Life without teachers would not be a life that we could envisage. Teachers are present in every aspect of our lives – from our primary and secondary education, to the mentors and role models that we come across in our personal and professional lives. Teachers are the “bread and butter”of our lives – guiding us and showing us the light in order for our lives to become enriching and successful, at whatever we do.
When the word “guru” is mentioned in the West, often a smile or light chuckle occurs – pictures of some Indian guy sitting cross-legged in a cave with a long beard and white robes reciting chapter and verse to a young student, explaining how to navigate the passage of life, come to mind. Perhaps that’s just a function of my upbringing, but in the East, a “guru”, or dispeller of ignorance, plays an enormous part in shaping the path of any young disciple.
In the West, we have many ‘gurus’ all around us – sometimes ones that we are not even aware of. Yet when that moment strikes and the realisation comes, the transformation can be revolutionary.
For me, finding my ‘guru’ has changed my path forever on the yoga mat. I’ve always enjoyed yoga, but perhaps haven’t always realised why… The identification of my teacher and his style as the “one” has allowed me to really think about every asana, every moment, every breath, on a level that I have never felt before – I no longer feel like I’m just trying to keep up, or wondering what comes next – instead, my practice has become me and I’ve become my practice. It’s like a merger of my mind and my body, a merger to discover my ‘soul’. Friday night is definitely yoga night now.
It was probably no coincidence then, that as I was blissfully chanting to myself ‘find your teacher, find your soul’ in the streets of Totnes, South Devon, last weekend prior to the commencement of our course ‘Nourishing the Soul‘ with Satish Kumar, that I would discover my soul on a level that I would never ever have imagined. A meeting with a truly enlightened human being (who also enjoys a subtle glass of wine, may I add) has transformed my understanding of what it means to be human; what it means to go on a journey and what it means to be compassionate and live a simple, happy life. Lastly, but not least, I also now truly understand what it means to be vegetarian.
Satish is a man who walked from Delhi to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington in the 1960’s on a peace march against nuclear weapons. His guru said to him that on such walk, you must take no money and be vegetarian. He said that because they must maintain the faith in what they are doing, and faith in humanity that would offer them shelter and food along the way. The conviction was so strong that they did not waiver in their commitment, and they completed their journey in 2.5 years. A man so humble, it was impossible not to feel totally inspired by his presence – this was someone who totally represented the purest form of all humanity.
Professionally, the role of the modern mentor in the office also has an enormous bearing on people’s careers. When I look back at my momentous decision in 2002 to not return to Australia, I look back at the simple wisdom my manager at the time shared with me. The key moment came when he said to me “look, you’re 25, it’s a decent job, you’re not flipping burgers”. After that, my mind was made up. 15 years later, and reaching Director at one of the biggest investment banks in the world, it has been enormously rewarding both personally and professionally.
I also look back with much fondness at how I have nurtured and mentored a young Asian man who has just recently left my team, but with the maturity and skill-set of a person well beyond his years. I have thought perhaps this is the feeling one gets being a parent and seeing their child grow up to be successful in whatever they do.
The role of teachers in our lives is enormously important, often shaping our destinies. When you find that guru, listen to his or her every word. Just as the Red Sea parted for Moses as he led the Israelites to freedom in the promised land, you just never know, the path that you have always been looking for may just emerge right before you.
Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
(I bow to the Creative Wisdom, I bow to the Divine Teacher)