I had a pedestal teacher for ten years. Not that she put herself up on one. I did. Somehow I’d arrived well into middle age without ever listening in rapt attention at someone’s feet. Learning by absorption. Direct shamanic transmission. Which is the only way I can describe how I learned 5Rhythms from Gabrielle Roth. She had no curriculum or lesson plans or any plan at all. She simply exuded and I assimilated.
I spent the better part of 2012-13 mourning her loss. Teaching adrift, anchorless. The senior teachers around me, who had lovingly held me in Northern California practice, re-grouped. I turned away from the direction they were moving. I marveled at the empty geography around me and wondered about support. This watershed moment created a slow dawning, a persistent trust for what was authentically arising from inside me. In terms of where I was in the life cycle, well, the timing was spot on.
In our training, Gabrielle remarked that we would probably be a “wait for it” or a “go for it” teacher. That we’d notice a preference to plan classes or we would show up and harness the moment. Her death instigated my own exploration of the continuum spanning agenda/no agenda. That it wasn’t one or the other. That there is unique history in any teaching space and an intuitive sense of what might be needed. And how that sometimes sub-conscious assessment could intersect with what was moving in me. And the trust for what was arising in me could spill over into trust for whatever was arising in the room. A loop.
And though viewing her on that pedestal served me in its own way all those years ago…well, it never was a fit for my teaching style. I was with another teacher/friend/student recently who asked:
“Do you want to be a sage on the stage or a guide on the side?”
I love that question. And then the she loosely quoted Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen:
“Explore the dynamic intersection between
as much as necessary and as little as possible.”
Well, there you have it. What an instruction for how to stay alive in that loop, how to be a guide on the side. Teaching as a profession can shed so much light on how we want to show up in the world. Notice the phrase “dynamic intersection”. Because if you think you have nailed this touchy balance act, you are lost. The actual amount that is “as much as necessary” is going to shift a mile a minute. And “as little as possible” is often a slippery moving target.
Last weekend this all intersected for me at Clara Auditorium. A group of 5Rhythms teachers from communities near and far gathered for three days to dance, to share, to laugh, to dream, to cry…to support each other. I guess I just called in exactly the type of sustenance I yearned for. A firm container for ten waves brilliantly guided. A dance floor where each was met in resonant integrity, total presence.
In a circle of peers, there are no pedestals. Ever. And the fact I had called us together did not provide me with one. Any time my inner critic, smothering mother, bossy pants, crybaby, know-it-all, brow-beaten self attempted to arise…well, that just doesn’t fly with peers. These pathetic characters simply did not have any claim to the wheel. They were barely shouting from the backseat. Mostly they dozed in a cozy little corner of the trunk. I was pretty consistently quiet guide on the side through the richness of three full days. Just strolling the luminous line between as much necessary and as little possible.
Right now I’m drifting up the northern California coastline. Holding space for us in Sacramento feels light years away. And it’s not. Truly I look forward to meeting you this Sunday September 8 for the first time in quite awhile. A quick glance at the website is all it takes to feel how consistently I’ll be practicing this fall. With you. Out there. Together.