I gave a teacher’s session on Finding Your Authentic Voice as a yoga teacher, which is not a topic I present on very often in a direct way so I spent a lot of time considering what it means to me to teach from and authentic place. And as much as I value the authenticity of a stable and integrated ego-self, I wanted to direct the consideration to a level of authenticity that lives deeper than the layer of personal experience. Don’t get me wrong, I think yoga teachers should be themselves and I think personality can be a great aid in teaching. And of course, personality can be a big problem, which is a different blog entry.
However, for me, authenticity as a teacher has as much to do with getting myself and my self-concern out of the way as it does with finding nifty ways to be “more myself” in the classroom. I am interested in authenticity as an avenue to serve the needs of the students I am working with and to be, in some small way, transparent to a flow of information beyond the personality-self that can help me with the task of helping people engage their practice intelligently and consistently. Sometimes what serves is my sense of humor. And sometimes shutting up is the highest offering.
It all depends.
He was, instead, interested in our ability to be sensitive to the implicit needs of a situation and in our ability to sacrifice certain personal preferences and tendencies to support a moment that was authentic to the unfolding of the Self, not the self. He said it was a matter of context and not a matter of specific content because life wasn’t solid. Since every situation was different, one should expect what was wanted and needed to be different.
Along those lines, I told my group that I don’t have a “10-step plan to Find Your Authentic Voice” or a list of “8 Easy ways to be More Authentic” or even “3 Surefire Ways to be Maximize Your Authenticity.” I don’t have anything like that. If I did have a plan, believe me, I would write it up into a book and take it to the bank because plans and guarantees of transformation seem very bankable. Plans that guarantee such positive outcomes are quite compelling, after all.
And I am sure those plans, lists and best-selling self-improvement programs work for some people at certain junctures in life, but they have never been a good fit for me as a practitioner or as a teacher. I mean, really, if I could remember the “10 Ways to Avoid an Argument” in the heat of the argument, well, that would be lovely. But the problem is that one part of me reads the article with interest and another part of me gets in the fight and that list, no matter how intelligent and inspiring it was at the time I read it, is not even near my consciousness when it would be most useful and beneficial. That, and many times intimacy is forged in the fire of conflict so avoiding an argument, depending on your type, is simply avoiding the conflict that will call you to higher levels of honesty, communication and self-awareness. Of course, if you fly off the handle all the time, maybe you should take such an list to heart. Okay, well, now I am getting specific.
I digress. Back to my topic.
What any situation calls for depends on a multitude of factors and distilling the nuances of personal and communal evolution down to a tidy list is simply unsatisfying for me.
So, while I do not have a plan, I do have an authentic relationship to practice that I have sustained for many years. I have been through many cycles in this relationship and passed through many ups and downs internally and externally. I have fallen in and out of love with my practice more times than I can count. Over time, these cycles within my relationship to my practice have yielded some depth, clarity and perspective that helps me teach from an ever-increasing authentic place.
Last week Kelly, Anne, Jeff and I recently went to a Songwriter’s Circle at Cheatem Street Warehouse. This unique event happens once a week at Cheatem Street and gives aspiring songwriters a chance to practice their craft and to get support and feedback from their peers and mentors. Songwriter’s Circle is kinda like the practice teaching sessions during teacher training, I suppose. More fun than that probably. Of course, I wasn’t performing or getting feedback so my perspective may be skewed a bit.
Anyway, as we were walking home, Anne and I were talking about how songwriting and performing is a lot like teaching yoga in the way that both the songwriter and the yoga teacher are telling a story that is based, in some way, on their authentic experience. And, Anne noted, some people are better story tellers than others. And, some folks have more insight into their experiences than others. People vary in the vulnerability and transparency they bring to the story telling. Then of course, people have different skills in terms of songwriting and putting a story to music. Some performers had a good song but did not have great stage presence. Some may have had a great experience to share but their song wasn’t moving. Still others were singing about something authentic, but not necessarily that deep or revealing. And, of course, different people appreciate different songs. And so on.
So, it seems to me, authenticity has layers. And it takes time to mine the depths of practice. It takes time to learn how to tell the story in a way that rings true without imposing on others how the practice will emerge authentically for them. And while certain practices and guidelines can be made into lists and help point the way, essentially, what we are talking about is holding a context of service so that the personal expression we bring to teaching is held in the container of helping others, not simply as an end in and of itself. As wonderful as “being real” is, there is a deeper sweetness when our “being real” serves the emergence of something Real inside the group with which we are working.
Well, more on this as time goes by.
Time to film some yoga classes.
Follow This Blog
"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."