I return. I wipe the dust off my keyboard and come back to you. Why was I silent for so long? To be HONEST yogis, I wasn’t sure what it was that I could (or should) offer you. We have so many sources for wisdom, clarity, experience, and yoga—many of them coming to us daily. I couldn’t turn on my computer, open a magazine, or listen to the radio without hearing sage advice and perspective. I got to questioning how my voice was any different, was I really bringing you anything of value?
I ask myself this often—how do I bring worth to my actions? How does what I do or say represent me as a person in general, as a mother and wife, and as a teacher? Beyond that, why would you be interested in what I have to offer? And to get the answer, I felt I needed to be quiet. During my hiatus I did get some clarity but before it’s revealed you must endure a story. It’s one my family loves to tell.
I was four or five and had a habit of embarrassing my mother by loudly acknowledging my observations about other people. As a good mom, she told me that pointing out peoples’ differences was impolite. I will never forget her words “Gretchen we are all different. Some people are tall, some are short. Some people are fat, some are thin. We all have different colors of skin. But it doesn’t matter.” Shortly after this conversation, as mom and I were running errands we found ourselves in an elevator. Quiet, peaceful, confined. (No where to hide.) The doors opened and in walked a very heavy woman. I quietly observed her, then looked at my mother (who was at this point perspiring heavily) and loudly I declared “We are all different. Some people are tall, some are short. Some are FAT, some are thin.” And then with a shrug, I offered, “but it doesn’t matter, right mom?”
As a parent I can only imagine how horrified she was in that moment! (Usually that’s the point of the story, how embarrassed mom was.) Thinking about it recently though, it made me smile for a different reason. I saw that woman with innocent eyes and although I did notice how we were different, in my mind I was just telling the truth! I can appreciate today how basic (and not unkind) the truth can be. I am naturally a very honest person. As much as my eyes are blue and feet are big, I cannot lie. I cannot endure a lie. I anguish over situations that don’t feel authentic and real. While I love a good exaggeration, I remain inexorably honest. SO. This is what I have to offer yogis. With myself and with everyone around me, I can call it as I see it: I shit you not.
And let me tell you—free of the little things we “kid” ourselves with, we can make progress! But this voyage of honesty, free of bullshit, requires COURAGE. Belly wide open, as a student of life and yoga, I must make myself vulnerable enough to acknowledge and accept what’s right in front of me. Hi Issues! Hey there Repressed Memories! Hello to you Overly-Worked-Hamstrings-Because-I-Lack-Core-Strength! As a teacher, I have to be brave enough to show you the truth through your experience with me. (See! It’s not even about me-it’s about you!) And what a gift these truths can be. With my critical (kind) eyes I can see clearly what my student needs to build, what to strip away—where you’re kidding yourself, what you’re hiding. It reveals itself, actually. In your breath and body. You teach me through the clench of a jaw or a small sigh of delight.
So exposed and open, I ask myself: what value does my ability to be a straight-shooter have? I realize I can point out the truth till the cows come home. It still might not be something anyone wants to hear! But, I realize too that I can authentically represent my knowledge, choices, failures, flaws, and successes without promise or agenda. I can be brave enough to stand as your guide and push you (even if you’re uncomfortable) or comfort you (even if you think you don't deserve it). I can also be brave enough to admit when you no longer need me. And ironically, I find that sincere courage springs from the fact that I am just a regular person, a wife/mother/friend/daughter who, amidst the same chaos in which you travel, really struggles, questions, tries, doesn’t try…who also happens to be a yoga teacher. (Not the other way around.) I can offer you my views and experiences from my biased yogic position and maybe you’ll relate. And maybe you won’t. And guess what? I’m okay with that.
I do not offer myself as an inspiration or aspiration—but I can teach yoga as a usable, relevant, practical and POTENT practice. Will it change your body and your spirit and potentially your entire life?
I can’t sell you that. That depends on what you bring to the table, honestly.