I recently contacted my yoga teacher training instructor and asked her if I could volunteer to assist her trainees at the next course. It's been almost two years since I graduated from teacher training, but I felt I hadn’t really given back to the experience that had been so rewarding for me.
I started considering what I would I tell these future teachers. How would I inspire them? How could I hope to be relevant? How did yoga teacher training change my life's path? What authentic experience could I share?
I began yoga teacher training when I was at crossroads with my career. I spent over a decade climbing the corporate ladder—always reaching for the next promotion and the next possession—and reached an impasse. Maybe it was a glass ceiling, but I just wasn’t going anywhere anymore. I opted for a sea change—a new job within the same arena of advertising, but a side step nonetheless. I started to ask myself, is this really what I want to do?
I had been practicing yoga for years, and despite a full on immersion of Bikram for 60 days straight, I still wasn’t sure if yoga was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew it was a deep interest of mine and a rewarding one at that, so I enrolled in teacher training to see what might happen.
It was an intense period—I was still working full-time, and trying to complete the course among students who seemed to be Sanskrit aficionados and bendy like Gumby. I was neither of those things. I was also reminded of my struggle to learn within structured environments—I constantly fought the urge to tear up the textbook, my yoga mat, and then, tear out of the room. I'd also be lying to you if I didn’t tell you there were moments when I had very un-yogic thoughts about almost all of the other students in my training.
I’m neurotic, which is half the reason why I need to practice yoga. But despite my struggles I met some of the most brilliant and talented women I know, who taught me a lot about myself in the process—what makes me tick, what makes me spiral into self-doubt, and what holds me back.
I've become aware that I encounter fear on a daily basis. But if you were to study me from the outside, you would probably never know. I appear confident; willing to jump into new and exciting endeavors and adventures quickly, fully committing myself. I push myself to get to that place. To use the wise words of Susan Jeffers, "I feel the fear and do it anyway." Sometimes I’m able to do that, but in other cases (which I might add are often the most important) I am paralyzed by that fear.
When I was a kid, I had wanted to write. I mean really write. Epic novels—not slogans for ad campaigns. And guess what? I have always been afraid of writing! It has been my greatest dream and at the same time, my greatest fear. I’ve written books and articles, and sometimes I hide beneath pseudonyms in hopes that it might stop people from judging me.
What happens when you put yourself out there doing the thing you want most, and you fail spectacularly?
The day I graduated from teacher training, our instructor asked us to write down our greatest fear. She would then symbolically take it from us by placing it into a "fear-bin" and dispose of it. This confounded me. I’d never really considered my greatest fear until that moment.
And without overthinking it I realized what it was. I wrote: Never becoming a writer. Never publishing anything.
It was the exercise of writing down those very words that had a profound, powerful effect on me. I realized that if I didn’t at the very least go out there and try to seize that dream, the thing I was most worried about would never happen. I would never be a writer. I would never have anything significant published.
The thing about being something, is that it’s self-defined. You can want to become a writer, an artist, a husband, a wife, a vegetarian, etc., but it depends on you to define it. Some of us have degrees that confirm our status in society, but it’s not really the paper that makes us that thing—it’s the years we spend learning and the place we’re at today. Sometimes we need to claim that thing for ourselves in order to realize who we really are. In my case, I needed to say that I’m a writer. And then it was up to me to actually execute that claim, by publishing articles, writing a book, and taking full ownership of that.
Today, I’m at that place. I’m saying those words and I’m doing those things. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t wake up every other morning and fear the judgment or the rejection that might come along with it. But sometimes the greater the fear, the greater the rewards.
So what would I tell those teacher traineers embarking on their own journey now? I'd ask them what they would do if they weren’t afraid and then I'd tell them to go out there and do it anyway.
Photo by Stephen McVeigh