A friend of mine asked me recently how my classes are going. I didn’t know what to say — they just are. I show up and do my best, my students show up and do their best. It’s all good. I find (slightly contrary to expectations, so it must be true!!) that I really love this practice, this teaching! It’s now just part of life. But how to balance my energies between developing my own practice and offering support of those around me? Sometimes it’s hard. In truth, sometimes it feels thankless.
My friend is nodding in agreement; she says she doesn’t get anything back from her students, she doesn’t understand them. Why do they only practice once a week? Why aren’t they more committed and improving more? She gets no sense of feedback, she doubts what’s she’s contributing, what difference it makes.
But isn’t this just like practice, I ask. I find I can face those difficulties in the classroom with some grace and equanimity because that’s how it feels each time I step onto the mat for my own practice. I’m full of doubts, wondering what I’m doing, why any of it matters, whether I am competent for it. So teaching or practicing — they bring up the same stuff; the one informs the other. It’s pretty daunting, yes — I often feel very limited and ignorant, I feel vulnerable and exposed, but I also feel full of hope and on a good day I’m positively buzzing with endless possibilities. So I’m just doing it, stepping into each class like stepping onto my own mat — handling what arises with as much wisdom and care as I can. When things get tough and I doubt myself, I imagine that my teacher’s in the room with me as a reassuring presence, steadying me here the same way he has countless times on the mat, helping me find some place from which I can move on, some simple faith in the practice and in myself. Two’s company, right? And actual feedback aside, I find I learn so much from my students, from watching their bodies and beholding their frailties and their efforts. It brings up such intense compassion in me. So I just practise offering the best of my understanding and love to them in each class I lead.
And my friend’s reaction to this enthusiastic little soliloquy of mine was to offer me her weekly class!
She’s said she’d been thinking about giving it up, about giving up teaching completely. And my response apparently clinched it for her! She said I just lit up when I talk about my teaching and if she doesn’t feel like that, she thinks I should do it rather than her.
So I covered her class this week, with no ongoing commitment, just exploring. This week and next I’m teaching three days in a row. I’ve just had an early morning and a late night practising sequences and how best to cue the transitions. It felt a bit like TT all over again, my head is full of teaching notes and ideas to share.
Could I do this every week? Could I still hold steady with the extra commitment?
Now suddenly I’m full of doubts all over again. Time to get onto the mat, to come back to the essence of my own practice and I guess the answer will emerge somehow.