Recently I received a question from a teacher:
“I have just finished my teacher training and I am reluctant to teach yet because I feel like a fraud... And your posts make me feel even more like a fraud!! Who am I to teach yoga? I mean who is anyone to teach it right? I really enjoy your posts they are great! So... I would love some advice.”
Who is anyone to teach yoga?
The first obstacle in the way of teaching yoga, zen, or martial arts, is thinking that these are more than concepts. Yes, a person's concept of yoga or martial arts can be taught, but what these arts are designed to reveal, is unteachable. All we can ever share is a process, not the outcome. When we stop all the doing, selling, and talking about yoga, we realize that yoga simply IS whatever we find over and over again. It is impossible to spot a yogi, or yoga, or yogic action. We can spot a person doing things we individually believe are yogic or non yogic, but this would be missing the point of conception.
All identifications such as yogi, teacher, guru, and student are concepts of the temporary mind. Modern yoga movement classes, are simply movement classes that try to sell society the concept that this is in fact yoga. Some agree, some disagree. Society depends on agreed perceptual conception. We all agree that a red light is in fact a red light, and so we stop. if we didn't it would be chaos on the roads. Yet philosophies such as yoga, zen and martial arts, are just that - philosophie. They require the student to stay in a constant state of curiosity, and inquiry. They reach no permanent conclusions. So we must first discontinue the act of "teaching" yoga as an externalized product, when in fact it is a process of internal inquiry.
The second obstacle in the way of teaching, is me. And by me I mean the egoic, impermanent, false me, in the form of, I am this, or I am that. I am a teacher, I am student. I am a man, I am a woman. This is only a temporary concept of me. This me is easily convinced, and persuaded this way and that. Believing in this one day, and that the next. Behind this temporary ever changing material construct lies the energy that animates all matter. So the very question of who am I to teach anything, is simply answered by first realizing who is the I that teaches?
If “I” is not the mind (perception & conception) then what is left when all perception and concepts cease? Only the permanent energy that animates the impermanent material world .
There is no need for teachers or students. Teacher implies one who knows more, and student implies one who knows less, but knows what? Information, data, concepts, which change all the time, useful one day, and useless the next. The only thing worth knowing is I am. Everything else we see, and believe, are fluctuations of the mental state. So in the relative sense, my perception can teach your perception temporary knowledge. So the real gift is in sharing the knowledge that the body is temporary, and all of the bodies problems are temporary. The permanent you has no problems.
In the relative sense there is very much the concept of “me” teaching “you”.
In relative terms this simply means that my personality and brain are going to share something with your personality and brain. This is a fine relationship, but it has several natural problems. One is that teaching is only possible if there is a willingness to learn by someone else. A transmitter is only transmitting when there is a receiver. An essential outside force (student) acting upon the origin of action (teacher) to give it this identity. In simple terms without the student, the teacher cannot act as a teacher at all, as teaching requires studentship. This means that the student makes or creates the concept of teacher in their own mind, leaving the reality that one cannot call oneself a teacher without having someone refer to themselves as that teachers student.
So we are only teachers in our minds, or in the minds of our student. This self appointed identification, like all identifications, becomes a trap.
This relationship is co-created by both parties. Just as money is worth what we collectively agree it's worth - so is a teacher to a student. And we all know, we just plainly make that up it's worth as we go. And so we make up that our teachers are failing or mistreating us. Or that our students are burdening, or disappointing us. Or that either party is responsible for the other parties happiness, or progression.
If we are going to free the student and ourselves from these concepts or identities, we first have to stop encouraging their creation.
You can not teach a person anything. You can only inspire a willingness to learn. And to that what unfolds has been inside all along. You moving one object from here to there, and showing another person how to do this, is in fact sharing. Sharing information, knowledge, and understanding, are all parts of a natural urge in apes. Which is how we made it to this point. The identification of one person as a teacher, and the other as a student, is how the human brain complicated what was once a process of singular awareness, into an experience of duality and individualism. These new found identities, and our ability to see into past, present and future all create confusion through unmet expectations, and interrupted intentions on a daily basis.
Why do I teach?
First, it took me almost 30 years of “teaching”, to answer this, but not without plenty of internal and external conflict along the way. My first answer, was for the benefit of humanity. After that was properly kicked out of me by the realization that humanity doesn’t need me, I came at it again. This time it was to benefit myself. Much closer, but still this concept supposed that I could still act upon humanity, regardless of who it was benefiting, or who was cooperating. Then I arrived at I teach because it is natural for me to do so. This got me out of me, me, me, but it continued the concept that I could in fact teach something by acting upon it. That I was still able to do something to, or for someone else. It was not until the final stage of my personal journey that I arrived at the realization of “I am”.
What I learned from “I am” is that I don't in fact teach anything. I share things.
What is the difference? Teachers need students, and as a result develop attachments. Sharing in contrast, has no attachment to outcome, or expectation of reciprocity. Does this mean that there are no structures or agreements between someone sharing something with another? No. You can exchange time, wealth, and objects. However, neither party in the relationship needs anything from the other. There is an exchange bereft of expectation or attachment to outcome. Neither party is in charge of the others destiny, fait, or wellbeing. Some may argue that this would disrupt social norms formed around these concepts, and that they would prove failures to the learning environment. But I see that they allow for freedom of real learning as I feel no pressure, or obligation to behave any other way that honestly. I give them what I have to give, absent of the pressure to have all the answers. I love them with all the love I have, without needing them to stay or go. I correct them with transparency and directness, without being concerned about loosing their business. I interact with them as an equal, rather than feeling the need to be in charge of there destiny.
What do I share?
Simply share yoga and zen as there are - nothing but questions, and more questions. Sure you can share the process of yoga as defined by lineages, but these are concepts that come and go. I exist before, and after the body, the memories, the senses, the beliefs. Share the space for people to sit and ask the question “who am I?” Share the message that, “I am,” so that attachment to, I am this, and I am that, dissolve and with them suffering. When we see the difference between what is permanent and what is temporary, all suffering ceases to be.
So to answer your question, “who is anyone to teach yoga?” My answer is no one. Simply educate by asking questions, not by having answers.
Photo by: Pete Longworth ( www.petelongworth.com )