Begin Again

85a85f7d2bf5d923ae05494459b02fb1There’s something about the end of summer that gets everyone in a back-to-school mode, regardless of if they have use for new notebooks and sharpened pencils. It’s a futuristic mind-set, whether you’re shopping for the biggest box of crayons, moving out of apartments, or trying on all your fall sweaters, the last days of summer are rarely spent as summer.

In terms of school and work, the end of an era also brings the end of a title. When someone asks what you do, that’s rarely our response. Most say their job title, without any implication that they experience more in their life. I am completely guilty of this; in fact, when someone went against the grain and told me he “said his opinions, wrote and argued” for a living, rather than saying “lawyer,” I responded with a blank stare.

So, even as September marks the last year of using “student” as the what I do is who I am answer, I know this will not be the end of my learning journey. Case in point, I have learned multitudes more since becoming a yoga instructor than when I only considered myself a student. I may be a yoga teacher, but I learn more from my students than they probably do from me. Had I taken that title completely to heart, I would’ve missed out on the lessons all around me.

Some think of yoga as an hour on the mat, for some it’s an hour they never want to experience. The purpose, though, is for yoga to be present in every part of your life. In my opinion, it’s the exception to not letting what you do define who you are. The epitome of the exception is the visionary, inspiring, and dedicated teacher BKS Iyengar that sadly passed away this week, at age 95.

Graduating from my Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher training, 2011.
Graduating from my Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher training, June 2011.

It’s not just yogis that are taking notice, it’s the world. He impacted every element of how we think of yoga in the West, revolutionizing how people integrate the practice into their lives and whom it is accessible to. He’s the reason why I secretly sit in lotus at my desk and can use the word “teacher” to describe not only what I do, but also who I am. He’s even the reason Lululemon’s horseshoe logo sits on the calves of so many people, even those who don’t have a yoga practice.

It’s this type of impact one person can have on the world that shows the value of remaining present. It’s easy to spend any “last”-whether it’s your last two weeks in a position, or your last year in school- as if it is already complete. However, this lack of presence is what allows us to miss out on benefiting from one last connection or experience that we won’t have access to again. It keeps us from realizing the new opportunities for growth, whether it’s trying something new or finding new value in what already exists. Presence has an irreplaceable importance that transcends titles and transitions. Regardless of one’s stage in life, presence is essential for enjoying each stage of life. 

“Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.” BKS Iyengar

One Minute, One Million Memories

“91 cappuccinos. Wine corks that probably shouldn’t be counted. 9 weekends spent traveling. 3 private cooking classes. Stories of the 5 senses and 266 popes, all started 14 weeks ago from today,” I tell two cameras larger than my body and the two monotone men controlling them.

IMG_1255In my Pope, Politics and Popular Culture course, we were offered the unique chance to broadcast our opinions on Vatican TV. Well, more or less.

Standing in the Vatican TV studio, our class was asked, one by one, to describe our abroad experience in 60 seconds. Our professor Sèan, recommended we think about the balance of what we would say- be prepared, yet not robotic; composed, yet genuine.

The cherry on top of this challenge was when Sean asked us to share of what our audience needed to know, not just what we would like to say.

60 seconds. It’s said to be how long it takes first impressions and judgements to form, and is often the maximum amount of time we have to answer a question. While this seems superficial, it makes sense. In my opinion, it’s partly a result of our tendency to like the ideas of things more than the logistics. “We’ll get coffee!” can go on for months before you actually find yourself sipping espresso in company.

So as much as everyone “can’t wait to hear everything” there’s still a strong chance those stories will need to come in 60 second increments. Luckily, the more I thought about this semester summary, I realized the best experiences don’t have to be told. Gained independence carries itself in my aura, global perspectives are intertwined in intelligent conversations and my favorite stories would make me laugh too hard to effectively communicate.

Sometimes it’s not the pictures you have to show, or the things that can be said.

I also found this through my communications course as I sat behind a Vatican Radio microphone, during another amazingIMG_2412 class. While in the studio at the Vatican, Sèan asked questions about our résumés, testing how well we were able to communicate our experiences and sell ourselves.

Elements of any résumé can only tell you so much, that’s the purpose of an interview. In my case, being a yoga instructor intrigued Sèan, and he wanted to know more. I described my passion for helping others, how I am able to represent myself as a brand and how my time on the mat leads to serene problem solving. I was prepared but not robotic, but more importantly I was able to communicate something you wouldn’t find from that one piece of paper.

For my 60 seconds of fame, the anticipation and monologue setting made me a bit more unsettled, and I’m not sure I was as real as the previous Vatican media experience. I have yet to see my Vatican TV video, but  regardless of how it turns out, the experience was enough to make up for any embarrassing stutters or awkward body language.

Following the switching red lights of the cameras, I said something along the lines of, “I’ve never done so much in a semester, and had it go so quickly. But really I think it’s because I haven’t truly tried, I don’t think anyone has. Being abroad offers you all these amazing experiences, but they have an expiration date.We’ve seen and done more than so many locals, because for them it’s not going anywhere.”

“Making the most of everyday,” I continued, “is something that can only start once excuses stop, which has made this semester as amazing as it was. It’s also universal, wherever you are, wherever you’re living or studying, explore the world around you. It’s because of this mindset that I can’t recap my study abroad experience in 60 seconds, or reduce it to a number. And for that I am eternally grateful.”

Now that you have the semester in 60 seconds, you have a few weeks to prepare the specific questions. But only if you want truly genuine answers, can handle moments of cackle-induced incoherency, and are able to set a date to add to that infamous wine cork collection.