Today I had a challenging experience.
Well, it’s Friday, and I’d had a very long week, I had a bit of a hard time this morning getting out of bed. My peeps at my 7:30am class, were just fantastic, as they always are They kinda ‘woke’ me up, but still, I felt a bit out of sorts, like as if I was teaching half asleep-ish. My brain was running amuck.
Once I got home, I settled a bit, drank a bit of coffee and had my usual toast (the breakfast of ‘elsie’ champions). I was immediately sucked in to my most obsessive pastime, the internet. I read all my email, responded to those that needed to be responded to, checked my podcast and blog stats a thousand time (serious compulsion,) updated my podcasts and even commented on a blog, (thanks for the conversation Brent).
It was so hard to focus on a theme for my classes but since this week had really been all about Ganesha/Ganapati thanks to Sianna’s workshop this weekend I decided to continue on that vein. I have been so inspired teaching about all this good stuff and as I got ready to leave for class, I was once again ignited with the teaching fire. I wanted my students to delve into the beauty of the myths. Now, honestly, today’s fire wasn’t coming from the purest place. I decided to delve once again into Ganesha because I chose (although not consciously) to not work on a theme for my classes. My mind was too unfocused and why work at wringing it in?
I got to my 12 o’clock class, it was small, 5 people, 4 of them I knew, they’ve been with me for a very long time, and 1 was new. I was ready to teach, 4 were ready to learn, 1 was not. 1 wanted nothing to do with the teachings. Please, this is what I inferred from the physical signals that I received from this student. It threw me off from the beginning. My student refused to look me in the eye as I described the meaning of Ganesha’s arms and what he held in each hand, then, I rambled on about the nitya karmas, and how these obligations are really invitations to become all that we are. (really too long to get into, hence, take it for what it is at this moment, still good stuff) Anyway, I felt myself getting kinda ungrounded, as I could not get my student to engage in the way that I thought she should engage. For God’s sake, STEP INTO THE FLOW!!!! CAN’T YOU SEE HOW GREAT IT IS!!!! Well, this is what I was thinking you see. How dare she not pay attention to what I have to say. How dare she dismiss this? Mind you, who knows what the heck she was really thinking, but at that moment, I certainly could imagine exactly what she was thinking: how dare she talk about spirituality in this way, I didn’t come here for this? can we please get on with the class? Shut up already? Are you for real? I didn’t really come here to ‘think’ about anything other than my body!
I have a very active imagination
I was bent on making this student see the light. I proceeded to taunt her in a ‘yogic’ way to step in deeper. Now when I say that, please don’t think that I ever spoke to her directly at all, I offered ‘insight’ to break patterns of behavior. **sigh** All I wanted to do was to crack the shell, no one comes to my class and grimaces! How dare she? Smile for God’s sake, have fun, giggle, geez!!!! I even tried to adjust her in a pose and she was soooooo hard, unyielding. Aghhhh. (even as I write this, and remember…man, I’m such a dumb ass, what the heck is my problem?)
Please all, don’t worry, this is all going on in my head.
Thank God for Ganesha!!!
Ganapati is not so much a real physical boy, as much as he is the protector of our deepest, most guarded, private feelings and thoughts. He stands there as much to keep people away, as he does to keep things in. He is our discernment. We are filled with thoughts and feelings, and we have to learn which ones to act on and which ones to keep private. We have all had thoughts that should never be acted on. I’m sure at some pont in life you have wished to kill someone, but, thankfully, your Ganapati was standing post to make sure that you didn’t run that thought into action. Every thought and feeling that you have and entertain is real. Don’t deny yourself them, but think about what you want from those thoughts and feelings…All things potent need to be nurtured so that they may grow into the power that they possess. Unwanted access into your private chambers violates your freedom to choose your thoughts and feelings, but at the same time freedom is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Therefore, know what to keep in and what ot keep out.
Man, was I thankful to keep my thoughts to myself. As I was teaching, I realized how all the work that I had done all week, delving into the stories of Ganesha, was now being turned on me.
The romanticism of philosophy, oh it’s so sweet. Our hearts are always ready to accept goodness, comfort, and ease. We are naturally so capable to fill our hearts with sweetness (modaka, the plate of sweets that Ganesha holds in one of his hands) but often we are not willing to truly travel the path of our twisted lives, the twists and turns that may possibly be more than what we wanted, different that what we wanted, (Vakratunda, another name for Ganesh, named for his twisted trunk) but, once we walk through the labyrith of our lives, as we hold steady even in the twist and turns to our deepest heart’s desire, we will always end in the sweetness, just as in Ganesha’s trunk often ends in the plate of sweets.
As I taught the class and begun to gain perspective, by stepping away (literally) from my student, and drawing myself closer to those whose whole being was listening I began to once again steady myself. It’s so strange. In 1 of Ganapati’s left hands he holds a noose or a lasso called a pashu. The pashu, represents emotions, feelings and the way that it is used, as it can be extended out to gain perspective, or brought in to see the detailsand that is exactly what I did! That was strange. I’m not saying that it was easy, but as I was able to slowly step away, to see my whole class, not just the 1, but all, I began to see a bit more clearly the task at hand. I am a teacher. I must take the seat of the teacher and continue to do my best, in the highest at all times, regardless of whether the offering is taken or not, for that’s what it is, an offering. In Ganesha’s right hand, lies a goad called an ankusha, which is “your application of wisdom, understanding, precision, valor, and reason.” *** The key phrase in this definition is ‘your application.’ I learned from this student. I was able to then realize that there may have been other ways to teach her, possibly by letting her have her own experience, by giving her space, without judgement. The physical adjustment that I gave her, could have been done verbally, or not at all, as I realized that it really was my ego, forgetting the higher intention that got in the way. I knew when I approached her that I should not have touched her, I rarelly physically adjust a new student, but I allowed my own feelings to get in the way of my rational thought, of my own application of wisdom.
Who knows if I will see her again.
I’m thankful to the experience, as I was able to begin to travel the twisting, turning trunk of my life, willing to continue to find the center, within every perspective. It’s not easy, in fact it totally sucked. All I wanted was a quick resolution. I didn’t want to gain perspective, nor to reason in any way. It was my students that kept me steady. It was the fact that my actions reflect not only on me but on my teachers. I can always choose to step out, and not ask any deeper questions. I’m still thoughtfull, and a part of me wishes that I could do it over again, but I would not have gained the ability to see and experience the deep relationship between my feelings and my thoughts, as they began to transverse ever so fully in the center, the gateway to the heart. I strive to do it better next time.
***Mitchel Bleier, “Ganapati,” Matrika Yoga, Winter 2006, Volume 1, pg. 77