Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Have a Calling that's Been Calling...Time to Pick Up!

I was going to wait until I had something concrete lined up before I revealed this, but perhaps, putting it out into the universe will somehow speed up the process.

The more I listen to my inner voice, the more I recognize my passions, the more I observe what makes my spirit glow from the inside out, the more I know I need to surrender, the more I know I need to stop talking.

Sure, it may not be the right time. There may be a million reasons why not. But I simply cannot deny it anymore.

After my varsity diving days ended, and in the midst of my new love-affair with yoga, I taught competitive springboard diving to a team of girls (and one boy) aged 10 - 16, three times a week for two years. Diving may be a sport, and you certainly need physical strength, flexibility and grace, but, as I have been told many times, it is one of the most mental sports out there.

Trying to teach a bunch of emotional, neurotic and overly dramatic youths one of the most mental sports out there posed a bit of a challenge for me. Our brains don't fully develop until our twenties, so I certainly don't blame them. I adored them all. But man, talk about having to confront serious fear-issues. To make it worse, I didn't have the top level over-achieving youths hell bent on being national champions. I had the semi-serious in-betweeners. The wishy washy ones.

The more I learned about yoga and "eastern thought", the more I incorporated meditation and yogic philosophy into my coaching. I infused some yoga poses into our warm-up, and after would lead the group to a quiet place and we did deep breathing exercises and guided meditations.

I remember retelling them a parable I had just read in a book by Ram Dass. It was about a carriage driver who all his life had been driving the carriage wherever he wanted. He never had a destination, and drove chaotically all around. The King sat inside the whole time not caring where they went.

One day the King decided he wanted to take back control of his royal carriage. The King finally decided on a destination. The King and the carriage driver fought and fought. The carriage driver had wrongly assumed he was in charge all this time and didn't want to give up control. Eventually, the King won, after all, it was his carriage. The King was then able to use the carriage driver to get where he wanted to go.

The carriage driver is like our mind. We walk around thinking that our mind is in control. The mind flips this way and that way. In reality, it is the King who is in control. The King represents our True Self, our divine nature, or whatever you want to call it. It is our deep inner Self that controls the mind, and not vice versa. It may take a while to calm the mind and take control back - the mind will go wild! But once the True Self regains control, it then has the ability to turn the mind off and on at will, and then use the mind to drive the Soul where it really needs to go.

"But I keep having thoughts that I am going to smack," said one of my ten-year-old students waiting on the end of the diving board. She was attempting yet another back dive tuck which she's done well loads of time.

"You are not your mind," I tell her, reiterating our past lessons about the mind verses Self.  "Your mind will have lots of thoughts," I say, "good ones and bad ones. They are all just thoughts. You don't have to listen to them. Use your mind as a tool." 

She looks relieved. "In the end, you control your mind," I say. "Now go use your mind to focus on jumping up straight and lifting your arms like we've been working on." She steps back out onto the diving board, focuses, and does a lovely dive.

I know for a fact, if I was introduced to yoga and meditation as a child or youth, I would have been a far better diver. Perhaps it is karma, but I was a total head-case of a teen diver and it held me back for many years. Then later in my varsity days I let my nerves and my mental mush get to me during the 3.5 seconds it takes to preform a dive that I had practiced, literally, hundreds of times.

Beyond diving though, often I look back and wish I had the skills as a youth that I have learned in yoga. Yoga would of helped me to stay centered amongst the stress and chaos of growing up. Yoga would have helped me to connect to my deeper authentic self, instead of getting caught up in external pressures of society and peers. Yoga would have helped me stay more true to myself and honor my feelings in such a confusing coming-to-age time. Yoga would of been my peace and refuge; a safe nurturing place where I knew I could always return.

It was only when I started to practice yoga after college, that it finally became my salvation in the vast ever-changing "real-world" as I attempted to navigate my place in it. Yoga has helped me find my path that feels oh so good and whole to me.

Even the research confirms my assumptions. It shows that yoga and meditation teach tools to help young people do better in school, reduce the anger and violence, experience peace within, rekindle hope for the future, and become positive contributing members of our society.

I loved coaching those crazy pre-teens and teens. It warmed my heart. I loved their passion, their exhurberence, their innocence, and their bright spirits. I loved seeing them grow and evolve. I love knowing I taught them more, so much more than just a hand-full of dives. Plus, I think it is important to have real-life positive role-models. There are already far to many enough fake role-models living ideals that will lead teens away from their unique True Self.

For all these reasons, and more, I feel called (and I don't use that world lightly) to teach youths yoga. It has been something I have been wanting to do since my coaching days. I really didn't like the competitive element in diving. Right now I teach yoga to younger children, which I love too. But I really want to reach out to the age-group who I know needs "the mental" part of yoga the most.

In fact, this summer I hope to lead a two-week summer camp - where one week is for pre-teens and one week for teens. It will be yoga-based but also incorporate creative elements and other philosophies. Hmm, maybe I will reach out to the local gymnastic and diving clubs.

Here is to waking up to ones "calling," and hoping it doesn't have to stay on the back burner for much longer.


  1. I love that photo of the three of you, you look so happy.

    Here´s to hearing your calling! So happy you started to listen.

  2. Teaching young people yoga is so important. I know a couple of schools here in Melbourne that are now teaching 'quiet mind' to children from the early years on. Imagine growing up with the knowledge that you are not your mind, and that you don't need to listen to every thought! I was about 30 when I learnt that!
    I wish you well on your new path.