B.K.S. Iyengar said that he had two important teachers in his life: Krishnamachya and the wall. I think about that a lot. What makes something or someone a teacher? What transforms an experience into a teachable moment?
Teachers come in all forms. A block under our hand in Trikonasana can teach us the power of real integration by lifting us out of our tendency to collapse. A difficult conversation can reveal our reactive patterns and invite us to communicate with clarity and compassion. Discomfort, especially the kind over which we have zero control, can teach about grace. Anything and everyone is a teacher if we choose to see them as such. Maybe, then, we delineate the role of teacher by our willingness to be a student.
Being a student requires a great deal of courage and vulnerability—it’s not always easy to look at ourselves, especially if we don’t like what we see. Lord knows, Billy is my biggest teacher—he holds me accountable, which I mostly appreciate but also loathe. Hey, it’s hard not to shoot the messenger. Receiving his feedback without getting defensive is an intense practice; frankly, I’d rather hold Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana. But I’ve learned that if I breathe and soften instead of react, I can receive his words with an open heart.
That moment right before we react is the definitive moment when we get to decide whether or not we want to be a student. If we can pause in that space just long enough to look around and see that there’s a choice, we can liberate ourselves from automaticity. It’s not easy to open up to the possibility that we might be wrong, or that what we know might not be what we thought it was. In our openness, we prove ourselves a worthy student and suddenly, the teacher appears.
Who are your biggest teachers? How do they reflect your patterns? We can transform anything and everyone into a teacher if we approach the moment with a curious mind and an open heart.