It was Summer time on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand. I was immersed in a scorching hot teacher training for thirty days straight. It was about a 105 degrees outside and 105 degrees in. Talk about throwing yourself in the fire.
During the first “dialogue” exercise and learning to teach, I bawled my eyes out in front of thirty three other trainees from around the globe. We sweat buckets with daily practice from early am to late pm. It was a rigorous schedule that pushed the limits of not only our bodies, but our minds. We had embarked on the journey of finding our true voices. This entails shining a bright light on all those things we all desperately try to hide.
What's the big deal about teaching a yoga class. How hard can it be?
Well, for starters, it asks you to get honest with yourself in front of an audience. No filters here. No making it perfect for social media.
Finding your voice whether teaching it out loud, writing a book or any one of the myriad of other ways to stretch our creative muscles, all seem to bring up the same stuff. Whether it be jitters, butterflies or a full on internal shredding of any confidence we might have, taking steps outside our comfort zone can bring up the inner voice that is not our personal cheerleader.
While teaching yoga can be immensely rewarding, it can also be one of the more frightening jobs out there. It is not a performance (although, I see that a lot). It is not reading from a script (although, I see that a lot). It's definitely not trying to be like your favorite teacher. It's you. And no, it's not about you. Sure there's going to be some natural nervousness. But to be a genuine yoga teacher, it requires not only a vast amount of knowledge, but authenticity. You gotta just be you, as you are, warts and all. It's like getting on a horse. If you are afraid or not sure, the horse is gonna throw you off in a second. Trust me, I know. I have been thrown. And great news. Being bucked is a wonderful way to learn.
Back in the heat of the jungle in Thailand, my first day of teaching in training did not go well. It didn't go at all since I couldn't get a word out past my blubbering. As my peers and teachers observed me have an absolute meltdown, my internal voice was whispering “Who was going to listen to what I had to say? Why would they want to?” I was completely unnerved and unraveled.
Well, somehow I got past it. The studies and physical practice came easier. But speaking
it? Out loud? In front of live humans? Not so much.
Cut to a few more trainings and opening my own studio through the years, somehow, I obviously managed to get some words out and was now in the director seat of teacher trainings. Many students have come through these programs and cried much like I did. Oh, how I empathized with these moments and the steps in getting to know yourself. Like me, they never believed they would get through it.
But we all did. Maybe some of it was not a pretty process but what transformation is? Why do we expect things to be easy and neat? Has anything lastly or worthwhile come without challenges? I remember as a child riding my cherry red two-wheeler for the first time and wiping out. I still have the scar on my right elbow. How many of us got on and rode perfectly the first time? The tenth time?
So here I sit, dipping a toe into unchartered waters and trying my hand at writing. It's a dream that I have had for a long time. And while I am not crying (not yet anyway,) the same kind of feelings are popping up from that first day of teaching. Why would people want to hear what I say? Why would they want to? Yeesh, there was that cheerleader of drama and self-doubt.
“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” Steven Pressfield
A fellow teacher trainer shared a jewel with me. She named her confidence killing voice Brenda. Whenever this voice reared its ugly head raising all kinds of havoc and self doubt, she simply says:
F**k you Brenda.
We have all met Brenda at one time or another. She's loud, obnoxious and will do anything to squash our true voice.
Whether we are teaching, writing, singing, painting or a thousand other things that ask us to trust ourselves, it takes guts to stand up to Brenda. Here's 10 ideas that helped me get her out of the house:
1. Imagine speaking to your younger self ten or twenty years ago? Yeah, you know the cliches. I won't mention them here but most us can agree that many of the challenges were necessary to learn. Perhaps they might now even be considered blessings when looking back?
2. Fear and fire are not always bad things. It means we care and there is possibility inside the challenge if we are willing to look instead of running like hell.
3. Ask yourself what would happen if you decided to let go of the doubt? Would there be more space instead of strain if you gave yourself some room around the fear?
4. Read a book. Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art, has so many wise
words for those of us that are stuck in our muck. “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance".
5. Meet yourself where you are and give yourself a good dose of love. Make friends with yourself. All of yourself, especially the parts you don't like so much. In Buddhism, it's called Maitri. Read more: (https://www.elephantjournal.com/a-month-of-maitri-beyond-self-care/)
6. Meditate.Yes.We are busy. Yes there is time. Sit down. Set a timer. Take a deep breath. Yes, it's okay that your mind wanders. Sit anyway.
7. Go outside just like Mom said. Getting a fresh breath of air can give us a fresh perspective. Walking, biking or any outdoor activity helps to create space around a crowded mind.
8. Perhaps it's time to name your nemesis and give them the boot. Articulating the internal voice that shows up when stepping outside what we know is a powerful tool. Once we are able catch the moment we start to get stuck by a Brenda voice, we can shift our habitual thoughts and create a possibility instead of a stop sign.
9. Recognize that we have a choice in how to respond to the inner voice that questions. The key is to catch the moment when we are reacting out of habit, emotions and memories. We choose whether to nourish our inner angels or demons.
10. Most of all be patient with your process. It takes time and a whole lot of love.