Making Meaning and Keeping it Real: On Becoming a Teacher's Teacher
Daily mantra: Teach tens of thousands of hours on the mat. Live life off of the mat. Keep training. Be discerning. Maintain perspective. Make mistakes. Admit them. Apologize. Move on. Refine choices. Celebrate successes. Connect. Thrive. Fall down. Keep a sense of humor. Speak up and express. Know when to shut up and when to listen. Experience loss. Grieve. Grow. Forgive. Ask for help. Help wherever you can. Burst with gratitude. Strive for your best everyday. Let compassion, humility, and no BS rule that day. Check in with your heart. Let what you do be what is in your heart. Be in service. Own your own stuff. Keep it real. And LOVE BIG.
In the last few years, some version of this has become my daily mantra. As I find myself moving into the role of "trainer of the trainers," I find I need to fall back on these guidelines – a lot. This move into a deeper role of teacher, into becoming the "teacher's teacher," was one I considered very cautiously. My own teachers encouraged me with reassuring words like, "You know more than you think you do." "You're already doing it, so just make it formal." And simply, "You're ready." And I've always had a strong desire to teach – mostly because I love the process. It actually doesn't matter what I’m teaching, because I enjoy encouraging students to engage in a process of critical thought, self-reflection, and greater self-sufficiency. When one absorbs the teachings of anything, we have another filter through which we can see the world. Teaching, to me, is a form of humble leadership that begins with a simple desire.
We yoga teachers hear a lot about this phenomenon I like to call "the space in between." There’s class – then the space in between – then class again. It's inspiring to hear a student's stories about how their yoga practice impacts their lives off the mat. Often it’s something grand, at other times, it’s subtle. There’s joy. There’s grief. There’s banality. All of it is valid. And that space in between is telling.
When considering the possibility of leading a long-duration teacher training, I realized this would be a much deeper dive into that space in between. A teacher training doesn't allow for half an effort, it requires that you go all in. I was a one-time teacher-in-training and I remember it well, like it was yesterday! The process transforms you at every layer; meanwhile it’s all happening while you’re holding down a job, washing the dishes, paying the bills...trying to maintain being an ORDINARY member of society, while all this EXTRAORDINARY stuff is happening underneath. It can be messy, chaotic, overwhelming. And to have the opportunity to bear witness to this process in others is a privilege. And it was something I did not take lightly.
When my dear friend and co-founder/co-director, Janelle Watters-Oleil, said, “Now, it’s time,” I was inspired. I was inspired by the idea of working with future teachers, of having the opportunity to bear witness to a beautiful unfolding, of encouraging students to dig deep, to listen for their voice of sadhguru – the humble leader. I was eager to present an opportunity to those who have so diligently sat in the role of student long enough to feel that calling, the desire to teach – and for me to be in the position to help harness this energy – well, that was an exciting proposition!
Teaching is a joy, a service, a privilege…and a humble daily reminder to keep it real – because the good teachers need to simultaneously be the best students.
A New York native, but called San Francisco home for a decade, Amanda Dates has now found meaning sharing yoga in her adopted city, Paris. She is the co-founder and co-director of Expansion, Freedom & Voice™ a 200hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher training, as well as, Going Back to the Source - Yoga & Terroir™ international yoga retreats, with a focus on food, culture, and local economies. When she isn't offering her signature Bhakti Flow style at Big Apple Yoga France or Paris Yoga Shala, she can be found tending her garden at her petite fermette, L'Oustalou, the future yoga and arts centre she and her husband are renovating.