I knew I wanted to do the Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Program the second I heard about it last June—when I initially interviewed Kelly Morris at my very first Wanderlust.
Listening to Kelly talk about the Divine Feminine stirred fierce feelings inside of me that I didn’t even know were there. It was as if there was something incomplete within me, that I felt her program could fill. Not only that, but I admired Kelly’s honest, this-is-me-like-it-or-not-attitude—even when she pointed out that I needed to be more assertive.
That interview was a turning point for me. I left there examining myself in a way I had never done before.
With roughly three months to the Conquering Lion start date, I sat with my thoughts about what the training would be like and why I wanted to do it. I was nervous, unsure of how I would juggle this training, my family life and work. I had never given much thought to teaching yoga, but for a long time wanted to expand my
practice and of course would love to give the gift of yoga to other people if I knew how.
Above everything else though, there is a ton of healing on a personal level that I desperately need and had not been able to find a way to begin—that was the deciding factor for me.
I worked to remain ‘present’—that catch-all perspective meant to relieve us of anxiety about the future and regrets about the past. Working extra hard not to get ahead of myself was not easy and quelling the excitement that would bubble up when I though about the future was especially hard. I wanted to start the program with no expectations, no pressure; finally ready to hunker down and meet myself—probably for the first time.
During that 90 day limbo, I also got to know Kelly better. Given my seeming inability to ‘remain present’, this growing closeness with her was welcome and helped alleviate the negative dialogue that had been banging around my brain every time my thoughts wandered to the prospect of the training. (Full disclosure: I am great at talking myself out of things; my self-esteem, well, I’m working on it.)
One of the ways I got to know Kelly better was by producing the Where Is My Guru podcast Shamanism 101 with her & Liz Seidel. Liz is a master shaman on faculty at Conquering Lion. Listening to them talk about the CLY program—the addition of the Divine Feminine, shamanism (the world’s oldest healing system), the profound relevance of nature, the status of women worldwide, how they plan to do everything they can to restore our planet and its inhabitants to balance (yes, grandiose talk, but hey, at least someone is trying, which is more than many can say)—made me feel like this training was designed specifically for me. Literally.
That said, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect walking in my first Saturday of teacher training. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t have prepared for the shifts that were about to take place anyway.
After the preliminary introductions were through, a provocative discussion followed that ranged from disempowerment to meditation to mainstream media—I learned more about myself in those few short hours than I had in all of my adult years combined, and it left me wanting to hear more. Way more.
That proverbial light bulb went off over and over over my head, like a demented strobe light. I left there with a brain that would not stop analyzing, thinking and wondering. No one missed the excitement on my face, how could they, I was dizzy with possibility. Most importantly though, a white hot certainty was running through my veins: I was going to be okay, probably more than okay.
Even I couldn’t have gotten in my way that night. I went home, typed my notes, started reading Light on Yoga, and was so excited for training the next day I barely slept. So much for being present! We were going to practice asana and learn to meditate—I was like a kid waiting for Yoga Santa to come down the chimney in yoganidrasana (Yogic Sleep Pose).
On Sunday, I took the train to class in my yoga clothes, with my mat, 100% positive that the strangers around me just knew I was a yoga teacher in training. I felt like for the first time I was headed exactly where I was supposed to be going. Finally on the right track. I got to the Shala, we chanted mantra and got right to it.
In short order, I realized that nearly every single asana I have been practicing at home—I haven’t spent much time in studios, and have taken a hand full of classes at festivals—I have been doing nearly entirely wrong. Even Samastihi (Tadasana)! My toes were not in the right position, my knee caps were far from lifted, and what the hell was I supposed to do with my ribs? Knit them together? As the poses we went over got more complicated, the list of things I was not doing correctly got longer. So much for certainty and ‘being okay’.
My mood spiraled down and I started to deflate.
I also found out that Sunday that I actually have to teach yoga classes before I graduate (why that shocked me, I don’t know, given this is a yoga teacher training program), in addition to a long list of requirements that began to swim together as the ‘you-cant-do-this voice’ in my head got louder and the ‘yes-I-can voice’ shrank. All I kept thinking was: there is no way you are going to be able to do this, you’re a joke, you don’t know enough about yoga to teach it and you’re never going to be able to learn, who do you think you are?
My mood spiraled further, nearing out of control. What was I doing in this program??
The worst was yet to come.
One of the first things we learned was about Jung’s ‘shadow’, those aspects of oneself obvious to everyone except…you. In theory, and very loosely, one’s shadow contains all of the qualities in others that set you off the most, the ones that enrage you, make you tear them apart when they’re not in the room, annoy the crap out of you—those qualities, you yourself harbor. Yep. Mmmhmmm. That’s right, folks.
My mind immediately jumped to the one person who constantly upsets me. I made a list of the things about them that I really hate—manipulative, self-serving, deceptive—and then did as I was taught: I crossed out their name and replaced it with my own.
I think I sat, staring at that piece of paper, unmoving, for at least an hour. No way, said my brain. I am not like that.
And then that was it. Boom. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t be alone in my house. I got in my car, cranked the music and drove around half the day just—music blaring and well, driving. And driving.
While I am as self-centered as the next person, I really have never thought about myself in as much detail as this training requires, not honestly anyway. It hurt. But growth always does. It’s important though, for me to be square with myself. If I can’t manage being impartial and straightforward with myself, how am I going to manage it with others?
The decision I made that day was hard won but completely empowering. Certain things, people, relationships, ideas, concept and beliefs are no longer serving me. I am sick of being miserable and all over the place, running on empty and keeping my fingers crossed.
I am no longer okay with not moving forward. I deserve more, I am worth more and my husband, my kids, my job and the world is worth more. I plan to give it to them.
I am the only one standing in my way, and have always been the only one standing in my way. And I just stepped to the left. I’m ready to let myself grow.
(Photo ID’s from top to bottom: Kelly Morris, Lisa Jacobson, Kelly Morris, Maria Cutrona)