By Cat D. Nguyen MA.Ed, RYT
Earlier this year, I sat lost and seeking catharsis at an ecological yoga retreat in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. I had come with a heavy heart hoping to grieve the global suffering induced by the pandemic, the splintered state of my life, and the snuffed candle in my heart which had once burned for education. By the seven year itch of my teaching career, I had witnessed the paradoxical failings of the factory-like system to produce whole and conscious humans. Instead, we were trained to group, track, and ship students off like cogs in a machine. I saw children of color fall through the cracks because of systemic racism and witnessed the oppressive ravages of poverty, hunger, and violence on their minds and spirits. I experienced the culture of competition that taught students to stomp on the backs of others to get ahead. I felt the reigns tighten of centralized districts who treated teachers like workhorses and bound them to Sisyphean boulders of bureaucracy.
I was ready to walk away for good, but I felt a stirring within to pause.
Intuition and luck brought me to Barbarenas where I began my healing journey. There, I breathed deeply and re-connected with nature’s vibrational frequencies. I sat, flowed, and danced with artists, healers, and sages. Most importantly, I asked the universe for direction, and she answered: Go home, put your roots into the ground, connect to who you are and what makes you feel whole.
With the help of my friends, family, and a personal guide, I began to compassionately reflect on that splintered void and to seek honest answers to painful questions left looming in my heart: Am I good enough? Am I worthy of love? Am I a good person? Why am I here? The answers came to me at a pedagogy workshop in the mountains after much reading, reflecting, and discourse with phenomenal people.
Yes. I am a valuable human being worthy of love. There is a river of consciousness within, and it’s time to narrow the streams that perpetuate the lies that say I’m not good enough or loveable. I can re-direct my focus and the quality of my thoughts to that which is integral to feeling life-giving wholeness. I can become the parent for myself I so dearly needed as a child and find the mean between extremes within my thinking. I can be a hollowed singing bowl and let compassionate self awareness fill me and be my North star.
And my calling? Silence at first, followed by a rush of compassionate energy permeating within and throughout: Teach your students how to love themselves, to embrace who they are, to listen to their gut, and to break the chains of internalized and external oppression. Lead them out towards the warm light of consciousness and truth and instill in them the courage to help others do the same.
I cried cathartically under the moon and felt sad it had taken me so long to walk out of my allegorical prison. For years, I’d come to the precipice of change and turned from that bridge to a new happier existence because of fear. But I found along my path mentors and guides-- particularly experience and heartbreak which has been my greatest teacher.
While I have much to learn, my cup is full and my heart is healed as I answer this call of conscious teaching. The how's I'm sure will form organically as I embark on a new chapter at the Intellectual Virtues Academy in Long Beach, California where I'll be teaching art and the tenets of good thinking.
The words of Václav Havel, a leader in the Velvet revolution that liberated Czechoslovakia from Soviet rule resonate with me deeply:
“The experience I’m talking about has given me one certainty: the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart..and in the human power to reflect. Without a global revolution in human consciousness, nothing will change for the better, and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed will be unavoidable.”