Friday, September 2, 2011

A Web of Support

Moving to a new place means being alone. No matter how good you are at making friends and reaching out to people, there will be a few hours, days, perhaps weeks and months before you find a community. And this phenomenon does not only occur when you move to the other side of the world. It can happen when you move to a new community or even a new job. 

It can also happen when you start a new project. As much as I would love to think that my time here in New Zealand is all fun and games, I am officially here to write a thesis. I have written a long paper before, but never one this long; it is officially supposed to be about 45,000 words, which is approximately 150 pages. During my first meeting with my advisor, he suggested I include a survey. Lawyers, however, are not trained researchers. Finally, my advisor is awesome, but he is also incredibly busy, so asking loads of questions along the way is sort of out of the question.

This was not going to be easy.

But then I remembered all the yoga training, all the posts about community building, practicing together so we do not feel alone, and learning from teachers and each other along the way. While traditional yogis learned from one teacher, today people often go to yoga classes with many different teachers, sometimes choosing them simply based on the best time slot (or was that just me?). Eventually, you find the teachers that speak to you most profoundly, but it does not mean you stop going to other classes.

There are advantages to this approach. It results in a web of support rather than one person upon whom you always rely. I have learned so much from a variety of yoga teachers, from Tucson Yoga, where I first started attending classes, to Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, where I did my teacher training, to the Dunedin Yoga Studio, where I have found a lovely and amazing yoga community here in New Zealand. Each place has offered its teachers, its classes, and its support. Instead of a specific “brand” of yoga, I took bits and pieces along the way that worked for me.

But a thesis is not yoga, or is it? If there is one constant about doing research and writing long papers, it is that it is a lonely, lonely process. I spend most of my day with my back to a window staring at a computer screen. The survey had hiccups along the way, but several people, including lawyers, professors, and judges helped ensure it was possible. I began to understand the need for a vast network of support in this process, but it became even more clear last week.

Last Friday I presented a short seminar on my research during which it became abundantly clear that somewhere along the way, I had missed something. In many ways, I had missed the core of the thesis, the thread to hold it all together.

Did I mention that I need to submit in about 2 months?

But that is when the universe reminded me of the support structures I have built here, and many of those people offered their help and support. By Monday, not only had I found that thread, but I became confident that this thesis can get done, and it might just be worthwhile.

There is no way it could have been done without the support. I got to thinking about all the people who have helped me along the way this year, just writing the thesis, other than my advisor. The list was over 20 people long. I am grateful to each and every one of them.

Life in the modern world is often lonely. We think we have to “do it all” alone, whether at our jobs or in our lives. We think that if we just work harder, push a little bit more, or stay awake just a little bit later, everything can get done. But deep down we know that is not true. Here, the legal profession agrees with the modern approach to yoga; we call this vast array of teachers mentors. Finding a mentor is the surest way to know that you have support whenever you need it, for those moments when you think you have completely lost your way.

There will be times when we feel like we cannot keep going, and our primary support may not be available, but if we have a web, if we have that community, we can find the strength, and the inspiration, to keep on going. We need to reach out and build that support network early.

I have a long list of people to thank right now for helping me find my path again. I have only been in New Zealand for seven months, and I have made a lot of mistakes here, but one thing I know I did right was building the support network.

Have you built yours? Have you thanked the people in it? 


© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved

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