrowing now.  This gratitude practice served as absolute alchemy and transformed a potentially horrible situation into Love.  One day, I was talking about it with a yoga teacher I had hired for the new studio and she told me about a program that takes gratitude a step further, Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.  It was inside of this work, I began to live inside the world of Desire.  I began to ask myself, what do I really desire?

I started to explore other embodiment practices beyond Bikram.  I cried through my first few Sfactor classes – a sort of spiritual pole dancing class for women.  At the same moment I realized the importance for a woman to embody her femininity, my resistance raged.  As sultry music blared by candlelight, I felt more like the sad kid with her head in the clouds trying to disappear than the confident woman, mother and entrepreneur that I had become.  I learned to dance my imperfections.  I began to cultivate courage and care less about being good and more about the experience as I tried more movement modalities.  Whereas, Bikram taught me to stay the course following specific external instruction that allowed NO variance, these new modalities we’re allowing me to listen within.

As I became more exploratory and open, Bikram became more restrictive.  As I was about to close on my very own Bikram Yoga Studio in Carroll Gardens, a moratorium on new studios was instated and his notorious franchise agreement took centerstage.  On the day, I was to sign the lease months in the making, it fell through the cracks.  The building owner changed his mind.  I asked my self the question, what now?  If this whole Bikram thing that saved my life isn’t going to work out, then what the hell am I going to do?  I asked that question like a waiting mantra for months.  If not Bikram, then what?

In the investigation of this desire, the vision of Sacred was born.  It is just as I visioned it – Sacred.

Sacred is my life’s work so far.  It’s a community space that has a point of access for everyone.  We have a work-trade staff of over 25 volunteers and a weekly totally free community class.  Many of its’ clientele are artists, activists and entrepreneurs who are doing their part to heal and transform themselves and the world around them.  Sacred is an embodiment practice from the inside out.  It’s the process of going within, remembering that we are not just heady creatures, but physical ones with an intelligence that lives in our muscles and cells.  In it’s web presence, promotional materials, and teachings, I want Sacred to feel like a welcome, a coming home to your true Self.   It’s not more regurgitated photos of promised perfect abs and weight loss schemes promising better tomorrows or zen landscapes promising an inner oasis.  Sacred is this moment, live and in technicolor fueled by possibility.  It’s this moment AS IS: messy, authentic, hilarious, gorgeous, heartbreaking and the willingness to inhabit it fully and share generously.

 

 

 

5 Responses to “My Greatest Gifts”

  1. Aqila

    Dara’s interview is profoundly powerful, voluptuously vulnerable with regal realness, she inspires me to surrender to myself, the truth of who and all that i am

  2. Anneke

    “Transform yourself, and you will transform thousands.” Dara’s journey is an inspiration to all. I felt privileged to read about the struggles that brought her on her path, and even more privileged to know her – she is a living example of the truth that great love and joy are born of the deepest sorrow. Thank you for this article. And thank you, Dara!

  3. Raquel

    Love.

  4. Chani

    Gorgeous writing. Gave me chills to read, and left me feeling inspired. Thank you for the gift of your transparency, courage, and strength.

  5. Tara

    I loved reading this. Your journey is a powerful one and there truly was a light at the end of the tunnel.

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