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“You are your own teacher. Looking for teachers can’t solve your own doubts. Investigate yourself to find the truth – inside, not outside. Knowing yourself is most important.” – Ajahn Chah
The teacher that matters most is you
On one of our long walks with the dogs, my husband and I were talking about the many ways that people learn. He described how and where he felt like he really learned to fly fish.
“It was when I was fishing the Smith River in NH. It was the hardest place I’d ever fished and I had a million questions and no teacher to ask. I was forced to just keep trying different techniques that I’d read about and even some I thought up on my own. I came home from that week a real fisherman.”
There is a pivotal moment whenever you’re learning to do something when you find yourself relying on the teacher that matters the most – YOU. Sure, weeks, months and even years of study with the best teachers you can find is a tremendous asset. But in the end, what you’re learning from them is their perspectives and what works for them.
Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Each of these little details and shared information fills your inner toolbox. Every book you read about the thing you’re learning does too, so read as much as you can ingest. Expose yourself to as much knowledge as you can.
But know that real wisdom comes from doing, from your own experience. While your teachers have walked a similar path, no one else has walked YOUR path. No one else has your own unique blend of gifts, talents and ideas. No one else has been shaped by life experiences exactly as you have been. You are, in the end, the best teacher for you.
Learning to trust your inner teacher
In yoga, we say that we must learn to respect our “inner teacher.” As a passionate, lifelong student, this threw me a little when I first heard it. I, like many in our culture, had been indoctrinated to believe that it’s always a good idea to turn to an expert. (And, don’t get me wrong, in many cases – medical matters, electrical or plumbing problems, and legal issues, just to name a few – an expert is absolutely a good idea.)
But I’ve come around to the idea of trusting my inner teacher above all. This is especially true in moments when I’m confused by conflicting advice and instruction, which is as plentiful in the yoga sphere as it is anywhere.
At times like this, rather than looking for more external guidance and validation, much like my husband did while standing in the Smith River, I’ve learned to experiment with what feels right and true to me. And though doing so can involve some false starts and some sometimes-hilarious mishaps, my inner teacher never lets me down.
Now is a particularly great time to empower your inner teacher
If you practice yoga, there is no time like today to empower your inner teacher. Because studios are closed, we are all being invited to explore a personal practice. Even if you’re taking virtual classes with teachers you know and trust, being physically separated provides you with a stronger sense of responsibility to yourself – what feels right, what feels smart, what seems possible or not.
No matter what you do or are learning to do, developing trust in and respect for your teacher within is a gift. In the end, there is no other way to maximize your potential and to create the most enriching experience possible.
So, go ahead. Piece together bits of advice and knowledge from every teacher with whom you have ever studied and every book you have ever read. But then experiment. Find your own way. By doing so you will convert all that knowledge into wisdom that will last a lifetime.
Yoga With Spirit offers a variety of tools to support a home yoga practice. Explore our free 20-minute yoga video or our longer 60-minute class. Or register to participate in one of our virtual livestream yoga classes on Wednesday or Saturday mornings. You can practice with the group or request a recording to use on your own time.