This afternoon my yoga group had our second (and final) class on Sanskrit. We spent the first 60 minutes (of the 2-hour class) reviewing much of the material we learned in the previous session – and in my opinion, this was a very good use of time. Usually I get quite impatient when a teacher spends time re-teaching information he/she has already discussed; but for this class, with this content, I feel that the review was truly helpful. For me, learning Sanskrit is a bit like learning math – I can memorize the information at a surface level pretty quickly; but to really comprehend the content so that it contains meaning (and so that I can then apply it) requires a lot of study, repetition and practice. I was grateful that the teacher gave us the opportunity to revisit “old” content a bit more before moving forward with new information.
But even with the comprehensive review, I still felt a little overwhelmed for parts of the class session – and this really isn’t “like me” at all. I’m a pretty smart woman, and usually I pick up new information quickly and with relative ease. (In fact, learning new information, disseminating critical components, then turning around and teaching the information I just learned to others is a critical component of my job – and is one of the things that has made me successful in my career.) Additionally, I’m usually skilled at language-related items; I have a Bachelor’s degree in French, and expressing myself clearly and concisely in both written and verbal form is (once again) an incredibly important facet of my job. Yet despite all of these “usual” factors, I struggled with Sanskrit.
In fact, at one point in the class session, the teacher went around the room, and asked each of us individually to say a brief Sanskrit phrase. I did okay on the first round; but during the second round, I felt my attention lapse and my stress level rise. As I approached the second word in my phrase, my brain literally stopped working with my eyes – as I stared at the page, all I saw was a sea of letters that contained no meaning at all. The symbols might as well have been in Farsi or Greek; I simply couldn’t make sense out of any of them. I also physically felt knowledge leave me: a few moments before, I had managed to cobble together some basic constructs and delicately hold them in a pocket of short-term memory; yet as I wrestled with “padottanasana“, I felt those concepts loosen, slip, and then literally dissolve. In less than a second, they were gone.
It was a very strange feeling. (And I did feel it kinesthetically, in the lower left quadrant of my brain.) In that moment, I had a lot of compassion for new-language learners, be they adults learning English as a second language, kids who were struggling to read, anyone with dyslexia, anyone with brain damage, anyone working to recover from a stroke; and on, and on….
Yet despite all of this, I really felt okay at the end of class. At a few different points in the session, the teacher reminded us to not over-think things, to “just let it come.” As he said that, I was reminded of a line I read in a French class many years ago: “Ne paniquer pas.” Translation: Don’t panic.
I know everything will come when it’s supposed to; if I do my part, the universe (karma, whatever you’d like to call it) will do its part.
In the meantime, je repose. J’attends. Je ne panique pas.