I’m in charge of a lot of meetings at 8 Limbs. Some of you may be taking pity on me when reading that sentence but no need; I’m also one of those people who like meetings, at least usually. I like the sum-is-greater-than-individual-part-outcomes they often generate. I enjoy watching people thinking and pondering and co-creating – live. It gets me thinking and pondering and creating well after. And I dig orchestrating the potential for such experiences.
This past week was no exception; I took part in and ran a number of meetings. But I also got an extra treat in the form of our biannual teacher meeting. It wasn’t just a treat because I was able to sit with so many of our amazing teachers at one time, it also stood out because I wasn’t the orchestrator. I had the opportunity to simply go along for the ride. Something I also often relish because being a participant can put me directly in touch with why I first crushed out so much on meetings – the actual experience of contributing, live, to greater-outcome-generation.
Twice a year 8 Limbs teachers gather, over lunch, to talk shop – what it means to be a teacher, what it means to teach at 8 Limbs in particular and numerous possibilities for growing as a teacher. Kathleen Dowd, our fantastic Education Coordinator, runs these meetings. This past Wednesday Kathleen opened up with a question – what is your growing edge as a teacher and how do you support that edge? She then invited us to sit in silence for 5 minutes, allowing the question to percolate. During the meeting itself I took her question literally. I thought about it not in terms of my role as Executive Director but in my role as teacher.* Through this lens I also soaked up what all the other teachers in the room subsequently shared after our sitting. It was re-affirming to experience my own capacity to teach grow from the collective wisdom. I became both more in touch with the role my nerves play in teaching and the role my breath can play in calming my nerves.
After the meeting though the question lingered and I began to ponder it from the point of view as Executive Director. What arose from this lingering was around my growing edge in leading meetings. Facilitating meetings is something I’ve been quite comfortable with for decades. What’s newer for me is more intentionally weaving in my mindfulness practice and what I do as a teacher of mindfulness into meetings. What I noticed was how nervous I still get when I start mingling these two roles. I noticed how daunted I find leading and teaching teachers when the methodology, meditation, is one of the eight limbs of yoga. Not so nervous or daunted that I don’t plow through, but enough to know that I’m self-conscious and at times a bit clunky. And then, just as had happened in the Teacher meeting, the spirit of the second part of Kathleen’s question seeped in – how might I work with the anxiety that arises when I mingle these roles? For me it’s whatever will get me back into the full scope of my body, like my breath. When I’m anxious it means my energy is disproportionately in my head. When I breathe deeply I am also encouraging myself to inhabit my full body, a calming and grounding experience. Not the most profound insight given I had just had such a similar insight, but the reminder of it felt profound. I’m excited to experiment with different ways to intentionally be in my body in future meetings, to actively work breath into my meeting preparations. I’m genuinely excited. As I mentioned, I already had a crush on meetings, but now I feel like I’m slipping a flirty note to my crush and upping the connection.
With that I want to say thanks to Kathleen for giving me the treat of an excellent meeting and so much to ponder in one simple question, to the teachers who inspired me this past Wednesday and to my colleagues that support me in (at times, more like put up with) my own meeting-orchestration-experiments. I also invite you to consider your growing edge in whatever roles or crushes that are important to you, along with how you support that edge. Feel free to share with me at email@example.com.
Posted by: Ashley Dahl, Executive Director for 8 Limbs Yoga Centers
*Ashley will be leading monthly morning drop-in meditations beginning June 1st at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill and co-teaching Self-Compassion: A Radical Path September 17th with 8 Limbs Teacher Tracy Hodgeman at 8 Limbs West Seattle.