Mindbodybrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Teacher Trainees, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following was written by Katherine Moore, in response to her meditation and Buddhist philosophy studies with Ethan Nichtern.
The idea of personal narrative - of stories and experiences and ideas that make up the core of a person - existing within a larger cultural or social narrative helps bring clarity and meaning to my perceived disharmony regarding my spiritual beliefs. We are not static beings and neither are our beliefs. Our surrounding environment, the people in our present-day lives, and all the various ideas that we consciously and subconsciously insert into our experience continually influence us. Knowing of this meeting between a cultural narrative and a personal one helps me as I try to reframe my beliefs and experiences. This union of the two narratives, whether fleeting or semi-permanent, has importance and can incite change in a person’s life whether they recognize it or not.
Somehow this idea brings me a sense of purpose and responsibility in teaching yoga. Yoga has its own narrative - a long history of people, events, and ideas that have altered its cultural narrative throughout the years. Each student who steps into a yoga classroom is taking part in that narrative, and as they do so, they too bring their own personal narratives to the table. The American cultural narrative is one of forward-thinking and future planning, but working with a student’s history is equally as important as we teachers encourage change in our students’ practices.
The meeting of cultural and personal narratives in the classroom highlights the idea of the “middle path.” In our meditation practice, we notice our thoughts, the ones that pass over the past and extend into the future, and repeatedly try to return to the object of our mindfulness, be that the breath or the feel of our feet on the floor. This mindfulness seems to me to be a sort of middle road, finding a center amongst all our experiences and thoughts. Teachers seem to play a similar centering role. This thought may glorify the role of the teacher a bit, but I find it interesting to think about the teacher as being the object of mindfulness, the anchor of a class. The teacher is what meets all the narratives that exist in a room in the middle; they are the middle road between the student with a hamstring injury and the larger cultural narrative of the yoga practice. Perhaps as I progress as a practitioner I will not feel this as much, but in my current practice, I often place a lot of responsibility on the teacher to help me find my middle path. I allow them to help me deal with past experiences, to teach me new ideas, and then to help me meet these two matters somewhere in between, so that I can have a mindful and meditative practice. At the same time, teachers also meditate and find the middle road to their teaching practices throughout class. All in all, it seems that all roads meet in the middle.
- Katherine Moore