Yoga - Insight into Practice and Philosophy with Elonne Stockton
October 23 - 30, 2010. Review by Elonne Stockton
On Halloween eight years ago I went on vacation. I had just turned twenty four years old, and I was taking a break from my pursuit of a career in journalism. I was having difficulty choosing between a cruise to Greece and a Yoga retreat in the Bahamas, and because I wanted to go somewhere I could practice, I decided to attend the Yoga retreat in the Bahamas.
My ten days on Paradise Island completely transformed me; they changed how I saw the world and my place in it. At the beginning of the second week I was there, we went for a silent walk in the evening on the beach. Walking back that night, staring into the starry ocean, the world -- everything I knew about the world, about myself, and about what I was supposed to do with my life -- seemed false, like an illusion, like a big movie set that was being torn down around me.
That night, and in the days to follow I started to question everything about my life and about myself, or at least the little self I associated with. I started to see the patterns of behavior and thought that had kept me moving in the same vicious circles. While I had thought about these things before, never had they hit me so profoundly and with such a sense of urgency. I suddenly realized with blazing clarity that I needed to break the cycle and be free.
I left the retreat only to return less than a month later, to take my first teacher’s training course. On a sparkly-cool February morning, the day after I graduated, the manager of the retreat was too busy to teach the 8 a.m. asana class and needed someone to cover for him. I raised my hand, and he sent me to teach the class, which was on a beach platform overlooking the Caribbean Sea -- not a bad way to start! After the class, I told the students they had just been my very first students. They all applauded and thanked me, gave me encouragement that to this day I am infinitely grateful for, and I have been teaching ever since that glistening morning. But that was not what I had expected when I went into that first TT.
I never thought to myself, I want to teach. I just wanted to go deeper into my practice and my understanding of Yoga, life. I got into the field of journalism because I sincerely wanted to help people through my writing, raising awareness about issues I felt passionately about, to shine a light on other subjects I felt were misunderstood. And I thought the Yoga training course, the Yoga itself, could help me in my writing.
Little did I know that I was stepping into the flow of Grace, which was much stronger than my own personal will. And I pray that I will continue to be guided by that grace. It has certainly not always been easy, and there have been points, many points over the past eight years, when I could’ve turned and gone in other directions. But something or somebody has always brought me back, kept me on this path.
There are moments when you are climbing and you turn around and look back over the mountain to see where you have been, how far you have come, how much change and growth has occurred. These are the moments of reflection when you are amazed at the staggering beauty of all that is around you, in everything you see, and even in what you do not see . . . Then you must turn around to start climbing again, because there still is a long, long way to go.
My first solo retreat as a teacher ended on the anniversary of the first retreat I attended, the anniversary of the moment when I stepped off the path that I had long perceived was mine, not realizing that was what I was doing. That was the moment I stepped onto the path that has brought me to where I need to be for any real growth, that has brought me closer to my true Self. The fact that the two anniversaries met was not planned, but neither do I believe it was an accident.
Just like my first class, my first retreat was extremely positive and encouraging. I felt like I was intentionally given a group that was sweet, enthusiastic, open, easy. And all week I felt my teachers with me. I felt Paul there, Tiwari, Richard; I was completely supported throughout. I know that all my retreats may not go as smoothly as this first one, but I feel grateful to have had this positive experience as my initiation. Thank you Omar, Chrisje, Paula, Noa, Laura, Yuko, Bettina and Sarah!