I’ve been blessed with great friends, including one with whom I’ve recently reconnected. We reunited at a yoga workshop last year, and have stayed in touch ever since. Our paths have crossed too many times to ignore, including our attending the same yoga teacher training program a decade apart. We’ve shared common memories of the program including some of the rites of passage that we experienced in our separate journeys. I’m honored to have this guest blog post from my friend, fellow yoga teacher and inspiration, and truly one of the most authentic people I know, Amber Barry.
I’m an all-American girl, raised on MTV and Julia Roberts movies. Never spent much time in the woods before I got into yoga. So, when my yoga teacher training (YTT) mentor asked me to tell my life story to a tree, I thought he was out of his mind.
It was September 2002, the first weekend of YTT. I was working toward my certification, which meant 200 hours of classroom training in 5 months. I knew it would be a lot of work, but nothing could have prepared me for all it would entail.
In the first two days of YTT, I practiced yoga for twelve hours, cleared my chakras, experimented with transcendental meditation, and participated in a Native American smudging ceremony. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, tumbling down The Rabbit Hole, wondering what was next.
That first weekend of YTT was scary, fascinating, and overwhelming all at once. By Sunday afternoon, however, I was tired and wanted to go home. As we packed up our mats, water bottles, and notebooks, our homework was assigned:
Before we meet again in two weeks, spend a full day alone in the woods. Get there early enough to watch the sun rise. Tell your life story to a tree, and write an essay about the experience.
SERIOUSLY? I can’t do that.
I thought about quitting the course, but something inside me told me I shouldn’t.
The next morning, I pulled out a map, and made a plan. I worked full-time in Corporate America back then, so tree-talking had to wait until the weekend. I dreaded it all week.
Saturday finally came. The weather was cold and drizzly when I awoke at 5:30AM, so I packed a lunch and a raincoat. It was a 40 minute drive to Sweetwater Creek Park, and I spent the entire ride wishing I could call it off.
Instead, I walked into the woods as the sun rose. No compass (forgot it), no trails (huh?), and terrified that I might get lost.
Ok, so how do I know which tree I’m supposed to talk to?
I picked the fattest tree I could find, and sat down, and started talking.
It felt silly, baring my soul to a tree. I kept looking around to see if anyone was watching. I went back and forth between hoping someone would rescue me, and fearing what might happen if someone did find me. Why am I doing this?
I didn’t get it. But I did as I was told, and kept talking. From birth to age 30, I laid it all out. My hopes, dreams, and fears. Traumas and dramas that had never healed. Secrets I had never told another soul. Mistakes I had a hard time admitting, even to myself. And then I was done, with nothing left to tell. So I went home.
It was an unforgettable day, that taught me something extraordinarily valuable:
We all have a story about who we are, and we tell it to ourselves over and over again, until it becomes our “truth”. The problem is that there is often great disparity between our “truth” and reality. The story is founded in perception, yet we build our entire lives around it. Through repetition, the story gains power, and ultimately prevents us from finding happiness.
With time, and a lot of yoga, I learned how to reject the story, so that I could live my life with clarity, awareness, and purpose. And in the process, I found that the happiness I craved was actually inside me all along.
(Photo: Jeremiah Morelli, Mor Jer’s Art)
Amber Barry is a yoga instructor, wellness coach, blogger, wife, and mother of three amazing girls. She has spent over 20 years learning how to be healthy, and loves inspiring others to do the same. You can find her blogging at mycrazyhealthylife.com, tweeting as @crazyhealthy, and updating her status at Come On, Get Healthy!
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