Praise and Blame

Posted on Jan 6, 2019

A student approached me after class recently to tell me that I had hurt her feelings. It had happened a few weeks earlier and she had taken some time off “to recover.” Eventually she missed my teaching, she explained, so decided to come back. We had a good talk and I apologized whole-heartedly. I believe that she left our conversation feeling better. I, on the other hand, was devastated. How could I have been so insensitive and hurt this dear person? Why was my speaking style so rough? Maybe I didn’t have the temperament to teach yoga after all.


The very next morning a different student stopped me as I was walking into the studio. She had been in class the day before but was back, she said, because something I had observed in her practice had blown her mind wide open. She was excited and grateful to explore this new understanding. Now of course I was all smiles: I am helpful! I know stuff! I see you!


How can it be that between the end of one class and the beginning of the next so much had changed? Praise and blame, pleasure and pain, these worldly winds they just keep blowing. After 20 years of practice and more than a decade of teaching, I still get tossed around.


Do you ever feel this way when you get feedback about…anything? Your body? Your job? Your lifestyle? Your parenting? Just wondering…


One definition of yoga is to “still the fluctuations of the mind.” The process is ongoing and we are constantly afforded opportunities to practice. When we feel unsteady it is tempting to grasp onto judgments (I am terrible! I am great!) as if they were solid.  A stable mind, on the other hand, can balance a sense of self that is fluid, lighter, less solidified. When a strong wind blows in, this lightness can help us to do less damage both to ourselves and others.


So yes, I do still get tossed around, and more often than I would like to admit. But I also recover more quickly. Although I did undergo some serious self-reflection after the first student encounter (and rightly so), I didn’t actually quit teaching. And in the second incident, while I totally appreciated my student’s enthusiasm, after a brief burst of pride I easily recognized that her discovery had more to do with her practice and what she was ready to receive that day, than any super-nova brilliance on my part. I even told her that.


Today’s reminder (again): You are not who you think you are. You are so much more.



One Comment

  1. As a good friend once said:
    “Equanimity is seeing with patience.”