I have a thought sometimes that really pisses me off.
The thought is this: I’m a bad yoga teacher.
It pisses me off for a couple of reasons. One, that I don’t always have this thought—I’ll go days or weeks without this thought and I’ll think, Hey, maybe I’m done having this thought, but then it will pop up again to claim me.
Two—when this thought comes into my brain, I actually believe it.
I can sit here and count all the reasons why I don’t think this thought is true, but I’m not interested in the validity of the thought itself—I’m interested in why I have it to begin with and I’m interested in the process of release.
Because all of this points to something we all deal with everyday of our lives: self-worth.
My self-worth is based on the assumption that other people see me the way I see myself. So if I wake up tomorrow and feel like a big-fat-faker, other people will also feel that way about me. And even if they don’t—even if they think I’m a scintillating magic ball of fun-ness—it doesn’t matter, because I will still think that I’m a big-fat-faker, and I will think that somewhere below the surface of what other people are telling me, they agree with me.
This particular thought of self-worth—I’m a bad yoga teacher—is a thought that I develop out of envy.
When I think of envy, I think of someone almost maliciously lurking in a corner seething with rage as they look on at things they want for themselves but cannot have. The envy I’m talking about is slightly less severe than that. It’s more like that quiet moment you realize you can’t take the puppy in the window home and a whine follows: Oooooooooooh, but I want it!
Whatever it is that I’m feeling—I still think it’s envy, nonetheless.
I feel this envy when I take yoga classes from people who blow my fucking yoga mind.
When I take classes from my mentors, I frequently weep during savasana, laugh during forward folds, and I’ll become a host of things over the course of 90 minutes, including, but not limited to—a dragon-slaying princess, falling leaves, huge bodies of water, full mountain ranges, a swooshing eagle, a flying trapeze artist, a poet of Shakespearean decent and God herself.
I leave feeling bright and full and calm and open and empty. I leave feeling like I have just had the most important experience of my life and the least important experience of my life.
And then that thought comes in: I’m a bad yoga teacher.
All I want is to give my students some semblance of the experience I have when my yoga mind has had its socks rocked off. And I will frequently leave these socks-rocking-off classes feeling high and free until the thought comes in: Come on, dude, there’s no way you could ever possibly provide this to your students. You’re too annoying, you’re not creative enough, you’re blah and blah and blah and blah.
All of those things hurt to even write about myself, because I know they are not true. Those are just thoughts that come in sometimes when something inside of me decides that I am not enough just the way I am.
And when that thought comes in and I go in to teach my next class, I am not myself—I am some sort of composite of all the things I’ve liked from other people, and I assemble their sequencing and their jargon and their wisdom like a fall-proof cabin made of Lincoln Logs.
And when I teach those classes, I don’t have a good time. I don’t have a good time because my behavior is motivated by the thought that I am a bad yoga teacher.
Now, I don’t like posting what I perceive to be problems without speculating possible solutions, and that makes this writing difficult as the last time I had this feeling was, oh, five hours ago.
This is part of my human work that continues and thrives and cuts me open and lets me look at myself and teaches me—ultimately—about compassion. But in the moment of having the thought itself, it hurts like a motha fucka.
In this moment, as I write this, I know that the only person I ever need to be is myself. In this moment, I know that the only thing I need to offer my students when I walk into a yoga room is honesty. The rest is absolutely none of my business.
Will I still know all of this the next time I happen upon the thought that I’m a bad yoga teacher? Maybe not. But that’s also none of my business.
My business is to simply accept breath until it is no longer given to me. That is my business. That makes me feel good.
Maybe sometimes I feel like a fraud, but those times always lead to other times where I simply feel like myself.
Our ideas of self-worth are only that: ideas. And ideas are just as fluid and just as changing as anything else—as the weather, as the way our hair falls from our head, as the way the tea-light candles will burn for about a class and a half before they need to be changed.
I think the trick is in letting the ideas go. Perhaps I will never be able to control which ideas pop into my brain at any given time. But I can certainly work on paying attention to which ideas I cling to and nurture and hold onto far past the time of usefulness.
I will probably have the thought that I am a bad yoga teacher at least 60 more times in my life. I will probably also have other thoughts that tune into the phrase, I am the best yoga teacher.
And I will be humbled by knowing that those two thoughts, and every thought in-between them, flow and shift and swirl around. I will live and have life and learn to exercise my patience and my yogi discipline and I will watch things change, because that’s what things do: change.
And my work will not be in trying to control which thoughts come into my brain at any given point. My work will be to actively choose which of those thoughts to believe in, and which ones will I simply pay attention to, get slightly annoyed with (because let’s face it, that is what will probably happen), and ultimately release.
I think the power is in learning to accept that all things change and to let the change happen, whatever it may be.
We are on a piece of rock hurtling through space, after all.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise