Some of the most powerful life lessons are ones that creep upon us sideways and take us by surprise. I learned this truth powerfully through my dear friend and colleague Ame Wren, founder of Boston Yoga School. She has had such a profound influence on my life. Ame will forever have my unending gratitude.
Ame first contacted me in in the Spring of 2013, taking a leap of faith, and inviting me to become a guest teacher in her dynamic yoga teacher training program. I eagerly accepted and found my way to Boston many moons later. I was honored by her trust in me, and was grateful and nourished by that first opportunity to touch the lives of her students.
Since then Ame has invited me back to share teachings with training yoga teachers in Portland, Cape Cod, Syracuse and Boston many times over. We have always maintained an open dialogue, and with her guidance, I have been able to hone my craft and elevate my teachings to higher, deeper, and more precise levels.
There is an element within Ame’s training that has changed my life forever in the most unexpected and profound way. As a teacher and a healer, my life is about giving. To my family and friends, I would give, give, give. I did not know how to receive. In fact, I’ve avoided it, dismissed it, and downright said no it receiving for much of my life. I told myself a story that began as a little boy that I don’t need anyone else. The story says I can do it alone, and there is no reason to let anyone in. This was a lie that I told myself so many times and for so long that I more than believed it. I lived it. A stark counterpoint to my most comfortable mode, at the closing of each training Ame has implemented the practice of a “Gratitude Circle.” As you might suspect, everyone in the training sits in a circle and the students share from their heart gratitude toward the teacher.
The first few times that I sat in gratitude circle, I dismissed it. I quietly repeated in my head that this was simply the students projecting their stories onto me. It was safer that way. After a couple of years, I began to listen to what the students were saying and I took their gratitude as confirmation and validation they had learned something from the class. I did everything in my power not to feel their gratitude, not to receive.
This seismically shifted last month when I took a huge leap and taught some new content I have been working on–all focused on heart opening. The Advanced Teacher Trainees were the first group I shared this with, and I was deeply aware of the risk I was taking. Something profound happened. The dynamic electricity of the weekend was abundant and apparent. With clear boundaries, I set out to crack the students’ hearts open just a little, but the surprise was that my own heart had been cracked wide open by the practice I had been teaching.
When it was time for gratitude circle, the strength of my defenses and false ego had been dismissed. My heart was open and I knew I had taught the greatest weekend I have ever had the privilege to share. The heartfelt gratitude came like a flood of emotion from each and every student. With my defenses down, I had no where to turn and no where to run. I was receiving. I was vulnerable. My tears fell as an overwhelming rush of love filled my vibrating viscera. I didn’t burst apart, and I didn’t break down. It just felt wonderful. An incredible initiation into the flow of receptivity.
So Ame Wren, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You forced me to sit in gratitude for so long that I learned to receive. You are my teacher and my friend. And I look forward to the next gratitude circle!!