Some notes on Mysore Style • 24 July 2008

I. Working a room. It helps to have waited tables for a long time. It helps to have great peripheral vision developed over years of sophisticated driste practice. Does a teacher understand that the first key is to coordinate, and intensify, the energies of the individuals? Or does she make the huge mistake of letting her energy pool in certain parts of the room, or—worse—periodically honing in on single students in a way that the rest of the room falls into darkness for several minutes? Driste—one pointedness, but the environing universe is still present and in motion. Teachers who don’t get this—and who can’t handle being service persons/facilitators—should do some time in the hospitality business.

Related: once I went to work at Amnesty International for a summer, taking three months of my waitressing job. Came back and tried to serve the same-sized sections on day one. DISASTER. Took many nights before I could play the table service video game again with any kind of skill.

Also: So can my working class service skills jump the hierarchy to working the rooms at the dozen giant cocktail parties I have to attend in Boston next week? Even though we’re talking rooms of very powerful, smart people who have things I—from my spot at the veeeery bottom of the hierarchy—want? Or will I let my energy pool in corners, stay occupied with those I know, fail to engage with the whole space? I actually hate this question (I never use that word). Working a room from the bottom, where you don’t have a prescribed service role but instead are doing self-promotion, requires a sense of entitlement or just another level of connected charisma I don’t possess. Bravado I can do, but essentially I hate the spotlight. It’s a question of whether I’ll decide to hone a high-brow version of my middle class skill. Such an annoying, creepy prospect, but if I can see table-waiting as just a video game…

Thoughts to develop some other time—

II. The dynamic between what you know what you’ve been taught, and the way this shows up in how you engage a student. And how this dynamic shapes the degree to which a teacher is able to teach an individual or teach a system.  

The first “teach” is a transitive infitinitive verb. The second is intransitive. Both have value. I am biased toward the first.

III. Holding a space, or owning a space. How this relates to a teacher’s feelings toward her own now-absent teacher. How teachers’ authoritarian vibe relates to her own projection process, specifically to whether she has followed this process to its resolution by recognizing that her teacher/therapist is a human.

What’s the teacher’s own relationship to authority? Has she seen her own teacher as such an authority figure that practicing without the teacher is still very mournful and makes her feel abandoned? (One way to tell that is if she tries too hard to fill the shoes of the departed authority: sometimes the heaviest-handed teachers are filled with nostalgia for the imagined heavy-hand of their teacher and trying to fake it in order to comfort themselves.) Often, put-on authority is rooted in sadness for the departed teacher, and for the fact that the young  teacher herself can no longer be observed as a good student and act out of submission and compliance. Lots of karma yoga in moving from compliant to first-person active.

IV. Ritual—what is it there for?

Between (a) mind-containing structure and (b) grasping for meaning…

in other words, (a) understood as arbitrary or (b) understood as magic.