How a Beatle guided my spiritual path to recovery

Esther Nagle
Oct 20, 2017 · 6 min read

Until the age of 12, I was a good Christian girl. Enthusiastic in my study of the scriptures, I loved going to church, being in the choir, and being a part of the church community.

At about 12, I was pondering, as you might, the very nature of God, and found some confusion in my perception of what God was. My big question was, if we are made in God’s image, then he must be like us, so how can Heaven be in the sky, surely God would have to be subject to the laws of gravity, just like we are.

A laughable question now, but one which 12 year old me needed to know. I asked our Rector after church one Sunday morning, expecting him to give me a reasonable answer, or at least, offer to talk to me about it another time.

Instead, the words ‘I don’t know’ came from his mouth. I was stunned….if you don’t know this, how can you know anything else about the essence of God? I remember that very clear feeling as my absolute faith in all I was taught disappeared beneath my feet, and I was left adrift, with nothing left to believe in. It all left me in that moment, the faith I had been raised with and accepted with gratitude was gone.

I had to continue going to church for a few years after that, unable as I was to break the news to my parents that I no longer believed in God. It felt like the time I discovered the truth about Santa, but kept quiet for a couple of years to shield my little brother from this devastating truth.

With nothing else left, I replaced God with obsessions with pop stars, then rock stars, then alcohol, sex and drugs. They seemed to do the trick for a while, but there was always an unidentified sense of something missing. Two decades of addiction and turbulence would suggest this was definitely the case, I was not a happy woman!

My lifelong love of The Beatles became an obsession, and I developed a passionate, but very one sided, love affair with George Harrison. George’s music spoke deeply to me for reasons I could never effectively articulate, but I loved it all. I was fascinated by the man, and explored his interests as though following his lead would take me closer to him. I struggled with the idea of a Godlike figure, so while I was interested in the Hare Krishna faith, and have attended temples, and really enjoyed the chanting, I couldn’t really connect to it on a meaningful level.

My love of George did, however, guide me also to Yoga. I dabbled with this practice for many years, attending classes whenever my single parent responsibilities (and drinking, drugging and gigging) would allow, and buying DVDs and videos to use at home. Yoga always made me feel good, and I was ‘good’ at it, having some lingering flexibility from schoolgirl gymnastics.

In 2007 I began to make Yoga a more regular part of my life, albeit at a very physical level. Yoga was an important part of my week, and I certainly felt that it was helping my mental health considerably, BUT, I often went home to a bottle of wine, a joint and several cigarettes. There was clearly something up! Despite this, I harboured a strong desire to be a yoga teacher one day, although I could never quite manage it.

In 2013, I experienced a breakdown that shook my world and left me feeling utterly adrift. As I attempted to drown all my sorrows in as much wine as possible, I still had yoga to soothe me.

I realised that now, as I was contemplating self employment rather than a return to the 9–5 commute, that this was an excellent time to look into Yoga teacher training again.

As fate would have it, a local yoga teacher had just started to promote her first ever teacher training course, and I happily signed up.

this tattoo, which I had done on my first visit to India, is a celebration of sobriety and yoga, and a constant reminder that I have the tools I need

At this time, I thought of Yoga as a purely physical practice, and didn’t really appreciate the many depths there are to it. It didn’t take me long to realise my error.

As I started to learn to breathe, to learn to let go of the past, to practice gratitude, to recognise the connection between my mind, body and soul, I started to live differently, and to feel different. I started talking about ‘The Divine’ without getting angry, resentful or feeling stupid. Throughout my training, I was able to shed 2 decades of abject self loathing, resulting in what is now 3 years of sobriety (from alcohol, cigarettes and drugs).

Yoga gave me a language with which to talk about my spiritual self. Indeed, it helped me to see that I HAD a spiritual self, something I had not really recognised before. I am sure that, while there are many aspects of the training that helped me in my recovery, that this was a massive part of my journey to sobriety. I have no doubt that alcohol and drugs gave me solace in my youth that I might otherwise have found in spiritual practices had I not lost my faith at 12.

While I think that George Harrison’s Yoga was more Bhakti (worship) than Hatha Yoga, I credit him with bringing it to my life. It is thanks to him, and the Moody Blues, that the sound ‘Om’ has been a part of my life long before I understood its significance or got it tattooed on my wrist.

On November 29th, 2017, the 16th anniversary of George’s death, I started work on a tattoo I had wanted since I was 20 and fell in love with it on the All Things Must Pass album. My addiction got in the way of my saving for it when I was 20, and my recovery enabled me to pay for it at 44!

I started work on it on November 25th, the 16th anniversary of George’s death, and a fortnight later it was finished. It is the 7 headed horse that was the logo for George’s Dark Horse record label.

I am so in love with my Dark Horse tattoo, and the 33 1/3 one below it that my wonderful son paid for as a birthday gift for me. They are a constant reminder of the wonderful impact Mr Harrison has had on my life, guiding me gently to yoga and to recovery from the earliest days of my addiction.

showing off my George inspired tattoos in the snow!

I loved George Harrison’s music long before I fully understood the spiritual depth to them. Now I understand them on a different level, they have the power to offer me great comfort even though I don’t share his unshakeable devotion to Krishna.

I have much to thank Yoga for, and love that my gratitude begins with a Beatle! If you haven’t heard much of his music, I highly recommend it, it is very uplifting (most of it!)

Here is a wonderful bit of wisdom from George on the nature of the Soul, enjoy!

If you would like to know more about how Yoga principles can help you find your way in life, find out more on Balance and Breathe.

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