One OF Many - Baptiste Level Two Menla NY 2017

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Level Two is now complete and I have another trophy lanyard infused with countless drops of sweat and tears.

Looking back on Level One, each of us was called to create a fear inventory, delve into areas of ourselves where we were hiding, pretending or complaining. The first step we took was to put words to where we were not fully self-expressed. There were several practices of seeing others as well as being seen.

My take-away from Level Two is that we were called to self organize, self regulate as a group. We were told that it's not about us, it never was. The times during which we are truly being, listening to others are so rare. We practiced listening with filters and saw how the filter the listener has limits what the speaker can or cannot say as well as what the listener truly hears. Listening filters are the judgements we make upon the person who is doing the speaking (they're smarter/stupider/better/worse/prettier/etc). We practiced pure listening: listening to understand, without filters, without agreeing, speaking in return or only listening to respond.

A major theme was defining what I was hiding, what emotion the hiding locked me into as well as discovering what I was then locked out of. We also did work around "your words define your world" in which words we used were written down on sticky notes by our listeners. The notes were then given to the speaker so that they could see the words they had spoken aloud. The impact of one's words when handed a stack of sticky notes is much different than the what the speaker hears of themselves when they're talking. Often the speaker is not truly listening to the words they use to define their lives. Many people were not fully aware of the negative overtones in their everyday speech when they speak of their lives.

The same Baptiste Institute posters from Level One lined the walls of the Nolanda Conference Center (our main gathering room), but as the week progressed, the meaning of the phrases finally began to land with me and I was beginning to realize what it meant for the words to be as a creation rather than as a concept. As we recited what asana, inquiry and meditation were defined as, each of us were able to feel the words in our bodies and actions. They were no longer sentences simply printed on vinyl posters.

I was fascinated by each persons' transformation as they rode the magic carpet! Every person underwent a visual, verbal and physical transformation right before my eyes (and I had a similar transformational experience witnessed by everyone at Level Two). By the end of the week, everyone's faces were brighter, more open, more giving. Everyone was glowing with self expression, compassion, empathy and love. It would be a fascinating portrait study to photograph every Level Two participant before the program began and then immediately after graduating. The difference that a week at Level Two makes is amazing!

I must say a bit about the masterful leadership of Paige Elenson. Her grasp of observing the nuanced 'hiding' we were all doing and calling each of us out on it with love, strength and support was powerful to witness. She was grounded, humble, honest, compassionate and a champion for each and every one of us. My respect for her intuition, masterful choice of words and her ability to hold space for a singular person or a huge group of people is off the charts.

I also had the pleasure of having Bethany Lyons as a co-facilitator at Level Two. Her energy, support and encouragement were solid, strong and powerful. She led us into most of our practice teaching exercises as well as coaching each of us while we were riding the magic carpet. She shared her poem "for the fear-full" with us when we were in savasana and it was then that I finally realized where I knew her from! A friend of mine from Level One shared this poem on Facebook back in February '17. It was so well written and moving - I sent Bethany a friend request which she quickly accepted (to my surprise!). I'm so glad I had the opportunity to meet her and tell her how her poem had moved me when I first read it. She's warm, funny and friendly. I hope to cross paths with her again.

The biggest thing I learned at Level Two (and this may surprise you) is that as the yoga teacher, I'm supposed to look directly at the students and make a connection. I had it in my head that I was supposed to look at shoulders, knees, etc to send the verbal cues to the body parts associated with the verbal cues. As a student, I fix my drishti (gaze) or close my eyes sometimes during asana so I've never fully realized that the instructors were looking directly at me while they were teaching. This tiny bit of knowledge opens up so much possibility for my teaching moving forward. I'm so excited to teach the next class and every class after that!