I'm one of those people that likes to hang out on the periphery, getting a read on the situation before diving in. It's no surprise then, that I approached yoga the very same way. I tried a lot of different DVDs, went to classes and workshops, practiced with various teachers, read a lot (and I mean a lot) of books, attended multiple trainings all in different styles of yoga. Unlike other folks I met during this yoga immersion (which went on to become my life), I didn't align myself with a certain school of yoga or become a follower of a certain teacher and I was completely devoid of a guru.
To be honest, I found this to be a bit troubling. I had been a Star Wars fan growing up and I thought it was cool that Luke Skywalker had Yoda. I suppose it was fair to say that I was hoping to find my very own yoga Yoda (minus the bog and snakes). Every time I went to a studio and saw a picture of the studio owner with their teacher, I wondered if I'd be hanging a picture of my guru and me on my wall at some point in the future. Sure, I read about "the dark side" of having a guru -- the sex scandals, the cult-like atmosphere, the selling of all worldly possessions to follow a teacher around the world. Perhaps it was my ego asserting itself, but I didn't worry about falling prey to these guru pitfalls.
Here I am 10 years later sans guru. No picture hangs on my wall. I've dropped out of yoga trainings because I balked at the rigidity. Hell, I don't even own a likeness of Yoda -- stuffed, plastic or otherwise. I've been accused of feasting at the buffet of yoga rather than diving deep into one tradition, keeping my knowledge and experience of yoga rather shallow. I suppose you could say that I'm a non-follower (desire for guru aside). Or perhaps it's more apt to say that I follow my own inner guru. Again, one could accuse me of being a bit too immersed in my ego for making that statement.
Maybe it's just that I follow my heart. At different times in my life, I've had teachers who I studied more intensively with. I would work with the teacher until I felt...done, for lack of a better word. Once I had gotten what I wanted and felt complete, I would gently disengage from the teacher and be open to finding another one. These teachers were, in my opinion, true ones, as they encouraged me to find my own way rather than mold me to theirs. As you can see, my gut plays a big role. If it feels right, I go with it. As soon as it stops feeling right, I go another way that does.
A few months back I finally (it had been on my DV-R for months) got around to watching the PBS documentary, The Buddha. I smiled as I listened to Buddha's going from guru to guru looking for a teaching that resonated with him only to find his greatest teachings inside. Hmmmmm...perhaps that wasn't my ego's imaginings all along -- perhaps going inside is where our greatest teachings lie.
One could call it the path of heart. Earlier this week Elephant Journal posted a wonderful excerpt from Yoga in America (which you can read online for free here) called The Downside to Down Dog. Yes, I was intrigued by the interesting title. Then I started reading and went beyond intrigued to moved. I urge you to read this thought-provoking article, which you can do by clicking here.
Questioning your path is a good thing to do on a regular basis. What's your path? Who are you following (if anyone)? Who's on the path with you? Is the path right for you? Just a little food for thought...
And since this post is about deep thoughts, here are some perspective shifters that are short but sweet reading:
- How to Wake Up Every Morning on Top of the World -- the questions in this article are excellent and should be asked of ourselves every day
- Make Now Count: How to Live a Fun Life Full of Possibilities -- no questions here but some great ideas for doing good when we're engaging in a spiritual practice that can easily get us too caught up in being good
- How to Experience True Freedom to Live a Life with Fewer Limits -- this article offers up a questions that serves as the ultimate perspective changer
Sometimes there's more to it than gurus and yoga class and the perfect pair of yoga pants and asana form and amassing training certificates.