Ever since I did my Montessori training, I was inspired by the term “guide” instead of teacher. Teacher is too heavy a word and in our day and age often carries with it connotations that are not too pleasing to the memory, for all the varied personalities and encounters we have had as children and adults in our different journeys as students….
Spending a month, at a sort of personal retreat, learninxg to create a basic yoga and meditation practice, under an experienced (to say the least) guide(yogacharya Venkatesh), I began to think and see as a student/learner, what it takes to be a guide that leaves in a student something learned, something concrete to take forward, something real to hold on to, something grand that helps us see ourselves and life in ways that bring greater clarity and peace, some way in which to understand our bodies and our minds. It surprised me to find so many parallels between my own work as a guide with children and the little of what I was able to perceive of the work of my teacher in this little time that we shared together.
As in Montessori, I saw myself as a human spirit – with body and mind. The practice was taught to me to help me with concentration and focus, reveal my dormant, natural human spirit. In a talk with my guide, he once said, “this, the work that you do on your mat, with your body and your mind, this is life…what you see outside is not life.” The idea that inside all of us lies a spirit, waiting for itself to be revealed through work reminded me of how we see the human child through the Montessori philosophy. Then, the work of the guide (from now on referring to my guide and the Montessori guide as the same) is to help reveal this spirit, through work. The work will be done by the student.
The guide merely creates the environment in which this learning will optimize. Little details reveal that the guide is always working on creating the optimal space. I would notice how through my practice, my guide would close and open the sliding window closest to me, sometimes just slightly to bring in just that little draught of air, just when I needed that, or bring my attention on my pursed lips so as to relax them and my face while experiencing pain in an asana. While this sort of creation of the optimal environment is external, there is also the space that is created internally that the guide works to nourish. This internal space is worked on by first observing the student.
Not every student will need the same kind of instruction or guidance. In moments when the guide observes that there has been some sort of understanding, he is immediately present to confirm the same to the student. This is the path, this is where you need to stay, and this is how you need to remain in this place. Breathe. This reconfirmation, at these very crucial moments, really is what creates in the student, an understanding of what it is that the guide is trying to reveal to him. The beauty of this revelation is actually something that makes one feel good. It is not something external, like attaining the best result. Instead it is a state in which one comes to realize that there is harmony!
While a child perhaps cannot elaborate this in words, he reveals this beauty in the way he moves and works, only gaining the energy necessary from his personally created level, displaying that he is ready to move forward with this energy. And again, this is where the guide presents himself, to take the student forward. It is a fragile, delicate dance but it always moves forward and it always provides for space – a space in which the student explores his own self entirely with work that calls out to his spirit – his mind and his body. And that is where I feel and believe that a method comes into play for the guide and the student.
While, I do believe that a method cannot be held onto entirely and there has to be room for understanding and flexibility with each student, what a method and more so the practice of it reveals to the guide are the possibilities that lie within the method. The minute the possibilities fail to reveal themselves and the method merely becomes a set of actions that we follow because somebody once said they did wonders, we fail to keep the method alive and let it stagnate. A method for a guide has to always be living.
In Yoga as in Montessori, a method has to be practiced. A method that isn’t practiced and studied by the guide begins to lose its meaning. However, a method gives the guide a means through which concrete tools can be used to achieve greatness, skill, harmony, success, peace, wisdom, compassion, balance. Are these not the things we want in our lives and in the lives of our children? I look at these tools, as gifts understood received and offered by the guide to the student. It is a love for something that one shares with another. A deep love for something sacred that carries within it the potential for real change, change that on some deeper level, perhaps brings about greater peace and harmony in the world.
A guide who has understood and experienced his work, keeping the method in mind and his faith works, day in and day out with – patience, and love and passion, and kindness, and compassion. A guide is firm where he has to be, he is always observant, always there when you need him, he never loses his trust in your ability to reveal your dormant spirit through work, he inspires, he shows you how to laugh at yourself, he doesn’t ever leave you alone but always shows you how everything you have learned you have achieved through his instruction but your own focus and concentration, he is gentle when you are harsh on yourself and firm when you are distracted, his work is to always keep you on the path, until one day you are on it alone, all by your own doing but as my guide told me – “you are never alone. A good teacher is always with you.”
A guide never makes you feel negative about yourself; he always works to increase your confidence, your will and your trust in your own ability to walk a path that will bring goodness into your life. A guide is always working when with you. He is always present, to you and to himself. A guide helps you lift yourself up and leaves you with an energy that you carry deep within you, a flame that is lighted that will not be easily put out, a light that you keep shining to light your way and the way of others in your world! To the best guide I could have found this month and to all the other guides that work to make the world a perfect place to experience life!