I'm up at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for ten days, part of the 500-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training. This module focuses on teaching meditation. We've got 51 sincere, adventurous participants here, many cooking in their own juices while we explore different meditation techniques and their effect on body, mind and spirit. Part of this training is a four-day retreat jammed with experiences - and to make things more fun, we're in social silence until we start practice teaching.
As anyone who meditates knows, when you pause, slow down and start paying attention, everything undigested in your life starts to come to the surface.
As much as I like people to like me, I'm strangely comfortable with the discomfort in the room. We're experiencing infinite variations of the hindrances: anger, blame, judgement, craving, planning, fantasy, anxiety, sloth, numbness, doubt, fear, grieving, shame and more. As much as I try to keep setting the context, I still get glaring looks from time to time.
I guess it's because I've personally burned through so much on the meditation cushion that I can be so spacious. If they still don't like me by the time they leave, then maybe it really is me!
Shunryo Suzuki speaks of four race horses.
He says:"It is said that there are four kinds of horses: Excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip. The second best will run as well as the first one, just before the whip reaches its skin. The third one will run when if feels pain on its body, and the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn to run."
When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse. If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best. But this is a mistake, Master Suzuki says. When you learn, you're tempted not to work hard, not to penetrate to the marrow of a practice.
The best horse, according to Suzuki, may be the worst horse. And the worst horse can be the best, for if it perserveres, it will have learned whatever it is practicing all the way to the marrow of the bones.
And in my opinion, the worst horses make the best teachers.