Posted by: Bruce Black | January 1, 2018

When a Teacher Appears

A teacher can make the difference between self-discovery and self-deception, between passion and discontent, between curiosity and boredom. A teacher’s voice can inspire trust or doubt, courage or cowardice. One teacher might help you learn how to explore your inner world while another might teach you to walk away from that world, to ignore it, and pursue something else.

Teachers appear when we most need them. They enter our lives when we least expect them, and their voice, or something they say, or the way they say it, creates a spark, and we see and feel something in the light of that spark that we never felt before. And we seek a way to stay close to that spark, hoping by staying close that over time the light of our teacher’s insights will illuminate our lives, our hearts.

Teachers come in many forms. Yoga teachers. English literature teachers. Writing teachers. Basketball coaches. Editors. Parents. Friends. An aunt or uncle. Even the announcer on the evening TV news. A favorite songwriter. A pet—a cat, a dog, a fish, a turtle. Even your mat can teach you something you hadn’t expected to learn before you stepped on it to begin your yoga practice.

In our yoga classes we trust our teachers to guide us through the basic steps of each pose without injury. We trust that they’ve learned enough about the body’s limitations and the stresses of each pose to help us avoid pain. But, more than that, we trust them to know and share with us how a pose might benefit us. What will we gain from the pose? (Stronger quads? More flexibility in our hips? Looser hamstrings? Better posture?) We rely on their experience to help us navigate our way through the risks of each pose, and we trust them to keep us safe, even as we explore new and challenging positions.

Learning—any kind of learning, with or without a teacher—requires that we step into the unknown. And taking that step requires faith in our ability to do something new, as well as faith in our teacher to help us take that step past the place where we’ve never been before.

Each of us learns in different ways, at different paces, and from different things. Life itself can teach us what we need to know if we pay close attention. Ultimately, that’s the role of any teacher—not just to impart knowledge, but to help us become more aware of ourselves, the world around us, and our potential for growth. Our teachers help us expand into the world in the fullest way possible. Teaching is about helping someone open her eyes to her potential and to the possibilities awaiting her.

Each time you step on your mat in the year ahead, take a moment to acknowledge a teacher who has helped you see your own possibilities.

Each time you enter a new pose, pause and give thanks to the teacher who helped you find your way into the pose without injury and who taught you how to use the pose as a tool to explore your inner self, your mind and heart.

And each time you leave a pose, express gratitude to a teacher for the insights that pose imparted to you, for the new sense of self that you found, and for the possibilities that you can now envision for yourself and for your world in the year ahead.

Mindfulness practice: Who was the first teacher who helped you discover the joy of learning? Imagine you are sitting in his or her class again. What does it feel like to find yourself in that classroom once more? What lessons is he or she sharing with the class? How might your life have been different if you hadn’t met this teacher. What benefits have come your way as a result of taking his or her class? Write: 10 min.




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