Earlier this year I took the final step to earn my certification as an Iyengar Yoga teacher. Among Iyengar yogis, this exam is called assessment. When a teacher in training says, for example, “I’m up for assessment next month.” They will usually get a knowing look – which contains both encouragement and sternness – reminding you that you better be ready. A friend of mine told me that among her cohort the assessment was known as the ‘obsessment’, simply because of the obsessive practice students enter into as they prepare to pass the exam.
My experience was not different than most. After many years of practicing yoga and a number of years of teaching, I decided to join a 3-year Iyengar Yoga teacher training. Over the course of weekends and weeks we committed ourselves over and over again to the training and to our practices. Almost all of us faced a moment of uncertainty and the thought of quitting, and our numbers dropped from over 30 of us to less than 20 and at the assessment we were 10. Throughout the training, we not only grew in our convictions that we were on the right path, but we developed stronger and more focused practices. We were proud of each other as much as of ourselves.
For me, despite all of the transformation of these three years, the final few months were the most intense. As the assessment date loomed closer I put aside all other distractions of my life, which was no simple task as I was in transition, moving from one continent to another. I carved out space in my life – where there seemingly was none. I dug in and began to face the practices that challenged me the most. And finally, in the week before the assessment, I accepted where I was. I accepted that I had done what I could, given my life circumstances. What else could I do?
A week after the exam I was participating in a webinar with Justin Michael Williams, who I admire and respect so much for his authenticity and willingness to be fully alive. Someone asked, “What do you say to someone who is cynical and feels like things will never come together?” Justin suggested doing one thing every day and then noticing that in a year we took 365 steps towards our goals. Then he thought for a moment and added, “But – don’t make it all about your to-do list and checking off the boxes. The point is not to measure whether you are reaching your goal to know if you are moving forward – the point is to check in with yourself on who you are becoming. Who you become as you move towards and achieve your goals is MUCH more important than what you actually did. At the end of the day, it’s all about the journey of who you become.”
This echoed so well how I felt after passing the assessment. Yes, I am proud of what I’ve accomplished – but I am much more moved by who I became in the past few months. I learned so much about myself – about the choices I make and about my capacity to tap into my inner resources. Most of all, I learned to embrace myself as I am – and to feel more proud of who I have become than I am of what I have accomplished.