Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Not Un-familiar Metaphor

I've been Xtreme gardening lately. After about three years of benign neglect (courtesy of little boys who need close supervision outside), I've been able to turn my attention back to massive prairie weeds and runaway ferns. Cathartic, if exhausting.

The neglect was not completely without engagement. I've been watching--sun patterns, aggressiveness of certain perennials, wet and dry spots. So even though my garden is a bit scraggly, I feel pretty aware of what's going on--what and what not to introduce. Some of this knowledge just comes from waiting and observation, some from internet research, some from talking to other gardeners. I'm not a Master by any means, but I know what I know.

I am struck by the similarity of gardening to teaching. No, I'm not going to draw a parallel between nurturing and mentoring or guiding immature seedlings or creating something beautiful from dirt. I've been teaching about as long as I've been seriously gardening (that'd be seven years) and, though I still feel pretty immature myself, I'm starting to get a sense of what makes me better at each discipline.

That would be experience. Not more trainings, more classes, more workshops, or more instruction. Sure, all that helps and gives you more information to work with (see the discussion at Linda S's house). But what I think I really pushes a teacher/gardener to the next level is actually doing the work itself. Having to be there in the moment and make choices on the fly, instead of endlessly discussing the options.

And then there's the peripheral knowledge that just comes with life experience--things picked up along the way that are relevant eventually. In fact, that's what I love about using the blog to figure out my yoga; often these connections don't become obvious until I'm thinking about them while writing. Which eventually leads back to the classroom. Or the dirt (so that's why you prune lilacs early).

Of course, useful life experience is impossible to quantify. How do you make an exit test? What does it certify? You certainly can't design a new revenue stream around it. But I guess, to me, it is the most useful instruction of all. It's why I prefer older teachers, especially in yoga (prejudiced, I know, but that's what works for me). Experience gives you a framework to understand all the subsequent training and makes all the information that much more relevant.

Get out. Dig in. Feet first. Just Do. Then you can step back and think, but first, Get Dirty.


Linda-Sama said...

as a life-long gardener (and garden designer besides yoga teacher), gardening IS yoga to me.

gardening is all about non-attachment, aversion, watching things arise and pass away, impermanence. seeing the Universe inside an acorn. watching something sweep away the Tibetan mandala of an anthill the ants so painstakingly built and watching them start again.

yoga is life.

Charlotte said...

Beautiful post, Brenda. Knowledge, the kind that comes from trainings and workshops, is very useful—even crucial. But until it is integrated through practice and living it remains on the surface. Knowledge enters the realm of wisdom only through experience and time. I also choose to learn from older teachers, those who have had the time for their Yoga (and I include all Eight Limbs) to become a part of them. This does not happen overnight. It happens with years of intentional practice.

Unknown said...

Amen, sister! I just got a community garden plot this summer and have had many thoughts re the connections between yoga, gardening, and life. Rich soil, indeed! :)

Y is for Yogini said...

I agree a million times over! I also share the same experience as I write in my own yoga blog — some things not previously explored in rich depth become so very clear. I never feel like it's anything less than a miracle, even though it happens often. ;)

Grace said...

Wisdom comes from experience. Not actually doing but just gaining knowledge in yoga would be like hiring a gardener to do all the "grunt" work. To be a wise gardener, you have to understand the soil, too.

Linda-Sama said...

one of the most interesting classes I ever took when I got my hort. certificate was the class on soils.

Belinda Y. Hughes said...

I can't think of anything original, it's all been said. Thank you, Brenda, Linda, Charlotte, Carol, Y and Grace. Good company for a Labor Day in the woods. Namaste'.

Amanda said...

I have been practicing yoga for a decade+ (and not gardening for 1+ seasons) and I am just starting to teach. The teaching (not the planning, practicing sequences and thinking about teaching) has contributed SO much to my yoga life and my personal practice and I can see that there is much more ahead. Thanks for the post!