#18 Search Inside Yourself
After a circuitous search for meaning that took me around the world, I was about to start yet another kind of journey. The journey to become a certified teacher for mindfulness-based emotional intelligence. The name of the teacher training indicated what kind of voyage this would be: Search Inside Yourself.
While looking out of the window of the fast train that would take me from Freiburg to Berlin in eight hours, I felt a wild cocktail of emotions swirling inside of me. There was excitement to start the teacher training, there were fearful thoughts like “What if I am not ready?” or “What if I am not good?” and there was still a lingering ache in my heart from the recent breakup.
Because I was on a tight budget, I slept in a hostel in Berlin. On the day the training would commence, I got up very early. I walked to the Spree river where I ate my breakfast on a bench, trying to keep my nerves at bay. When I walked into the conference hall, a nice woman handed me a notebook and a big folder. It was then that a feeling of “this is right” started to spread inside of me. When the teacher trainers on stage welcomed us in such a confident, authentic and yet humble way, I found myself nodding my head. Yes,. yes and yes.
For the first two days, I experienced the full Search Inside Yourself Program like a participant would. I loved it! I learned about mindfulness, handy micro-practices, how the competences of emotional intelligence build on mindfulness and so much more. There were mindful listening partner exercises, journaling and meditation practices. With a deep sense of confirmation for my journey, I realized that I could match many of the ideas and insights with real life experiences I’d had. After those two days I along with eighty people from all over the planet started to learn about how to become a teacher. On day nine my enthusiastic motivation crumbled, along with my self-confidence. It happened during the first time I tried to “teach” a part of the program to a small group of fellow teachers-in-training. When they gave me their feedback, I heard “You know the content very well but it is like you are standing behind a wall of ice.” and this “I noticed that you are nervous because your voice became pitchy.”. Hot shame crawled up my back and I felt sick in the stomach. I tried to use one of the micropractices to calm myself. Three deep breaths allowed me to not become reactive in the moment. During the pause, one of my group members, a kind looking woman with short grey hair approached me. “Hey, I was wondering…I have a friend who had a similar challenge with her voice and she got help from a speech-therapist which was really helpful. Maybe that could help you?”
Honestly, my initial reaction came from my proud ego. “See a speech therapist?! Me? Why should I?! I can speak perfectly fine”. But then later at night during a walk on the river, my inner voice of humility asked me “Hey, you want to be a great teacher, right? And isn’t it the case that you value a kind and calm voice in others? What do you have to lose by learning more about how to use your voice?” So I made a mental note to search for a speech therapist once I was back in Freiburg.
On my way back, my mind was spinning with new impressions and insights. There was especially one idea that I had learned in the teacher training that made so much sense to me, and I’d like to share it with you:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor Frankl
Now that the first part of the in-person training was over, my impulse was to jump on the next flight. But since the foundation of becoming a mindfulness teacher was to embody what we teach, I wanted to make more mindful choices. Jumping on a plane would mean I impulsively react and run. But I was learning here how to respond. How to be aware of my inner impulse to escape and hold the space to listen deeper to what a responsible action would be. Isn’t that what responsibility is? My ability to respond? Trying that made me be honest with myself. Not with little resistance did I embrace the truth that running away was not the solution. Also, my good friend Nadine was getting married at the beginning of September. I decided that at least until then I would stay in Germany.
Since the teacher training was not full time, I found myself with lots of spare time. With Facebook and Instagram becoming more and more popular at the time, I noticed their powerful potential to impact people. Unfortunately, a lot of this impact was not serving people’s wellbeing. So I wanted to learn how to use those media platforms in a meaningful way. It always depends on HOW we use something that makes it either helpful or harmful, right? Following my curiosity to learn more about social media, I decided to do a summer internship in a quickly growing startup in my hometown. In a nutshell: I learned a lot technically about content creation and design. And I learned how uncomfortable and out of place I felt working for a company like this.
Every day at work, I would check the calendar and count the days. I made it a mindfulness practice to bring my attention back from dreaming about being on the island of Nantucket with Jill, about being free again. It took concerted will power to refocus on the screen and reminded myself: This is a learning opportunity. It is temporary! Focus!
September finally rolled in and with it my girlfriend’s wedding. The wedding was truly wonderful. I danced all night long, and then, after two hours of sleep, I jumped on the first train to the airport. I was on the way to my happy place. To Nantucket, the faraway island, and to freedom.
Embarking on the voyage to search inside yourself is probably one of the most courageous things you can ever do. It takes courage because we do not know what challenges and lessons await us. Learning about the space between impact and reaction is the key that allows us to navigate through the waters of strong emotions. It teaches us that we do have a choice. The choice of how we want to respond to any given circumstance at any given moment.