by Cora Wen
Two years ago, I wrote a year-end reflection about what I had seen beautifully develop in the cyber sangha. In that piece, I shared that “the cyber sangha has sometimes proven a greater support than studio communities.”
And my, how that has been true these past two years.
I have connected with many more people online since then – from around the world and in my own backyard. Through social media, I have met people who are today students in my advanced yoga teacher training, have participated in my retreats or have met me for tea and a chat. The world has truly become closer through the communications available to us. It’s incredible.
As we have also seen this year, though, this explosive growth of the online community has brought many of us clarity about our roles in our offline communities. Some of us have changed traditions while others of us have become stronger in our lineage.
I suppose this is to be expected; it’s an ebb and flow that we often see in traditions such as yoga, or even Buddhism. The more it expands out, the more people can get clear about what it is that they are truly looking for.
Finding Your Way
I had a conversation with one of my students recently about how it often doesn’t feel like “enough” these days to be a great teacher in your local community. And I think this is true; more and more people contact me every day to have me help them get on the workshop circuit, get into Yoga Journal, etc.
I find this amusing because (a) I don’t have a magic yoga wand to do any of these things and (b) it’s such a strange concept to me that this is where we are now in yoga. When I first started teaching workshops many years ago, it was a long and slow path. Sure, I still had to hustle, and recommendations from my teachers didn’t hurt, but no one was an overnight success. And very few teachers went on the road.
For those of us who did, we still kept our local communities strong. I only gave up teaching public classes this year; that’s how important those ties are to me. And I still connect with my local students as much as I’m able when I’m in town.
One of my themes for this year, for both myself and my teacher trainees, has been svhadyaya, or self-study. Svhadyaya is one of the niyamas, and it encourages us to connect with and develop our selves.
This also reminds me of one of my favorite sloka from the Bhagavad Gita (6.5):
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
Only the Self by the Self can raise the Self.
The Self is the greatest friend, and it is also the greatest enemy.
I do my best to encourage my teacher trainees to get deeply grounded in themselves. We talk about the five qualities of a teacher: clarity, sincerity, creativity, intuition and spontaneity. In Chinese medicine, these each relate to one of the five elements, which has a nice synchronicity. But they also encourage teachers today to consider what they want to cultivate as teachers and what their ultimate goals are. Sure, if you have a great idea
worth sharing, it is nice to travel and connect with others.
But if not? That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Far from it, in fact. Because the truth is that we can’t all go on the road. Just like we can’t all write blogs. We each have to find our unique skills, that best fit our current personal and family situations, and go from there.
Growing Your Practice
Even for myself, as I find myself called more and more to offer advanced yoga teacher training around the world, I long to stay connected with my local community. As much support as I receive from the cyber sangha, there is something so beautiful about the long-term connections you build as a local teacher.
I have several private students who I have worked with for years. I have been with them through illness, children leaving home and even death. And for me, this is where the yoga is. If all I ever did was connect with a handful of students in this deep, transformative
way, that would be enough.
This is what I wish for all of us as we head into 2012: that we can feel like enough, just as we are. Because when one of us introduces a new group of people to yoga, or helps a private student create a major shift, we are changing our corner of the world for the better. And the more of us who do that across the country and world, the more change we can effect. And the more we can effect change, the more likely it is that peace is possible.
Wishing you many blessings and much enoughness in the New Year.
with love and pranams,