I have been apprenticing at Jivamukti for the past 9 months with my beloved teacher Rima. I can honestly say that I have watched myself become a better teacher, under her guidance. I have seen my sense of Self expand and the limitations I thought were holding me back, melt away. On Friday, at 1pm I have my test class and I am getting so excited! In line with the focus of the month, The Guru as Mirror, I have written a dharma talk (spiritual teaching that Jiva teachers give at the beginning of every class) that I wanted to share.
The Guru is a mirror for us, reflecting back to us our True Self and our true potential, without the judgement and criticism we often filter seeing ourselves with.
Our natural state is bliss… perfect, joyous, and happy but we often cloud this with feelings of inadequacy, or anxiety, depression, anger, fear… all of those heavy, dark emotions that seem to settle upon us and make the Self feel small. The Guru never sees any of that, and they reflect back to us our True Self, devoid of all of those layers. And in doing so, they teach us how to see ourselves that way.
I have been thinking about my teacher, what she has removed from my point of view and what she has allowed me to see in myself and I can truly say that this is how yoga shifts your perception and can completely transform how you see yourself and the world. My teacher has removed the illusion of who I thought I was and all of the limitations I felt and allowed me to tap into that blissfulness and infinite possibility that is within.
This is my test class, the culmination of 9 months of study with my teacher, and its an honor to sit in this seat, the seat of a Jivamukti teacher, before all of you. I first came to Jivamukti when I moved to NY 4 yrs ago and I really didn’t like it at all. I had been used to practicing in LA, where it’s really all about getting abs and I was very resistant to all the teachings and the spirituality that is inherent to this practice. I had a very limited view of what a yoga class should be and I felt overwhelmed by the dharma talk and all of the teachings. But something about this place was intriguing and I kept coming back.
I found Rima shortly after and started taking her class a lot. And 3 years ago, with her encouragement, I did my first teacher training. Already, although I hadn’t even realized it at the time, it was her believing in me and seeing a teacher within me, that gave me the courage to do it.
Of course, though I wanted to do Jiva’s TT bc I love it here and this place had shifted my perception and expanded who I thought I was in the first place, so again, with Rima reflecting back at me this image of myself as a Teacher, I went to TT last year, knowing that I would apprentice with her upon my return.
And now we are here, today, at my Test class, before my teachers and fellow students and I can see that image of myself as a teacher that my teacher saw all along. My sense of Self is expanded, my perception has shifted, and those limitations and insecurities that I used to cling to, have at least for now, slipped away.
And like this, if you can find someone who loves you as a student and who you can love as a teacher, your sense of Self expands so that you can see yourself the way they see you, as a perfect, Holy being, capable of anything.
…Sanjaya, the poet who introduces us to the characters and sets the battlefield scene for us at the beginning, concludes the poem with the line,
Where Krishna is- Lord of Yoga-
and Arjuna the archer: there,
surely, I think, is splendor
and virtue and spiritual wealth.
The Gita is a conversation between student and teacher, between the seeker and the one with knowledge, and each chapter is driven by Arjuna asking Krishna something, delving deeper into the philosophy of Yoga, into how to be happy, how to live a life which will free you from suffering.
In this final line, Sanjaya is saying, wherever there are teachers, and students asking questions of those teachers, there is spiritual wealth.
In doing my apprenticeship with my beloved Rima at Jivamukti, I have experienced first hand that there is splendor and virtue in the relationship between student and teacher and the conversations that result is spiritual wealth for both.
Yoga is passed down from student to teacher, and although reading the texts alone can be beneficial and can start someone on the path, nothing compares to the insight you receive from a teacher. The information is like a piece of coal, and it is shaped and refined through all the minds that hold it. The diamond of knowledge a teacher finally passes down to you has come to them through their teachers, and their teachers’ teachers. And like that, to learn from someone, is to learn from their whole lineage, of insight, of personal experience, and of deep study.
A teacher, teaches with their whole self. It is not only the knowledge they pass down in the most obvious sense, but also in the example they set. To spend time with a teacher, is to be learning. Some of the most profound lessons I have learned are just from watching how my teacher carries herself and how she lives her life. Arjuna really began to grasp the concepts when Krishna revealed his whole self to him, and like that, the student needs to see how it all really works in someone’s life, in order to understand the teachings.
Teachers are always reminding the students how important it is to be a student and ask the questions and to ask the teacher to teach. This is because the conversation and the exchange of knowledge cannot happen without the student first asking… The first question is asked by Arjuna, and from that arises the splendor, virtue and spiritual wealth that is the Bhagavad Gita.
Eternal gratitude to my sweetest and most perfect, Rima.
I just finished Jonathan Safran Foers’ amazing book Eating Animals. It’s an informative look at animal farming in America, written from his incredibly relatable perspective in his humorous and enjoyable voice. Foers examines the issue from every side and the research that went into this book is truly exhaustive. If you want to know about where your food comes from, how animal farming affects the environment, and how animals are treated before they end up in the supermarket, this book is a must read. Foers is honest about his struggle with eating meat throughout his life and looks at the issue in an extremely personal way, so that he can tell his own child an honest answer about where the food we eat coms from.
Yoga is inseparable from diet. The deeper you go into your practice, the more intertwined your life outside the mat and the values learned from the yogic scriptures and from your teachers become. Once you become aware of certain things, you can’t ignore them. Yogis want to act in a way that doesn’t cause harm and suffering to other beings and once you know about the cruelty inherent in eating meat, the choice to abstain becomes obvious. Food is a personal choice and one every person must make for themselves. Informing yourself about animal farming and defining your own values is essential to making the right choice for you. Reading this book is a great way to introduce yourself to the truths behind the meat we so blindly eat.
Yoga is union (from the Sanskrit root yuj which means to yoke). Some say the ultimate experience of yoga, the ends that we are seeking, is when you no longer see any separation between yourself and others, you don’t see others at all. You have expanded your sense of Self and your ability to feel compassion so thoroughly, that you want happiness and freedom, the things you want for yourself, for all beings and you act in a way that makes this possible. What is the difference between the suffering of another being and suffering you are experiencing yourself? It might seem like a lot, but the more you open you heart and allow yourself to feel, the more you can realize that one person suffering is all of us suffering.
My friend Courtney reminded me of this, and how amazing it can feel to experience someone feeling what you feel and being intimately connected to you. I was upset the other day and Courtney could see this. I watched as she took on my suffering and truly felt empathy for me. She broke down the boundaries between us and her expression of compassion towards me made me feel so much better. That’s all you have to do, let someone know you understand how they are feeling and want them to feel better. And trust me, it works. Love you, Courtney.
Now that I’ve finished all of those 18 beautiful bottles, and all that separates me from my first meal is a good night’s sleep, I feel very good! I’m flooded with energy and I feel renewed and strong. Contrary to what you might think, going on a cleanse improves your practice. You can bend forward deeper than before, twist, bind, and control your body with a new level of awareness. Your practice improves quickly and time spent on the mat while cleansing is like the ultimate refuge. Quite simply, cleansing and yoga go together like almond butter and organic red raspberry jam, and if you want to take your yoga off the mat and start to radically change your life, a cleanse can be the spark. Eat consciously and responsibly! Don’t be afraid of austerity and discipline, embrace it as a way of giving your life direction and aiding your focus. Challenge yourself because it makes you feel good and no effort in the right direction is ever wasted. Get on the path and never be afraid to be your true Self.
Dreaming of breakfast on Wednesday… oh the comfort of food! But juice has its charm as well, and I am still enjoying drinking the 6 bottles each day. People who are sensitive to energy, and just sensitive in general, have been able to tell that “something’s up.” My beloved teacher Ruth, asked me if everything was ok during class this evening and my eyes filled with tears because I could feel how, even in the packed class, she had noticed me, and cared. The tenderness with which she asked me how I was melted my heart and reminded me that kindness is the sweetest medicine. All it takes is genuine interest and concern for someone else, and maybe you can melt their heart, too.
Cleansing is challenging if only because it draws your attention inside. Without the energy spent on thinking about where you will find or what you will prepare for your next meal and without the energy drain of eating and digestion, you are left with lots of quiet time to think. I’m grateful for my teachers who show me that being on the path of yoga is possible, that living your beliefs is doable and that being kind to others is the only way.
One more day!