A guru is a teacher, expert, guide, mentor, master – one who dispels the darkness and reveals the light to his or her followers or students.
The guru is a long-standing and respected tradition in Hindu culture particularly, and therefore is very present in the roots of yoga.
However, in recent times that light of revelation has been turned back upon many gurus who have been found to be harbouring their own dark secrets. Accused of violating the relationship between student and teacher, these claims and findings of wrongdoing have created widespread suspicion around the true motivations of those who assume such revered positions – and therefore great responsibility and power – towards the people who place trust in them.
This is a deeply sad situation, creating even more doubt and distrust in the world at a time when we are in great need of inspiring leaders with integrity; true light-bringers to bring hope and momentum towards a brighter future. To what or whom do we turn to find this?
Around this time last year I found myself needing to make a decision. It wasn’t particularly huge, risky or life-changing – I had a job, I got offered another job and had to decide whether to stick with what I had or make a change to something as yet unknown.
I find choosing an ice cream flavour an exhausting task (unless pistachio is an option), and so for the following weeks I pretty much thought about nothing else. Every incident and interaction at work in the interim days became subject to intense analysis and filed as evidence in the weighing up of pros and cons. Every close friend and distant acquaintance became enlisted as judge and jury to listen to my lists and hopefully offer an insight that would bring clarity to what had become a clouded fixation. When I look back at my reaction now it makes me facepalm. So much wasted energy!
So what did I learn from this process and how does it relate to finding your Guru?
1. Don’t run your mouth all over town
One of the big lessons of the Bhagavad Gita is not to give your power away. When I was trying to make my decision I asked anyone and everyone who would listen. All this meant was that I had even more voices in my head with differing opinions, viewpoints and – this is a BIG one – agendas. I’m not saying anyone had a vested interest in the decision I made, but that we all unconsciously have our own decisions and values to justify and protect and these can get inadvertently projected outwards onto others. Ultimately the decision was mine, would only affect my life and I was the only one responsible for it.
2. Don’t make your mind your master
Our culture in the west is hugely mind dominated. We LOVE to think, analyse, rationalise, intellectualise, debate and tease out arguments from every viewpoint in an attempt to discern Truth. This is a great approach for many disciplines – scientific research for example – but when it comes to your life it can actually be counterproductive. Once I started feeling into the options, noticing what was creating tension, liberation, anxiety and excitement in my body, I started to tune into what might be the right decision for me, in all of my unique neuroses.
3. Just let go
Throughout my life I have come back to this nugget of wisdom more than any other, and yet I still need constant reminding as for me it’s the hardest practice. Part of the human condition is the desire to control our situation, and the intrinsic belief in the delusion that we can do so. We’re constantly grasping for the things we want and trying to escape the things we don’t, imagining that if we can achieve these things then we will finally attain true and sustainable happiness. But look at anything and anyone in life and what you see is constant, unending and unpredictable change. When I let go of trying to figure out the infinite and unfathomable outcomes of each decision, accepting that whatever I did it would lead to a future I couldn’t predict or control, I could finally and peaceably make one. Knowing that, ultimately: It. Just. Didn’t. Matter.
Lessons and guidance will come to you in all guises and forms, in ways you seek and invite and in ways you don’t expect and perhaps wouldn’t have asked for. We all have people and experiences from our lives that have immense value and have made us who we are, given us strength and belief when we’ve needed it and helped us to grow. It’s important to take the time to acknowledge these and be grateful for them, as gratitude keeps us open to the potential and possibility of what any future change might bring.
But the most important guru in your life, is you. You are the only one who can be an expert and master of your path. Only you have access to that part of yourself – beyond the fears, worries, desire to control, mind chatter and need to please – that truly knows what is right. We all have this innate wisdom within us, and the ability to access it when the need arises.
Look inward. Find your inner guru. Be your own light-bringer.