I realize it would have been better of me to keep up with my blogging over this incredible experience... unfortunately that has not been the case so I will attempt to express some more of the journey right here now...
There are so many things.
So many things that I want to share. So many beautiful moments I've gotten to feel. So many little "clicks" in my mind & thought process where I've had a mental "Ooooooh, now I get it" or "Aaahaaa! So thats why I had to go through that previous experience" and "Wow. Everything thats come before in my life has led me straight to this moment, this THING."
Its a crazy, wonderful, eye-opening ride - this training - when you release your need for control, embrace the struggle a little bit and just observe the way your mind sees the world. The perspective I've gained on mySelf and my whole LIFE up to now, through this training, is almost mind-blowing. Going through so much intensity at such an accelerated rate is a recipe for some big steps toward Self Realization - IF you're willing to make the effort and start looking at things differently - taking a step back from the sensation of the moment (whether it be pain, sadness, excitement, exhaustion, frustration, anxiety) and seeing more of the "grand scheme" of things and whether or not it might better serve you to shift your thoughts and focus...
I've found, for me personally, and I'm pretty sure, actually, that its rings true for everyone here and is the whole point of the training, that this whole process - the intense physical challenge, the long hours and late nights, the little control or knowing what's coming next, the waiting, the push to learn very quickly and lack of time to do so, the mix of 400 personalities, the hotel lifestyle in general and more - THIS WHOLE PROCESS is not just for the purpose of getting a Bikram Yoga teaching certificate, its really about learning to LET GO. Releasing our expectations of how we thought it might go, what we think might be next, how we prefer things to be done, how much sleep we think we need, how much time to study we wish we had, how we think things should be easier -- letting that ALL GO and simply BEING PRESENT in the exact moment we're in. Releasing the worry over what we have next and just really focusing on the now and how we're choosing to feel and experience it - not how we think or assume we should be feeling (i.e. I didn't get enough sleep so I'm gonna be so tired all day) - but instead getting in touch with the way deep down inside of us, that power, harnessing it and realizing that we've been underestimating ourSelves so much for so long - and look how strong we actually ARE. Look how much we CAN actually do. And look how happy we can be doing it if we make that conscious choice, at the moment, enjoying it - enjoying BEING.
This has been an amazing thing for me to observe mySelf going through. Every morning I have to check in with mySelf and then lovingly thank my body & mind for being so good to me, for showing so much strength - IMPRESSING me with how much I can withstand. And this is a conscious choice I make - to really focus on the gratitude towards mySelf and body, staying in touch with how I really feel and not going into an automatic reaction of stress just because this process has so many stressful elements. After all, Bikram tells us he's making us bullet proof - stress proof - sweat proof - money proof - sex proof - age proof... and if you're making the conscious choice to remain calm, he's exactly right... it works.
The most powerful and moving sensation I've had throughout the entire training is this amazing ever-present feeling of deep gratitude. Not just for the experience of the training itself - although I couldn't be more thankful to be here. But mainly its been this incredible mind/body/soul acknowledgment of how lucky I am to have been surrounded by such goodness my entire life. Specifically to have been raised by my two truly loving and growth-encouraging parents.
Mother & Father
On many occasions over the past eight weeks I have called home and burst into tears thanking my Mom and Dad for being the parents they have been - for setting me on the right path in life - providing me with the foundation of faith and love to build upon - being examples of loving, giving, kind individuals towards all - for always encouraging me to ask questions - continually reminding me to stay true to who I am and what I know in my heart in right - teaching me the importance of open-mindedness - for providing support in whatever way I need it - helping me to see that just because the majority says its so, doesn't mean it actually is - being examples of humility and hard-work, love and trust in a relationship - building and encouraging my independence and individuality... I could go on forever, I really could. Being here, among 400 other trainees from all walks of life, different ages, different parental guidance - watching everyone go through this and deal with it in very different ways (many not so positive) has brought me to my knees in gratitude realizing how far along my parents set me with a good attitude and positive outlook on my life - NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES (<--and thats the most important part). I have been in a constant state of buzzing appreciation for how I was raised because I see how much others struggle in difficult, challenging situations... and I KNOW much of my positive, accepting way of looking at things, thinking about things, dealing with things, knowing and trusting that everything is happening in Divine synchronistic flow and that the Universe will always provide what I need - the essence of 'letting go' and my grasp of it - I owe to my incredible Mom and Dad and the love they put into making me a human being and then allowing me to fly. Thank you, Mom and Dad. I couldn't ask for better parents. You make me want to share this light with everyone in my life.
The gratitude also beats hard in my heart for my loving husband. What a man I've found to not only financially support this life-changing endeavor but to lovingly push me out of my comfort zone away from him and the pups for nine weeks, encourage me to pursue a dream, remind me - every time things got hard or I got homesick - of my love and passion for sharing this yoga and how many people I am going to heal with it... supporting me the whole way even as my being away made his life less exciting, a little harder and at times, painfully lonely. He didn't complain or make it harder on me. He'd provided me with the encouragement and support I needed to make it through - with a smile on my face.
I've had some intense moments of tear-jerking gratitude for the person he is too - how lucky I am to have found a man with talent, humility, generosity, dedication, loyalty, humor, deep love for his family... I got a little choked up at dinner a few nights ago here in LA as an old baseball friend of ours met up with me and was describing to his girlfriend how he first met Matt and I when Matt was originally drafted into the Phillies organization. He said he knew he had found a true friend and a good man because even though Matt was the high draft pick that year and a big prospect in the organization - "You would have never known it," he described, "...he was the most humble, giving, down-to-earth guy with no ego whatsoever. The kind of guy who offered to buy your dinner because he knew he had a little more money in the bank and was happy to share it." --it made my heart melt. And I was reminded of why I love him so much and why our marriage is so strong - getting better and better even after 11 years of being together. Matt is not only an incredible husband, he is a truly good person with a heart of gold. As my homecoming gets closer, he tells me how excited he is for me to see his practice and how much he has improved in the postures and with his focus. He wants me to be impressed... and I cherish that about him, it is so genuinely sweet and it shows me how much he cares about what I'm doing with my life. It also makes it evident his commitment and desire to keep bettering himself and evolving. I am so grateful.
Mastering the Baseball Life Pays Off in the Yoga too...
So many things. So many things I am grateful for.
Being here, amongst all the different people and the ever-changing, unpredictable schedule has made me so so appreciative of the baseball lifestyle I've had to become accustomed to over the past 7 or 8 years. And I mean this in the manner that I am completely at peace with unpredictability and constant change because this is everything the baseball life entails. Meeting and interacting with new people constantly, never really knowing what could happen next, having to really go with the flow if you want a life of happiness and tranquility - these are all elements I have had to deal with and learn through the baseball life. And I AM SO THANKFUL for that because it has made those elements of this training immensely easier - something I didn't have to struggle to adjust to. I know this because I've seen so many trainees struggle with it - fight it. And I silently kiss the sky and offer thanks for the crazy, chaotic baseball life which has taught me so much about letting go of resistance to change and just flowing with it.
Discipline & Confidence
Two of my strong qualities that have served me very well throughout this training have been my discipline and confidence.
Coming into the training with an already very disciplined meditative practice has made getting through doubles every day so much easier. I can always bring mySelf back to the moment, what I'm doing right then and only focus on that without anticipating - this has allowed me to have many, many deep, strong practices even when I'm not feeling like doing it that day. Its all mental. I've kept two primary mantras throughout most of the 90 minute practices. The first one is 'I can. I am.' -- meaning I can do this (whatever 'this' is right then - locking the knee, holding the stillness, withstanding the heat) and then I AM - reaffirming to mySelf that, "look - I am doing it because I can." I will repeat it over and over and over throughout the class, hundreds of times. It works. The other mantra I've used quite a bit especially when I'm feeling a little weak or emotional (the emotions sometimes just pop up out of nowhere during training) is 'I love you. I will never leave you.' -- and this is kind of my connecting mantra with the Universe, the Divine - that ever-present energy pulsing through all of us, connecting all of us, with us all the time. I remind mySelf, through this mantra, that there is never a time when love is not with me, in me, all around me - it never leaves me. So its okay to feel whatever I'm feeling at that moment and release it if I need. Its okay to take it easy sometimes, let the ego fall away and just back off if I need to - these are things I really struggle with and this mantra, just the words, I don't know, it makes me feel very close to the Divine and when I focus on it hard enough, I can let a lot of my self-criticism and ego-based thoughts go. I can relax without feeling like I've lost anything.
Confidence has been a HUGE factor in the training. Especially in posture clinics when we're memorizing and reciting pages and pages of the Bikram dialogue verbatim. My parental thankfulness pops up again here - because my parents have instilled in me this inner confidence that I can do anything I want to do and never, EVER to let doubt about that creep in - because it does not serve us in any positive manner. This has allowed me to learn the dialogue very quickly and correctly and then present it with confidence - knowing and trusting that I am and will be an amazing yoga teacher. And I don't say that with any cockiness or arrogance whatsoever - I say it with the confidence that I know I am doing what I was made to do and because I'm doing it with true love for not only the yoga but my future students whom I want to experience that connecting and healing power that this yoga provides. When I would get up to deliver a posture, I would always try to take a few deep breaths before and not focus on my own insecurities of just learning the dialogue or what would happen if I messed up, I would really try to remind mySelf of how much I love the students and want them to feel that love through my teaching. I would hear my mom in the back of my mind reminding me that "when we do things from a place of love, they always come out right." This was a very powerful and moving process for me and gave me the confidence I needed to make posture clinics a very positive experience (when many trainees absolutely hated and dreaded them). Watching so many of my classmates get up there and immediately self-doubt and second guess themselves made me tearfully grateful that that was just never part of my experience growing up - because its definitely something that we learn and make a habit of throughout our lives (in everything we do). The strong foundation of inner love and confidence my parents helped me to build is something I'm seeing is so special and unfortunately not something all possess or can learn overnight.
I suppose what I'm trying to get across in my long-winded post is that this amazing training experience has shown me so much about how I am so much of the culmination of everything thats happened before in my life, everyone I've surrounded mySelf with, all the thoughts and experiences I've had up to this point in my life. For a lot of people, that can be a really scary thing to realize and acknowledge, and believe me, there are plenty of trainees here that are not ready to see it or ready to acknowledge it. It can be a very eye-opening realization where one recognizes that some really big and sometimes difficult shifts need to take place in order to begin walking in the right direction. A conscious effort is required to do this, a conscious and HONEST evaluation of Self and the thoughts we choose daily, moment-to-moment even. We are creating our own reality - what story are we telling ourSelves over and over and how is it shaping our life? A realization that we are always looking at the world through colored lenses - whichever color our experiences and thoughts have turned them - whichever color we are CHOOSING. And it takes time and hard work to learn to take off those lenses and begin to see things differently from a place of love and with an open heart. For me, like I've expressed, I feel so fortunate that I've had people and experiences all throughout my life pointing me in the right direction, keeping on the path of right, walking beside me and reminding me that things are not always the way I see them and to be aware of that. And gratitude towards mySelf for being committed to use all my experiences - good times, hard times - as a tool for learning something about mySelf and making that conscious effort to only see through loving eyes. What is my attitude saying about me? What story am I telling mySelf? What reality am I creating right now? Is is serving me? Can I shift it to better serve me? Its some deep and heavy stuff.
Like I said - my heart beats so hard with gratitude. That sensation has been so strong the past eight weeks and it is a BEAUTIFUL, POWERFUL feeling - a high almost. And I really do see, through his lectures, classes and teachings that these are the contemplations Bikram is trying to get us to think about. The hard, deep stuff that can't really be realized on the surface level. We have to be broken down and opened up to start to see it, to feel it. Thats why he has us doing two classes a day, stripping down the layers, getting into the thick of things within our bodies and within our minds - revealing and releasing some toxic energies, memories, experiences that our bodies may have been holding onto for years and years. Staring ourSelves in the face for 3 plus hours a day just DEALING with who we are and how we handle the pressure, the practice. Finally giving up our constant underestimating and then falling in love with our higher Selves as we watch things begin to change, our whole world begins to change - being able to start again. Although some may call him crazy and too tough on us, I think he's pretty brilliant. Sometimes it takes an honest ass-kicking and confrontation with our weaknesses in order to give them up.
Just Like in the Hot Room
I find that the training is really simply an expansion of the actual Bikram Yoga practice. In the hot room, full of distractions and difficulties, we are asked to come back to our breath and stillness - to find the calm within the storm. To stop wiping our sweat, stop grabbing for water every other minute, stop getting up and leaving the room, stop letting our eyes wander, stop letting our thoughts wander, stop focusing on the heat-- to JUST BE STILL and focus on ourSelves. This stillness is where the magic happens, its where we start to see how strong we are, how focused we can stay and how nothing can steal our peace. Take those same principles and apply them to the training - can you stay calm under pressure? Can you stay focused on the task at hand? Can you zone out all the distractions? Can you cut the drama of how you're feeling in the moment and take a step back and realize that you actually CAN do this (if you THINK you can)? Can you appreciate what you're doing in that very moment? Can you make your whole experience a series of loving actions? Can you show yourself that, "yes, I can. And I am."? Can you come back to your breath, that which inherently keeps you in the moment? And can you find the JOY in doing it? Can you enJOY it? Let go of the struggle and just trust the process. This IS what Bikram Yoga Teacher Training is. ---and really, its what LIFE is.
Our Yoga practice in the hot room, and by practice I mean the entire practice, start to finish - not just pretty postures - but stillness within them, stillness in between, no distractions, always focused on Self in the mirror, listening word by word, never anticipating or going into auto-pilot mode just because we know what's coming next, eliminating the drama of our emotions and just observing them but not becoming attached, the meditation of it, the love for it... our practice says so much about the kind of person we are and the story we tell ourSelves - it says so much about our entire life and how we are choosing to experience the world. If we can practice discipline, confidence and true love for what we're doing in the hot room, if we CHOOSE to practice it - our whole world will reflect that and all good things will flow effortlessly into our lives.
It all starts in the hot room...