by Orin Kurtz
The first question many people ask as they consider teacher training (TT) is: how can I handle this in addition to work and the rest of my life?
I had the same question when I was getting ready for TT. As soon as I heard there would be a training, I was in–except I wondered how I could handle it while making time for my wife, taking care of my dog, working in a job that can become incredibly demanding and stressful on a moment’s notice, and also taking care of myself?
My answer: plan ahead but don’t overthink it.
First, I decided that I would not think too much about it. I love yoga, and knew that I so badly wanted to learn more about it. Future Me would somehow make it through. My resolve wasn’t steady. A few times in the months leading up to TT, I considered dropping out. Each time that happened, I calmed myself down. Anticipation is frequently much worse than the actual event.
Second, I planned ahead. I remembered starting law school, in 2001. Before I started, I said goodbye to my friends and told them I may not be around much for the next three years. And I wasn’t. I struggled, worked 24/7, had a great time and learned a whole new way of thinking. If I could survive three intense years, I could certainly survive eight weeks. So I said some mini-goodbyes (although, really, in NYC it’s not uncommon to go 8 weeks without seeing any particular friend), talked about things with my wife, did my best to set up my work to avoid time crunches, and arranged for some extra visits from the dog walker.
Then, everything went according to plan and I lived happily ever after. Or not. My wife, who had planned to catch up with her friends in my absence, hurt her neck and was sitting at home while I was at TT all weekend. Toward the middle of TT, I found out that I would be playing a show (I’m a jazz guitarist) and I had to start practicing right away because, well, I hadn’t touched the guitar in nine months. My uncle was coming into town to visit from the midwest, and I was not going to miss seeing him. Oh no, forgot about Rosh Hashanah–had to drive out to see the family on the last day off I would have for 8 weeks! And then, work got busy. The week before “finals” weekend at TT, I flew to California to take an expert deposition, then flew to an American Bar Association conference, then studied on the plane ride home and went straight from JFK to Friday night’s TT session.
And guess what? It all worked out. As it was building up–and this is due in no small part to the amazing, transformative things I was learning in TT–I just let myself be in each moment. I realized, “I can’t do two things at once. So right now, I’ll do this one thing. Then I’ll do the next. Right now, I’m at work. Tonight, when I get home, that’s where I’ll be–home and nowhere else. And over the weekend, I’ll be at TT. And nowhere else.” Something changed, and I realized that not only was I learning “yoga” in TT, but it was translating to all other parts of my life. Through yoga, I was learning that there is no need to anticipate and fear, everything will work out fine. I remembered that on the first day of TT, Will made us each teach a short class! The lesson, at least to me: don’t worry about whether you “can” do something, just do it. You can. And we all did. And we were anxious, awkward, stumbling over our own words, not making a ton of sense, and having a great time. And we made it through.
Before I knew it, the 8 weeks of TT were over. Much had gone according to plan. I economized my time, did “chores” like cooking, cleaning, food shopping during times that I would normally be outside walking in the woods or reading on the couch. If you really stay on task, you can get a lot done in a day. Things at work went really well. My wife enjoyed seeing me transform through training. The dog missed me and I missed her, but we’ve been on lots of walks since so all is forgiven.
And through it all, I was having one of the greatest experiences of my life. TT was truly “transformational” (I never thought I would use that word). Every weekend was filled with challenge, learning about myself, learning about others, getting close with a bunch of great new friends. By Monday morning, I was rejuvenated and forgot that I had worked the week before. I’ll admit, I was pretty tired by the end of TT but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and I’m glad I did it. In 8 weeks, I became a different person.