welcome to om exchange!
Connect with yogis everywhere. We can help you to reach people and share your yoga offerings including retreats, workshops and events.

Yoga & Courage: How Immense Loss Leads to Developing a Yoga "Life Sequence"

November 20, 2014 by Clive Fogelman 

By Clive Fogelman

Facing Fear and Loss

As far back as I can remember, every time my parents took me somewhere as a young boy, I ran off immediately. I don’t remember having anywhere specific to run to, just an urge to run. At some point I would realise that I was lost, break down in tears and scream for my Mummy and Daddy. Even now as I trace my memory back to those moments, I can remember the panic and realisation of being alone and away from my parents. It was terrifying. That fear became reality when my parents died in close succession turning my life upside down. I was 28 years old. My existence, the question of my life and how I was living appeared in sharp focus. Questions I had perennially avoided returned again and again. How connected was I to myself? How connected was I to others? How connected was I to the world I was living in? What was it that I really wanted? Could I be ok with being me? I could no longer locate myself and wondered if I had identified myself through others my whole life. I went looking for myself desperately searching for meaning and the fragmented parts of my existence. I travelled for long periods. I pushed people away and pulled them back in. I sought solitude yet yearned for intimacy. I was scared of getting close to others, worried that I might be abandoned again or that I might be a curse on others. I lived life with urgency because I was scared it would be ripped away from me at any moment. I needed to experience everything in the now.

The Long Journey of Healing

As I started the process of healing, I connected deeply with yoga, meditation and psychotherapy. Practises I had started exploring a few years previously. I went through a process of deconstruction. My yoga practise also became a mirror of my life. It was illuminating to experience how closely related my experiences were on the mat and in my life. My attitudes, my feelings and my prevailing thoughts about life were immediately accessible through my practise. I increasingly found myself drawn to restorative yoga and meditation, benefitting significantly from their healing qualities. In my professional life, I was excited by the prospect of merging aspects of yoga and psychotherapy together and so decided to train as a yoga teacher to complement my psychotherapy training, which I had started some years prior. I trained at the White Lotus Foundation, a special place in Santa Barbara, California. The training was a memorable experience. Towards the end of the training, we were set a final assignment to teach a taster class in a way that might represent how we wanted to teach after completing the training.

The Birth of the "Life Sequence"

My idea appeared instantaneously. I was filled with a great sense of clarity as I designed my sequence. I had recently been working at Marie Curie Cancer care as a bereavement counsellor, which further fuelled the idea that was presenting itself. I wanted to teach a sequence that took people from birth to death through yoga postures. I wanted it to represent the journey of life; birth, childhood, adulthood, relationships, work, older age and death. I wanted the sequence to encompass the full experience of life, including the joys and the struggles. As I prepared the sequence, I hoped it would capture the evolutionary and cyclical nature of our existence. With a yin and restorative focus the intention was to create a meditation on life, which allowed people to take the gaze inwards and reflect on the past, present and future. To engage with memories and dreams. I named it the Life Sequence. When I returned home, I expanded the sequence and taught it privately and in small groups. As I begun to do so the feedback was positive with many people urging me to write it up and share it with a greater audience. The sequence progressively evolved and took shape as did my yoga teaching. But then everything changed. A few years later, at the age of 33 years old, just as I was rebuilding my life, I was abruptly diagnosed with bowel cancer. I was devastated and completely stopped in my tracks. My world came crashing down once again. I had four major surgeries in the space of five months. I spent long periods in hospital and at moments was taken to the edge of my existence. Time stopped still.

Being Hit Twice & Learning to Trust Again

It took me several years after my parents died to find my feet. Over time, I slowly rebuilt my life. My therapy and yoga work were developing and providing great satisfaction. I was in a relationship with my girlfriend Isabelle after years of struggling to form attachments. For the first time in a long time I had dreams and aspirations. But then cancer intervened. I felt like I was being told that I was not allowed this. Someone in the universe was saying “hey mate, don’t get carried away”. Once again I was forced to reassess my life as I faced a long road to recovery. It was an immensely difficult period for me and those close to me. Healing takes time, physically, emotionally and mentally. There were many setbacks and frustrations. We have been suspended for long periods in uncertainty and still are as I navigate the journey of remission. But there has also been significant growth. Cancer has made me humble and encouraged me to reflect once again on what is important in my life; my relationship, my friendships, my family, my health and my happiness. Cancer has been a time out; an opportunity to explore deeply. Another chance to rebuild. I returned to the Life Sequence in the days when I was at home unable to move or go out, developing it further with the insights afforded to me through cancer. The experience of death in different ways has opened me up to life. It has brought me closer to myself and others while bringing a deeper sense of contentment. It has connected to me to all that I have lost but also all that I have gained. Irvin Yalom once wrote that we cannot live life fully until we accept our inevitable death. This has deeply resonated with me from an early age. I don’t know if I can accept death fully. At times I have felt close to this possibility. At other times, it feels unimaginable. Reaching that final point of acceptance is perhaps not so important. What I do believe is important is facing the feelings that come with the prospect of death and loss as they appear and with that the feelings that come with living. This is the process for me. From the moment we are conceived we are on a journey. Every experience in life affords some form of opportunity to grow and embrace our deeper potential. This is the heart of the Life Sequence.  Through the Life Sequence I invite people to open up, to explore and to connect with each other and the world we live in.

Clive's upcoming retreats:

The launch to introduce the Life Sequence on April 10th - 13th. See details here.

A walking & yoga retreat in Morocco - See details here.