Who knew that Mexico would become my home base (más o menos)? Yet, here I have found myself for the last two months, the fourth time in the last 8 months. Qué cosas! When people would mention Mexico, I used to think of tacos, drug cartels, and mariachi bands. After 8 months…well, at least I can name more Mexican foods. Just kidding…it’s been an awesome cultural experience with Mexican “flexibility,” fiestas, and friends.
This time in Mexico has been quite pivotal in the personal journey. I’ve learned that I love to teach, that life is much sweeter when you let go of perfectionism, that the ego is very vocal, that it’s better to live a life full of purpose rather than a life full of goals, and that good health has many dimensions. I stand at a crossroads without a clear idea of what’s next. I suppose it is impermanence that lends value to experiences and demands our appreciation for life.
But before I move forward, I want to reflect upon the past two months and how it’s changed me…
Discovering a passion for teaching
I’ve spent the last two months very focused on learning and coaching/teaching on two different dimensions, language and yoga. Being the lover of consulting 2×2’s, here’s what it looks like:
Playing in these different quadrants has helped me become both a better student and teacher in both yoga and languages. Learning/teaching are two sides of the same coin, since to teach effectively, you have to be a student yourself and teach from experience and authenticity. Yoga and language are also good complements, because mental focus, repetition, and dedicated practice outside of class are important in both. There is a lot of overlap in these four quadrants so investing in one improves the others.
I’ve also realized that I get a lot of energy and contentment from helping, coaching, teaching, and connecting with others, especially one-on-one.
Before the personal journey, my perfectionist and self-conscious ego was reluctant to try anything that I wouldn’t be the best at. Similarly, my ego set the bar very high for teaching: I had to be an indisputable master. What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t have to be a master to be able to help someone. As long as I have something to share with them, whether that’s knowledge, skills, experience, or attention, I can still coach or teach them. With the bar for helping others much lower, I can actually make a bigger impact on the world. I can help people not just with my expensive degrees, but with my skills, humor, and patience.
I’ve also noticed that my ego was afraid of my students surpassing me. This ego talk is ridiculous. If I do a good job as a teacher, my students should improve and do well. Then, they go off and become teachers themselves like in multi-level marketing companies. This process of knowledge transfer is how the world is changed. A good student reflects well on me, though it’s totally that student’s accomplishment…I want to be a coach, not a puppet master.
My new rules for ego satisfaction are not to be the best or right…it’s to help others empower themselves even if they “surpass” me or contradict my views.
Getting to know myselves better…
How I imagine Sasha looks like (via Sia)
The journey has been incredible, and I’ve come so far. On this leg with yoga teacher training, I’ve really been able to confront myself, become more aware of harmful inner voices, and re-evaluate key personality features.
I realize that the parts of me that I disliked, or hated, were really not me, but just learned patterns of behavior. The authentic me underneath is pure and sweet, and that is simply true for everyone. The programmed nature of behavior can be true for “good” as well as “bad” behaviors. For example, reciprocating kind acts is considered “good” behavior, but I have reciprocated kindness out of obligation, guilt, and shame; not out of generosity. I am becoming more aware of my intentions and am trying to refocus my mindset and keep the positive actions.
I was afraid at the beginning of the journey that I would lose the essence of me if I focused my energies away from my sometimes hurtful brand of sarcasm. What I realize is that 1) I feel much better not judging people (because I judge myself less); 2) If I feel better about myself, I don’t need external validation, i.e., for all people to like me; 3) I can still be funny without being mean.
During these two months, I got much better acquainted with my (false) ego. If Sasha is my inner child with fears and insecurities, my ego is a 19 year-old teenager. He is sensitive, defensive, moody, very vocal, and generally, a delicate flower, even though he pretends he’s not. I’ve become more aware when he is trying to hijack my brain. I don’t hate him; I can’t really ever hate a part of me though it’s up to me to help shape him into a fine adult who lives with humble strength and resilient gratitude.
Goals and purpose
I was speaking with a Cambly English student, who had written a presentation about Goals vs. Purpose, and it got me thinking about my views. There is so much attention and value placed on goals to direct your life towards a “destination.” I disagree with this focus. Instead, I espouse Ralph Waldo Emerson’s perspective:
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
If goals are the destination, the “journey” is your purpose. In my opinion, purpose is the most important part of your life, because it doesn’t matter if you reach the destination if you don’t know why you are on the path. On top of that, you never know if you’re going to reach the destination, so you may as well enjoy the journey.
Goals are rigid expectations and if we don’t live up to them through our own doing or external circumstances, we feel dissatisfied with life. The math speaks: Satisfaction = perception / expectations. Goals can make expectations much larger, lowering overall satisfaction.
I think having goals are important but only as secondary features for measurement. Goals are mile markers to gauge where you are and the general direction you are headed. However, it’s more important to be on the right path instead of being obsessed with reaching some mile marker.
I used to be very focused on my goals (career promotions, husband, kids) without having a purpose, without knowing why. Not only did I feel unworthy and dissatisfied, but I also lived blindly, headed towards a destination and living for a future I wasn’t sure I actually wanted. Now, I am very focused on finding my path, my purpose, why am I doing what I’m doing, rather than unconsciously pursuing socially sanctioned goals. Nothing against a career, partner, or family, but I still don’t know if it’s for me right now or in the future. I’ve given myself more white space and down timeto figure out what I want.
Relatedly, I’ve found that I can now walk in the middle of a group and not worry about being first. I’m always on my own journey in whatever chapter I’m in. I can feel FOMO for the past, future, other chapters, other people’s paths, but in the end, there is only the here and now of our own paths so we may as well focus on that. From the Bhagavad Gita (an ancient yoga text:
“It is better to strive in one’s own Dharma than to succeed in the Dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own Dharma, but competition in another’s Dharma breeds fear and insecurity…”
In Mexico, I came to recognize and embrace that I’ve always had the travel bug. It’s actually not that crazy that I’m traveling and living abroad. I had always thought my passion to travel was something that I would need to grow out of, that it was just for my college years, early twenties, late twenties, early thirties. I realize now that traveling is my passion, so I’m exactly where I need to be. My path is off the beaten path.
When I worry about the prestige and money that I thought I was supposed to accumulate, I think about what Ian said to me: we invested so much money in business school and college to learn things we hardly ever use, why wouldn’t we invest in learning about ourselves and how we live our lives?
Union of body, mind, and soul
* Not my beers! Though makes a good photo!
This has been a good two months to explore my spiritual side with yoga and meditation
and learn more about chakras, mantras, mandalas and generally, more spiritual stuff. Yoga is the union of body, mind, and soul, and I’ve been able to live a more healthy life physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I’ve been on the slow carb diet
and doing yoga almost daily. I haven’t drunk alcohol since I arrived in Mexico in late March and have had little urge to do so. It’s like once you purify your body, it says to you: “please don’t fuck with us, it’s been a process to get here…”
I’ve been embracing the fact that there is no objective reality and mentally training my mind to focus and listen to my version of reality. Instead of focusing on why I hate some insecurity about myself, I ask myself the opposite: how has that insecurity been such a positive benefit for my life and write down the answers. For example, instead of focusing on why have I always been so disagreeable and lonely, I ask: how has being independent and strong led to great things things in my life?
Similarly, I’m trying to focus more on doing what I want to or need instead of what I think I “should” do. In fact, I’m trying to completely get rid of the word “should” in my vocabulary.
Turning the page…
With bittersweetness, I look forward to the next chapter of my journey…what that is, I’m not quite sure. I have been through so many transitions in the past couple years, sometimes every week or every day, and they still make me uncomfortable. But I’m learning to roll with it, and the discomfort can be energizing…if I can harness it, it is uplifting; if I let it run uncontrolled, it can be super stressful. There’s a few things up in the air right now, and I totally get that suffering is trying to change the things we don’t control.
I’m also trying to learn the difference between the universe giving me a sign or a test, and I suppose that entails the same self-awareness, self-trust, and faith in the universe as knowing the difference between when your mind or your soul is talking.