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today’s lesson is..

March 21, 2011

Ah… yoga:       teacher, guru, guide, sage, illuminator. Who is the one that inspires and encourages you to keep coming back? You can visualize your favourite yoga instructor – they stir up something from deep inside (not always a heavenly sensation) and a strong bond grows (whether the teacher is aware or not).

I perceive my guides to be flawless creatures and the more I look up to them, the more intimidating and less attainable their offerings become.

But, really, what’s the big deal? What is this person’s role in my physical and spiritual growth? Do I need a guru to help light the way? And if so, how the hell do I find MY teacher?

I often hear yoga instructors talking about “my teacher” during class. For years (and perhaps still now), I was incredibly jealous that they had found their teacher and I was dying to find mine-the sure way to become an enlightened yogi. This envy has dissipated.. Yet, I still wonder, how do I know that I have met my teacher? Is she really the one? What is it that makes this guide unique to my journey?

“A Guru is free from egotism. He devotedly leads the sisya (pupil) towards the ultimate goal without any attraction for fame or gain. He shows the path of God and watches the progress of his disciple, guiding him along that path. He inspires confidence, devotion, discipline, deep understanding and illumination through love. With faith in his pupil, the Guru strains hard to see that he absorbs the teaching. He encourages him to ask questions and to know the truth by question and analysis.” (Iyengar, Light on Yoga)

According to Georg Feuerstein, the Guru initiates transmission of spiritual power into the disciple, the Guru is a Guide through verbal instruction, the Guru is the dispeller of darkness and the Guru’s authority is a labour of love. What touches me most are Feuerstein’s words about the Unconventional Nature of the Guru: “Spiritual teachers, by their very nature, swim against the stream of conventional values and pursuits. They are not interested in acquiring and accumulating material wealth or in competing in the marketplace, or in pleasing egos. They are not even about morality. Typically, their message is of a radical nature, asking that we live consciously, inspect our motives, transcend our egoic passions, overcome our intellectual blindness, live peacefully with our fellow humans, and, finally, realize the deepest core of human nature, the Spirit.” (The Deeper Dimension of Yoga)

“The guru’s job is to remind you that you are the divine Self. As a student, it doesn’t matter what kind of teacher you have if your intentions are pure.” (Jivamukti Yoga)

After years of study, the teachers who lifted me up into a place of purification through the practice, were those who had been to all the dark places themselves and emerged lighter and clearer beings. Not necessarily perfect humans, but they continued to show up and take their seat in front of keen pupils. In return, my devotion to breath and challenging my body grew. I became regularly drawn to teachers who looked at yoga not as a physical workout but a cleansing ritual.

I believe it is vital to find one (or many more) teacher(s) to hold you accountable to your daily practice until it becomes one with you and in you. This teacher will definitely encourage you to look at hard questions, to think differently and to love above all other fleeting emotions. Your teacher may live next door to you or halfway around the world. You may have felt their power through books, or through eye contact in the grocery store.

The secret to finding them? Practice, practice, practice. A wise friend once told me: Keep showing up. Oh yes, and look into your own heart (there you are!). Through the practice we learn patience, we learn that it’s ok to have more than one teacher and we learn that it’s common to feel lost and without a bright guiding light from time to time. All aspects of this transformation one cannot experience by reading a book. Yogis, teachers, students, we show up and we FEEL.

I share what has lightened my heart from my teachers. Some days the transmission is clearer than others. Every day it is my responsibility to study and pray and be present to listen to my breath. And, suddenly, after years of guides, pain and sorrow, veil shattering reminders and desperation to meet my guru …I stop… and hear the eternal powerful guide behind the frantic ego-driven search.        The guide in breath.


Thank you to my teachers, you have uncovered dark patches in my heart so it may be full again:

Clara Roberts-Oss,  Ana Forrest,  BKS Iyengar,  Caroline Myss,  Christine Price Clark

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