On Sharing

 
Artwork by Agnes Martin

Artwork by Agnes Martin

Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. It might be fear or anxiety. We have to think about why we’re sharing and, equally important, with whom. What are their roles? What is our role? Is this sharing productive and appropriate.
— Brené Brown

In response to some recent negativity on social media by one of our former teachers, I’d like to shine a light on the context and open up a dialogue about conscious teaching and healthy boundaries.

In short, some feedback on sharing personal traumas in a Good Vibes class was given to Amy by our Studio Manager via email, and she felt silenced by it. I wasn’t in the particular class, but I met with them both to talk through the feedback given to Amy and her reaction to it a few days later.

What We’ve Learnt

What we’ve learnt is that email isn’t the best form of communication to provide feedback to our Yoga teachers, especially around sensitive topics with the potential for misinterpretation. Good Vibes has no intention to tap out of difficult conversations, and this feedback did need to be passed on. In hindsight, the language used was more rigid and less collaborative than it should have been. That’s so often the danger of digital communication. The Manager’s objective was not to anger or de-value Amy.

Our Intentions

A teacher cannot possibly know each students history, nor their level of resilience. The concern was about unnecessarily catalysing trauma in students as opposed to holding a safe, neutral space for them. We both understand how Amy interpreted this as feeling silenced. We recognise that discussing the importance of a universal tone and the dangers of sharing fresh trauma would have been a more constructive approach than asking Amy to avoid sharing these experiences in the future.

Yoga is absolutely not about repressing anything, and we don’t believe in a ‘good vibes only’ approach. We have never asked any of our teachers or staff to stop being vulnerable. To not be genuine, honest or human. Trauma and challenges are present in the lives of every person, including the 27 people that make up our team. During this past week alone physical sickness, emotional exhaustion and devastating heartbreak has torn through us. We do and always will compassionately show up for each other when one of us is down.

Just as an artist with their art practice, your personal experiences in life as a teacher, are intrinsically connected to your teaching. When you’re falling in love, we feel that in your class. When you’re in absolute alignment with yourself, you ground us with that energy. When you’ve experienced something devastating, and you still have the energy to show up and teach, then you use that pain, and we feel that too. It is the fuel and the fire that moves you to move us. It cannot be left outside of the Yoga Shala.

Moving Forward

But what can be left out, in my opinion, is oversharing information that’s likely to trigger students. The health and wellbeing of our community has always been a core value at Good Vibes. People come to Yoga studios to practice because they are safe havens for them. By this, I don’t mean they are places where we forget that the world is in crisis, instead they are spaces where we are safe to delve into the depths of our beings, do The Work and heal.

Is it possible for teachers to be authentic in classes, completely raw even, but speak broadly and universally about pain without detailing personal trauma? Can you allow your students to turn-inward, to connect to their own journey rather than attach to your story? If classes are about the student, not the teacher, then I believe this is the most conscious approach.

When the teacher stands completely in her own centre of gravity and understands that she is there to serve the student, the self-containment within the teacher creates a healthy boundary.
— Donna Farhi

This is not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong but an opportunity to have a conversation about the implications of our words and the effect they may have on people. What is your perspective on sharing personal trauma in classes? How do you maintain healthy boundaries while being authentic and vulnerable?

A Personal Note

Reflecting on the more hostile elements of Amy’s post, I will say this; they only perpetuate hurt. They are divisive, false and undermine the love and care that each of us put into our work. We’re not a large unethical corporation. We are not a company with investors or shareholders. Does Good Vibes make money? Yes, last month we did. This month because of the holiday period, we haven’t. While we are one of Melbourne’s busiest studios, I face the same challenges that any small business owner faces. It costs a lot to run a Yoga studio to the standard that we do. If profit were my sole agenda Yoga would not be the industry that I would have chosen.

In a society dominated by polarisation and divisiveness may we continue to inspire a healthy and supportive industry that ripples out into the world. We have no separate fates, we are bound together by the intent to unify.

With love,

Kirra

 
Kirra JamisonComment