Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A New Way of Teaching

In my previous posting, I described an exasperated observation I'd offer while teaching jazz workshops:
You guys are sitting there, slumped in your chairs, mopey and dead-eyed. You're honking out jazzy notes like it's the latest dreary task in your daily grind, along with vacuuming the living room or tying your shoes. You're not working hard and you're not particularly trying...even though you absolutely need to, because you're not good yet.

Now, consider me. I'm a professional. I'm good. In fact, I'd sound good even if I sat back like a mope, treating this like some dreary task. Yet I don't. Look at me here, trying phenomenally hard. I'm sweating bullets and considering every note as if my life depended on it. Why are you working and caring so much less than I am? Does it make even the slightest bit of sense?!?
It struck them like thunder. Every time. And it often stuck with them. Here's a similar one:

I was taking a yoga class taught by the great Ramanand Patel. It was a very warm day and the studio was not air conditioned and he was working us hard, having us do impossible things and hold positions long beyond our normal limits. There was much moaning and groaning in the room, and some of us were starting to crumble in resignation. Here's what he said:
While you enjoy your lovely afternoon of yoga, untold millions perform unforgiving manual labor in the hot sun with empty bellies for pennies.
After that there was nary a sound. Only lightness and ease. All week.

I once wrote, in a posting titled "Disrespect Your Teachers", that
All learning is self-learning. Your doctor can cure you without your participation, and your stylist can make you look sharp while you chat on the phone, but no teacher has ever taught anyone anything. Teachers are mere aids in a learning process that's student-owned.
You can't teach people much by pushing your knowledge and experience at them. If you're lucky, a few will draw those things toward themselves, but it's their initiative, not yours. Nor can you help people by pushing forward a directed solution. Again, most will remain impervious, while a few might choose to draw and to drink. If you sense no pull, there's literally no use for you. You may be right as rain but you won't make a lick of difference (this accounts for people who never learn; who've fallen in love with their pain and ignorance, their drama and desperation).


What you can do, via words, arts, example-setting, or even just attitude, is to coax people to shift their frame of perspective. Framing is everything in this life. It's the preeminent human faculty, though it's seldom spoken of, and rarely intentionally practiced (I'm working on a book of exercises...stay tuned). 

So if you want to seem like a magician, develop some litheness in your shifting, and you'll find that others can be brought along with you. When it works, this is what miracles are. No one will ever levitate or mind-read, but you absolutely can instigate a shift in perspective, and a new framing is a new world; a new life. A number of my students went on to be highly-committed players, and I never again found yoga unpleasant, even when it was very difficult.

Creativity is directly related. We value art, music, cinema, cuisine, etc., for their power to help us shift our framing, and the best creators are akin to magicians. Art is any human creation devised to induce a reframing of perspective.

Here are previous writings on perceptual framing, in reverse chronological order (I'd strongly suggest starting from the bottom and working up).

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