Week Eight

The End of Dialogue As We Know it     

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WEEK NINE

"Once there was a disciple of a Greek Philosopher who was commanded by his Master for three years to give money to everyone who insulted him. When this period of trial was over, the Master said to him: 'Now you can go to Athens and learn wisdom.' When the disciple was entering Athens, he met a certain wise man who sat at the gate insulting everyone who came and went. He also insulted the disciple, who immediately burst out laughing. 'Why do you laugh when I insult you?' said the wise man. 'Because,' said the disciple, 'for three years now I have been paying for this kind of thing and now you give it to me for nothing.' 'Enter the city,' said the wise man, 'it is all yours."


 
 
I’ve thought a lot about the above during our training. We have all paid a great deal of money to go through grueling physical and mental challenges and experience quite a bit of pain. Yet it is all for our physical and mental health and I have a feeling that when we are finished, like the disciple in the story above, life’s trials and tribulations might not seem quite as tough. It’s not that we all won’t continue to face difficulties; life is often tough, it just is. But once the training is over, whenever I face a very difficult challenge or some physical or emotional stress, I’ll think, ‘Hey, I survived Bikram training, I can definitely get through this.’ And also like the disciple, maybe even laugh.
 
It was another interesting week. I thought perhaps it would be an easier week, given it is Week Eight (!) and surely we would be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But the first half of the week was tough for many; we heard from a few teachers that Week Eight is often called Cranky Week. Appropriate indeed. There did not seem to be as many tears this week. Instead, the week began with a general testiness undeneath the laughter that always seems to be occurring. (We’ve really connected as a group, more on that later.) I had a really bad day on Wednesday. The week actually started out well for me. My home studio is the studio in Silverlake, which I love. I am very much looking forward to teaching there. But Silverlake already has a lot of amazing teachers and I will probably be teaching only one or two classes there initially. So I would be happy to teach at any of the other studios that are near my house. Monday afternoon in Posture Clinic, I performed my third to last posture in front of a woman, Rose, who owns the Bikram studio in La Canada, about 8 miles from my house. When I finished my dialogue, she looked up and said, ‘So…when do you want to come teach?’ ‘As soon as you will let me,’ I said, so I am signed up to teach my first class on the Monday right after training ends (Yikes!) I was in a good mood the rest of the day.
 
By Wednesday, however, I was feeling grumpy: the Groundhog Day aspect of the training kicked in big time this week, the sameness of each day really became numbing. Then, that afternoon, when I performed my next dialogue, my feedback was not as positive. I have repeatedly heard different takes on the same theme when doing my dialogue. Each posture, when I finish, I hear either, ‘You have an amazing voice, you sound like a movie trailer, you are going to be great in class’ or ‘Your voice sounds like a movie trailer, you have to work on that, it’s going to get repetitive in class.’   Wednesday afternoon was the latter and given I am not a fan of criticism – a character flaw, one of many – I was of course cranky for the rest of the day. Everyone seemed to be feeling it. Ruth, a funny, very interesting woman in my group (Group Five! a wonderful Group I am so thankful to be a part of) got so irritated by everything on Tuesday she picked up her stuff and marched out of Posture Clinic to the parking lot, planning to drive off and never come back. In Week Eight! The only reason she came back inside was because someone parked behind her truck and there was no way she could leave. Now she is glad she didn’t quit, but she would have left for good had she been able, the cranky factor was so high.
 
Things changed for most all of us on Thursday, as we came to the end of the dialogue. It’s difficult to convey to those who have not trained to be a Bikram Teacher just how stressful and consuming it is to learn the dialogue, which to this point in the training has been the main focus for everyone.  On any break we have in training, you see people everywhere holding the pages and either mumbling to themselves, trying to memorize the next posture, or practicing with live bodies to get ready to teach it live. Every time you finish one, and some are really difficult, there is always another one staring you in the face. It is relentless. Even on the weekends, when we are ‘free’, you cannot fully relax. Whatever you might be doing, seeing a movie, having dinner with friends, etc, in the back of your mind you know you have to get back to the dialogue. But this week on Thursday we all came to the final posture. Thursday afternoon and evening, each time someone finished a posture, a huge cheer went up, for the person had come to the end of performing the dialogue. A general feeling of lightness and relief slowly began to permeate the group.
 

During posture clinics, we have been split up into six groups in order to get more people through the dialogue as fast as possible. Each of the 300 has had to perform all 26 postures live. It takes a LONG time. So every afternoon and evening the six groups were divided into four rooms, two of the rooms with one group each, two of the rooms with two groups each. You get to know the people in your own group very well, as you spend so much time together and see each person in the individual group get up and teach every posture. Our Group, Group Five, ended up in a room alone Thursday evening, finishing the dialogue. It was a terrific night, very emotional. As each of us finished the last posture, we’d speak to the group about how we felt about the others in the group, how great it was to finish the process, thanks for the support, etc. It was often very emotional and quite satisfying. I love the people in my group dearly and will miss them very much.
 
Which leads to my writing once again about our group as a whole. I imagine some might be getting bored of hearing it, but these people rock. I have heard from a number of the teachers, on the sly, that the staff has ‘behind the scenes’ been pretty impressed by this group of trainees. Not that groups in the past haven’t been good, but apparently we have been the most cohesive bunch ever, with the strongest sense of camaraderie they have seen in all the trainings, both on an individual group level and as the group as a whole. It really is a remarkable bunch of people.
 
I’ve also come to realize what a sacrifice most of these people have made to be here, much more than myself. Just the fact I am in my hometown and come home to my own bed every night has made this an easier experience for me than most everyone else. But spouses and partners have left their significant others for nine weeks, mothers and fathers have left their children, relying on their significant other to pick up the slack for 9 weeks. Many of these people have also taken a huge financial risk to be here. People have taken out loans it will take them quite a while to repay in order to come, they have asked friends and family for money, have stepped out in faith by quitting their jobs, moving out of their homes, etc, to do this, all to be able to go out and try to make a difference in the world by helping people get physically right. I simply continue to be in awe of them.
 
It was brought home again for me on Saturday. It seemed most of the people in the group were planning get-togethers or dinners out with others for Saturday night, it being the last free Saturday Night of the training. (We have our graduation ceremony next week.) Adam and I decided to get some people over to grill out. What started as just a few people coming over grew into around 40 people. It was such an amazing time. At one point I stood in the kitchen and looked around and there were people from Texas, Oregon, New York, Canada, France, Australia, Tasmania, Ireland, Spain, Israel and more, all crowded in, drinking, eating, laughing. Life just doesn’t get any better, particularly with such fine people.
 
I was also yet again taught a lesson I can’t quite seem to learn, ever – another character flaw, I guess. The house can hold a lot of people, but as those who have been here know, the parking is tough as the house is on a hill. Being a little worried about the parking, people walking up the hill, etc, I just let word get out to whomever heard about it, rather than actively tell a lot of people simply to come. Just like the loaves and the fish, there was more than enough room, more than enough food, no one had trouble with the hill; easily double the amount of people could have come. I was inwardly kicking myself all night for not being more proactive about telling people to come. I can’t stand tentativeness, yet I am often tentative in such situations rather than just open up and shout ‘Come on over’ and trust that all will be well. Sigh. You’d think at 41 things would start to sink in. Maybe I can remember it from this one.
 
I should wind this down. Let me first relate another physical story, one we heard this week from a teacher. I heard it early in the week, but thought of it Friday night as we sat through another rambling Bikram lecture. Yes, the guy can be maddening, and he was driving me crazy yet again during the lecture. But I also love the guy and this is yet another story why.
 
The teacher told us that at one point in his life he weighed 315 pounds and could barely even walk, he was so unhealthy and depressed. Someone bribed him to go to a Bikram class. He could literally do nothing but stand there sweating the first few times he went. He eventually went to a Bikram seminar, where Bikram himself was there with about 600 people, talking and teaching the postures. This guy was on the floor with some others at one point, learning postures. He was so ashamed of himself, however, that he turned and tried to run out. Bikram grabbed his hand and turned him around and put his finger in his face and said 'Boss (Bikram calls everyone Boss) Boss, if you do my yoga every day, I will give you your life back." He said it changed his life; he now is in good shape and owns two yoga studios. That’s Bikram. Whatever his craziness, he is not tentative and he is changing lives all over the world daily.

To end: I heard something hilarious this week. One of the women in the group grew up in a very ‘granola’ household: vegetarian, quite healthy, Buddhist, and her parents kept no sweets of any kind in the house. One of the girls in her school was from a Christian family and lived down the street from her. She always begged her mother to be able to go over to her friend’s house. One day her Mom said she could not go. She told her mom she wanted to go because “The God People Have Sugar”.

Some of us think that could be the title of the next Best Selling Book.
 

Week Nine

tomprovost@khartoumfilms.com