I spent the weekend in tucson teaching a Teacher's Intensive called The Courage to Teach with Darren Rhodes. We based a lot of our discussions on Parker Palmer's book, the Courage to Teach which is filled with juicy nuggets about the inner life of the teacher and the dynamic relationship between the identity and integrity of the teacher and the subject matter. We spent a lot of time talking about identity, integrity, authenticity, The Teaching v. The Teacher and how to navigate the very nuanced landscape of what it means to be a yoga teacher.
All in all, I think it was a great week. We did an asana practice together every morning. We worked with the same sequence each day as a way to anchor ourselves in the repetition of practice so that we could refine each day rather than start new. This is something I am working with a lot these days as a teacher. When the students have to start each class from scratch there is a lot of energy wrapped up in the learning of the new sequence, etc. that pulls their attention away from the experience of being in the practice itself. I also like new classes and new insights and creative approaches so I am not changing my mind on that but simply exploring some new avenues for helping students establish themselves in practice. I have been working on 3 practice sequences that are full-spectrum practices, that get progressively more difficult so that a student who gains some mastery at the first one can add some more difficult postures incrementally and intelligently. Also these sequences are not peak pose strategies so they are very balanced sequences that could be done regularly. At any rate, we worked on the first of these sequences all week with much success. It was fun to watch the repetition take hold and move from the analysis and "how to" of the postures into the experience of moving through the sequence and being in the postures more directly. So many people had breakthroughs and made progress through this approach. Lots more to say about this another time.
In terms of using The Courage to Teach as a guideline for discussion, one thing I found interesting is that Parker Palmer is an academic and his experience is in institutions that value content over context, technique over Being and a concrete facts over personal knowing. When we enter the world of yoga teaching, generally we find ourselves in a world where that balance is a bit different- usually we have some connection to our inner lives as yoga practitioners and we are often times aware of the subjective nature of the material we are presenting to a degree that is probably different than traditional academia. And while there is an ongoing discussion in the world of yoga these days between product v. process, the Teaching v. the teacher and its about the pose/it's not about the pose and so on, we are very clearly in a holistic discipline that honors both the inner realm and the more objective, technical aspects of the subject. I enjoyed using his work as a springboard for our discussions without having to buy it 100% on every point.
I think that is the name of the game for me these days. The reality check of the outer teachings as they ask us to look at and confront our egoic strategies are so very important but the work of doubting everything we think must be balanced with a keen listening and regard for our own voice of truth. If we assume the teaching is always right (and we are always wrong) we are going to easily manipulated, led astray and never learn self-trust. If we assume everything we think is always right then we are unhelpable and unable to progress beyond our familiar patterns and viewpoints. Like so many of the topics we discussed over the weekend, the recurring thing is that no one solution exists that is alway right or that will work for all people all the time. The more the weekend progressed the more I began to experience the call to get off the right and wrong question all together and to transcend that particular duality.
The thing is that if we are asking the question of "what is right?" and "what is wrong?" the chances are we are going to fail to find where the depth is, where the texture resides and where the psyche is calling us to our own truth in the midst of competing agendas, both internal and external. Yes, the more we were together in the discussion the more I kept glimpsing the ever-important third option that exists beyond right and wrong and how freedom truly comes in giving up the binary-type viewpoint that so often informs our way of seeing difficulty and challenge. (I am not talking ethics here, in case that is not obvious. Certainly I believe there are domains and situations where "right" and "wrong" should be considered. I am talking here about a dynamic I watch in sincere yogi's who learn about the teachings and really want to chose well in their lives and who are also plagued with the fear of making mistakes and somehow "doing yoga wrong.")
Here are few gems from the book- (and there are so many more)
“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”
“By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am.”
“As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together.”
"Education is the attempt to ‘lead out’ from within the self a core of wisdom that has the power to resist falsehood and live in the light of truth, not by external norms but by reasoned and reflective self-determination."
"In every story I have heard, good teachers share one trait: a strong sense of personal identity infuses their work."
Here is a link to Martha's musings about the week.
And last but not least, a few pictures. Enjoy.
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