Mike and Beth Houlihan are yoga practitioners and parents of four young children. Recently, Mike left a successful career as a Chief Information Officer of a start-up company to take over management, with Beth, of “Roots to Wings”, a successful yoga studio in Newburyport, MA that combines the teachings of Dahn Yoga, Brain Education, and Hatha Yoga.
Roots to Wings Yoga and Healing Center was the first Hatha Yoga studio in the US to host Dahn Yoga’s Shim Sung Workshop in January of 2008. Since then, approximately eight Shim Sung workshops have been held with more than 150 people participating. Of these 150, approximately 20 people have taken Dahn Yoga’s Brain Management Consultant and other advanced trainings. Mike participated in the first Shim Sung at Roots to Wings, and is a BMC graduate. I was at that Shim Sung, and have witnessed the incredible journey that Mike and Beth have been on. I asked Mike to share his story for the Dahn Yoga Blog readers. Enjoy part 1 below!
~Genia Sullivan, editor, www.dahnyogama.com
During the last year, my wife Beth and I have drastically changed our lives to follow a calling to live and grow as Earth Citizens through taking over management of Roots to Wings Yoga and Healing Center, founded by Wendy Hall. Together with two of our classmates who also graduated from Dahn Yoga’s Brain Management Consultant Course, we teach all the classes and take care of all management affairs. We host and staff three Shim Sung trainings each year, and keep up with our own training as well. We have four children ages 5, 5, 7, and 9 who practice yoga, soccer, and hockey. How do we do it all, you might ask?
To be honest, it is not easy. We’ve given up a lot of things we used to do like weekends away, having friends over for dinner, my own hockey and prime-time golf. We focus on doing the most important things really well. For example, we just got back from 7 nights on the beach in Maine living in a tent with all the kids. Taking over the helm at Roots to Wings has created some strain in our family, but we are a happier and healthier family for it. Practice helps. We are taking a leap of faith in ‘Chun Ji Ki Un’ that if we put our full energy into something we love to do the rest will be taken care of. Why? I look inside myself and see the results. I know how I have changed and how I have grown. I have experienced what can happen when we have the courage to let go, while also understanding it is a life-long process.
If not me, who? If not now, when? This is our story, told from my perspective.
Part I – Pre-Yoga Daze
Somewhere in my early 40s, what I now understand as past memories, preconceptions, and worries about the future began to catch up with me. I generally considered myself to be relatively healthy and successful. I’d gone to college, grad school, had a great job, a house, two kids, and no financial worries. I played golf and hockey, skied, biked, rollerbladed and I was really good at drinking beer. My whole life, I had a nagging feeling that something was missing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I longed for the simplicity of a sunny day with a sweatshirt on and work boots that I remembered from my early childhood, but couldn’t find it in any of my successes; having grown up without a dad, I was insecure and deep inside thought I wasn’t good enough. No matter how much I had or how low my golf score was it wasn’t good enough and I always had this nagging belief that something bad would happen to me at the most inopportune time to prevent me from achieving ultimate success.
My job required significant travel and I began to feel torn about not being around for my wife and two young girls. Living on airplanes and away from my family was profitable, but not fulfilling. I was dying. Around that time I also began to get more concerned about my health. I was always self conscious about my looks, but this was more than just an inner tube around my waist. I would get dizzy, headaches, heart palpitations, and get a fat tongue and mess-up my words from time to time. With each ache and pain I had, I’d run to the doctor to make sure I did not have cancer or a heart problem. The things I did to make me feel better created more stress. I was truly a misguided seeker, as Deepak Chopra would say.
My minister at my local church had been nagging me for a couple of years to meet with her, but I had always managed to escape doing it. I kind of knew where I needed to go; but I figured there’d be time for that down the road. I used to ask myself the question “What happens to people who know but don’t listen, don’t act?” Of course I was foolish enough to think I knew, but scared enough to know there was something out there that I still couldn’t put my finger on.
Even before she asked to meet with me, I was immediately struck by Minister Nancy. Her blazing blue eyes seemed to look right through me as if she could see who I knew I really was. I felt she could also see my potential, and I was inspired by her sermons. I eventually gave in, and began meeting with her on a regular basis, and these meetings really were the start of the spiritual journey I began. She helped me experience that as we share deep truths about ourselves, we begin to access a part of ourselves that exists outside of space and time, and we begin to see things as they really are. It would take me a long time to learn that failure to see things as they really are is what causes suffering, and I am still learning that it is me who is doing it. While these practices were mostly temporal, they were tangible and I was starting to develop a stronger belief in my own personal transformation.
I became quite enamored with having peak spiritual experiences that were different and safer than other highs I’d sought through the course of my life. The problem was that I had not made any fundamental changes to how I was living my life. I still had a nagging feeling that I was running out of time and that something bad was going to happen. I still did not feel great physically, didn’t like the way I looked and was bored with how I was living my life. My wife Beth had started yoga at Roots to Wings Yoga Studio, a local Hatha Yoga Studio in our town, shortly after our twin boys were born. I began to notice she was calmer, stronger, and more focused; different somehow, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was getting tired of gingerly walking down stairs after hockey games, nursing groin pulls, and going from one ache and pain to the next so I figured I’d give yoga a try.
Within five minutes of my first class I said to myself “Yes, Home!” There was just something about lying on that mat and gasping for air that had a quieting effect on me. I didn’t have much respect for yoga when I first went, and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I figured I’d take classes for a couple of weeks and would be in perfect shape again. I was so wrong about that it makes me shake my head even as I write this. Yoga tore me limb from limb for about the first six months of practice. I found it excruciating, but I loved it.
Come back on Monday for Part II: ‘Yoga Daze; Mike’s transformation through Shim Sung and decision to become a full time practitioner and yoga studio owner
Mike Houlihan operates Roots to Wings Yoga and Healing Studio in Newburyport, MA, with his wife Beth.
For more information please visit http://www.rootstowings.com.