How Much Does It Cost To Become A Math Teacher Yoga – Teaching With Compassion

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Yoga – Teaching With Compassion

The mind will strive to create in the body exactly what it believes to be true. As self-help author Earl Nightingale says, “You become what you think.” At age ten, my daughter came home from school one day and said, “My teacher told me again that I’m not good at math. If she keeps telling me that, how am I ever going to be good at math? ” My daughter apparently feels the power of the mind more clearly than her teacher. In the immortal words of Milton, “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Years ago, a student of mine suffered from chronic pain in her spine that would not go away no matter what she did. He even studied with Iyengar for ten years and could not get any relief. After 25 years of pain, she finally decided to go to the doctor. After a series of tests, the doctor told her that she had lung cancer and that it had metastasized to her bones and spread to her spine. He had been given two months to live. I tried very hard to convince my student not to submit to the doctor’s death sentence. After all, he had been in the same pain for over two decades. Unfortunately, it was too late. He had given up hope in surrendering all his power to the doctor. Two months after the day of her diagnosis, she was dead. This example highlights how, as teachers, we must use our profound influence wisely and choose each word carefully. Careless words can destroy a life, while thoughtful words create the power to flourish.

This approach is not about hiding the truth. We must tell our students the truth we see. However, we must avoid an inflexible attitude that says, “This is the truth and I must say it no matter what the cost!” We must tell the truth in a way that serves the student by always reminding them of their power to bring about positive change. We have to balance ahimsa with satya: not harm truthfully.

The language of transformation is the language of compassion. What transforms our students is not a shower of fiery words meant to burn their egos, but the flame of love, warmth and care. If we have a stubborn and important student, we cannot help him by hitting his ego, because the ego, in defense, builds a hard shell around him and becomes inaccessible. The way to transform the ego is with compassion and warmth, so that the ego sheds its outer shell and makes itself available for change.

We probably all know teachers who put their students down because it makes them feel like more of a teacher and boosts their ego. These teachers can be our models of how not to teach. As teachers, we can ask ourselves, “Do I want to look cool or do I want to help my students grow? Do I want to be the star or do I want to create stars? Do I want to impose my pose on the student, or do I want to help my students come in and discover their own postures? Am I serving my student or my ego?” We cannot serve both.

The art of guiding others is knowing how to help them harness the power of their own minds and enable them to overcome their resistance to transformation. In time, they will adapt to inner guidance instead of being scattered and misled by external references and comparisons. We can help our students use the power of their minds to destroy or build, stagnate or transform, bury or lift, imprison or release. Evolution is only possible with freedom.

© Aadil Palkhivala 2008

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