When I was a freshman, or maybe a sophomore in High School, I remember being in one of my Language Arts classes with my favorite teacher, Norm Vandal. Norm was the type of teacher that lulled students into a sense of security by entertaining the class. He recounted crazy stories, like the one about the time he got stuck on his tin roof butt-naked in the middle of summer and had to figure out how to safely slide his way down before his neighbor drove by. His storytelling was so vivid and full of tension, the entire class would be in hysterics. Just when we thought we were getting away with murder by listening to a funny story during class time, he would masterfully weave his story back into a lesson. Like a chef sneaking vegetables into mac & cheese, he was teaching us without us realizing he was teaching us. He was truly masterful.
On the day in question, I cannot remember what book we were talking about, but I do remember the look in Norm’s eye when he asked for a volunteer. His eyes caught mine—he smirked knowingly. This wasn’t the first time this had happened (nor would it be the last) if I didn’t raise my hand, he would “volunteer” me anyway. So, I played along. He asked me to stand. I did. Then with a flick of his hand he said “Go.”
I puzzled… “…go?”
“Go.” He repeated.
“…” I blushed - “But… where?”
“HA! There you see?!” He bellowed gleefully. “Why didn’t you just go? Why do we need the answer—why can’t we learn to love the questions?”
At some point during his lecture that followed, I curled my way back into my seat. Despite my momentary embarrassment, for not getting it *right,* what Norm said that day stuck with me. “Learn to love the questions,” he said. “They are so much more interesting than the answers! Like balancing on one leg - questions are alive and full of possibility… answers are stagnant, finite, even boring.”
But… I liked having the answers. Up until that day, having the answers worked pretty darn well for me, I was a good student, I made good grades, I relished in having an answer and in getting that answer *right* - what was so wrong with having the answers anyway, what’s so bad about being boring?
But like many a good lesson, “learning to love the questions” kept coming back. As I grew and eventually became a yoga teacher, I found myself gravitating back to that linear way of thinking: there is a *right* way to practice and a *right* way to teach, and I wanted, even needed, to be *right.* To be the best. Now, several years and thousands of hours of teaching later, I realize that Norm was right all along. Answers, while comforting, are not only boring but inadequate. Yoga is the practice of being in the present moment, and the only truth about the present moment is that it is always changing. So we as yoga teachers and as yoga practitioners need to be willing to inquire within to keep up with that ever-changing state of being. Instead of being caught up in what is right and what is wrong, can we learn to love the questions, to embrace the questions:
- How does this make me feel?
- What is my body craving?
- How is my breath?
- How can I better satiate this body in this moment?
- What makes me feel alive? complete? nourished?
On any given day those answers can and will be different, so what if we chose to learn to love the questions?