Each month, the Student Journeys Series features a guest blog post by a former student of Vicki’s. They write about how their lives have been shaped through their global education experiences. This week’s Student Journey post is written by Adrienne Beattie, a student and yoga teacher at Western Washington University.
My first introduction to global travel was through the Lakeside School Global Service Learning (GSL) program. Before my GSL experience in India during the summer of 2011, my only trip to another country was for a regatta I attended in Canada with my rowing team. I believe travel, like everything in life, can either be handled poorly or with careful intention and compassion. I often find that world travelers are searching for these qualities in their lives without realizing that the ability lies within themselves; simply setting an intention of being mindful and kind opens us to experience all new things. This is what my experience taught me.
Travel introduced me to something I had always known but had lost sight of in the fast paced culture I was immersed in at home. I used social media endlessly and craved the newest technology. Convenience was a top priority in my life. I was rarely present in the world around me. I was tirelessly striving for individualism while in my gut I wasn’t really sure that was what I wanted. My time in India influenced me so positively, but not necessarily because of the work we shared with the community and the grassroots organizations we served. My experience in India taught me to be present with my new family and friends. I happily made space in my heart for a host family I still talk with today.
My fondest memories from India are of the first moments I shared with my host mom in private. We sat in silence on the floor of what was to be my new bedroom for the next 4 weeks. We were unable to speak each other’s language, but we were intuitively able to communicate through the awareness of each other’s presence and energies. She watched me and I watched her. We were listening, communicating. She gave me a look that said things were about to change, as her eyes landed upon the messy nest on top of my head. As I sat with crossed legs she gestured for me to rotate around, pulling me closer to her as she took on the challenge of braiding my hair, an activity she incorporated into her regimen nearly every day I lived with her. I hold this memory especially close to me as my own mother used to braid my hair. My hair is thick and long, and as a kid my mom loved to either let it fall free or braid it back nice and tight until days later she would unravel it into long waves that would wisp across my face, back, chest, and arms.
Little moments like this one helped me navigate the mental and emotional processes I was struggling with at that time in my life back home. Part of my time in India was spent practicing asanas (body postures) and dharana (concentration, meditation), two of the eight limbs of yoga — arguably the two most commonly practiced in the U.S. A local yogi shared with us his knowledge and guided us through a variety of yoga and meditation practices. As a young active teen and avid competitive rower, my mind was hesitant to allow myself to meditate but my body was ecstatic to partake in the physical limb of yoga: asanas. Fast forward to today, where I have been teaching yoga since October of 2014. I teach Ashtanga-based power Vinyasa yoga appropriate for all levels at Western Washington University’s student recreation center and also personal classes at a community studio I rent. When I traveled to Mexico with my family, I couldn’t help but connect with an incredible group of souls thanks to the gift that yoga, and by extension, traveling gave me: a reminder of my human ability to connect and influence.
I could make a list full of lessons I aspire to learn and places I’d be so happy and fortunate to see in the future, but at the core of it all, what’s most important is that every day I work to share with and receive from those around me. This was something I feared but always felt I had the capacity to do: to support others and be vulnerable in the world that I influence everyday. For me, travel served as an powerful reminder of the beauty of being present and how profound life can be when we are all learning from and teaching one another from a place of love instead of striving to be superior. True symbiosis and peace are possible. How could such a lesson not be positively influential, to that high school student that was me and indeed, to every human being?