Newsletter 2, Mar 2019: Have You Climbed Everest?

Jill Godmilow, Emeritus Professor, Dept of Film and Television, University of Notre Dame

 I’ve had some incredible mentors who seemed to come along at just the right moments.  One of those was a woman named Jill Godmilow, a provocative, genre-bending documentary filmmaker.  When we met, she’d accepted a job as the head of my film department. She ruled a tiny space we called “the Loft “where wannabe artists like me roamed wearing black, smoking cigarettes, and learning to pitch, write, shoot, and edit.  All scripts had to be approved by Jill prior to production and we’d come to her with BIG ideas.  We wrote scripts about alien invasions, tragic love affairs, or climbing Everest.  And you could feel her frustration, her urgency as she paced and stabbed the air with her cigarette. “Have you climbed Everest?  No?” Then what the fuck is this film about?”

As eager new film students we struggled to load film or understand even the basics of lighting. And it showed in missing scenes, barely audible dialogue, and mismatched shots. But to Jill we were beginners and so none of that mattered.  With enough time, we’d all become better technicians. We’d have the shots and the sound.  But what if we didn’t have ideas that mattered?  That was fucking unacceptable. “Don’t bring me something action-packed and exotic”, she’d say, “Bring me you! Maybe you’re angry?  Maybe you’re sad?  Maybe you’re making a film to answer a question you just can’t get out of your head?”  Her point was, the story is yours.  And the power of the story comes from your ability to communicate why this story matters to you

Jill thought she was developing me into a good documentary filmmaker.  And I’m grateful for the 10 years I spent doing just that – making good films that I cared about.  But what Jill actually taught me was something essential about being a teacher.  To help your students reach their potential, you have to challenge them when they aren’t showing up as themselves but as imitations of something they think they should be.  

Now I know Jill doesn’t sound like a yoga guru. And sadly today that’s true. At yoga teacher trainings we learn to imitate.  We learn set sequences.  We memorise Koshas, and Doshas, and Sutras.  Maybe we get a yoga name in Sanskrit – a language we don’t speak from a culture we didn’t grow up in. We graduate and see successful teachers in studios or on Instagram. The guy who can handstand 10 different ways packs the room.  The girl who can put her leg behind her head while calmly quoting Rumi has thousands of followers.  So we pursue the big poses and the action-packed sequences.  We throw in a few of the “right” quotes.  We are trying to dazzle with the yogic equivalaent of pretty shots and plot twists.  We are imitating someone else’s work instead of honestly, sincerely, humbly presenting our own. 

But here’s the thing. The questions you have.  The doubts.  That’s good stuff.  You should be talking about it.  When you start that conversation with your students, then you can talk about how yoga asana helps you sit with those questions and doubts, helps you move with them and through them and into new questions and new insights and new doubts. All the stuff that you’ve been trying to hide behind a perfect Crow Pose or the right quote – that’s the gold.  Let’s dig for that together. 

 Here’s what I’ve got in mind.  

I’m inviting you to enrol in 4 weeks of Group Mentorship with me.  This is not about advancing your asana practice but about building your communication skills so that you can have a clearer, more purposeful relationship with the students in front of you. You are already creative, inspired, curious, and a good problem-solver. So together we’ll investigate the things you ALREADY KNOW that could be helping you teach great classes.  Each week you’ll receive an email with Discussion Questions and weekly practices. When we meet, you’ll get to share your insights and learn from the people around you. Together, we’ll find out why yoga really matters to you and how you can express that passion in every aspect of your classes.

The Basics:

  • We will meet four times during each course for 2.5 hours.
  • Courses run throughout the year on weekdays and weekends so you can pick the one that fits your schedule
  • Visit my Trainings and Events page for current course dates
  • Each course is limited to 6 students so get in quick!