I always say “be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it!”
I also believe that every now and again we have to do something that takes us totally out of our comfort zone, that challenges us, and maybe even scares the hell out of us! Something that has the potential to redefine how we see ourselves in the world and what we think is possible.
This December marks 10 years on Maui. My move here was based exactly on this approach to life. 10 years ago, after a break up and a car accident I was feeling physically exhausted, emotionally drained and totally uninspired in my teaching and life. I needed to find a way out of this dark space and back into some kind of light. I needed a holiday and a change! Within just 3 months I obtained my US Visa, closed my yoga studio, sold all my belongings, packed 1 suitcase and rolled up my yoga mat and found myself on a plane to Hawaii. Little did I know that that decision would result in a massive reorientation of my life to permanently living on Maui, getting married, teaching yoga to students from all around the world, running teacher trainings and being able, at times, to study with some of the most experienced and senior yoga teachers in the West.
As I said “be careful what you wish for as you might just get it!”.
But life, like nature is not designed to reach a peak and then remain there. It is constantly seeking to evolve and that evolutionary process is most powerfully triggered, I believe, under threat of life and limb or at the point when stagnation begins to set in.
And it was at that point of stagnation where I found myself towards the end of last year. I was teaching packed classes, leading teacher trainings and finding myself in a smooth and steady groove in both my work and personal life but truthfully I was also feeling a strange sense of discomfort, a quiet frustration and even boredom that I could not quite place my finger on. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, with an “ants in my pants” kind of feeling that I now realize comes to me when life feels too “steady”, too “comfortable”. And for me the word “comfortable” applies best to my pyjamas and not my life!
And so last year, at exactly this time, I headed home to Cape Town for my annual summer vacation to visit family and it was there that I found myself on my mother’s lounge floor, sitting in a pool of late afternoon sunlight, surrounded by all her old magazines, armed with a pair of scissors, and happily cutting out all the words and images I needed to fill out a VISION BOARD.
I had heard about Vision Boards but had never explored the process of using words and images to portray or clarify you dreams and goals. The reflective process behind it had actually begun on the 3 day plane ride home. After all, what else, besides watching endless streams of movies, can one do when travelling to the other side of the world!
At some point, deep in the gloom of the last night flight over Africa I acknowledged that I was ready to once again step into the unknown, to trust my gut, to take a leap of faith, and to make a shift into something new.
That vision board proved an effective, creative and fun way of helping me identify the areas in which I wanted to make changes and what they would look, feel, and” taste” like in my life.
I realized that I was ready to:
- To open my own teaching space where I could put my creative and teaching energy. A space that I look forward to eagerly each morning to go to teach in and a space in which my students loved to practice!
- To create a highly respected teaching and learning environment where the business vision and values were in alignment with the principles and practices of yoga.
- To run my own teaching trainings, as opposed to pouring all my time, energy and experience into providing the content for someone else’s business in which I saw no real personal or professional growth.
- To step more fully into the role of teacher of teachers and mentor to those starting on the path of teaching yoga.
- To explore ways of teaching that would help me grow financially so that I could continue to study with senior teachers from around the world and in doing so draw inspiration from the practice that has sustained me physically, emotionally and spiritually for well over 17 years.
- To facilitate the invitation of these teachers to our Maui community
- To step more fully into the role of entrepreneur, community builder and lifestyle ambassador by expanding our real time classroom into a virtual classroom that would keep our local and international students connected no matter where they were and inspire others to join us!
The process of manifesting all this required not simply finding a space to rent but also demanded a whole hearted reorientation of how I viewed myself and what I thought I was capable of achieving in my life. It required that I really dig deep into exploring any self limiting beliefs and self sabotaging actions that kept me safe and comfortable and full of excuses of why it was not the right time in my life to make the changes I was asking for.
It challenged me to look FEAR straight in the face – fear of failure – fear of financial ruin – and even fear of success.
And so I returned to Maui in February of this year ready to embrace change and opportunity but with no real timeline or sense of energy around it. Truthfully, I had still not found a location that I loved. I was not sure I was ready to tie myself financially and energetically to opening my own studio, knowing full well what it demanded. I was heart-sore even thinking of how embarking on such a venture would deny me time with family for an unforeseeable time.
But sometimes the universe listens to your heart’s desiring and delivers on all your wishes, irrespective of your fears and excuses.
Not long after landing back on Maui, and quickly back into the swing of teaching public classes I had students ask me to run a part time teaching training where I was the sole teacher. And as quickly as the idea was presented we had a group in place and a space rented where we could gather 3 x a week. Having always facilitated 3 week intensive trainings for other studios this expanded 6.5 month training required a different approach and execution to what I had been familiar with over the years. But it was both exciting and challenging as I was figuring it all out on the go! Although unexpected and a bit stressful it was very rewarding and made me feel an even deeper sense of responsibility to the art of teaching than ever before.
As I was trying to adjust to this unplanned expansion in my teaching schedule I was once again offered another opportunity! A space that I had had my eye on casually for months suddenly became available. I met the realtors and as soon as I walked into the shell of that space I fell in love! I loved the size of the room, the big windows with all the natural light, the 2nd story elevation with views across the North Shore and its central location right in the middle of Paia gave it a fun vibe. It was right out of my “dream studio” vision!!!
Strangely enough that same week a letter arrived from my bank offering me a pre approved personal loan for an amount that would be almost exactly what I needed to build out the space and open the studio.
My business neighbors were to be 2 senior Iyengar teachers who I deeply respected and who encouraged me to take the leap right from the beginning. They had done the same thing not a year before and they saw the possibilities. They believed in me and the invitation to move in next door to them felt sincerely welcoming and without any potential for conflict.
And so, in the space of just 4 months my life took a complete turnaround from what I thought would be a rerun of the year before into something new and exciting. I really didn’t have time to over think it. I decided to leap before I looked too deeply into the abyss of fear and excuses! I took out the loan, signed the lease and gave my notice to my studio. I notified all my students that in 1 month I would be moving locations. And so it began….
But I won’t sugar coat things, the last 6 months have been brutal! From the frantic build out to make the opening date of August 1st, to opening a business during the quietest few months of the year which was financially stressful, to being the only teacher and going from 1 class a day to 3 a day, while still running a teacher training and to being the website designer, marketing manager, accountant and cleaner it has been a long, hard, tiring and scary road. And I know it’s not over yet. But would I take it back – NO! I see light at the end of the tunnel every day.
My teacher training group graduated and I now have some help to lighten my teaching load. I have moved from teacher to mentor and in the process I have had to release some of my control issues and trust that I have given them the skills to grow as teachers, remembering that it takes time to learn to teach well. I have to remind myself daily not to over direct their efforts and to give them the space to develop their own teaching style and trust that they will play an invaluable role in helping to expand our community.
I love how the change in location has brought new students into my classroom and their fresh energy is challenging and inspiring me again and reminding me how much I love to share this practice with others.
I am learning not to attach to those students who have moved away, knowing that as one person leaves space opens up for another to come in!
I am learning how to ride the wave of big classes, small classes and those in between and not to define myself by mere numbers alone.
I have had to learn to see myself in relation now, not just to other teachers, but to other studios and not view them as competition.
I am finally braving the technological minefield which overwhelmed me just a few months ago and find myself more confidently navigating websites, Instagram, Yelp, Facebook, creating ads and posters on Photoshop and even this blogging thing! And I am enjoying it! I see it as another creative pursuit like practicing the piano or taking photographs.
I am trying to work gently with my perfectionist nature and remember that sometimes the best thing is to start now, and optimize and perfect later!
I try and stay on track with my Ayurvedic daily routine which helps to keep me grounded and sane when fatigue, anxiety and fear threaten to overwhelm me.
I remind myself that although my asana practice is not where I want it to be right now that meditation, pranayama and yoga nidra are just as important and advanced as trying to nail some new arm balance or big backbend! Yoga is designed to help us navigate different times in our life and when practiced appropriately it will give us the energy and tools to do so.
I try to be open and honest with my students where I am each day physically and emotionally and to receive their much needed encouragement, support and motivation when I struggle to provide it to myself.
But most often I find myself going back to my yoga mantras and sutras and drawing from ancient words of wisdom and guidance to hold in check the inevitable confusion, doubt and fear that arises when we step into the unknown.
Here are my current favorite 3 that I have, with a small amount of verbal creative license, turned into personal little “mantras” or affirmations that keep me putting one foot forward:
But one of my most favorite ways to start each morning and our classes is with the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra. An ancient prayer with which we celebrate and offer gratitude for the rising sun as a source of life and light, for the dawning of a new day which offers us many opportunities to learn and grow and to set an intention to be and do our very best in our practice and day ahead. We invite the Divine Intelligence within us, to inspire, guide and enlighten us and to remove the obstacles on our path to Self knowledge and lead us along the righteous path toward greater self-understanding and awareness.
Om Bhur Bhuvah Svah
Tat Savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat
-Brahandaranyaka Upanisad 5.14.5
And every day I try and find a moment (most often when my students are in Savasana) where I can close my eyes, bow my head and give thanks that the Universe heard my call. I recommit to humbly surrender to the Divine Flow into which I place my trust, effort and love.
I look forward to sharing the journey with you as we move forward together at my new studio MAHA YOGA