Oh how the time flies! I began this post exactly 1 month ago. I was rushing to pack for my next journey and lost track of time. Sadly that resulted in this final post for my summer internship being postponed until now.
However, I think it is good that this post sat untouched for a month, as it has given me more time to reflect on the first half of my summer, which was spent interning with a community-based yoga company. From Danielle one month ago… “Working with Sangha Experience has greatly impacted both my future professional and personal plans. First and foremost, working for two young entrepreneurs made me realize that I am capable of starting and doing anything under the sun. I plan to truly begin paving a path for myself in the world of nontraditional healing modalities. Teaching yoga at a studio regularly is the first step. I am hoping to find a new job doing so upon my return back to Ann Arbor in the Fall.
Similarly, this internship exposed me to travel in Michigan, fueling my desire for even further travel. All of the experiences I had with Sangha Experience were fulfilling, though they were not necessarily spiritually advancing. I realized along my journeys with them that I crave this. I was planning to go to Israel for another internship earlier in the year, but somewhere along the path of this internship my focus shifted. I became principally concerned with learning more about Jewish history, philosophy, and culture opposed to just working there…”
This is where I left off. And, now, here I am. Sitting at a computer in Israel finishing off this reflection.
While all that I wrote previously is true, it is also dry and unrevealing. I was clearly just trying to complete the blog post, and I am so happy that I set it aside until further inspiration struck (i.e.: now).
Looking back on my earlier summer internship at this point, I can easily see just how great of an impact it had on my internal character. Honestly, I did not learn that much when it comes to traditional workplace learning. There were many days when I felt I knew more about certain useful technologies and business practices than I had known, surprisingly overqualified for some of my duties as an intern. Nonetheless, I learned a lot about healing modalities (as I mentioned earlier) and, more importantly, I grew as a person from the inside out.
While always fairly independent, my internship equipped me with a new sense of self-ownership and responsibility. I tend to pick-up and move to places I have never been before, places where I no nobody and next to nothing about the operations of said location. But this move to Israel has been different. My attitude when I move is usually one of fierce independence, so much so that I spend much of my time exploring and learning on my own. You could say my mentality towards those around me during these journies is something like the following: “Sure, you can come along! But only if you are going where I am going and you can keep up with my pace.” While this allowed me to see everything I wanted at the speed I wanted, it makes me sad to think of all of the beautiful moments I might have missed out on.
My internship this summer was very focused on community. Half of my time at work was spent recruiting new people to come to events and then, once they were there, making sure that they felt integrated into the community. I was Executive of Inclusion, so to speak. Due not only to our company values but also to personal values, it was seen as unacceptable in my eyes as well as the eyes of my supervisors for a single soul to come into our circle without feeling welcomed, safe, and excited about all we were doing! Community. Community. Community. This environment fostered within me a deep desire to connect, to look outside of myself and give. This environment taught me practical, meaningful leadership skills. I could always be a team player, and I have been decent at taking initiative in the past, but I have not been consistent at the other-focused mindset.
Now, I wasn’t selfish. But I certainly was self-motivated, thinking that what mattered most is how much I do for the team. This internship switched my mentality to focus on how much the team does. Rather than thinking about how great my impact is, I cared about how great the impact was in general. This actually led me to go above and beyond, making sure we all were reaching our goals.
Had I done my reflection right after my internship, I might not have realized just how large and lasting this effect has been in my life. Once I got to Israel, about a month ago, I noticed my habits changing. Normally, when I move to a new place, I unpack and sleep a lot the first day or two to get settled, and then go off adventuring on my own to get a sense of the area. This time, however, I landed in Israel and as soon as I got to my new home (a small school in Har Nof, Jerusalem), I introduced myself to everyone I saw and, even though I was incredibly jet-lagged (I had been awake for 20+ hours), I decided to go to lunch with some girls who invited me along. Then, when we got back, I took a nap and then went to a work-out class with them. Then, I had dinner and met more people. Flash forward to the next day, and I am already offering to teach yoga classes to the entire campus, meeting everyone I can and creating meaningful connections.
Throughout this entire trip I have been shocked at the amount of time I want to spend with other people. Not a day passes where I do not have a deep conversation about philosophy, life experiences, Judaism, or something of the like with a friend on campus. Not a day passes where I do not laugh in the company of my many hilarious new friends. Not a day passes where I do not meet a new friend! Or at least have a small conversation or friendly interaction with a stranger.
None of this is exceedingly shocking, since I have always been somewhat outgoing. So I thought maybe I just am just growing into my skin more and becoming more naturally social. But about 2 weeks ago I realized that something deep within my character had actually changed. I was placed in a situation in which I knew exactly what I wanted to do, what my habits wanted me to do, and what all rational-thought told me to do. And yet it was surprisingly easy to go against all of these things in order to put my own interests aside and the wellbeing of a friend in front.
I had been long since been looking forward to a 4-day long meditation and spirituality retreat taking place in Bat Ayin. It was the day my roommate and I were supposed to leave for the retreat, and she had not packed a single thing. We needed to leave in 30 minutes to be on time. It would not have been a big deal, if she did not need to pack all of her belongings to immediately leave to America after the retreat. She had been living in Israel for 1 year and had about 3 suitcases and 1 backpack worth of things to pack.
Every single fiber of my being was saying to leave without her. She was even begging me to leave without her. She wanted me to go. This was a silent meditation retreat, and it was expressed very clearly in the registration that if we were to be late we would miss pretty much the only time to talk to the other participants, learn about the site we would be staying on, and get the layout for the programming. In my mind, being late was not an option. I only was bringing a small backpack, I could leave now and make it no problem. Easy.
But then how would my roommate carry all of her things? There was no way she could carry all of those bags to the bus by herself. And how would she possibly pack everything herself? It would take at least 2-3 hours to do alone and she would miss the last bus to Bat Ayin. She looked really worried and upset. She had clearly procrastinated packing so much because she did not want to leave to go back to America, and I knew this. She did not know how to begin packing up the memories of the happiest year of her life to go back to her old life.
Long story short, I stayed. Not only did I stay because I felt that I morally had to but because I truly wanted to. It suddenly became so clear how ridiculous it would be to think that my nice weekend away was more important than this critical moment in my roommates life. It was suddenly so clear that the most profound opportunities for growth are the ones in which the external world throws something unexpected in this path called life. Until this point, I felt that the best ways to grow were to take myself to new limits, to be independent and self-motivated, and to go to things like far-off specialized schools or meditation retreats (artificial settings where the focus is to learn and expand).
What actually matters most are the small day-to-day interactions. I can see myself moving from someone focused on the big picture of my own life to someone focused on the ways in which my life merges and affects those around me, someone attentive to the details of interpersonal life. Someone present and purposeful with their words and actions. Someone who cares about “we” much more than “I”… I wish I could say this has always been the case. If I am to be honest, it has not.
Then, some words that my internship supervisors, Kara and Bryan, said all the time when we were working together reverberated in my mind: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And “The slower you go, the faster you grow.” I used to roll my eyes and think How cheesy. But now I see these sorts of statements are cheesy and banal because it has great truth. They also used to say “Between stimulus and response there is a choice.” This is a modified version of a Victor Frankl quote, and this one had always resonated. I have logivally known that what matters most is how we react to our circumstances, not what the circumstances are in themselves. But for some reason I realized that until a few months ago I spent most of my energy on controlling my circumstances and environment rather than really working on how I respond to whatever might rise up. The point of choice between the stimulus (based in the external world) and the response (based in the internal world) is the point in which there is not only the greatest capacity for self-growth but also the point in which we define the very type of person we are.
So, together my roommate and I packed everything in 1 hour and rushed to the central bus station, sweating profusely and feeling like we were going to pass out, dragging her bags in close to 100 degree mid-day Jerusalem heat. We made it to the stop 5 minutes before the bus. Success! But wait, we read the map wrong and were on the wrong side of the street. We watched out bus pull away without us. So close. At this point my frustration normally would have hit an all time high. Old Danielle would have sulked and been angry that she made me miss this opportunity. Thoughts would have come flooding in like If only I had gone without her or Why did I wait when I could have saved myself so much stress and sweat (literally). Instead, seeing the defeat on her face and her clear guilt, I erupted into laughter. What a hilarious situation. She was so relieved that I was not upset, and my laughter quickly became contagious. After we stopped laughing, we dragged our bags to the next bus stop and waited for the next bus, which would be coming in about an hour. While we waited at that stop, she shared life stories with me, reminiscing on her time before and during Israel. I was so thankful to hear her stories and to know that she had someone to listen.
We ended up getting to the location about 2 hours late, just in time for dinner. Everyone was silent. We missed out on learning everyone’s name and about what would be happening for the next 4 days, but it provided us a beautiful opportunity to live without expectations. We were able to just exist for 4 days, silently, content with not knowing everyone around us, not feeling obligated to speak or know what was coming next. It was a practice in presence and acceptance. And I am thankful that my roommate gave me such an oppotunity to practice my patience, compassion, and acceptance. More than that, I am thankful that my earlier internship had taught me patience and the importance of selflessness earlier on. The weekend in Bat Ayin ended up being one of the best of my life, and certainly thee best days of my time thus far in Israel.
My interpersonal relationships have drastically improved due to Sangha Experience. And, more than that, I have realized the type of person I want to be: patient, giving, loyal, responsible, reliable, and optimistic. Resilient for myself and others. I can still hold onto my strong independence while using my self-confidence and strength in a more communal manner. I am eternally grateful to Kara and Bryan for the opportunity to work for Sangha Experience. It was not what I expected it would be, but it was exactly what I needed it to be. Finally, thank you to the LSA Opportunity Hub team for giving me the resources to make this wild summer of self-exploration possible.
P.S. Here are some pictures from Jerusalem! (The sunset one is right on my street!)