• Eve Bernfeld

We Teach What We Need to Learn



Last week I made myself sick. Well, me and some streptococcus bacteria. First I feared COVID. Egads. But one swab up my nose and one down my throat confirmed what my body had already started to tell me: Strep Throat.

I need to learn to PAUSE.

Antibiotics put me back on my feet, but I also realized how extravagantly I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. Three kids (in remote school at home), two jobs, one graduate degree in the works. Not to mention the “normal” stresses that we are all facing these days, like insomnia.

I need to learn to LIE DOWN.

Now I’m in what feels like a delicate position. I need to somehow catch up on rest while simultaneously meeting my obligations. I need to learn to balance a little bit better.

I need to learn to PAUSE.

Maybe everything I do won’t be perfect. Scratch that. Certainly nothing I do will be perfect. I need to embrace that truth and do the work.

I need to learn to LIGHTEN UP.

So I rest a little. I read a lot. I let myself watch a movie over the weekend. I revel in gratitude that I’ve got the magic of grandparent help for a couple more weeks. I do the assignment imperfectly, reminding myself that the point is not the grade, but instead it’s learning one more piece of the puzzle of how to do Qualitative Research.

I need to learn to elevate PROCESS over PRODUCT.

Over the (near) decade that I’ve taught the Alexander Technique, I’ve sometimes struggled with Imposter Syndrome. My early blogs were sterile, well-written (perhaps) explanations of Alexander Technique concepts which implied that, if you do this or that, you will be “in balance,” as I am. Except I’m only in balance in the sense of trying to keep the floor in an earthquake. It was a huge revelation—and relief—to me when I started writing more honestly about my own journey and struggles and, rather than deserting me as a fraud, people started saying they liked the blog, they related.

It all fell into place the other day when one of my grad school professors threw out the truism, which I’d somehow never heard before, “we teach what we need to learn.” Oh, that explains a lot!

I need to learn to PAY ATTENTION.

So here it is: the tools I teach and practice don’t make life easy. They don’t magically cure anything. But, as tools, they are always there to help us though this moment and the next moment. They are not my only tools and I’m sure they are not yours. I also favor tea and walking and nature. Put together, these things may help us limp or crawl through the hardest times and soar in other times. If we can stop long enough to remember to use them.

I need to learn to PAUSE.

This same professor sent us the following quote, which I would like to share with you. (I’m sorry I don’t have attribution. Apparently it was her friend’s paraphrasing of a lesson she learned at a conference):

"Surrender to the fact that you’re actually not enough...surrender to being insufficient rather than trying to overcome the insufficiency, because it’s a trick...Don’t be the shitty loser who needs something to feel alright. Recognize your purpose is to contribute energy to the world. Be an energy contributor.”

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