By Margaret Olmsted
Many years ago, Patrick Watson encouraged us to occasionally teach a class in silence. I remember watching someone do this and thinking it was hokey, but it also showed me that we talk way too much when we teach. Around the same time, my father took the 8 Ways course from a teacher in NYC. One day she couldn’t make it and Patrick taught. He said a few things, but mostly led in silence. At the end my father said how nice it was to just do it and not be “talked at” the whole time.
Which brings me to the point of this article.
- Don’t be afraid of silence in class. Take a few breaths before you speak again.
- And be careful of not jumping in if your partner is allowing silence.
- You don’t need to tell the class everything you know.
- Talking a lot appeals to the mind and not to the dantian.
- Let people discover things on their own through some silent practice.
- Use your voice and energy to get people relaxed and internal and let them stay there.
Of course, this is easier in a qigong or 8 Ways class when the students are in a posture or the movement is repetitive. And harder in a beginning level class. But even then, you can recite the indications a few times and then let the students try it in silence. That gives you an opportunity to watch and see what’s needed.
Many of you are doing this already and I salute you. But with all the classes on Zoom these days, it’s interesting to me to watch how people teach, how they use their voice, and what works for me. And I find I really don’t like being “talked at” the entire class. (Actually, I don’t like it when it happens off the floor either.) And, in my humble opinion, most teachers talk too much.
So next time you teach, take a few breaths between the words and sink into some relaxed silence in your class. Your students will appreciate it.