Simple Gratitude: So Far, So Good
by Ali Valdez
It can be a thankless job: teaching. Even when your teaching provides you opportunities to travel to faraway exotic places, the teacher is inevitably, and appropriately, removed from the evolution of the students. The journey is about them, created for them. It is wonderful to see how far they have come in a short amount of time (throwing them into the fire sooner rather than later probably did not hurt…) but also the quality bonds they are forged amongst one another. But the teacher, like a parent, understands that the student has lots of growing to do, especially with the science of yoga. This does not always make the teacher popular, but yoga is not about popularity so I am okay with that.
This is my first hosted international teacher training and although I have been an annual visitor to Bali, and feel I understand the bones of her body and her most beautiful attributes, that does not diminish the inevitable logistics and ‘wires crossed’ when traveling to visit with people new not only to Indonesia, but her culture, food, and non American timekeeping. Plan to be ANYWHERE urgently, and you resign yourself to disappointment. So what can you do, but make the daily offerings, bless the space by lighting incense and sweeping the floors of the shala. This early AM quiet time is treasured before the barrage of questions and having to be ‘on’.
There were many lost in translation moments for me this time out as I coordinated arrangements for everyone. A lot of ‘yes, ma’ams’ at a beautiful retreat center still green and stretching its legs, for fear of not meeting my expectations, but when you are traveling with a child and eight people, half of whom have never been outside of the United States before and are rampant with difficult allergy combinations, there is no Bill Murray moment. At times, it got frustrating even interacting with the kindest people when their allergic configurations at meal times were not adhered to. Plus each dish was lovingly and individually made, not to mention delicious. We found ourselves wondering if we would come back from teacher training heavier with all the homemade desserts, luxurious sauces, and fried tempeh.
Sympathetic of being new to travel, dealing with exotic foods, and adjusting to a new way of living for two weeks had a few of our students struggling to acclimate while buckling under the tidal wave and weightiness of the content and depth of the ocean of yoga. The study manual alone is about 480 pages! Not to mention the book list, the homework assignments, and the self-test manual.
There is much to see in Bali and the girls became fast friends. I took them to Uluwatu and sunset and then seafood dinner on the beach. After combing the markets of Ubud to find the loveliest sarongs and coordinating sashes as part of the students’ welcome gifts, it was exciting to see everyone rested and dressed for temple sharing with them the real Bali. For once in six years, the Ramayana at sunset sold out so we did not get in to see that. We will see it the night before we leave at the Kings palace in Ubud, so not all is lost but the balance between showing them beautiful Bali and the rigors of putting in the hours in the shala sometimes come to odds with the students’ preferences.
Nothing went perfectly, but things went and the students progressed rapidly. Sigh! I can do this even thousands of miles away from home. Some of these gals are simply crushing it!
One of my highlights was taking them to Goa Gajah, a personal favorite of mine to meditate followed by a beach sunset at Sanur. Heading back, some people were in need of getting rupiah (Bali currency) and then everyone in unison marauded the local Circle K, stocking up on chips, chocolate and comfort foods. We loved all the wonderful meals we were served porridge, salads, mouthwatering curry, fresh exotic fruits, but there is something about being away from home and finding a can of Pringles, I guess, that makes one feel secure.
My personal indulgence is Pokka Green Jasmine tea which I consume excessively when in Singapore and Bali. I got everyone hooked on ‘the crack’ as one of my students called it
and I just returned from the Delta Dewata for a snack and Pokka tea run for the crew as they refined their sequencing calligraphy and metronomes. I created the mother of all Memory games and uped the ante with prizes (Bali Starbucks mugs, the perfect prize!) for them to study, practice and play after meal times. Other games included Asana Flashcard Tarot, and Rasa dance party everyone kept asking to work their rasas everyday.
My favorite part of any training is always developing their critical thinking and showing people that the meditation and pranayama as equally important to any asana practice they develop. It is a pleasure to give them everything I’ve got, stumble anew upon my own limitations, and take the opportunity to grow a little more each time. I hope by the end through sharing this time together in Bali, everyone will walk away inspired and on fire for yoga.