How You Know You're Ready

“It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.” - Hugh Laurie, actor.

We often use the R-word as a valid-sounding, catch-all excuse for why we haven’t done something. From “We’re just not ready to have a baby yet” to “I’ll take that big trip when I’m good and ready” to “I’ll start eating better next week once I’ve readied my fridge with a pound of kale.” And if you're like I was, perhaps this one sounds familiar: “Maybe one day I’ll do a yoga teacher training, but my bank account/calendar/headstand practice isn’t ready yet.”  

I can’t help but wonder, how many potentially phenomenal new teachers (or parents or travellers or healthy eaters) are out there today, sitting on the fence waiting until they’re ready? When there’s no perfect time and no shortage of legitimate sounding excuses for why it can’t be this year. The universe is always ready for you to do what you were meant to do. It’s your mind that’s stuck, perpetually waiting to work up the courage to make some real changes in your life.

My courage came seven months ago, after years of feeling overworked and lonely in New York. True to the "wandering Millennial" cliché, I quit my comfortable-but-unfulfilling corporate job and gave up my geographically-desirable-but-tiny studio apartment, figuring I’d backpack through South America for some good old fashioned soul-searching.

As my busy days in Manhattan had started feeling more like dreaded drudgery, yoga was one of the few things that kept me grounded and sane. Eager to ease into my travels on a detoxing note, I googled “yoga retreats.” Instead, the search algorithm gods serendipitously served up the words I’d been subconsciously too scared to type in: “yoga teacher training.” A few hours of research and reading confirmed that’s what I’d been searching for all along. (And apparently I wasn’t the only one, as The Onion quipped “all but 32 women in New York and San Francisco are now certified yoga instructors”.)

Jokes—and the lure of wearing yoga pants at work—aside, changing careers is scary. Starting over is scary. Doing something new for the first time, like teaching a yoga glass, is scary. But what’s more scary is never doing those things that could ultimately bring your soul home, because you didn’t ever feel quite ready enough. 

Every year it’s becoming more common to get your 200-hour certification without knowing if you’ll ever use it to teach, and I fell into that uncertain half. While I loved the thought of deepening my own practice and understanding the philosophy behind it, would I feel ready after 200 hours of training, to start sharing that practice and understanding with others? There’s that pesky R again, which gets you nowhere fast.

If you do want to get somewhere, I know this much: in the words of Nike and motivational posters everywhere, "just do it." The mere act of signing up, publicly committing, paying a deposit—it breaks the inertia of your life and gets the ball rolling. Slowly all the logistics fall into place.

On the first full day of training, you don’t feel completely ready for that 6 am practice, or for meeting forty new people who can all presumably balance on their pinkies upside down while reading the Yoga Sutras with their third eye. But then you get to know them over the next few days, and you realize they’re regular people just like you who all overcame their own un-ready excuses to be here. Most of them aren’t any more comfortable upside-down than you are. Some of them will be part of your life forever. People whose lives and backgrounds seem so different from yours on paper, but whose hearts and paths are now beautifully entwined with yours.  

You realize you’re all there in search of change and transition. On the surface you’re there to learn how to teach yoga, but you end up learning so much about yourself, feeling like you stumbled into a much-needed soul rehab centre in the middle of the rainforest. 

Before you know it, those intensive weeks of training are over. You’re suddenly not ready for it to be over. But you have no choice, so you go back to your normal life and find it still exactly the same as you left it, except now YOU’RE different. The way you see the world has changed a bit, brightened and sharpened enough to see that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

It’s been a few months since I completed my training with Marianne Wells and her incredible team in Costa Rica, and I’ve been watching my fellow graduates start to teach, hearing the tales on Facebook of first-class-butterflies, forgotten sequences and ultimately “it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I actually CAN do this!”

I am slowly realizing that I do want to try my hand at teaching, that I may have something unique to share with my fellow yogis. Do I feel ready to teach? Heck, no. But you never feel quite ready to be challenged outside your comfort zone, to start back at square one as a beginner again. So you have to throw yourself into the ready end of the pool, where the promise of what could be outweighs the fears and hard work you must tackle to get there. (A pre-emptive apology to the unwitting guinea pig yogis in my first few classes.)

There’s a lovely ancient proverb that echoes Hugh Laurie’s musings on readiness: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Plant that first seed, take the first step, and life will fall into place—whether you’re ready or not.