What you want most right now might not turn out to be what you actually want.
This is a big deal when you start telling me about your hopes and dreams to go to XYZ school, and no way would you go to LMNOP school, because you want QRS for sure. You intend to write a convincing essay about that future. You want to be sound like you know.
In our essay writing sessions, we do some digging under the narrative of what you want. Sometimes real personal growth lies in the other direction from what your mind has been fixated on.
How do you know what you want?
Let me tell you a little personal story.
Way back before the towers fell, and New York City went into a post-terror slump, I knew I wanted to train to be a yoga teacher.
In my final spring at Brown University, I had studied intensively with a great teacher. Everyone should be so lucky. Of all the days spent on the sweat-slick mat, I remember one particularly: after a 2 hour practice, in complete silence on the meditation cushions, a student let out a hefty fart. The whole room erupted in laughter, as if we were but 12 years-old. (This is why I love, and will always serve, 12 year-olds.)
That no one chastised us, made us feel immature or small, let me know that I was in the right kind of room, with the right kind of people, reaching the right kind of enlightenment. One that wouldn’t exclude the basic pleasures of human life, or frown too hard on the physical bodies we really have, in all their less than perfect moments.
In New York City, I practiced near the school where I taught Latin, skipping my lunch period to get chakras cracking. When I told my exquisite instructor I was interested in doing a training, she (who is now is a full time commercial real estate agent and brings equanimity, or at least compromise, to the roots of all aggression that way) recommended an infamous “teacher of teachers”, Alison West.
This teacher stopped me in my tracks
Over the phone, Alison’s communication was eloquent, erudite and brusque at once. Her questions tapered into arrows.
I went to her required “Trial” class–essentially, an audition to see if you and she were a match. I already had reservations.
This class had maybe four people in it, of varying and uncertain ages. We spent the whole time working one posture: hanumanasana, or splits. This involved arduous deployment of blocks, straps, and other alignment supports, and Alison’s insistence on perfect form, and only perfect form, was unwavering. She was so knowledgable about anatomy that our bodies might as well be see-through. There was nowhere to hide.
Used to a faster paced class, and less intense personal scrutiny, I felt the tedium of every minute passing, and resistance in all my formerly self-assured muscle fibers. My whole skeleton took the posture of WTF? This is not what I want.
She corrected me incessantly. Nothing I did– from how I breathed to how I held my ribs– was aware enough for her standards.
Where was the flow, where was the thumping Krishna Das music, where was the ecstatic sweating and rhythm I associated with yoga practice? That’s what I wanted…
No– just ceaseless attention to breaking encrusted physical mental and emotional patterns.
To wanting something completely new.
In the end my spine felt miles tall.
I hated every minute of it.
What you want is not always obvious in the moment
After class, in her leotard and tights and hair band and perfectly unblemished face and cool beautiful eyes, Alison peered at me: “You have flexibility, but no structure.” She pronounced. I wondered if I should take myself to the morgue, or if she would call me a cab.
“I hated every minute of your class,” I reported, “and therefore I’d like to train with you.”
We shook on it.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What do you want? How do you know it?
Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes what we have in mind as our optimal learning environment is not where we really need to learn.
“What we want” is not necessarily what’s going to show us the holes in our understanding and give us the chance to fill them.
It’s not where we’re going to be pushed, to become more aware and capable.
In fact, most of us prefer the easier route for just that reason– because it’s easy. We’re not going to be called out. Our blind spots can stay blind. Yay.
The towers fell. That was not something anyone predicted– not ever. It shattered all of our comfort– at least temporarily– and the ease with which we went about our regular lives.
Sometimes the towers of your inner landscape fall too, like mine did. Your holes are as visible as those in the iconic New York City skyline; you adjust.
You– we– grow in those spaces of discomfort, of “Whoa, WTF, it is not what I thought wanted but…”
It’s where I stand to grow the most.
It helps to have compassion, and great teachers.
But the first step is the mightiest– to accept that what you think now is “what you want” might not be what you actually want, or what some other unexplored part of you wants.
And that your future might be more alive with possibilities than you imagine right now.
Want to see what’s possible, beyond what you’re telling yourself? Contact us. We love to help you dig for truths inside the story you tell yourself. And put THAT in your college application.
Want to skip the writing part, and get yourself into one of Alison’s yoga classes? Don’t blame you. Especially if your back hurts from stooping over your essays. Find her here.