Things I Keep Learning
by Ann Faison
I try to hold monthly breathing circles as part of my meditation practice. Teaching the breathing technique which has helped me enormously over the years, gives me great pleasure and satisfaction. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get a touch nervous every time I do it. I seem to have been born fearful, and have spent my life staring down those demons and learning to push past them. For me, coming from a long line of teachers and loving it ever since I can remember, it still confounds me that teaching brings up nervousness and shyness every time.
Today I taught an art class to a group of 25 middle school kids and had a ball, despite feeling jittery in my voice and stumbling through my speech. Learning to overcome that high pitched energy by basically ignoring it and staying rooted in the present is something I have practiced for years. But this weekend I learned on an even deeper level how important it is.
I had a circle scheduled for this past Sunday afternoon. The last one I did in September was well attended, but this one had hardly any takers. I have never cancelled a circle for low attendance because I figure as long as I show up, I am keeping my commitment. If no one else comes, I can always use that time to reflect on my feelings about being in that position, but in the four years since I committed to holding regular circles, it hasn’t happened.
I had two people that said they would come, but I had a feeling one of them would cancel at the last minute and she did. My daughter Grace had planned on joining us, but she was invited to a friend’s house. I was happy not to have her there, if it was going to be a one person circle.
As I sat there waiting, I noticed the familiar, slightly panicky feeling was nagging at me. There was a little cop out character inside, hoping no one would come and I would be off the hook, but I wanted to focus on the panic. What was I really worried about?
The answer is that I was afraid of only one person showing up. That they might think it wasn’t going to be very good, like walking into an empty restaurant. I thought back to a time, a few years ago, when I had one person show up to a circle. She was very uncomfortable, as was I, with the idea of a private session. So I went ahead and did it as if there were others there, and she had a perfectly good experience, but it wasn’t what either of us was expecting.
Since that day I have done many private sessions, and just recently I have felt ready to do more of them. So here was circumstance, giving me that opportunity. As I settled into that thought, I heard the sound of someone approaching the studio. One person, I will call her Kay, showed up at the appointed hour. We waited a few minutes to be sure no one else was coming but as we spoke, it became clear that this was what was needed. It was suddenly perfect that the other person canceled and that my daughter was busy.
Kay was going through a major life change and had spent the whole day doing nice things for her self. She had hiked, done yoga, had a massage and cooked food, all of which she enjoyed. I was deeply impressed. People in her situation are usually stressed, not giving themselves the space to feel any of what they have been through. It felt natural and effortless to hold the space around her, listen to her breathe, and listen to my own intuition about how to best support her as she did the meditation. The key, I was reminded yet again, is to get out of my own way.
It was a beautiful session, one that we both needed. As I sat with her, I remembered that every time I open my space to another person, I am handed a mirror. Whatever issues come up in the circle, those are the issues I need to look at in my life. My hour with Kay showed that I am more than ready to take on private sessions, I am excited about it. Kay, who had spent the day caring for her self, was another affirmation that I am excellent at taking care of myself, my family and my clients. I am a busy woman who works hard and yet I manage to make time every day to relax. I am so grateful for my practice, to know I am truly a student every time I open myself to teach.