Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yoga is not about culling out spirits or surrendering one’s individual will power to a teacher who assumes the role of a yoga-sorcerer. No teacher in the world has a right to demand authority over others. The goal of yoga is Kaivalya, independency and not wrong devotion.
- S.Sriram

I am a teacher; by trade and by nature. I have worked and continue to work with some of the most vulnerable; children. I teach people about the Visual Arts and I teach people about Yoga. I teach to what I know, and I am sincere in my actions. I work in different settings, along side others who call themselves 'teacher' frequently, in multiple settings. Incidentally, I prefer the word mentor, or ambassador, or guide... Teacher suits me at times and not at others. I shy away from the stigma involved with this word, which is sort of sad, really. In North America, in the public sector (of education), teacher means a lot of things I think it should not. In many ways, I am not comfortable with my status as teacher, even in my day job, employed by the Government to teach youth. For example, I don't know if I think teachers should be conducting structured standardized lessons on character (as they do in some school boards across Canada). I think a good teacher embodies character, and this is enough. Defining character and teaching it to the masses can be difficult, and that is an understatement. My moral compass is defined by my experiences, and I am wise enough to know that my experiences are not those of all of my students. I also think that any good teacher, who's heart is in the right place, aims to empower his/her students and in doing so, offers them autonomy. 

I recently have heard of a grievance involving one of my original principal influences in the area of Yoga, one of my original teachers, whom I briefly studied with in 2002/03 in my first 200 hour YTT.  This grievance involves accusations of sexual harassment and abuse; sexual, emotional and mental. I am saddened by this news. I am angered by this news. I am reserving the right to talk about the larger issue at hand, and not the man immediately involved, as the point I am making belongs to the big picture and not a myopic assessment of a particular situation. 

Under no circumstances, do I feel it is appropriate to assume power over another person. Teaching is not and should never become authoritative. teaching should be a humble offering, sharing. An individual may have pursued a course of study that allows him/her insight into a specific realm of knowledge, and what happens afterwards, would ideally be an artful sharing or dissemination of that knowledge, outside of Ego.

I am humiliated and disgraced to hear the unraveling of these numerous charges against this man in mention. As more information surfaces, I find myself shifting between feeling angry and insulted towards feeling sad and a little lost. I am defensive on behalf of the women involved in this case and saddened that such violations could happen within my extended sanga (community) and saddened again to think of the damage this has done and continues to do. 

I remind myself of a primary question from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, pertaining to suffering and the cause and result of it... 'Where do I fit in to this? Who, or what, am I?

Lately, in my mid thirties of life I find myself more consistently able to challenge my ability to 'identify with' all living beings, and ultimately, the Universe (some people call this God) and the formless, the non-dual view. I've developed meditations and practices to challenge the Ego. To do this, I tend to meditate more. I draw more. When I do, I meditate on my subject. Whether it is a vase of flowers, the flame of the candle in front of me, or a human subject, I draw and meditate with the intention of capturing the essence of the subject, of feeling what the subject feels, of knowing the subjects experiences, of becoming the subject. For a brief moment, we are one. Or perhaps we are always one? As I continue to evolve through this journey called life, I am committed to challenging my mindset to expand my sense of self beyond the 'other'. Through meditation and practice, the 'other' fades into the dewy mist (into the veil) and almost becomes forgotten and from this, compassion is born. Bliss is found. In my continued efforts to practice this sort of non-dual thinking, I am liberated.

-Awakening, enlightenment, or the end of suffering, according to the Buddhists, is the belief that nothing but a full realization that I, the 'self', is a fiction and that I am the non-dual wholeness, the formless, boundless, can lead to the end of suffering.

In this vein, I am also saddened when I think of the suffering of a teacher, an individual, who has lost his path and direction so much so that he would violate the essential and holistic focus of the practice of Yoga that he/she prescribes to. The same focus that will eventually bring completeness to the individual as the find their connectivity to the divine. 

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