Becoming Who I Am: A Journey of Healing, Wholeness, and Gratitude

As a child growing up in the countryside of England, with my father enlisted to fight at the start of World War II, a mother too busy with a new baby plus a house and garden to care for, I spent many happy hours alone climbing trees, listening and talking to them. I made friends with a robin who came regularly to sit on my hand or shoulder whenever I called to him. In the long grass, I made miniature playgrounds for caterpillars and beetles. I was never bored! When school time arrived, I could only long for the freedom of nature, and was reprimanded often for gazing out of the window or not paying attention.

My Garden of Eden didn’t last forever. A serious injury to my left hip when I was eight involved three weeks of hospitalization and terrifying treatment for damage and infection. Some years later, under the knives of surgeons, I was cut apart twice as 20 ganglions of vital nerves were ripped out. This threw me into total estrangement with my being, and thus began many years of living confused and disturbed, dragging a painful body around, instead of living inside a vibrating, sensually alive one.

We are survivors. Again and again, I hear miraculous stories from students of what they have managed to get through, how they have pulled themselves out of horrific situations ... and then, somehow, yoga finds us. The long journey back to ourselves and to wholeness begins. We know it is not about being “cured,” but rather meeting, owning, and loving this body, this life, once again. This is the true path to living with joy and fulfillment.

Now I am almost 80 and spend most of the year with my husband, Victor, on the beautiful Greek island of Lesvos. We built our home and teaching hall in a sacred olive valley near the sea. Each day over the years, I have woken in the morning and fallen asleep at night among the gifts of nature. The caress and the battering of the elements, the wind, the burning heat of a summer sun, the light, the trees, the songs and night calls of the birds and animals, and the ever-changing colors of the sea leave me in awe, and I can only whisper, “Thank you.” My heart melts as I wonder how, after so many years of struggle and pain, I could have landed in this oasis of healing.

Nearly two years ago, my concept of gratitude met a whole new dimension, as hundreds of fragile rafts and boats crammed with refugees arrived on our shores. I witnessed families with grandmothers, pregnant women, babies, fathers carrying young children, old men, young students … some broken and alone, all homeless and bereft of loved ones, having fled from the terror of war, endured torture, brutality, and a terrifying journey. As they tumbled or fell onto slippery stones and staggered to safety, some knelt and kissed the ground, others shouted to Allah, arms wide, eyes shining. Their joy and relief was palpable. These brave souls rarely mentioned what they had been through. They were simply grateful to be alive.

They showed me that to touch your heart speaks far more than words. They showed me that I can open to transparency—for what is there to hide? When souls truly meet, this gesture is beyond culture, religion, language, and gender.

Each day, we see or hear of more horror and pain around the world. How fortunate we are, each one of us, to have within us a safe place to go at all times. I touch my heart and bow.

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Angela Farmer was one of B. K. S. Iyengar’s earliest students. Her journey for more than 40 years has been an internal one, inviting inner dialogue with the body and bringing feeling, movement, and freedom into yoga practice.

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