“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” ~Not Buddha (but often attributed to him)
“ A teacher without a teacher is a dangerous thing.” ~ Mona Warner
I love yoga. Plain and simple. That doesn’t mean there aren’t parts though, that I have a hard time reconciling in my being. One piece, that I have struggled with for a very long time, is the Guru/Student relationship.
It was always my understanding that when the student sits at the feet of their Guru, they listen, unquestionably, wholeheartedly and faithfully. A student does not doubt the Guru, for the student knows the Guru is wise, and further along the path than the student. Everything action the Guru makes, is a channeled from a higher consciousness and should never be challenged.
It has been with my experience that with great power, comes great responsibility. In too many realms, people that experience the power of having the full devotion of their students, become corrupt and skewed in their own path. It is easy to believe you are a God if you are worshiped like one. In our world of yoga, we have witnessed this many times, and have watched whole lineages crumble with the scandal of their leader.
If you haven’t met me, I am by nature a curious/suspicious person. I am a fiery feminist, and a fiercely independent woman. I am highly opinionated, critical even and I have met enough charlatans, snake-oil salesman, liars, cheats and thieves in this life to not trust anyone. Keep your Kool-Aid because I am not drinking it. I don’t even trust myself so why on earth would I undoubtedly trust someone else.
So, as you can see, the whole Guru/student relationship was out for me and not to be reconciled. Or so I thought.
When I moved to Kingston, I came to the yoga studios with a very critical eye. You see, I had moved away from my former teacher who I loved, and like all first loves, she had set a bar that was almost unobtainable. I wandered from studio to studio, feeling lost. Nothing stuck, nothing resonated. Finally, I made my way to a hot studio (not my first choice for a hot-blooded Pitta type), and found a remarkable teacher Andrea, who was knowledgeable, warm, funny, kind and simply radiated. I approached her after class to thank her for the long awaited practice I had been searching for. Her humble response? “If you think that was good, you should practice with my teacher .”
So I did. Andrea was right. I found my new teacher. That was ten years ago. She is still my teacher. Here is why:
She works hard, too hard sometimes. She is a student, teacher, educator, Ayurvedic Consultant, business owner, mentor, friend, wife, daughter, human mama to L.B,. her dog and Kitten, her cat, and listener (a.k.a. therapist) to tons of people who fill her every moment. In the spaces between all of those roles, she is learning. Yoga is a practice that is 6000 years old and I swear that it will only take my teacher two lifetimes to learn it all. She gobbles up knowledge with a voracious appetite. She never stops learning. Her yoga resume and training’s fill pages that stacked, would be as tall as I am. She is modest, she would probably be the last person to tell you about said resume but the minute you talk to her, you know, she knows her shit. For all the Yogi’s who have read Patanjali’s Sutras, I think if anyone is going to reach the Superhero section of the Padas, it’s my teacher. She is funny, witty, kind caring, brilliant, understanding and loving. All of these reasons alone, make her a teacher to treasure. The pieces that I really resonate with though, are the parts that make her human. Her mistakes, her frustrations, her moments of doubt and her areas of opportunity. There is no smoke and mirrors of perfection and as a student, it gives me permission to make my own mistakes, take my own leaps of faith, pushes me to try harder and see that it is obtainable. You can only learn through your mistakes. She is a reflection of me, further down the path. I have realized that this person, this Guru, that I have resisted so fervently, keeps showing me the way every single day. It isn’t a man with a long flowing beard and robes, sitting stoically on a mountain top, spouting prophetic wisdom, like I previously imagined. She is a living breathing human, probably eating a chocolate bar in front of her computer right now.
We are given the lessons and the teachers that fit what we need and who we are. When we shut our minds, we stop learning. With me, the way had to be sneaky and sure enough, I found my teacher without even knowing that I had.
That is why when people try yoga for the first time, it may not feel right for them. Yoga isn’t meant to be easy, in fact, you spend most of the time being humbled by it. However, when you find the person you resonate with, they can help you can work through the challenges and find the gift within. Sometimes you love their lessons, sometimes they are hard to swallow. But you find yourself returning because even though the way is hard, you know you will persevere.
That is why we give people their first class for free at Janati. You aren’t just trying on the class, you are trying on the teacher and we want the student to find the teacher that resonates with them.
As for me, I will sit at the feet of my teacher, Mona-ji, for as long as I can, feeling blessed at all the lessons she has shown me… before sharing a dirty joke and a laugh together.