Thursday, January 12, 2012

Education Acceleration

Time is the best teacher, although it kills the students.
~ anonymous quote from a web page of yoga jokes

I found this quote today as I was googling around.  It reminds me of something my teacher Rod Stryker says to inspire his students to practice: “By the time you have finally gained some wisdom and peace of mind, it’s not long before you’re back in diapers.”  It’s a grim contemplation.  Time may eventually wear away our delusions, but it also wears down our body in the process.  If life is a classroom, it’s like waiting to get your dissertation right before your retire.

So perhaps time is the most inevitable teacher, but not the ideal one.  Wouldn’t it be nice to speed up the learning process, rather than wait for the next life lesson to smack us in the face?  Wouldn’t it be nice to preemptively give up our nonproductive habits, rather than wait for them to create major problems?

This is the promise of yoga.  Postures, breathing, meditation, self-inquiry and all the other practices offer us a way to accelerate the learning process.  The engine of yoga practice allows us to gain self-knowledge faster - and with fewer negative side effects - than merely the passage of time.  No spiritual intentions are required.  Simply to live a more effective, satisfying life is a worth educational goal.

As with any mechanism of acceleration, some caution is advised.  We want to be sure we are using yoga to fuel our higher qualities, not inflame our imbalances.  Therefore, the tradition insists that a teacher is necessary - someone who’s worked through more of the curriculum than us.  The classic yogic approach is the guru/disciple relationship, but this appears to be a poor fit for the modern age (all the reasons are a topic for another post).  Most pragmatically, there just aren’t enough true yoga masters to fill all the demand for teachers.  But there is another way.

In essence, the goal of the guru/disciple relationship is for the student to realize they contain their own inner teacher, just as wise (in fact, identical to) the external guru.  We all get glimpses of our inner teacher in moments of intuitive knowing, or finding ourselves in just the right place at the right time.  We can cultivate this connection, even if we don’t have access to a “100% certified enlightened” master.  We can learn to be our own “live-in” tutor.  We can look ahead in the text book and get our assignments done early, rather than wait for the “deadline” of time to force us to take action.

There are many methods for connecting to our inner guide.  I’ve found the Phoenix Rising approach to yoga to be one of the most direct.  It doesn’t require athletic prowess, prolonged sitting, or any particular belief system - just curiosity, honesty and a sense of adventure.  One format for the work is an 8-week group that blends yoga postures, meditation, self-inquiry into a powerful but friendly particle accelerator of learning.  Through daily practice, participants learn to use the experiences of everyday life as fuel for the learning process - no Himalayan caves required.

As it happens, I lead these groups a couple times a year.  The next one starts January 30, 2012.  You can learn more and register through my website.


  1. "Time may eventually wear away our delusions, but it also wears down our body in the process."

    Isn't our body the main delusion we need to wear down? Isn't this one in the same?

  2. My understanding is that the major delusion is attachment to the body as ME. The body itself is a cherished and necessary vehicle for this particular schoolroom.