Excuse me, Where are you from?
By Anastasia Nevin
I am first generation daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants who grew up in California. According to most strangers who get a kick out of guessing where I am from, I am Moroccan or South American.
I spoke only Russian until I turned five and went to preschool, where apparently the other children wondered what was wrong with this little “weird” child that couldn’t speak their language. I felt attached to my family heritage, yet with my American friends I still felt like an outsider. Later, as I connected more with my peers in school, my family criticized me for losing the language and values of my culture. This feeling of being split between worlds remained a theme and continued to show up in various ways, such as feeling passionate about pursuing a career in dance yet wanting to pursue a graduate degree and a rigorous academic path.
Recently, I received a big spiritual lesson. Someone told me I was perceived as an “outsider” in one of my communities. At first, I felt myself become angry and defensive and put on that tough, protective mechanism. For me, that usually means blaming myself, or others, then, escaping from the situation. This criticism had touched upon my biggest wound. I decided to reach out to a mentor for guidance, and as we spoke on a cold Friday night, she said something that stuck with me. “Perception is reality.”
True or not, if someone believes something to be true, then it becomes true. What is perceived is now real in the observer’s mind. If I believe there is a snake on the road, even if everyone else around me sees only an empty road, the snake to me is now real and my behavior will manifest: I will run away from that spot. This recent lesson, both painful and magnificent, forced me into seeing how my own, old beliefs about being an outsider or not being worthy or good enough actually lead to an external reenactment of an inner dialogue.
In yoga, we use the word “maya” to describe the idea of illusion and we are taught that through spiritual practices, we can change our perspective, and thus, create our reality. But, sometimes we need help. We need the light of those around us to reflect our own light and to challenge old patterns that no longer serve us so that we do not continue to get in our own way.
The most important lesson I have learned in my own healing journey is this: connection is the most potent medicine for the soul.
When we struggle or suffer, it’s easy to choose isolation and shame over reaching out to a friend or loved one. Yet, I believe this precise gesture is the key to unlocking the heart. Instead of turning toward more destructive expressions or coping mechanisms, expressing our truth by using our voices to speak directly and compassionately is so deeply healing. In my work both as a yoga teacher and a nutrition therapist, I continue to be blown away by the power of relationships in reconnecting us to our “Soul Self” when we have wandered.
I’ll leave you with this: Brene Brown, a writer, researcher and expert on the topic of human vulnerability, found in her studies that the only thing that separated men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who struggled for it… was the belief in their worthiness.
“It’s as simple and complicated as this: If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.”