Wednesday, February 17, 2010

To be a good host

One of the greatest joys of my career has been teaching teachers. It's truly an honor to help channel and foster the curiosity of those looking to share their passion for yoga with others. I'm often asked how I manage my busy schedule ("it's a constant work-in-progress", I say) or how they, as new teachers, can be effective vehicles of this profound practice. Teaching offers a teacher the platform to inspire change but also carries with it tremendous responsibility and an innate willingness to do our own personal work - our own yoga, first.

You open yourself up the way you would open up your home to a guest. There is thoughtful preparation necessary in order to make your guests feel as comfortable and cared for as possible...fresh sheets, flowers by the bed and treats for their stay that they might not otherwise enjoy at home. As teachers we are eternal students, dripping with curiosity and a humble beginners' mind. We must investigate the needs of the student - their bodies, injuries, struggles and aspirations, the way we ask our guests what kind of milk they prefer in their coffee or determining their likes and dislikes in order to better prepare the menu for their stay. I adore having house guests and revel in the process of preparing my home for their arrival but it used to be a much bigger undertaking as my apartment was usually in various states of disarray - a poignant reflection of how difficult I found it to manage my life (again, "it's a constant work-in-progress"). I dreamed of the day when people could just stop by and my home would be clean and orderly and ready to entertain. It has been a slow but satisfying experience to try, instead, to do my work on a continual clean and enjoy my home for me, rather than for the sole benefit of my guests. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses the idea of practice and its ability (when paired with non-attachment) to help still the mind - Patanjali insists that practice requires our attention over a long period of time, without break and in all earnestness. Vacuuming the night before my friends arrive (and only the night before my friends arrive) does not a practice make! Doing my own work, first, is what sustains me as a teacher, and it is only from this place that I can be an authentic and honest tour guide for others as they venture into the brilliant and terrifying depths of who they really are.

Some hosts prepare complicated meals, served on their best china as a way to show off, using the presence of their guests as a platform to satisfy themselves. Choosing simple ingredients and making a loving meal on my beloved china is in service of my guests. I want them to have the best of me and the best of what I have to offer. Teaching yoga has to come from a place of utter devotion to the process of teaching yoga and in total dedication to the students who've walked into your class. Motivation from fame and desires to "get ahead" will prevent you from finding your authentic voice as a teacher.

Maybe one of the hardest things about being a teacher is the inevitable truth that you have to let your students go - their practice belongs to them, not you. Your guests will come, enjoy everything you have to will prepare, invest, and share the deepest parts of yourself knowing that you will wave goodbye to them at the door when they leave. We can only hope that they feel a little better, a little closer to themselves and inspired to recreate the experience on their own.

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