I know change isn’t always easy | AspenTimes.com

I know change isn’t always easy

Alison Berkley
Aspen, CO Colorado

I think I’ve finally turned the corner. When I got back from yoga school, everyone thought I’d been brainwashed. I’m finally starting to accept the fact that they’re absolutely right.

At first, I couldn’t understand why everyone thought that. I went out of my way to prove them wrong, immediately diving headfirst into my old ways of drinking and carousing and finding surefire ways to make myself miserable.

I felt confused and disillusioned. I mean what the hell? I shelled out all this money and wasted two months sweating my ass off in this hot, stinky room, being kept up half the night listen to this crazy Indian insult people and talk about his Bentleys and his celebrity friends in Beverly Hills ” and for what? I hadn’t changed at all.

You know, I questioned it every step of the way, which of course ultimately made my experience that much more difficult, but that’s just the way I was raised.

Believe you me, the one thing that’s come between me and any sort of spiritual existence is my mom’s voice, rattling around in my head going, “For Christ’s sake, Alison, don’t be ridiculous.” (No, there was no pun intended.)

It’s not like I expected any kind of spiritual awakening. I had no real expectations whatsoever, other than to lose a buttload of weight and come home and to be the hottest yoga instructor to ever walk the face of the earth. And to think people say I have unrealistic expectations!

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Turns out, I gained weight. While the other 300 chicks walked way looking waif-thin, I had trouble buttoning my jeans. My dad says it’s because my metabolism probably shut down as some sort of preservation instinct. My mom said it’s because we come from Russian peasant stock and we are a strong brood; we are survivors. Survivor, surshmivor ” just get me into a size 2. Working in a room full of mirrors every day forces you to, well, take a long look at yourself in the mirror every day.

My life seemed the same, only worse, because now I was in debt. I became alienated from my friends. I didn’t enjoy partying anymore. Every time I went out and drank a lot I felt horrible the next day. (You know you’re out of partying shape when you get those hangover things.)

I enjoy teaching: Don’t get me wrong. I love that it gets me out of my head, and better yet, out of the house. Writing is such a solitary career, and the interaction with people is good. I love our studio and the little community involved with it. I have a great boss who treats me like a sister in every sense of the word, pushing my buttons on a regular basis but only because she wants to make me better.

I love being in the position to make someone’s day and am always surprised by how little effort that really takes. When people come into that hot room, they are as open and vulnerable as children, looking for the slightest bit of encouragement and reassurance. It’s a cheap thrill in the sense that I can give that to them and it’s so easy.

So one day, I was talking to my friend Amanda, whom I went to teacher training with. Amanda is like a cheerleader, brimming with enthusiasm and positive energy, her blue eyes blazing, thick blond hair going every which way as if it had electrical currents moving through it. She uses lots of hand gestures when she talks, her long thin arms flailing wildly about. She is very touchy-feely, but not in a bad way ” she’ll unabashedly hold my hand and squeeze it, and not let go. When she teaches, she’ll give me these massages that sometimes meander close to being sensual, but they’re not. She literally feels my pain. Despite whatever images you might conjure up in your head, it’s all very innocent.

It’s been amazing having her here to help me assimilate into the real world, but I didn’t realize or acknowledge that until recently.

We were talking on the phone one day and she goes, “Oh, God, don’t you miss it?

“Don’t you miss teacher training?”

I was really annoyed by that. “No, I do not,” I shot back. “Why would I miss that? If you want to have this conversation, you can have it with Kate.”

Kate was her roommate in Snowmass and at teacher training.

“Fine, let’s change the subject. I don’t want to deal with your negativity,” she said.

A few days later, I was talking to Francisco, a yoga teacher from Peru who had done the same training as us, only several years ago. He was visiting our studio to do a Synergy seminar on pairs stretching and Thai massage.

“When did you do your teacher training?” he asked.

“I just finished in June, but it’s nice because there are three other girls here in the valley I went to training with so we’ve been able to keep it going.”

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to keep it going for the last 10 years,” he replied.

I didn’t realize what I’d said until after I’d said it. I immediately called Amanda and told her.

“You just don’t want to accept the fact that you have changed, and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that,” she said.

Whatever, Little Buddha! I resented it because I knew she was right. I have changed. I don’t know why I thought it was such a bad thing at first. But like one of those alcoholic people, it was as if I had stood up in a meeting in the basement of a church and acknowledged what my problem has been for all this time. And with that, came great relief.

As my dear friend Jack once told me, “Princess, your only problem is that you don’t have any problems.”