Today on the Yoga Instructors & Practitioners group on LinkedIn the following question was asked (abbreviated by me):
How does one “turn off” the Teacher’s Mind?
I’ve been teaching a little over a year now and I find it difficult to change hats and immerse myself in being a student. I attend Yoga retreats, I practice Yoga with DVDs and I practice Yoga at my studio (alone – without students), but I find that whenever I should be enjoying my time as a student….it’s nearly impossible to switch out of Teaching mode. … I find myself making mental notes thru classes (where I’m a student) so that I can later use various techniques or sequences or how I can modify things to suit the classes that I teach. I’m constantly getting “teaching” ideas when I’m trying to be a “student” and I”m finding it frustrating because I absolutely love Yoga, but I don’t feel like I’m necessarily getting what I crave. Maybe this is a challenge for me to quiet my mind and find awareness within myself when I’m in student-mode. I just can’t seem to stop the flow of ideas when I practice though and like I said, I find myself making mental notes during instruction. I care deeply about my students and I want to provide the best classes to my own students that I can, so on one hand….I find myself continually inspired by others and wanting to constantly improve my own teaching. On the other hand, unless I can truly “feel” Yoga and connect mind to body, calm my find and find my awareness….I feel as as though it might impact my teaching credibility and I might be cheating my students.
This question brings up some interesting points, a few of which I address in my response on LinkedIn and a few more which I will elaborate on in this article.
Here is the response I shared, with various additions.
I am not certain I see the split you are referring to, between “teacher” and “student”. If my worldly role was that of a doctor and I attended a conference or a class led by other doctors, with the intention of learning something new (a.k.a. being a student / someone who studies) would it not be perfectly natural for me to start mapping out what these other doctors are sharing with me, and mapping out ways in which I can incorporate into my own practice (as a doctor) what they are sharing with me? By the way, from the lineage I am most familiar with, the practice of “mapping” (as I have put it) is an attribute of the Masculine polarity of Awareness. It is very useful. Being receptive to the Unknown (i.e. learning or uncovering that which was previously with in my Unknown (but not my Known) is a quality of the Feminine polarity of awareness. It is equally useful. Both are vitally important in fulfilling our purpose.
Here is another example. Perhaps I am an artist. I paint for a profession. Perhaps I even teach people how to paint. Now, when I attend an art class with an artist who I respect and appreciate the work and style of, is if natural or unnatural for me to be on the one hand attentive to what I am experiencing, and on the other hand being attentive to how the Masculine polarity within me is mapping these new discoveries into what’s relevant and important to me (painting, and teaching other artists)?
I am wondering if what you are asking is “How can I step completely into the receptive polarity whilst I am attending a yoga class?”. If that is accurate, I ask you this: If the Masculine and Feminine is already manifesting through you in a balanced or relatively balanced way, would switching one aspect off not be a regression of sorts? I personally feel it is perfectly natural what you are experiencing. I also suspect this is not specifically what you’re asking.
Responding to your question brought up another point for me. I actually find teaching and learning are synonymous. Even when I am so-called “teaching,” I am discovering a great deal. Much of what I have come to relish about my experience of yoga has come to light (for me) whilst I am “teaching”. The more I teach, the more I discover (un-cover). That discovery is so-called “learning”, is it not? Thus even whilst “teaching” I am a “student”.
And it goes the other way too. The more I so-called “learn” (or dis/un-cover) the more I am able to teach. Thus the “teacher” in me is very present even when I am supposably in the role of student. If your profession is that of a teacher, I think it is absolutely natural the inner-teacher is there even when you are attending classes as a student. It is like that with any profession or vocation. If you were a mechanic, then I expect it is your inner mechanic that would be there during a class (even a yoga class).
Rereading your question, I get the impression what you may be seeking is reprieve from the mental chatter of what you’re referring to as the “teacher’s mind” — which could perhaps be referred to more generally as the rajasic and perhaps tamasic aspect of you your worldly persona or mask. If that is accurate I would be inclined to ask what your options are for attaining this reprieve?
So what I am wondering, is it a question of the “teacher mind” or simply “the worldly / rajasic / ambitious / gross mind”? I suspect it as about the later. In that case, would it be more helpful to ask “how can I pull my Attention out of my persona and, presumably, into something else… something less gross… into my Spirit?”
For Man (male/female) what else is there besides the persona? (the mask, the ego-identity in the world of form) ? Many of us have not just one but many masks. Yet what else is there? In my own experience there is That witnessing Presence, the Presence of Awareness that is behind the mask (which is entirely Sattvic in nature). From my own experience, if I find it difficult to bring my attention into That Presence behind and beyond the masks (to go from Rajasic and Tamasic qualities of Mind into Sattvas), this is a challenge in and of itself… one all people face.
In that case, and this was something that came up for me whilst attending a yoga class as “student” (as the case may be), my “yoga practice”, in that class, would be to consistently bring my attention back to the body-mind — through appropriate attention to Breath and the meeting between that Breath and the tension I experience in the body through asana. When the tamasic/rajasic thinking-mind starts jumping into thinking about “how I can do” and “what I can do” with my present experience in relation to ANYTHING ELSE (teaching my next class, or whatever) then my “yoga practice” is to reclaim my attention from that tendency. I have found that by bringing it into direct participatory relationship with the body and breath I deepen my relationship with such. And as that relationship deepens (as you no doubt already know) the Indwelling Presence (it goes by many names) emerges more fully and tangibly.
At that point, the day-to-day “mind” becomes less dominant. One can give attention to it, and one can choose not to. It is then that each experience—be it a yoga class I am attending, or a beach I am walking along—is free from the mental chatter of the persona (which in your case you’ve referred to as the “teacher mind”).
You have also stated, “I find that whenever I should be enjoying my time as a student,” and I am wondering… “Should” according to whom?
I would also like to ask you if you are enjoying your yoga classes (the ones you attend as “student”) or not?
You said, “I don’t feel like I’m necessarily getting what I crave” — what is it, exactly, you are craving?
In completion, this statement you made seems most significant to me: “…this is a challenge for me to quiet my mind and find awareness within myself.”