Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21 - First Day of Summer

No walks today - except to yoga teaching and back. Supposedly the temperature is in the upper 70's but there is a cool wind so it feels very comfortable. Still the wind is a detriment of sorts.

I teach yoga at the studio where I began practicing regularly. I'd been doing yoga on and off - mostly off - for over 20 years when I went there 17 years ago. I'd been trying my luck at the Great American Novel which called even my bluff on aloneness/solitude. So it was my great fortune that this studio had replaced an art gallery a few months earlier. Almost the first time I came for a class I encountered one of my primary teachers, Thomas Fortel. Because of the proximity of the studio - 4 blocks from my home - and Thomas I began to come often. Sometimes for 2-3 classes a day. After 7 years the studio offered a yoga teaching program. I'd been thinking of growing my practice and the teachers who were offering the program were some of my favorites (except for who Thomas had moved on to Esalen and international retreats), so I enrolled with no thought whatsoever of teaching. But when I finished I felt rather empty with no place to develop and pass on the teaching I'd learned, but conflicted because some nameless thing stood between me and actually teaching .

I began to realize I was right up against an unanticipated obstacle - fear of public speaking. I'd forgotten that I was uncomfortable speaking in front of groups - and that I wished this wasn't the case. So I began Toastmasters - a wonderful program that has helped many but wasn't for me. It seemed geared to business presentations and showmanship/artificiality - and actually made me more anxious. Then a friend/fellow trainee told me about a small, intimate program called Speaking Circles. I went to my first circle at a man's house not far from me - but far enough to drive - and met the founder/director, Lee Glickstein. There were seven others present - and I believe the limit is/was eight so it was a full house. We were all quite and visibly nervous. Lee went to the front of the room and introduced the concept of Speaking Circles: Authenticity - stand up, look at someone, speak as if you're talking to that person, and just trust whatever comes out. Some people cried, others were entirely silent, others spoke haltingly, some were terrific, but turns out they had been attending the circles for years and still felt challenged in the Circles setting. Meanwhile after speaking (or crying or being silent) we were all videotaped and given feedback - Only Positive but also truthful. In this way we learned that we could survive anything, didn't need to plan ahead, could be authentic - and that just our authentic selves were interesting and enough. I went twice a week for several months - and after a while I worked up the courage to view my videos thus beginning to accept what I looked and sounded like (Scarey!!!). Finally I felt ready to dare to begin teaching yoga.

When I made this decision I spoke with the teacher of Thomas's old class - my first regular class - and learned he was just about to give up teaching it. He said he'd be happy to pass it on to me, and the studio was agreeable. And so I began my yoga teaching journey. The class is still active, and we begin our 8th year together in just a few weeks. This longevity was utterly unexpected - as has been virtually everything about my relationship with yoga.

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