by Rebekah L. Fraser
The author is a freelance writer and video producer who is currently participating in Kripalu’s 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training. This is the first of a series of blog posts she will write for the Kripalu blog, Thrive.
After an hour of shifting and fidgeting in the darkness, I’m finally starting to drift off to sleep. That’s when it creeps in and jolts me awake: the feeling that I have made a terrible mistake, that I have been foolish, or worse, the feeling that I have been selfish. There’s a name for this old familiar feeling: guilt.
I thought I had released it when I left home. The drive to Kripalu was effortless and delicious. I felt full of anticipation and excitement. Listening to music, snacking on nuts and chocolate, I thought about what it would feel like to live the Kripalu lifestyle for 12 whole days, and ultimately, to become a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor.
I reflected on the pieces that had fallen into alignment to show me that I was on the right path: Friends and relatives had offered to watch my daughter in my absence. Flexibility in my work schedule enabled me to leave for an extended period of time. Kripalu had awarded me a generous scholarship, and I had managed to save a significant amount of money to pay part of the tuition and fees.
At 7:00 that night, we entered our first official teacher training session. Almost instantly, my fears were allayed. Our instructors, Devarshi and Jurian, assured us that it’s typical to feel ambivalent prior to arrival and in the first few days of training—it’s normal to wonder whether we made the right choice. I’m glad I’m not alone.
By the end of the two hours, I felt truly at peace. That was 9:00.
Now it’s 11:00, and my old nemesis, guilt, has arrived again to lead me away from all this pleasure. Guilt is a shadowy version of me; a cloud with my voice whose presence is felt more than seen. Normally, I follow guilt fairly willingly. It’s so easy to be sure that I really did do something horrible; to believe that I don’t really deserve whatever joy I’ve come to experience. This time, something different happens.
While the shadow of guilt hovers in the air, an old trickster with a long beard and flowing linen clothes appears behind my closed eyes. He carries a crooked staff and wears a bemused smile. Despite his appearance, I recognize Krishna, the shape-shifting yogi who acts as Arjuna’s charioteer, guiding him through the trials and lessons in the Bhagavad Gita. Tonight, he is my witness. “You’re going to hold on to that again, are you?” he asks.
What can I say to Krishna? “I, uh…”
“Well, then, here,” he says. “Let’s add some fear and ambivalence while you’re at it.” He throws the words into a big black cauldron. They hover midair before plopping into the pot. Krishna plunges his staff into the cauldron and starts to stir.
“Would you also like to question your relationships?” he asks. (He knows me so well!) “Throw it all into the pot!”
I add the questions about my important relationships. Am I a bad mother for leaving to do yoga teacher training? Should I do it later, when my daughter’s older, when she’s not in school, when, when, when… Does my family really want this for me, or are they just happy to get rid of me and my tightly wound ball of stress, anger, and criticism?
“Let’s stir it up.” Krishna smirks as he moves the staff slowly around the cauldron. The next ingredient is my soul. Will I throw that into the cauldron, too?
Suddenly, it’s clear: I have a choice. I can remain the witness, or I can jump into the pot, too.
This time, I laugh and leave the cauldron behind. Krishna, the trickster, laughs with me and lets me take over as witness. Before long, I am asleep.