When I first started teaching, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I’d spend the whole class trying to pretend to be someone else. I remember something Kathryn Budig once said. She said that in the beginning of her practice she was doing “a bad Maty Ezraty” (her teacher). And I felt like I was doing the poor man’s Joe Taft, another yoga teacher who’s had a huge influence on me—to the point where a student actually asked me, “Is Joe Taft your teacher?”
So, you go from this feeling of, I must emulate somebody else, to thinking, I just gotta figure out how to be myself. I’m just going to try to be me in this practice and see what happens. That evolution, really looking within myself and digging deeper into my own practice, has had such a positive impact on my teaching. I think that’s all teaching is, ultimately: It’s just finding yourself, living your own practice, and then reflecting that to other people. It’s as if in finding my own practice and finding a linking of the light and the dark, I found an instrument inside me. I actually think of it like a trumpet.
To access it, I reach inside of my body. (It’s very Walking Dead.) I reach in and I find my trumpet. I pull it out and I clean it off. I get all the gunk and guts off of it, and then I put it to my lips, and I start trying to play it. I’ve never played this instrument before. I don’t know how to play the trumpet. So, I’m just experimenting randomly, making sounds. But I’m having fun ’cause it’s my instrument, and it seems natural to play it.
As I’m playing, somebody walks by. They’re like, “Where’d you get that instrument?” And I say, “I found it inside myself!” They’re like, “Word!” And I’m like, “Yes.” Then they ask, “Do you think I have an instrument inside of me?” And I say, “I know you do. Just look.”
They start looking for an instrument. And they find one. They pull it out, and it’s not the same instrument as the one that I’m playing. It’s some other instrument, but they’ve never played it before either. And they start cleaning it off, pulling off the gunk, and then they start to play.
And then we’re playing together. We’re not playing the same song. We don’t even know what we’re playing. We’re just trying to find our instruments, our own voices, but we’re doing it around each other. And then more people see us, and they come over, and they start finding their instruments. And before you know it, we have a whole orchestra. So many voices. This is not Jessamyn’s orchestra, where everyone has to play in time. Come through, pull out your instrument, play it for yourself. We’ll make a safe space to do that—to be yourself. I think community building is the best form of leadership. It’s empowering other people to believe in themselves, as opposed to trying to get them to believe in something else outside of themselves.
Try this sequence to help you embody this exploration and find your own instrument.