I’ve been reading lots of books lately…partially because I’ve been on many terrible bus rides and am still too stubborn to buy an ipod after leaving mine at home (that’s right ladies and gents—6months sans—ipod!)…partially because June 3 marks the beginning of my 200 hour Yoga teacher training in Thailand. I’ve been a bit reluctant to share with people that I am doing my training because I felt that by Western standards my network of friends may not accept my decision whole-heartedly. That people might judge me for doing a qualification so brief after dedicating 4 years to a bachelor’s degree. That people wouldn’t understand that I actually really just want to learn more about yoga because of how much more positive I feel my life is when I’m actively practicing. I felt like as a past employee of lululemon athletica it was a bit cliché…and I think most of all I feared that (knowing if I do teach it will be part time) I wouldn’t be the ‘best’ yoga teacher. I’m so used to doing everything I do with commitment to excellence, and knowing (now at least) that I’m taking training to deepen my personal practice and maybe teach as well might be the first time I’ve really invested (time and money) in something purely for my enjoyment and interest. I probably won’t be a headliner at wanderlust or a lulu ambassador…and it’s OK.
I’ve definitely always struggled with acting based on ‘what other people will think’…oddly, I have a pretty thick skin…my issue is that I think (perhaps because I was an only child until I was almost 7) or have thought, that other people care a lot more about my life than they do. I’ve done a lot of digging recently as to why this is, and come out with a less negative conclusion than I had anticipated when I began my introspection.
I care a lot about other people…not out of gossip or malicious intent, but out of curiosity and simply caring what people I care about are going through. I may talk a fair bit about myself, but typically I remember every detail of what people tell me about themselves. Because this is how I think about others, I assume they are equally as interested in me….but that’s not always the case. The shift that has happened in this realm for me, is that I have surrounded myself (or connect myself with) with people who will communicate with me. Not saying “omg! I love that shirt!” but saying “I’m proud of you for getting through that situation” or (more commonly) “you’re overanalyzing”. I don’t have to wonder because my network is supportive, honest, and genuine and I would feel not only comfortable, but expected to share my thoughts with them.
The other branch of this discovery is that the less judgemental I have become through travelling, the less I feel others are judging me. We assume the same tendencies in others that we see in ourselves. Those who are judging others care most about what others think because they assume that they must be doing the same thing. I think back and…I don’t think I’ve actually been the worst for judgements…I’ve had my moments, but they are directly correlated with negative people in my life. If anything people tease me for having a “collection of friends” because I tend to branch out to all sorts of people, and ‘groups’ that wouldn’t usually associate. I’ve realized how toxic these few people over my life have been to my core psyche. I don’t care what people are wearing, but being so close to people who used it as their only yard-stick for friend-worthiness made me start to care about my own possessions out of social survival.
So, why did it take me so long if I’ve come to all these revelations? Because nobody’s perfect…but mostly because what you have in your own head you assume others will also have in theirs. I was fighting my own ghosts and blaming what I assumed of others.
After leaving Bali, my prior debates to do a teacher training were crystal clear. My good friend Josh said “no dramas? Bali must be your bliss” and I couldn’t help but agree. I thought “shit, my bliss is not close to home”….then realized that I have the power to re-create any given environment in my life in a different geographical location. It is my degree after all…. So I looked back and thought—what was Bali? Why did I love it?…I won’t be as cheesy as to say ‘yoga’ and act like I had some sort of enlightenment….but it was who I was in the studio overflowing to every aspect of my life. I was focused, calm, I gave praise, I was confident, grateful, and I cared about my body. I ate vegan, got to bed on time, hydrated, and practiced. I had people in my life that had no problem waiting an extra hour for dinner so I could do a late night class, and for the first time I was able to practice yoga without competing with others (I totally was that person thinking ‘heck yes my half moon is better than yours’). If I was curious about somebody or something, I asked. The simple solution to not creating assumptions… Because this was how I was acting, I expected the same in others. I didn’t think teaching yoga was the solution, but I did know I needed to better understand the history and theory behind the yogic lifestyle (and it is a lifestyle not a ‘workout’).
So what does impermanence have to do with this? Well…this state of bliss, of needing yoga and the community that comes with it in my life, this motivation to change…it was impermanent. Somewhere between stuffing my face with thalis in Penang and volunteering in Phnom Penh I felt like a total fraud going to YTT because my life no longer coincided with anything it did in Bali. I was buying the cheapest food possible, practicing infrequently and inconsistently, and finding myself having more raging reactions to pushy tuk tuk drivers by the minute.
I read a book recently called Buddha or Bust about spiritual tourism and one of the author’s main learnings was impermanence. I suppose it’s the Buddhist version of ‘this too shall pass’…but I feel like we have put that saying in a box referring to negative times. What I took from the book was that impermanence applies to everything in life including life itself.
Depressing? It shouldn’t be…it should light a fire under your ass. Yes, cravings and broken hearts are impermanent. But so are love and success. To me, impermanence eludes to my freedom and ability to manage a situation (one some may call life) not the fate of happiness ending. I realized as I got further from Bali how impermanent that lifestyle was. It made my yoga training all of the sudden seem far fetched. I opened up to Josh about being afraid I would be ‘bad’ at yoga…which in my head I was just thinking, what if you’re a yoga poser? His response “can you breathe”…I must admit (and I know you’re reading…)I rolled my eyes a bit. But as I read my first prerequisite book The Heart of Yoga today soaking up each word like gold, I came to a sentence where the author essentially says the exact same thing to the reader… and something clicked.
To have this life of happiness, calm, focus, ambition…every quality you or your mom thinks is needed for ‘success’…you just need to breathe. Being as intentional with your time and energy as you are with your breath in yoga will lead you to activities you want to be doing, people you want to be with, and skills you want to have. As much as you can end negativity as simply as re-focusing your breath and choosing for something to be over, you can also start a new beginning just as easily. I can hear my friend Dylan saying “she really has lost track of what real life’s about”…but to be quite frank, I don’t really care. This is impermanent. I must enjoy it [the carefree, responsibility-free, loftiness of travel] while I can.
I can hear the ‘wtf’s’ about my comment that love and success are impermanent. But they are. First, to address the latter…balance effort and surrender my teacher Noga said. If you are always succeeding, how are you learning, how are you challenging yourself, and really….how can you appreciate your triumphs. Now ‘love’…it is impermanent. It is ever-changing. It develops, it gains depth, loses intensity, re-ignites, and to stay in love or leave love, is a choice. Impermanence doesn’t necessarily mean (to me) that something always has to end (although it often will)…it means you will have to actively choose to keep something around. Being intentional with what you chose to have in your life, and having the ability to do so freely.
So, somewhere between Bali, breathing, and reading about breathing…I’ve chosen to stop judging myself for everything I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. I oddly don’t have any of those thoughts about other yoga teachers in my life…I think I respect them all so much I fear I can’t fill the shoes…But I’ve realized that my insecurities have been the result of me not choosing to stay focused, of me being lazy with my practice, and making excuses to mask my fear of the road less travelled. The road less travelled was always my motto when I was young, but I was always on the road I had planned. It may not have been what others were doing, but I always did what I ‘knew’ I wanted to do. Even travelling….I’ve always known I wanted to do it, maybe not to this scale….but in a way the scale of this trip is a version of me over achieving. Doing yoga training is my road less travelled, I’m nervous, I didn’t plan on it at all when I stepped on the plane to Sydney over half a year ago. But I’m choosing it actively, and finally full—heartedly.