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November 28, 2018

How Breaking Down a Language Barrier helped me Find my Voice.

The day the Elephant Academy article appeared in my Facebook news feed, I saw it as a sign from the universe.

Three months ago, I came across an article on my Facebook page inviting readers to join the Elephant Academy, and I wanted to be part of it.

Its meaningful language piqued my interest: “Find your path!” and “Take the leap!” These words especially captured my attention: “Find your voice in a community of like-minded people doing something you love and being of benefit to others.”

What did I have to lose?

I’d been searching for a creative outlet for so long. I knew how to write and was always drawn to it—the proof was in the 15 diaries left behind at my parents’ house.

The purpose of the Academy and the benefits of joining were almost like a dream. My desire to be part of a learning community such as this one was growing—as was my fear. Joining this adventure of self-discovery seemed daunting because of my language barriers.

The day I sent the email to the Academy with my answer to the question, “Why should I apply?” I felt liberated.

I said to myself, “Now it is in the hands of the universe.” A day later, I received notice that they had chosen me to become a member! I felt so excited…and once again, my self-doubt made its appearance.

Last summer, I had already started some free online creative writing courses in the English language. The feedback from my mentors about my articles was fascinating. They were quite inventive, positive, and funny: “It sounds like your main character is like Martha Stewart on Pinot Grigio. I like how you focused entirely on the wine glass. Presentation is everything. Your story has many possibilities!”

Their words left me wanting to write more. I felt inspired; an entirely new world had suddenly opened for me, and I was feeling intensely creative.

I wanted to improve my English language skills and my ability to write content properly and mindfully—and to be benefit to others while doing so. I hoped to find my authentic voice and my path—without the fear that so often crept in.

I have always been fascinated by foreign languages. I love to learn new things, and am constantly expanding my horizons—by travelling, by asking myself lots of questions, and mostly by getting out of my comfort zone. And the Academy was definitely one way out of my comfort zone.

I worried about how I would succeed. Would I understand all the work that was assigned to us? How would the entire experience feel for someone with a language barrier?

But I so loved the idea of a community of like-minded people who share their experiences, luck, pain, disappointments, and victories in their lives. I also loved the idea that the Academy rests on Buddhist teachings and encourages the practice of daily meditation.

Immediately, I knew: this was exactly what I needed in my life. The whispering of my heart and intuition was telling me that I would learn something valuable, have a meaningful experience, and find some new, mindful friends.

A small voice—amidst all the fear and confusion in my thoughts—told me I could do it. Sometimes, it came in the form of sensations in my body, like a gut feeling, and sometimes it came through as peaceful feelings mixed with excitement. It said, “Okay, yes, I am from Croatia and my English language isn’t perfect and neither are my writing skills but don’t overthink it…just do it!”

So, what is it like to be an apprentice in the Elephant Academy, with language barriers like mine?

Hard.
Overwhelming.
Demanding.

But, also:

Lovely.
Creative.
Inspiring to the maximum!

You can meet beautiful souls here, creative and caring minds who want to be of benefit, who want to help others who are struggling in life or struggling to tell their story.

Brave souls who are not ashamed to talk about their true emotions, who share every kind of experience—even bad ones—just to be of service to others and to hopefully build a better community.

Beautiful and caring teachers (TAs or teaching assistants) guide us through the program. Mine, Darcy, is positive and funny, and is constantly inspiring the members of our small group of apprentices. We all encourage each other when we engage in creative discussions. And so many other members of this beautiful Academy are always willing to help and are incredibly passionate about their work.

Every week, we have one meeting with our mentor and Elephant’s founder, Waylon Lewis, and his amazing guests—writers of every kind. We always begin with five minutes of meditation. We also take part in smaller group meetings with our lovely TA where we discuss our duties and challenges of the week. At the end of the meeting, we are given a five-minute writing prompt.

Every Saturday, we submit a writing assignment, and every Sunday we get a new course to learn and complete for the coming week.

Optionally, peer editing is available, where we can submit our writing to help edit and offer constructive feedback for each other’s work, which further strengthens our editing and writing skills.

We discuss writing often, including our ideas, weekly assignments, and our challenges. And we learn about Buddhist teachings: how to be present in the moment, meditation, and so many other mindful concepts.

It is a lot of work. Learning to write in a second language (with language barriers) is hard. All the work you do, in comparison with others, takes extra effort.

But I am enjoying it. Even if I often feel overwhelmed with my week’s tasks, I really think I made a good choice!

I think that joining in the Elephant Academy is beneficial to everyone who wants to:

1. Improve their writing.
2. Practice editing.
3. Learn about publishing books.
4. Understand how to write in an accessible manner.
5. Learn how to be genuine and authentic in writing.
6. Learn valuable skills for using social media.

After almost two months in the Academy, I feel more content and attuned with myself. I feel full of creative juices. My writing skills haven’t drastically changed, but writing in English comes easier to me now. My capacity to understand the language increased considerably. Also, I learned how to edit my writing with my amazing assistant, Katie, who helped me a lot with editing my work.

I am more conscientious in my life because the Academy taught me to be more present in everyday tasks like cooking, eating, and using social media in a more healthy and moderate way. We were offered a mindful challenge: to get rid of plastic cups and straws, to take off our shoes before entering the house, or to be mindful by not using the cell phone while on the street or while eating. In short, we are to practice being present in every single moment possible.

I do not recommend the Academy to anyone who is:

1. Not willing to put their time, energy, and effort into it each day to reap the valuable rewards.
2. Not willing to take it seriously.

Joining the Academy will benefit anyone who is searching for themselves, who feels like they’re at a crossroads in their lives, who wants to change something in their life for the better, who wants to grow, expand their horizons, and try something new, who wants to teach others with their own life experiences, and who wants to be of benefit to others.

It is an enriching and amazing experience. Maybe they’ll find their true path…but at the least, they’ll enjoy a beautiful community with caring and loving souls.

The Academy, for me, is still a work in progress. I will continue to improve my skills, and I like to take time to absorb as much as possible about writing, editing, reading, and listening to interesting videos about the writing process from other authors—like how to handle writer’s block, or how to write in a way that is meaningful and accessible to others.

I am indeed very grateful for this experience.

I would recommend that people from Europe, like me, join the Academy because they will learn:

Valuable advice about writing.
More about themselves.
About living life in the present moment.
About some talented, contemporary writers like Ada Calhoun, Waylon Lewis, and some old classics like Kerouac and Hemingway.
And they will meet many interesting and caring people who will enrich their lives.

Despite my fear, I applied to the Academy, and I encourage you to apply too.

~

author: Marija Bašić

Image: Pixabay

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Marija Bašić

Marija Bašić is a believer in peace, harmony, and love in any form. This native of Croatia hopes to spread good thoughts and deeds around the globe. When Marija isn’t writing and translating, find this traveller music and nature lover in the sea swimming or among the autumn leaves. To learn more, connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.