Lately the subject of studentship has been on my mind. What does it mean to be a good student? And who gets to decide?
Several months ago I hit a slump in my personal practices. My yoga practices had fallen off and the only herbal medicines I was making were for other people. I would spend hours preparing classes for my training programs and because I was flipping though books and writing questions, I'd think to myself, "this is how teachers study." What I didn't realize was that my inspiration for my work was slipping away because I was not making the time for myself and the subjects that I so deeply love.
It was around Day 5 of a 40-Day Yoga Challenge in October when the first switch flipped. I had organized a 40-Day practice group to help people get back on their mats. This was something I wanted for myself too but to be honest, I wasn't sure if I had the time to do it.
On Day 5 I found myself doing a handstand without the aid of the wall and for the first time in a long time, the fire was re-lit. I thought to myself, "I love yoga! Why haven't I been doing this all along? I teach other people how to do the practice but somewhere along the line I stopped teaching myself!" This was the start of some big changes in my life. I wanted 'it', and wanted 'it' bad. I wanted to learn more about yoga, myself, and plant medicines. I realized that no one was going to teach me unless I really wanted to learn. I saw that unless I really dedicated myself to these fields that time was just passing by and I would simply be left maintaining the knowledge I already had. And I wanted to grow.
"I saw that unless I really dedicated myself to these fields that time was just passing by and I would simply be left maintaining the knowledge I already had. And I wanted to grow."
As a child, being a good student meant getting good grades and staying out of trouble. In graduate school being a good student meant asking smart questions and turning in thick papers with references in the correct APA format. Now being a good student has a whole new meaning.
Being a good student these days means studying myself, my motives, and keeping myself engaged in the things I love. It means paying attention to the flow of Tao, or of nature itself and never working against it, since that would mean working against myself. Being a good student means that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY LEARNING. No one can make me learn or can take me away from the subjects I am committed to studying.
"Being a good student means that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY LEARNING."
Most importantly, being a good student requires self-discipline. It requires that I choose wisely in every moment of my life. I can play on my phone/computer or I can pick up a book. I can fill my schedule with things to keep myself busy, or I can keep my time open for walks in nature and gardening. As a student of life I can choose to be a victim of time or an artist of creation. It has never been so clear to me as it is right now, life is short, and there is so much to learn.
As a lifelong student of yoga, herbal medicine, and ethical business practices, I am happy to say that I am now practicing and studying in a way that is very nourishing and supportive. I've continued on with my daily yoga practice and will be signing up for a 500-hour yoga training course in 2014. I've started drinking daily herbal infusions and am reading herbal books every morning with my tea. It is incredible how the plants are already providing me with so much support. I went out in the rain and started planting bulbs at our new house and am envisioning an herbal oasis here where I can deepen my connection with the plants and share them with my students. I also plan to attend more herbal webinars with the teachers who inspire me most, Matthew Wood, Julia Graves, Susun Weed, Isla Burgess, among others. And last week I started a one year astrology course with the best learners I've ever met, Adam Elenbaas.
"It is incredible how the plants are already providing me with so much support."
On the business front, the opening of our new Sky House location next month will feature Seva Sundays, where all Sunday yoga classes, workshops, and consultations are free! Any donations that come in from these free classes and workshops will go toward charities who are aligned with our spiritual, social, environmental, and ethical beliefs.
Lastly, being a good student means knowing who your teachers are and acknowledging them. This week I sent out thank you cards to my teachers thanking them for their time and dedication to their craft. I don't think it's a mistake that my favorite teachers are also some of the best students in their fields.
"I don't think it's a mistake that my favorite teachers are also some of the best students in their fields."
Being a good student can be fun! What do you want to study? What is one small step you can take in that direction? You can challenge yourself in the areas where you know you need work and then you can congratulate yourself with a big smile and high-five! Start somewhere, and you might be surprised at where your learning takes you!
Studying my yoga from the mat, to the books, to the garden, and to the community,~Ashley