Friday, December 3, 2010

Giving and Disappearing

Just a quick post before I hit the road for the weekend, inspired by a pair of quotes that I've read recently.

First, I am in love with an Annie Dillard quote that Hannah mentioned a couple days ago in this awesome post:

"[T]he impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive.  Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.  You open your safe and find ashes."

These lines really speak for themselves, but I'll mention one reason why they resonated with me so deeply.  I spent most of my life, and certainly most of my yoga career, simply collecting knowledge and information for myself.  I was a learner; learning was what I did.  Teaching never occurred to me.  But then gradually, this certainty came over me - I actually needed to start teaching.  I had all this information to spend, and it was burning holes in my pockets.  That's what led me to the career that I'm in now, and as I've said before, that turned out to be the best decision ever.
Sometimes I notice people who do attempt to hold knowledge to themselves, in an attempt to make themselves more powerful or influential.  And I do think that this is destructive behavior.  The more we can share our skills, wisdom, and information, the better off we all are.

The second quote is from (again) my Zen quote book:

"When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself."  - Shunryu Suzuki

This is one of those great Zen principles - the idea of immersing yourself so fully in your task that your self, your ego, disappears.  We do the exact same thing in yoga; what did you think "kill your self" was supposed to mean?  Kill your smaller self, destroy your ego, leave no trace of yourself.

And again, this really makes sense to me in the context of teaching.  Before we were "set loose" on the world as teachers, we were reminded a thousand times of one crucial fact: "It's not about you."  When you teach, you can't be thinking about yourself.  You can't stand there thinking, "Do I sound ok?  Are they looking at me funny?  What do the students think of me?  Did I miss a word?  Am I doing this right?"  No way!  It doesn't work if you just try to say stuff that "sounds smart" or "sounds like a yoga teacher."  In order to teach, you really have to forget about yourself and think about serving the students.

In other words - and this is another comment from one of the visiting staff at teacher training - I don't want my students to get home and think, "Wow, that was a great class from J!"  I want them to get home and think, "Wow, I just had a great class!  Hey, who taught?!"

(Of course, Bikram is the exception that proves the rule.)

And now (for my next adventure), I'm driving off to Virginia so I can balance half-naked on one leg in front of a bunch of people tomorrow afternoon.  I guess that would fall under the category of "giving freely and abundantly"?  I will be sharing my love of yoga with anyone who cares to come and watch.  Hooray!!  Should be fun.  My only goal is to relax and have fun, and I plan to be successful.  :)

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