Thursday, 26 July 2012

The People We Want to Be

I was on a course last week taught by a woman whose compassion, strength, energy and forthright commitment both to yoga and to her charity work is an inspiration to everyone who is fortunate enough to cross her path.  Many of the people on the course (myself included) were in awe of her, inspired by her and aspired to be like her... but believed in their hearts that they never would be; never could be.  We thought that she was special.  She just smiled that open-hearted smile of hers when somebody gave her a compliment along those lines; she knew what is hard for us to comprehend: that we can all achieve her level of honesty, strength and wholeheartedness and that the only thing she has that we don't is 30 years of dedicated yoga practice behind her.

We all have people who inspire us, from a favourite teacher to a beloved relative, we can all think of someone who is everything that we admire in humanity and wish to embody ourselves.

Matthieu Ricard calls this being inspired by another "being in resonance with the basic goodness lying at our core."  These people show us what it is possible for a human to achieve and we recognise in them the goodness instrinsic to all human-beings; ourselves included.  The people who inspire us show us how to live, not by telling us, or by showing us, or by pointing us in the right direction; they show us by living it...  all the time...  they embody their beliefs in the things they say, the way they behave and the choices they make, every single day.

So don't be cowed by their brilliance, their capacity for love or their strength; be inspired by it and understand that it is in you too. Your teachers are not different; they are not special; they too have their allotted human frailties and weaknesses; they are just a little further along the road than you from where they look back and encourage you with a smile as you come bumbling along behind them.

Different teachers mean different things to me.  If I am getting bogged down by thinking that yogis should accept everything that comes their way passively, without objection, then I recall Gandhi fighting for the rights of his countrymen.  If I am feeling lost and alone, I bring Ram Dass to mind, because to me he embodies all that is loving in a person.   If I am full of joy, then I look to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is always laughing.  If I am feeling flawed, I turn to Krishna Dass, whose humility in acknowledging his weaknesses encourages me that not every yogi comes fully formed and faultless, indeed it is our faults that so often show us the way.

Patanjali tells us that it is our false sense of separateness that causes us pain; the Bhagavad Gita reminds us that the light of the divine shines within us all; we are no different to the ones we most admire, so let your teacher, your guru, your guide inspire you, let them encourage you, move you on, help you to become the kind of person that you undoubtedly have the potential to be.

Good teachers, ones who are filled with humility and love, know that it is within each of us to manifest our own version of that rich, good, essence of humanity. Good teachers teach by being.