International Women's Day

Soul Purpose: Maxene Magalona on Self-Discovery and Self-Healing

Photographed by ZISSOU at Tiantaru, Ubud Bali

Maxene Magalona shares her journey to self-discovery and healing in Bali in the middle of a global lockdown.

Maxene Magalona appears in Vogue Philippines’ March 2024 issue, themed “Raising Hope” in the spirit of International Women’s Month. Visit everyday this month for daily features on inspiring women, as nominated by the people whose lives they’ve changed.

I’ve always thought of the year 2020 as the year of “clear vision,” a time when dark clouds lifted as more truth was coming to light. It seemed as though we were all getting a wake-up call from God about how we were taking our lives for granted by not prioritizing our health. Because of the pandemic, more people were beginning to see and understand the importance of taking care of our overall well-being. It was an invitation for us to awaken and realize how precious and sacred the gift of life truly is. It came as a shock to all of us which affected our mental health and revealed so much of what was happening inside of us. Most of us panicked and felt overwhelmed as we gave in to our fears and anxiously imagined worst case scenarios.

February 29, 2020 was the day I flew to Bali, Indonesia for a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training at the School of Healing Arts in Ubud. I was excited and looked forward to my healing journey as my intention for going was to cure my anxieties and overcome my fears. I was already experiencing mental health struggles at that time as my psychiatrist diagnosed me with a condition known as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) in 2019. I remember not being in a good state at the start of my trip. My body was frail and my mental health was unstable. A valuable lesson that I learned from my therapist is that the pain that we receive from the traumatic events that happen in our younger years gets stored in our body and stays with us until we become adults. If we don’t do the work to process and release past hurts, these remain stagnant in our system in the form of negative energy, which in turn, affects our overall state of being. This was the reason why I was such a negative person who would get angry easily. My emotions were out of balance.

Maxene at a remote beach in Uluwatu, Bali with her friends Karunia Fischer, Monica Fernandez, Marianne Marquez, Antonette Reyes, Coraleen Waddell, and Anna Fries for a shoot they did with photographer Dean Raphael.

March 1, 2020 was the first day of our training and on March 15, the global lockdown happened. As expected, I started to panic as more anxieties and fears were slowly creeping in. It felt like I was being challenged by the Universe. I was presented with two options: to fly home to Manila in a panic or stay calm and continue my healing journey in Bali. The old me would have acted on impulse and fly home due to fear, but since I was already trying to be a new person, I listened to my intuition and decided to stay. I figured this was the perfect time for me to surrender, to let go of my old self and show up as my higher self. This was when I realized that difficult moments happen in our lives to test our faith and character. Surrendering, I decided to be present and enjoy my time in Bali. I honestly thought that I would only have to stay for a couple of months but as it turned out, I stayed for a total of one year and one week. Instead of getting scared that I was stranded in a foreign place during the pandemic, I took it as a test to step out of my comfort zone and evolve.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t allow negative energy to control me and that I was able to transform it by believing that I was right where I was meant to be. I had to learn how to let go of my frustrations and accept what was happening in the present moment exactly for what it was—not what I wanted it to be. I tuned in to my heart center and began connecting to my emotions. Rather than overthinking about my situation, I started feeling my way through my journey and just kept following what felt right for me. It took a while for me to regain my own trust as my heart had already hardened after everything that I had been through emotionally. I learned to soften it by opening it up and letting it lead the way. The more I choose faith over fear, the more courageous I become. I enrolled in different healing classes and teacher training courses. I joined a 10-day silent retreat and practiced Vipassana meditation.

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2,500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills. It is a technique that is taught over 10 days. For me, the practice makes me connect to my body. This is a technique that focuses our awareness on the breath. We are training ourselves to consciously focus on the breath instead of worrying about the thoughts in our mind. When I was experiencing a lot of mental health struggles, my psychiatrist advised me to create a non-negotiable morning routine that I could commit to. She said it would help me reprogram my brain, lessen my negative energy, and shift my perspective to a more positive one. This was when I decided to commit to a daily meditation every morning at 4:30 A.M. I devoted my mornings to meditating and praying to God which became a daily spiritual practice for me. This helped me learn how to stop listening to my overthinking mind and start focusing on feeling my heart. Meditation makes me feel the sensations in my body and tune in to the vibrations in my heart. When I am deeply saddened about my past or feeling anxious and scared about the future, meditation wakes me up and brings me back to the present moment. This is what ultimately keeps me centered and balanced.

Photograph courtesy of Wari Om

In my time there, I was able to eat some of the best vegan dishes that I’ve ever had in my life. I learned how to make vegan desserts and vegan cheeses. I sang and chanted in kirtan circles, a call-and-response style of chanting and singing. Multiple singers recite the names of a deity and express loving devotion to the Divine Creator or God. I played the djembe drum and ukulele guitar with my friends. I got a couple of tattoos. I volunteered at a few feeding programs. I visited some water temples to join some rituals and ceremonies. I was feeling very nourished and grateful because I kept choosing to do what was right for me. I was finally pouring love into myself by working on my healing. Even when there were some obstacles that were getting in the way, I kept going and never gave up. The more I kept going, the more I kept growing. I felt myself healing and blooming in God’s loving presence.

When I suddenly got a call about a job offer in Manila, I took it as a sign that it was time for me to go home. Bali is the perfect place for healing although it could also be a form of escaping reality. Healing is only the beginning. The next step is actually doing the work and applying the lessons that we learn in real life. The time I spent in Bali taught me the importance of choosing yourself and taking responsibility for your healing as these will help you live with authenticity. Choosing yourself can make you feel guilty because most of us are conditioned to think of other people’s needs while completely neglecting our own which eventually builds resentment. I used to blame the people around me for the pain and misery that I was feeling. Through my healing journey, however, I realized that I was actually the one who was responsible for what was happening in my life because I kept allowing it. I had to learn to forgive myself for my past mistakes and develop a strong relationship with myself based on honesty and trust. I needed to reclaim my power by taking full responsibility for my life.

Today, my heart feels very happy to be healing. I’ve been spending my mornings in meditation as a time for regulating my nervous system and creating a state of inner peace. I balance my emotions by feeling and expressing them in a healthy way. I create the energy that I want to attract. I follow my intuition by doing what feels right for my soul. Thank you for being here and for allowing me to share with you what is in my heart. I feel honored to be able to share my story in this sacred space. May you receive these words with grace and find comfort in knowing that you are never alone. With an open heart and a surrendered soul, I offer you love, compassion, and peace.

Vogue Philippines: March 2024 Issue

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