Sunday, February 20, 2011

Homeward Bound

So we had a great weekend in Chattanooga, TN this weekend. Maggie did such a great job organizing the workshop and the students of Clear Springs Yoga really turned out for the event. We had nice full sessions throughout the weekend and the majority of people signed up for the whole workshop, which was really great.

So I know that it is not always possible to do every session during a weekend workshop. I know that many times there are schedule conflicts, there are time constraints and there are financial concerns that limit participation. I know this. I have experienced all of these things directly myself over the years as a workshop participant. That being said, as a workshop presenter it is really lovely to have the majority of people attend the entire weekend because then the process can really build on itslef and the basic details we outline in the beginning of a weekend become the foundation for the deeper work that develops over the course of the event. That was certainly the case this weekend and it was such a pleasure to have so much of the group in attendance throughout.

The students were, in general, fairly new to Anusara Yoga and so I got a chance to introduce them to some of the basic principles and practices of our approach. We had a very mixed group in age, ability, capacity, experience and yet the studentship was of a high caliber and the work ethic was stellar. To me, studentship is a key marker of what makes for happy teaching. I love teaching basics, I love teaching modified forms, I love teaching advanced postures and subtle refinements and intricate approaches to familiar concepts. So for me, the content of the teaching is second to the atmosphere in which the teaching is being presented and in which it is landing.

And this weekend that atmosphere was really awesome. Students were respectiful, receptive and so willing to get on board with what I was offering and to go for it even though a lot of what I was teaching was new or unfamiliar. The students were earnest and fun-loving which can be a delicate balance to find in a group. We really laughed a lot along the way. I used the theme "The Yoga of Yes!" which was really fun to explore. What does radical affirmation really mean and what are the many flavors of "yes" we can bring to our endeavors? We worked a lot with the psoas and the quads and the hips and ended the weekend with a rocking foray into eka pada rajakapotasana in the intermediate/advanced class. All in all, a great time.

A few nuggets for me came in my conversations with Maggie who organized the event. She told me her mantra is "I love clarity in whatever form it comes." I thought this was awesome and made for a lot of easy and sane communication. What a lovely mantra. I told her that I was going to take that one myself! I tnink the thing abut clarity is, that once we have clarity, even if it comes with a situation or information that we do not like, then at the very least we can deal effectively with things as they are. If we can't see things clearly, responding skillfully is really going to be next to impossible. It really is so foundational.

I am reflecting on this a lot in my life these days. Certainly, as a teacher I need to be able to see clearly who my students are and where they are at in their practice in order to serve them well. In my inventory about my weaknesses as a yoga teacher and the mistakes I have made over the years, a lot of them fall in this category. Many times, I have failed to see students clearly and have seriously missed the mark in my dealings with them. Sometimes I have failed to see insecurity and fragility where it was operative and failed to be as sensitive as I should have been. Other times I have failed to recognize a lack of commitment and I pushed people as though they were serious students when they really weren't. I have failed to see hidden agendas, hurt feelings, competition, and failed to have appropriate limits and boundaries. The list goes on. There are times I have failed to see sincerity, dedication and support as well. In every case, regardless, my response was not as optimal and as high of a service as possible because it didn't have clarity as it's starting point.

See, whoever we are as students is who we are, I am not even saying everyone should be super committed. To be clear, is not a lecture on studentship as much as it is a disclosure about my difficult journey as a teacher and it is a contemplation on clarity for those of us who serve in the capacity of teacher. I know plenty of people who are great people who love yoga and who benefit from it who I still wouldn 't say are all that committed to it or intense about it. Intense is not "better" in this scenario. Even patanjali talked about three kinds of students-mild, medium and intense. the point I am trying to make is that as a teacher, I need to know and see clearly who is in front of me so that my teaching is actually aimed to the clear truth of who my student is and not a projected, assumed or somehow false impression of who they are.

It's really the Open to Grace principle in teaching, I think. In order to see our studednts clearly, we have to get out of our own way to see who is in front of us and to be willing to respond to what they need, or at least to see that maybe they don't need us but another teacher more suited to their temperament, etc. I find I am getting better at this as I go along but I gotta tell you, I have had some very difficult lessons in this and at the root of almost every conflict I have had with students over the many years I have been teaching was a lack of clarity- in seeing them clearly, in expectations- mine for them, theirs for me, in communication, in the terms of our relationship, and so on. And a lot of it has been quite painful. For both of us, truthfully.

At any rate, that's the teaching consideration of clarity today and it's also a great consideration off that mat in my life. I spend a lot of time out of a "normal routine" and in the hands of others as their guest and I am learning how important it is for me to be clear about what I need in those situations as well. It is so amazing to receive the hospitality I do when i travel and teach and also since I am on the road so much I find I have to get more and more protective of my energy, and it's up to me to be clear about that with others. It's an age old lesson- we really have to teach people how to treat us and to tell them what we need since most of us - no matter how sincere and well meaning we are- do not have mind reading skills! How many conflicts might we avoid if instead of getting mad at people for not reading our minds, we just told them what we needed in a clear and accountable way and negotiated from there?

Anyway, those are some musings from the weekend. Every trip these days seems to have a theme and every group I teach is an opportunity for so much reflection and study. I find my work very rich in that way. So often teachers-in-training ask me how I stay inspired and all I can say is "I pay attention to what is going on." seriously, I find self inquiry and self examination very inspiring. There is no shortage of things to work on and small victories to celebrate and insight to be teased forth into action. I think life is always trying to teach us. Grace is always knocking at the door trying to get us to step through into the fullness of who we are. To me, the many ways it knocks are very inspiring.

So like that.

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