(Originally posted Oct 9, 2018)

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in an amazing yoga nidra instructor certification course over three weekends in the past four months. I felt some fear going into the course, during the first two of the three weekends. This wasn’t fear about what we were going to be learning, as I knew I wanted to learn and delve in; but rather the fear came from my perceived or expected judgments from classmates, from the instructors: fear that I wasn’t a part of the group that I was somehow an outsider and didn’t really fit in; fear of being awkward and not doing or saying the “right” thing – individually and in the group as we shared our experiences altogether throughout the weekend. I’d also created some self-imposed feelings inadequacy around not being a yoga instructor (asana practice) like most others taking the course. I was fortunate to be accepted into the program despite not having this certification, but I built up this deficiency as a big issue in myself, when it needn’t have been an issue at all.

Upon reflection, I realize that while I was sitting in the same circle as everyone else and was physically present, I felt miles away from the group that first weekend – almost like I was observing from elsewhere. I was not present and in the moment, but rather I was in a place of fear (of the future, of what I imagined others thought of me) of doubt (about my ability and who I was) and insecurity (about myself) and even of the past (steeped in self-criticism of what I had just said moments before or earlier that day). The familiarity with these feelings had me realizing that I had felt this way so many times before. So. Many. Times. My whole life was made up of this familiar experience. This fuelled my perceived inadequacy:  why do I always feel this way?  I observed that the rest of the group seemed to have it all together, even in talking about our vulnerabilities and challenges during the sharing portion of the course, everyone seemed to be able to do so much more clearly and more eloquently than me (as far as I thought).

During and after the second weekend these feelings peaked; I felt worse. Only a month into the course I was feeling even more separate from everyone. I left that weekend and booked sessions with two counsellors and two mentors I’d been working with – to go over how I was feeling. I didn’t get it: wasn’t I working on myself with the yoga nidra practice, and even moving out of my comfort zone and into teaching – surely that should help me to grow, not make me feel worse?  Of course, growing often means working through things, which means there’s stuff to go through.  So, I was working through the things, it just took some actual work – who knew?  I expected it would have been easier somehow, and maybe less obvious to me – like something could have just been fixing itself under the surface while I was happy and carefree. Guess not.

Yoga nidra involves delving into our inner consciousness, and in the practice we often uncover limiting beliefs that hold us back in our lives, that keep us from moving forward without us even realizing it’s happening. It’s like a program running in the background we’re not even aware of.   A sankalpa is a resolve, or vow, or intention, or goal for our very being that we place into our consciousness during a very receptive brain state, which is then allowed to fluorish in the background, helping overwrite the limiting belief program.  It seems there was some distance between my new sankalpa, I am accepted for who I am, and where I was at, that’s for sure. I didn’t feel accepted; but was it really that other people didn’t accept me, or was it that I didn’t accept myself?  Of course it was the latter. Fortunately, as this weekend reminded me – that things often get worse before they get better.

Fast forward to the third and final weekend of this course. Three months had passed since that second weekend, when I had felt the worst. To my amazement, I felt like a new person:  calm, comfortable, and confident! While I was a bit nervous, knowing that this final module would involve having to speak in front of my classmates to guide a nidra (public speaking, even speaking in front of a few friends, had been a lifelong fear), I found myself excited as the weekend approached. I arrived to the class calm, grounded, excited – but not fearful. I was struck by how different this was; it was unfamiliar in a fantastic way. I felt more natural talking to my classmates. Somehow I knew that I was OK, just as I was, just as I am, and I wasn’t fearing judgment. I looked forward to practicing the teaching portion. No longer was I concerned with how I would do, with being perfect, nor did I consider not being a yoga instructor as a detriment; I knew I had (I know I have) other strengths within me. I felt unencumbered by the fears that had once governed me. No longer did I feel separate from everyone else in the group. I was a part of the group. I observed myself throughout the weekend: I was present, and no longer miles away.

I went from expecting judgment everywhere I turned, with insecurities running rampant, to feeling confident and calm.  My heart had become so much more open.

So what happened in between, you say? Hmm – what did happen? I asked myself. Well, a number of variables shifted for me in those three months, which make it difficult to be certain of the key factor instrumental in the change; but, as with many things, I expect it was not one single change but a combination of the following factors that influenced the outcome:

  • I worked on my new sankalpa which I began using in the second weekend of the course – I am accepted for who I am – both in my yoga nidra practice as well as consciously during my day to day.
  • I did frequent reiki sessions on myself, more than I had made time for in recent months.
  • I continued working with two amazing counsellors (find info about each one:  here and here), where I asked myself (or more like: was asked) some tough questions and really looked inward more.  Some key messages that resonated for me during these sessions were:  It just is.  Acceptance. What feels right?  Who is it that is thinking these thoughts?  (e.g. thoughts of inadequacy, etc.)  I simply began witnessing my thoughts, knowing that neither the fear nor the thought is actually the real me – they’re things I’m creating. By being aware of this, by accepting that they’re separate from me, it makes it easier for me to let go of them, and to not be absorbed by them.
  • I stopped drinking espresso or coffee (no more caffeine for me) – replacing it with caffeine-free herbal teas.
  • I crafted and shared my story and passion for energy work with others in a way that made sense to me and that I was really happy with, including addressing the elephant in the room:  reiki as an often dismissed “pseudoscience” and I addressed the skeptics in a new section of my website.
  • I started this blog, where I am bringing my imperfections out of the shadows. I’m shifting these stories that I might once have considered shameful or embarrassing – out of the shadows and into the light for others to read and learn from. (Check out Brené Brown to read more about shame and vulnerability.)
  • I removed the TV from our main living area. As a TV junkie from an early age, breaking that daily after-work habit was a big one.
  • I completed a mentorship program in the area of energy work, during which my abilities (and confidence in them) really grew.

Funny: each of the above seemed like relatively small things on their own as I did them. They each came with their own hurdles, but each one just made sense for me. Who knew they might all add up and contribute to a new and improved sense of self? Now that they’re all completed and I see them listed out, I feel a sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to do these things, as well as a sense of accomplishment for completing them.

I entered into the yoga nidra course with the intention of staying relatively small, learning the practice in order to offer one-on-one nidra sessions to clients; I left the course feeling even more inspired, having undergone changes in myself that I ever expected. I have a newfound excitement and enthusiasm to be of service not only to individuals one-on-one, but to larger groups in this practice, as well – as I find the right opportunities.

This isn’t to say that one must tackle a whole list of changes in order to feel different and/or have a shift in perspective, nor must one have a counsellor or a mentor; this is just what happened for me.  Plenty of changes can occur simply by making a decision – perhaps to start doing something, or to do something (or to think) differently, or to stop doing something altogether.

Sharing this story with you is just another step into vulnerability for me – sharing something I might have previously kept hidden.  I am finding that expressing my experiences in writing, how ever small or seemingly insignificant the story may be, is quite cathartic and helps continue to keep my heart open.

I don’t expect that I’ll never feel nervous or feel fear again – I’m sure I will; perhaps I’ll even notice echoes of these feelings quite often.  However, it’s nice to come out the other side and see how to approach such experiences without fear or angst.

To finish the title of this post:  If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.  (Quote attributed to Jessie Potter, 1981). I hope my experience may inspire you to make some small change you’ve been meaning to make. Who knows, you may feel like a new person weeks, months, or years down the line – likely quite unexpectedly! 🙂