by Victoria Murray, SLM Senior Program Coordinator

At Silver Lining Mentoring, we have a staff birthday tradition of naming an intention for our new year. While I didn’t realize it at the start of last year, 2018-2019 has become my year of connection and community. In particular, this theme came out of embarking on a 200-hour yoga teacher training opportunity through an incredible studio in Dorchester, 4 Corners Yoga + Wellness (4CYW).

I began practicing yoga 10 years ago mainly for injury recovery and health benefits. Since starting out, my yoga practice at times has been incredibly consistent and at other times close to nonexistent. No matter my schedule, I find that each time I come back to practicing yoga, I am reminded of how good I feel afterward–even if it’s just taking five minutes to breathe and stretch (which you might see me doing at work or on the MBTA).

When a colleague told me about 4CYW and their teacher training program, I was immediately drawn to their unique commitment to trauma-informed practices, community building and accessibility, and social justice. I couldn’t think of a better place to learn about deepening my own practice and about teaching yoga. I was eager to learn tools that I could bring to the Silver Lining Mentoring community while engaging through practices that felt in line with SLM’s and my own. Learning to teach has been a crucial part of this experience; building a community and cultivating a sense of belonging have been unexpected outcomes.

On the first night of training, I had no idea what to expect. I was both excited, nervous, curious, and unsure. There were 15 of us, all drawn to the opportunity for different reasons and from different places. We didn’t know each other yet, but we had all committed to nine intensive weekends of training together. There was a part of me that asked myself, “What am I doing???”. That night, it was impossible to think that the other members of my cohort would become more than classmates and more than people with whom I would be spending time. Now, I am approaching my ninth and final weekend with my cohort before we graduate. As I reflect on our time together, I realize I’ve come to think of my classmates as cultivators of community, trust, and support. These are people I can call, text, talk to, and rely on. How did that happen? In my role as a Senior Program Coordinator at SLM, I think about community a lot: what it means, what it feels like, how can it be more accessible, etc. Here I was experiencing this feeling of community; yet, despite being surrounded by it at work, I’ve found it difficult to articulate how exactly it happened and when.

What I do know is that building trust, connection, and community takes time –sometimes a long time. Once community is built, the additional opportunity or challenge is to also ensure it is sustained. As the formal experience of my training comes to a close, I’m reminded that community can come from surprising places. I am looking forward to growing those connections and that community, and specifically, offer opportunities within the SLM community from this training experience. As I approach a time of transition, going from student to teacher, I am realizing that having the secure foundation of my cohort community has been an essential part of this process. They inspire me by showing up, staying engaged, and participating. I am grateful for being reminded of the importance and power of community through this process. I appreciate the opportunity to continue learning and growing, and seeing where it takes us.