When I made the jump to full time Yoga teacher I was in India standing on the balcony of a concrete building overlooking the Ganges River. I hadn’t slept for nights but I had watched several magnificent sunrises from the roof of this same building. At that time I spent a lot of my days sitting underneath rocks and reading The Mahabharata. I didn’t do much. I had some money and didn’t worry about needing more. When I reflected on my life back in the states I saw that the only thing holding me back from quitting my part-time $8/hr job was fear.
It was 2004 and I was a part-time Yoga teacher, part-time community skills worker. I worked with young people and helped them learn community skills to work toward more independence in their lives. My community skills job was where I practiced the yamas and the niyamas. It was challenging work dealing with other people’s delusions and anxiety. I enjoyed the people I worked with but I noticed that each time I got in my car to go to work at that job I felt tired. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do.
I was also teaching four or five Yoga classes a week. Both jobs left me feeling challenged and inspired but teaching Yoga energized me. I found that I loved working for myself. I loved making my own schedule and learning how to run a business. It was new and wide open and full of potential, and teaching felt natural and right to me.
I knew that if I quit my other job and taught Yoga full-time, I would have a lot of free time on my hands. Teaching Yoga is intense and challenging, but it is done in short periods many times a day, leaving me plenty of downtime between classes. I could give up my $8/hr, 8 hour a week job and replace that money by teaching one or two more classes a week, but could I handle all that down time? What would I do? I think I was more scared of having all this time by myself than I was of financial security.
It is not only that I was scared of being alone. I am an introvert and I need a lot of time by myself to stay whole. But, I felt kind of guilty. Wasn’t I supposed to be working nine to five like everyone else? Was it really okay for me to take a nap in the afternoon or stare out the window and watch snow fall during a break between classes? Work ethic had been ingrained in my moral makeup from a young age. And now all this free time? It didn’t seem right.
Standing on that balcony in India, I saw more clearly. I had been traveling for six weeks by myself. My fear of being alone was no longer warranted. My fear of too much time seemed silly when I had so much time with nothing in particular to do. Each afternoon the women who lived at the ashram sat and rested together. They laughed. They were not lazy. They worked when there was work to be done, but they did not need to be occupied at every moment. I had my own room at the ashram and two meals a day for about $9 per night. I felt rich.
When I returned home, my perception of work was different. I realized that every effort is important work. I felt joy sweeping the kitchen floor, knowing that a clean home helps visitors feel more comfortable. I quit my other job and became a full-time Yoga instructor. At first it was weird to be home alone during the day, between classes, with little to do. But it also opened a space for my Yoga teaching to grow. Focusing my full energy on one task helped it to blossom. My teaching improved. My classes grew. I started to have more to do in the afternoons.
I feel grateful because I have always known my calling. It was not a struggle to find my career. I wish for all beings to find a focus that feeds them, whether in work or intellect or life.
About the Author:
Emily Garrett is now the owner of Laughing River Yoga (Vermont) where she co-directs the Laughing River Yoga Teacher Training. She has a committed meditation practice in the Shambala tradition and learns the big practice of presence through being a mom to two beautiful children. Grounded and warm, Emily brings to her classes a thorough understanding of alignment, patience, and an invitation to compassionately explore one’s self. It is the deep inner stillness she hopes to share with her students, the sense that they are perfect as they are.