"A child cannot be born without a father and a mother.
Clothes cannot be washed without water.
There can be no horseman without a horse.
So, without a Master, none can reach the court of the Lord."
"No man is an island, entire of itself", John Donne's famous line of poetry that succinctly captures our relentless need for relationship; the growth, variety, and revelation found therein. Our focus this month, "Following in the Footsteps" is a reminder of the sacred and timeless journey of seeking and accepting a spiritual teacher and path. While we can take this journey on our own, having a trusted guide and tradition greatly assists in the process of yoga - the understanding of the true self and the divine - and delivers us out of our difficulties and towards our goal faster, with inspiration and motivation as our fuel. Through time-tested process, student-teacher relationship, and the informed, thoughtful setting of goals, we can come to steady and fruitful progress.
You may have, or you may one day, desire growth in your yoga practice and seek out a teacher that can expand your approach and knowledge. A good teacher, no matter the field or path, delivers us out of our personal limitations, and into the possibilities of excellence, of healing and realization. In yoga, we might take on advanced studies in a specific topic like anatomy, philosophy, or Ayurveda. In so doing, we may desire to look to experts or renowned sources, seeking Vedic scripture. Often, these ancient road maps, while universal in their scope, need practical interpretations for our world today. Lineages and authoritative, dedicated teachers can offer us a degree of faith and a bonafide connection to knowledge while pursuing greater understanding.
Indeed, when have we ever learned something of deep value in complete isolation? While modern wisdom advocates for the self-led, self-made man or woman, if we take a closer look, we can see that knowledge acquired solely by our own faculties is likely to come up short - limited by personal bias, imperfect perception, and vulnerable to the pitfalls of speculation. An objective yet familiar touchstone is needed, a supportive and uplifting hand to gently (or sternly) urge us forward when we lose steam. When we find a teacher who speaks to us, whether because it's what we need to hear at that time in our lives, or because they are distinctly well-versed, we are given parameters that help direct and refresh our focus, build familiarity, and fill the data bank with relevant terms and how-to's. To continue steadily is to follow in their footsteps, follow the process that many before us have successfully taken on.
Freedom can be found in our dedication to and sincere effort in a practice. When there is a lineage of teachers passing on consistent, truth-based principles, we are able to rely on the past results of others' efforts, to extract the essential as it has helped countless others, and apply it to our specific time in history. Of course, this may also require some perspective, a guide to help us interpret a principle so that it may best serve our desired outcome or goal. Indeed, a guide's perspective can be invaluable when it stems from studied experience and an intimate knowing of who we are, where we've come from, and the greater potential they see in us.
Being able to honestly assess ourselves, what has and hasn't worked to bring us satisfaction, happiness, and realization, is the first step in being able to reach out and connect to a teacher or guide, he or she a humble student to his or her own teacher. With sincere inquiry, we may be the recipients of the grace that has passed through so many like us who have come before and continue to help keep the way forward open, the flow of grace uninterrupted.