Reading: Reflections on Teaching — Intention and Perseverence
“Often we can achieve an even better result when we stumble yet are willing to start over, when we don’t give up after a mistake, when something doesn’t come easily but we throw ourselves into trying, when we’re not afraid to appear less than perfectly polished.” – Sharon Salzberg
When I shared this in classes it served as a reminder and opportunity for those embarking on this journey of self-study, -discovery, -awareness, breathing, stress relief or simply moving, etc. Permission to explore has been granted and mistakes are ok…for all of us.
Inherent in practice is the permission to challenge our comfort zones, to make mistakes….and most importantly, continue on the journey — persevere. This serves as great reminder for myself and may provide some ease for the perfectionists striving for the “ideal pose, floating transition…or ideal life,” despite the inherent imperfections of our humanness and disregard for our underlying goodness.
Sharon Salzberg’s words remind me of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12-1.16 teaching on persistent practice.
I.12. abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tan nirodhaḥ
“These thought patterns (vrittis) are mastered (nirodhah, regulated, coordinated, controlled, stilled, quieted) through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).”
I.13. tatra sthitau yatnah abhyāsa
“Practice is basically the correct effort required to move towards, reach and maintain the state of Yoga.”
Beginning with Sutra 1.12, we learn to quiet the disturbances of the mind by practicing regularly without attachment to the results. Practice is described as persevering effort toward maintaining peace of mind.
I just reached the 9 year mark of teaching public classes on April 24th! Each year when I see the calendar notification, it triggers moments of deep gratitude, disbelief, joy and “WTF am I doing?” (…so it is not just my father).
In appreciative reflection, fortunately the joys and sense of fulfillment from teaching come regularly. There have been a fair share of challenging moments, and specifically three or four that gave me pause and sent me off the rails of reconsideration — questioning everything about my teaching. The most challenging have been the moments when I felt my efforts came into question.
Disregard for the good and overwhelm by the bad (the difficulties, failures, etc.) is how my mind runs uncontrolled, and I am not special for it. I mentioned the wonderful joyful moments come regularly, yet when challenged, my mind comes back to these 3-4 scenarios in 9 years — that is the 1% controlling my mind! Constructively and reflectively, once past the shame phase, these have served as abundant learning experiences. They also served as training in perseverance — picking myself up from drops in perspective, self-confidence and trust.
Sharing this reading in class also felt like a forewarning to students as it best describes how I practice and teach. One student lovingly confirmed this a couple of weeks ago: “yeah, you are not polished.” There was a moment of disappointment: “is it that obvious?”
Lesson: Apparently, if I am going to shit talk myself, to myself, often enough, word is going to get out.
I may not be the most polished teacher, but my intentions are clear. With deep gratitude, I first learned the power of intention from a body/energy worker in my first years of teaching and I have maintained that same intention to this day and it is most helpful. I aim for the highest for myself and students – which means whatever it means for each of us – peace of mind, happiness, freedom from suffering, etc.
“We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we have now has been the result of past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions: so we have to know how to act.” – Swami Vivekananda
Two weeks ago I shared the above from Swami Vivekananda which reminded me of the 2004 Sharon Salzberg article “The Power of Intention” published in O Magazine. Sharon Salzberg speaks to the power of cultivating awareness of the intentions behind our thoughts and actions — endlessly useful.
Intention guides my actions. A regular practice of gratitude and respect for our interconnectedness — our shared desire for happiness and freedom from suffering — also keeps me in check and helps me through the challenges. Experience shows me the challenges and missteps may not lessen with time, however, they may affect me less…for the most part.
When we are not afraid to appear less than perfectly polished we may free ourselves from attachment. I would love to say I have zero fear of appearing less than perfectly polished. However, that would be a complete lie as I was overwhelmingly reminded in my 500 hour teacher training program last year while teaching in front of my teachers. The cup of fear runneth way over! If only I was less attached.
“If we fall, we don’t need self-recrimination or blame or anger—we need a reawakening of our intention and a willingness to recommit, to be wholehearted once again.” – Sharon Salzberg
It is much easier to maintain my peace of mind when riding a high of “great teaching” or recognition. The important work is when we falter or our foundation (i.e., schedule, numbers, etc.) is shaken. Given my deficiency in self-efficacy, my mind defaults down dark alleys of disparaging thoughts. I can be consumed with worry, guilt, frustration, shame and incompetence. I can be hard-pressed to get out of that negative space and find any compassion or loving kindness for myself in response.
Can I remain accepting of my capacity for more? Can I pick myself up and keep going?
Being present, mindful and coming back to intention is what helps me to keep moving forward. The more we practice the more we connect to our deeper truth and goodness despite any shadows of failure, fear, ego, shame, regret and doubt. As long as we remain persistent in our practice towards right thought, action, etc. we may be less disturbed by any setbacks and persevere — primed to make right effort…again and again.
Thank you very much for your support throughout the years and for helping to keep me continually challenged, learning and resilient.
Peace, Love and Resilience.