Picture of Holy Man in Varanasi India

Seems apt that I’d be writing about gurus while on my way to India… After all, thanks to the 1960’s there is still that romantic notion that if you go to an ashram for a few months or even years, you’ll find what your life has been missing…and maybe your personal guru. But seriously, how many of us can or want to do that?! In fact do we even need to go to that extreme to find our life teachers? Hmmm – I have a funny feeling that we don’t….

The thing about life is that as long as you’re alive there’s something to learn. It’s not like you can go to an ashram get the meaning of life in one hit and then live happily ever after. Same with a self-help book or motivational course – all great to kick-start new ways of thinking, feeling, acting etc, but how often have you been on or read one of those and then slipped back into your habitual behaviours. Yup – guilty as charged! 🙂

So where and how do we get to a place where we’re content in our mind, comfortable in our bodies and dare I say it, in a place where we can actually say “yeah — today, I’m happy!”?…

The great teacher

There will be people out there that inspire you. Some of them might even be famous personalities. When you find someone that you identify with as a ‘teacher’ you’ll of course want as much time with them as possible, but if that person is a famous business guru or world renowned yogi, for example, it’s not going to be that practical. Take one of my teachers, Ana Forrest – she has changed and inspired thousands of lives during her 4 decades of teaching yoga, but of course she can’t be there, ready to coach me, every second of my day. Nor can I live in a yoga bubble working on my personal development without consideration for anything else. You’ve got to take responsibility for you and you gotta factor in the buzz of daily life – people, places, situations… that’s what makes it interesting.

Life is a learning game

The more I think about life lessons, the more I realise that your guru is right on your doorstep. There’s a great saying that goes something like “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” As humans we get drawn to certain people and activities and certain times of our life — you could say, when you’re ready for a lesson. That was definitely true for me. In the corporate world I gravitated towards the gym, I was boxing, running and a sucker for adrenalin sports. My life was high-impact and full speed. Then I accidentally fell into yoga (while I was on a surfing holiday) and it came at a time when I was at a real burn-out point. In fact, little did I know, I was about to embark on the most stressful 9 months of my working life. I needed that shift in pace and the yoga came at exactly the right time. This student was definitely ready!

The unexpected

We often think of teachers in the traditional sense. A person who delivers a piece of technical information, a fact, sports coaching, a parent, but teachers come in all different forms. Now when I look,  I see a colourful and surprising range of teachers out there…..

My dog, Jelly, is a miniature dachshund, she is adorable, has a tiny little brain and can be a barky pain in the arse, but this little friend of mine can be an amazing teacher too. She’s playful, affectionate, lives completely in the moment and is so excited to see you when you come home, even if you’ve only been out for five minutes. Jelly is dog medicine – reminding me every day of those wonderful playful qualities to have and tap into.

Then there are children – odd that they might be good teachers… That’s the role of the adult, right?… Well, I don’t have any of my own yet, but we have plenty of friends and family that do. One of my friend’s relatives was diagnosed with cancer and here’s a conversation with her 5 year old twins.

Adult: “Mummy has to go into hospital for some tests”
Twins: “Ok. Hope she passes with flying colours”

Children have a fantastic way of approach situations with innocent curiosity and without judgement. As adults we can get bogged down with the daily grind, be overly serious about everything. Children can be great teachers.
Now, we come to other people. Without a doubt, the superstar yogi, the peace activist, the entrepreneur turned millionaire can all be fantastic teachers – of what not to do, as much as what to do, but there are a whole group of more modest individuals who come in and out of our daily lives that we can learn from or that can guide us along our path.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a builder came to our house to do a bit of plastering. He was a cockney sounding guy, in his 50s, I suppose you could say a ‘typical builder’. While waiting for something to dry, I over heard a conversation between this guy and my husband (I was upstairs). They chatted about work, life, happiness. Next thing I hear is this guy saying how important it is to be happy in your work and him drawing out of my other half what his passions are. This builder spoke with warmth, with encouragement and enthusiasm for what Dom (my husband) is passionate about. He generously suggested that Dom should use his talents not stifle them. That day, this stranger was a teacher – who’d have thought such wisdom would be sitting in our kitchen that morning?…

Put it down to experience

It’s not just people and animals that can teach us. Situations can tell us a whole lot about life and are great at signposting the direction we should be heading in. The situations that hit you like a slap in the face from out of left field are the most impactful ones. You know the ones, right? On the surface it’s like the worst thing that could ever happen, but when you really look at what happened, is actually the kick up the backside you needed to go an fulfil your dream. I’ve had a couple of indents like that of late and it would be easy to go into ‘victim mode’ ie. ‘Why’s this happening to me?’ and ‘This is not fair’ – instead I’ve looked at the scenario and gone ‘OK, what’s the universe trying to tell me?’. In one case it was definitely telling me to stop investing my time and energy in something that was making me feel inadequate and disrespected  — so I have! And it’s such a flippin’ relief. Should’ve listened to my instincts in the first place. And that brings me nicely on to the most important teacher of all…

I, Guru

Yourself! The most handy thing about being your own teacher is that your always there (it also means that you can never escape mind you). When I first started yoga, I did wonder if I had it in me to ‘go deeper’, a term we very often use in Forrest Yoga. It sounded complicated — you know, mindfulness, being connected to the true you, healing your own pain etc, etc… Basically not living by other people’s standards, beliefs or ethics . Not saying it’s easy, it’s not, but having the capacity to learn from your experiences, feel, listen to and act on your instinct feels so empowering! On a very basic level… Here’s one thing that I’ve learnt. I had weak wrists, the pain would come and go and I didn’t know why….. it was driving me nuts – really frustrating. I decided to get to the bottom of it, I thought it might be the yoga — nooooooo! Turns out the more I took notice of myself and what my body was telling me, the more I learnt. The pain was being triggered by the way I was slinging my heavy bag on my shoulder. I stopped bag slinging and the pain stopped. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me what to do, I didn’t need pain killers – I found out the answer all by myself. And if I really think about out — slinging my wrists around is not the only slinging that I do. I’m definitely guilty of pushing myself around, you could say over pushing myself. Incredibly, because I gave myself time to observe and learn, my sore wrist taught me a lot.

With my own personal guru status, most days I learn something – I surprise myself. I unravel a piece of wisdom buried deep inside, maybe a new perspective on something or a revelation about where my life might be headed. Our high-profile gurus can teach us a lot, let’s not dismiss that, but with so much to on-look — nature, people, animals, events, situations, emotions – so long as we care to observe, we don’t have to go to far off lands to find our personal gurus, they’re all around us – you’ve just got to want to see them.

The word guru means ‘someone who removes you from darkness’ – so go on, lift yourself out from the shadows and be what you’ve always wanted – no need to wait. 😉

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