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Dharma Kitchen


The Guru Is You

Carrie H

I want to get real honest here, real fast. Everyone's talkin' about cleanses, resolutions, and intention-setting for 2016. I've got those thoughts, too; mostly the intention-setting type. It's just not coming out in a listable form. 

Guru collapse is a thing. And it's real. We see it in the yoga world, the kind of devastation that occurs when a prominent yoga person is accused of doing something unethical. The ripple effects are deep and wide. It's really not much different from the kind of disappointment we may feel in general about collapses that take place in interpersonal relationships. It just bears a little extra weight in the yoga-verse because yoga is about union with the self. When the veil is lifted and the truth looks quite different from the facade, then we have a disconnect.  

Guru collapse is what happens when someone you look up to and admire behaves in a way that does not resonate with the goodness of what yoga tries to open us up to. It happens when the talk that people talk doesn't quite equal the walk they walk. It happens when people act in ways that are not truthful, that go against the ideas of peace, non-harm, and so forth. It happens when the ego spirals out of control because of fear, greed, or whatever else, and then projects that onto others. It happens when people cling to their own narratives and are so invested in their own truth that they can't entertain the idea that others have a valid (and perhaps different) viewpoint, too. If I were still teaching college English, I'd urge for more critical thinking about the "why" of the response, to adopt a more open approach—and ultimately, to develop a detached curiosity with it and "unpack" it. 

What would Buddha do? 

What would Buddha do? 

But seriously, let's stop for a minute. Our culture foments the adoration of the guru, the celebrity, the sports star. The ego, in need of assurance and guidance, clings to the idea of the need of a guru, someone to look up to or aspire to, or be inspired by. This isn't inherently bad. We are seeking identification and connection. 

Yoga, though, isn't about finding a guru. It's about uncovering the truth that you are your own guru; you know yourself best, you know how to guide yourself. You know you may ask for help and may even begin to do so. You know what your body, mind and spirit need. No one else can even pretend to know. They may be compassionate and we all could use a little bit of that these days (Why is our President getting accused of faking his tears for gun violence victims?) Advice and insights are helpful, but there is a lot of danger in following a guru blindly, without heeding your own heart, mind and body. That's because your guru, even unconsciously, may have all sorts of other motives and issues of his or her own because your guru, like you, is a flawed human. There's nothing wrong with asking for advice. The smartest people are humble enough to know when they need it. But we have to be mindful of other people's energetic fields, too. This is often easier said than done. 

This is why for me, in 2016, the most radical thing I can do is to trust myself. Trusting yourself involves wrestling with your fears; I like what Liz Gilbert says about fear in her new book, Big Magic. She basically says you have to make friends with it, give it a place and a voice but don't ever let it think that it's the boss. To trust my own instincts, my own knowledge, my own abilities, and my own talents. To reduce doubt and anxiety. And then to take that self-trust and transform it into good ideas, projects, blog posts, conversations, collaborations; heck, even everyday living needs a fair degree of self-trust sometimes! To trust that I do indeed have the ability and attention span to write a cookbook proposal—or whatever other long-form work that may come my way. 

What's your inner guru telling you these days?