Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Sounds of Silence: An Experiment

I love words. (I hear some of you saying, "No, really?  That comes as a shock."  Then you crack up laughing.)  In university, I was an English Literature major (with just enough Psychology classes thrown in to ensure that I will question people's motives for the rest of my life).  I've kept a diary or journal since I was able to print.  (There are stacks of these things.  Most of them should be burned.) Back in another time, I wrote long, rambling letters to friends and family; I still fire off profound and thoughtful Letters to the Editor on occasion. I post to this blog. When I teach, I talk.  And talk.  And talk. In most cases, this works well, especially since I also demonstrate techniques and provide notes for those who process information in various ways.

Sometimes, though, words are not effective.  When we are profoundly happy, or sad, we often realize that words can't communicate our experiences.  When we are attempting to teach something that must be absorbed through muscle memory, such as knitting or spinning or yoga, words can block our path.  Only by experiencing those processes can we come to full understanding of what is happening, in our bodies, in our minds.

I decided to do an experiment in the two weeks between teacher training sessions.  Since I'm inclined to take extensive notes in class, retyping them later in order to filter and organize what I've learned, I decided to spend the time instead making an effort to listen and observe, rather than write and talk.  Apart from the written assignment due this week, I've taken few notes, in classes or in discussions with other teacher trainees.  Instead, I've paid close attention to how bodies are moving, what the instructor says and does in class, how she physically corrects postures.  I've kept my ears open and my mouth as shut as possible (which is really, really difficult for me), asking questions only when I'm utterly confused.

I'm not looking for a particular outcome, but I have discovered that not talking and not writing makes me very, very nervous.  I feel as though I'm not doing my job, not fully participating in the yoga teacher training programme, in spite of the fact that I've been at the studio or some yoga event nearly every day this past two weeks.  Not talking, not putting words to paper feels as though I'm missing something, despite knowing that the practice and repetition of the asanas will move me further along my path than all the words I pour onto the page. Despite repeatedly reminding my students that reading or watching videos about knitting will not help them as much as a daily ten minutes of actual fibre time, it is uncomfortable to follow my own advice.

What have I learned from the experiment so far?  Apart from the affirmation of my reliance on words, I'm not sure I've learned much, but I have had the growing sense that keeping my mouth shut and my fingers off the keyboard and pen has sharpened my intuition. Something keeps telling me that, when I need to act, my mind and body will know what to do.

Am I right? It's hard to know anything more than it was time for a shift in perspective.  I'll let the results, whatever those may be, settle the rest.

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