My training in Samarya Yoga stresses that I share a deep authenticity with my students; teachers in this tradition try to translate the ancient teachings of yoga through modern examples and pieces of our own everyday lives. We often share stories of how “living our Yoga” improves our lives, and how failing to do so creates suffering; we try to “bring it home,” clarifying yoga philosophy into down-to-earth teachings. My teacher Molly Lannon Kenny is a well-known master at this (find her podcast here) and has taught me again and again the importance of transparency–as a teaching tool for yoga, but also as a way to model a freer way of living, where we can share our own struggles and joys and follies and embarrassments without shame. At the Samarya Center, this way of teaching encourages students to share as well, and often wonderful discussions often unfold.
To some extent, I continue this tradition at Evolutions, though I must say that there are times when I fear doing so. I’m transplanting a practice into a completely different system, where it’s not already part of the culture, and there are many times where I share a story in class and wonder if it makes sense to folks, or touches anyone, or if people are just dying for me to get to the moving part of the class. I sometimes wonder who’s thinking “I’m here for a workout!” or “Why does this teacher think her life is so interesting?” I sometimes have to dig a little to find my courage to share personal things, and to be vulnerable to a whole room full of people. Sometimes I can see right away that students “get it” and find the discussion fruitful, but other times I’m just not so sure, and I have my very human doubts about whether I should just stop being so personal and verbose already.
But a few months ago, one of my beloved students, jewelry maker Elizabeth Knack, pulled me aside to tell me that a story I had shared in class–about how loved and supported we all really are, even though we often forget it (see the blog post “Love”)–touched her so deeply that she was inspired to make a new piece, representing the web of people who adore each one of us.
Her stunning necklace–a beautiful tangle of faces and hearts–appears here. She shared that she plans to wear it when she needs a reminder of the strong support and community that surrounds her, and that it will act as a talisman of sorts. I was touched that my little story effected her so positively, and in this ongoing way, and furthermore I love the thought of her inspiring others as well, with her visual representation of such comforting truths.
Moments like this one, when Elizabeth shared her story and her art with me, remind me that I must never stop sharing so transparently, even if some students would prefer not to hear my stories–those students are welcome to find another teacher who better matches their style. Authenticity and transparency are refreshing, especially in a world where we often have to protect or obscure our views in the name of professionalism or family peace or whatever else. We so often forget how we can positively affect and inspire each other, or are unaware when we have done so, even with something as simple as sharing what’s true for us. And here’s the important part: this is true for each one of us. Your own unique gifts and ideas are the core of who you are, and it does not serve the world for you to hide them. Silence and privacy can be a wonderful choice, but do not choose them out of fear. Have you ever gotten real with someone even though you were frightened, and then seen positive fruits grow from this transparency? Even if what you shared felt quite personal or unpopular? I’m not talking about ranting on about politics or pushing your views onto anyone, but about sharing deep truths for you, ones that come from an authentic, unique and unmistakably vulnerable place. I think of satya (honesty…truth…being with what is…) and aparigraha (non-grasping…non-clinging…an openness of the hand…) and also ishvara pranidhana (abiding faith…surrender…after all, if we have faith that we are shards of Divine Light, why hide?). All of these ideas are part of the first of the eight limbs of yoga. My prayer is that I will always share this kind of openness and authenticity as a yoga teacher, and that you’ll never find me quoting verses of esoteric philosophy in hopes of sounding deep. My prayer is also that you find this expression of your deepest and truest self as well.
Activist Maggie Kuhn encourages us to “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind — even if your voice shakes.” I further encourage us to practice this deep authenticity with those we do not fear: our partners, our neighbors, our children–hell, perfect strangers, if the time is right. You never know what will ripple outward.
And PS! If you’re interested in Elizabeth’s jewelry at Dancing Cat Hill, she’s at email@example.com.