Attendance has been low at the studio lately for a whole variety of reasons. It happens. And I’m not going to pretend like it isn’t disheartening at times. To have a thing you want to share- something amazing that you feel compelled to share, like if you don’t share it, maybe you’ll explode compelled- and to not have folks show up to get it is tough sometimes.The thing that particularly struck me tonight is the recurring comment that is made when a single student shows up.
“I don’t want you to have to teach just for me.”
First, I don’t have to teach. I get to teach. Second, there’s nothing I’d rather do even though sometimes I feel hopelessly unworthy to do it. What I find myself replying is “Why not? You showed up just for me!” And it’s true. They took their precious time to show up and listen to what I have to say and trusted me to lead them. I won’t take that for granted.
However,I think the underlying sentiment, behind the worthiness issue the single student expresses, is an intimacy issue. Private lessons are different. Both parties show up expecting that we will be giving one another our full attention. For a group class, they’re coming to give me their attention and receive SOME of mine. Because let me tell you, I am aware that my full attention is a LOT of attention. Sometimes I can see too much. I can sense too much. Yoga makes you vulnerable even when you aren’t practicing one on one. And so if you didn’t sign up to be alone with the teacher, you probably don’t want to be. In private lessons, the client is often very self-revealing, nearly naked, if you will, as they share their particular body limitations or anxieties. In group classes, I’m the one who is self-revealing, but in a controlled form. I talk about my own experience. I demonstrate poses with my own body. The nakedness is never balanced. And that is a very awkward thing to manage at times. In an unexpected class of one, I am careful not to give a student more of me or to take more of them than they signed up for.
There is a great deal of talk these days around the idea that we all check our phones too much and don’t make enough eye contact, don’t touch enough. The suggestion is that we’re intimacy averse. But for some of us, I don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal. I think that for the highly sensitive among us it’s that intimacy is sacred, and yet it is a thing that we can drop into all too easily. Intimacy is not to be sought with just everybody, and it’s not to be something that is granted cart blanche. But if I look at you and give you my full attention, I can SEE you. If you really look at me and give the real live right in front you ME your attention, you will SEE me (to the degree that you either developed or were born with the ability to see). If I touch you, then we will be TOUCHING. I, for one, am grateful for the diversions that allow me and others to NOT give our full attention to each other when that is not what all parties involved have agreed to do.
I used to think that if I weren’t giving my full attention I was being rude, but now I see that my full attention can be downright invasive. And so I’m trying to make it my practice to be sure a person wants it before I give it.
I also used to think that if I didn’t completely reveal myself to others- really anyone who wanted to focus their FULL ATTENTION on me, that I was being rude, fake, inauthentic or evasive. And that I should probably just go ahead and blab my deepest insecurities and pains because if someone wants to know, they’ll eventually find out somehow anyway, and they’ll probably use them against me. Not proud of that coping mechanism, but its one I’ve employed for a very long time.
My new hope is this, that we will learn to give and receive the attention needed, the attention wanted, no more and no less. I hope that when you want to be naked with someone, that they want to naked with you. I hope that we can learn to meet each other with respect for the intimacy level each one of us is capable of handling at any given moment, and that, at least now and then, we can bask in that feeling of Namasté- the feeling we have truly seen and have honored each other.