5 qualities that I seek in my own teachers

Morning, friends!

In case you missed it, last week I announced my next yoga series, Illuminate Your Path (more details within/below), to help you transition into the months ahead with a bit more clarity. If you're looking for some structure to figure things out and just generally keep your body moving, I think it will be quite helpful. There are 10 awesome students signed up now, and it's a great group forming! We kick off Monday, April 26 — just let me know if you have questions before then.

That's also a good segue into the topic of today's letter, which is all about how we find the teachers that we are meant to align with throughout our lifetime.

Bring to mind your favorite teacher from when you were a kid. I have several because I loved school, but it could also be a team coach or some other life mentor from your formative years. Try to recall how they made you feel as a student/athlete. Was it...accepted, challenged, appreciated, unique, supported, something else?

Becoming aware of who I most align with or am "magnetized" toward has been a big part of my own journey of intuition development. But I have found that societally, once we finish with school, people don't often talk about their teachers or identify with the concept of seeking them out. And that's a shame, because I think we are wired to require guides for different reasons throughout our lifetime. It's been this way for thousands of years. Without strong teachers (or call them coaches, mentors, etc.), I find that I really do begin to atrophy in my learning and development and just generally feel more "blah."

That said, we probably have all had experiences with teachers with whom we didn't connect or even hated. Of course, as kids we don't get to pick and choose — we're just assigned and maybe it clicks but maybe not. It could even be that a negative experience makes us hate an entire subject (art history, as a matter of fact) or sport (for me, all of them) by extension.

When I first started teaching yoga, this was a point of anxiety for me: I worried that a new student would arrive and they wouldn't like me or the class and then they'd be turned off of doing yoga. But that fear is just an ego flex. It's my ego saying that one teacher can "be all for all" and that's just not the case. I believe that teachers draw in the students who are meant to learn from them. Sometimes, I think this connection matters even more than the subject matter. And that's because when you really find your teacher, what you learn tends to extend well beyond the scoped lesson plan.

So! I thought it would be a helpful exercise to reflect on how I tend to feel when I'm working with "my Teachers."
  1. I feel comfortable failing. If I feel like I need to perform perfectly for this person in order to be recognized or seen, they may not be my teacher. I believe in being recognized for taking thoughtful risks, even if they didn't pay off.
  2. My curiosity is sparked. I am not a person who gets bored easily and I find a wide variety of topics fascinating, so this is pretty key. If how they teach sends my creative brain firing in a thousand directions, I love that.
  3. I go beyond my comfort zone. This is especially essential for me in finding yoga teachers, because that's an area I'm already baseline comfortable within. But even in other areas, I need a teacher who will challenge me beyond what I'd previously understood my abilities to be.
  4. I feel like a participant in the process. I have to feel like I'm generally on a level playing field with my teacher, like my input or questions matter just as much as their expertise does. Many of my high school teachers were great at this. I often felt like we were co-collaborators in something bigger and broader, rather than just trying to get a certain grade. It made all the difference when a teacher walked to a student's desk and pulled up a chair rather than having the student always walk to their desk — a simple gesture but a powerful one. I'm not interested in instructors who live in an ivory tower of their beliefs or teachings.
  5. I find joy in learning. There is a fine line here, because not all enjoyable things are without effort. But we all derive fun through experiences in different ways. For me, the balance involves a heavy dose of autonomy (I get to drive), and just enough humor to take the edge off (so I don't take myself too seriously).
Your list may look very different. What kinds of qualities do you notice when your own learning process is best supported?

The past year has been an incredibly fraught and unfortunately politically charged moment for schools and teachers who work to educate our youngest generation. But I think what this has underscored more than anything is how undervalued teaching as a profession is in our society. If there's any insight we can gain from this hardship and mess, let it be the awareness of how critical the student-teacher dynamic is. I hope we don't forget it.

May we always stay open to learning, and wishing you ease in finding those who can guide you on your path!

Featured Poem

One of my favorite teachers from high school, Ms. Casey, recently shared a poem that she wrote following her mother's passing. It took my breath away, and she allowed me to share it with you all here.

Show Me How
Fifteen death certificates. Fifteen
official documents—a reminder—
you have died. More than once,
I picked up the phone to call.
Remember you are gone. Your voice—
a whisper those last years—is less now.
When we emptied your room, sweaters
I gave you—became mine. A cardigan
with dragonflies, a foam winter zip up,
an eyelet lightweight summer coverall.
Believing you linger on threads of fabric,
I Inhale. You move through my blood.
On days when it seems you might reappear
I think of the Sioux who said—
The longest journey you will make
In your life is from your head to your heart.
You taught me most everything—
But not how not to miss you.
Your name rolls around and around
in my head, over my tongue
too afraid if I swallow it—
—my heart will stop beating.
Instead, I take you on the winding
path—together we walk from
morning into night. From sun
to moon to stars—your voice
the whispering wind teaches
me the ways to say—goodbye.

Mary Clare Casey, 3/21

Try this at home

Whether there's a teacher, coach, mentor or some other guide or similar figure in your life at moment — if you haven't had a chance to thank them in a while, try to do that this week! These kinds of notes from my students give me life.

Good content 📚

  • My teacher Aqeel shared these words: "The narrow definitions of the world and its history will never tell me who I am, nor will they determine my value, my dignity or my agency — these were given to me upon arrival, like everyone else." He lives and breathes the practice of yoga, and you should take class with him sometime.
  • We are an exceptionally adaptable and resilient species. The last year has shown us that many times over. We cannot know true freedom while also passively accepting that gun violence and police brutality are part of our culture. It must change, and it can change.
  • I'm not generally a huge follower of Greek tragedies, but I found this conversation between Krista Tippett and Bryan Doerries totally fascinating and very much aligned with my internal dialogue at the moment. // On Being, "You are not alone across time."
  • This conversation between Rich Roll and Kevin Roose was good. I enjoyed when he explains about "soft skills" (like empathy, communication, courage) rather than technical skills being of high value, as those are the most difficult to replicate through AI. Also, unpredictable situations with lots of variables. (Kindergarten teachers, you've got job security in the 21st century.)
  • "If you want to be loved, find something you love....No one wants the burden of being the answer to your dissatisfaction." I found myself nodding vigorously while reading this newsletter from Ava. It is a great reminder to us all to avoid being half-hearted. Also: Remembering that people aren't problems to solve.
Also, do you follow me on Readup? Well, get over there!
Illuminate Your Path 💡
An integrative yoga series to provide you tools and techniques for somatic (body) awareness, self-inquiry and a deeper sense of understanding for how to transition into your next chapter of life.
- 7 weeks of movement classes (Wed at 6:30 PM ET), zoom/recorded
- Welcome and closing circles, zoom/recorded
- Library of yoga nidra recordings
- Weekly "homework" assignments based on the chakras
- New playlists each week
+ Bonus 30-minute Tarot reading with me
Join us!

Tunes 🎶

New additions from Dizzy and Jamie Rose.
Whether you are the teacher or you're seeking one yourself, sending hugs through the Internet.

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