Numbers dictate so many of my decisions, so many of my feelings. I’m realizing that they’re tied inextricably to every facet of my life, but in this post I will focus on my work.
As a yoga teacher I need to adhere to a strict time schedule. I always leave one hour before a class begins so that I can arrive and get settled thirty minutes prior to class. I watch the miles per gallon that my car gets as I drive. When I arrive, I check how many students have signed in on-line. I look at the attendance of the class that started an hour before mine. In my own class, I count the number of students who come…and this is where I really get hung up on numbers.
A full class = I am a successful yoga teacher, my students love me
A half-full class = I am a halfway successful yoga teacher, and my students like me okay
A small yoga class = I am a rotten teacher, and nobody likes me
Beyond the number of bodies in the room and how that number dictates my feeling of success while teaching, there are the numbers attached to how much I’m being paid for my time. The pay for six out of my seven weekly classes is determined by student attendance. I become obsessed with calculating. How much did I just make when I taught that class? What was my hourly rate while teaching? When I have a very full class, I feel elated, because I was paid well for my time, and I’ll bring more abundance back home to my family. When I teach a smaller class, I feel disheartened, because my time away from my family isn’t generating enough income to justify my being away.
At least this is what the loudest part of me says. I’m really starting to see that the loudest part is often my inner critic, and it is so accustomed to being king that it doesn’t allow the other voices to speak up. But somehow, through it all, I know they’re there.
There is a voice that says, “If you make a difference in the life of just one student today, then it was totally worth it to show up and teach. It doesn’t matter how much money you made.”
Another voice suggests, “You’re gaining experience, regardless of how much money you made. You are connecting with adults outside of the house. You are sharing the best part of yourself with people who need to come home to being.”
Somebody else offers, “Success isn’t determined by a number. Success is determined by the look of bliss on your students’ faces when they emerge from relaxation, ready to step out into the world with the gifts of strength, flexibility, balance, focus, and deep breathing. Success is determined by how much of your heart and soul you put into your work. Success is determined by how you meet your weaknesses and choose to transform them, so that you can learn, and grow, and change.”
Most of the time I can overcome the voice of the emotional system and enjoy teaching yoga, even to a very small class. But I’m also waging a battle with the critic that is battering me down, telling me this is futile, this is a sign that I’m a failure, that people don’t like me, they don’t enjoy my teaching.
I watch how the class before mine had twice as many students, and the class after mine had three times as many. Now granted, those are hot classes, and it’s cold as heck outside…but this isn’t good enough for my inner critic.
No, it needs my classes to be packed all of the time, or else it’s never good enough.
I wish I could stop counting. The numbers haunt me. They are a classic example of being stuck in polarities. I often encourage my students to move beyond ideas of right and wrong, pleasure and pain, success and failure, like and dislike. I remind them that breathing can give us the space to experience the being beyond duality. I invite them to let this moment be enough, without the need to fix or change anything. I tell them, in this moment, in this pose, let it be enough to just breathe. And just breathe again.
I would that I could follow my own advice. Critic says, And you’re a hypocrite too.
I would probably be mortified if any of my regular students came across this post. I don’t want them to think that I look at them as just a number. I actually have a great deal of love and affection for my students. I learn their names, I often know the names of their family members, I know what kind of jobs they have, and what breaks their heart.
If a student of mine read this post, I’d want to tell them:
Please know that the self in me is so grateful for the self in you. All this talk about numbers comes from a scared little girl who wants to be loved, and recognized, and celebrated. But that’s not my true self, that just fear talking. I want to grow out of this fear, so that I can be more authentic for you. I want to free myself from this obsession with numbers, so that I can be even more present, even more true as a teacher. I’m doing this exploration so that I can take a step closer to freedom. Forgive my humanness. Forgive the broken pieces that emerge from my darkness and tear through this moment with envy, bitterness, and regret. I’ll keep showing up, and I hope you will too.
Still, I hope none of my students reads this. It’s all pretty embarrassing. I’ve had these kinds of talks with my husband, close friends, family, and therapist– but I never thought I would make this information available to anyone on the internet who somehow stumbles upon it.
So there you have it, more proof that I’m a human with feelings. It’s not pretty, but it’s honest. That counts for something, right?