Claire Este-McDonald

Cambridge Shoot CEM supta baddha konasana 8_28_2017-8012.jpg

Aum, Aum!, AUM!!! Cracked through me like lightning touching down from the heavens. I was left like a pile of rubble as its vibrations stroke right through to the core of my being. Aum, the first one quaked my footing and every muscle in my body contracted and held on for dear life. Aum! Another hit. This one struck harder and deeper, unrelenting, merciless in its quest.

AUM!!! Took me to my knees. Finally, the long-awaited and desperately needed breaking of my shell.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.” 

—Khalil Gibran

Om or Aum, is one of the most spiritual symbols in the ancient Hindu scriptures. It refers to Atman, or soul within and Brahman, supreme spirit, divine, God, or higher power. Aum is a sacred, spiritual incantation said before and after a ceremony, event, or gathering of purpose. I didn’t know any of this before I had the experience of Aum. Life shared the meaning long before the knowledge.

Words hold a vitality, a life force. There are so many words. Most words we will never say and even if we do our minds will be elsewhere and we will not feel their energy. Years of talking, or better yet, babbling. No rhyme or reason to speak, just speaking, talking, looking for ways to create connection within myself and others. Then one day that all changed.

I always had a practice. It was even called a yoga practice long before yoga was mainstream. My grandmother and my mother were my first teachers. They taught me the value of my spirit and the power of faith. Growing up I didn’t realize how powerful the women in my family were. Looking back I see that they passed on to me the ability to contemplate, step back, and trust the forces of the universe.  AKA—having faith.

Early on, pain was not just a word, but a never ending feeling, a mantra. For years, decades even, pain was with me physically. Physical pain led to mental and emotional distress. Why so much pain? What am I doing wrong? These feelings left me with a yearning for more. There has to be another way!  

After my fourth back surgery I had to use a cane to walk.  I just had my son, and my daughter was 19 months old. Picking them up was unbearable. Feelings of doubt, fear, and shame left me in wrack and ruin. This was not how my life was supposed to be.  And then it changed.

Aum, Aum!, AUM!!!  2000 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA, July 1, 2001. My first heated power vinyasa flow class at the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute. Rolf Gates was teaching. Sunday 9:00am. Laura, my dearest friend from childhood took me to class. Somehow she knew the space I was in. This became our Sunday mass. It was blistering hot outside and blistering hot inside. None of that mattered when a room packed with beings choired a sea of Aum’s.  

Heaven and Earth collided and everything made sense. Years of pain and suffering melted away. I knew I had found home in my being. I realized in the Aum’s that I was returning to myself. All my years of pain and suffering in my body led me right where I needed to be. Here now.

Every year I choose a word. A word that resonates and connects me to my vitality and self-expression. Aum is the mother of my words. She is my go to. She is my home. Her presence inhabits my bones. She lives in my blood. On my darkest days she is my mantra that guides me back to the light.

Aum took me to my Dharma. My mother told me to be a teacher when I was growing up. All my years of searching, learning, struggling, and my heart's yearning have returned me back home to the place I started—Aum.