teaching moments

I taught tai chi to a corporate group the other day and it went really well. People were smiling. I felt great. I think they did too. Such a change from the last couple of times I’ve taught classes and it made me thing, “hey, maybe I’m getting better at this!”

I have to credit teachers I’ve had recently who’ve either displayed or given me feedback when it comes to teaching. I thought about it when speaking with a friend the other day who asked if I’d ever teach yoga. I kinda hemmed and hawed about it, but he pointed out  that at least with beginners, I probably know more than them, so why not?

It’s this same mindset that I’ve become a bit more comfortable with when it comes to martial arts. There’s that old impostor syndrome voice that sneaks up on situations. Coupled with its best friend, Perfectionism, they make a great team of talking you out of anything. There’s a character in my generational punk play who is thrust into being the leader of a scene or movement. She says to a longtime friend coming to visit that she never liked authority and wanted to be an authority figure on anything. This is how I feel a lot of time about teaching.

There’s a side to my open-mindedness that can leave me as indecisive and passive. I think, “Well, I still have a lot to learn. I don’t feel nearly as qualified as my teachers.” I’ve gotten hung up on the idea that I need to somehow manifest the level of experience of those I’ve learned from in order to teach well. I forget what my playwriting teacher used to tell us when in grad school and preparing to teach playwriting and screenwriting the first time, which is that we’ve spent more time digging deep into story dynamics and structure than the students we’d be teaching. And even if that may not be applicable, I do subscribe to the idea that you have something to learn from everyone. Would it be so impossible that sometimes you have something to give others?

Tai Chi Teaching
Giving mini adjustments to my awesome group of students!

I think what went really well the other day was that I had experience under my belt to manage my expectations about what I could pass on in the time given. I had ideas of class structure based on classes I’ve attended and taught. I definitely know what I like. I know what I think is important. And I have a pretty good sense of what I do well. In the classes I taught at 108 Heroes Kung Fu and Tai Chi, I realized that because my main interest with tai chi is internal energy, I was being REALLY ambitious with how I taught people.

It was a lot of convincing people that internal energy is a thing. (It is.) But gah, how discouraging to keep trying to convince people of it day after day. I’ve been lightening up on what I do for my own personal practices and getting great results, so I figured, “Low hanging fruit: let’s just get people moving differently and introduced to the form.”

It’s like, maybe just maybe I don’t HAVE to do that much other than present this digestible chunk to folks. Talk about understanding your audience better! I really think this is why it was fun for me and fun for the group. So, comparatively, we didn’t get super far into the form and I chose to only briefly highlight internal energy cultivation once so that I felt that I was still remaining true to how I see tai chi, but I know I didn’t overwhelm people with a lot of concepts that were hard to leap to right off the bat.

And now a couple other opportunities to teach introduction classes to other mind-body practices I have have popped up and rather than being scared about knowing how to do that, I feel really confident. It gives me a new space to explore concepts and put together little programs/experiences based on what I know.

In the last week or so, I’ve started to brainstorm four different basic classes I could teach in a group setting that would be wellness focused and totally fine as one-off experiences. I’ve had fun creating playlists of music I enjoy and that wouldn’t be overly distracting. I had assembled my notes and past workbooks of concepts, postures, and forms I know and could teach easily. And I’ve figured out ways to put these different ideas together into 15, 30 and 60 minute programs. It’s not super exotic necessarily, but then I remember something my husband told me, which is probably the best teaching advice of all.

“They don’t want your teacher to teach them, they want you. You have to bring you.”

Talking Up Tai Chi
This is probably the one time I talked about internal energy.

 

 

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Poetic License

So the challenges do far…

Well, due to life circumstances, I scrapped the screenwriting challenge. I gotta do it one year though. I just have more poetry than narrative story in my head right now.

But the poetry challenge?! If you have been reading, I’m sure you can see the result. The prompts are a lot of fun and definitely help me stay out of my head too much.

Here’s the thing about poetry though that I’m realizing (at least when I write it). I like my poems to be scrappy and less than perfect. I like when they are simple and yet evocative. I like them to use bold, straightforward words that are about complex things. I don’t like them to be too flowery. And I really don’t want them to take a long time to write.

Not that taking your time and going over things is a bad thing. Like have you ever seen a Hawaiian feather cape or lei? So I intricate! I appreciate so much! To make this lei or cape you need feathers from a certain kind of bird. You don’t just go out and kill a bunch of these birds and take their feathers though. No! You let the birds live. You only take one or two so obviously in a cape of a certain size it’s going to take forever to make a cape like this.

It’s not that I don’t have that kind of patience. I just like to do a little bit sometimes and switch gears. One day I will attempt something longer and that takes years to create.

I’m trying to do my poems in order and sometimes the set-up is more involved. Like the one I’m on now involves other people, so it may be a while until I blast through that one.

I used to feel really sheepish about my poetry because I didn’t really ever learn specifically how to write it. I’m just doing it. Sometimes it comes out reasonable. Then I read like straight-up poets and I’m like WHY DID YOU DO THAT THIS IS SO GOOD MY WORDS ARE POLLUTING SPACE.

And then I’m like 🤷‍♀️ well idk

So I’ve decided it’s fine.

I’m sure the folks getting my posts emailed are like, “So why’s Barbara posting like a whole bunch of poems all today?” I finally got a couple minutes to just go. Does anyone ever listen to drum and bass? Because to me, what it feels like to write poetry, or what I strive for it to feel like is a steady beat with atmospheric blends, warm mids and a sometimes haunting baseline that always makes whatever melody comes out so much bigger than it seems. Far off outer space sounds and glitchy sound effects that sound like glitter and feel like deep sighs of relief.

NOW THAT is what poetry should feel like

(if you ask me)

#2

plastic granite table filled with phat beats

ridge around the edge

cut up yourself up

when you bump and try to fill this

feast of plenty

feast of a thousand songs

playing in plentiful unison

heartbreaking to soulful whisperers in the dark

in the darkness you look better

you can see you

how a book of matches keeps you level

you can see how you support the flashing lights

grumbling motors from faraway streets

yes, inside the bottom of a blue lit cavern

and below you behind a makeshift skirt

hidden treasures abound from journeys near and distant

hours spent enlisting, refining, the dusty discs

spin on the platters two at a time

transcendent sounds

banquet of healing

you take us to another space

simple as you are

we will spill on you

laugh, holding each other til dawn

dance by your side

bass makes you shake

fold you up and snap your legs back into place

you a lightweight so we just

hang out by the wall until the invited come again

and we decide the menu

my adventure

begins with a long road

i picture myself lifted up floating

i know i can do this now!

and my vision pierces through light and dark

like an arrow that doesn’t land

there is no end

spring time

waiting for the lady in the mountains

whose footsteps reveal the greenery

vibrancy 

underneath and from the earth

whose voice echoes against rock and through canyons

who calls across distances to awaken 

who stirs the blood with eyes like fire

who welcomes weary travelers with springs of water

who points the way and shows how momentum grows endlessly 

waiting patiently until she reveals herself 

and then there is only brightness and laughter 

directed

when the waves were crashing endlessly 

when thunderous 

the animal inside staring back from between grasses

when the voice amplified too loud to ignore

they chuckled nervously 

shifting eye contact

between them 

looking for places to point their fingers

they were confronted with a mirror

so clear 

so visible

the violations

and yet one scoffed and told us to relax

told us that our reactions were too much

too undone

they tried to rewrite the moment so they were in control

we could have laughed if we wanted

but we stood still

kept to it

kept ourselves

and while the blood boiled

while the eyes narrowed 

we were thankful for enriching ourselves 

with food for thought

instead of poisons 

because in that moment of confrontation 

we heard their stomach sink and flip

while we waited patiently for them to fall on their own

note book

there is a worn notebook

collection of songs

blueprints frayed at the edges

from hours, days, years spent underneath the machine

tinkering with word placement

the edges frayed

the paper sometimes coffee stained

the ink runs where liquid hit the page

these songs, while just created,

are ancient

timeless

yes, this notebook is a series that indicates creative process 

and sometimes stagnation 

and sometimes fear and anger and resentment 

this notebook is a record

an indicator of potential progress 

when looked at linearly

even with the dips and valleys

the scribbles and the words not meant crossed out

you will find pages torn from the spine to give a note to someone else

this notebook has one half of the beginning somewhere in the middle of the body

somewhere between two different songs

while the end is the first thing written

it takes a while to rework it in order

we will get there

the pages crackle when i turn them

the words themselves sing

and when they are spoken outloud 

it is like an incantation

a prayer

making magic 

standing underneath a streetlight

dim artificial glow

rain falls around like glitter

and when the light hits right you are floating within stardust

darkness 

like a warm blanket 

hugs the sidewalk

barely seen tree outlines lean in close

and whisper good ideas to enact later

i write them down

i go (to myself)

oh that will be good

and i save it

i remember it

so that when it comes to transformation time

i can make magic

and wonder

appear on the page

living in reality

there is nothing fake about the sun meeting the earth

it happens every day

sometimes you are fortunate enough 

to see the synchronicity of wisps of clouds

weather bringing blue skies

cloudy skies

sometimes you are fortunate enough to see the moment when colors 

where light collides and blends into itself

pink clouds

bright orange yellow sun in the sky peeks from behind dusty mountains 

these are real things 

real experiences

though you may think this is too beautiful to be real

here is the world

the world says to you every day

here i am

do you see me?

we look 

we miss it sometimes 

we try to take it in the best we can

we try to let it fill us

but there is so much more

and to call it fake would be a lie

to say it wasn’t real would negate so much

eons and eons

a lot of time goes into this

the stripes in the rocks don’t happen overnight

and the sun will look different tomorrow than it did today

there is nothing hard about this truth

and it’s not inconvenient 

it just is

it will be whether we see it or not