“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”
- Dan Rather
Last weekend was the full moon in July. Last weekend was also the 10th weekend in the 300-hour Advanced Teacher Training that Gioconda Parker and I have been teaching this year. So, this means that Teacher Training coincided with a lovely Indian holiday or "holy-day" known as Guru Purnima. My understanding of this holiday is that Guru Purnima is a time when we honor our teachers. And while honoring our teachers may be a religious thing as in the case of our spiritual teachers, Guru Purnima celebrations are not limited to spiritual teachers and traditionally include opportunities to honor all of the different teachers who have guided and instructed us- from our parents to academic mentors to our spiritual inspirations and so on.
Since I have a love of learning and of teaching, I consider the teacher-student relationship a lot. Seems to me that some teachers come our way and teach us through the nectar of acceptance, love, patience and acknowledgement. Some teachers offer us clear examples of who we do not want to be, providing a photographic negative-type set of of instructions in their personal conduct, their interpersonal relationships and/or their classroom comportment. More often than not, in my case, the most influential teachers are those teachers who have given me both fire and nectar. Sometimes the fire is the fire of confrontation, of clarity-demanding feedback and other times the fire is simply dealing with the paradox of how genius often manifests right along idiosyncratic behavior, personality differences, deception, failed expectations and broken promises.
I am very clear that I am not an Indian, a Hindu and these days I am not even sure if I am a yogi. (Although these days I am not sure if I even want to be a "yogi" as the word "yoga" is so fraught with projections, both subtle and gross, as well as an ever-increasing and crazy-making host of expectations, standards and difficulties that make me want to claim to be a "student of consciousness" or a "disciple of the Heart" more than I want to claim the title "yogi", but I suppose that is another story for another day. Then again, maybe it is all the same story. At any rate, I digress. My small rant is over for now.)
So, although I am not Indian, Hindu, and the word yogi is up for debate, I do love learning and practicing aspects of the Indian tradition that enliven my life with meaning, connection and open a doorway to places of devotional resonance within me. And reflecting on teachers during the traditional time of Guru Purnima is very meaningful for me personally. Every year at Lee's ashram we have a Guru Purnima celebration with talks, pujas, feasting and guru sega (service) opportunities and so I took this weekend in the training to talk about the guru principle a bit and to perform a fire ceremony ritual with the group to purify, release and invoke the qualities of teachers we want to be and to offer our gratitude for the assistance we have been given- both in the positive and the negative.
Not surprisingly, after reflections on the teacher, lots of mantras and offering of all kinds to the fire, I left the weekend very grateful for my students and inspired by the ways they are growing and humbled by the ways they have helped me grow. Certainly, I have had students who have been like fire and many more than that who have given me the nectar of their grace. I also know that a student's progress in my company is not always easy as I am one of those fire-and-nectar kind of people/teachers myself. As time marches on and some students return again and again to my classes, some leave and others join, the range and depth of our work together feels like a very strong and profound bond.
When I lose track of this bond as the reason for teaching yoga, my work doesn’t feel the same. Something inside of me dries up. I am happiest as a teacher when I remember that teaching yoga is not about me as the teacher or about my career as a yoga teacher. Teaching yoga is about helping my students learn and grow in their practice. Teaching yoga is a chance to be in service to other people through the tools that yoga offers. And while I think we can and should be paid well, treated fairly, understand our place in a competitive marketplace, learn how to represent that well, and run our businesses successfully, etc. the juice of the endeavor lies not in what yoga can do for me as a teacher but in how yoga can help me help people live another day with a little more freedom, a little less constriction, a little more hope, knowledge, insight and awareness. And, as so often is the case when we are talking yoga, paradox arrives once again at my doorstep with the recognition that being in service to the process of yoga in others does so very much for me.
So all that being said, it was a great weekend and just the shot of inspiration I needed. Feeling quite lucky indeed.
And if you are still reading and can stomach a few promotional plugs here goes:
Follow This Blog
"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."