I just returned from a night in Kobe.
While there Eri and I stayed with our very dear friend, Yoko Miki, a fantastic teacher and seeker who hosted me to teach last night and this afternoon at her wonderful studio, Karuna Yoga.
After the lecture last night we spent some time relaxing and talking at her home.
The conversation turned to teaching and the role of the student in the teaching process. Yoko made an observation from a recent class she attended that she asked a question but the teacher`s answer was ambiguous. She then overheard another student ask a question and the teacher`s answer seemed very clear and easy to comprehend. She contemplated her experience, and came to the understanding that she had asked her question in an ambiguous way and thus had received an ambiguous answer. Meanwhile, the other student`s question had been worded in a clear and easy to understand manner, which resulted in a clear and easy to understand answer from the teacher.
In my own studentship and teaching I have observed in myself and others that the student`s way of approaching the teacher will directly influence what is conveyed by the teacher. I feel when I sit before a teacher I am seated before a well of knowledge and experience. It is then my choice as to how much I wish to receive from that well. If I want only a small sip, as if dipping a tiny ladle into the waters, then that is what I will receive: a tiny ladleful of knowledge that may not be that deep. But if I want to grab the bucket of the well and drink fully and deeply of the waters within then I will receive a large amount of that teacher`s wisdom.
On to this intention there has to then be my clarity of expression of what I would like to receive. If I am not so clear in articulating my questions or experiences to the teacher, then the teacher will be unable to convey an answer that is clear. Instead I would get a rather vague and somewhat hard to understand response.
I also feel that whether or not I can assimilate what is given is another aspect of this exchange between myself and the teacher. If I have done the practice and study that needs to be done that would prepare me to receive the capacity of the knowledge that is being offered to me, I can assimilate what is being offered, even if it is only at the first level of assimilation. However, if I have not done the preparatory work, then what I receive will most likely be undigested and maybe even give me a sort of “stomach ache,” a sense of having received too much and feeling a bit dull and not-so-clear from the consumption of something that, at that present moment, is too much for me to digest.
Like Yoko, I have had the experience of feeling like I was not clear in my question and then receiving an answer that was equally unclear. As a teacher I find that if a student comes to class with the intention of, “I just want to move and exercise a bit”, then that is all I will impart to them. If however, the student has a passionate question that they are burning to address and/or specific knowledge that they which to learn, I find that at times I wind up conveying sequences of knowledge that I had never contemplated in that way prior. Yes, I have learned and studied all of the parts, but never before had I attempted to assemble those parts in that particular way that at that moment enable me to address a deep concern of the student. It is as if the disparate pieces of knowledge assemble themselves.
This is the synergy of the student and teacher, a necessary component for the study and practice of Yoga, or any other modality in life.
By the way, Yoko is an amazing teacher and Yogi. If you would like to check out her blog, please go here: http://yaplog.jp/karuna-yoga/