When The Student is Ready...

    A while back, I spent the day in a voice workshop with five other people, one of whom was a yoga instructor. 

    Ms. Yogananda was 15 minutes late, apologized only patronizingly to the group when she entered the room, sat down, and began telling her life story; this included a back injury, her long history as a yoga teacher, and all of the things that she knew and taught as a yoga teacher. Did I mention that she told us she was a yoga teacher? 

    And it wasn’t even her turn in the circle.

    Throughout the day, when our voice teacher would make a point, Yogagirl was quick to say, “I know! And…” then proceed to tell us how she teaches that very thing in her classes! It’s called, “Something-er-other” in Sanskrit…and on and on. She often sang or talked when the teacher was demonstrating or explaining something, and would interject her “knowing” opinion at every opportunity.

    I felt sorry for the slim woman in the yoga tights emblazoned with Japanese kanji and other secret symbols — possibly more Sanskrit? She was so ensconced in the warm, safe cocoon of her own ego, by what she “knew” — and what she wanted you to know that she “knew” — that she missed an entire day of new learning. 

    Don’t we all do this at times? 

    To learn something new, we first must be open, receptive, even vulnerable. We have to begin with an open space of “not knowing” in order to hear, feel, see, taste, and experience the new. We have to be uncomfortable. In fact, I believe that if you’re not uncomfortable, you are not learning. 

    Let me say that again: If you are NOT uncomfortable, you are NOT learning. 


    At the end of the long, but satisfying day, we all said our goodbyes, hugged, and walked out the door. Ms. Yogatights was right behind me as we returned to our cars, and I debated whether to turn to her and ask for her permission to share my observations of her behavior. Maybe I could share that one of our biggest challenges in learning anything is learning how to allow ourselves to fail, to fall…and to trust. But that comes only after first cracking open that tightly-protected ego-self to the possibilities of embarrassment and pain, confusion and frustration, ambiguity and anger that are all parts of new learning. Those are simply the doorways to new possibilities.

    I couldn’t help but compare my experience of the day's workshop: my “ahas,” struggles, embarrassment, and yes, my tears, with what I imagined her experience to be.

    Perhaps I could just share my feeling that she missed the wonderful, passionate, engaged voice coach that had worked tirelessly with us all day, say nothing of all the things that voice coach had to teach. 

    But I didn’t. I had no invitation into her cocoon. I was not at the workshop as a teacher, but as a student myself. Yogagirl would have to learn how to deal with that unreconciled part of herself on her own terms, in her own perfect time. 

    “Goodnight Reese,” I said, then got into my car, and drove into the rich and mysterious night.


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