Thursday, January 6, 2011

Claiming Pieces of Myself: The Teacher

Every year, instead of setting New Year's resolutions, I choose a word that I intend to embody. This year the word is vulnerability. Tonight I am choosing to be vulnerable by sharing the struggle I am having with expressing an aspect of my authentic self.

I have a sense that there will be multiple posts about claiming different aspects of myself in the coming months. Some are a reclaiming of a part of myself I gave up at some point in my past (artist, healer), some are a claiming of something I've never fully embraced.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Kahlil Gibran

An archetype and expression of my gifts that I have been long avoiding is that of Teacher. While I have become comfortable with facilitating spaces for people to be creative, learn or connect in various ways, I have avoided being the "expert" at the front of the room as much as possible. I've become more comfortable leading trainings for the Imps, but I try to use interactive activities and learning through discussion more than talking to groups of people. I don't feel comfortable being the center of attention in that way. I worry that I am uninteresting and boring everyone in the room, especially since I'm not funny. I am insecure about my authority in any subject matter. And I worry that my ideas for interaction are silly or weird.

In high school I dreamed of being a teacher. It was the first time I felt a calling. I desired to teach high school English and Theater. I desired to be like the few amazing teachers I had and make a difference in the lives of teens, especially troubled teens who weren't seen by others. I didn't want any teen to go through school feeling unseen. But I gave up the idea of teaching at the end of my college education because I found art and thought that if I became a high school teacher I would give my whole heart to the kids and have nothing left for my own creativity. I don't know if this is true, I just know that teaching in the institution of public education was really not the place for me (too much of the Rebel archetype in me).

A year after college I fell into a job as a teacher - I ran an employment training center for welfare-to-work participants. I taught basic math, reading, writing and computer skills, as well as developed a soft skills curriculum. Even then I avoided standing in front of the room talking to the entire class as much as I could. One-to-one I was fine. Small groups were ok. But the more focus on me as the center of attention, the more uncomfortable I was. I ignored several ideas I had for activities that might have actually been fun and engaging but I was too scared to be the one to tell other adults to do something different. I was afraid to be vulnerable and to ask for their vulnerability (although there were other ways I invited their vulnerability through writing exercises).

Then for 7 years I didn't do any teaching at all (although I've nearly always been writing/blogging).

With the Imps I've felt the need to step into the teacher role around the concept of Vibes and creating safe emotional spaces for erotic exploration. I give a short talk about Vibes and holding space at the all staff training and co-facilitate the Vibes crew training for every event. I am so passionate about the Vibes concept and its importance in the success of our events that I no longer have insecurities about "teaching" this specific topic. I have a confidence when I speak in this context that I've never experienced before.

Now I am facilitating these sex-positive spiritual gatherings and I am scared about teaching. I have a lot of knowledge and insight to share regarding self-development and the spiritual path. I've been studying psychological and spiritual material since I was 16. If there's anything I'm an expert in, it's purposeful evolution and transformation through the application of psycho-spiritual tools and wisdom. Yet I don't trust that anyone really desires to hear what I have to say about these things. I think more about how to generate discussion than what I have to share from my own knowledge on the next gathering's topic.

I also met with a friend in the Bay Area over New Year's weekend and brainstormed possibilities for co-facilitating a workshop on women's sexual empowerment. She put out an invitation for co-collaborators and I felt immediately inspired to respond. It's a chance to develop myself more fully as a workshop facilitator and to introduce myself and what I have to offer to the Bay Area community.

I know that I have been called to teaching all of my life. I have been called to share what I learn through writing in public forums. But I am also called to teach to groups of people in person. I can feel it in my bones. And yet I am so afraid of it, so resistant. I am contemplating ideas for breaking through this resistance, for combining teaching and interactivity in ways that are comfortable for me, for using the spiritual gatherings as a training ground.

As I write this I realize for the first time that the people who are coming to my gatherings are doing so because they trust me and they believe I have something of value to share with them. They are my right people and I need to trust that they are interested in what I have to share as long as I follow my heart. Or if they come and realize they aren't my right people, that's ok for everyone involved. They just have other people and community that are right for them. This is an amazing opportunity for me not to take rejection personally and to see what happens when I act fully from my heart and spirit.

I imagine it will take me time to figure this teaching thing out...exactly how it works for me to both stretch my edges yet also honor my unique feelings about teaching (which is really about facilitating the space for people to have insights into themselves and the world). It will take time for me to embody my authority in what I'm qualified to share. But I will use my theme for 2011 - vulnerability - to guide me into claiming my inner teacher and letting her fly.


Image Source: Lisa Valder

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