From White Trash to Wise Woman: How Spirituality Changed my Life
I want to share a little bit about who I am and how I found myself on my spiritual path and eventually as a teacher and facilitator for healing in others. It has been influential and inspiring for me to learn the personal stories of the teachers and mentors who have loved me, guided me, and helped me heal. Through knowing them, I have been able to identify with their human story and understand that we are not so different even though some of us grew up in wildly differing circumstances. I believe that humans are attracted to each other, and the wisdom we share, through a like-minded resonance, or a similar wanting or asking of the world. Since everything and everyone vibrates, and these vibrations are magnetic, we draw similar frequencies to us. It is my hope that this story resonates, inspires, and perhaps even quenches a longing for something magically different than what you currently know.
I First Met God in a Trailer in the Woods
I spent my childhood in Louisiana living in a trailer in a remote woodsy area until I was about eight years old when we moved to Baton Rouge, the nearest big city. My mother was a Hippie Holy Roller of sorts, and she made it her mission to teach me about God pretty much as soon as I came out of the womb. Some of my earliest memories are of her sharing Bible stories with me as I attempted to wrap my little mind around the infinity of Spirit. “So you mean, God was not born, and God will not die?” “How did he get here?” “He’s always been here, forever?” Interesting concepts for a little one to grasp but I tried my best. I spent a lot of time in nature communing with the trees, plants, animals and the earth relating to them through my mother’s teachings about God. I know now that immersing myself in my natural surroundings was one the most effective ways to understand the infinitude of all things. I often found refuge with the trees and enjoyed building forts, making mud pies, and creating beautiful devotional alters for the fairies. I believe we are all deeply connected to these ways as young children but years of programming, increased technology, and city life, can, and has, caused a disconnect for many.
My parent’s relationship was very abusive and tumultuous, so fighting and discord was the norm in our home. The woods were my sanctuary when the explosive arguments would break out. I often felt frightened and alone. There were no other humans around to comfort me, but I know now that I received the most profound support and love from Spirit during those times. My first recollection of prayer was when I was about 3 or 4. My parents were screaming at each other again, and I was terrified. I took off running down our long gravel driveway confused, completely freaked out, and not very sure footed. I didn’t get very far before tripping, falling and scraping my knee. I remember being on my hands and knees, just a tiny little person, praying to God. I prayed that this infinite being in the sky would make things better, help my parents, and provide some Divine assistance. Sitting here writing this, I can say that indeed He did. I know now that Spirit is not a male, but at the time, that’s what I was taught, and how I related to God. I often use the words “Spirit,” “God,” “Divine,” and “Great Spirit” interchangeably. I also want to say that I no longer relate to this energy as having a gender.
I am so very grateful for these early experiences. As young children, we are completely open and connected, so it was a wonderful thing to have my mother introduce me to God even though it was through the lens of a religious institution in which I was never able to completely relate. Luckily I’ve always been able to create my own unique relationship with Spirit, and above all, this is what I want for all of you. I believe that our relationship with God is purely based on our individual revealing experiences that bring us closer to our personal truth and relationship with Great Spirit. The times are changing when it comes to signing up for a belief system just because we were commanded to do so.
Growing Up Fast is an Understatement
As you can imagine, my childhood years were far from breezy and safe. My father moved back to his home state of Indiana, and when my mother and I moved to Baton Rouge, we bounced around to different homes quite a bit. Mom was a blues singer and often stayed out late gigging, drinking and drugging. She would either leave me with my grandparents or would allow me to stay home my myself if I had a friend over. I was staying at home without supervision as early as 8 or 9 years old. This kind of lifestyle chiseled me out to be courageous yet angry, just the recipe for lots of rebellion. I grew up at the speed of light was the classic know-it-all. I fell in step with my mother’s example and started drinking, taking drugs, having sex and sneaking out as early as 12 years old.
My mother was out of control and therefore so was I. She tried her best to give me guidance, but she was just not equipped emotionally. I failed the 7th grade by managing to receive an F in every class. At this point, my grandparents stepped in to help and insisted that I move in with them for the remainder of my teenage years. My mother became more of an older sister and friend at that point. She moved back out to the country where I was born, and my friends and I would visit her frequently to have some fun where the conventional rules of parenting did not apply.
Throughout my teenage years, I used LSD recreationally. My friends, along with my mother, would go out into nature, play, pray, talk about life and the cosmos and pretend we had Native American totems: spirit animal names and dance around on this beautiful rustic creek called Thompson’s Creek. My mother says that she became very connected to the Native Ways when she was pregnant with me through having dreams and premonitions about who I was going to be in the world. My father is 1/16th Cherokee, so I have quite a bit of Native American blood in my lineage. She says that she had a dream when I was about 12 years old that I would be a Spiritual Warrior and that my soul coming to this earth in this role was a promise to one of my Native American ancestors who was a great chief. Even though she did not fit the conventional “mother” role, one of the most positive things she gave me was becoming a playmate and ally in diving into Native American spiritual concepts. She would play her recorder, call in the hawks that lived in the area, and we would dance and sing and play in the sun. I believe that unknowingly and rather accidentally LSD became a medicine for me to journey and connect with Spirit during those formative years. I don’t recommend that anyone do this substance in their teenage years, however, but I think it’s important to know this about my journey as a spiritual being and teacher.
A Downward Spiral
I wish I could say that all of that journeying, fun, and play was helping me get better at being a conventional “good girl” but as you can imagine, it took me farther out to the fringes of everything. When a lot of my peers were dreaming of college degrees, careers, and the myth of the perfect American family, I was barely getting by in school, indulging in drugs and drinking, and hanging out with the older crowd. I met my first love when I was 17, wasn’t very careful sexually, and ended up living the teenage nightmare of discovering I was pregnant. I chose to have an abortion, and the whole experience was so jarring and painful, I was not able to maintain my studies, so I dropped out of high school. It is the classic story of a neglected young girl. Here is the thing, though, I always leaned on my relationship with Spirit and Nature to get me through. No matter how bad it would get, my faith would get me through and although those times playing at the creek did not help me fit the traditional mold, I know they helped me forge a deeper relationship with Great Spirit and have significantly informed who I am today. I believe that God has protected and guided me my whole life.
When I was 18, I moved in with my Love and thought I was all grown and ready begin my adult life. We found a place to live and cozied up. Shortly after settling in, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that my love was addicted to drugs as self-medication for bipolar disease and schizophrenia. Leaving him and going out on my own was one of the most difficult times in my life and I can say that God divinely guided me. One day I woke up and possessed the strength I needed to move out. I found a little ramshackle studio apartment in downtown Baton Rouge with a door that wouldn’t even lock and took my bed and my cat to safety, well as much safety as I could get at the time. It was one of those times where I know that divine intervention was happening to care for me and hold me to my path. Aho! (Aho means thank you and is in the Kiowa language and used by many Native Nations to say thank you)
Right around this time, my mother started dating a new guy who introduced her to crack cocaine, and she became addicted fast. All of the parts of her that were neglectful, selfish, and all around undesirable became amplified and things started to fall apart for her. She would often ring me up and share intense fabrications of reality directed to get money for her fix. She did this with my grandparents as well, and it put an immense amount of stress on them. A secure foundation for supporting and enabling her was already in place, so when she became addicted to drugs, it was a chaotic storm headed directly for my their hearts and bank account.
The First Time I Ever Felt Useful
I was working at a local software company at the time. I started out there as a temp receptionist planning to work part time while figuring out my entry into college. The managers there appreciated my friendly and outgoing demeanor as well as my sharp, hungry mind so they made me an offer for employment that I couldn’t refuse. Shortly after joining their team, I learned the software by sitting in on tech support calls and studying on my own time. I was soon offered a seat in the tech support department providing phone support to their users. Being offered this position was a big deal for me, and it was right on the wave of the first internet boom. Working there made feel smart, cutting edge, and most importantly useful. I was the youngest, and one of the only women on the team. For the first time in my life, I was proud of something I accomplished.
As I was busy creating my life as a young adult, learning new technology, and pushing through my fears to learn and grow, my mother was spinning down a black hole. The stress of her drug addiction and the pull of her regular harassment for money and resources was weighing on me greatly. To manage the intensity of everything, I increased my own drug and alcohol use and often found myself waking up at home after being out all night fully clothed and unable to remember how I got home. There are so many times during this period of my life that Spirit took care of me. The dangerous possibilities are infinite and yet; I was protected the whole time.
Promiscuity, Panic Attacks and Blackouts
My Grandfather was my rock. He was the one who drove me to school and picked me up every day. He would taxi me to my friends’ houses, dance and drama class. He loved me deeply and took the time to teach me as much as he could about being a human with integrity. The two most important lessons I took away from him are 1. Always keep your word 2. Always be on time. I know that if it weren’t for the kindness of my grandparents, I would not be the strong, confident woman I am today. When I was 20 years old, my Grandfather suddenly passed away of a triple heart attack. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced. My foundation crumbled right beneath me. Who was I? Was I going to be safe? Who was going to take care of me? Following his death, I experienced panic attacks for the first time and started taking anti-depressants. The medication eliminated the emotion away so I could function but I was still drinking heavily, and the combination was brutal. Because I was young and resilient, I was able to hold down my job at the software company but my weekends and evenings out partying would often consist of angry outbursts, promiscuity, and blackouts. I was in my own downward spiral unable to see a way out.
One of my best friends had been living in Los Angeles for a couple of years. She would often call me and share her experience of being around creative people who were free and living life to the fullest. She was going to electronic music parties out in the Mojave desert dancing, exploring, and having a blast. She encouraged me to think about moving there so I could reconnect with my creativity and “find myself.” At the time I wanted to be a writer and poet, but my talents were lost in the shadow of drug and alcohol abuse. During this time, reports of the .com boom in California were trickling down to Louisiana. The companies were thriving, fresh with innovation and creativity, and full of opportunities for young people with technical experience. I knew I had what it took to find work out in this new market and some new dreams of leaving Louisiana were seeded and growing in my consciousness.
One day I found myself in a complete breakdown on my living room floor hysterically crying and calling out to God for something to change. I’m not sure how long I was on that Persian rug sobbing, drooling and beating my fists on the worn patterning but at some point, I heard a very clear and distinct voice say to me “You are going to move to California,” “Pick yourself up and call your Grandmother”. Even though my dreams of leaving Louisiana were formulating, I didn’t think it would be possible. I didn’t think my grandmother would help me move and would be upset with me for even thinking about it. I knew my mother would put up a fight as she wanted me there to remain a part of her crazy and out of control world. The voice was so clear and direct. I did what it wanted. I knew it was God, once again speaking to me, guiding me, and helping me through the darkness. To my surprise, my Grandmother enthusiastically offered me the resources I needed to move. She knew that it was important for me to get out of South Louisiana and have access to more education and opportunities. My best friend was so excited that I was moving there she found a new apartment and built a little nest for me to land. My mother did not support my move as expected. She threw many hysterical fits and showered me in guilt trips. I realized that the best thing for me to do was to emancipate myself from her pain and addiction and be brave and independent. I was no longer going to allow her illnesses to bring me down.
Los Angeles was an amazing new world that proved to be a hotbed of creativity and opportunity. I easily found work in the tech industry and my creativity came alive like never before. There is a lot I could write about my entry into this new universe, but I’ll save that for another time. The most important thing to note is that the open and inviting territory of California for seekers of Spirit and creative expression was a breath of fresh air and the community of people I met allowed me to take a deep dive into myself as a spiritual and artistic being.
I landed a position in a fast pasted audio technology company as a tech support consultant and on the side started throwing big electronic music and performance art parties. At the age of 23, I thought I was an invincible Super Hero ready to not only take on the world; I was driven to create it. Fiercely committed to producing environments where people could open up, experience their inherent creativity, and heal in this way, I know now that these events were my first experiments in providing a space for others to become whole again. I was still partying but not to the extent I was in Louisiana. However, the full-time pressurized tech work, creative pursuits, and non-stop party environments contributed to a new place of burnout and instability.
I had not sorted through the emotional and painful baggage I brought with me to California from Louisiana. The exhaustion and strain I was experiencing thrust open the suitcases of pain and fear forcing me to unpack them regardless if I liked it or not. This unloading was intense and ugly. I was having frequent emotional breakdowns and feelings of being alone, unworthy, and unsupported. My roommate at the time, who later become a mentor and older brother figure in my life, invited me to a yoga class. He knew I enjoyed exploring spiritual concepts and thought it could be the perfect place for me to find peace and healing. Coming from Louisiana, I was not exposed to yoga. I understood it to be a fitness practice and had no idea the depths of spirituality and healing it would take me.
My first Kundalini Yoga class changed my life and solidified my place on the spiritual path and eventually as a spiritual teacher. I instantly bonded with my teacher Wahe Guru Kaur, and she became a friend, mentor, and teacher. I will say that the technology of Kundalini Yoga is an incredible tool for awakening and an integral part of the lifestyle that supports me as a teacher and a healer. It helped me connect with the God Consciousness within myself and gave me a safe and open space to connect and honor Spirit in a way I had never experienced. I devoured the teachings and rested in mentoring and kindness of my friend and teacher. She helped me see, love and accept myself through her patient love and no-nonsense approach to helping me move through my blocks and fears. Practicing Kundalini Yoga opened up my intuition and psychic gifts more than ever. My dreams became more prophetic and mysterious, I would know things before they would happen, and synchronicities came alive all around me. Since I was a young child, I would receive these “downloads” and was often called psychic by my friends and family but never really believed it and pushed away these gifts. My experience with Kundalini Yoga was just the beginning of this opening and throughout the years of healing and growing my gifts have amplified.
Wahe Guru also introduced me to healing through the practice of blending shamanic healing techniques with Holotropic Breathwork. I remember being in one of her yoga classes and having a bit emotional release. Afterward, she shared with me that she was starting to practice this type of healing and thought it could be helpful for me move past the wounds of my past. Healing just means to become whole again, and “Holotropic” translates to “orient toward wholeness.” Wahe Guru had gone through a program offered by a guy named David Elliot and was excited to share this technology with her friends and students. I was curious but a bit resistant at first so I did not schedule a session when she offered. My first experience with this healing work was rather unexpected. I was on a camping trip at Canyon de Guadalupe in Baja with Wahe Guru and many other friends when one of the women camping with us asked me if I would like to try the healing breath technique she had learned with Wahe Guru Kaur. Feeling quite peaceful and open in that beautiful place, I agreed.
Our campsite was complete with a private hot spring pool that was the perfect place for us to do the session. All of the others had gone for a hike or were off playing in the swimming holes, so we had the place to ourselves. Beatrice had me lay down in the water and float as she held her hands underneath me. Soon after I started to breathe, I had the most intense emotional release I had ever experienced in my life. It was unique in the fact that it was a pleasantly explosive release instead of an intense wallowing, or indulging in the pain. As I cried and my body convulsed, I was letting go of lifetimes of grief and discomfort for good. My hands started to tighten and drawn together and I felt the most intense raw energy coursing through my body. How could this be happening just from breathing? It was fantastically supernatural. I felt as though my chest burst open and I saw a giant beam of light come out of me and flood up to the sky. This experience was the most profound and direct experience of God I had ever experienced. My Kundalini yoga practice had taken me to some amazing natural altered states, but it was nothing like what opened up for me in that hot spring pool in Mexico. I was forever changed.
I started working with Wahe Guru Kaur privately and would drag my boyfriends in to do couples sessions with her throughout the years. The healing breath work was a way for me to transform very quickly and I wanted to do it as much as I could afford. Eventually, I went through the Kundalini Yoga teacher training in 2005, and Wahe Guru taught me how to work with others offering the healing breathwork technique. I would occasionally do the healing work with students and friends in small groups but was shy about it and never felt quite “ready”. Part of that was true, and part of that was not believing in myself and my abilities to hold space for others. I know now that I had a lot more healing to do in myself before I was ready to offer that kind clearly and confidently.
Shortly after graduating from Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I was offered a job at a prominent tech company in San Francisco. For someone working in audio technology, this company was the top of the food chain at the time. Landing a job there was an honor and a great accomplishment. One day I’ll write more about my experience as a woman working this environment as again there is so much I could share. Bridging both worlds was a gift and yet incredibly challenging at times. Over the years I thrived in my tech career moving up to a managerial status as a Quality Assurance Engineer leading teams of software testers. Alongside this work, I fostered my personal healing and growth as well as gaining experience as a teacher and healer.
The Awakening of my Soul
My soul was waking up to its true purpose of helping others, and I felt very trapped and confined sitting behind a computer every day and having to adhere to the structure and pressure of working at a very successful software company. The software release roadmaps and deadlines were barely manageable, and again I felt exhausted and burnt out regardless of how much yoga and meditation I was doing. I realize now that this was a different type of burnout than what I had experienced before. This flavor of exhaustion was coming from not choosing my path of purpose and sticking with a career that brought me financial stability and prestige. I had worked so hard to build my career, and it was very much a part of my identity. I was the young woman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps without an education and worked her way all the way up to one of the top companies in the industry. I was one of the only women in the engineering department surrounded by men with degrees who were my peers and colleagues. This accomplishment was hugely satisfying to my Ego, so the idea of having to tear it all down was beyond terrifying. My sacred methods for healing myself were not working because the only remedy for this kind of exhaustion was making a real change in my life. The situation was wearing me down so quickly that something had to be done.
In parallel with my career, I as teaching Kundalini Yoga at an Ashram in San Francisco honing my chops as a teacher through offering my regular class and workshops. I started teaching Kundalini Yoga once a week on my lunch break at the company where I worked. This was my way of feeding my soul by being in both worlds, and it was a temporary fix that would prove to not hold for the long term. Spirit was yelling at me lovingly to make the jump. To trust. To surrender. It was painfully confusing. I remember sitting on my couch with my boyfriend crying my eyes out because I wanted to be teaching and helping people heal full time but didn’t have any idea how to leave my 100k a year career to do so. It felt so far away and yet it is here in front of me right now! As I write this, I am filled with gratitude for Spirit and my guides both in the physical and non-physical realms for helping me and supporting me in getting to a place where I can offer help and guidance to others.
Working with Others Privately
I started to take on private yoga clients around 2007 and offered them tailored Kundalini Practices to work through challenges in their lives and call in more abundance, success, and love. Working with my students in this way was incredibly rewarding and insightful. I learned that I had a natural talent and passion for counseling others and I was able to utilize my own life experience to help others. In 2010 I was laid off from my position at the company where I was working full time. I remember laughing and dancing my way out of the office when I received the news. My big break had arrived! I was going to get some space and figure out how to transition to the next phase of my life as a person in service. I decided to go to Italy and study privately with some of my favorite Kundalini Yoga masters, The Sada Sats at The Yoga Borgo. I spent three months there exploring the beautiful churches, landscape, food, and the vast beauty that country has to offer. I lived in my teachers’ ashram for a month studying sound and mantra, gong, and yogic lifestyle with them privately.
I returned to California once again a transformed woman and with a charged up repertoire of teachings and tools to share. I was offered a work-from-home position in a tech start-up company that allowed me more flexibility in my schedule. This spaciousness supported the “cross-fade” I found myself in between my career in QA, and one as a professional in the healing arts.
I was introduced to the practice of “life coaching” and became excited about the possibility of helping people in this way. A good friend of mine and fellow yoga teacher is a life coach, and I was able to learn about this modality through having him coach me. We realized a lot of our values and experience aligned nicely and teamed up to create a fitness business that blended life coaching techniques with yoga, meditation and bodyweight training. The company is named EmbodyAwesome and offers early morning boot camps exploring things like presence, failure, and messiness, and being visionary through the entry point of the body. Creating and teaching the boot camp curriculum solidified a lot of the wisdom flowing through me on the transformational power of practicing mindfulness and embodiment in our daily lives.
In 2014 I received my certification as a life coach and counselor through Interchange Counseling Institute. The start-up I was working for downsized, so I transitioned from working there to taking contract tech gigs. In addition to this, I began taking on private clients blending Kundalini Yoga, meditation, fitness, coaching, and counseling. I also formed a new company called LXByDesign that offers workshops and coaching services to those working in the tech industry using design methodologies as a framework for creating transformation.
Healing Myself to Truly Help Others
When making a visit to Los Angeles, my teacher Wahe Guru invited me to finally join the training program she created teaching the healing breathwork that she taught me so many years ago. Her program blends Celtic Shamanism, Native American practices, and the Holotropic breathing technique she calls the “healing breath.” I instantly knew it was important for me to attend the training so I followed my intuition and signed up. I realized on the first weekend of attending her program that I possessed all of the technical tools needed to hold space for clients but the missing piece in preparing me for the work I do and teach today was a deeper layer of self-healing.
The profound healing I experienced on the first weekend allowed me to release blocks I was carrying from the past life experience of being persecuted and burned for practicing alternative forms of healing. Additionally, I realized that I had to authentically forgive the people in my life who had hurt me and abandoned me to create an even deeper safe and loving space for my clients. After that first weekend, I received the green light from Spirit to add the Holotropic (healing) breathwork and shamanic healing to the menu of what I was offering my clients. I like to call this practice “Pranic Shamanism.” I found that I was gifted in this work and experienced immediate success in the way of my clients reporting swift and miraculous healing and transformation. My private practice suddenly expanded and allowed me to go full time as a healing professional. I had arrived. It was and is glorious!
I currently live in the Oakland Hills right next to Redwood Regional Park with my two cats, Asha and Prince. Together we create a unique and warm space for my clients to relax, receive, let go of trauma and rediscover their true nature and wholeness. I have an office in Berkeley where I spend time with clients who have cat allergies. For more information on how to work with me and to read what my clients have to say about our time together, please visit my Yelp page here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/sariah-sizemore-oakland
If you would like to learn more about Wahe Guru and her work. Please visit www.awarenesscenteryoga.com