We don’t always know what we need. The broader picture eludes us–we aren’t looking from a vantage that shows all the budding technologies, the waxing and waning socioeconomic trends, or even the small undercurrents sweeping through our relationships. We see the world through our window–though it may be beautiful, it’s very limited.
During my 200 hr Registered Yoga Teacher training this weekend, we were asked about our unique gifts. Specifically: “What would the world miss out on if you were not teaching?” A bold question, it requires a level of objective review that most of us aren’t comfortable with.
What are you good at? What are your gifts?
“Nothing,” we politely shrug.
Timidly, we revise: “Maybe this…? Sometimes?”
Like neon, my answer hummed and buzzed until I noticed the space it occupied inside me. Beyond my abject skill at parallel parking, I have an eye for themes. This weekend was no different. First, it occurred to me while on my drive to my training module, that I’ve been working on Wild Things (off and on) for almost four years. It has seen every different iteration of self that I have in that time; it’s the story I have learned to write on. So when my hawk-eyed editor, L.M. Riviere, left notes about trimming fat, I welcomed them. There were parts of the story that the book had left behind. Moments of “sheer brilliance” meant to flesh out characters and plot had long since served their purpose; they no longer served the story. The story outgrew them.
As part of our training, we are required to do a Seva project. Nowadays, the Sanskrit word is meant to mean “dedication to others,” an act of selfless service. It’s a tenant of Sikhism, an act that is done with no expectation of return or reward. In my opinion, there is no such thing.
We went to the Tulsa Boys’ Home–whose hundred years of service to young men far surpasses any experience I could ever hope to gain–to lead them in creating vision boards. The young men we met were incredible. Ranging in ages 15 to 17, they’re each actively working toward recovery from substance abuse. Of course, the idea of cutting and pasting their goals with the hope of manifesting them seemed a little… silly. But, as life has continuously reaffirmed to me, words have power. So we offered another instruction:
Craft a life you don’t want to escape from.
This is why I don’t believe service can be selfless: as I stood there, I watched tough, hardened young men wield scissors and glue sticks to build their futures. They talked about their families, about their friends, about the importance of getting–and staying–clean. Big dreams floated from magazine scraps, complete with images of families, cars, and homes. One young man had me write in bold print for him the word “Free.” They were editing; they cut from their stories the parts that had long since served their purpose. In yoga speak, they lifted their gaze, even if just for a moment, and those of us volunteering got a glimpse of the incredible men they can become.
I thought about it on my hour drive home, about the ways in which we always have something to give and to receive. Each of us is meant to offer our own personal experience, to take and build upon the lessons we learn so that we might help one another. It isn’t always what we expect, but that’s because we don’t always know what we need. We have to be open to learning. The view from our window, though beautiful, is still limited. We owe it to one another to share pictures, descriptions, and stories so that we might piece together a world that is larger and more incredible than our own vantage would depict. In a world of redundancy, analytics, and “faster horses,” it’s our individual experience that makes us unique, that makes us innovators. So I ask each of you to be honest. Throw humility out your window and ask yourself what the world is missing out on because you are not teaching….
…then get out there and teach.