Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Hearing Through my Mother’s Ears

Joy had us working on the things we felt most uncomfortable, uncertain about teaching. She had all the trainees doing various Sun Salutations and abdominal series over and over. I may ache in the morning.

I hadn't volunteered for anything since I feel pretty steady with teaching all of those things. I've been teaching them for months, if not a few years now. When she put me on the spot about which one I wanted to practice I said really the thing that makes me most nervous is chanting and "Om" at the beginning of class, something I was doing today.

I practiced it with my training class and Joy was commenting about how to go beyond that nervousness. She was noting that she didn't want to "play therapist" but was alluding to the ways in which we're told we're too loud, etc.

I said that it wasn't all that hidden. That during childhood I was repeatedly told I was too loud, talked too much, and no one was interested. When it came to music I was told I "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" and, except for one embarrassing talent show (all my peers thought my performance was completely, laughably lame) was actively discouraged from any interest in music. It wasn't until I was in college, over 2000 miles from home, that I took some vocal lessons.

I never got comfortable with it. Never have felt like I could just sing and get over it. Chanting service after zazen at the Dharma center has been excruciating but I've gotten a little more comfortable with it. Chanting at the beginning of a yoga class feels closer to singing and everyone looks directly at you, unlike chanting service where no one really looks at me.

What I noticed was how I'd curled up into a protective ball talking to my teacher training class about it. I'd gone from sitting cross-legged, body open, to a tight posture with knees drawn up and into the chest and my arms wrapped around the shins. Several of my co-trainees and Joy noticed the incredibly protective, defensive body posture I'd moved into.

But I chanted Om at the beginning of class with 8 co-trainees, 1 teacher and 18 students looking at me. It was OK. Not comfortable, but OK. I felt better once I moved into teaching pranayama and a meditation on the breath.

And on that theme, today's poem:

My Mother's Ears

My voice sounds
Too loud.

The ears that hear
my voice belong
To my Mother.
Her ears that
Decide the voice
Is too much,
Too often,
Too loud, and

Not sure when
I began to listen
To my voice through
My Mother's ears.
When I talk about
Singing I hear
Pure tension and
My body curls into
The smallest
Possible ball.

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