Throughout my lifetime, I have been incredibly blessed to have great teachers.
I still email my high school biology teacher, George Sellers. I have lost touch with Ellen Ramsey who read all my poems in high school. My college professor, Kermit Champa, chairman of the Art History Department at Brown, was probably the single most influential teacher of my life, having spoken to me every week for 27 years until he died in 2004. My mentor in healing, Sue Maes of Ontario, Canada, long ago had the humility to say to me, “We are no longer teacher and student. We are equals and friends.” And yet I still study with Sue relentlessly, inquisitively, looking for every possible opportunity to deepen my skills, going back to take even her basic courses over and over again. Every time I study with Sue, I uncover another layer both in myself and in my work.
These wonderful, generous, kind souls have prepared me to be a teacher myself.
Although I don’t remember ever having had a discussion with any one of them specifically about teaching, their examples speak louder to me than any words they could ever say.
I understand not just the mere ability to impart knowledge but the paramount importance of establishing a heart to heart connection with each and every one of my students. In this way, speaking from my heart and listening from my heart, a deeper level of learning emerges. This is when you don’t just understand a few facts, your entire life transforms before you.
This year, I will have taught yoga for 16 years, and I have mentored many others in various aspects of the healing arts, empowering them to discover their own gifts as healers.
When Sue Maes came to visit me from Canada and attended one of my classes, she said to me, “This is truly your dharma. Your energy hit the walls and filled the room.”
So it was only fitting, having the capacity to recognize truly genius-level teaching, that I stumbled upon Lillah Schwartz of Lighten Up Yoga in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2010.
This evening, I had another reminder why Lillah is a genius.
My right hip has been hurting for some weeks now. I am well aware of the emotional roots of this issue, and have been processing it all as thoroughly as I can. My cranial sacral therapist has been working through this with me also on a weekly basis, and I have been stretching my hips probably five days a week.
Most people want instant relief. And yet some issues are really deep and have lots of layers. The key is to keep going deeper until you finally reach the end.
On a scale of 0 to 10, my right hip pain was probably an 8 today. So instead of doing my own hip stretches that I have mastered throughout the years, I decided to take up and follow Lillah’s sequence for healing the hips. I let go of doing it my way and followed precisely step by step Lillah’s notes from a seminar I took with her last fall about healing the back.
Sometimes we can be doing the same poses but not in the same sequence and the effect comes out totally different. Sometimes we can be saying the same words but not in the same order and something important gets lost in translation.
Lillah’s sequence took me places I do not usually travel. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but I kept breathing through it, quieting my mind and staying present with all the discomfort.
Over an hour later, my hip pain was just a whisper of what it had been before.
I followed my yoga with a bath of Epsom salts and arnica and now feel like an entirely new person.
Few people understand my intrepid willingness to go back and be a total beginner, studying yoga and healing work over and over and over again.
“Why are you studying more yoga?” my mother asked me. “Why don’t you study something else?”
I rattled off to her a list of other courses I had taken last year, quantum physics, natural vision improvement, movement reeducation body work, but she was still not impressed.
Even Sue did not understand why I had signed up for my sixth yoga teacher training, this one with Lillah Schwartz beginning in February 2012, until she looked at the situation psychically.
“You are going to get a deep level of calmness,” Sue realized.
Lillah is quite regimented and I am not regimented at all. And yet I was the first person to sign up for the 2012 teacher training.
I am willing to listen in order to stand on the shoulders of yet another giant.