My students have probably noticed that when they say the word, “guru,” I bristle a bit. It'a not like that word is bandied about all of the time, but often enough to take notice with how it makes me feel.
I am so uncomfortable with that word. When I hear it, especially if it is directed towards me and my teaching, I feel needles prick at the back of my neck, as I try and smile at the compliment that it was meant to be. And, the response I feel most comfortable with is, “I’m not your guru. You are your own guru. Everything you want to learn or know, is already inside of you. I’m just here to help you understand that.”
By definition, the word, “guru,” means a spiritual guide or leader. Or, any person who counsels or advises; a mentor.
So, I guess the students that have thrown this word my way - and I know they did it with love, please don’t get me wrong – are using it correctly. It’s just not a word I would use. Why? Because it doesn’t make a whole ton of sense to me.
In my mind, “guru” means that the person is somehow more than another. They are elevated above others and their own journey in some way. And, I don’t believe that is possible because we are all made of the same stuff.
We all go through ups and downs. We can be cruel and kind. We can be happy and sad. We can have moments of joy and peace and moments when we want to run screaming in ten directions at once. That’s the human experience.
I do believe there are people that understand that life is better when you slow down. They know that true joy comes from simple things. They have a grasp on abundance and gratitude that others may not have acquired. Usually, they did a ton of personal work to get to this space in their lives and, if you ask them, they are still working at it day after day and refining what needs to be refined to become more and more of who they were meant to be.
And, often these people become teachers, or mentors. Those words I can handle. They denote that there is a partnership involved. It’s not the King and the Peasant. It’s the teacher and the student.
And, if you are a teacher - any kind of teacher - you know the goal is to eventually have the student outgrow you.
The student will at some point be able to stand without you, though they carry the lessons they have learned from you with them into the next chapter of their lives. The goal is never to constantly outwit them into needing you for every shred of advice or tutelage until the end of time.
I guess, I’m getting into this topic because in many ways we are going into a new era in the yoga world where the people we once deemed as gurus (and yes, I’m talking about more than one or two of them. Simply search “yoga scandal” and you’ll get a list a mile long) have fallen from grace and we are all kind of wondering what the next steps will be. And I say to you, what I say to all of my students, “You are your own guru.”
You know in your heart right from wrong. You are always being steered to the best result. But, you have to find the time to get on your mat, or to be quiet and still with yourself in meditation, to hear the direction you were meant to take.
Find your teachers - your guides. Let them light up the path for you. But, if they make you feel less than them, in any way, find another teacher. There are so many beautiful souls out there that want to share what they know with you, to make your life, and every life you touch, better.
For my students that I see day in and day out, I will never be your guru.
I’m too human for that. I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my life and I’m sure I’ll make more along the way, because mistakes are how you learn to be better. But, I will be your partner in your practice, or help you with your yoga business because I simply want everyone to win. And, if I have the knowledge you are seeking, I’m happy to share it with you.
Trust in the calling of your own heart. Know now, the answers are already inside you.
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Tori Hicks-Glogowski is an online yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.