As I walked down the stairs to leave the yoga center Monday, I thought to myself "I'm helping people." And that's what I've always wanted to do."
Years ago now, when working on my doctorate, I said to my advisor: "I want to do something real." And he replied that I was doing something real. Even though I was spending all of my time either reading a book or article or writing a paper or article. At the time, I was working on the correspondence between Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. Very interesting letters. I see many of the same themes in knitting blogs: women befriending each other across a long geographic distance, women commiserating about the responsibilities of caring for a family while trying to carve out an autonomous self, women talking about illness. So, a very good project, and one that I wish that I had stuck with when it came time to write my dissertation. But I would look around Hyde Park in Chicago, a neighborhood that goes from high-income to low-income in the space of crossing the street, and feel very ineffectual as I trudged off to the library to work on my degree.
Now I feel like I'm finally doing something tangible to make people's lives a tiny bit happier, or clearer, which is the goal of yoga. With a better read on your reality, you'll be better able to make choices, choose relationships, find a bit more joy in the ongoing battle. I was doing this somewhat as a teacher in group yoga classes. But you don't see the result as readily. People's faces are very deceptive when they practice yoga. What looks like dissatisfaction may be concentration. Or there is this certain absence of clear signals: people go inside, concentrate on their breath - and thus, their mind, and maybe there's less need or energy to display what's inside on the outside. So I try not to attend too much to facial expressions (which is tough for me - I'm standing in front of a group, and hoping that I'm living up to my expectations and the models of my teachers) because when I think that a student is dissatisfied, invariably that's the person who tells me later that the class was just what he needed today.
This feeling of helping is a momentary flash for me and maybe for my student. Just as I tell my students that yoga works slowly, that it's not like waving a magic wand and all of a sudden everything changes, feeling that I'm helping is a brief glimmer and then life and its messiness comes back to the forefront. And I'm not looking to pat myself on the back: Good Yoga Teacher. Just to say that for an instance, looking back at the three students who I saw on Monday, I felt like I opened the window a tiny bit.