Teaching and Learning with Arun
||maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah cittaprasadanam
||Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favorably disposed, serene and benevolent. (I)
By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are nonvirtuous, lucidity arises in the mind (B).
Day three with Arun was great. We did backbends in the morning and lots of seated twisting variations in the afternoon. His teaching of asana and philosophy had so many direct links with what we were learning in Pune and observing those links on my home turf so to speak, offers a nice opportunity to start the reflection and integration process.
I was particularly struck by several things he said about the teaching process. He told a story about the first conversation he ever had with BKS Iyengar about teaching. Guruji told him that “you must come down to the level of the student.” How Platonic. The philosopher returns to the cave to lead others into the light. In this case, the light of yoga. Arun explain that is part of his teaching style in the demonstration. He stays a little while so he has the immediate felt experience of the pose as he watches us do it. He looks so calm, peaceful, and serene in the poses he demonstrates. Watching that gives us a tangible picture of the “equanimity, tranquility, serenity” that Prashant so frequently refers to.
The second point he made about teaching involves the sutra I mentioned above. Arun said all of these qualities are important, maitri, karuna, mudita, then he paused, and said, “Upeksa, that’s the most important one.” But that indifference or equanimity is key. I think about that a lot in the context of philosophy teaching. You can only plant seeds. You can’t make someone think differently. So, too, asana teaching. That’s one I need to work with more.
As a student, I appreciated how much Arun explains the meaning and the reasoning for what he does. He isn’t a “just do it” sort of teacher. important part of the teaching. For instance, he does not do the second sloka of the Patanjali chant when he travels to teach. He said it does not make sense unless you understand and participate in the mythology that it invokes.
He had several examples of our western appropriation of these ikons that illustrate profound lack of understanding. Like putting images of the deities in the bathroom or even the image of Saraswati that Devon has up. There, she is standing on a book and Arun said, that must be a free form expression. She would not step on the objects that she inspires, or so I took his point to be.
I remember him talking about this a year or two ago as well. I remember thinking, what is a Westerner to do. We aren’t infused in that culture. Even if we have interest and we learn a lot or a little, how do we make those images meaningful to us in a way that is respectful to the context in which they emerge. It all relates to “everything has a meaning.” We should “know what we are doing.” I think that’s part of his “fascination” with T-Shirts. We often don’t even know the meaning of what we are wearing on our shirts. Or even if we do know, it causes a level of reflection about why I’ve chosen this particular shirt to express something about myself. As Jerrie said, “Choose your t-shirt carefully.”
It gave me a different perspective on all the “rules” in Pune. They seem like rules because we are outsiders from a different culture. The rules would just be integrated modes of behavior if we were of that culture.
Like knowing not to put Sarswati’s feet on books in a picture or books with the feet or with the foot wear outside class.
That Arun explains the reasoning behind things is quite helpful. Often, there are multiple reasons. For example, he also taught about the thumbs staying close to the other fingers of the extended hands like Navaz emphasized throughout June and July.
Her reasoning, which was a perfectly good one, nowhere in Light on Yoga are Guruji’s hand spread wide when they are in the air. Arun talked about it more symbolically. The thumb is like the atman joining the par-atman of the other fingers. Lovely. Both reasons are good ones and they aren’t in conflict, but now it has more of a meaning to me than doing it because Laurie and Navaz pointed it out. I have a glimpse of a deeper understanding.
Just on the asana level, he presented so many different ways of doing twistings, in bk and virasana and Amvira that made them so intense. Again, maybe it is that I’ve worked on the poses a lot this summer and am on a new edge of opening, but I sort of felt like I’d made no progress at all. I just felt stuck in my stuckness. However, I was palpably aware that it was really my mind feeling the stuckness of the body, the mind is what’s stuck.
Arun also modeled Prashant’s teaching about “do in such a way that learning is paramount” not just as a teacher facilitating that for us. But he asked about words that he didn’t know. Like my t-shirt was from a studio that CT and I went to in California last year. Yoga Cove. He asked what a cove was, and I said “a shelter by the sea.” He repeated it several times over the day. Apparently, he also learned what whining meant in Dallas.
“Learning is as much an art as teaching.” Arun illustrates the quote on that RIMYI T-shirt beautifully.
Well, we’ve got one last session with him this morning and then I’m on my own practice wise until Mary and Eddy in Dallas.
Come to the Castle at 9:30 tomorrow for Focus on Form. I’m looking forward to learning on the teaching side of the mat!
Posted by Anne-Marie Schultz at 5:44 AM
Labels: Life post Pune 2014