I am fascinated with the human mind. I have been since I was a child. How do people learn? Why do people do what they do—choose what they choose? As an elementary school girl, I remember thinking I wanted to be a teacher but had a sense that the system I was in (pubic school) was not really where the important learning happens. I remember thinking there was an influence or power that “controlled” what teachers taught in school. I could not figure out where that “real” power was or how it influenced what children learned. I understood at a very young age that the whole population and society was molded by what children learned and took with them into adulthood.
This fascination has led me to be a teacher in many settings. I have formally taught music, language, religion, “homeschool” and more recently yoga.
There is a Charlotte Mason adage “all education is self-education”. This is a mantra I live by and encourage. True learning is mind magic. It is, in fact, a sacred privilege to facilitate or observe true learning.
Being an Ashtanga yoga teacher is one of the purest, most direct mind-magic I have experienced.
As a new yoga student, I felt like the teacher (and everyone else in the room) could see that I couldn’t do most of the poses. I felt judged—even when I was pretty sure the judgment was coming from my own thoughts and beliefs. In reality, no one was looking at me much and if they were, they weren’t judging me!
Learning anything new can feel like someone is judging or like I am not “as good as” someone that has already learned the thing. It is part of the process. We have to be willing to try, and mostly fail, when learning a new skill. It is hard. It is tempting to give up or hide. It can bring up tears or nervous giggles.
It is also mind-magic as one transitions from knowing nothing to mastering something step by step—effort by effort. To learn anything new, the mind—which is the primary human organ that changes our body and environment—has to shed unbelief, let go of biases and lift doubt. It takes embracing, then incorporating the new thing. Usually, determined and consistent practice is key.
Being present (as a teacher, coach, parent etc.) when someone is doing this work is sacred space. Finding, trusting and yoking oneself to the “teacher within”, is holy work. My role as an external teacher, is to create a safe environment for people to bravely step into that mind-magic, sacred work and then know when to melt into the background and avoid interrupting or distracting from the True Teacher. I am taught and inspired as I observe people on their learning journey, especially when it is hard and they keep at it.
I have had some amazing teachers in my life that have understood their supporting role. My yoga teacher, Kim Johnson, is one who understands and holds sacred space for true learning. She knows when to encourage, when to be silent, when to push and when to back away. She keeps me focused on my own learning and progress, not on her.
Many agree (including me) that Jesus Christ is THE example of the master teacher and sacred space holder for all.
We all have teacher roles such as formal classroom teaching, parent, partner, colleague or friend. My hope is that readers will think about the sacred nature of learning and recognize ways of holding that sacred space for others.
We are all learners too. May we seek to be humble, teachable and to recognize our true internal teacher.
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