Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Morning

So the Immersion weekend went swimmingly, I thought. Our theme for this section of the Immersion is Deepening the Practice and I think we are really staring to do just that. The first section was Mastering the Fundamentals so my intention was on group bonding, laying a foundation and helping us all to get "on board' with the principles, the philosophy and the language. And I feel like we really did that as a group. So from the strong foundation we keep going- deeper into the method, its aplicaiton and into our own studentship and practice.

It was amazing to me on Sunday how much more attention and focus and integrity everyone brought to the classes and how willing everyone was to "go deeper." I loved having both groups together finally. I think the two group melded in a great way.

Even though 6 hours is a long time, I would have loved even more time to connect some dots and to discuss some things- like the rich material from Carlos' video sessions and some of the points Mark made in the anatomy class (which I thought was wonderful) and I would have liked some time to work a little with Tabitha's shoulder, Daphne's neck and also the whole range of S.I. complaints in the room. But other than that, I think it was a great weekend.

One of the great challenges in Anusara Yoga is to communicate and convey the depth of the philosophical tradition, the elegance and precision of the alignment technology and still have class/workshop/immersion be experiential enough so that as John says, "students feel the shri". It is always a balancing act because also on top of that we are always working on clarifying and refining the asana and their forms. (You mean the feet in classic gomukhasana actually are supposed to touch?!!) Tall order. It is a big juggling act. I like it, though. This challenge means that Teaching Anusara Yoga is never,ever dull.

It seems lately that I hear a lot from aspiring Anusara Yoga teachers (Not in the immersion per se, more just in general- here, there, in my travels and trainings, conversations, etc.) that managing all those levels of the method is "hard". And I will say to everyone that yes it is. Get used to it, the "demand" is not going to change. In some ways it does not get easier, although you will learn how to get better at it. What can also happen is that you can learn to love the challenge of it instead of complaining and wishing it wasn't so hard. But honestly, it seems to me because the order is so tall, one must learn to live with a little of what I like to think of as "Divine Discontent". No matter what you choose to cover one day, that means something else gets a little bit less "play time."

For instance, take one class to drive home an inspiring philosophical theme and you may need to let go of "perfecting the poses" that day. Work on the technical one day and even if it is linked to the theme, the likelihood is that students will be little more in their heads than in their hearts. Focus on the breath one day and the intricacies of Inner and Outer Spiral are going to need to go unexplored. So after every class you get to review and live with your choices, their resulting consequences -good and bad- and get another go at it in the next class, hopefully learning as you go along.

I think of it as Divine Discontent because we are teaching yoga and because of the high calling that it is to share these teachings. No one starts teaching yoga worthy of the station. (Essentially Worthy yes, of course each one of us is that. But worthy based on our teaching skills? Usually not. Let's just be honest about it.) Teaching is a skill and we have to build our capacity and skill set to be worthy of such a high calling. To me there is very little that is "more Divine" than that. So we are challenging ourselves to keep all these aspects alive as we teach because it is important that Attitude, Alignment and Action be woven together and we just live with a little ongoing discontent because the bar is so high and it is always being raised.

For instance we expect one thing of you as a new teacher who is beginning to add in the principles to their classes. Once you want the Anusara-Inspired status after your name the bar gets raised. When you want the certified status it is raised again. And so on and so on. Hopefully at some point you are raising the bar for yourself , not "Anusara-Yoga-corporate". (And keeping high standards for yourself is never to be confused with nit-picking yourself to death in a perfectionistic nightmare fueled by your own self-loathing. Very important distinction here, folks.)

So, before you complain to me about "its hard", please, please, please just think for a moment. Do you really want the bar to be lowered so far down that it is easy to do this, that you do not have to grow or change or apply yourself in order to represent one of the most elegant methods of yoga on the planet?

Or can we all agree that implicit in the task is that it is hard and can we talk more about how worthwhile the task is? How worth the struggle it is? How satisfying it is to become a worthy vehicle of these most pristine teachings?

My Dad always taught us that asking the right questions is more important than arriving at the right answer. This principle is so important to sadhana because what question you ask points you in a certain direction. So we see that the answer is inextricably linked to the question. Think about it. (I know, its a blinding flash of the obvious here this morning!) But if, as we are leaning Anusara Yoga or learning to teach Anusara Yoga we ask questions like, "How can this be easier?" we get pointed toward a certain stream for the answer to that particular question. The stream you are pointed to in this case is called The Stream of the Mild Student.

If instead, we ask, "How can I rise to the occasion? How can I meet the demand with integrity, passion and commitment that does not falter?" we get pointed into an entirely different stream. This stream is called "The Stream of the Intense and Worthy student." And really, this is a better stream to be in. There is less whining, less complaining, more action, more fruit, less bullshit and fewer excuses in this stream. My opinion is that it is better to be the slowest student in the intense stream than to be the fastest student in the mild stream.

Along these same lines, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra he points out that there are three levels of student: mild, medium and intense. "It is just like salsa," according to John Friend. So really, Anusara Yoga is for those who like it HOT!

Have a great day. Thanks for sharing the journey.


mandy said...

I just said to Mark last week after fours year of teaching yoga and now two years of teaching at the Inspired status...."I finally feel WORTHY of being a teacher of this method". Your right no one is ever ready to start teaching, when they start teaching. It's just not how it works. I found myself many many many times complaining about how hard it is to teach at any level, let alone a multi-leval. But somewhere along the way I started to fall in love with the challanges and started to take my job more this is my dharma seriously. I still flounder around with my words and themes, and always wish I would have said something more or less, or added another pose, or refined this and that. But the feeling of worth that I've just recently experienced comes from finally accpeting what you call Divine discontent.
Thanks for sharing and putting the truth out there.
I really wish that I would have read or someone told me this two years ago when I was starting to teach the method.

Mike Frosolono said...

I prefer the descriptor, "facilitator", rather than "teacher". One of the great joys of facilitating almost any class on almost any subject is that I, as facilitator, always learn more than my co-learners (not students) through the process of preparing for the class and the interaction with the "students" as the class progresses.

You've probably always understood that the above represents my true motivation for all of the years I've facilitated Sunday School classes.

In a very real sense, therefore, I view "facilitating" a class as a rather self-centered but profoundly interactive,cooperative, and mutually beneficial activity (between facilitator and sudents) instead of preaching preaching the "gospel" on any specific subject.

Yes, the answers we obtain depend upon the questions we ask. Nothing in human affairs is as permanent as the questions we ask and as transitory as the answers we receive. So, I think you got it right: The questions are more important than the answers.

Ah, to be in Texas.

Love and blessings,

The Frosolono Patriarch

Leanne said...

I like the hard...does that make me weird?lol
I have had my nose stuck in "The Living Gita" this week back and forth on trains across Japan and my head is swimming in more and more questions.
As I write my class for tomorrow I think - "This could be brillant- or it could totally flop" no matter. I have had enough teaching experience now to know when I don't quite hit the mark it's not the end of the world. When I do, I love my students faces- you see that LOOK... that "I love Anusara" look. The next day you get rolling eyes and yawns- c'est la vie. I often take a class that didn't go so well and re-work it and see if maybe I can present it better- or facilitate it better- as your father would say. Divine discontent is what drives us to be better and better teachers.

Unknown said...

I don't know much about being the teacher from the yogic perspective but I do know what it is to have a burning desire for knowledge. Divine discontent occurs for me as a certain sweet pain. The yearning for more is like the seesaw principle. If you balance action and education with acceptance of your own human abilities you are allowed bliss. Beautiful.