I spent last weekend in Nashville for a Yoga Life Coaching workshop, a necessary criteria for my 500 hr. teaching certification. I felt a bit sheepish attending, considering I used to make fun of what seemed like a made-up profession. When I first heard the term “life coach”, I pictured a super positive cheerleader with a clipboard and whistle shouting things like, “Yay, you brushed your teeth today!” Plus, I questioned my credibility. I see a therapist, do basic math on my fingers, and just yesterday I wore my slippers to Target. Who the hell am I to coach someone in life?
I often feel fraudulent when it comes to yoga. When I attend trainings and workshops, I tend to feel out of place – kind of like the ugly American tourist who doesn’t know the language and wears a fanny pack. I have been told in Yoga-speak that I am “too in my head,” “blocked from peace,” and “caught up in the drama of my story.” Ok, but what does that MEAN? Can I take something for it? By the end of a workshop, I am surrounded by all these shiny, happy people who have “broken through” and I’m sitting there scratching my head, wondering how I missed the Bliss Train….again.
These feelings of illegitimacy are especially prevalent when it comes to teaching. On Facebook, the status updates of my yoga teacher friends typically say things like: “Fired up to teach at noon!” “Up to something BIG!” or “Gonna rock your ASANA at 6PM!” My pre-teaching ritual is less Tony Robbins and more Bill Murray in “What About Bob.” In order to avoid getting “too up in my head,” I fill my brain with exactly what I am doing in that moment so negative thoughts can’t sneak in: “I am driving. My hands are on the wheel. I am parking. I am walking down the street. My feet are touching the ground.” It’s a practice I call Mindfulness for Mental Patients.
I also have a really hard time with meditation. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, said “my mind is a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” That pretty much sums it up for me. But when I found out that the second day of the life coaching training closed with a Yoga Nidra, I really tried to keep an open mind.
We were instructed to lie down and get comfy with a pillow and blanket. How bad could this be? Then my stomach started making weird noises. Maybe what is left of my GI tract needs to work extra hard to digest food, but “growling” or “gurgling” does not capture the symphony of sounds emitted from my small intestine. But then a few people started snoring, so I figured, whatever, it’s all good.
As the teacher walked us through the guided meditation, I could really feel my body relax, and then suddenly imagined myself falling through floating hula hoops. Maybe I was entering some secret portal! But then, my mind was filled with a crystal clear image of Ron Howard. Not sweet little Opie, not clean cut Richie Cunningham, but a bald, red-faced, demonic Ron Howard, complete with horns and beady eyes filled with fire.
Again, I ask: Who the hell am I to coach someone in life?
After the Yoga Nidra, I went out to dinner with some of the other trainees, and I seriously had the most fun I have had all year. We just laughed our asses off for two hours. Maybe they were still trippy from the Yoga Nidra followed by 2 glasses of wine, but these ladies thought I was the next Chelsea Handler.
When I shared some of my concerns about feeling unqualified for coaching, they were shocked by my insecurities, claiming that I was confident and capable in the practice sessions. One of my new gal pals went so far as to say: “By the end of the first day I looked at you and thought, wow, she really has it together” (as red wine comes out my nose)
All this time I have been blaming other people for making me feel different, when the only person actually doing that was me. And the reason I seemed confident and capable in the practice sessions was because I was listening to someone else for a change, rather than the self-defeating voices in my head.
The thing that most surprised me about life coaching is that it is actually much more about listening than it is about coaching. Once I had that realization – that I am not supposed to fix anyone or have all the answers – I was able to settle into the moment and just be with the other person. It is so effortless and uncomplicated to see truth, beauty, and value in someone else- why do things get so sticky when it comes to seeing it in ourselves?
So who the hell am I to coach someone in life? I am me. And that’s enough.