Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The empty teacup and the learning mind

Judi Harvin

So this man goes to see this zen teacher. He says (demandingly, as he is a very busy man) "Teach me everything you know!"

The zen master looks at him, then slowly goes to the cupboard to get a cup, which he places on the table. He picks up his tea pot, and begins to pour. Soon the cup is filled, but he continues to pour. Water begins to run over the sides of the cup and on the table.

The man watches this, confused, then yells, "Stop! Can't you see the cup is filled? Stop pouring, the water is spilling all over the table!"

The teacher stops pouring and sets down the pot. Then, he looks at the blustering man. "You come to me asking for knowledge, but your mind is like this cup, already full. Anything I add will simply pour out; there's no room for more."

I love telling students this story, and my trainees have heard it more than once. As they are embarking on a learning path, it becomes so important to learn to clear, to empty the mind.

The terms "information overload", "decision fatigue", and "TMI" are bouncing about for good reason. We have access to more information and more choices than every before. Well managed, this can be a benefit. But, poorly managed, it can lead to confusion, poor focus, and an inability to absorb and digest information.

A teacher training offers so much information that the student can feel overwhelmed. And, that's even before popping open the laptop and looking for more information to satisfy that insatiable sweet tooth that inspired students have for learning everything yoga! How does a motivated, and very busy, student handle this desire to learn more? Here are some tips:

Stay on topic.  Look back at your notes for your previous training class. List the topics that were discussed, the asanas, philosophy, etc. Study these notes. If the class left you burning with excitement, look for more information on those topics. If you have limited time for your studies, focus it here.

Resist studying ahead of topic. Just like the rest of the world, the yogic world is full of opinions and often-conflicting methods. Come to class with an clear mind. Allow your instructor to present their teachings. There will be plenty of time to learn other methods. Study one first.

Develop your personal practice. You may feel this is a ripe time to try every style of yoga, and with as many teachers as possible. This can lead to confusion when in a training. Stay on one path. Reduce the number of classes you take and the exposure to different teachers and styles. Instead, get on your own mat at home and pull out your notes. Start to study, dissect and personally experience the alignment, pranayama and meditation techniques you learned in training.

Teach it! Speak it! Share it!  While I was attending my first teacher training, the instructor of the yoga class I was attending at the YMCA decided to leave and asked me if I wanted to take over his class. I thought this would be a great opportunity, so I said yes.

My training met on a Saturday. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I studied relentlessly, solidifying the alignment and cueing I had learned. Wednesday nights I showed up in class and taught those poses. I'll tell you, it was the best way to ingest, digest and process information.

Find a willing friend or family member and start teaching them what you are learning. So many people want to learn yoga, this should not be difficult to do. Set up something regular, so you have a rhythm and commitment. Over time, this experience will not only help old the lessons solidify, but will direct your focus toward the most pertinent information in future lessons.

In only a few short months you will complete your training, and have a good understanding of the foundational principles of yoga. But, perhaps the most important skill you will learn in your training is how to empty your cup, again and again, allowing space for the next bit of wisdom.

To learn more about Focus Yoga's Yoga Immersion and Teaching Skills Training, visit our website, www.focusyogastudio.com, call Judi at 708 471 0487, or email info@focusyogastudio.com.

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