My favorite Full Moon Ritual is a Gratitude Practice. I take a few deep breaths, light a candle, pause, and reflect on what am I grateful for. I say my gratitudes out loud to really feel the words in my body. I finish with a silent meditation.
I love this ritual because it is simple yet profound.
I enjoy this gratitude practice because it gives me time – time “I don’t have” and time “I need” – to give thanks. I fill-up with gratitude by remembering all the people that I love and all the experiences that enrich my life. I envision myself shining brightly like the full moon in the night sky. With this practice, I can find gratitude for every experience. This Full Moon I am grateful for my Kundalini Yoga practice because it helped me to stay calm and have faith during the most painful and terrifying experience of my life.
On a warm afternoon day, I was hiking in the desert mountains of East San Diego County, when suddenly, I had a gut feeling that I was no longer welcomed on the land. I hiked out of the dry lake bed and was on my way back to the house, when I saw her out of the corner of my eye. She didn’t rattle and I wasn’t warned. I saw her strike my left foot. Her fangs felt like a hundred bees’ sting as she pierced my skin. Immediately, I knew that I had to find help. The pain in my leg was agonizing, like nothing I could have imagined. Instantly, my left foot swelled to twice its size and a sharp pain shot up my leg. The left side of my body went numb as I walked towards the house. My heart was pounding so fast that I feared it would explode. I had to slow my heart rate down and get to the house as quickly as I could! I placed my right hand over my heart and took some deep breaths. A voice said clearly, “Walk forward. Keep breathing. What’s your name? What’s your birthdate? Get to the house, Allison.” In that moment, my yoga practice – the asanas, pranayamas, chantings and meditations – became the force that guided me to find help and to stay alive.
By the time I reached my house, the left side of my body was paralyzed and my face was swollen and numb. My body was shaking and I was slurring my words. I was in a lot of pain and very scared, but I also felt calm. I called for help and my housemate heard me. We got into the car and started driving down the dirt road. He kept telling me, “Sing! “Sing, Allison! Sing something!” At first I was hesitant, but then I sang out. From the depths of soul, I chanted “Om! Om Mane Padme Om!” With each breath, my heart rate slowed down. With each sacred sound, time suspended and space expanded. Chanting took away the pain I felt in my body and replaced it with the courage I needed to make it down the road. We met the paramedics at the bottom of the hill. By this time my whole body hurt: My mouth was trembling, and my tongue was hissing like a snake’s. I fought to stay present with what was happening: I recited my name and my birthdate. The paramedics gave me oxygen and an IV, but couldn’t offer me any other relief. I tried to chant the Aad Guray Nameh Mantra for protection, but I couldn’t do so because my heart was racing and I started to hyperventilate. All I could do was breathe.
When the paramedics transferred me from the ambulance to the helicopter, I could feel the venom pulse through my body. My leg was burning and my body was shaking. My throat was constricted and my chest felt like it had a heavy weight on it suffocating me. The paramedic next to me warned that my heart rate was now “maxing out” and I needed to breathe. Again, I turned to my yoga practice: I found my breath and told myself; “Inhale – 1, 2, 3 – Exhale – 1, 2, 3.” I repeated this sequence for the duration of the helicopter ride. The slow, rhythmic breathing calmed me and centered me. By finding my breath, I anchored home amiss pain and confusion. Again, I heard the voice that guided me earlier to find help: She told me to stay present until I was safe in the hospital. Over and over again, the breath guided me to a place of peaceful knowing during that emergency situation.
In the 11 nights that I stayed in the hospital, I learned to trust in others. I was bed-ridden and vulnerable but my heart was open. I received tremendous care and support from so many people. This experience also taught me to trust in the healing process. I couldn’t move for many days and had to re-learn how to walk. I practiced patience with my body, acceptance for my condition, and presence with each moment. Even though I felt trapped in body, my mind was free. I didn’t harbor any anger or resentment, but rather, I chose to love and see the beauty around me.
This Moon I have so much to be grateful for. I am grateful for the nurses who cared for me, for my family and friends who visited me, and for the people who prayed for me. I am grateful for my body and for the simple pleasures in life. In a time of crisis, the breath guided me home to the heart. In the heart, I found a peaceful place to cultivate trust in myself, in others, and in the healing process. And from this sacred ground, my faith has grown. I give thanks for my Kundalini Yoga practice that transformed the most agonizing situation into the greatest opportunity for love in my life.