If I have a goal in life, it’s to keep growing up. As I get older, I am becoming more aware of my immaturities, and I wouldn’t be building this awareness if I didn’t keep myself in the role of student. I am continually pouring ideas into myself via books, podcasts, videos, and real live teachers; this kind of schooling was initiated in my first yoga class.
One book I have loved more than just about any other is B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Life. I’ve read it cover to cover a few times, the first time with tears and highlighter. If you’re a serious yoga practitioner, pick up a copy. One of my tattoos, which reads, “Aun Aprendo,” was inspired by these words in the last paragraph in Iyengar’s book:
Hokkusei, the great Japanese artist, said when he was already in his seventies, that given another ten years, he would be a great artist. I salute his humility. Let me conclude by quoting the words of the Spanish artist Goya who, in the seventy-eighth year of his life, when he was already deaf and debilitated, said, Aun Aprendo–“I am still learning.” It is true for me, too. I will never stop learning, and I have tried to share some of these lessons with you. I do pray that my ending will be your beginning. The great rewards and countless blessings of a life spent following the Inward Journey await you.
I was deeply touched. Iyengar was 87 when Light on Life was published.
After I finished yoga teacher training, I couldn’t find a studio or a teacher that resonated with me. I studied so much about yoga on my own that I wanted to learn only from someone I deeply respected. I tried a few studios, a bunch of teachers. The only person who inspired me was a teacher I’d taken workshops with in Chicago (Jason Crandall). He offers online classes via yogaglo.com, so I practiced at home with my computer for 3 years.
At a certain point, I started longing for a live teacher and people around me. I had been intrigued (and intimidated) by the Ashtanga practice for awhile, yet I hadn’t stepped foot into the studio. Why not? I finally stopped wondering and went.
Why did it take me so long to get there? Where would I be now in my practice and in the rest of my life had I gone earlier? These are, of course, stupid questions. I went when I was ready. And when I finished my first practice, I knew I’d found my teacher.
I’m blessed to have found a teacher who is firm, consistent, and no BS. He is the kind of teacher who will make you feel like a million bucks with a word of affirmation: “good” or “nice practice today.” He’s tough. And wise. And kind. I’m learning not to resist his instruction. How to surrender in his adjustments. This is hard work.
We need people around us to reflect to us who we currently are, both our strengths and the weaknesses, our breakthroughs and bad habits. An excellent teacher is hard to find. But when you find him/her (and keep looking until you do), keep showing up, listening and responding to the instruction.
I don’t want to be a baby. I want to be a real grownup. And that means following the Inward Journey, not alone, but under the guidance of an exceptional teacher and in the company of like-minded fellow students.