Well it is Wednesday already and I am just now getting a chance to sit down a write.
We had a great weekend down in San Marcos for the Postures and Prayers Asana Intensive with me and Darren Rhodes. We had a full house with folks from all over and with varied experience and ability. However, despite those kinds of variables, the group was well-matched in enthusiasm, depth and sincerity. We did a lot of asana analysis and a lot of strong work and the intimate setting yields such a profound interpersonal dynamic. So it seemed to me that the body the mind and the heart were each well tended to.
Teaching in San Marcos is really so fun for me since I feel like I am at home and able to teach the yoga in a way that feels very easeful and natural to me. I like almost everything about being there, in fact. I love that during the intensives Kelly and I stay on the property and so I am grounded and truly at home while I am teaching. I enjoy having a place for people to gather over coffee and tea and a place for people to hang out during the weekend. I love sharing a meal together on the Saturday evening. Having a well-equipped yoga space with all the wall space and props I need is also a special treat. We fit 36 mats in the space with a little room to spare which is also great since that number of people gives me a chance to really see and help people with postures and also is also large enough that the group dynamic has some space but no chance to factionalize. And I love having the space available all day to being with puja and pranayama so that there is a formal space for shared ritual and invocational prayer.
We talked a lot over the weekend about the importance of not only having one's own experience in yoga classes, workshops and trainings but to learn to validate that experience and to mine it for the nuggets and lessons that will become our own wisdom. This is a topic very dear to my own heart these days as I explore my own relationship to yoga, to the teachings and to the different communities of which I am, and have been, a part. The thing about a teacher is that sometimes a teacher teaches us through positive input and the overt teachings and interactions. And sometimes the teacher teaches through the negative. In this case, I do not mean positive and negative in the sense of good and bad or ethical and unethical. I am thinking a bit like a photographic negative and how the opposite of what has been captured or recognized or offered from the teacher may actually hold as much gold as the formal, recognized "positive" image.
For instance, I have a friend who was in a spiritual community for years with a charismatic guru and at some point she left the group. As we all know I have my own experiences with charismatic teachers, gurus and spiritual communities. We were walking the other day and we were laughing a bit because even though she no longer feels that this person is her teacher and she is well aware that it was in her best interests to leave the community she was in, the experience - of both participating and leaving--was so defining that in one way, he is still teaching her now. She left and yet now she is learning a bit through the negative, the photographic opposite, so to speak.
I think that is the thing about being a student of the teachings of yoga- we may agree, we disagree, we may chose to take up certain practices and we may chose to leave certain things out of our life of practice for all kinds of reasons- faith, temperament, interest, time, philosophical differences, lack of understanding, etc. And yet, those choices of what we do and do not do in relationship to the tradition are important in and of themselves. Additionally, the choices we make also important opportunities for us to learn about ourselves, our values and our aims-- the why we do and do not do things. If we stay attentive to the choices we make in relationship to the yoga and why we make them then we get to learn a lot. And sometimes we will be learning through the positive image and the things we agree with and sometimes because of the things we do not do, agree with or buy into--the photographic negative, so to speak.
At any rate, as both a teacher and a student myself, I know there is no for a teacher way to present information so that no one in the class is offended, upset or challenged. I know there is no way to present the information so that everyone agrees, feels validated and aligned with what is being offered. Yoga is designed to teach us the totality of reality and not just the parts of reality we enjoy, agree with or find easy to implement. I believe the yoga is aimed at the whole freakin' ball of wax. So on the days it is teaching through the photographic negative or even through the downright scary and heinous aspect of reality we can learn to see it is doing its job as the teacher. And then we get to ask ourselves, "What is our job as the student in relationship to what has been offered?"
So, while I do not think learning can happen in ways that are always easy and agreeable, I do think there might be a few ways to increase the likelihood that we can honestly look at why we both agree and disagree with what is offered. I think we might be able to validate our own experiences and learn from them. I think we can learn to allow people to experience the very same teachings or circumstances in wildly various ways. I think we can learn some skills inside ourselves that can have some profound outcomes in our shared experiences. I think here we start barking up the tree of discernment a bit. But the more I ponder this thing called studentship and discernment and even common sense on the path I realize it starts with owning the full spectrum of our experience and while people can help us with that and the teaching have lots of tools for mining that experience it is something that each one of us has to do for ourselves in some way. And I think weirdly enough we may, at times, need a community to really learn how to do such a thing for ourselves.
We talked a lot about that this weekend. I think for me it boils down to engaging yoga as process of education not a path of conversion or a religion or ideology and certainly not as an identity.
More on all this as time goes by.
Here are a few scenes from the weekend. Enjoy!
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"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."