move. smile. release. Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Love. A true Story.

Happy New Year Yogis!
I’m currently on day 6 of a juice cleanse, nothing unusual there, just giving my digestive system a rest. As you may know, when you do a cleanse it’s not just physical stuff you clear out - there’s the psychological, energetic & emotional elements that clear out with it. This one is bringing up stuff I’ve been holding on to for ages…it’s painful, but ultimately it's about love.

It began when I was listening to ‘the Minimalists’ podcast a couple of weeks ago, and I became inspired to clear out the boxes of stuff I’ve been holding onto since my mum died almost 4 years ago. Every box I open holds memories; wounds and bitter-sweet joys, I tread lightly, I’ve got no idea what is next. As I move slowly through, I have been observing the rise of this overwhelming feeling that I am beginning to allow space to detach from the story. The story of her, the story of us, mostly to stop protecting her and actually tell the story of her pain & trauma - because the story is actually about the path of love that I am on today. 

So whilst still in the process of this epic cleanse of my house, I naturally followed my instinct to cleanse my body, and all those intimate, ‘too hard to explain things’ are coming to light. I know that we release our grip on the story when we tell it (or, the story releases its grip on us), and although I have told it to trusted friends, something big has changed now, and I am sharing below, to anyone who is interested, how it is that I came to trust in the power of love so deeply. I may regret sending this when I come back to earth from my detox, but here’s to being vulnerable, in the moment & openly sharing our truths....

When my eldest brother was 14 he was diagnosed with a severe mental illness that turned everything in my ‘perfect happy family’ upside down. Whilst he would have short periods of being “normal” he spent most of his life being either in the throws of an episode of mania, or unrecognisably sedated in a psych ward. I spent my childhood visiting these dark places, and, witnessing the horror my parents faced daily in their fight to stay above water. I witnessed my own friends being unable to play at my house anymore - through the rose coloured lenses of a child I witnessed many forms of fear in play all around me. My brother’s life became a cycle of heavy medication and hopeful management, and after 7 years of darkness, ended with him taking his own life. There are volumes I could write about him, and the other people in my family, but those are stories for other times. This is a story about my mother, and about me.
I was 14 when he left us, a truly important age - it’s a time when children shift to being something else, and, across the globe there is often some kind of test, a passing on of wisdom, perhaps a ceremony to mark the rite of passage. What happened to me at this time was certainly a rite of passage, one that showed me the next stage of darkness, as I watched my mother slip into a void that is beyond fear and grief. Rather than being held by my family and community at that stage I was set loose, to find my own way. Mental illness and suicide is not something many people feel comfortable talking about, so people didn’t talk about it at all. At school there was a strange sense of going on like nothing had happened, and at home there was nothing but what had happened - I would wake to the howling of my mother as she screamed her despair into the night…I became the caretaker, in a sense, and made my way through those awkward teenage years by doing extreme sports and injuring myself a lot (which all makes a lot of sense to me now), discovering meditation and eventually taking a devoted healing path.
My mother’s pain was so deep and raw that she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, face it. As a mother now I have a little more perspective on that, and, I don’t think that anyone should be judged on how they grieve the loss of a child.  However, at the time, I guess I did judge, I wanted to help her, I wanted to see that she was trying. I would talk to people & try to find the best & most appropriate healers, councillors, psychologists - but every suggestion I made was met with the same dagger of an answer: “If I’m that much trouble to you, I’ll just kill myself.” This sentence was her wall - it meant that she did not want to address her trauma. It meant that it was her trauma alone, and she intended to hold onto it forever. It was her way of keeping me disconnected to her pain.  In many ways a lot of her died with my brother. The wall she built around herself became a fortress of stress and tension and the light in her eyes was mostly gone, but somehow I believed it could come back, so I kept on trying to ‘fix’ her.  As I carved out my own path of healing, discovering meditation, reiki, TCM, Qi Gong & Yoga, I would try to share them with her, but was always met with the same horrific, empty response. I found her so difficult and infuriating, I went through all ranges of emotions, but I didn't stop trying…until something happened.
After more than a decade of working on my self and doing my best to ‘help’ my mother, it was time for me to start my own family. My first child was born when I was 27 - he was the perfect form of innocence and purity, with no knowledge of our stories, our walls, or our shared trauma. I watched my mother with him and I saw flickers of light return to her eyes. She had been so distant from me emotionally for so long that I didn’t really trust her. It took me a long time to leave my baby in her care for any extended amount of time, but when I eventually did, she would be radically changed. Over a few years I observed how she would light up from spending time with him, and with that light a new space for us to connect would open, for a moment at least. I realised quickly that this was all possible because he offered her what no one else had, for a really long time: unconditional love. He wasn’t trying to fix or help her, he was just doing what people do before they are corrupted by life - they radiate love. And as I observed him, I let him be my guide; I ceased my efforts to get her to address her trauma and just let it be. Whenever I was in her presence, or when she was on my mind, I started to focus my intention on simply giving her unconditional love. Little by little our relationship shifted, as I let go of my agenda to make things better, things got a little better. I did my best to surrender the past and be in the moment with her, and within those moments there was closeness again - the walls came down. 
This is not to say that she was ‘fixed’ by any stretch of the imagination, but there was healing. When she died almost 4 years ago it was from a massive aneurysm, most likely caused by an accumulative life of heavy stress and holding on to trauma. What was ‘fixed’ though, was the passage of love between us. Through the teachings of my little guru I learned that focussing on fixing the problem is never the answer. The answer is focussing on the love that lies behind all of the problems - the love that we came from and the love that we return to, the love that binds us all. 
Bringing focus to this love has been my daily practice ever since - on and off the mat. You can call it Yoga if you want, or divine light, or God, but it’s actually just love. And, it really is all we need.

hope to see you on the mat soon
with light & love

ps. if you are interested in the benefits of fasting feel free to contact me, or listen to this great podcast.
pps. New space has become available for the upcoming Goddess Retreat! There has been 2 cancellations so this (previously sold out) Ubud Retreat is inviting 2 more women to join. Be quick! March 2-9th. Click HERE for more info.