I waited a week after returning home to write this post in hopes that putting my experience into words would be a little easier. If anything, it feels harder. The sixteen days felt simultaneously like a lifetime and a fleeting moment. This post feels like a karaoke rendition of my favorite song - there is no way I will do the experience justice, but I'm going to grab the mic and give it a shot anyway.
"It has been said that the highest learning comes in four parts: One part is learned from teachers; another part from fellow students; a third part from self-study and practice; and the final part comes mysteriously, silently, in the due course of time."
—Ganga White (a very wise, humble and hilarious teacher and yoga legend) in his book, Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice
I went skidding into the White Lotus Teacher Training program at 100 miles per hour, tired and burned out, desperate for some quiet time to think and reflect and soul-search.
White Lotus delivered. I am pretty sure I died and went to heaven for 16 days. Studying yoga from sun-up to sun-down, napping, hiking, "cartoon sweating" during intense practices (hi Polly!), dancing to Black Eyed Peas with Ganga and Tracy (our teachers) or doing Intuitive Yoga during others; dedicating an entire afternoon to learning the mechanics of triangle pose or downward dog, eating delicious (mostly vegan) food prepared with love, and forming a yoga family with 30 other kindred spirits -- it all rocked my soul to the core...in the best possible way (my girl Sarah did an awesome job recapping everything).
Three trees (balancing on a rock on the edge of a cliff is harder than you might think):
For those of you who know me well, you know that I don't miss an opportunity to turn major experiences into metaphors for life (see: river rafting, triathlon and marathon). The life lessons I got from yoga teacher training were reminders -- gems that deep down I already knew but that had gotten rusty amidst the whirlwind of life. Below are five of the countless lessons I will take with me from White Lotus.
Five Life Reminders from Yoga Teacher Training
1. Comparison is a losing game - I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Yoga (and life) is not about who can do what better. It is about how you feel on the inside. It is about feeling graceful and powerful; about feeling energy radiating through every pore, shooting out from fingertip to fingertip. All bodies are different. All lives are different. Focus on your lines, your practice, and living with integrity in your own life. Look to others not as a yardstick for comparison, but as an instrument for inspiration - you might be surprised to find you have those same qualities within yourself.
2. "Yoga doesn't 'take time' -- it gives time." This quote is from Ganga's book and it is so true. The things we love don't take time, they give it. Don't "make time" to do the things you love. Do the things you love, and you will find time in new and unexpected places for everything else.
3. The hard work is not in your to-do list. The hard work is in fiercely committing to things that energize and replenish you. Sometimes I feel like I am WORKING SO HARD (a weightlifter on steroids comes to mind) to get everything on my to-do list done. And yet, if I put half as much energy and attention into doing yoga, meditation, and carving out quiet time, I would be so much better off - so much less strain in my life. Feeling happy and balanced takes WORK - it is not easy. I want to focus my "hard work" on the things that really matter in my life - and trust that it will only help the smaller tasks to get done with more clarity and creativity.
4. Pain is an information system. This gem also comes from Ganga who taught us to listen to our pain, which is only trying to help us. Does pressing through the pain make it better or worse? What are the contributing factors? Without pain, we would have no warning system to stop destructive behavior, habits or diseases. What is your pain trying to tell you?
5. Our teachers are all around us. I learned so much from Ganga and Tracy, but also from the 30+ people I spent those 16 days with. I learned from the weather, from the land, and even from my crazy dreams (I was mortified one day after loudly jolting up with a gasp during Savasana while everyone was laying down...I had fallen asleep and was convinced that that a spider was crawling on my face. OOPS.)
Here's a 1-minute video tour of Yurt Village from the first day:
Here is a 1-minute video of me describing a typical day (you may need to turn your volume up - lesson learned that Flip cams have a hard time picking up my 6am whisper voice):
The first week of the rest of my life
I spend so much of my time online, hunched over my desk, buried in computers at Google and at home. Yoga helps me unwind, destress, and connect with myself again. It helps me stand tall and exhale. Becoming a yoga teacher was something I have secretly wanted to do for a long time, but for a while was terrified to admit out loud (for fear of not being ready...or good at it). I can't describe the elation I felt after delivering my 10-minute class (our "final exam") and realizing that I have just kicked a new door of my life wide open.
I'm thrilled to have a way to share the yoga gift - the ongoing, ever-changing alignment of mind, body and spirit - with others. I love having another way to unwind and express myself and physically amidst all of the "brain work." I'm hoping to start teaching workshops for teen girls, and maybe even incorporate yoga classes (and cupcakes!) as part of my book tour. This training came at a perfect time in my life (albeit a busy one), and I can't wait to see where the path will lead.
Stay tuned for part two of this post, where I discuss re-entry after being largely unplugged for two weeks.
Sneak preview: jumping back into the chaos of managing a full-time job at Google while catching up from being gone and balancing the last and final stages of the book project absolutely KICKED MY ASS. Up, down and sideways. I've been a hot emotional mess, working harder every day but feeling like I was (am) falling farther and farther behind. I've felt exhausted to the core; disappointed and helpless as I watched (mortified and even ashamed at) how quickly the clarity and calm from White Lotus escaped me. So more life lessons to follow soon in Part 2...
Two more pictures just for fun: