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April 27, 2015
Thank you for your thought provoking discussion. I am not trying to convince or persuade, and truly enjoy conversation.
My understanding of Kula is simply a community of people that are harmonically resonant. (very new age way of saying like minded souls). I have not studied the word deeply, but I prefer it to other words that may be synonymous.
I wouldn't characterize someone wanting to belong as a lost soul. I just think it is human nature. For some the goal of yoga is to become one with the Brahma. Isn't that wanting to belong? Why else seek enlightenment? For others, they want to achieve an advanced expression of a posture. Why? Maybe, so they will feel as though they can be accepted into that special class...uhm...belong.
If a person walks into a gym 3-5 days a week and is not acknowledged, they will feel as though they don't belong. Doesn't mean they aren't focused, sane or don't know what they want. A yoga studio should, doesn't always, allow the student to feel as though they are home.
I can only speak from my perspective, I have been a student in many studios, but only 2 do I belong to. My breathe becomes more free and I feel an ease as I enter. The other studios are a means to an end, nothing wrong with that. As a teacher, I compassionately open myself to my students so they feel they are part of my tribe, my kula, my people. As a studio owner, any student that walks through the door should know they are welcome as they are, without judgment. Even if they only want to get out of the house, it doesn't matter, 'practice and all will come'.
Let's look at the word 'belong'. What could you do if you really belonged to the people you are with at any moment, that you wouldn't dream of doing otherwise? The answer for most people is, sing. Sing out loud, alone, but knowing you are fully accepted whether or not you know the melody and lyrics. Knowing there is no derision or underhanded mocking for sharing something so intimate as your singing voice. That's when you know you feel as though you belong.
I see belonging as the common thread. It is the underlying motivation for why people join gangs, fan clubs, political movements, charitable organizations and even post on message boards. They want to know that what they have to offer is valued and what they can attain is supportive to their life philosophy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to belong. We only want to belong to that which we value.
When it comes to studio hopping students, well, that is where they are on their path. They may not be able to conceptualize, much less verbalize what they want. Perhaps they are resisting, who knows, they will get what they need when they can handle it. On the other hand, they may feel a sense of belonging everywhere they go, who am I to say.
Though students do not come to a studio/teacher/class for the same reasons, as they practice they begin to share a common experience. As they realize, perhaps in the locker room or lobby, they are not alone in what they experience, regardless of their skill, they come to belong.
What if I stated it differently? Students, (people=humans=everybody) are looking to experience belonging. In one tradition I've studied, the greeting is or is translated as "I belong to you". What if we greeted each other in such a manner? How much more mindful would we be of our actions? How differently would I feel about you if you belonged to me and I to you? Would our relationship be different or enhanced?
Yes, we as teachers need to engage our students curiosity and help them expand their yoga horizons. Even in the seemingly most limited yoga systems, if a student comes to their mat with the eagerness of a child, they will expand. That slim slice of real estate called a mat, is where the entire world can open up for a student at any moment. For me, taking classes from other teachers is my best learning tool. I learn alternate ways of verbalizing how the body can move. As my personal practice grows, my teaching ability grows. As my teaching ability grows, my students awareness will grow.
We will always have students that want to be pushed harder, look for something new or those that come only for savasana. Not one of them will continue if they feel separate, singled out, unless they perceive that is their role, and some will.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
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