Racism, sexism, sexual orientation, and world religions are the most heated topics globally as fuel for disagreement; all of them relating to something “different” from our own self. This difference seems to be about a lack of understanding of “the other”, and not so much about anything based on truth. We’re uncomfortable when we don’t understand, so we try to deal with it by dominating rather than learning. We see it all the time through denial of rights, or by fighting it out without any aim toward reconciliation. These tactics make us think we’re dealing with getting rid of it, obliterating it. The way we respond from our own ignorance to the outer world quite literally mirrors our response to what we don’t understand about our personal inner world. When we don’t understand a part of our own self we usually try to shut it down or pretend it’s not there. We reject it.
We’re masters at holding on to what we don’t understand, which is most often our sadness and fear…countless ways we find to psychoanalyse it. In this way we can have a bit of a love affair with it…we can while away hours, days even, mulling through our fears, feeding them and adding on with any morsel of a match we can use from the external world; but ultimately doing nothing about it, this is as far as we go. We’ll choose to rip out our own heart before we’ll choose to understand our pain and sadness. When we don’t understand what we consider “wrong” with us, it becomes “the other” which then gets pushed into a heap of the unknown…not knowing what it is or what to do with it. Until one day we give ourselves no option but to understand it.
When we reach this point in our lives, when we’re most sad and have no choice but to face it head on, expressing the love we have is the happiest thing we can do. Somehow our genuine happiness resides in what we have to offer, what we have to give to this world. We can’t recognize this once we’ve become critical of our own essence (or an aspect of it); instead we attempt to pinch off that which gives us life…but our essence is all we’ve got, and trying to deny its presence or existence is damaging at a critical level. And if we’re not giving we’re receding, we stop, we don’t seem to exist anymore…not really. And it’s this that seems to make us sad. We come to live in a closet of self containment, self control…of our actual being.
To instead develop the ability to encompass that part of our humanity provides healing, because that’s the place in us that really cares. When we have the capacity to connect with what we’re ashamed of within, we can teach ourselves about our own emotional lives. This is something we’re never really taught, we just know if we feel good or bad, and if it feels bad we want to get rid of it…and that’s it, that’s about the extent of our emotional development. But the more we can sit with ourselves as we are, the more accepting we become of ourselves; and from here, it’s our love, care, and compassion which become the deeper motivation to heal…it’s from here that we transform. From here we care about the reality of this part of ourselves, not about escaping its illusion…if we try to escape we just end up spinning our wheels. If our only aim is to get rid of our suffering then you won’t heal because we haven’t touched into the part of us that loves.
A genuine Yoga practice will guide us through this unsteady terrain until we’ve found our feet on the solid ground of self-acceptance. At such a turning point, it’s common to dive more deeply into our practice. When we have a genuine relationship with the fullness of Yoga, we begin to discover the lifeline of its teachings. An authentic Yoga practice is an integral part of integrating with our self. We become whole; we’re no longer trying to cut off undesirable parts of ourselves like a wonky limb. Instead we become integrated. We assist and become assisted by, all aspects of ourselves like one working unit. This in itself provides contentment. The teachings of Yoga can provide a place to become comfortable with, accepting of, at peace with, all aspects of ourselves…even our ugly bits (which will always be there). We learn that our fear has its place and we learn how unhappy (even depressed) we become when that fear stops our flow of love. Why were we originally fearful of this aspect anyway? Often because it doesn’t match what we’re taught to funnel ourselves into as “normal”, which is a very narrow scope of life. When we understand, our sad and unaccepted parts become teachers. These parts often provide that which we have to offer others, and with which we can be of genuine service.
To be of genuine service is a very personal expression because of its evolution from the depths of a previously painful aspect. This is healing; this is where we discover the Grace of its purpose, and how it leads us to serve those around us. It’s an opportunity to realize our grief and sadness over losing connection with our own humanity; but that grief indicates that we do indeed care. Returning to that conscious connection with our essence brings us such a feeling of self honour. This isn’t easy in the beginning, there is a development of stamina necessary. An inner listening is developed which will be what guides us through the quagmire of this dark story we’ve made around what we’re not accepting. In process, we develop the power of understanding that this feeling we carried about ourselves isn’t who we are, it is temporary. From here we move on to greater, requiring more from ourselves and understanding others. Our universality is revealed.
Above all, it gives us an Intimate connection with our humanity, our humanity is our God self, where resides an intimacy with our sorrows and our joys. We don’t need to be protective of our love when we’re in the flow of who we are. The love that stems from who we are isn’t twisted and gnarled up in manipulation, expectation, neediness and control which are all based an agenda and fear. No, when we’re just simply being our loving self we can be it no matter what others think of it, no matter the trials we face. We become freed up in our love because we no longer feel threatened by whether it’s approved of or not…because we don’t carry expectation with it. What comes to matter then, is that WE know the place from which is dwells.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
Out of the mouths of babes, there it was: “YOGA WORKOUT”…words spoken innocently by one of my Yoga students but which, hit me like a roll of thunder. Everything about me felt like it morphed into Van Gogh’s “The Scream”. How had I failed her as her teacher? I blubbered within myself, “But whaa…everything I talk about is so NOT yoga as workout. Oh, my classes, oh whoa-is-me…”, then, the mental silence of being struck dumb. I had always thought I was imparting the idea of becoming more fully who we are through Yoga, by mindfully infusing the practice in all that we do. But here it was, the reality in this moment: one of my students was still relating to “yoga workouts”. How did this haaaaappen?? These two words somersaulted me into my competence as a teacher, my silent incomprehension was rolling fast and furious within me. The comment’s impact put me into a focused questioning within myself. Most of the forthcoming revelations actually ended up being inspiring; as I shifted around with ideas of what was perception, what was ego, what could be sorted and changed…for myself, for her as my student, and between us as student and teacher; both of us practicing the path of Yoga as individuals…but together. I was acutely attuned to the relationship between student and teacher, which is both a swimming interaction of learning and teaching between two people, yet a clearly defined development within a single individual, at the same time.
I, personally, have great respect for the word “teacher”, and it is an honour to be one. I feel the word “teacher” signifies the values, wisdom, and the knowledge from a lineage as old as time. And it is not to be taken for granted, that teachings will be brought forward in their true essence and with the authority of a master. The teacher needs to have lived it, walked it, experienced it, applied it, and gone deeply into it…without these lessons a person isn’t capable of imparting any of the resulting richness and truth into their teachings, because it just isn’t there in them. I feel Dr. David Frawley said it beautifully in one of his articles about Lord Shiva: “Those who practice yoga should always remember Shiva, the great lord of yoga. If one can surrender to Lord Shiva inwardly, all the powers and insights of yoga will naturally be revealed at the appropriate time and manner. Shiva is the inner guru of yoga and all true gurus function with his grace and insight”. It is by Grace that as a teacher, we are given any kind of competency and privilege to share sacred teachings to another. Without this Grace, we’re not capable. What makes us qualified to receive the Grace is only a guess, but it seems to be related to a genuine wish and devotion to that which is good and aligned with what is Life giving.
And so, like Murphy’s Law, there she was in her glaring overconfidence, having performed a number of yoga stretches, finalizing her display by lying on the floor with bare feet in the air, skirt having tumbled down her legs (or up them, whatever it is from that angle). A new recipient of her 200Hour YTT was “sitting” beside me in a workshop of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. I think you can guess that this was pushing some of my buttons, and though she didn’t handle the class with the grace of a respectful student, the teacher handled it with the grace of a wonderful teacher. I so respected his response to her, which was to not have one. Sadly, we’ve created a closed minded attitude in modern times, toward authority, toward respect of the student teacher dynamic. This is demonstrated not only through unwillingness to be a student but as a flimsy respect as teacher. Clearly, being a student is a learning curve in itself these days. Students need to know the art of surrender, the giving over of the ego. We seem particularly challenged by this in the West, as if we’re somehow afraid that being a student is equated with being inferior…and so what if it does mean that? What if it means simply, that you don’t know as much as your teacher and that a level of humility is actually quite healthy at such times? Have we in the west ever considered that? Having humility is an awareness of respect, of honoring the wisdom of what has come before you, it’s not about an inferiority complex. Having awe and wonder for the passing down of timeless traditions and age-old wisdom is a gift to be grateful for…to be so inspired by, and in awe and wonder of. The discipline of letting yourself be guided, in a way which might rub your control issues the wrong way, is something to be thankful for. Because being teachable means we’re capable of gaining greater self-awareness which creates a more refined version of who we are. It is this quality that defines a teacher. If we feel we’re too good, too full of ourselves, to be teachable, we’ll never be qualified to lead. Can we have the humility to honour another who imparts something of value on us?
Needless to say, Guru Purnima is a day that I consider to be very special. The outpouring of genuine gratitude and honour shown toward true teachers on Guru Purnima recently, was a heart touching celebration. These devoted expressions of gratitude from student toward teacher gave me renewed hope in a world which has come to toss the word “teacher” off the tongue, in a manner that is without thought. Because it seems, for the most part, we have lost the understanding of the word “teacher” itself. Not only does this loss reflect our relationship toward the teacher, but what we think being the teacher is. This loss means that we lose the understanding of what qualifies us as a teacher, what to expect from our students, as well as what to expect from ourselves as a teacher. This all comes in to question. Guru Purnima allowed me to witness and offer, the respect for those who have gone before; honouring them for what they have come to know (perhaps through great challenges). This praise, not just for teachers who help us learn to memorize and recite our mathematics and facts, but for teachers who give of wisdom, knowledge, and insight toward an enlightened mind, was refreshing and as it ought to be.
Because teachers don’t have to teach, they teach because they care to do so. Sharing knowledge is an offering of great care and love. To be devoted, seeking, committed, accountable and disciplined are all traits to cherish as a student, because they develop us into someone worthy of being taught. Teaching is the way through which humanity brings timeless values forward into the present, without which we would be completely lost as a species.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com