Today’s post is slightly different. I had the privilege to interview Vironika Tugaleva -- the author of the book called “The Love Mindset,” and which only a month from being published hit the Amazon’s bestseller list!
Since one of my posts called “Overcoming Rape” has been getting many views, one of the questions I asked Vironika was; how did she manage to overcome such tragic event?
I hope her answers will be very helpful to anyone who needs guidance with overcoming such trauma.
So, here it is:
Question: Vironika, your, obviously God –given talent for writing, isn’t the only thing I admire about you. You strike me as the kind of person who’s very profound and wise, and I believe it’s because of your ability to see the connections between things.
For example, in a different interview you stated:
“At the end of the day, I realized that I didn’t need to quit smoking. I needed to quit hating myself.
I didn’t need to start exercising. I needed to start respecting my body.
I didn’t need to stop drinking. I needed to stop numbing my emotions.
I didn’t need to watch my calories. I needed to watch my thoughts.”
How did you learn to see those “links,” those connections?
Vironika: First of all, thank you. Those are very kind words. And secondly, I am not sure that I learned.
In school, I was excellent at exceeding the requirements of a rubric. It was a lovely skill in school, but it didn’t get me very far in life. All I really knew how to do was search out the expectations and then surpass them. There was no creativity in it. There was no passion. I was the model classroom student, but I was not a model life student. I was a performer, not a learner.
When I broke down a few years ago, it was like something had let loose inside of me. Suddenly, I began to see more than I’d ever seen before. I saw, first, the connection between myself and others. This exploded inside my mind, linking together tangled memories and disembodied pieces of understanding.
All I knew my whole life was will power and here was this inner power awakening inside of me. It needed no pushing or replenishing. It was spilling out of me faster than I could get a hold on it.
I began to read more and more. I watched an obscene amount of TED talks and spoke to people about things I was passionate about. I stopped wasting my time with things that didn’t interest me, and I consumed myself in things that made me come alive.
In that state, I began to see connections everywhere. In reading my work, you’ll find many metaphors. I see metaphors all around me. When I go to an art gallery, I see the lives of my clients on the paper. When I listen to a song, I hear the beating of the patterns of civilization reverberating throughout its melody. I don’t try to and I didn’t learn to.
Most importantly, I think we all can. All I am is inspired. The word “inspiration” comes from the latin spiro, which means spirit. I’m simply guided by a part of me that is already connected to everything in infinite oneness. I see connections because things are connected. If anything, I don’t see enough of them. Life, to me, is a giant kaleidoscope of patterns. Discovering patterns sets me on fire.
Question: You are a vegetarian. Can you describe why you chose this life style, and what impact, if any, this had on your spiritual awakening?
Vironika: I’ve actually been a vegetarian since I was 14. At the time, it was a peer pressure thing. All my friends were going vegetarian. Wondering what all the fuss was about, I watched a few PETA videos. Horrified, I dropped meat and fish right then and there.
I was an unbelievably hypocritical and incongruent person for many years. I was a vegetarian. I worked out regularly. I did yoga. And I also smoked a pack a day and abused all sorts of substances. I was trying to destroy myself and sustain myself simultaneously. I would have a smoke after yoga. It was quite bizarre, now that I look back on it.
In all my time of being vegetarian, there was a four month gap. A few months before the break down, I started eating meat again. I was in extremely rough shape at the time. My physical, mental, and emotional health was appalling. I didn’t care about my body at all. The drive to sustain myself had faded. I was self-destructing at an alarming rate.
After my awakening, I continued to eat meat. After a few months of self-love, authenticity, and sobriety, I relapsed. I began to think negative thoughts again. I started smoking again. I started drinking again. And then I wound up in the hospital.
Lying in that room with an IV coming out of my arm, too weak to move, I knew I’d done it to myself. In that lonely white room, I very suddenly understood the link between my self-love and my quality of life. As soon as I got out, I made plans to move into a new place, live my passion, quit smoking, and re-embrace vegetarianism.
That was November in 2012. I haven’t looked back since. It hasn’t been difficult at all. To embrace myself in love, I embraced my body and the body of the earth. Once I understood the source of my suffering, I knew it was also the suffering of the world. By turning to compassion for myself, I effortlessly turned to compassion for all living things.
Question: Part of your painful past was the experience of being raped. If it’s OK to ask, could you please share with the readers how you were able to heal this wound?
Vironika: It was trying to stitch up this wound that led to my breaking down in the first place. After the end of a long and unsatisfying relationship, I began to feel strange. I began to remember strange things from ten years prior. I began to see things in my dreams that would haunt me.
My solution, at first, was to destroy myself and run from the pain. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I didn’t know how to make the images go away or how to ever feel like I wasn’t irreparably filthy.
As soon as I broke down, I went celibate. It was the easiest decision I ever made. I was tired of allowing my body to be used, again and again. The truth was – I felt nothing. I’d been numb down there for pretty much my whole life. I didn’t feel sex like other people, like the people I had sex with.
I still remember looking up into a pair of eyes once and thinking “God, you’re really enjoying this aren’t you? How can I enjoy myself like that?”
I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t stare into the corners of the ceiling while I let my body be taken advantage of anymore.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t ever have sex with anyone unless it was pure and true love. I was tired of being uncomfortable. I wanted a man that I felt safe with. I wanted someone who shared my passion for knowledge, learning, and thinking. I wanted a man who could sit on the other end of a pitch-dark cave with me and we could have the best time of our lives. I wanted someone I could talk to, someone who would stimulate my mind and keep safe my heart. I wanted someone who wanted me for me, not for my body.
To be honest, I didn’t think such men existed at the time. I pretty much resigned myself to a lifetime of celibacy.
And then I met my partner, Jamie.
Without him, I don’t know if I could have healed so quickly, or at all. I don’t know where I would be without his caring, compassion, and understanding. We would get intimate and I would back off suddenly, time after time, for months. Each time, he would allow me the space I needed. I don’t know how he did it, but he kept me safe when I was the most vulnerable I’d ever been.
It took a long time before I could be intimate. It took me going into deep, dark places in my mind and body. It took crawling into recesses of my psyche that had been locked away for years in a desperate attempt at self-protection. And he was there with me every step of the way.
You know, I meet many women who are trying to heal this very wound and they just end up with a deeper wound. They show their vulnerability to someone who takes advantage of it again. It’s tragic.
I don’t think we can do it alone. We need someone there to help us heal, someone who is strong enough to not take it personally and who believes in us enough to persevere when it gets tough. I don’t think it has to be a romantic partner or necessarily a man, but we can’t do it alone.
There were times, in healing those wounds, that I didn’t know who I was or where I was. All I could see was pain. All I could feel was degrading, empty darkness.
When you’re in that space, you just need someone to love you and hold you. You need someone who knows how vulnerable you are and who will protect your body and heart, not take further advantage of it.
I’d love to say that it was my power of forgiveness or my compassion or my wisdom that healed me. But it wasn’t. Ultimately, what saved me was my decision to heal, my decision to have my body be treated with the respect it deserves or never be touched again. I think that kind of decision really does something to a person. It changes your mind. It makes you filter out the ones who will hurt you more from the one who is strong enough to help you heal.
Question: The word ACCEPTANCE seems to be not as popular in today’s world as it should be. Not everyone seems to understand that acceptance, forgiveness, and love are the same thing -- just expressed in a different manner. How would you make someone fall in love with acceptance?
Vironika: That’s a lovely concept – falling in love with love. I like to think that this is exactly what I do, and it’s quite simple. It comes down to realizing that it’s what we’re all looking for. A lack of acceptance lies at the heart of all suffering, and aren’t we all out to decrease suffering? Acceptance is the first step on the staircase towards joy, and aren’t we all out to increase our joy?
My favorite metaphor here is the escalator. When we are not in touch with our true selves (and therefore not in touch with life, love, or other people) then we use willpower. This power enables us to run down the up escalator, really quickly! We can run the wrong way so quickly that we do not realize we’re going against the flow.
To stop this madness, we must surrender. We must relinquish control and trust that there are larger forces at play. We must stop running for a moment.
This is, I think, where most people feel uncomfortable. Standing on the escalator? How boring! What of our willpower? What of our twiddling, idle hands?
This is where it gets good. You see, surrender is simply the first step. You must, of course, stop running down the up escalator. The beautiful thing, however, is that we do not need to stop for long. We can run up instead of down.
When we run with the flow of life instead of directly against it, we find a completely different kind of existence. We find everything we’ve ever been looking for, and then some.