Saturday, April 23, 2011

Four Words

You know what?  Forget about everything I've said.  For feedback, for validation, for confirmation, for a reason to teach, there are only four words I need to hear:

"It's changing my life."

Today, from a student who's been coming every day for just one week!

A breath of fresh air, every time.  Absolutely amazing.  I am humbled and empowered in the same moment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Continual Becoming

After teacher training and posture clinics are over, how does a Bikram yoga teacher improve?  Practice, practice, practice - and feedback.  When you have another teacher take your class, and afterwards she tells you what you did well and what you can improve, that's called feedback.  When it's done well, it's really lovely, a good collaborative process.

My favorite poet, Billy Collins, just published a new collection called Horoscopes for the Dead.  It's fantastic and you should read it.  One of the poems is entitled "Hell" and starts with the lines "I have a feeling that it is much worse/ than shopping for a mattress at a mall."  Oh Billy Collins, this is why you are my favorite.  There's another poem called "Feedback" which I adore.  It's very short, so I will present it to you here:

Feedback  (by Billy Collins)

The woman who wrote from Phoenix
after my reading there

to tell me they were all still talking about it

just wrote again
to tell me that they had stopped.

I love this poem more than I can explain.  It's so sparse, it's practically haiku, but it tells a whole story, and that story is wry, self-deprecating, and hilarious.  And in a way, it says it all.  Sometimes people pay attention to you, sometimes they forget.  Sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue.  And some people - some of whom apparently reside in Phoenix - are refreshingly honest and can tell you "yep, that's working" and "nope, that's not working" in the exact same tone.  How lovely!

I mostly do my own feedback these days - all those little tweaks and adjustments - so I have to be really honest with myself about what is or isn't working.

I've been pondering the concept of "perfection."  Years ago - probably in 2008 - I heard this question for the first time: "Do you want to be perfect or do you want to be great?"  (That's what Diane says.)  And I absolutely did not get it.  I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay - but I do want to be perfect!"  I'd always classified myself as a perfectionist and I had no idea how to change that.  I've been tossing that question around my brain for the last three years, and if I'm honest, it probably started to make sense sometimes last summer, after I started teaching.

Here's one thing about perfect: you have no place to go.  You can't get any feedback.  You're dead in the water, no place to swim.

Saint Augustine says: "If thou shouldst say, 'It is enough, I have reached perfection,' all is lost.  For it is the function of perfection to make one know one's imperfection."  (Yes, I'm quoting a saint - he is in my little Zen quote book!)

Here's another one (found in the same book) from George Bernard Shaw: "I dread success.  To have succeeded is to have finished one's business on earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he has succeeded in his courtship.  I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind."  That one's a little bit more gory (which entertains me), but that last bit is really nice - "continual becoming" is nice.

I had a brilliant conversation with one of my students last week.  Actually, she conversed and I listened.  (That's just one of the things that was brilliant about it.)  She's been coming to the yoga for just about two months and she is absolutely transformed.  I mean it, completely different person - body changed, personality changed, attitude changed, everything changed.  It blows me away.  Anyway, she said some great things.  She said - I've realized that I don't have to prepare to practice, I just have to come in and practice.  She said - I am just keeping myself open to feedback, just listen, adjust, and change.  (I am paraphrasing here, but I'm not making up a single word.)  She said - if you think you're "perfect," if you're always "doing it right," then you can't learn, but if you're just "practicing," then you can keep adjusting and taking in new information.

Yes.  Gorgeous.  Couldn't have put it better myself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring is in the Air!

Hello again blog!

Hmm... I thought about going on an official "blog hiatus" since I keep on not-writing, but maybe I don't need to.  Spring is in the air, so lots of fresh thoughts are coming in.  I've had a lot of things going on over the last few weeks, but they haven't been the sort of things that belong in public.

Still, I refuse to be the type of blog writer who starts every post with "Sorry I haven't blogged in so long!"  So I have decided: henceforth, I am not going to pretend to have any sort of regular posting schedule.  I will just be posting when I feel like it, and it will be good!

Moving on.

You know what's a really refreshing activity?  Throwing open the windows, getting something good to eat, sitting out on the porch, and reviewing the dialogue.  Hah!

I am dead serious about this.  Even though it's been almost a year since I went to teacher training (what?!?) and I know most of the dialogue like the back of my hand, there are still little bits and pieces in there for me to discover.  Easter eggs.  The 2nd set of stretching is a great Easter egg.  I'd thought that I was saying it, but I was really only saying about half of it.  I guess I only half-learned it the first time around.  So lazy!  I mean, ok, I give myself a lot of credit for having learned any of it, but there were still pieces that I was missing.  I've added a couple of missing pieces back in already, and I am going to nail it down verbatim this week.

New dialogue - it keeps your class fresh!

(Why must people insist on inventing their own words just to make their class fresh?  Why not just learn more of the dialogue?  There's plenty of it!  Hmmm.)

I went to a seminar with Diane at Bikram Yoga in the City (Chicago) a few weeks ago, and that was absolutely terrific.  I saw lots of friends from my teacher training, along with some other old friends and some new ones.  Here's a cute picture of some Spring '10 folks out to brunch on Sunday morning:

Littermates (born at the same time): Chris, me, Catherine, Carrie, Meg

I've been to plenty posture clinics and seminars as a student before, but this was the first time I've been to one as a teacher.  It was a completely new experience.  As a student, I would watch the corrections at posture clinics and think, "Ah, this is really interesting."  But as a teacher, I watch the corrections and think, "Oh!!  That's what I need to do for Bob, and that one for Jane, and this will help Sue, and I really need to get John to do this..."  Then I go home and get to apply everything right away.

After teaching for a while, you start to recognize patterns.  I remember at training, Bikram would do these great demonstrations where he showed us how new students would look in the postures. We all laughed, because they were great demonstrations, but we were just taking Bikram's word for it.  But now, someone like Diane can come in and say, "Well, in pranayama a lot of your new students will have their head like this," and my reaction is, "Omigod that's true!  That is exactly what they do!"  Very enlightening.

I came home from the seminar with a pretty good checklist of "things for my students to work on," and I must say, it's only been a few weeks and they have totally improved in those areas.  It makes me proud.  It's so satisfying to look around a room and see everyone trying the right way!

Also, speaking of seminars, I am throwing anonymity to the wind in order to post this: Bikram Yoga Hampden Special Events.  I currently teach at this studio, and we are hosting Diane for a seminar at the end of the month!  Public seminar on Saturday, teachers only seminar on Sunday.  I am thrilled.  It will be so much fun to have tons of teachers converge on my own studio, and I am excited to show off all my students to Diane.  It's a bit vain, but what can I say?  I'm proud of them!  They are so good!

If you ever have a chance to go to a posture clinic or seminar - with anyone! - you should really jump at the chance.  There's nothing better than getting new information and perspective - it breathes fresh air into your practice (and your teaching).

Now I'm off to organize tax papers and work on my 2nd set dialogue.  (Now that I've mentioned it to the world, I guess I really have to do it!  My students who read this blog will be listening to see if I say anything new!  Dang it all....)