The Inner Guru

June 10, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Posted in learning and growing, philosophy, practice off the mat | 2 Comments

A debate was raised – but never addressed – in my 200 hour yoga teacher training about how (or whether) one should seek a teacher to guide one’s path.

One of the things I loved about this training was that our trainers – I call them Cecily and David for the purposes of their privacy – were so very different in a lot of their ideas. Cecily, for example, thinks that it’s vitally important for a practitioner to find a teacher. She spoke reverently of the person who she considers her guru and whose ideals and philosophies she studies and works to emulate. David, on the other hand, believes that one can be one’s own guru and, though he didn’t actually say so, I got the impression that he thinks that devoting oneself to a single individual is a potentially dangerous thing.

I’ve got to say that I come down with David on this question. I really do think that I would find the study and devotion to one person – one way of physical practice, one way of thinking about the Universe and one’s place in it – would be too limiting. As I thought about this, I thought about why it is that David – and I – feel so strongly.

I think it has to do with one’s self-esteem, one’s willingness to experiment and play (and to be willing to change and adapt as a result of those experiments and that playfulness), and one’s belief that there are, as David so beautifully put it, many paths up the mountain. I think it’s a lot more risky to “go it alone,” and while I can understand that some people might not be ready to blaze their own trails, *I* can’t imagine signing up for only one tour guide.

During our 200 hour training, we were exposed to a vast sampling of different styles, different personalities, and different attitudes about yoga – its origins and practices and its place in one’s life. Some of these views and ideas resonated with me and some of them didn’t. I made a commitment to myself – and it’s one that I largely kept – to go into this experience with as open a mind as I could possibly manage (and, as a sometimes opinionated Yankee, I found that this was no small act of will). I took in what others had to offer and I used my heart, and my training in critical thinking, to hold up what they offered against what I already knew, thought, felt, or believed to see if it fit. If it did, I kept it; if it didn’t, I set it aside.

The learning that I did as a result of this experience is largely focused around coming to better terms with my trust of myself and my commitment to keep learning and growing. I learned that I CAN be my own guru, and that I can allow her to guide me to new and different learning challenges without forcing myself to accept something that doesn’t feel “right” just because someone else says it’s so. My hope is that I can show others that they can do that, too.

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  1. I’m with you on this. I need to have info coming in from multiple places so I can compare, validate, experiment, and keep my mind open. No one person is going to have all the answers to fit my life because they aren’t me.

  2. There are many paths up the mountain, Grasshopper. It is not for anyone else to choose the one that gets YOU there.

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