How much do teachers share their own practice with their students? I find this a constant balancing act. How to root teaching in my own experiences and practice while generalizing it enough to be accessible to a group? I went to class recently where I was baffled by a lot of what was offered, not because it was poorly presented or not thought-out, but because I think it was too personal, too much my own teacher’s bodily experience which I found difficult to match up to my own.
Teaching aside, in a different way it can be difficult to share aspects of my practice even with my closest intimates. Hubby and I both practise at home regularly, but usually separately. If we share space, we’re still each doing our own thing. We often disagree about what yoga is, or what we hope to find in it.
… So I was a little nervous taking him to kirtan with me recently. This is a spiritual practice and it often moves me very deeply. Was I comfortable allowing him to see that? Did I think he would understand? He avoids such spiritual aspects of yoga himself in favour of a simple physical practice. Or so he says…
Actually the kirtan was very short, essentially just an introduction to a screening of the Mantra movie. So just two chants, one led by Nikki Slade, the other by Jahnavi Harrison. The film is a documentary exploration of the power of kirtan, with some real-life stories of those who have found something essential in the practice and interviews with a bunch of famous kirtan leaders.
Between kirtan and the film, the evening was largely a conversation-free zone. But on the train on the way home, Hubby and I talked, comparing experiences. I tentatively asked him about the kirtan aspect. It was too short for any particular depth of experience, I think, but I wondered if he had found it weird, and too ‘far out’. No, and he’d be happy to go again; he felt comfortable with it. And the film? Very interesting. He knew a lot of the big names from listening to me putting together playlists for teaching, and he enjoyed seeing them in the flesh. He loved the stories of personal salvation, the prison inmates finding a sense of liberation even while incarcerated, the drug addicts in recovery learning to love and honour themselves, the soothing of modern existential angst through the primitive universal practice of making song and dance as a group.
As he spoke he looked thoughtful and a little confused, surprised by his own openness of heart and mind perhaps. I was. He’s usually very fixed in his antagonism to weirdo spiritual stuff. I found his reactions rather humbling, that he loved me enough to open himself to this and meet me here and to welcome it all as he actually experienced it.
Now he’s keen to go to a full kirtan and asking me to make the necessary arrangements!