Tuesday, September 13

a day to do things differently: the art of mindfulness with karen maezen miller

::part one::

Karen Maezen Miller began to teach me well before I walked into her workshop this past Saturday morning.

I have been reading and underlining her books devotedly for years, but that's not what I am referring to. I am referring to an email exchange we had a few days prior to the workshop. I contacted her to ask whether she would mind if I recorded her talks, very unobtrusively, with my iPhone. I have sat through hundreds and hundreds of hours of workshops of yoga teacher training and if there is one thing I know about them it's that I like to take notes. Copious notes. But Maezen had invited us attendees not to write anything down. This had me worried. Here is what she wrote back:

... It's interesting that this point brings up such panic in so many of us. I have to say that I would prefer you not record my talks. They are meaningful only in the moment we occupy together. And I have the utmost faith in you. There is nothing I say that you don't already know in your own heart. That's why we call it wisdom! We recognize it on sight and sound. All I'm doing is reminding you.

This is a day to do things differently. This is a day to trust yourself - all of yourself.


Never have I had a request denied so beautifully and satisfyingly before. Her "no" was a greater gift than a "yes" would have been. I was stunned that she'd seen right to the uncertain, shaky core of my request, and quelled my fear with her love and trust. Did I mention we hadn't even met yet? I'd been excited about the workshop before; now I was really, really excited. Her email bore the mark of a true teacher.

She did not disappoint. And she was right. Just as the most instructive part of a yoga workshop for me has always been to watch a new teacher's bearing and countenance, the way they move, the quality of their presence, so too it was with Maezen. What struck me most what the deep quality of attention that she brought to the day, that she gave each of us attendees in turn. When she looks at you, she looks at you with all of her attention. When she listens, she does so with all of her being. Which is fitting, because that is essentially the core of her message: attention is the most concrete form of love. In order to have a life worth loving, all we need to do is attend to the one we have. I knew this already--I'd read it, numerous times, in her books. Heck, I have entire passages practically memorized. I didn't need to write anything down (although I did, a few phrases--I couldn't help it!) All I needed to do was sit, observe the kind of attention my teacher wants me to bring to my own life and relationships, and bask into the warmth of it. Which I did, gratefully.

ETA Many thanks to Erica at The Art of Workshops! Without your giveaway, I wouldn't have been able to attend.

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