I am currently mid-way through my 200-hour yoga teacher training, and to say it's been life-changing would be the understatement of the century. I went into the course not knowing if I would even be interested in teaching. I went in with hesitations from my husband, who was wondering if this was another grandiose A.D.D. idea that I would lose interest in after the first weekend. And I went in, terrified of what I might uncover by delving into this spiritual journey. All I knew was that the universe was presenting me with a unique opportunity to better myself, and I had to take it.
I've now been given the opportunity to teach several times in front of a "safe" group filled with encouragement and support, and it's given me faith in myself to believe that I could, in fact, be a pretty dang good yoga teacher one day. But I think the most important thing about this process thus far, is how it makes me feel. I can honestly say, settling in in front of a group of people (after I get past the rattles and nerves), and guiding them through movement, breath, intentions and relaxation, I feel at peace. It's a peace I've never known, and every day I am waking up with enthusiasm about the next adventure in sharing this sense of peace with others.
My yoga teacher training program is taught by Danielle Mercer, one of the most inspirational women I've met. She travels around the world teaching in obscenely beautiful locales such as Australia, Thailand, India, and is scheduled for an upcoming Yin & Meditation training on some dreamy far-flung Greek Isle. Oh, and of course, don't forget to add The Bahamas to her list of reasonably cool places that she travels to. Not a bad gig, right?
Throughout our course, we have had assignments each week to focus on yamas and niyamas. Without teaching you all eight limbs of yoga in this blog post, let's just say they are practical guidelines for how to live your life, or personal observances and moralities. The focus is on internal and external balances in your life with regards to practicing compassion, truthfulness, moderation, health, self-study and contentment, just to name a few. Yoga, after all, isn't just about getting a toned body and mastering handstand. It's a way of life.
This current week is focused on santosa, or contentment. I have to say I prefer the word santosa much more than the word "content." Doesn't it just sound nicer? Kinder? Almost restful? "Content" sounds too close to the word "contempt" for my liking. It sounds pointed and harsh. It's as if, after saying the word, you'd expect someone to give you a prompt, rigid salute, along with a "yes sir" and a heel click. So for the sake of keeping the tranquility momentum rolling, let's stick with santosa for the remainder of the discussion.
So, we are given the task to reflect on a designated yama or niyama for one week in between training weekends. This week we are asked to delve into santosa and how we can cultivate more of it in our lives. Some of the observances have numerous options for exploration, but this one is pretty straightforward. How can we feel at ease as we traverse through this lifetime?
After processing this a bit, I realized that I've historically had a hard time finding santosa in my day to day life. I'm sure others can relate. It's not about being blissed out all the time, living in some idealized enlightened state of being, but about just rolling with whatever comes your way, and feeling OK with that.
In a meditation we did over the weekend, Danielle describes how we rarely live in the present moment. If you've read any of Eckhart Tolle's books, most notably, "The Power of Now," you'll start to tune into the very real universal adult-human struggle with actually living in the present moment. I specify "adult," because kids, as we all know, seem to have no problem living in the moment. We lose something along the way. Most of us truck along with our daily lives without even realizing that we aren't living in the present. We zone out without remembering how we got from Point A to Point B. Smartphones are the modern world's greatest distraction from the present. Ever find yourself milling around in public, and feel out of place if you aren't on a device? It's almost like we are purposefully cultivating a society based around the past or future, instead of tuning into the people, sensations, and beautiful moments that continuously surround us.
As I waited for my plane to take off the other week, I watched a vibrant green caterpillar crawl on the tarmac. When the propellers started revving, the caterpillar was blown out of place. He gripped and crawled and tried to find the right path, but continued to get pummeled around. I wanted to stop the plane and take it to a little patch of dirt not too far away. The emotions I felt in that moment were something I would have never experienced had my thoughts been drifting off to what I might be having for dinner later, or stressing about what I said in a previous conversation. It was painful, and beautiful, and mesmerizing all at the same time. As is life, right?
When we were working on our meditation, Danielle explained that when we are living too much in the past or future, specific feelings associated with those time periods arise. For those that tend to live in the past, feelings of depression, heaviness, remorse, and regret arise. For those that tend to live in the future, feelings of anxiety, urgency, and fear arise. This turned into one of those "ah-ha" moments for me. I realized immediately that I tend to lean towards the past. Other than a bit of anxiety I experience when getting ready to travel somewhere, my deep-rooted emotions are stemmed from the past; a yearning for the way things once were, memories of my storybook childhood, the love I felt from my mother, the community of my family that I now feel so disconnected to after so long away, and the beautiful people and places of Pacific Northwest. In that moment of realization, my ever-present subtle feelings of depression turned into longing, and deep sorrow.
Although I love my island life, and based on social media, one couldn't help but to think that I'm "livin' the dream", I still struggle immensely with santosa. So I have to ask myself, why do I feel this sense of discontent, of dis-ease? As we were assigned to delve into this, a lot of things came up for me. Maybe I hadn't come to terms with my mom's death, nine years later. Maybe I have been holding onto the idea that things should be a certain way (if our house was finished, I'd be happy, for example). Maybe I just don't feel as though I have a sense of purpose.
And so I ask myself, what is it that DOES make me happy? What lights my fire?
I have come to the conclusion that even if I'm not "fixed," as it were, I feel as though I am destined for a path of illuminating personal awareness and growth, through sharing and relating with others. I've always been the type of person that has a difficult time expressing myself emotionally, but perhaps sharing, in a safe space, is what I, and we as a universal whole, need to do in order to heal. I've stumbled into writing, I write every day now. Mostly about palm trees, turquoise water, and all the wonderful reasons to visit The Bahamas in the travel guidebook I'm writing, but perhaps I can also provide positive inspiration through my personal journey. Perhaps others will see there is hope for personal development, growth, and overcoming of obstacles. Teaching yoga so far has seemed as though it can open the doors I never dreamed were possible throughout my pain. When you focus on wanting to heal others, I believe that you heal too. When you are a part of a community of people that are dedicated to bettering themselves, you too, better yourself.
If you're up for a challenge, I suggest that you consider delving into the yamas and niyamas for yourself. For this week, perhaps you'd like to come along on my journey with me. Where can you find santosa in the midst of your chaotic life? What makes you feel at peace? Perhaps make an effort to journal about it, really tune into your feelings. Do you tend towards feelings of sadness, or are you filled with anxiety? What is triggering these emotions? Fear of things that haven't even happened yet? Or the inability to let go of events from the past?
"Don't cry over the past, it's gone. Don't stress about the future, it hasn't arrived. Live in the present, and make it beautiful"
If you'd like to stay up to date on this journey and receive periodic inspirations in your inbox, feel free to scroll down a bit and subscribe to my newsletter :)