Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inspiration for Teaching

Sometimes having to have a JOB to teach yoga is difficult. This week was one of those weeks. I found myself extremely frustrated and feeling backed into corners as i attempted to relate with my jobs outside of just the teaching the classes aspects.

So i went to a book i find very comforting. a book that is pretty long and i tend to read it for a while then put it away and then pick it back up and start right where i left off. this time two parts of the story really stood out for me.

The book is called How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally. it is the story of a young girl from Tibet who is held up in a jail in India and begins to teach the Captain of the jail yoga... and all that follows. truly though, it is a study and commentary on the yoga sutras.

in the first part the Captain has just made a big mistake and now must hear from his teacher about it, she is upset because he in essence has called her an employee:

" Yoga cannot be taught that way. Even if this place were some fancy school; even if i owned it, and you came here for classes; even if you were paying me in some way, still the yoga would never come to you - I could never grant you the yoga, you see, even if i wanted to and tried to - unless you regarded me as a teacher should be regarded and that is with respect, deep respect.
Oh it's not that teachers are some kind of faultless beings; it's not that we're not susceptible to our own problems, or that students should follow their teachers blindly.
But we are, you see, vessels; we hold something inside us which is bigger and much more beautiful than us as individuals. Yoga, you see, it began back - long back, long long even before the Master first wrote it down. And it has been passed down - poured from vessel to vessel, poured from teacher to student, and then to their students - for hundreds and hundreds of centuries. It has survived not just in books but in living persons, in the words and touch and thoughts shared between living beings: something beyond what a book can do.
And if all books are precious beyond all measure, the combined knowledge of generation after generation of effort and pain, mistake and discovery - then our teachers are so much more. For regardless of what we think of a teacher, regardless of the weaknesses and faults we may see in them, they are still the one and only door we have to the living experience of countless generations of teachers who came before. Ultimately every teacher contains the knowledge of all teachers before them; ultimately even someone as young and inexperienced as me holds the very water that was poured in to Master Patanjali by his own Master, and which he poured in his own students. And in that sense yes i am a master too, I am your Master, because i am your teacher.
Again, i want you to know. i don't mean Master in a religious sense, say. I don't mean that you should bow to me or give me things or anything like that. What i do mean is that you should respect me, respect me, not for me, but for yourself. It is the kind of respect and affection that one would have for a doctor who has been your doctor for your whole life; who has seen you through everything from baby colds to the more serious illnesses that strike us over lifetimes.
And when a patient or a student has this kind of regard or respect for the doctor or the teacher - and i mean no matter what the teacher is teaching them - then something happens; a kind of magic is let loose. A 'blessing' the Master calls it. All the power of the healing, all the power of generation upon generation of people who struggled to learn and then learned and then granted that great gift onto the next generation, so it would live - so they could live - all that power is released to you.
And then you see, the healing will happen. The yoga will work. And otherwise - if you.... if you think of me the way you have been doing, and I'm not talking about mistakes that happen like that...., but if you don't respect me, as a teacher, as your teacher, then you will never get better. And one day you will just lose interest, and go on to something else and never find out how much farther your healing can go."

WHEW!!! so that gave me moment to think! i mean THIS is what i am supposed to inspire in my student. utmost respect as i am continuing the line of the great teachers i have been so gifted to learn from so far and all of their teachers before them. so it isn't about all the tiny problems that can come up when you have to have it as a job. yoga is so much more and i'd better keep my eye and heart there rather than worrying about the rest.

the second part she is educating her student about not showing off his new physical skills gained from yoga because it can actually set him back in his progress on the path....

" But i also wanted to say that it's not vain at all to feel an honest happiness - a healthy sort of pride- about the progress you have made, and how good you really do look and feel when you're doing your yoga regularly, and for good reasons: with the idea that you might help others. And then even when others see you, and admire your progress, it's a good think; you are fulfilling your goal of being an inspiration for them to heal themselves too.
And i was thinking, you know about the difference," I continued. " Because it's such a fine line, and we are all so weak, you see, and we can slip so easily from being honestly happy about feeling better into thoughts of vanity and competitiveness. And it occurred to me that one thing to keep an eye on as we continue to make progress would be our feelings about others making the same progress.
I mean, if we're doing yoga because we want to inspire others to do it too, so they can heal themselves too, then if someone like the Seargent began to do yoga, and suddenly got very good at it - able to do things we ourselves hadn't been able to do even after years of work - then i think our feelings about that would tell the story.
I mean, if our motivation was pure, then we'd be excited and supportive: we'd let him know what a wonderful job he was doing. And if on the other hand we had started to slip into vanity, then i think we'd feel threatened somehow: we'd feel unhappy about his progress. And then that - that very basic, disappointing form of dislike for someone - would really start to choke our own channels, and ruin whatever progress we had been making."

SO that one helped me stop and go back to why i really want to teach yoga... to HELP people. not just to help them in their poses but to help them in their LIVES. to be patient and let the yoga unfold for them as it will but hopefully to bring them millimeter by millimeter closer to health on all levels of their beings. that said, i'd love for any of my students to come with me to workshops, i'd love for any of my students to become inspired to become teachers and to deepen their practices even if that means they out grow me. it doesn't matter if they are continuing to find health and beauty and fun and love in the practice. that's so much more what it's all about.

now newly refocused i just feel SO much better. sometimes we need those moments to realign with our highest. to align with the divine as they say in anusara speak.

Admin Note

Obviously the blog has been on a bit of a break. i've been a bit distracted by morning sickness and extreme fatigue to the point of not really wanting to get out of bed. but as i'm into the second trimester of my first pregnancy now i have more energy and am ready to come back full swing to blogging away. (if anyone reads anymore)