The guru mantra got me from the first time I encountered it. After all I love learning, exploring, and sometimes mastering new things; I’ve always enjoyed finding ways to teach myself and I’ve been blessed with some truly phenomenal teachers through my life. I’m married to a teacher too! So I guess the surface message about learning appealed to me. After a couple of years’ more contemplation I understand the mantra has a whole load more going on with much wisdom to offer about what learning really is and how we learn — and unlearn or relearn. In thinking about what the practise of yoga is for me — sidestepping any goal of enlightenment that I don’t really feel I can aspire to — I wondered recently if my yoga practice rests in some fundamental way on the openness to learn, to stay curious, to welcome everything. Huh, some big goal I set myself in my practice. Maybe the gift of enlightenment would actually be more achievable!?
I wonder increasing at the role of the teacher in supporting the various types of learning that apply to a yoga practice, seeing this now from both sides of the fence. What makes a good student or a good teacher? My teacher is away from teaching for a while so I’m particularly conscious at the moment of the input he has in my own practice, directly in class as well as in what I choose to take away with me that might inform my practice at home.
During this time mostly I’ve been working away quietly at home (very quietly since I’m not feeling physically robust at the moment), but I have ventured to a few classes with other teachers. Always an interesting experience. And in the spirit of my understanding of the guru mantra I try to absorb these experiences without judgment and to learn what I can from each moment. But the intellectual part of my brain feels dissatisfied and a little disappointed from these classes. The limitations of the teacher’s understanding are readily apparent to me and I feel frustrated by their nervous giggling when I ask a question.
So here’s the challenge for me: to remain open to all that they offer in their teaching with their undoubted greater experience than mine, even if they don’t articulate their understanding in the way I’d like. Can I avoid being judgmental because their approach is different to mine? Does it allow me to see where I’m dogmatic and attached in my own style? Can I listen carefully enough in class to both my own body and the teacher’s instructions and try to find something that feels honest and right to me, even if my brain is telling me the instruction is ‘wrong’?