Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What's the role of the teacher?

Tomorrow I teach my first class in a yoga studio. Unlike the other few classes I have taught, I will not know anything about the people in the class (unless, of course, my brother shows up). At the conference a few weeks ago, even though I did not know all the students, I knew their professions, and I could weave the theme of the classes with the conference, with our work in family law; though not everyone there was a lawyer, all participants in the conference work in the family law field in some respect. During my teacher training, I actually knew all the people in my practicums. They were friends and family.  

Today, my legal boss asked me whether I have to prepare for tomorrow, whether there is one set class I teach every time. My answer was no, I teach different classes, but I told her that I hoped to do a variation on a theme I used at the conference. Then tonight I went to a class as a participant, and I realized that I have to give something more. I came home and started thinking about what I want to convey as a teacher . . . to the general public. 

While this blog, and my goals in teaching yoga, focus on bringing yoga to professionals, lawyers specifically, I know that in a general class, I have to branch out. No everyone needs a class geared toward sitting at a computer and resolving conflict. So, what is the bigger theme? What is it that really drives me to teach? What do I want to convey as a theme?

I have been reading a lot about the history of yoga, from the Yoga Sutras themselves, to the Bhagavad Gita, to modern collections and criticisms of these works. I have been focusing on the divergent path that yoga and Buddhism have taken, yet how they are similar. By no means have I even nicked the surface of all the literature out there, but I see a general theme, and I realize that it is going to be my inspiration tomorrow.

Buddhism teaches that there are four noble truths, the first of which is that suffering exists. Yes, it is that simple - suffering exists in this world. The good news is that Buddhism also teaches that there is a path to overcome this suffering. The next three truths are: 2) Desire is the root of suffering, 3) There is an end to suffering, which is nirvana, and 4) There is a path to reach that end. Yoga and Buddhism are most similar in that they teach us the ways to overcome this suffering that inevitably exists. (This is a very, very basic overview of these topics, which I hope to explore in more detail in the days and weeks to come, but for today's theme, they are sufficient.)

When I walk around at work, I see this suffering. I see people hunched over computers. I see people withdrawn, shoulders pulled forward, blocking their hearts from opening, and I see peoples' physical pain. Of course, I also see these same issues in the general populace. Without a doubt, I also see joy, happiness, openness, etc. But when I see people in pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual, I want to offer some guidance. Already people ask me for ideas on how to "fix" their physical pain. I want to be able to help.

So, reflecting on all of this - the fact that suffering will exist, the fact that I want to make it better, and the fact that yoga/Buddhism offer a path out of that suffering - I have found the voice with which I want to speak as a teacher. I want to provide people the space to find their own inner teacher, their own ability to find the path that works for them to break free of their suffering. That is what yoga has given me. Some days, I feel like it is working great. Other days, I suffer. But I know that deep inside, I have the ability to move beyond the suffering; I know that the suffering will pass. And that is what I want to share tomorrow. I want to help people open up to see their own perfect selves that are within each and every one of us. 

Thank you for continuing to share this journey with me. As I said, these next few weeks, I hope to explore these issues more indepth, but please share with me, and each other, how yoga has helped you see the inner beauty, helped you break free for some suffering. After all, the greatest gift that yoga can give us is the ability to better connect with each other.

Namaste and Blessings!

© Copyright 2010. Rebecca Stahl.

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