July 23, 2018

We are Responsible for our Own Transformation.

“I did this!” my ego wants to shout, claiming for itself all the credit for the transformation I see in the room. But no—that’s not it at all.

I sit straddling the large djembe drum in the yoga shala, my focus absorbed in rhythm. Driving rhythm. Holding rhythm.

This is one of my favorite mental-emotional-physical spaces to inhabit.

I look around at the people in the circle with me: one has moved to the back of the room to dance; others lie down, motionless; and others sing, sway, or clap in conversation with the music. A web of sound makes our many points of connection nearly tangible.

I feel as light as the vibrations we are creating.

I should be exhausted after cofacilitating my first yoga retreat in Costa Rica, but I have wings.

Maybe it’s the cacao we drank, still sharp and bitter in my throat. Yet, this sense of “inspiredness”—of “inpurposeness”—has been building since day one of our five-day experience.

Eyes closed to hold onto our rhythm, I see the room in my mind’s eye instead: low light, candles at the center of a rainbow of yoga mats, faces glowing—transformed.

And there, somewhere behind my eyes, that ego-voice who wants to take the credit. But I won’t listen; there’s something truer beneath this voice:

At my core, another, wiser self is in awe. I am in awe.

In retreat, as in ceremony, we have each held space for one another to delve inward and expand outward. I am in awe of the sheer beauty and power of each individual who answered the call and cocreated a unique container for accelerated growth. I am in awe of the journey that brought us to the selves sitting together in our closing ceremony, expressing and blessing with joy and freedom and grace.

In contact improvisation, we say that each individual is responsible for their own dance. If things don’t feel right, we adjust them. If we don’t want to dance with someone, we bow out. If things go well—we embrace that too.

When I teach partner or acro yoga, I always remind participants that they are responsible for their own body. We must hold ourselves accountable, managing our own weight, flowing through transitions, and communicating our needs.

We can’t credit or blame anyone else for our comfort or discomfort. (Or we can, but we probably won’t learn or enjoy as much that way.)

So it is with transformative experiences. We are each responsible for our own transformation.

My ego, of course, is wrong about the atmosphere of the yoga shala. I didn’t do this.

I didn’t make this transformation happen in the space of five short days. That would be madness. An impossible task.

Each participant was responsible for their own growth.

I—as a cofacilitator, cocreator, and colearner—may have shared movement and mindfulness practices. I may have designed a schedule. But I am not responsible for the scene tonight, which makes me (who’s rarely sentimental) want to tear up.

After this experience (the first of hopefully many to follow), I feel grateful, blessed, honored, and inspired by what I helped to create. But I do not feel the pride of ownership, because I don’t own this outcome, laid out tonight in my mind’s eye, dancing over drums, and twining with the taste of cacao. I recognize that our collective effort, love, and generosity made the experience what it was.

I didn’t do this; we did.

And I am in awe of that.


author: Toby Israel

Image: Pixabay

Image: Author's own

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Toby Israel

Toby Israel is a vagabond and storyteller with a metaphorical closet full of hats. She currently works as a creative facilitator, editor, and writer, and as Chief Storyteller at NuMundo. She is also a full-time lover of movement, food, and words. For the moment, she lives in Costa Rica. (She came for a master’s degree in Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies from the UN-mandated University for Peace—and stayed for the papaya, sunshine, and conscious community.) Share her journey on her website, and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!