A million years ago, on my first trip to Thailand, I had the opportunity to work with an old traditional medicine practitioner. I believe he was in his late 90s. I didn’t speak Thai, and he didn’t speak English, but we had someone with us who could translate. I only spent one day with him, but at the end of it, through our translator, he told me that in Thailand once someone is your teacher, they are always your teacher, and so, he would forever be my teacher.
A handful of years later I saw how Pierce Salguero, back in the days when he taught Thai massage classes regularly, had a policy that once someone had taken a class from him they could re-take it at no extra charge, so long as there was space. I saw how this reflected the words of the old man in Thailand and when I started teaching I implemented the same policy. And when I created my online class I made auditing the class the internship equivalent.
Today I had a conversation with some of the teachers who teach my curriculum and have integrated internships with their classes. I ended up talking a lot about what interns bring to a class as well as what I hope they get out of it. There are many reasons that I love the internship opportunity and I wanted to share some of them here.
• Interns are a community bridge, threading connections from classes gone-by to classes current. They are integral to the sense of community that springs up around my workshops. I’ve seen new students and returning students become dear friends, business partners, and collaborators. I’ve seen how returning students inspire new students to go deeper with their studies as they realize that the class they are attending can be more than a one-off workshop. And I’ve seen how the community takes on a life of its own, with aspects that I don’t even know about.
• Interns make for a stronger class. While I make clear that interning is primarily a chance to learn on a deeper level,I stress that interns are not assistant teachers, their familiarity with the material does help to ground the class, and provides an anchor for those who may be brand new to this form of healing and feeling a bit overwhelmed.
• Traditional medicine is not learned overnight. It is important for me to support the need for students to revisit information and to take it in on ever deeper levels. Students need time to marinate on information and hear it again, and again, understanding ever more each time.
• I am a student myself. My knowledge grows and changes and it is important to me to offer my students a chance to hear me correct any past errors, or to expand on information as my own understanding expands. Letting people repeat classes for free, when there is room, provides an opportunity to not only learn deeper, but to stay current on what I am learning.
• Interns help out. They arrive early to help with setting things up, and they stay late to help with cleaning. Damion Bond, who is my student, friend, and colleague, wrote these beautiful words about the helping side of interning.
When I am interning I behave in this way... my teachers offer me invaluable information that keeps me fed and paying my bills. The information they share allows for spiritual growth, which cannot be measured. Each day I bring something everyone can enjoy because i am grateful for free of cost education, a chance to witness the postures and hear the lectures and messages. I am grateful for my teacher welcoming me, answering my questions, working on my body, teaching me more. Sometimes i donate money to my teacher bc i see that they spend time with me and offer more to me than a first time student. I help my teacher keep their homes/studios clean. I do all of the dishes, straighten the bathroom every time i go in there, keep the space tidy, do the laundry, wipe counters without asking if it needs to be done, and continually ask if they need my help. I prepare food for my teacher bc i honor him/her for this incredible gift of free of cost education. I share my assistance. I understand after years of hosting people and helping teachers that "free" is a strange word for interning...technically i feel as though i am in a trade, with the relief of not having to pay money. i see that my presence and attentiveness and support of the teacher are helpful beyond words. I support other students' journeys by trying to not be greedy or a nuisance, or in the way. My teacher is granting me a gift bc they see that the return helps to solidify and reeducate me. They want me to be a part of the community. In this I see that my teacher values me and am so warmed by that. Interning is an honor not only to me but to everyone i serve and i repeat my thanks to my teacher bc i see that they also value my clients and want the best for me as a practitioner. I bring food each day for the class. I make full offerings each day. I send out love to my teachers who have helped me grow so much. They have been so generous. They have been beyond generous as I know no where else is this practice of reeducating done. How beautiful to be a part of this community. What a wonderful lineage.
• And of course, we circle back to the old man from the village telling me that once you are someone’s teacher you are always their teacher. This is the main reason that students can repeat my classes. There is a great responsibility in teaching someone. The potential for misunderstanding and incomplete understanding is huge. We must be there to answer the questions that come up later. We must be there to watch and correct. I tell all of my students, even those who have just taken a little one day workshop with me, that I am always available for them to reach out to. They text me and e-mail me almost daily asking for clarity on the teachings, or advice for working with different situations. And if they are able, and if they are very serious about this work, they usually come back and repeat classes someday. Maybe the next year, maybe in 5 years. They come and they link a past class to a current class, and build a web of community that is to me, a lovely treasure.