The work of becoming awake and aware is not easy for anyone, and it’s even harder without a community of people on the same path, and a teacher (or teachers) along the way. When you choose a teacher, hopefully it’s because you feel some energy flowing from them (probably love), and you have some feeling this person has grasped something you may not have, as yet. Otherwise, what can they offer you?
I have had many amazing and gifted teachers along the way, and I have incredible gratitude for each of them. When I first started practicing yoga, I put a few of my teachers on pedestals. I had stars in my eyes and was falling in love with the process of coming home to myself. Once or twice I did this because a couple of them gave me the impression that’s where they belonged. If you put your teachers on pedestals, you do them, and your own process a disservice, although it’s very understandable.
There are a few definitions of guru, and they vary a little between Eastern and Western schools. In the east, a guru is someone who has attained “God-Union”, someone who is going to help to bring you back to God. In the west, a guru is usually thought of as a spiritual teacher, or a “remover of darkness.” We tend to over-use the word in my opinion. Someone can come into your life, and help you begin to lift your own darkness and explore its roots, and heal. I believe that’s the work of a great teacher, to create an environment where healing is likely to occur. These people have a serious and lasting effect on your life, you are forever changed, but if you put them on a pedestal, there’s only one way for them to go. And if they’ve asked you to put them up there, they themselves have gotten lost. It’s a huge red-flag for me when I see someone refer to themselves as a guru, a master, a visionary. That’s a person who has started to lose their grip, and it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to help you much, because they are attached to an image of themselves, and of external confirmation of their own greatness; they have become confused.
If a teacher disappoints you over time due to their actions, it is still possible, and I believe it’s right, to remain grateful for the help they were able to offer to you. Just like a failed relationship, it’s still good to be thankful for the experience, and celebrate the love you were able to explore, and the growth that happened as a result of that. Anything that brings you closer to your truth, closer to that well of love within your heart, more in line with your inner voice, more aware of the divinity that exists within you, is a great thing. Of course if your trust was abused, or your vulnerability was exploited, it’s very difficult to remain grateful. There are a couple of teachers in my past for whom I have mixed emotions. But I’m still grateful they appeared in my life when they did, and helped me along my way, even if they proved to be all too human later.
I’m sharing this with you because I think finding your teacher at any given time is important and not to be taken lightly. Listen to your intuition. If it feels like an act, it’s an act. If it feels like a sales pitch, run. If it feels like a schtick, be careful whose Kool-Aid you’re drinking. I believe the work toward healing yourself and getting back to love is sacred. I believe teaching is an honor, and anyone teaching is hopefully open and honest and aware, willing to share their struggles and imperfections with you, not pretending to be anything other than human. If you’ve been hurt by a trusted teacher, my heart goes out to you. I will say, the best teacher you’ll ever meet lives within your own heart. I’ll also share that the teachers who have never let me down once, and who have removed the most darkness from my path, have been the dog I was blessed to live with for a decade because that was a lesson in unconditional love, and my two children who teach me so much about true love every single day. I have been in the presence of the Dalai Lama a few times, and I believe he has the goods. Other than that, I have been blessed with some very amazing, very human teachers, and I bow to them all. Sending you love, light, peace, and the ability to follow your intuition as you make your way, Ally Hamilton