So the story of the past three days tells the roller coaster I ride when it comes to my work right now. I say “right now” because this is a snapshot, an observation of my current state, but one that I know is impermanent and also one that need not continue and is within my power to change. I know it’s time for some work because I am becoming a much better observer of myself and the effects that I feel in my body as a result of certain thinking in response to certain situations. This work right now is intended not to massage my painful story or to provide a “cure” for my highs and lows, but to face all of it with equal compassion, devotion, and kindness.

On Saturday I made a big leap and said some remarks to my clients that showed myself in process. At Real Speaking back in June, I stated that my intention for the program was to be able to show myself, as a leader, in process. I had never felt it was OK or even possible to show my vulnerabilities while in a position of leadership. Since I always found myself in some leadership role, I kept these vulnerabilities either off to the side, to myself, or buried in the pages of my journal. Finally I realized the necessity of “going there”, not only for the sake of those I am purporting to lead, but importantly for myself to come forth. It has been a slow journey to this point, but the transformations are becoming tangible. I stood in front of my clients and said we are dreaming a bigger dream, expanding into new territory, and several elements will change again starting now. I started with that same class on Saturday. I felt free, because I had released myself from the expectation and need to hear anything in response from the clients. I felt alive with what I intended to share, and I needed no one’s approval or permission. It came from my heart and body and soul. Period.

Turns out, I just played for that entire class. I stayed in a perfectly calm place of observing, listening, and encouraging others to do the same. I watched and enjoyed. I voiced my observations and asked others to do the same. Students began to come alive also. Afterwards, I felt like I had never felt after teaching either private lessons or a group session. I felt calm. Like something had passed through me, but there was no residue left behind. I was clear and relaxed and felt so GOOD. Usually after what I used to call a “good” class – when the students performed well, worked hard, fixed things, seemed to “get it” – I would feel an adrenaline rush like after one of my own performances. The contrast taught me a lot. I had viewed my job – each time I stood up to teach – as if it were a performance. I put myself on the line that much. I felt my entire reputation and worth were up for judgment every single time I stepped in front of that group. And no wonder it felt like a “rush” to see “progress” or “results” (as I defined them to myself in my head).

But the place of observing with the calm wisdom within me – that was AWESOME. That place is the place within me that loves to listen, and wants other people to appreciate the beauty in what I hear. I want to share that. In that process, there are plenty of challenges and hurdles to overcome, but when I approach everything from the part of me who LOVES beauty and wants to illuminate it to others (while remaining detached from a need to see others “get it”), I get a totally different sensation.

Today would be the opposite of that sensation. I was feeling generally distracted all day by the fact that I have two pieces of homework due this week – one (a recording) is due tomorrow! – and I also want to get going on implementing some of those changes I announced on Saturday. I am ready to start hammering away at some of the details and planning. Which is a different part of my brain than the free-spirited creative improviser who needs to make the recording. Which is a different part of me than the one who also needs to think outside the box and invent listening exercises for my baby students so they don’t get too robotic in their music. Things started to go south when two of my students showed up an hour early for the class. I was sitting at my piano doing some recording, and one of them was standing outside the door, watching me. I could have continued, but the part of me that didn’t want to be “on display” as I was playing and creating won the battle. I hung out in my office for 45 minutes. Passing the time reading O magazine or listening to music on my iPod for inspiration and writing down all the brilliant things I did on Saturday.

This last list is probably what did me in. I entered the class tonight with thoughts filling my head of how wonderful everything was on Saturday, and how amazingly well everyone responded to the entire class. I was not open to the new possibilities of tonight – this moment, these people, this energy. I forgot to empty my mind. I was wondering how one of my students was going to do today, since on Saturday he refused to participate in class. I wondered if it was because his mother wasn’t there, and if he would perform better today. I should have just stayed neutral on it and reset the clock, so to speak.

There were also the nerves associated with trying a brand new exercise for the first time with clients who have expectations of me already set in the past. I started with a listening/improvisation/matching exercise, which three out of the five kids actually responded very well to. The “troublemaker” from Saturday started recruiting an ally in his neighbor, a normally quite attentive student who tonight began imitating his rebellious classmate. They both refused to try the improvisation exercise. I could see the war between peer influence and respect of the teacher (doing the “right thing”) going on in this four-year-old boy. He wanted to be one of the boys. That overrode his desire to please the teacher and his mother (sitting across the room) by following the rules.

I was shocked by this, rather than simply observing it. I took it personally as a judgment on the quality of the exercise, instantly concluding in my mind that it was too advanced or esoteric for the kids. However, three other children were responding in the same moment quite positively. Nice filter for noticing only the bad things!

There were some other quirky behaviors in another student who has been evolving into a problem over the past several weeks, for reasons mysterious to me. I kept reminding myself that she had just woken up before walking into class, having fallen asleep on the car ride there. More reminders that it is not all me!

The crux of all this is that I now observe how quickly I can take full responsibility for situations or circumstances over which I have no control. I overdefine my responsibilities to include too much of other people’s business. I overattach to certain results because I believe – erroneously – that these results are a reflection of the quality of my work. I need to apply a finer grain of discernment in determining my responsibilities in the world. I am ultimately responsible only for taking care of my own actions, thoughts, and feelings. Byron Katie says there is Your Business, Everyone Else’s Business, and God’s Business. Stay in Your Business.

After the class, I even felt my body lurching toward some of the parents to try to talk to them about how things went. But there was nothing to say. Things went as they were meant to go. And we move on. I had just gotten done saying out loud on Saturday that it is so important to be able to do something badly, because we learn so much from that liberation of spirit. I keep needing to follow my own advice, and learn the lessons I’m trying to teach!

Once I realized that my thoughts about responsibility were creating the roller coaster ride of feelings associated with my teaching, I could release. I could acknowledge that if I continue to do this with any job – no matter how much I love it or think I want to be doing it – I will think myself into unhappiness about it. So it’s time to notice that thinking and let it just fall away every time.

Advertisements