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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Paris

Needlepoint Epiphany

Standing at my new vantage point, I look back and wonder just how long I had been complacent. Sometime along the way, I decided that mediocrity was acceptable, that struggle was normal, and that I was just not lucky enough, or did not deserve, to get the things I wanted in life. It seems almost impossible how years, decades, of self-limiting thoughts and long-forgotten dreams that shaped my reality could be dissolved and reborn into something completely new in one brief moment. Yet that is precisely what happened. The path of my life and my perception of what was possible for myself would shift, propelling me forward with an unstoppable momentum.

When I was five years old, my mother enrolled me in my first dance class. By the time I was 10, the combination of my interest in ballet and others’ assessments of my abilities helped to solidify my path towards becoming a professional dancer. In high school, I was training six days per week, and performing with the local professional ballet company. My high school grades suffered due to my training schedule, and I began to attribute that academic failure to some inherent ineptitude within myself. About the same time, I had established the belief that my three brothers were the intellectually gifted ones in the family, and I was the creative artist. After all, one couldn’t be both, could they?

My ballet career ended up being short-lived due to an unfortunate injury, the distracting love of a young man, and the illusion that time and youth are inconsequential. I would spend the next 17 years in and out of a few bad relationships, pursuing four or five different career directions, becoming a mother of two beloved boys, and floundering as if being misguided was inseparable from my existence. Year after year, the notion that I could not ever truly succeed was growing stronger. I could not succeed financially. Nor academically. At least, not as my brothers had. Without even realizing I ever had a real choice in the matter, I settled.

It is only in hindsight that I can clearly see the point at which things started to shift. The transition from acquiescence to liberated inspiration emerged, beginning with the end of yet another emotionally exhausting, anxiety-ridden relationship with a man that I gave about 24 too many chances. The outsider’s clear choice was a painfully difficult undertaking for me, yet through my heartache I was somehow able to discern that my own well-being and my ability to care for my children was more important than the unlikely blossoming of a quixotic relationship.

Free from the anchoring weight of hopeless codependency, I slowly began to regain my sense of self. I started eating better, sleeping enough, cherishing my time with my children, and I even started taking ballet classes again. It’s incredible how a simple ballet class a couple times a week can have such a profound effect on my well-being. It’s so much more than just exercise for me. It connects me to myself in a deep, almost spiritual way, as if without it I am not whole.

One of the benefits of becoming healthy and comfortable in my own skin is the better I feel, the better I want to feel, which provides the kind of motivation from which manifestation is born. I began working with my primary care doctor to make a long term plan for optimal health. This included blood tests, recommitting to the nutritional protocol I knew worked best for me, and seeking supplementary care from other health practitioners, specifically in the fields of massage therapy and acupuncture. Although the precursor to my breakthrough was a gradual progression of weeks of effort and long-needed focus on myself, to be fair to the moment, the shift in consciousness I experienced happened in a brief but magical matter of minutes.

I had been seeing an acupuncturist for a few weeks. Most sessions were a combination of treatments including “cupping,” gua sha massage, and of course the acupuncture needling. During one particular session, everything the practitioner was doing felt so amazing, and so very needed. Everything about this session was perfect: the soft cello music that quietly filled the room, the massage with just the right amount of pressure on just the right spots, the warm comfort of the heated table under my body… even my own thoughts were contributions to my experience. I was filled with gratitude, and I was able to humbly acknowledge the importance of doing things for myself that promote healing, self care, and love.

Once the treatment needles were in, the practitioner left the room for the usual 15-20 minutes so I could relax and allow the therapeutic benefits of the treatment to be fully achieved. I felt so unbelievably peaceful, and as my mind drifted from one gentle thought to another, I eventually became acutely aware of my current place in life, where I have been, and what I want for myself moving forward. I recalled that when I was 16 years old and navigating a rigorous training schedule, I started researching nutrition for performance, and discovered there was such a thing as organic farming. When I was 22 and considering a degree in Fitness Technology, my interest in nutrition was piqued even more. When I was 30 and raising two little boys, my desire to provide them with the best possible nutrition for their tiny growing bodies felt like more than just a mother’s instinct. At 33 I discovered that I truly loved to cook and create healthy, delicious recipes. At 38, after decades of reading books and listening to lectures from doctors, scientists, and health experts, I saw that my fascination with the biochemistry of nutrition was much more to me than just an interesting hobby. It is my calling.

Although my explanation of this moment makes it seem as though it happened in a linear manner, the thoughts I was having were not thoughts in the way that they are translated onto this page. The realization I just described came to me in a split second, and as its profound connotations consumed me, I became one with everything in existence: my thoughts, my body, the matter around me. Simultaneously I felt as if my body was suddenly floating in nothingness, and the lack of distinction between me and my environment was further indication of the unity of the moment. I then became aware that I was crying. I was elated, overjoyed, and reveling in the connectedness of my past, present, and future selves, and all of life.

In an instant, I was shown a possibility for myself that I had never before been able to see. In that moment, I knew that I needed to go back to school to pursue an education in nutritional biochemistry and turn it into a career. Every time I had previously considered going back to school to complete a degree, my overthinking mind would replace the thought with warnings and excuses: “You’re too old to go to school… it’s too expensive… you’re not smart enough… you’ll probably fail, yet again…” My negative experiences in life had held hostage any sanguinity, and the coalescence of that discouragement and self-doubt had kept me paralyzed in fear for most of my adult life. Yet at that moment on that acupuncture table, none of that seemed to matter, and all of those fears subsided. A fresh perspective dawned. It was an epiphany. It was a message from the Universe. It was like being spoken to by God. It was irrefutable.

I was transformed. With clear goals in my mind, I took action immediately. Within days I knew the program of study I wanted to pursue. Within a week I was enrolled in classes. Over the next few months, not only my educational plans, but my ability to keep up with household responsibilities, my connection with my children, the way I managed my time, and many other aspects of my life seemed to fall into place. At first, when sharing my experience with others, I described it as a force greater than myself moving me forward in pursuit of my dreams. I soon discovered that the force was not outside myself, but within me. I was that great force.

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