Monday, September 16, 2013

Sabbaticals and Façades

I’m sending love and blessings to you from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Summer Sabbatical

For the first time since I started teaching 25 years ago, I took a six week hiatus, simply resting and enjoying the beautiful summer here in the land of enchantment. Not that it was easy – just like everyone else in our society, I am plagued by the constant drive to be productive and busy. I had to battle doubts and whispers like, “see, now you have retreated you will be cast off and placed on the sidelines and no one will remember you.” I bravely stood up to these voices and rested nevertheless, did some writing for my book, and took care of my garden.

Over Labor Day weekend I taught what will become an annual retreat (for all those of you who want an alternative to Burning Man!) and it was incredibly rewarding and successful on all levels.

During the retreat I got a confirmation of just how important and long overdue this sabbatical was. In a private interview a student gave me the greatest gift when she said, “Katchie, you’ve always delivered the goods as a teacher, I’ve always been enriched and satisfied from all of your programs I’ve taken, but this is the first time I feel that you are not squeezed and actually really enjoyed being with us and you are just positively glowing.”

It struck me how right she was. I love my job, I do, but it has been a process of constant and complete giving in various forms for 25 years. I needed a break, and when I came back I was coming from plenty. I made a vow to take my sabbatical and rest seriously!

Teaching without a Façade

Over the last few years, instead of presenting a perfect façade, I’ve made it my business to be real and vulnerable; not only in class, but also in my newsletters and other formats where I openly admit to the struggles we all face as a human family. I find it much more helpful as a teacher to do that; suggesting strategies on how to overcome those struggles. So I’m truly struck by how many teachers still try to portray their lives as flawless. I wonder – who does it serve in the end?

I see incredible websites filled with pictures of fantastic poses, shot in exotic locations, in bikinis on the beach, with romantic partners – the image of the ultimately unattainable perfect life. Those types of “suggestions” vaguely work on me too, causing me to temporarily question my own life – bringing up the feeling that somehow I missed out, and perhaps I am not talented or beautiful enough.

That plaguing “enough” question is so prevalent in our culture; actually, it’s something of a tactic, too – many of these seemingly perfect teachers will draw you into their circle offering the opportunity for you, too, to have what they have. I say, beware of them! You will probably never have quite those (fucking) backbends, or their beauty, fame or whatever it is, and neither will you ultimately want to.

I happen to know that many of them struggle with just the same things we do, they just choose a policy of non-disclosure on those less-than-glamorous aspects of their lives. They teach from their strength only, not from their vulnerable sides. Ultimately, this is alienating to students; you may gain some helpful tips on how to get into a pose, or hear about some great theory, but for the most part you will continue to pine away at the life they have and actually miss the one that is right in front of you, waiting to be lived fully and authentically.

To transform the heart of the student a teacher needs to have the courage to show themselves naked, so to speak. To me, the role of a good teacher is to meet students at the same human level – showing them that we are all dealing with the same difficulties. With experience and practice, the teacher illuminates the varied paths to overcome these shared obstacles to each unique student.

I hope to see you at one of my many offerings around the world this fall, and look forward to sharing some simple techniques on how to be an authentic and badass human being.