Begin Again: Brian Dillon


“Going through a divorce, you think the world is going to end.  I remember thinking “I’m going to die alone. I’m going to be an old man dying alone.” It’s of one of the first thoughts I had. The whole process; the negativity, the animosity, the break down and finally, the end of my marriage is really what got me into yoga. I took the divorce hard.  What do you do when forever ends? At the same time my marriage of 26 years was ending, empty nest was happening as well. Both my daughters were about to go onto the next phases of their lives and for the first time in a very long time, I felt very alone in the world. People who were friends were suddenly out of my life.  But there were others, who I will be forever grateful for who became better friends.
But, you can only talk so much and be supported in that way.  I had fitness in my life and thought it would be my outlet, but it was just temporarily getting energy out, but nothing in.

As the divorce was proceeding, someone suggested yoga, and I thought, ‘Okay, um, I don’t know about that!’ But, little did I know how much of an impact it would have on me and soon became a way of life and then, I began looking at things differently.  I went in for one thing those couple years ago and I’ve received something far beyond I could have ever imagined.  I’ve almost ‘found myself’ if you would.

In the beginning it was awkward trying to keep up in yoga! I thought I was in halfway decent shape but I certainly wasn’t after that first class. I think my first class was with Meghan McDonald at NH Power Yoga and I kept thinking, ‘What have I signed up for!’ And now, I purposely try to get her classes because they’re challenging. I couldn’t believe what I went through on that first one and I remember getting out to the car after class, and I’m soaking wet like a kid after swimming at the lake – got a towel out of the back and put it on my car seat. I was drenched and couldn’t even get my sneakers and my socks on; I didn’t know what a yoga towel was and I had this mat that was just for doing sit-ups. I remember thinking, ‘Okay I have some serious work to do!’ 

So, I just kept going back, and I signed up for their introductory program and I really made sure I was going as much as I could during that month. I don’t want to say I was addicted to it, but I quickly realized that I was in it for something more than what I thought it was ever going to be. 

To this day, it really – you find yourself in situations and you just go back to the whole breathing  and meditation we learn. I hadn’t meditated before, and I’m doing a lot more of that now. I’ve been doing this now 2½ years and it has completely changed my life; improved my life. It has rounded me out and has become the biggest thing in my post-divorce life.

The divorce definitely put a strain on my relationships with my daughters.  One day after the divorce was final, my oldest daughter called out of the blue and wanted to get together for lunch.  It had been a while since we had a truly substantive conversation. We used to talk to each other all the time. We ended up meeting for lunch that same day, and during the course of our lunch, I said, “it’s going to sound like your father is coming out of the closet, but I feel like I’m living in my own skin.” That’s what yoga has done for me. I’m doing things for me, but I’m also more cognizant of the world around me and realizing that I need to be doing a lot more for others. All the divorce stuff was painful, but I’m still a very blessed man. I’ve got my health and I’ve got two great daughters. I’m literally starting over at age of 50- literally starting over. It sucks, it’s hard, but I’m glad ‘cause it gives me a lot of perspective that I didn’t have before.

Every year, my Church’s Senior High Youth Group goes on a mission trip, which I participate in and get a lot out of helping people and volunteering at them. The year my marriage ended, the trip took on new meaning for me.  I was having a hard time forgiving myself and wasn’t sure I even wanted to go, but it ended up being the a perfect refuge.

One volunteer I still keep in touch with, named Mr. Kenny lost everything in Katrina. He had every reason to hate life. He lost everything yet here he was helping to build homes to help other people. That mission trip changed me from that standpoint. I learned, we’ve got to look outwards.

Mr. Kenny called a couple of years ago and told me that his mother had died. He was just rich in spirit, rich in heart and soul – you know? On Christmas I sent him a gift card to Walmart and he told me, “You will never know how much that meant to my mother”. I never had done something like that before, and I’ve come to realize I love that part of yoga: giving of yourself and now the practice has connected all of this for me and making me more self aware.

I was always just go, go, go, go and now, I’m more at peace with myself than ever. Yoga has become part of my life in such a great way. As I’ve grown with yoga, I’ve grown as a person and my faith became even more important to me. I’ve never been so verbally religious per se, but through my struggles with the divorce, I’ve become closer to God and my Church is more important than ever…but yoga is just such peace for me.

I’m dating now, which was a really weird experience. I haven’t dated since last century!  However, I’ve met a wonderful Woman who has been such a positive in my life.  I’m truly lucky that I met her! She had a hip replacement at a young age and told me that she would never, ever go to Yoga with me.  But, one time she did and now it’s something we both do. It’s fun to have somebody to practice with and share this with.

One book I read on a daily basis is “Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul”. My girlfriend told me about it after one of her instructors read from it during savasana.  She thought the passage that was read was something I needed to see because it was on forgiving yourself.  I struggled for a long time forgiving myself, and the quote resonated highly with me as they do many.

I used to turn on the TV, but now, I wake up and I’ll meditate first, and then journal. I sit down for however long it takes. Most of the time, my meditation is more prayer and reflection than anything.

Starting to journal has really been eye opening. It built on something really simple that I had started once the divorce was in full swing: I put a jar on my counter, a simple mason jar and wrote on a sticker, “Joy Jar”, put it on the mason jar, and put some small post-it size note cards next to it. Through yoga I learned to count my blessings because they were there, I just didn’t realize it despite everything going on around me. On these cards, I wrote down whatever blessings came up, folded them and didn’t open them up until the end of the year. It was July when I wrote down – Hiked my first 4,000 footer today. I know it was because of yoga that I had the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, and be mentally and physically ready for that. 

I work from home, and because I’m now taking time for me through yoga, meditation, reading & journaling, I’m not waking up as stressed out, I’m not going to bed as stressed out as I was and I’m sleeping a lot better than I ever have. It’s all because of my beginning of the new me with yoga. It just filled in the pieces for me. It’s hard to explain because everyone’s battles and journeys are different.

Walking through that door to yoga on Day 1 was pushing my boundaries. Before, I never in a million years would have gone to a yoga studio! 

I didn’t know all it’d offer me. I just thought it was a bunch of hooey…‘okay zen, whatever,’…but that’s not the case at all. It really was this ‘awakening’, and putting pieces back together. It’s so true, and the practice gave me that: the confidence to break out and discover what else can I do out of my comfort zone.

I’m really feeling good about myself now. And that’s pretty big for me to feel and believe, let alone say. I’ve lost some weight, but the weight came secondary; yoga was and still is a healing place for me.

One thing leads to the other and I found myself wanting to hike again.  I didn’t know what I was in for. I live in this great state of New Hampshire, and I would complain about the snow, but it’s great; the mountains are beautiful!  There are 48 peaks in the White Mountains of 4,000 feet and higher and I am in the process of trying to summit them all. Yoga gave me the presence and confidence to undertake this.

About three years ago in December, I went to Alaska on a whim. I got a good airfare and went for 24 hours – flying out on a Friday and returning that Sunday. I had rented a car and my goal the next day was to just get up and drive. Looking back at it, this trip was the start of my self-discovery in trying to find myself a little bit.

I woke up the morning after I landed and started driving South. I just drove with no set plan and  I wound up seeing some really cool places. I came upon a one-way tunnel through a mountain and the woman at the toll there asked me where I was headed and I said, ‘I have no idea!’ This was definitely a metaphor for me at the time as well!  I took roads with no idea where they led, saw whales breaching in the sound of the fishing village I had now stumbled upon and kept following the roads up into the hills surrounding in order to get a better view. I drove until I saw a sign: “Road no Longer Maintained Beyond This Point”. I got out and as I was taking pictures on my phone I realized I had no service; no bars…nothing.  It dawned on me that no one knew where I was. At all.

As I was on my drive back to Anchorage, I drove past this large creek that had some dry areas to it with glaciers in the background.  For whatever reason, I stopped the car, walked over to the dry area and laid down in it. I don’t know what made me want do that, but I just layed there for a while and listened to the stream next to me.  It was freezing cold, and I am saying to myself, ‘are you, crazy?’ Looking back on it, it was my first realization that ‘there is something more than just working and spending my weekends maintaining the yard and things like that.’ It was a very important moment for me, but I didn’t know that until later; until I started my yoga practice.”

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