"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." -- Gloria Steinem
One of the things I share in my classes regularly are wonderful quotes from inspirational figures. Last Thursday during the yin class I shared a teaching from Lao Tzu: "The wise one observes the world but trust her inner vision, she allows things to come and go. Her heart is open as the sky." It was serendipitous as the class was filled with 100% women. Being super sensitive to the sense of alienation I try to pick my words caringly and when I don't my soul pays a hefty price as the division is felt deeply in me. From time to time I would get this feeling I once described to my husband as moronic. Of all difficult feelings I have had this one is the most challenging. It's a combination of sadness, frustration, and shame rolled into one. It would happen right after teaching a class. I would dismiss it as having a down moment, or blame it on a PMS. I felt like a moron again last Wednesday. This time I refused to let it go and instead asked myself "what can I learn from this experience?" And just like that, the truth revealed itself. I realized that learning was the most important thing to me. Though I've known this since I first knew how to read (reading was an obsession and still is), this time the knowing dissolves the nagging emotional void I've felt for so long. Because I understood exactly WHY.
As a kid I had a terrible learning experience. I found no inspiring teachers in the Thai public school known to be the best in the country. In fact, some of them were downright mean and abusive. The system of throwing out information at children and punishing them for the inability to regurgitate wasn't working for me. While my experience isn't unique, other children may not feel the extreme alienation in a similar situation. Children are in touch with their soul's interests and endlessly curious about them. It is neither stupidity nor ADHD. They simply have no interest in HOW they are being taught. I had a great short term memory so, I would memorize the entire material for the test the day before and passed it even though I learned nothing the entire semester. The memory of the teaching method and my coping mechanism are still embedded in my psyche. It is like you hate your mother and you end up just like her (that's for another blog :-). When I teach the way I was taught my voice is harsh and my body gestures robotic. The awareness is disconnected from the present situation as I busy myself regurgitating the information I've learned somewhere. It's a winning formula for moronic feeling which I predictably feel afterward.
A void is created when there is a disconnect between the inner and outer realities. This void is the space within and between us. The longer the hurt we hold the bigger the void the more distance and alienation we feel toward one another. Our childhood voids are familiar to us and we are quite comfortable with the pain they generate. This is why it took me so long to recognize the pattern. We use the pain as a drive toward the outer appearance of fulfillment--fame, fortune, influence, and romance. As a young adult I wanted to be famous. When I got a little famous I hated it and moved on to career success. When I got a little bit successful in my earlier career I was physically ill and emotionally broken. Avoiding the pain continues the deception. Avoiding the truth creates even more pain. As an adult I can take the responsibility to take care of the present pain and stop reliving the void. This beautiful quote from Erica Jong expresses maturity perfectly: "You take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame." Teaching is the best learning. It's no accident why I end up in the profession I detested as a kid yet outside the system I was forced to live through.
Applying the lesson, I made sure the Thursday class (and the classes thereafter) was truthful to my soul. As the women got into some of the most difficult stretches I knew their feelings through mine and injected the quote above by Gloria Steinem spontaneously. It relieved the pressure and some of them laughed. Like countless times I've felt after teaching, I experienced the sense of unity within and with all of life during and after the class. We live in a complex web of deception. To learn is to realize what we've been ignoring internally and avoiding externally. Without ignorance there is no learning. By simplifying life to the basic actions needed for the body and mind to thrive we can get in touch with the soul. Busying our lives with endless yet misdirect search we continue to deceive everyone and most deeply ourselves. You know it's the truth when your own awareness dissolves the longtime familiar pain--anger, grief, or regret by lifting the veil of ignorance and setting your heart free. What are the situations you've been pissed off about? Get in touch with the hurts. Feel the pain and learn why it exists. Know the voids between you and the world around you. Resolve to apply the lessons. Direct the course of action to fulfill the soul.