For some reason, this particular group is having a very psychologically-oriented discussion this week. It always amazes me how the same (or similar) curriculum takes different groups to different places and through different terrain. This group seems to have a certain movement towards directly examining the inner life and a willingness to face directly those issues that stand in the way of moving fully into the seat of the teacher. There is a profound honesty and a sincere soul searching that is happening and an ongoing acknowledgement of the multi-faceted challenges and delights that come our way as yoga teachers.
Perhaps its happening in the group because I have been examining what that seat really means to me and what it really means to me to step into the seat I have been given. Teaching seems to work that way! Always, there is a theme or thread between what I am working on personally and what a group brings to a training. I suppose that is the message of meditation, right? That life is NOT coming to us from the outside in but life is instead, coming to us from the inside out.
Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about what John Friend taught on the last day of the Grand Gathering. He gave a teaching about the 4 kinds of relationships we have in life- the Friend, the Enemy, the Teacher and the Student. I have heard him talk about this many times over the years but somehow the simple brilliance of the teaching this year has been working on me a lot.
See, the thing is that there is a kind of intimacy in each kind of relationship- even in the enemy. To hate someone requires A LOT of energy, to wish someone harm is, in many ways a kind of intimate wish because you have to care a lot in order to be an enemy with someone, even if the caring is inverted. And intimacy among friends, while it has shades and grades involved, is essentially what friendship is.
I think it starts to get interesting as we move into the domain of the teacher-student relationship because while there is a deep and profound sharing of intimacy between teacher and student, the terms of the relationship are actually very unique and not like most other relationships that we encounter. And it can be very confusing on both sides to know how to navigate the intimacy with boundaries that differ from the average friendship or more common intimate relationships. It can be easy to project super human qualities on the teacher only to recognize their humanity and feel betrayed and disappointed in their very real human frailty. It is easy to assign them every positive quality we don't recognize in ourselves and then tear then down off the pedestal when we grow more into our own power. We can be so accustomed, as students to being served by our teacher that we forget they have feelings, perceptions and needs.
As teachers we can be so busy looking at our student's Light that we fail to see their weaknesses and darknesses and fail to meet their needs adequately. We may fall so in love with our students and enjoy their company so much that we forget we are in their life to guide them and not to be friends with them. We may have our own unmet needs of wanting approval that set us up to please them as opposed to serve them. And so on.
I suppose the variations on the theme are endless. And I also thing that just as we have a personal expression of our "unique life wave" (as Paul Muller Ortega says) I think that we each have a personal expression of the seat of teacher that we discover, many times the hard way. My personal experience is that the "hard way" of learning things has also been full of so much grace and generosity from both my teachers and students.
Paul Muller once talked about how we, as students, receive the blessings and grace of the teacher. He said, too, that the teacher is held in the grace of the student also and that it is the reciprocity of each person in the relationship playing their role that makes for the deepest transformation.
So anyway- its a very rich conversation this week in Tucson.